Oh man, what a loaded question.
I tend to tell people that the answer to this question depends on who you ask!
If you check the Interaction Design Foundation’s definition it will say the following:
“User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function.”²(What is User Experience (UX) Design?, n.d.)
Don Norman, the person who coined the term ‘User Experience’ in 1993, has said this from a video uploaded to the Nielsen and Norman Group¹(Norman, 2016):
Personally when asked about what User Experience Design is, I have an answer that I like to use.
– Melody K. Carlisle
“UX Design is where Art, Science, and Psychology meet. It’s a method of creative problem solving in which we observe, research, create, and distribute information.”
The reason why I use this definition is because it’s welcoming to those who don’t know anything about UX, it doesn’t use buzz words, and it’s concise. I love Don Norman saying that UX is everything, because when you get down to it, it really is. For example, inevitably when people try to ask about what I do for work in their quest to better understand UX, they’re shocked by the wide variety of ‘jobs’ that I do. They don’t realize they’re all still UX, it’s just applied outside of software development. For example, my most recent jobs include:
- UX Consultant
- UX/UI Instructor
- Mixed Reality Filming
- Virtual Reality Developer
- Virtual Technical Director
- Social Media Marketing Consultant
- Executive Creative Director for Film Production
UX is more about your approach to how you do a job, rather than the job title or responsibilities that you have. It can be applied to any industry, as long as you really understand that just as Don Norman says, we’re not just making websites or apps. We’re looking at an entire system, how people fit into that system, behaviors, attitudes, methods, problems, services, situations, etc. Just remember, that we are always focused on our users.
You can’t be a UX designer, if you leave out the human aspect of what we do. If you focus strictly on deliverables, software, and short term costs or gains, you’re doing a disservice to your business. Without people, we can’t see the whole picture, and therefore we can’t truly understand our business. Bringing a proper UX designer into the picture helps to give humans a voice. A voice in a space where we’re often forgotten for new features, new systems, and new aesthetics, without consideration towards whether those shiny new things were actually needed at all. Improvements should be made if it benefits the end user, and should not be implemented to increase profits at the expense of usability.
In conclusion UX is:
- Human centered and human first.
- Thinking in systems and the bigger picture.
- Creative problem solving.
- About usability.
If you’re interested in UX as a subject and want to know more about what you might learn in my class, here’s a brief breakdown. In my bootcamp here at CNM Ingenuity, the first five weeks are heavily focused on design basics.
We cover topics like:
The basics of color mixing, processing, how color is displayed via print vs. on a screen.
Basics of type structure systems and how to find good type pairings. You’re looking at type right now!
How to place things on a page in a way that makes sense and looks great. We also discuss layout systems and hierarchy of information.
Editing written content for audience, platform, and context.
Propaganda vs. Public Service Announcements
Identifying and defining what’s legally considered propaganda by the media in different countries, but also defining different ethical stances on the matter.
How to craft and construct an argument focused on Aristotelian rhetoric
Approaching arguments while considering the whole of a person using facts and logic, emotional appeals, and credibility. When and why they’re applicable.
Identifying and using different types of reasoning
Deductive vs. inductive reasoning.
How the individual part of a system impacts the overall function of the system, and in turn, how a change in the system impacts the individual.
Basics of how the brain processes information
Human anatomy, how the brain processes different types of information, what happens as we process information, and why.
Different ways to tell a story. Everything is narrative; it’s imperative as a UX designer to understand why and how to tell a story.
How we organize and craft information systems. This can range from software architecture, to library systems.
Software development practices, and software focused project management basics.
UX Research Methods
Top 20 most common approaches, how to examine user behavior and turn it into data, how to examine raw data and turn it into insights about your users.
It sounds like a lot at first, but…
After five weeks of theory and exercises, we spend the next ten weeks on practical application through project based learning. What does that mean? Well, we take everything you learned, and build on it through team based projects. These projects will be your final that you’ll be presenting to employers at the end of the course. So, after we cover what you need to know, we hop right into the job!
We continue to learn more about UX as we go, and what you focus on depends largely on your project. You get the experience of working as a team, creating with a client in mind, and putting your knowledge into practice. While this class would just be the beginning of your journey, I would hope it inspires you to continue learning, and shows you just how versatile UX really is.
Read more with the references cited in this blog post!
¹Norman, D., 2016. Don Norman on the term “UX” (Video). [online] Nielsen Norman Group. Available at: <https://www.nngroup.com/videos/don-norman-term-ux/> [Accessed 12 July 2021].
²The Interaction Design Foundation. n.d. What is User Experience (UX) Design?. [online] Available at: <https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/ux-design> [Accessed 12 July 2021].