What is UX?

It has taken the business world a number of years to fully understand how important user experience (UX) is to everything they build. Now that you can measure and confirm the relationship between good UX and successful websites, UX skills are in high demand.

At its heart, UX design is about effectively addressing the needs and circumstances of your users, to produce an interface that is comfortable and even joyful to use. As if that wasn’t enough to tackle, your users’ needs are always changing, as people continually evolve their expectations and technologies.

User experience is the art of planning a product’s design so that interactions with the completed product will be as positive as possible. This includes an end user’s interaction with and attitude toward a given IT system or service, including the interface, graphics, and design. IT leaders concerned with UX ask questions to determine what their users need and value, and compare those finding to current abilities and limitations.

In other words, User Experience is a term for a user’s overall satisfaction level when using your product or system. If it’s a good experience, they’re happy. If it’s a bad experience, your customers don’t come back. And they tell their friends… and Google.

UX = sum of a series of interactions

UX represents the perception left in anyone’s mind after a series of interactions between people, devices, and events – or a combination thereof. Series is the operative word.

Some interactions are active: getting out of the rain during a picnic.

Some interactions are passive: watching a beautiful sunset will trigger your system to release dopamine (a chemical reward).

Some interactions are secondary to the ultimate experience: the food tastes good because the chef has chosen quality ingredients and prepared them well. The ingredients are of good quality because the farmer tends his fields. The crop interacted well with the rain that year…

All interactions are open to subjective interpretation – some people do not like celery or sunsets. Remember, perception is always true in the mind of the perceiver. If you think sunsets are depressing, there is little we can do to convince you otherwise. However, this is why designers often fall back on “best practice” – most people respond positively to sunsets.

UX design = combine three types of activities

Designing a user experience, therefore, represents the conscious action:

  • Coordinate interactions that can be checked (select food ingredients, training waiters, design and programming buttons)
  • Cognition interactions that are beyond our control (uncomfortable seats in a 100-year-old theater, lack of fresh produce in winter, low hanging clouds that hide the sunset)
  • Reduce the negative interactions (bringing an umbrella for outdoor events in case of rain, making sure the restaurant seating next to a noisy kitchen door is the last to be filled, include extra breaks for people to stretch their legs)

A good user experience designer must be able to see both the forest and the trees. This means the user experience has implications that go far beyond visual design.

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