Redefining UX: Unlearn User Experience, Understand Better

Summary: User Experience is user relationship with a brand over time.

Digital transformation requires organizations to become learning organizations, which basically means organizations are open-minded to learn new things.

As pointed out by Mark Bonchek, there is a missing puzzle in the equation. When one learns a new thing, one may also need to unlearn several things. We understand this process as synaptic pruning in our brain.

This time, I am going to ask you to unlearn a thing, which may not be easy for some. This one is my own journey of unlearning, which may also be your journey, if you choose to do so. This time, I am going to unlearn the basic understanding of User Experience (UX).

Why do we need a better definition of UX?

User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. (Norman and Nielsen 2016)

This mutton satay has nothing to do with my unlearning journey, but it is one of my favourite food.

And, let’s ask a question: Why do we need a better definition of UX?

Here are several findings from my unlearning process:

1. UX is beyond UI interaction. The current definition of UX is limited to one moment in a user journey, which is “interaction with company, its services and its products”. The sole focus on interaction is one of the main reasons why many consider UX equals to User Interface (UI).

In addition to interaction, we need to acknowledge that the relationship between user and brand before and after interaction also plays a significant role in UX. A good example of this relationship is a Word-of-Mouth, which happens before a user even interacts directly with a brand.

2. There is a need to consider other users beyond end-user. The previous mindset that UX only affects end-users no longer holds true. UX is User-centered or Human-centered, but it does not mean that it is solely end-user centered.

In a complex system or ecosystem, there are several users interacting with each other. The needs, problems, paint points, aspirations, and many other aspects of these users should be taken into consideration. Focusing only on end-user limits our understanding of the whole system, including the interactions and relationships between the users in the system.

A good example from my own experience is when I was mapping fisherman’s user experience in a rural area. If I only focused on the interaction of the fishermen (the end-user) with the newly developed mobile application, there was no way I could understand why the end-user had a resistance towards the application, even before using it.

3. UX is beyond the scope of company, services and products. The “four walls” of company, services and products serves as a good limitation when one discusses interaction. Beyond interaction, we need to think of company, its services and products as a brand.

When user interacts with a brand, there is a blur separation between company, product, and services. The relationship that a user has is not with the company, product or services, it is with the brand.

This morning, I used a brand new modern meeting office room in a co-working space located in the most strategic CBD location possible in Perth, but my experience was bad. It was not the facilities that put me off, it was the grumpy, rude and unhelpful receptionist that made up my mind to break our relationship. In addition, the parking fee for a couple of hours is more expensive than my lunch. My experience is beyond the company, its services and products.

At the conclusion of my journey to unlearn User Experience, I create a definition, which helps me in my unlearning journey:

User Experience is user relationship with a brand over a period of time. (Tedjasaputra 2019)

This relationship may happen on a single channel or across different channels. We can use Persona to visualize and communicate who our user is. We can also visualize and communicate user’s relationship with the brand over time with a User Journey Map or Ecosystem Map. We can use other UX tools, methods and techniques, and the definition still works. Suddenly, the UX tools, methods and techniques that I have used and devised over the years make sense.

Is it the end of my unlearning journey? It is certainly not.

Do you have a better definition? I’d be happy to hear one. Join my journey of unlearning the User Experience.

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