It’s important to start by saying there’s no commonly accepted definition for UX design. User experience design is a concept that has many dimensions, and it includes a bunch of different disciplines—such as interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, and human-computer interaction. But let’s try to get a clearer picture of what that really means.
According to a study from the Oxford Journal Interacting With Computers, The goal of UX design in business is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”
In other words, UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with. It’s about enhancing the experience that people have while interacting with your product, and making sure they find value in what you’re providing.
History of UX design
When you think about UX design, it may seem like a relatively new concept as it tends to be associated with websites and applications. However, a few of the most basic UX design principles can be traced back to 4000 BC with Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese philosophy. Feng Shui focuses on harmoniously arranging your surroundings to promote balance or in today’s terms, user-friendliness.
In the late 19th century, industrialists and thinkers like Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor integrated these principles into their design elements. Taylor researched interactions between workers and their tools, similar to how UX designers examine how users interact with products and services.
In recent years, cognitive scientist Don Norman, joined Apple in the late 90s as a User Experience Architect, becoming the first person to have UX in their title. He devised the term "user experience design" to "cover all aspects of the person's experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual."
Today, the term UX design is a widely used buzzword. Since the past, people sought to gain a deeper understanding of their surroundings for maximum user-comfort, and that notion is still present today.
UX design goes beyond UI design
Often, people use UX and UI design interchangeably. User interface design is a fragment of UX design that focuses on the surface layer and the aesthetic experience of a product. User experience design focuses on the user experience and creates functional design solutions for any pain points users encounter during the user journey. Although they're both critical features in the product development process, UX design takes it further by ensuring that products are aesthetically pleasing, and designed with maximum functionality.
Take Google, for example. Its famously spartan interface highlights how a great experience doesn’t require bells and whistles. By focusing on the user, Google knows that when they come to the site, they’re after one thing: information. And they want it quickly.
The fact that ‘google’ is a widely accepted verb shows how well the company delivers on that experience—and expectation. Just about anything a person has ever wanted to know can be accessed in the blink of an eye and few other search engines survive today.
Now imagine that every time you searched on Google, it took 15 seconds to get a result—you’d no longer be able to instantly get an answer to your question. Even if the interface stayed the same, your experience with Google would be dramatically different.
The role of a UX designer
User experience designers are responsible for the end user's overall satisfaction with a product or application. They aim to make a product or service more enjoyable, usable, and accessible. UX designers advocate for users and keep all users' needs at the forefront of every design decision. Although tasks may vary from company to company, overall, UX designers conduct user research, create customer personas, and design wireframes and prototypes, to ensure a functional end-product for the user.
The importance of UX design
An integral part of UX design is ensuring that the interaction with a product is intuitive and seamless for the user. If users don't enjoy using your product, you may lose customer loyalty as customers turn to competitors. Integrating UX into your design process fosters customer loyalty and revenue because customers know your product offers a great customer experience leading them to return for more.
A final word on UX design
UX design enhances the experience people have while interacting with your product and ensures they find value in what you're providing. It's an iterative process where you seek to learn customers' needs and wants to design high-quality, intuitive products.
Want to learn more?
Explore UX best practices, expert advice, user research templates, and more.