Oh no, not another “UX; What does it mean?” debate

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Just got home from a fab Monday night with two of my biggest idols in the digital industry: Windahl Finnigan and Steve Hutson.

After a few drinks the debate turned to the definition of User Experience, a topic I have been engaged in for years.

However, I realised I almost never associate myself with UX anymore. I have given up!

The UX industry are all in agreement on the definition of the disciplines of UX and how it is much much more than just User Interface Design or Information Architecture.

But to clients and colleagues “UX” is synonymous with the tactical aspects of UX environment such as UI or Frontend Development. Every time a non-UX person says “User Experience” I know I will need to spend 10-15 minutes luring out what UX means to this person in that context.

And it rarely refers to the strategic elements of UX, but often translates to “make my idea happen”.

However,  the definition “Customer Experience” seems to be much more well-defined in everybody’s minds. Say “CX” and everybody thinks persona, journeys, strategy, ideas and business value. To me this is what User Experience is about.

But if everybody else wants to call it “Customer Experience“… well… I’ll accept that if it means I can get on with the kind of work I like to do, which is helping my clients crystalise their visions of how to connect with their customers.

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  • I feel your pain, as one who spends much time explaining what “proper” gamification is!

  • Well, not concentrating on the discussion any more has relieved the pain :)

  • I just went to this adaptive path conf where the focus was service design and customer experience. Businesses really seem to grasp those ideas. Send people to this article about the service map design of the Exploratorium

    That sort of illustrates what “UX” should really be doing – helping design all the touchpoints a customer has with a company. The higher level priming for an “experience” that spans many mediums, and even intangible psychology.

    At the conference, Kerry Bodine talked about just what you’re saying about CX: She even wants to say UX should die, as really “U. X.” should probably BE the tactical front end development, actually minifying what we try to make it now, and transfer this higher order “UX” things we do now to “customer experience and service design.”

    That was the tone of the conference, and I thought it was great. It’s all the same paradigm – designing things/places/situations to create an experience and emotional response; delight.

  • Very interesting article. Makes sense to me. Thanks for sharing.

    Sounds like a great conference I wish I’d been there.

  • Flab Oy

    Defining terms is always questionable because it’s all up to the context.

    I would say that having library of defined terms is good but for some experts at the same level of understanding (“there is no spoon” approach) When you start working on the particular project – the reality is far further tricky, random, not consistent so the chain of people (creative/production flow) involved in such process makes even the best descriptive definition useless.

    I like your words:

    UX means (…)“make my idea happen”.

  • So true.

    Yes, getting people to speak the same language is often a much bigger job on a project than anybody imagine but always worth the effort.