In the world of product design, a User Experience (UX) consists of every touch point a person has with a given product or brand starting with their very first encounter and spanning all the way to their very last. A User’s Experience can be frictionless, useful, and enjoyable when designed properly. And that’s what we want! So, let’s talk about what it means to design for good User Experiences.
Designing for good User Experiences means taking special care to empathize with the people who will be using your product and designing with them in mind. This means regularly seeking out and understanding their needs and goals and using that information to drive product features and functionality. As we design products, it is critical to remember that we are not our users. And that we must tirelessly advocate for their needs rather than making decisions based on our own desires, impulses, or instincts.
When designing for User Experiences, we are designing for humans. And, human users come with their own set of cognitive, physical, and other constraints. To serve a range of inherently variable human needs, user experiences must always be designed with human physiology in mind.
So, if we put this all together, good User Experience design emerges when we design to help real humans accomplish real goals that are meaningful to them.
So far so good? Great!
The Impact of User Experiences
Ok, so now we know what a User Experience is and what it means to design for good User Experiences. But why is good UX important?
Well, one way we can break down this question is by looking at it through the lens of who UX impacts. I would argue that there are three key lenses we can use here: 1) people, 2) businesses, and 3) society at large.
As we always do in product design, let’s start with people!
Who do we build products for? Well, people of course! At the end of the day, products must serve the people for whom they are created. And without taking the time to understand those people, we cannot truly build products that will adequately serve their needs.
Good UX, from a customer standpoint, means the difference between success and failure when trying to accomplish a goal. It means the difference between enjoyment and frustration. And it means the difference between engaging with or choosing not to engage with a given business.
Beyond basic usability, good UX can mean the difference between a person feeling humanized or dehumanized by a product. I would argue that the most important obligation we have as Product and User Experience Designers is to ensure that User Experiences tell each and every person they serve that they matter.
From a business perspective, there is a great deal of value in ensuring products are designed with good UX in mind. The internet has created a marketplace for consumer goods and services, making it quite easy for any customer to find alternatives to a given product if they are unhappy. For businesses, a good UX can mean the difference between serving and losing a customer to any number of readily accessible competitors. Good UX is the determining factor in whether someone wants to, can, and will continue to interact with a product.
Bottom line? Good UX drives dollars.
Finally, let’s talk about why good User Experiences are important to society. When we create User Experiences, those experiences communicate a set of values to our broader communities. And those values become norms. In that sense, there is an ethical impetus for good UX. It is critical that the User Experiences we design support values that we would want to see adopted by society on the whole. If I had my way, these values would always include empowerment, equality, autonomy, and freedom of choice.
The question of why good UX matters is not a simple one to answer! User Experiences impact all of us. They tell us what we value as people, as companies, and as a society. They have the power to humanize and, in unfortunate cases, to dehumanize. And, they set the stage for the design of future experiences.
As designers, this means we have a great deal of power. By remembering that it is our job to design in service to people, we can use that power for good.
I know there are a lot of opinions out there on this topic and I’d love to hear ‘em! If you agree, would like to add your thoughts, or have a differing opinion, I would love to have a conversation. Feel free to leave your comments below :)