UX is so much more

One of the interesting things about the internet – this glorious *thing* that is still so very young – is how quickly things change and evolve. One of the biggest and most important changes I’ve seen over the past few years is the increase in awareness of, and emphasis on, UX. User Experience.

When I tell “outsiders” that I’m a UX designer/developer, I’m mostly met with blank looks. (I get the same blank looks when I gabble about how much I love CSS – “oh.. you mean the band?” – …no). A lot of people will be unfamiliar with the term, which is cool, I don’t know doctory-scientisty-parenty words – we don’t all have to know the same stuff, that’s just life, right?

So those of that understand UX – what do we understand by it?

In my opinion, I think despite the fact that User Experience is very much it’s own thing – encompassing so much – all too often it’s interchanged with UI – user interface (at a really base level, UI is the design of human-machine interaction). This in turn is just used as a fancy way to describe designing (or just adding glossy buttons to) web/mobile *stuff* in Photoshop.

Let me just throw something out there – UX is not designing stuff in Photoshop.

UI is certainly part of of UX – the UI is what people are going to see, their first reactions will be how something looks, whether they can read the content they’re looking for clearly, click the buttons they want easily, and satisfy their user needs. I’m not denying UI is important, but it’s just one part of UX.

User Experience – can it be designed? I think it can be designed as much as anything else – imagine a trip to the grocery store. The designers of the grocery store lay it out in such a way to “make it easier for shoppers to find what they want” – in my opinion, it’s to get you to walk through as much of the store as possible and buy more. But essentially they’re trying to design your visit for you. This is, in turn, what we sort-of-perhaps-maybe try to do with users of our sites and apps – we’re trying to design their experience.

As a concept, I think it’s quite scary to try and design something like that – the responsibility is bloody huge. What if we design something crap and the user has an awful experience and it ruins their day? (slightly extreme situation, I realise, but I know I depend on certain apps on my phone, I’d be literally lost without them.. thanks Google Maps!). We spend so much time attached to our iDevices etc now, that the UX of every single element is crucial – much more so than 10 or even 5 years ago.

And I think this is the reason we should accept that UX is so much more than just UI design – we need to take into consideration information architecture, content strategy, the hierarchy of content, user journeys, user/product testing, the user themselves, the vast possibilities of what else the user might be doing while using your product, technologies used – every person involved in the product should understand and care about the ultimate UX of a product, it’s not a one-person-job. It’s much more.

[ETA] Basically, my main point is that a huge bugbear of mine is people who *still* think UX and UI is one and the same and that’s basically all you need. :)


  1. Pete

    To your supermarket analogy I’d add something more;

    The design of the shopping experience extends beyond the physical and encompasses the entire trip to the supermarket.

    From parking your car for free and close to the door to how the staff interact with you when you’re shopping. How frustrating is it to be in a store and not able to find what you want and also not able to find anyone to ask?

    Also consider the special offers you see as you browse – encouraging you to buy more. Take into account how easy it is to manoeuvre your trolley (did you need £1 to unshackle a trolley?), can you get around other customers or do they get in the way? The smells, the muzak (too loud, too quiet, Coldplay!?). What if you need to return an item – how easy is that?

    There is so, so much to an “experience” that what it encompasses is almost without limit . Thus the challenge of being a UX “designer” is to have the ability to think of all these things that have an effect on the customer (or user) and come up with workable strategies and solutions for them.

    It’s a big job!

  2. Jorge

    Nice article! I’m really getting very interested in UX, everything is so fascinating, I can’t wait to learn more. Do you know any good resources to get started in UX?

    Again really cool article, really enjoyed reading it.

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