For the record, I consider myself a User Experience (UX) Designer. I don’t usually refer to myself as such, but it’s what I primarily do. And for simplicity’s sake, I like to define it this way…
User Experience Design is the comprehensive process of designing a user’s entire experience with a product – most commonly (for me at least) – a website product.
I like to throw in the “website product” disclaimer because I don’t want someone to think I design for ATMs, TVs, etc. My primary focus is on the website. But, keep in mind, a website has many unique entry and exit points – all of which make up the entirety of a user’s experience with that product. Let’s take a look at a specific example…
Let’s imagine you are doing some ux design work for UrbanOutfitters.com (something I actually did about 3 years ago). You’ve redesigned their website and think “I kept the user in mind when doing all my design work and I think they’re going to like this new experience.” That’s great! But did you think about…
- Do the weekly sales/newsletter emails tie into the new design? (a design disconnect can create a rocky experience with a product)
- Are the landing pages for paid search terms like “skinny jeans” titled clearly? And do they allow you to easily get to other product categories on the site? (entry points from search engines are a huge way to get new customers)
- Have you created a consistent visual language in regards to button sizes and treatments? (being consistent with UI pieces means that users can more easily predict what a button does, just by the way it looks)
- Does the mobile version of the site feel like a good companion piece? (if the site behaves different from one version to the other, it can create a confusing experience)
- Does that new larger image size you used on the product pages pose any problems in regards to bandwidth resources? (20kb extra for 100,000 daily visitors = 2gb of extra daily traffic… and slow low load times can create an incredibly frustrating experience)
- Is the customer service center able to keep up with call volume now that you’ve placed the phone number in a more prominent position? (poor customer service often times leads to lost customers & revenue)
- Are the emailed receipt, order confirmation page and paper copy in the delivered package showing the same information? (return policy, links, phone numbers, etc)
- Does the flash-based product picture zoom have a fall-back for iPad and iPhone? (also keep in mind that it’s hard to share flash images with friends on social networks)
- Is the copy on the site written in a consistent tone? (be wary of switching from “your” to “my” haphazardly)
Along with the obvious visual design and information architecture of your site, all of these items make up a user’s experience with your product. Sometimes you have control over these extra pieces (picture size, email receipts) and sometimes you don’t (customer service call center, paper receipts). Regardless, it’s important to at least keep all of these variables in mind. They all have an impact in unique and various ways. UX Design is an incredibly comprehensive task and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Sadly, I think far too many Web Designers are taking it lightly, and calling themselves UX Designers because it sounds cooler and more prestigious. If you’re one of those, I’d like you to give it some thought. Are you designing a user’s entire experience with a website? Or are you designing a website with a user’s interests in mind. These are similar tasks, but (at times) very different in scope. And (to me) one is a UX Designer, and one is a Web Designer.
PS… some additional reading that is relevant to this post: