What is User Experience? UX Question #1

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Robert from Beavercreek, Ohio asks: what is user experience?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Robert. This is UX Question number 1 and I am Ben Judy.
What is user experience? Well, it’s the relative quality of a person’s interaction with a product, typically a software application, website, or some other digital product.

I can think of many ways to expand on this, many different perspectives to take.

From one point of view is, a user experience is something we all have often without even realizing it. When you use something—some product, a digital or computerized product or system, you have an experience with it.

These days almost all of us have an iPhone or an Android phone. Think about how you feel while you’re using it, what it allows you to do, its utility, and how easy or how difficult it is to use sometimes. Think about this device and how you interact with it, and how it interacts with you.

You, as a human being, have an experience with your phone. Or a tablet computer. Or a website. Or laptop or desktop computer software. Or your television. Or the control panel for your microwave. Et cetera.

You have feelings about that experience—it’s either pleasant and enjoyable to use, or it’s frustrating or disappointing.

And the software or the product you’re using is more or less usable. Some apps on my phone make it very easy to accomplish what I want to do. Some apps are very hard or maybe impossible to use.

So these are two important aspects of UX: subjectively, how the user feels about the experience with the product, and objectively the usability—does it work for the user?

From another point of view, it’s a journey. You were doing something before you started using the software, you used it, and then you went on to do something else. When we look at the holistic user experience, we’re looking at that entire before, during, and after journey that you undertook.

From another point of view, UX is a career field. I’ve been a UX professional for many years and I have many colleagues and friends who do what I do. We are UX practitioners. Because a user experience is something we can observe and investigate. And we can seek to improve those experiences though better product design. So we are hired by companies and various kinds of organizations to make user experiences with their products better.

So that’s what we mean by, “user experience” or UX. It’s the relative quality of a person’s interaction with a product, usually software or some digital product. And more often than not, the quality of the experience is way, way worse than it could be. Because we can’t have nice things.

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