Amanda Olsen

Front End Developer User Experience Enthusiast

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Thoughts on the industry

How to Explain “User Experience” to Your Mom

“User Experience” is an awfully vague term. We’re all users. And we all experience. It appears that everything in life is user experience. Talk about not differentiating anything from anything.

Now that I want to be a User Experience Designer, I need to be able to explain this concept to both techies and non-techies (because quite honestly, us techies are confused too). Following is my early-on, initial attempt.

The primary problem with “user experience” is that it’s a new term in a new-ish industry. And things in transition are always messy. To quote the all-mighty Wikipedia on the topic, “The exact definition, framework, and elements of user experience are still evolving”. The industry in this case is IT, and the challenge is connecting non-human data with humans. We do have the option of simply struggling and not addressing this challenge, but in a capitalistic society, that’s not going to work. People want to make money, and you’re going to make more if your users/customers are happy.

So let’s get past the obvious part of user experience: usability. Everyone knows a digital interface should be easy to use, or “user friendly”. One of the most well known books in UX (user experience) is “Don’t Make Me Think”. The title of this book alone is probably as valuable as its contents. Further, if you can take one click to do something rather than two, it’s almost always better. Since we are all users, we all understand the general concept of usability (which is not to imply that it’s easy to implement).

But what else does UX encompass? These are: Information architecture (structuring and organizing information), wireframing (planning the layout/flow of pages before visual design and development starts), visual design (look, feel, and layout), prototyping (interactivity/functionality on the page), and user testing (to achieve the aforementioned good usability).

Generally, UX design is a more strategic/conceptual layer in the process than graphic design or development, and usually occurs before graphic design and development.

I will keep exploring these concepts and will post as I go. UX is still establishing itself, and it’s exciting to help make mass amounts of data a more organic, integrated, and natural part of our lives.

A somewhat helpful graphic I found.

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