User Experience Design – the Basics

You may have heard the term ‘user experience’ or ‘UX’ – but what does this actually mean? While user experience design may be a complicated and overwhelming field for newcomers, as it encompasses areas ranging from accessibility to user interface design, and much much more. So, it is important to have a fundamental understanding of the basics of ‘user experience’ in a design context.

UX is constantly developing and revolutionising how people interact with our world. It is why Google is so simple to use, and why Facebook knows exactly what article to suggest to you next. The aim of UX design within a business is to improve the ease of an interaction experience with, and the utility of, a product – therefore improving customer satisfaction in the meantime. Whether a product is digital or physical, UX is all about enhancing the interactive experience with your product – and leaving your customers satisfied.

So, what is UX Design?

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of designing a website that incorporates UX design in order to provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. Setting the right balance between a high-quality user experience and the functionality of the site for your business goals is paramount. So, what does this really involve?

To begin with, ‘User Experience Design’ is often used interchangeably with terms such as ‘User Interface Design’ and ‘Usability’. However, while Usability and User Interface Design are important aspects of UX Design, they are subsets of it. In fact, UX design covers a vast array of other areas, such as Interaction Design and Web Analytics.

Successful UX design results in a website that is tailored and customised for its target market. This involves taking into account every possibility of every action the user is likely to take. UX designers also need to understand the user’s expectations at every step of the way through that process, while simultaneously integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

Role of the UX Designer…

A UX designer is concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product – a journey which begins long before the content is experienced. UX designers concentrate on pleasure, efficiency and fun, designing with not only the product’s consumption or use in mind, but also the entire process of acquiring, owning, and even troubleshooting a product. This is the recipe for a really great user experience.

In more detail, a UX designer investigates and analyses how users feel about the experiences/product that are offered to them. This knowledge is then applied to the UX development, while monitoring projects to ensure such findings are implemented – all to ensure a user experience is created to meet a particular user’s needs in the specific context where he or she uses the product.

UX Design is User Centred…

Aside from considering the business goals of a product/experience, UX design focusses on maintaining a real understanding of users – what they require, what they value, their abilities and even limitations. User-centred design is vital for a UX designer to consider.

A UX designer’s role may vary, but often involves user research, designing wireframes and interactive prototypes, as well as testing designs – these may vary from company to company, but at the centre of each is the user’s needs. Designing for users demands an acute awareness of accessibility for all, and for accommodating many potential user’s physical limitations, such as reading small text.

User Experience Honeycomb

Peter Morville’s user experience honeycomb provides a useful indication of what UX design requires to successfully fulfil its purpose. Ultimately, at the core of UX is ensuring that users find meaning and value in what is being presented to them – Morville notes that in order for them to do so, information must be:

Useful – content should satisfy a need

Usable – websites should be easy to use

Desirable – Design elements should evoke appreciation and emotion through image, identity, brand, etc

Findable – whether onsite or offsite, content should be easy to locate and navigate

Accessible – content must be accessible to those with disabilities

Credible – Users must be able to trust the information provided

In essence, UX should provide the user with some kind of benefit or advantage, that makes their time spent interacting with your content a unique and pleasurable experience

Why / What / How of Product Use

A UX designer may consider the why, what and how of product use and user experience:

Why – the ‘why’ consists of the user’s motivations for using a product or website – how they relate to it, and the values associated with ownership and/or use of it.

What – the ‘what’ is a product/website’s functionality, and addresses what people can actually do with it.

Why – the ‘why’ is concerned with designing the functionality of the experience in such a way that is accessible and aesthetically pleasing, to motivate its use.

UX designers aim for a seamless and accessible experience, therefore they may begin with the Why before establishing the What, and then moving on to the How – all to provide a meaningful user experience.

Summing it up…

Overall, this article has provided an overview of the basics of user experience, or UX, design – hopefully providing a sound understanding of the purposes of UX, how it can be implemented, and the qualities that all UX design should encompass in order to craft a meaningful and pleasurable experience for users of a product/website. Check out our Linkedin and our blog for more posts like this.

Additional useful sites relating to UX design: