User Experience (UX), demystified!

Every time one comes across the term User Experience (UX), it is normal that ample vagueness surrounds its meaning. User Experience (UX) is largely believed to about feelings, emotions, perceptions, etc which are hard to quantify and measure. The numerous confusing definitions and overlapping terminologies probably are due to the fact that the term itself was not coined up recognizably until mid-1990s. Usability is the term that is most often used interchangeably with User Experience (UX) by several practitioners. However, the ISO is silent about clarifying the relation between User Experience and Usability. To highlight the upheaval around meaning of User Experience (UX), here is a word cloud based on several terms in definitions found on several websites like Wikipedia [1].

As it is fairly obvious from this world cloud, a large majority of people are still unsure about the actual meaning and benefits of User Experience (UX). The confusion doesn't limit itself to an individual level. Inside of a sizeable organization, it is often an internal struggle so as to which department should the User Experience (UX) people be positioned - Marketing, Design, Research and Development or, Information Technology (IT). Marketing departments of many companies understandably, have a hard time justifying spend on improving User Experience. User Experience practitioners therefore rely heavily on making their case via several case studies and hypothetical calculations indicating probable loss in sales. Enough said, the responsibility of offering optimum User Experience to its customers lies with the business.

To be able the offer an optimum User Experience, businesses need to research the Voice of the Consumer. With the widespread adoption of several personal and portable electronic devices (like the Smartphone, Tablets) and rapid development of Apps, several hundred utilities and high computing power is in the hands of the consumer. The consumer is far more modern and connected than ever before. Due to the advancements in networking technology, Ubiquitous entertainment and information availability has become a basic requirement of the customers. The rising expectation of consumers has been recognised by many businesses, independent designers and developers. The competition to offer superior graphics, ease-of-interaction and performance is growing fierce by the day.

Observably off-late, internally in various organizations, the term 'User Experience' has started to gain much more traction (than 5 years back). There is talk about return-on-investment on User Experience (UX) [2]. There are even some standard questionnaires to know more about User Experience of interactive products [3]. There are discussions about being able to offer a consistent "experience" to customers across devices, no matter whether a customer is browsing a websites or interacting with a mobile App from the same business. User Experience (UX) on the Internet has been much more closely associated to brand value than ever before.

Our practice at UXArmy has given us a fair understanding about User Experience (UX) on the Internet. User Experience is around the people (the Users aka target Customers), who are the source of sales. User Experience is the ability of a business to correctly identify and address people's needs and wants (both, obvious and hidden). In reality, people are hard to correctly understand and by nature gifted with intellect, their expectations are ever changing in response to several external (example, usage context) and internal stimuli (example, mood).

People interact with your business to achieve something. The first challenge is to correctly understand what they are looking for, how easily and quickly they can achieve it and overall how do they feel about the interaction. The second challenge is in the ability to make available what people are looking for. Therefore, to be successful in business the above two challenges need to be met otherwise; chances are high that the business would lose customers.

It is of paramount importance that effective psychological methods coupled with statistical analysis are regularly applied to research and understand customers. After the findings from the customer research have been applied to the interactions, an optimum User Experience (UX) can be implemented and provided. An optimum User Experience (UX) is known to result in returning customers and converting visitors to customers. User Experience optimization is a process, for business performance it cannot be one time, it needs to be continuous.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience

[2] http://blog.conversionconference.com/user-experience/roi-on-ux-the-evidence-is-mounting/

[3] http://www.ueq-online.org/