What is a good definition of user experience? UX Question #7

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Sarah from Chicago, Illinois, asks: What is a good definition of user experience?

I love that question thanks for asking, Sarah. This is UX Question number 7 and I am Ben Judy.

What is a good definition of user experience? Well, Don Norman, who is considered to be the person who coined the term User Experience, said that UX encompasses, quote, “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products,” end quote.

Now, I’m not sure I can come up with a better, one-sentence definition for UX. Although, I do have some critique of that definition.

I think it’s too broad. “All aspects” of my interactions with a company, its services, and its products. I don’t find it useful to cast such a wide net.

In practice, UX professionals tend to focus on human experiences with technology like mobile phone apps, tablet apps, websites, desktop computer software. And other electronic tech. I’ve designed a digital kitchen display system for a restaurant chain, where the input device was a specialized keyboard called a bump bar. So, I’m designing the user experience for the kitchen worker, in that case. But I don’t think UX is all of their interactions with a company. The interpersonal interactions those restaurant employees had with their shift manager, I don’t consider that to be UX. It’s helpful context, but it’s not the user experience with the digital product. So UX isn’t all aspects, that’s too grandiose in my opinion.

That definition also mentions services as well as products. There is a discipline called Service Design that, in practice, is broader in scope than UX. Service design would encompass workflows and processes and policies within an organization. Things beyond user experience.

Human factors is an older discipline closely linked to ergonomics and physiology. Think about your experience sitting in a chair at a table: your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the height of the chair and the table, the wood grain pattern, how comfortable the seat and back of the chair feel to you. Are you using the chair and the table, therefore that’s a user experience? I guess, academically, but that’s not what we usually think of when we talk about UX. Again, it’s digital things.

Norman’s definition also mentions a company, whereas other types of organizations hire UX practitioners. A government agency, for example. Not a company.

Hey, defining user experience is like staring at a magic eye poster. Stare long enough and you’ll see something come into focus. But try to describe it to someone else and they’ll think you’re nuts.

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