What is user experience?
User experience, also known by the acronym UX, is the process of incorporating a customer’s overall attitude and emotional response to using a product or following an interaction with a piece of content into its initial design and development.
What started as jargon by early Apple cognitive scientist Dan Norman, user experience has become a key part of building brand loyalty and is more than just putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Since the early 1990s when Norman first began using the term through to today, user experience and user-centric design have grown exponentially thanks to the rise in technology, the internet and increased competition to develop products that customers can respond to in a way that matches their physical and emotional preferences.
Why is understanding the user experience important?
In the early days of computers, mobile devices, software development and even app design, there were not too many options that customers could choose from. However, today, customers can often feel overwhelmed with choice.
In this light, developers and designers are looking to gain and maintain a competitive edge, offering features and functionality that others cannot. While technology can be fast to evolve, user experience design is one way that companies can differentiate themselves from others by shaping their products to meet the needs and preferences of their customers and offer intuitive — and even visually appealing — products.
For those that can successfully balance user experience with quality technological design, they can foster customer loyalty and offer smooth interactions that garner positive emotions. For those that cannot meet the user experience design standards of their peers, they can see their sales and reputation struggle in the face of poor reviews and recommendations.
What are the key aspects of user experience-focused design?
Whether consciously or unconsciously, customers are constantly evaluating and reacting to the media and design they see. However, there are many layers to explaining how and why a particular product design seamlessly blends the customer with a product while others leave consumers feeling as if something is off.
At a high level, the Interaction Design Foundation breaks down a product’s user experience in terms of how, why and what:
- How is a product designed? How do the visual aesthetics and the accessibility of its functions and features appeal to the target audience?
- Why does a customer want to use a product? What are they hoping to get out of their interaction?
- What will the product offer a customer, including functions, features and design?
Taking it further, Jesse James Garrett’s book, “The Elements of User Experience,” offers the Five Elements of UX, which move on a scale from concrete to abstract.
- Surface: The visual sum of all the work, determining the overall look
- Skelton: The visual form, presentation or arrangement of elements
- Structure: How a user interacts with a product; how a system reacts
- Scope: The functional and content requirements
- Strategy: The reason a product is created
Of course, there are other schools of thought when it comes to product design, including Norman’s own six design principles, that can also be used to help find the right balance between experience and usability.
Ultimately, improving product design and improving user experience comes with first understanding what customers want. With product experience software, your company can organize and facilitate user testing, research and ongoing collection of surveys to help guide initial and continuous product development.