UX = the sum of parts 22:12 on Wednesday

I’ve tried to pin down the meaning of user experience a few times in the past, with not much success (check out my user experience archives for proof). Here’s another stab at it. And I’m really feeling at ease with this definition!

The question is, how to use the term user experience?

First of all, you can never use it alone. Never ever again. You are no more allowed to talk about user experience as is.

You can talk about the user experience of a company, or the user experience of a form field, or of the customer service at a bank, or of the steering wheel of a car, or of a web page. User experience is a term that you can use when you don’t want to talk about specifics: when you’re not referring only to the usability of the form field, not just the copy of the form label, not just the look of the field border, the fonts and the colours, nor just how the tab ordering has been programmed. When you do want to talk about all of these artifacts and how they combine to create a good experience for the users, you talk about user experience.

You can talk about the user experience of any level of detail. When discussing the user experience of a company it’s not just the product user interface, not just how the call center answers your call, not just how the packaging looks, not just how the marketing speaks to you, not just how the company handles your privacy, but all of these combined. It can include anything that affects how users experience stuff.

User experience is a short-hand for situations in which it would be too cumbersome or repetitive to list all the ingredients that go into creating a good end product.

Here’s a how-to example:

We’ll be designing the website of ABZ company by gathering customer needs, listing user requirements, creating inventories of important content, designing perfectly navigable wireframes and user flows, working in tandem with the development to create a highly usable interface, and perfecting the details to make sure our users will be so pleased they will send a link to all of their Facebook friends. Mary Johnsson will be handling the project management, and Alf Simons will be supervising the user experience of the website.

This is to say Mary Johnsson will be in charge of schedules, and Alf Simons will see through that the customer needs are actual needs of customers, the user requirements reflect what the users require, the content is relevant to users, the wireframes and the user flows look solid, usability of the interface has been checked, and no minor irritating detail has been left unfixed.

Does this feel like an acceptable definition of user experience? What do you think?

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