May 14, 2017
If you are involved in marketing or the development of software, websites or applications, you have probably heard the acronym UX thrown around in conversations. However, have you ever stopped to think about what UX means?
The term user experience, abbreviated UX or UE, originated in 1993 with Apple’s VP of the Advanced Technology Group, Don Norman. In an archived blog post written by Peter Merholz, Peter shared Dr. Norman’s comments about coining the term UX. He said, "I invented the term because I thought Human Interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person's experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual." While the web contains many different definitions of UX, we find the following definitions, offered by the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) and Wikipedia, to be the most descriptive and all-encompassing:
User Experience, as defined by the UXPA:
Every aspect of the user's interaction with a product, service, or company that make up the user's perceptions of the whole. User experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction. UE works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by users.
User Experience, as defined by Wikipedia:
User Experience (UX) involves a person's behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.
Good, bad or indifferent, the feelings evoked when you use a product or system define your user experience. You may not label them as such at the time; however, the sum of these interactions shape your perceptions and determine how you would rate the experience. Is the product or system easy to use? Is it intuitive? Does it perform the expected function? Do you get pleasure from your interactions with it?
A good user experience is the intangible result of a variety of core elements — including the architecture, user interface, human interaction, usability, functionality, materials/frameworks, and guidance/instructions — working together seamlessly to meet the needs, preferences and goals of your target audience. It heightens your product's ability to be useful, usable, and most of all, enjoyable to your users. It is the reason why we love our cell phones or a specific website.
In Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman’s definition of user experience, they say, "The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features." To create a good user experience, you need to invest the necessary time researching, understanding and evaluating your users’ needs while you are developing your product requirements. This can include creating personas, user stories and mood boards, conducting interviews, reviewing data, and performing user tests. The information gathered during the process will help you identify the best visual layout, controls and patterns to apply to create an intuitive and user-friendly experience.
Whatever exercises you perform, it is important to always consider the user experience throughout the product development process. Stay tuned for more blog posts detailing the core elements of a great user experience.