User Experience has become a bit of a buzz word, and I find the intent of the work and the implied methodology has become detached so I offer this to you as context for looking at my work.
I recently kicked-off a project with stakeholder interviews. The organization’s silo’s were competing for ownership of the “User Experience” so I decided to ask the VPs “What is User Experience” and they were all wonderfully honest in their answers with a few looking at me as if they were shocked at their own answer – “I don’t know… What is it?!”
I offer this perspective to clarify what I mean when I refer to myself as a User Experience practitioner, expert and leader, and my User Experience Work or “UX”. I was introduced to UX and UCD about 19 years ago, I am going to credit Jared Spool as the source of expertise after reading his site and hearing him speak on several occasions in the late 90s – So I will give him credit as the person who has had the strongest influence on my interpretation. However with over 20 years of experience in the industry I do have a few thoughts of my own
the user experience
The experience of a product – all the components working together in a cohesive manner to offer a satisfying experience… at least in theory. When the components have not come together cohesively it results in frustration, confusion, and dissatisfaction.
Everyone has walked up to a door and pushed when you should have pulled – Despite the fact it was clearly labeled “Pull”. Why? The design of the door elicited a “push response”. The person who designed the door understood how people respond to the elements of the door and how to design a that will successfully work. The person who ordered the door did not understand the usability of the design options – He/she didn’t understand the infrastructure – The door frame that will support the door to be ordered only supports opening out. When the person who hung the door expressed concern about the conflict between the two, a “Pull” label was added with the thought that people will read the instructions and learn – But you haven’t, have you?
The User Experience approach works proactively to understand all the considerations upfront including the infrastructure, business goals including brand awareness and traffic goals, stakeholder expectations, and who the users are, their actual behavior, motivations, and expectations. User Experience requires collaboration, involvement, and input from all project team members to ensure comprehensive requirement definition and the ability to consider design ideas early enough in the process to be legitimately considered – The defined User Experience is complete and finalized with full input.
User Experience is not a bunch of people in a room arguing what “I” do as a user, or users declaring their behavior – This is subject to self-reporting bias and not considered legitimate behavior reporting. I first heard the term in the 90’s and it was used to reference work done with the User-Centered Design methodology. An iterative approach grounded in Cognitive Psychology that borrows from Anthropology to ensure that the product will be useful and usability.
As Jesse Garrett explained in The Elements of User Experience, User Experience is the conscious focus on the actual behaviors of the real users and their relationship to the business. User Experience brings an understanding of cognition and human behaviors (independent of any product or design) to define a detailed and realistic set of user needs or requirements that must be met to satisfy user goals and create a foundation in which a business can entice and engage more users while satisfy existing users.
A reference to our activities, not an acronym for the methodology or the user experience. My peers correct me on my misuse of this frequently.
the buzz word
There is a tendency to use the term “User Experience” interchangeably with “Creative Team” or even “Information Architecture”. User Experience work, or UX, refers to the planning and design of holistic, cohesive experiences (J. Garrett). These experiences begin with planning for – and designing the user’s experience based on an understanding of the users’ task motivations to understand their expectations, and anticipating what they need to help support completion of a task or goal, and finally examining these outcomes on the business and how they can inform business goals and how business goals can be met. User Experience draws from a set of cross-disciplinary skills and expertise including Information Architecture, Interaction Design, UI Design, Usability and/or Visual Design and depends on the User-Centered Design methodology. Creating a UX Strategy requires expertise in business process analysis, organizational development, and communication strategy.