Most designers these days are heard coining the term User Experience (UX) without often a clear idea about the concept. Some think of it as the “magic wand” that would make users love their website. But hey, isn’t that what finally drives the business? Conventional definition of User Experience describes it as the overall perception and interaction of the user with a product or service.
But UX is not just interaction of the user with the system, its main attribute is probably usability. So let’s try and define the usability and UX goals that we consciously know. Common usability goals are effectiveness, efficiency, safety, ease of use, good utility. Similarly, common UX goals could be summed up as entertaining, fun, rewarding, aesthetically pleasing.
“The architect should strive continually to simplify; the ensemble of the rooms should then be carefully considered that comfort and utility may go hand in hand with beauty.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
So is there a trade-off between usability and UX? Can a product be both safe and fun? The answer is most definitely yes! In effect, usability answers the question – “Can the user’s goal be accomplished?” where as UX answers the question “Did the user have the best possible experience?” A designer can absolutely model a product keeping both these attributes in mind. Now coming to the other attribute of UX, which is its association with interactive system design. The phenomenal success of the i-Phone is a primary example of the same.
“The iPhone is a digital experience in the literal sense of the word. The user’s digits roam, stroke, tweak, tweeze, pinch, probe, slide, swipe and tap across the glass screen forging a relationship with the device that is like no other.” Stephen Fry
Throughout the process of interactive design, designers need to be aware of key aspects in their designs that influence emotional responses in target users. Hence designers employ the use of expressive interfaces to convey such aspects. Having said that, it is often argued that UX cannot be designed. It is because UX designing depends not only on the product itself, but also the user and the situation in which the product is used. The stimulation that a product provides depends on the individual user’s experience with similar products. Users have different expectations, different goals and hence use the product in different modes. For example, the way one user perceives a movie might be different than that of his/her companions – which might be based on previous experiences of movie-watching.
It is also a general observation that UX evolves over time. The first time a user tries a product might be with a slightly negative experience. Over a period of time, as he gets more familiar with the potential and features of the product, he might get more emotionally attached to it, leading to more enriched UX. Hence its more apt to say that designers design for UX. Besides designing the product, the designer can anticipate the potential ways in which the user might receive it and model the product based on optimum levels of user expectations and then some more. After all, it’s not enough that a user comes upon an application and says “nice”, its definitely more gratifying when the user exclaims “wow!” in complete appreciation.