What is user experience?

What is user experience?

User experience may be talked about a lot, but what is it 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 but actually creating and implement a good user experience is a very holistic process. As with design, UX involves not just the look or 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.

what-is-user-experience?

The short definition

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

The long(er) definition

According to the ISO definition, user experience includes all the users’ emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviours and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. The ISO also list three factors that influence user experience: system, user and the context of use.

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-practises. There isn’t actually an international standard for UX design, but there is an international standard human-centred design, usability, accessibility, and many of these things do form the basis of user experience.

what-is-user-experience?

Why the burgeoning interest in UX?

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 user experience is a common goal for specialists in these areas. Todays 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, user experience is just as important as 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 import 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 UX depends on what you’re selling. A fashion label will want to form an emotional connection with their 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 start ups, the platform or service needs to be intuitive and designed well, the user needs to feel valued, and that its 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 user experience can be improved will surely pay dividends, and is a vital part of your strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked.

UX in action

Click here to see some examples of user experience.

You can read more of our posts on design by clicking here.

image courtesy of  The CDM

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Paul Sullivan
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