What You Need to Know About User Experience Design

understanding user experience design

When you hear the phrase “user experience design,” you will have one of two reactions: 1) you skip over the phrase because it sounds like meaningless techno-jargon. 2. You latch on to the word because you know what UXD is, and want to find out more. For the uninitiated “user experience design” is the kind of term you just want to skim over, because you frankly don't care.

This article is going to tell you what you need to know about user experience design. It's pretty important.

So, tell me. What does UX, UXD, and UED mean?

First off, lets get the acronym stuff out of the way. UXD and UED stand for User Experience Design. The end goal of UXD and UED is UX, or User Experience.

Who needs to be concerned about UXD?

The people who are interested in UXD are mostly designers and developers. However, UXD affects more people than just those who use codes and colors. If an organization is involved with the web, UXD is important for just about everyone in that organization.

I still don't know what it is. Please define “User Experience Design.”

Here's the formal-sounding definition. User experience design refers to how a person (user) interacts with (experiences) a piece of technology (design).

What does UXD look like in real life?

Let’s pretend that a tech company wants to create a device that measures the heart rate of swimmers, times their laps, and tracks their progress toward specific goals. Maybe that want to create an aquatic form of RunKeeper….SwimKeeper. In order to create this device or application, the designers and developers need to determine the best support device (e.g., Android, iPhone, waterproof case), any accessories required (e.g., underwater heart rate monitor), an interface for usability, understandable actions (swipe, tap, scroll, etc.), and additional features that may be helpful for swimmers (e.g., team goals, competitions, etc.).

The whole process of developing the device and software is a design process — experience design. Thus, every member of the development team participates in user experience design as they create SwimKeeper (or whatever they choose to call it).

So, how does it all work out in practice?

When a digital design firm, software business, or app developer begins a project, UXD should be leading the project. Everyone who is involved in the project carries forward a component of UXD. The visual designer's UXD contribution is to makes appealing colors, button sizes, and logos. A crucial contributor to UXD, the programmer, minimizes delay time for loading and startup screens. The information architect advances UXD by creating a wireframe that is aesthetic and intuitive. The project manager visualizes the tasks of the enduser, and how it all relates to UXD.

Unless the team has a clear, unified UXD strategy, team members will either start crying or throwing pens at each other.

What is a good UXD strategy, then?

UXD underlies much of the activity of technology firms and online businesses. It's important, then, to have a UXD strategy. Here are three points to remember as you consider your UXD strategy.

1.  Know what UXD is.

This is easier said than done. There is no single sacred and unbending definition of UXD. The term is so broad and unwieldy that it defies tidy definitions. Just check out this conflicted article by uxdesign.com.

However, despite the definition-defying nature of UXD, it’s helpful to have some awareness about what it is and how it works. If your team has the same general definition, all the better. At the very least, become acquainted with UXD and some of its components. Wikipedia is a fine place to start.

2.  Figure out your users.

Now it’s time to dig into the real work of user experience design. User experience design is, obviously, about how the user experiences and interacts with your stuff. So instead of just making cool stuff, you must start by understanding the users. Who are they? What do they do? How do they do it? How do they think? What do they like? Where are they? Why are they doing this? How much money do they have? How old are they? What language do they speak. This is a process of questioning, interviewing, understanding, researching and knowing. In the long run, it pays off.

Keep in mind that a good UXD strategy is more than just making stuff with nice features, a good-looking design, or a flawless interface. User experience is about psychology and the enigmatic and dynamic interaction between humans and computers.

3.  Unify your project around your user profile.

The process involves the user at every step of the way. Since you've figured out who your users are, you can now deliver a product that meets their needs. Your entire project has a focal point — the user. Now, whip out your best UXD and get to it!

Mary Muckerman, in an article for Fast Company, wrote, “user experience is the heart of any company.”

The heart? Of any company? Really?

It’s a big statement, but it’s true. User experience influences everything, or at least it should.