User experience

See also: usability

Introductory articles

  • User experience design
    When I broadened my interest from information architecture to user experience, I found the need for a new diagram to illustrate the facets of user experience, especially to help clients understand why they must move beyond usability. And so with a little help from my friends developed the user experience honeycomb.

  • Make it all about the user
    Whether considering an initial web investment or a redesign of an existing web initiative, a crucial step in your process should always be to address the key components that help to create a positive user experience. These components include: copywriting, information architecture, interface design, information design, workflow, and cross-platform compatibility.

Discussion articles

  • Aesthetics and usability: a look at colour and balance
    As websites continue to fight for the attention of potential users, designers must begin to look not only at the inherent usability of the site, but also its perceived usability.

  • A framework for analysing user experience
    The concept of user experience has come to dominate in consumer arenas such as electronic commerce product design and branding. There is however an uneasy silence as to what actually constitutes experience. In short, despite a growing acceptance of the need to focus on experience, user experience is not well developed conceptually.

  • All those opposed: making the case for user experience in a budget-conscious climate
    In any commercial enterprise, websites exist for one of two reasons: to help the organisation save money, or to help it make money. In both cases, the user experience can make the difference between a successful site and a failure.

  • Back to basics
    "Design and optimize products around basic features. The result - you will sell more products and improve the chances of people using secondary features (such as value added services)."
    (Daniel Szuc and Gerry Gaffney)

  • Beauty is only screen deep
    What happens when web designers really 'get' designing for the web? Sarah Horton, co-author of the Web Style Guide, ponders the meaning of beauty and quality in the context of being a good web designer.

  • Beyond "couch potatoes": from consumers to designers and active contributors
    The fundamental challenge for computational media is to contribute to the invention and design of cultures in which humans can express themselves and engage in personally meaningful activities. Unfortunately, a large number of new media are designed from the perspective of seeing and treating humans primarily as consumers. In personally meaningful activities, the possibility for humans to be and to act as designers (in cases in which they desire to do so) should be accessible not only to a small group of 'high-tech scribes', but rather to all interested individuals and groups.

  • Celebrating holidays and special occasions on websites
    Even small holiday decorations can increase joy of use and make websites feel more current and more connected to users' lives and physical environment. The key is to commemorate without detracting from your users' main reasons for visiting the site.

  • Configuration hell: the case for the plug and play user experience
    "Users are not usually successful at configuring software, websites or devices and the configuration experience can be a major source of frustration. Instead we need to move toward a world where everything is auto-configured and user experiences are 'plug and play'."
    (Frank Spiller)

  • Conflict in HCI field: computer science vs. psychology
    The Bottom Line: The purpose of technology is to make life easier. More specifically, to simplify a particular task or set of tasks. Here is where I see the conflict between Computer Science and Psychology in the field of HCI: computer science focuses way too much on the implementation.

  • Creating passionate users: can you have too much ease of use?
    "So if what you offer doesn't have any challenges associated with it, and things for which people can continually learn and improve, you'll have a harder time getting people passionate about it. Now, this doesn't mean you should make your user interface challenging. If you're writing software, it's usually because the user is going to use your software to do something else. And if that thing they do using your software is challenging, then you want your software to get the hell out of the way and let the user get on with what they really love--correcting the colors of old photos, creating three-dimensional images, writing the next great novel, finding real information in the noise of a signal they're analyzing, whatever."
    (Kathy Sierra)

  • Customer experience in four steps, and a whitepaper
    "Stated as simply as possible, but not simpler, there are four steps in transforming the customer experience within a business: 1. Listen to the business. 2. Listen to the customers. 3. Synthesize the two inputs. 4. Suggest improvements."
    (Mark Hurst)

  • Design as communication
    Design is a conversation between designer and user, one that can go both ways, even though the designer is no longer present once the user enters the scene. Each placement of an object, the choice of materials, the addition of hooks, handles, knobs, and switches, is both for utility and for communication. The physical placement and the perceptual appearance, sound, and touch all talk to the users, suggesting actions to be taken. Sometimes this conversation is accidental, but in the hands of good designers, the communication is intentional.
    (Donald Norman)

  • Designers' roles in communicating with users
    From the users' perspective, their experience is continuous. Your website, their browser, their computer, their immediate environment, and their life all interact and feed back on one another. What they understand affects not just what they can accomplish, but what attracts them to the product, and what attracts them to a product affects how willing they are to understand it. Defining 'the user experience' is difficult since it can extend to nearly everything in someone's interaction with a product. For websites (and other information management products), there are three general categories of work when creating a user experience: information architecture, information design and identity design.

  • Designing for learners, designing for users
    Online course developers need to consider the double persona of the learner-user. On the one hand, the web pages need to make sense structurally. Directions and navigation must be instantly recognisable and, hopefully, so obvious as to be invisible. The design of instruction, however, will incorporate challenges, rigor, moments for reflection. All these elements can co-exist in harmony if they are designed to complement rather than conflict with each other.

  • Designing from the user's experience
    "Analyzing customer needs and market trends are essential competencies for managing complex design projects. However, after confirming user needs through market research, design teams often focus on the product, neglecting users until completing the product, or at best, usability testing. From consumer goods to websites, many design-driven projects limit front-end analysis to market research, focus groups, or concept demonstrations. While these approaches are necessary, they overlook the opportunity for designing from understanding the user’s authentic experience."
    (Peter H Jones)

  • Ethical or merely inept?
    "When you ship a product: shouldn’t you accept responsibility for everything in the box? That means the cables and the documentation just as much as the main product. Is the failure to accept responsibility for two of the problems unethical? Or is it merely inept?"
    (Caroline Jarrett - Usability News)

  • Exercise in customer experience
    Mark Hurst asks readers to compare some experiences: dining, going to the dentist and using an e-commerce website. In each case, the better experience is one where meeting the user's needs is the focal point.
    (Mark Hurst)

  • Expanding the approaches to user experience
    Jesse James Garrett's "The Elements of User Experience" diagram has become rightly famous as a clear and simple model for the sorts of things that user experience professionals do. But as a model of user experience it presents an incomplete picture with some serious omissions, omissions I'll try address with a more holistic model.

  • Five experience fundamentals
    "It's easy to forget, in a world of incredible possibility and infinite creativity, the power of simplicity and the importance of a solid customer experience foundation. This is especially true related to online user experience, where the dust around Web 2.0 hasn't quite settled. As we look forward in anticipation of what's to come, it's important not to lose sight of managing the founding elements of customer experience."
    (Leigh Duncan)

  • (Form + content + context) / time = experience design
    "A new discipline of design is emerging from the needs and forms of communication in the network economy. 'Experience design' is a discipline created by the reality of communication today, when no point of contact has a simple beginning and end and all points of contact must have meaning embedded in them. "
    (Richard Grefé - AIGA Design Forum)

  • Google's pragmatic, data-driven approach to user interface design
    Marissa Mayer director of Consumer Web Products at Google, spoke at BayCHI on Google's approach to user experience design.
    (Rashmi Sinha)

  • How to quantify the user experience
    Many look to the user experience as an overall indicator of website success. Analysing how effectively a website provides for a net positive user experience can often turn into a subjective affair, rife with opinion and short on objectivity.

  • Improving customer experience: usability testing is not enough
    "With the right data in hand, both marketers and designers can do their jobs better and work together more effectively to design products and services their customers value and ensure satisfaction with the customer experience. Integrated customer experience research methods are a critical tool every business needs to win high-value customers and keep them coming back."
    (Bonny Brown - E-commerce Times)

  • Masters of design
    No matter what you do for a living, design matters. Meet and learn from 20 visionary men and women who are using design to create not just new products, but new ways of working, leading, and seeing.

  • Mastery, mystery, and misery: the ideologies of web design
    Simple, unobtrusive designs that support users are successful because they abide by the web's nature--and they make people feel good. Behind a website's superficial appearance lies its fundamental understanding of user behavior in an interactive service. Choices such as whether the "buy" button is red or orange or whether the navigation menu runs across the top or down the left side are much debated, but make at most a few percent difference in usability. In contrast, the design ideology can make or break a site. I see three contrasting approaches to design, which I have dubbed mastery, mystery, and misery.

  • More alike than we think
    "It might be easy to claim that each different audience needs its own separate user interface--whether we are talking about interfaces for novice versus advanced users, different cultures, or people with differing needs for accessibility--but the danger in this approach is a proliferation of different, specialized versions, adding complexity both to the design process and to readers’ process of finding the right version for them."
    (Whitney Quesenbery - UX Matters)

  • Narrative user interfaces
    Narrative user interfaces are based on the storytelling paradigm and set out to revolutionise the way people interact with computers. They promise to ultimately make computers accessible for everyone.

  • People designing for people
    To grow into and succeed in the future, we must learn to look for inspiration in the right places, take advantage of the available tools, and realise that people are the centre of everything in design.

  • Putting a bad interface on things
    They say OSX is the hottest new operating system with the slickest user interface, but all I could muster was a shrug. Don't get me wrong. Microsoft's Windows XP et al. are no better. The Tablet PC, meanwhile, doesn't make the most of its of innovative screen and pen interfaces. And let's not even mention Palms and cell phones. But OSs aren't alone: Applications, websites, and even e-mail newsletters all plague us with hard-to-understand interfaces.

  • Seductive design for websites
    We used to think it was impossible to design a website that successfully supported both information retrieval and browsing. We now believe a site can do both--but only when designers know what their audience is interested in.

  • Self-service web applications: less cost, more value
    There's an interesting thing about a lot of the services companies build on the web--they shift the burden of data entry from a customer support representative to the end user. Think about buying an airline ticket. You search for fares. You enter your personal data. You print out the confirmation. It's a benefit for both companies (they can cut down on support personel) as well as users (they can control and verify the data being entered)--but only if the site is designed carefully.

  • Seven tricks that web users don't know (PDF)
    Web developers have all sorts of browsing tricks that they have gained from years of experience, to the point where they can't even imagine not knowing them--right-clicking to open a new browser window, for instance, or using the arrow keys to navigate a list. To web veterans, these things are so familiar that they seem obvious. The fact that many people don't know these tricks--and can get completely stuck as a result--comes as a shock. This article describes seven website features that typical non-technical users aren't familiar with, based on data collected from the author's own usability studies.

  • Simplicity vs. innovation
    A site should be innovative in design and content, but, when it comes to usability, a slightly conservative mindset is the best option.

  • Six design lessons from the Apple store
    Here in San Francisco, Apple buffs are rejoicing at finally getting an Apple Store of our very own. (Sure, there’s been one across the Bay for months, but it’s just not the same.) As the newest of Apple’s five flagship retail stores, the San Francisco Apple Store reflects the company’s latest thinking about how to translate its brand identity from its software and hardware products to the user experience of a retail environment. There’s a lot about the Apple Store experience that we can apply to the design of many other kinds of products--and a few lessons we can take from Apple’s missteps as well.

  • Something from nothing: the alchemy of experience
    Great creativity can come from great constraint. I've often found that interactive technologies, born under some heavy limitation, create a better experience than those applications enjoying much richer resources. That some innovators work better under pressure is interesting, but it's more than that.

  • Strategies for handling customer feedback
    If your website doesn't include a feedback mechanism, it probably should. This month's Cranky User column explains the importance of listening to the customer and helps you develop strategies for dealing with the different types of feedback you will receive.

  • The basics of customer experience
    Why are the basics so important? The simpler an interface is, the more people will be able to use it. And if there's a benefit to using it (such as good search results), then the easier it is to use, the more people will use it. Multiply this by the size of the customer base online, and you have a lever that moves entire industries.

  • The battle between usability and user experience
    "The main reasons why it is so hard to create usable products is that there is a conflict between a high-usability level and great user-experience. You might think this as strange, but there is a important difference between the two."
    (Thomas Baekdal)

  • The designer is dead, long live the designer
    Usability maharishis, with idiosyncratic attitudes and blaring random opinions about design, irritate me. While the importance of their field has been acknowledged for some years now, it is simply a sham to assume or suggest their role is principal (or sole) in shaping user interaction. In this column I will go as far as stating the contrary: design comes first, usability second.

  • The elements of the user's experience (PDF)
    The user experience is not one simple action. It is an interconnected cycle of attempting to satisfy hopes, dreams, needs, and desires. This takes the shape of individuals comparing their expectations to the outcomes generated by their interaction with a system. Managing expections then becomes key to successfully providing a satisfying "return on experience" that delights users and generates shared, sustainable value.

  • The most important user experience method
    Changing the organisation is the most difficult and most important part of user experience work. The dialogue in our community is so fixated on particular usability methods that we've has missed "the elephant in the living room": none of this matters if it doesn't result in the organisation actually making the improvements.

  • The new R & D: relevant and desirable
    Somewhere in the process of evangelising user-centered design, user experience professionals seem to have forgotten the value of vision-driven design.

  • The truth about Google's so-called simplicity
    "Anybody can make a simple-looking interface if the system only does one thing. If you want to do one of the many other things Google is able to do, oops, first you have to figure out how to find it, then you have to figure out which of the many offerings to use, then you have to figure out how to use it. And because all those other things are not on the home page but, instead, are hidden away in various mysterious places, extra clicks and operations are required for even simple tasks--if you can remember how to get to them."
    (Donald Norman)

  • The user experience, part 1
    In his first column for developers looking for insights into better application design, Dick Berry explains why look and feel is only the tip of the iceberg. Find out why starting with the user experience leads to better application design, whether for Web users or unplugged users.

  • The user experience, part 2
    In the second column in his series on improving application design, Dick Berry focuses on the differences between GUI and Web environments, and reveals effective approaches for each that can enable the best possible user experience.

  • The user experience, part 3
    In effective application design, forms facilitate entry of information through effective controls, easily identifiable structure, and efficient navigation. In this installment, Dick Berry offers a range of useful guidelines for choosing and designing the most appropriate controls for each element on a form.

  • The search for seducible moments
    If you offer something that is unique to your organisation, (and chances are that you do - that's why you're in business) then how do you make the users aware of these benefits? Jared Spool discusses how to identify these 'seducible moments'.

  • Thinking about interaction design for online news delivery
    Online journalism needs better design for active readers rather than passive consumers. The author's research indicates that web content can be made far more meaningful and useful through better use of interactivity, or "productive interaction."

  • Towards a framework of interaction and experience as it relates to product design
    As people become more sensitive to dimensions of products that go beyond traditional aspects of usability, the need to understand and create emotional and aesthetic resonance between people and products continues to grow.

  • User expectations in a world of smart devices
    I’m increasingly convinced that, as networks of smart objects permeate our environment, people's attitudes toward technology will become more animist. In other words, we'll start to anthropomorphise our stuff.

  • User experience and cognitive pleasures (there’s easy, and then there’s experience)
    "User experience and usability are two different things. And usability does not always imply a system or interface that does not require any learning, or any enquiry, or any challenge on the part of the user."
    (Leisa Reichelt)

  • User experience - a research agenda (PDF)
    "Over the last decade, ‘user experience’ (UX) became a buzzword in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) and interaction design. As technology matured, interactive products became not only more useful and usable, but also fashionable, fascinating things to desire.Driven by the impression that a narrow focus on interactive products as tools does not capture the variety and emerging aspects of technology use, practitioners and researchers alike, seem to readily embrace the notion of UX as a viable alternative to traditional HCI. And, indeed, the term promises change and a fresh look, without being too specific about its definite meaning. [This paper] attempts to give a provisional answer to the question of what is meant by ‘the user experience’. It provides a cursory sketch of UX and how we think UX research will look like in the future. It is not so much meant as a forecast of the future, but as a proposal--a stimulus for further UX research."
    (Marc Hassenzahl, Noam Tractinksky)

  • User experience as corporate imperative (PDF)
    User experience is the sum of all your users' interactions with your company, its services, and its products. Your web site or application isn't the only way your customers and clients interact with your company, but it is an important part of customer relationship management. When people have a positive user experience, they're likely to return to your site, increasing your revenue and giving you further exposure. When your application works well, that's good for business. On the other hand, negative user experience is expensive.

  • User experience diagrams
    A collection of links to diagrams representing design processes, cycles and workflows, from Luke Wroblewski.

  • Users interleave sites and genres
    "When working on business problems, users flitter among sites, alternating visits to different service genres. No single website defines the user experience on its own. Assuming that you can design the entire user experience is a lost cause when your target users are engaged in non-trivial tasks. Almost all B2B--and many B2C--user experiences involve multiple sites."
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • User sutra: the art of enhancing user experience and making it pleasurable
    It's easy just putting up a website. It's tough making it a pleasure for your visitors to visit. The difference is the same between success and failure, between a painting and a masterpiece. The same between merely creating and creating excellence.

  • UX roles and titles: trend or profession?
    Challis Hodge recently embarked on a nonscientific study to get a handle on the current and future user experience design professions in the web space and the roles and titles that fall within. Here are the results.

  • Web design for all the senses
    Experience design requires that we design for all five senses. It is safe to say that over 99% of what is happening on the Web relates only to our sense of sight. On the surface, this might seem a logical and obvious state of affairs. In reality, it is a reflection of some mental laziness and of not thinking outside the computer screen.
    (Dirk Knemeyer)

  • Websites are self-service, not organization-service
    "The organizations that love to use their intranets and public websites to tell things to staff and customers will fail. Web success is about empowering staff and customers to serve themselves."
    (Gerry McGovern - New Thinking)

  • What makes a design seem 'intuitive'?
    The biggest challenge in making a design seem intuitive to users is learning where the current and target knowledge points are. What do users already know and what do they need to know? To build intuitive interfaces, answering these two questions is critical.
    (Jared M. Spool)

  • When web pages don't work
    Puzzled why your site is not living up to your expectations? The problem may not lie with your content or products, but rather in your site's user experience. Find out what common pitfalls to avoid by following a few simple guidelines to improve the user experience and transform surfers into customers.

  • Why features don't matter any more
    "As Apple's iPod shows, success in technology has less and less to do with features, and more to do with ease of use. Welcome to the Age of User Experience."
    (Andreas Pfeiffer -

  • Why people matter
    "I view a user experience as a conversation between people separated over the distance of time. At one end of that conversation are those who create the product; at the other, the people who use it. In between is the product itself with a design that either helps or hinders, creates a barrier-free interaction, or shouts in an unfamiliar language. Because this conversation does not happen in real time we are not there to smooth over the rough spots and make sure that we have spoken clearly. Instead, we have to build our understanding of those users into every aspect of the design by putting people, users, at the center of the design process."
    (Whitney Quesenbery - UXmatters)

  • Why UX should matter to software companies
    "In this era of global competition and rapid software development, more than ever, companies must ship high-quality software products to succeed in the marketplace. A good--even great--user experience is an essential component of a quality software product and provides a sustainable strategic advantage that differentiates a product from those of a company’s competitors. Thus, user experience is a core competency within today’s software companies, and an expert in UX strategy and design is an indispensable part of a software product team--just as the product manager and software architect are--particularly if a team is working on a new product."
    (Pabini Gabriel-Petit - UX Matters)

Research papers

  • Co-experience
    "This dissertation introduces an approach to understanding user experience that departs from the more traditional user or product centric approaches. This approach, co-experience, builds on an understanding of experience as social interaction. It focuses on how in and through social interaction experiences and their products come to find their place in people's lives. Designing for co-experience requires combining field studies, prototyping and design empathy to reveal how and what kinds of experiences people find meaningful. By supporting this kind of experiences and co-experiencing products can become meaningful as well."
    (Katja Battarbee)

Case studies