What is UX Design?
Don Norman, Director of the Design Lab at UCSD and author of The Design of Everyday Things, is credited with coining the term “user experience design” with colleagues at Apple. While many consider user experience design as strictly the experience of individuals interacting with technology, UX has broader implications. In Norman’s own words, user experience is,
“everything that touches upon your experience with the product — it may not even be near the product, it may be when you’re telling someone else about it.”
UX Design Explained
One of my favorite examples of UX design is illustrated above. The product is, of course, the cereal, milk, and any other accompaniments, while the hardware includes the spoon and bowl, or the means for an individual to savor the cereal. These elements combined — illustrated by the filled bowl of cereal above — symbolize the entire user experience. Each element, such as the type of cereal (and its crunchiness, flavor, the experience of opening the package, and so on) or milk, the atmosphere of the kitchen or restaurant, the company at the breakfast table, and so on, contribute to the overall user experience of eating the cereal. A change to any of these elements could change the user experience markedly, positively or negatively.
Expanding on this, we might say that user interface design focuses on the specific interaction with a particular product or system. In the cereal example, this would be perfecting the design of the spoon or bowl, such as the feel of it in one’s hand, the texture, size, and so on, while user experience designers would identify and translate customer needs, painpoints, wants and behaviors in relation to eating cereal with the goal of enhancing value for the customer overall. A UX designer might be concerned not only with the experience of physically eating cereal, but also with the experience of discovering the cereal at a store or online, its packaging, how it fits in with other cereal or breakfast options with the same brand, and so on.
Future of UX Design
The history of UX predates Norman and the development of personal computers, and today, the field continues to evolve and expand, both in response to the development and advancement of new and existing technologies, but also in the application of user experience principles and methods to other fields entirely. The definition of UX design and the specific job functions of UX designers will evolve as well. Ultimately, however, UX designers are advocates for users, helping to translate their needs and behaviors into simpler, more intuitive experiences, whether digital or otherwise.