UX or User Experience is often misinterpreted, misunderstood or simply ignored. Over the past 5 years I have seen various job titles for designers and developers that have contributed to this UX confusion. Everything from "Unicorn" to "Full Stack Designer" to "UI/UX Designer". Check out the graphic for UX roles and activities. I will be the first to admit, I called myself all of the above. So, I will take the next 3 minutes explaining what UX is and is not.
I love cars, so I often find myself using cars as an analogy in explaining UX to clients. Let's imagine we are given the keys to two cars. I walk out to the parking lot and get into the first car. It's a Honda Civic. I take a look around. No surprises. It has a steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal, shift knob and they work as expected. I turn the car on and start driving. Again, no surprises. It accelerates when I want it to and comes to a stop when I press on the brake pedal. The Civic does what I expect and want it to do. It takes me from point A to point B.
I return back to the parking lot to get into the next car. This time I approach a blood red Porsche 911 GT3 RS. A track ready rocket from Porsche.
As I open the door, I already "feel" a difference. Something else is at play here. I sit down and the interior instantly feels "better". I see the quality of the materials and finish and my expectations for this vehicle are already higher than the Civic, even before I start the engine. I notice the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal and shift knob are where they need to be, so no surprise there. They have the same functionality as in the Civic but for some reason I really want to USE and appreciate them more in the Porsche. I look for the ignition and notice I don't need my key. I simply press the "Start" button and all of a sudden I hear a monster awaken. The deep rumble, slightly vibrating the steering wheel makes me believe this car has a different goal than the Civic.
I start driving and instantly notice the response from the throttle and feedback from the steering wheel. I glance at the rearview mirror and notice there is a smile on my face. I don't remember that in the Civic. I can feel my heart beating faster the more I step on the accelerator. My expectations for this car have been met! I want more! I don't want this experience to end!
UX is not functionality. A button is a button, a menu is a menu, a form is a form, however each part contributes to an overall experience. Two forms may collect the exact same data but deliver two totally different experiences.
UX can be measured, and that is why we have UX Researchers. They conduct user interviews and collect data. Just the look on my face getting out of the Porsche says it all.
Designers certainly have taken more time creating the Porsche. Everything from materials, to the finish and engine placement are specifically chosen to make the overall experience enjoyable.
UX is always present, whether you plan it or not. Users are always walking away with a feeling, opinion or emotion and that is why you should invest in UX and help your users walking away with the best feelings, opinions and emotions of your company.