What is user experience design?

User Experience (UX) is everything that affects a user’s behaviour and interaction with a product or service. It’s about how a person feels, understands, and perceives a product.

Many people confuse UX with aesthetics of a product. User Experience Design – rather than focusing just on visual or technical aspects, largely deals with the psychology and behaviour of people.

Also, UX is an umbrella term which comprises of four major disciplines:

  1. Information architecture
  2. Interaction design
  3. Visual design
  4. User research

When someone refers to themselves as UX designers, it usually means they have a good understanding of all the four disciplines and are experts at probably a couple of them. I’m yet to come across someone who is an expert in all the four disciplines.

As in my situation, I have a solid understanding of Information Architecture and User research, but my expertise lies in Interaction and Visual design space.

User Experience Is an umbrella term

What does a UX Designer do?

Depends on (a) what the project requires? and (b) where the UX designer’s strengths lie. Since I’ve got a better grasp on Interaction and Visual design, my core work consists of:

  • Field research and competitor analysis
  • Discovering pain points and utopia
  • Collaborative sketching
  • HTML Prototyping
  • CSS Styling
  • Concept design in Photoshop
  • Interactive wireframes
  • Information architecture
  • User testing (A/B testing, face-to-face)
  • Usability analysis

Also, depending on the scope of the project – there are a plethora of other activities from diary studies to Storytelling that UX designers do.

Answering the misconceptions

UX design = Graphic design

User experience is an umbrella term which encompasses four core disciplines (read above).  UXD is about identifying a problem and solving it, and as you can imagine – it takes a lot more than graphic design.

Although graphic design is vital to UX, it is only a small piece of the puzzle. UX aims to improve the overall usability and experience of a product, not just its aesthetics.

UX is all about the users; not about the business

Although UXD focuses a lot on learning and observing user’s behaviour, its main aim is to bridge the gap between business and consumers. Without understanding users, a business cannot tailor products to suit their target audience.

Involving user experience designers largely improves the product development cycle by getting designers, developers and other stakeholders on a shared path at a very early stage.

UX is a quick-fix

It’s the same as calling in a property inspector after building a house to check the soil quality.

Ideally, user experience designers should be a part of the project from its inception. Every product (website, apps, software, and iPhone) design needs research, benchmarking, usability analysis and a good understanding of the market and target audience before it is developed.

Involving a UX designer just before the product launch is probably going to open a can of worms rather than fixing last-minute problems quickly.