What the heck is UX?

by Jeremy 5/6/2009 1:57:00 PM

By the time I had sat through my third panel discussion at this year’s SXSW Interactive festival moderated or participated in by someone listed as “John Smith, Director of UX,” I was like “OK, does UX stand for what I think it does?” Yup. UX = User Experience.

As the web evolves and becomes a media-rich environment with so many ways to interact, we’re not looking at UI (User Interface) experts or IA (Information Architecture) folks anymore to tell us how our sites should work to benefit our users. The overall user experience has become king. Interface, architecture, design, programming: toss them all in a bowl, mix well, and you’ll end up with the User Experience.

Jared Spool’s talk on the “Journey to the Center of Design” provided me three core UX attributes that ensure good product development:

  • Good Vision
  • Good Feedback
  • Good Culture
These attributes can be seen as a set of three questions all developers should ask themselves during a project:
  1. Can everyone on the project team describe the experience of using your design five years from now? That’s vision, and it provides a way to measure understanding.
  2. In the last six weeks, have you ACTUALLY watched people use your product, or a competitor’s product? That’s feedback, and guarantees you don’t lose the forest for the trees.
  3. In the last six weeks, have you rewarded a team member for creating a major design failure? When you reward certain failures, you give employees a chance to LEARN without fear.  This is good culture and ensures you always thinking critically, not just cranking out the same old stuff.

When building an online product, it’s important to take the time to gauge yourself on the core attributes of UX design, to gain better understand of the experience you're creating. To learn more about these components, you can check out Spool’s presentation here.

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