What is User Experience?

User Experience or UX seems like a sort-of jargon-y buzzword that gets thrown when talking about design, conversion rates, KPIs, and ROIs.

User Experience is—for better or for worse—exactly what it sounds like, the user’s experience interacting with a product. For some, it’s more long the lines of the ease and simplicity (or not) of a user’s experience with a product. 

Whether it’s a website or a physical object, a user’s experience with a product is the driving force behind that product’s success. No matter how useful a tool may be, if it’s difficult to use it won’t find much acceptance or success.

With modern technology there is no excuse for a poor user experience. We have the ability to share vast amounts of information almost instantly including products, ideas, and solutions to problems we encounter. Have a problem you need to solve? With nothing more than a few keystrokes and clicks you can find a multitude of products or hacks or DIY instructions for just about every need. 

Sure, but what is it?

UX is a few different things. It’s part design, part user research, and part experimentation. It’s a discipline made up of other disciplines, combined to create a process. The purpose of UX is to figure out how people use things and make them better.

Let’s break it down: 

The best way to start is by having some basic background information about how people interact with the type of product you’re creating. Knowing (or learning) how something is used and how people behave gives you a head start in the design process. For the most part, this comes with experience, but a healthy dose of research—observation, focus grouping, and interviewing—makes all the difference.

Next up is to design the interactions. Now that you have an idea of what people want to do and how they’re likely to do it, you can start designing the interaction or process that the user will follow to complete their task—the user’s experience using the product.

Part three is testing your design. While you know what people are trying to accomplish and you have a good idea how they’ll accomplish it, you can’t account for everything. Testing will give you the real-world experiences of users’ experiences, which will show you where the shortcomings of the design are. At this stage using tools like surveys, observations, and interviews can provide you with the best information. 

Last, but not least, is iteration. You’ve researched, designed, and tested your product. Now, armed with new information, you can revise your design and test it again. And again. And again. Testing is never really done, even when you’ve deployed your website or produced your product. There is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to user experience.

That’s great. Why go through all that?

I’m glad you asked!

Most products can get by with a good enough user experience. It’s not hard to create an OK product while you’re building it since you’re, hopefully, testing it while you work. This will lead to a product that people will continue to use if there isn’t a better product, a better product is out of reach for them, or they’re not hindered enough to seek out an alternative.

Do you really want to settle for “good enough” though? 

It’s important to get your product out on the market, so having good UX instead of great UX is perfectly fine. It just shouldn’t be left that way. Once you’ve gotten your product out in the world, the next step to take is to improve it. There will always be a feature or element to a product that didn’t make it into the first version, and that’s fine. But while adding in those new pieces, improving the user experience is a great way to improve the product in ways that will get users excited and make their interactions with your product just that little bit better.