What is User Experience?

Often misunderstood, overlooked or an after-thought.

June 19, 2020
3 mins
to read

User Experience is a relatively misunderstood concept and so is often overlooked or an after-thought. When you break it down, though, User Experience becomes quite a simple concept and an important lens through which to view your products.

User Experience (UX) is a relatively hot topic in the world of product development these days, and so it should be. It is only through understanding and applying good UX principles that a product can truly serve and satisfy its users.

There is, however, tension around the difference between User Experience and Customer Experience. This article will distil the two and help draw a clear boundary between them for you.

User Experience

User Experience (UX) is the umbrella term that describes how a user perceives their interaction with a product based on their ability to perform their intended actions.Notice that UX is specific to products, as people use products.

We define products as anything that a user can interact with, like a book, a door, a website, an app, etc. It does not have to be a digital product, though the fundamentals that we cover in this website are digital-focused.

Customer Experience

Customer Experience (CX) describes how a user identifies with a brand and perceives their ability interact with all of its touch points. CX is specific to brands as brands have customers.

Brands build products for customers to use. Therefore, UX is a component of CX. We’ll cover CX in more depth in a future series of posts.

What is User Experience Design?

User Experience Design is the process of optimising a product based on the users’ wants, needs, and general context, spanning the entire lifecycle of the product. It is not simply designing a nice interface for a product. It is also not simply how the interface of a product works.

Though a product may have a beautiful and usable interface, if the user can’t achieve what they want on the product, the overall UX will be poor.

Unfortunately, when we talk about the lifecycle of a product we generally think about the marketing lifecycle. The marketing lifecycle, illustrated below, describes how a product gets introduced and then steps through the following three phases of growth, maturity, and decline. The typical reason for a decline in any lifecycle is because a product has lost currency in the market either because of newer technologies or because of a lack of product improvement.

If we consider a computer, no matter how many software updates you perform, at some point the computer itself will be old technology that needs replacing. On the other hand, if your product is an app, if you are playing in a competitive industry and the competition are making better and more frequent improvements to their app, then yours will start to lose touch with customers.

In User Experience Design, the lifecycle starts at the concept phase where a product’s users are identified and their needs mapped and remains with the product whilst it is in the market, with frequent improvements made based on feedback captured from users. This user-centered approach allows products to transcend the marketing lifecycle and remain current indefinitely.

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