Nov 21, 2015 Paul Sullivan

What is User Experience?

User experience may be talked about a lot, but what is user experience and why should you care about it?


The term user experience is commonly used now among designers, advertisers and marketers alike. But for those who perhaps aren’t familiar with this term, or aren't sure what it entails, it’s just another bit of jargon surrounding the world of digital. Whether you’re a business owner, student or what have you, hopefully, this post will help to give you an overview of user experience, along with some practical implications that user experience can have on businesses, both large and small.


The concept of UX sounds very straightforward. Creating and implementing a good UX is however a very holistic process. As with design, it involves not just the look or the feel of a product but UX actually impacts every stage a thing goes through when being created and after.


UX is not the same as usability


You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just about how good something is for a person to use. While usability is an important element of user experience, usability only focuses on how user-friendly and intuitive something is. UX, on the other hand, is the overall experience, emotion, and connection that a user feels when using a site or product. Just like UX is not UI, but UI helps create good UX.

ux verses ui


The short definition


User experience involves a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service.


The long(er) definition

While there are many businesses and organisations that specialise in user experience, some choose to differentiate themselves by aligning themselves with international standards and best practices. There isn’t actually an international standard for UX design, but there is an international standard of human-centred design, usability, accessibility, and many of these things to form the basis of user experience.


what is user experience


Why the growing interest in User Experience?


With technology moving at such a rapid pace, more and more businesses are having to focus attention on their digital presence. User experience brings together many factors such as usability, accessibility, performance, design and marketing. So it really is a common goal for specialists in these areas. Today's consumer is very discerning, and while they may use many apps or visit many websites, they will tend to favour a select few, ones that offer them a positive experience.


In terms of design, UX is just as important as a visual identity. It doesn’t matter what your site or app looks like if people don’t know how to interact with it. And moreover, they need to enjoy that interaction. That being said, user interface design certainly needs to be aesthetically pleasing and stimulating in order to attract users. 


While UX is certainly important for all things digital, it becomes an extreme priority for digital services with complex functionality, anything involving online retail and especially small businesses or start-ups. Providing a unique or exceptional user experience can be the difference between an idea getting off the ground or becoming lost among all the other things that vie for our attention.


Tip: UX is fundamental to forming a relationship between customers and your business.


Why does it matter to my business?


If you have something you want to offer your customers you want them to have a good experience with it. The UX will be different from one type of business to the next, as it depends on what you’re selling. A fashion label will want to form an emotional connection with its customers, creating a sense of brand affection. A financial advisor will want to form a slightly different connection with their clients, but they still depend on user experience to gain clients and make them want to stay.


In the case of tech startups, the platform or service needs to be intuitive and designed well, the user needs to feel valued, and that it's a positive, worthwhile experience. This is the objective for Instagram as it is for Google's products or for Natwest for its mobile banking app.


If your customers can’t see the value in your business, at best they’ll be disinterested in it, at worst they’ll choose something else that works better for them. Good for your competition and bad for you.


Tip: UX is a crucial element of your companies success, just as branding or innovation is.


Hopefully, this should give you more of an understanding as to what user experience is some of the factors that contribute to it. Whether your business is tech, or you just care about your online presence, if you’re not addressing user experience now is the time to do so. Investing some time and effort in reviewing how your UX can be improved will surely pay dividends, and is a vital part of your strategy that shouldn't be overlooked.


User Experience In Action


Following on from our post on what user experience is we’re counting down 5 examples of great UX. There are lots of features that work to improve user experience, and some are becoming commonplace, as businesses prioritise design and UI/UX. For example, a drop-down menu where the product types are clickable or prompt to create an account only when a user completes their first purchase. These small things go a long way to creating a user experience that users love.


Each of these 5 things scores quite highly for user experience, and as such they're all noteworthy examples of how businesses combine design, UI and ease of use to create something that people like. What I've tried to do is highlight a key feature or element that you could perhaps consider in your own work. Hopefully, there are some good takeaways from looking through these, plus if the user experience is still relatively new to you, it always helps to see some examples in action.



I’ve chosen Gmail as it’s a good example of empty states. An empty state is what a user can see when they’ve just signed up or cleared the data themselves. As a blank slate, the Gmail empty state provides the user with some useful information in the form of emails readily available in the inbox. It also gives you further instructions on ways to can get more value out of the app, which serve to aid users and subsequently increase user retention.





Hunter Boots have a very user-friendly eCommerce website. It functions well on desktop and mobile devices and has straightforward and familiar navigation. A key design feature is located when users view a product. The images scroll using the mouse whilst all the product information remains in view. An eCommerce site that provides usability combined with high-quality photography goes a long way towards driving sales.




Amazon is certainly one of the best online retailers out there, and they have a range of features and UI (user interface) elements to make the browsing and purchasing process easy for their users. But what I want to draw attention to is their 1-click ordering system. Once a user has input their delivery and payment information they can order straight to their door with just one click. It makes the buying experience easier and by speeding up the process, Amazon is able to reduce cart abandonment.



Henri (Hardware Enhancing a Natural Responsive Interface) is an experimental prototyping tool that lets designers quickly ideate when designing non-screen based interactions. With a simple interface and 5 user-friendly controls, lights and sound patterns can be programmed without the need for code and it’s very intuitive.

An example of how it can be implemented would be designing a door handle that lets you know if it's due to rain. The internet of things is making this a reality, and with new technology comes new challenges regarding interfaces and interaction. The combination of usability, simplicity and intrigue help to create an experimental and memorable experience for the user.



Dropbox is a really useful way to manage files between computers and is very simple to use. Specifically, the onboarding is very well put together, making installation a breeze. The drag and drop upload systems are simple to grasp and lets you see uploads and errors easily. This drag and drop feature is becoming more prevalent due to this intuitive system and good experience.

mage courtesy of  The CDM

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Published by Paul Sullivan November 21, 2015
Paul Sullivan