User Experience Design & Research Jargons

Navdeep Raj
Mar 14, 2016 · 7 min read
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As a Senior UX Designer at the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center I often have to deal with a lot of different terms since designers and researchers use jargon everywhere. It came to my mind that non-designers are sometimes confused by what these terms mean. Therefore, I put together a list of design jargon I’ve come across over the years, along with their meaning.

Please note: These explanations are not my words, but rather compiled from reference articles (listed below each term) that I consulted to curate this list.

Anticipatory Design

/anˈtisəpəˌtôrē dəˈzīn/

Anticipatory design is where decisions are made and executed on behalf of the user. The goal is not to help the user make a decision, but to create an ecosystem where a decision is never made — it happens automatically and without user input.

The design goal becomes one where we eliminate as many steps as possible and find ways to use data, prior behaviors, and business logic to make things happen automatically, or as close to automatic as we can get.

Ethnographic Research

/eTHˈnägrəfē ˈrēˌsərCH,rəˈsərCH/

Ethnographic research usually involves observing target users in their natural, real-world setting, rather than in the artificial environment of a lab or focus group. The aim is to gather insights into how people live; what they do; how they use things; or what they need in their everyday or professional lives.

Micro Interactions

/ˈmīkrō ˌin(t)ərˈakSH(ə)n/

Micro interactions are contained product moments that revolve around a single use case , i.e., they have one main task. Every time you change a setting, sync your data or devices, set an alarm, pick a password, log in, set a status message, or favorite or “like” something, you are engaging with a micro interaction.

Responsive Web Design

/riˈspänsiv dəˈzīn/

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it. RWD is one approach to the problem of designing for the multitude of devices available to customers, ranging from tiny phones to huge desktop monitors.

RWD uses so-called breakpoints to determine how the layout of a site will appear: one design is used above a breakpoint and another design is applied below that breakpoint. The breakpoints are commonly based on the width of the browser.

Adaptive Web Design

/əˈdaptiv dəˈzīn/

Adaptive web design (AWD) uses the server to detect the device that’s been used for viewing the website. In other words, the sever will be used for determining whether the website is being viewed on a desktop, a smartphone, or a tablet.

A separate template is being maintained for each device, i.e., the template displayed while viewing the site on a laptop screen will be different from the one that’s displayed when the same website is viewed on a smartphone screen.

Progressive Enhancement

Progressive enhancement is a strategy for web design that emphasizes accessibility, semantic HTML markup, and external stylesheet and scripting technologies.

It uses web technologies in a layered fashion that allows everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a web page, using any browser or Internet connection, while also providing an enhanced version of the page to those with more advanced browser software or greater bandwidth.

Parallax Scrolling

/par-alll-ax ˈskrōliNG/

Parallax is a web design technique that allows components of a web page to move at varying speeds when a user scrolls, creating an illusion of depth in a 2D scene and adding to the immersion. In particular, the effect is created when the background of a web page moves at a different speed from the rest of the elements when you scroll.

Design Thinking

/dəˈzīn ˈTHiNGkiNG/

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).

Heuristic Evaluation

/hyo͞oˈristik iˌvalyo͞oˈāSHən/

Heuristic evaluation is a usability engineering method for finding the usability problems in a user interface design so that they can be attended to as part of an iterative design process. It involves having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics”).

Information Architecture

/ˌinfərˈmāSH(ə)n ˈärkəˌtek(t)SHər/

It refers to the organization of information, dealing with what pages go where in a web site’s structure, what content is contained on each page, and how each of these interact with other pages within the site.

An effective information architecture enables people to step logically through a system, confident they are getting closer to the information they require.

Baby Duck Syndrome

/ˈbābē dək ˈsinˌdrōm/

A phenomenon in informatics referring to the comparison by users of a new information system or software to the first system they learned (imprinted). Computer users tend to prefer the systems they learn on, and reject the unfamiliar.

Baby ducks will “imprint” on the first entity they’re exposed to for any length of time (be it a duck, a human, or whatever), and treat it as its mother.

6–3–5 Brainwriting


Brainwriting is an alternative method to brainstorming that tries to encourage a more uniform participation within a group. Like brainstorming, it is designed to generate lots and lots of ideas in a short amount of time.

The aim of 6–3–5 brainwriting is to generate 108 new ideas in half an hour. The technique involves 6 participants who sit in a group and are supervised by a moderator. Each participant comes up with 3 ideas every 5 minutes.



A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2-page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and the environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.

Guerrilla Research

/ɡəˈrilə ˈrēˌsərCH/

Guerrilla research is a method often used when time and budget are tight, but a design problem cannot be solved with input from users. It may not be detailed and rigorous, but provides sufficient enough insights to make informed strategic decisions.

Guerrilla interviews are used to test out quick scamps and ideas, build initial hypotheses to advance into more in-depth research and design, or to validate research insights with a larger pool of users quickly.

Contextual Inquiry

/ˈkäntekst ˈinkwərē/

Contextual inquiry is a semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of standard questions, and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environment.

It is usually done by one interviewer speaking to one interviewee (person being interviewed) at a time. The aim is to gather as much data as possible from the interview for later analysis. The researcher should stay in the background and let the user lead the situation as much as possible.

A/B Testing

/ˈa b test/

A/B testing (also known as split testing or bucket testing) is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage or app against each other to determine which one performs better. A/B testing uses data & statistics to validate new design changes and improve conversion rates.

Cognitive Fluency

/ˈkäɡnədiv ˈflo͞oənsē/

Cognitive fluency is the measure by which one’s brain processes information. A high level of cognitive fluency means that something is easy for one’s brain to process, whereas a low level means that something is relatively difficult to understand, decipher or to get through.

An important point to remember about cognitive fluency is that it not only impacts your brain, but also how you feel about something.



The small bits of text/copy that help instruct and alleviate the concerns of users. Microcopy examples are error messages, contact form explainers, security notes, payment instructions, etc.

At a glance, these tiny clusters of words seem insignificant when compared to the overall app design. But surprisingly, they have a huge impact on conversions.

I hope this article has helped you learn something new and dispel some of the mystery around jargon. My favorite is the “Baby Duck Syndrome.” What’s your favorite term? Feel free to share design jargon you have come across — I’d love to expand my knowledge!

SAP UX & Design

We make work delightful through a human-centered design…

Thanks to Prerna Seth

Navdeep Raj

Written by

Head of Design & Product Innovation @ Hypersonix

SAP UX & Design

We make work delightful through a human-centered design approach. SAP privacy statement for followers:

Navdeep Raj

Written by

Head of Design & Product Innovation @ Hypersonix

SAP UX & Design

We make work delightful through a human-centered design approach. SAP privacy statement for followers:

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