What is UX?

1st July 2019
Posted by in Brain Bites: 2 Minute Insights

Do you work in UX and struggle to explain what you do to your friends and family? Or have you heard this term somewhere and are now trying to work it out what it means? Hopefully this post will help!

Here’s the short answer:

UX stands for User Experience. Rather than simply focussing on one element of design, such as usability or aesthetics, user experience design takes a much more holistic approach to design, encompassing all aspects of the experience of a product or service.

For those of you who like a dry definition, ISO 9241-210:2010 defines user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. For a slightly friendlier explanation, Don Norman, who was one of the first people to have user experience in his job title, sums it up nicely with the example of computers (which I’ve slightly paraphrased):

“It’s not just when you use it,] it’s when you first discover it, when you see it in the store, when you buy it, when you try to fit it in the car, when you get back home and open the box up, and put it together… It’s everything about the way you experience the system or service.”

Check out his full 2-minute explanation in the video below.

That was the short answer(!). But as he alludes to in the video, a lot of people who say they “do UX” only focus on one component of a system, such as designing how a website looks. And often this doesn’t include much (or any) research into actual user needs. At Bunnyfoot, we put the user at the heart of everything we do, and believe all good design starts from researching those user needs. We then design for those needs and follow best practice principles derived from decades-long psychology findings, so we are confident what we deliver will work well for the end user.

UX has now become a buzzword and many people have adopted the term in their job titles. We’re even starting to see products using UX too. For example, Sony has a range of products branded ‘Life Space UX’, and there’s even a new ‘Lexus UX’ out there, which looks like most other cars but has a jazzier name.

Another problem with UX is the obvious fact Experience doesn’t begin with an X. I found this excellent question from a few years back whereby the poster pondered whether the term UX was meant to be ironic, because research tells us lots of us find abbreviations annoying, particularly when they exclude many people from understanding what’s being talked about.

So in many ways, the term UX is a good example of bad user experience, in that its definition lacks clarity and means different things to different people, and means nothing to most people. We probably need a better term. Any ideas, anyone?

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We are psychologists, interaction and design experts, researchers, usability specialists. We cover Web, software, mobile, print, service design and more.
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