I had a great conversation with my Father recently when he stopped to ask what exactly I do for a living. While I was doing my best to explain Web Development and my day-to-day routine (which is never routine), he seemed a bit puzzled when I got to the “UX” part.
This is how I explained it to him.
User Experience is Not Limited to The Web
When was the last time you bought a product and had trouble opening the package? Or when you sat on an airplane in an uncomfortable seat? Those were your user experiences. They weren’t good experiences of course, and that’s likely why you remember them.
A User Experience (UX) Designer attempts to find the sweet spot between you how you use a product, and the business needs of the product.
Business needs are paramount. After all, a users experience wouldn’t matter at all if we weren’t looking at the bottom line. Of course, ‘the bottom line’ doesn’t always have to be actual dollars.
On the web, the bottom line could be having a visitor call you, or having them download an ebook you wrote. Maybe your bottom line is more literal and is making sure the checkout cart process is as seamless as possible. There’s countless possible goals, each unique to the product and situation.
That uncomfortable plane seat? It feels that way because the airline tried to put as many people in the plane without regard for your comfort. After all, more people on the plane = more money.
UX design is a constant iteration of not only assuming how people will use something, but actually testing how they do so. UX designers often look at a number of different things at once and then begin to question their assumptions.
In many ways, it’s continually asking Socratic questions about users and the product they’re using.
What are the goals of this site or app? What do we want the user to do when they go to this page, or click this link? We then take those assumptions and look at what’s really happening, and make adjustments accordingly.
How do we look critically to see if a users experience is both effortless and matching our business goals?
In truth, there’s a lot of different techniques that can be used. The most common are wireframes, personas, user testing, scenarios and storyboards. How much you can test and measure always depends on time and budget though.
The most successful UX testing is one that’s always evolving. Your business needs will evolve over time, so your testing should also evolve to reflect that.
It’s Science! (kind of)
You’re already a user experience tester without even knowing it. Every time you change your behavior with a product, you’ve changed your experience with it.
I explained to my Dad that it’s a bit of a pseudo science, really. You take measurements and apply them to human behaviors. But human behaviors, and the means of measuring them, are always changing.
The great part about UX Design is that it’s fascinating to try to better understand what compels people to do certain things.
In short, UX Design is the What, Why, When, Where and How people use a product; and then making sure they’re achieving the goals you want them to.