UX design is not UX

by Maarten Swemmer Leave a reply »

Have you ever installed an App on your mobile that didn’t provide you the experience you had hoped for? Of course you have. Not all Apps are as good. (Actually the more Apps a store has the lower the average quality). Why was the experience not good? Was the App hard to use, did it look ugly, or did it have annoying advertisements that popped up at undesired moments (as if they could ever popup at desired moments), etc?

All these User Experience aspects are part of the User Interface (UI). In the last couple of years there has been a trend to describe these aspects, and the activities involved in improving them, with the term User Experience Design or just UX. Unfortunately, this attention to UX has diluted the name of this interesting field of work.

Everyone has had some experience at some time

The term has become quite popular and an increasing number of people involved with user interfaces has started to call themselves UX expert or UX designer. However, the term User Experience entails much more than just the user interface, and when you know about user interfaces, it does not make you a User Experience expert. There have been people who have recognized this to some degree, but the only thing they have done is limit the term UI, instead of what they should have done: extending the term UX.

The disappointing bargain

Imagine buying an App in your mobile App store (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, etc) for two USD. You download it and start it, but then find out that the app is hard to use. The result: You have a bad experience.

Imagine now that you paid 20 USD for an app and the app turns out to look great, is easy to use and does what you need it for. The UI designer seems to have done a great job. So what is your experience? It’s most likely still bad, because for an app which cost 20 USD you would have expected more.

Beyond the product

User Experience goes far beyond the user interface of the product. It even goes beyond the product itself. It shares fields of study with Marketing and Branding, although I know quite a lot of people that call themselves marketing focused who care more about segmentation and potential market shares than about the user experience of their customers.

The user experience entains everything from information gathering before buy, usage and disposing of the product after use, to price, service, and feedback from friends.

Because UX is much wider than a single product that can be designed, it would make more sense to use the term UX manager, in favor of the term UX designer. To clarify the above, the table below describes a more complete list of the fields that real UX management is all about.

Etc. etc.

Traditional fields of the UI/UX designerModern fields of UX manager
Defining personasDefining personas
Interaction designInteraction design
Interface layoutInterface layout
Interface designInterface design
Visual designVisuals
Working tightly with programmersWorking tightly with programmers
 Working tightly with product designers
 Packaging (on shelf experience)
 Packaging (carrying home experience)
 Packaging (unpacking experience)
 Communication tone of voice / copy writing
 Communication channels (ATL, BTL, digital, in shop, social media, face to face, employee to customer, etc.)
 User manual
 Price / Value for money
 Sales channels
 Color scheme of interface
 Color scheme of rest of product
 Material choices (look and feel, durability, etc.)
 Speed of interface
 Stability of interface and product in general
 Build quality
 Quality of functionality
 Feature completeness
 Social media response
 Pre-sales information gathering
 Product portfolio cohesion
 Decision making (to buy)
 Pre-sales service
 After sales service
 Maintenance requirements and ease of maintenance
 Available accessories
 Compatibility with existing accessories
 Available spare parts and price of them
 Discarding the product
 Environmental impact experience
 Availability of successor product for customer retention

All these fields require proper attention from the UX manager to make the product to a success and to make sure it contributes positively to the value of your brand. It’s impossible to be an expert in all these areas. However the UX manager needs to have awareness and interest in all these fields and address the importance and meaning of experience for each target group / persona to the individual experts.