Total user experience

In the past, the term User Experience (UX) used to be all about Human-Computer Interaction. This outdated view is still reflected in the following definition, found online in Microsoft’s Glossary of MMC Terminology:

“User Experience: An activity of encounter by a computer user with the auditory and visual presentation of a collection of computer programs. It is important to note that this includes only what the user perceives and not all that is presented.”

These days, the scope of User Experience has been broadened from software interaction to span the entire use of a product, a system or a service. Think of the experience associated with buying a home theatre system: you interact with people, websites and brand elements before making your decision; you go home and unbox the device and its accessories; you go through the process of installation. You’ve experienced a range of emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, responses, behaviours and accomplishments – all before you’ve even switched on the system!

User Experience is by nature associated with Industrial Design, User Interface Design and Service Design, simply because these disciplines have a tradition of putting a strong emphasis on usability, utility and user satisfaction. But UX is more: it’s about well-designed packaging, smoothly running software, engaging content, robust and convincing mechanics, helpful and efficient customer service, … Or, as the ISO 9241-210 standard eloquently puts it:

“User experience is a consequence of brand image, presentation, functionality, system performance, interactive behaviour and assistive capabilities of the interactive system, the user ’s internal and physical state resulting from prior experiences, attitudes, skills and personality, and the context of use.”

Because of the all-encompassing nature of UX, it is a good idea to apply User Centred Design methods to the product, system or service being designed as a whole – with a keen focus on the most important users and their use cases.

Sami Pyörre / ED Design