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User Experience (UX)

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What is user experience (UX)?


Definition of user experience (UX)

User experience (UX) is an all-encompassing term, which refers to every tactile and emotional engagement a user has with a product. This could be how easy an app is to use, how readily a website is navigated, how intuitive or ergonomic a device is to handle, or how these experiences make the user feel.

User experience is not concerned with one specific part of a user’s journey. Instead, it views the experience as a whole — a holistic combination of usability, emotional value delivered, pain points, frustrations, rewards, and task completion. 

Essentially, user experience can be used to describe the total experience of every touchpoint a user interacts with, throughout the entire customer journey.

Why is user experience important?

A positive user experience will encourage a customer to interact with your product again and again.

On the other hand, a bad user experience can be frustrating, confusing and lead to mistakes being made. Disappointing UX can cost you a user, who’ll simply move to a competitor product as a result.

For example, if you’ve ever booked a flight with a low-cost airline, you’ll likely have experienced the hair-pulling nature of lazy UX. Not only are the prices typically shown on the browsing screen significantly inflated once you click through to pay — withholding taxes, fees and surcharges is a nasty UX trick — but what follows are several pages of ‘optional’ add-ons, such as cabin baggage, carry-on baggage, in-flight entertainment, meals, car rental, travel insurance. The pages go on and on until you are blue in the face.

Typically, digital products are concerned with removing friction and minimizing the number of steps required to perform an action, e.g. book a flight. But in the case of poorly designed UX, the steps required are numerable and generally amount to a less-than-rewarding experience for the customer.

But user experience impacts far more than satisfaction levels — how a product feels to interact with has a significant steer on the propensity to purchase. 

Mobile users are 5 times more likely to abandon a task if the website isn’t mobile optimized. What’s more, 70% of online businesses who fail do so because of poor UX and 90% of users have stopped using an app because of poor performance.

Simply put: invest in a great user experience, and your product will not only be more engaging and enjoyable for users to interact with, but it will be more commercially successful as a result.

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Who is responsible for the user experience?

In line with the growing discipline for improving user experience, several job roles have been created to carry the responsibility of UX. Most commonly, a UX designer is tasked with not only understanding what users want and need from a product, but also making this vision a reality.

The process of improving UX, or designing a user experience from scratch, typically begins with user research. Only by observing and speaking with potential end users can a UX designer truly appreciate what’s important to them, without letting any personal bias creep in. 

Once enough insight has been gathered, the UX designer can begin to define the “visual grammar” for the product. This could be working with a UI designer to define icons, shapes and frameworks which carry semiotic relevance to the task at hand, for example, a shopping trolley icon now implicitly signifies "check out". Or, in the case of truly innovative digital solutions, the UX designer made need to create a totally new visual language, which users will learn to understand over time.

It is in the designing and building of products that the role of UX designer and user interface designer begins to be less clear. In fact, in some organizations, these job roles are mistakenly interchangeable or even covered by just one individual.

In reality, UX and UI are very different practices.

What’s the difference between user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design? 

User experience is an all-encompassing definition, focusing on the total experience of using a product, from start to finish, and everything in between.

Within UX, you will find user interface — a terminology referring to the look and feel of a product, and what that communicates to the end-user.

To give you a sense of how this works together, a UX designer may learn in user research that customers are struggling to navigate a music streaming app — they are missing visual cues to help them search for new music and save it offline. With this information, the UX designer may push to prioritize solving this problem in the next round of app updates.

Then, a UI designer could be brought in to restructure the app’s overall look and feel, putting a greater emphasis on the search feature, perhaps centering it or placing it right at the top or designing a bright, color-contrasting button to draw the user’s attention to the search field. This process will likely be done in conjunction with the UX designers’ input.

What can UX do for product managers?

UX designers and product managers will share many of the same ambitions. 

To work collaboratively, product managers can champion what a product needs to do and why. This means having a deep understanding of the target audience, empathizing with their wants and needs, building a business model and product solutions to solve existing problems.

From there, a UX designer can take that what and work out how to make it possible.

Bringing the two together will not only help build better products but will improve shared processes and avoid duplication of tasks between departments.

General FAQ

What is a user experience design?
User experience design is a human-first way of designing products. User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to craft products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.
What is a user experience researcher?
A user experience researcher is a process of discovering the behaviors, motivations, and needs of your customers through observation, task analysis, and other types of user feedback.

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