UX (User Experience) has been a buzzword for some time now, but slowly it becomes an integrated part of product creation, by product we refer to a website, a financial service or in-store experience. As Wikipedia puts it so simple “User experience (UX) involves a person's behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.” – Which to put it in less words it is all the types of interactions / experiences which we have in contact with a product/service.
From a software company point of view it can include activities related to usability testing, information architecture (IA), user experience design (UxD), somehow graphical design, interaction design (IxD) and a good deal of user tests (with focus groups, interviews, eye tracking, etc.)
For the end user it is the experience of using a certain product, with all the tiny interactions involved, from the website design, customer service, invoice layout and clarity, packaging, etc.
Why it matters: in a blunt way, if you neglect it, the product might (will) fail and you might be out of job.
What is about: how easy is to learn to use an iPhone for a first time user. To complete the overall experience, we consider the Apple website, an Apple store - which is designed with the same “feeling”, the simple package used for products and how easy is to set it up the iPhone.
Fig 1. Apple website – shop – iPhone package – iPhone 5s
In Fig 1 we can see the design elements with which we get in contact to buy an iPhone. What of course is missing is the human element, which makes a lot of the UX thingy – how easy can we find information in the store and how fast can we learn to use our new super duper smart-phone.
Testing it the hidden word in UX. Without it we cannot evaluate before launch a product. It is just something we need to do as UX professionals, and ideally in few iterations so we can measure how much the experience has improved since the first iteration. By iteration we refer to a basic plan – design – test cycle. [So we got to UX testing, but this is an entire domain in itself].
How to improve the experience: by doing UxD (User Experience Design). Which as Wikipedia puts it so well is “the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human-computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users. User experience is any aspect of a person's interaction with a given IT system, including the interface, graphics, industrial design, physical interaction, and the manual.” More UxD theory here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience_design
When is wrong: at an IA conference some years ago, somebody (can’t remember exactly who L ) said that the problem with IA (Information Architecture) and UX is that the user realize about it when is missing, when is unhappy, when he cannot set up the easy function of.. xxx.. or why does he need to tap 5 times before making a phone call (iPhone 1 users know).
UX is better showcased in IT products, websites mostly, so enjoy some compilations of the worst of the worst on the following links: