By: Patricia Bertea
UX – The big picture about user experience

UX has become like a mantra for all those involved in the digital world. Not only designers should understand that it is, but also managers and people involved in the decision-making process. So let’s see the big picture about user experience: what it is, how is it measured and why you should pay attention to it.

What is user experience?

In 1990, Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist and designer, put a name of the concept of user experience. At that time, Norman was working at Apple and was the first person holding the title of user experience architect.  

Later, Norman founded together with Jakob Nielsen a leading authority in the field – Nielsen Norman Group. Their definition of user experience is: “user experience encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services and its products”. However, explained in an easier way, user experience is about how a user feels about a brand when they interact with its product or services.

User experience encompasses three elements: the looks, the feel and the usability. The looks is about the design – how attractive it is. The feel is about how customers feel during the interaction and about the ‘”joy of use”. Usability is about functionality and how easy it is to use the product or service.

But… who is this user?

The term user is a general one and it defines many stakeholders. A user can be the customer of a company, a potential customer, a business partner, a supplier, employee or any other person that interacts with that company’s products or services.

Two main dimensions

When studying UX, there are two main dimensions that need to be investigated – cognition and emotions. Cognition is about mental processing and, even though it’s unique for every user, patterns can be recognized through thorough analysis. The concept that receives the most attention is cognitive load, which is the total mental effort that is required when completing a task. While every task requires a certain cognitive load (named intrinsic load), but the job of UX professionals is to minimize the extraneous cognitive load through design and information architecture.

Emotion is about how a user feels during the interaction with a product or service. Basically, every interaction triggers an emotion. Not only design has an impact upon emotions – bright colors create a certain mood, but also functionality and information architecture – some functionality that doesn’t work or information which is difficult to find will create frustrations. Negative emotions will have an impact upon the overall perception about the brand.

But how can UX be measured?

Measuring UX

UX shouldn’t be only about intuition and gut feeling. In order for it to matter and help in the decision making process, it has to be quantified and measured. There are various methods to achieve it. One method is by using standardized surveys, which evaluate the usability of a product. Another method is card sorting, useful especially to evaluate or build the information architecture. Also, there is usability testing, which requires the observation of users during the interaction with a product.

But one of the most detailed methods is through eye tracking, a technology that records eye movements and provides an objective and accurate analysis of users’ real behavior. Read more about eye tracking here:

UX – a raising domain

UX is only in the beginning. There are clear signs that it will be more developed. We will illustrate only two of them. Firstly, various researches have shown that the ROI of UX is impressive: every dollar spent on UX can bring back $2 to $100. With this number in mind, more companies will be willing to big deeper into this field.

Secondly, UX created and it still creates new jobs. Along the time, UX gathered together specialists from different fields and created new jobs. UX is an interdisciplinary field, where designers, information architects, content strategists and researchers have gathers together. The newest job created is UX copywriter, meaning the person responsible for writing in a way that can guide and enhance users to complete certain tasks. Big players like Amazon, Dropbox and PayPal already opened positions for these new-born specialists.

Why should you care about UX?

Neglecting UX is not the thing that you want to do. Needless to say, the competition in ecommerce is raising. If the customers have a bad experience with your digital product, they have plenty of other options to turn to, options that give them a better experience, with more natural flow.

If the form is too long, the account creation too complicated or any other issues are encountered, the user will abandon the task – meaning he or she will abandon your website or app.

Testing UX is helpful even before launching a products – it will help you in building a product that is easy to interact with. Therefore, if you have never thought about UX for your product or service, today is the day!