Why UX Now?

When people talk about UX (user experience), it seems to be commonly tied to a digital product or confused with another popular term, UI (user interface). However, user experience can be applied to anything such as eating at a restaurant, going to a doctors appointment, playing a video game, or sitting on an airplane. As Don Norman, the “father” of UX, states, user experience “encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” [1]

In my mind, user experience is the intended side effect from using a product/service.

However, technology and product design has been around for some time, so how come it seems only now recently have people started to pay more attention to this buzzword of “UX”?

In a world where digital has taken everything by storm, we see the term UX become more and more ubiquitous. The invention of the smartphone and social media has allowed for the explosion of so many new apps and products, and many times these products essentially do the same thing, so what is the deciding factor that brings a user back to their particular product?

Just some messaging apps

John Maeda, a designer and technologist, explains that many companies have taken notice that the user experience design is a crucial component to a product or application’s success and have started to invest heavily into it. [2] Many successful startups such as AirBnb and Snap Inc. have a CEO with a designer background.

With society relying more and more on technology, computing power becoming cheap, and technology rising at an exponential rate (Kurzweil, 2001), it seems that what separates the good products and the bad products now is the user experience whereas before it may have just been the technology itself that the engineers are normally so focused and companies try to sell high on. This aspect is mentioned in Ryan Holiday’s book, Growth Hacker Marketing in which he argues “that the most important aspect in marketing is to produce a product or service that consumers actually want and that adds value because these products are easy and cheap to successfully market” .[3] In other words, when a product is inherently good, it is also inherently easier to market.

So what exactly goes into UX design?

In addition to the visual design and UI, Smashing Magazine puts it as a system design that combines many multi-disciplinary fields involving:

Usability, human factors, utility, human computer interaction (HCI), accessibility, marketing, ergonomics, and system performance.

Most importantly, UX incorporates all these things with design as its foundation. I believe the “whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts” applies here, and it takes design to make that “whole” (the UX) great.

A user experience designer may have to wear many hats and go in and out of these areas, or if a company is big enough, hire an entire design team to specialize in all of these areas to create the “user experience”.

And when that user experience hits the sweet spot of customers, it’s what keeps them coming back.

When products have good UX, everybody wins.


[1] Norman, D. & Nielsen, J. The Definition of User Experience (UX).https://www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/

[2] Maeda, J. Design in Tech with John Maeda, Design Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers https://www.cxotalk.com/episode/design-tech-john-maeda-design-partner-kleiner-perkins-caufield-byers

[3]Holiday, R. Growth Hacker Marketing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_Hacker_Marketing

[Untitled Image]. Retrieved March, 2017
 from https://yourstory.com/2015/10/user-experience-design/

[Image of Messaging Apps]. Retrieved March, 2017
 from http://www.zoobe.com/blog/10-reasons-to-love-mobile-messaging-apps

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