UX Design Dec 17, 2020

Guide to the Commonly used UX terms

Guide to the Commonly used UX terms
UX Design Dec 17, 2020

The following are descriptions of some terms commonly used in UX. Each term consists of its definition and some sources, which are fully credited.

User Experience (UX)

User Experience (UX) is an overall experience of a person interacting with a product or service, such as a website, application or any physical objects, in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use. It involves the design of the entire process of creating a product or service, from its branding, design, usability and functionality. The team User Experience appeared first in Donald Norman’s book, The Design of Everyday Things, which was first published in 1988.


User Interface (UI)

User Interface (UI) is the point in when a person interacts with a computer, website or product - be it physical or digital - is known as the User Interface. UI usually consists of the design layout, navigation, search bar etc. The visuals that we usually see on a website. The goal of UI is to make the user’s experience as easy as possible, requiring minimum effort when doing a task.

User Experience and User Interface are terms that people often get mixed up with and they would have a hard time differentiating it


Interaction Design (IxD)

Interaction Design (IxD) is the design of the interaction between users and products. It can be software products, like apps and websites or even physical products. The goal of IxD is to allow users to achieve their objectives the easiest and best way possible. Elements like aesthetics, motion, space and more are often what affects a product IxD.


Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research is the collection and analysing of non-numerical subjective data, to gain a better understanding of design concepts and experiences. It is commonly used to gather in-depth insights of a design problem and to come up with new ideas or solutions for research. It is commonly conducted through ethnography, in-depth interviews, questionnaires and focus groups etc. 


Quantitative Research

Quantitative Research is the collection and analysing of numerical data, to find patterns and make predictions and generalizing results of a wide population group. Numbers and datas are often worked with in order to gather the quantifiable data. A large number of the population is needed to gather more data and to ensure that it’s reliable.


Tree Testing

A usability testing technique often used to evaluate a hierarchical category of topics in a website. Usually used during Information architecture (IA) definition. Where a website's main categories and subcategories are established and users are tasked to explore these categories to see if they are able to complete their task. This is to determine whether the structure of information on the website is easy to understand and if any changes need to be made to improve it.


Card Sorting

It’s a technique in user experience design in which topics are organised into groups. Users will be given individual labelled cards and will be tasked to organised into groups that make the most sense to them. This can help designers to determine more logical ways of creating the navigation of a website using the different grouping each user comes up with. 

There are three type of card sort and how they are used to organise information:

Open Card Sort: The most common type of card sort, where users are able to freely create their own categories and group the cards. There are no predefined or fixed categories.

Close Card Sort: The least common type of card sort, as users would be given a predetermined set of categories and have to assign all the cards to the categories. There is usually biasness when using this method, as choices are limited when sorting the cards.

Hybrid Card Sort: This is a mixture of both Open and Close card sorts, where participants can sort cards to the predetermined categories and they can also create their own categories if they think that the categories given are false.


Participatory Design

Participatory Design is an approach commonly used to actively involve all stakeholders in a design process, from the people affected by the design to business owners. This is a process that is more process focused instead of design styling. Using this approach can help benefit the community you work in as the stakeholder collaboratively design things for their use. Also known as co-operative design, often co-design.


Guerrilla Testing

This is a cheap and effective method to gather user feedback by taking designs and going to the public to ask people to test out the design and ask for their thoughts and feedback. As this is a cheap method, multiple new ideas can often be tested out quickly with people from the public, without needing to spend effort and money on recruiting.



Personas are fictional characters created and used by designers to represent the different types of people that use their product or design. Using personas can help understand the people's needs, goals, as well as understanding their behaviours, so that it can help identify the different needs and expectations different people have. Personas provides guidance to the ideation process and can help achieve a good user experience when designing for the target audience.



Prototype is the simple mock-up of your final design, where you use it to test before creating and launching the actual final product. Prototype is used to gather feedback on whether the design is feasible and workable, as changes can still be made at this stage. It is also usually classified into High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity prototypes. 

High-Fidelity Prototype: the prototype is as close and similar to the final design, fully workable.

Low-Fidelity Prototype: the prototype is still incomplete and it’s just a simple and least finalised version of the design. This could even be made of paper or simply hand-drawn.


A/B Testing

A/B Testing, also known as split testing, is a process that allows you to evaluate two variants of a webpage, advertisements or emails etc.  To see which one of them is more effective and its difference in performance. It can also help to increase website conversion, as well as understanding what the different changes on the site can help affect the profits of the organisation. This technique is often used in LIVE websites by webistes who have high traffic e.g. online travel agents like Agoda, Expedia, etc.


5 Second Test

It’s a form of usability testing that measures how well a design quickly communicates a message within 5 seconds of the first impression a person has after they viewed it. They would then answer some questions and discuss their impression. This is to make the best of your design and can help improve the clarity of the design, so that you can determine whether a user's first impression of your page is what you want.



Wireframing is the construction of a two-dimensional illustration of a webpage. It’s like a blueprint for the web page, where the creation of the interface happens. Wireframe takes place in the exploratory phase of a cycle and it usually starts off from being drawn physically or digitally, with the basic details. 

There are two type of wireframing,

Low-Fidelity Wireframing: It consists of the basic details and representation of the webpage and it’s used as a guide for the designer. Basically the layout of the design would be settled here, but improvement can still be made.

High-Fidelity Wireframing: At this stage, some image and context/description are added in the wireframing, there would also be some interactivity included to make it as similar to the final design.

The following are the list of tools commonly used by designers for wireframing:

  • Balsamic
  • Sketch
  • InVision Studios
  • Adobe XD
  • Figma
  • Proto.io
  • Axure
  • Canva


Information Architecture (IA)

Information Architecture (IA) is the focus of structural design, organizing and labelling of information. It’s to help users to understand and find the information and complete their task in the most efficient and easiest way possible. A good IA allows users to know where they are and what they expect when contents are presented to them, regardless it being through menus, breadcrumbs, navigation bar or links etc.


Customer Journey Map (CJM)

A Customer Journey Map (CJM) depicts the visual story of the customers interacting with your brand and how they accomplish their goals. This helps to put yourselves in the customer's shoes and understand how things work from their perspective. This allows you to gain insights into your customer pain points and needs, so that you know what to improve or change on.


User-Centered Design (UCD)

User-Centered Design is an iterative design process where designers focus on the users and their needs at every stage of the design process. It is commonly used to increase a product's usefulness and usability, using users requirements, feedback and objectives. UCD is said to be introduced before the term UX was introduced.


Remote User Testing / Remote Usability Testing

Remote User Testing is a form of research method used to collect data and information. It uses a platform to screen or video record participants during a research session, as they interact with the product or design in their environment. It can be done at home, in the office or even a cafe etc. The purpose of this testing is to show how users interact with the product showing if it works or not and how the product can be improved. This can be conducted both unmoderated or moderated.


Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a process used to help understand users perspectives, the challenges faced and how to solve problems by coming up with solutions. It usually involves five stages, Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype & Test. These stages are extremely important, as it helps designers to understand problems and solve problems. Design consultancy IDEO’s design kit is a great repository of Design Thinking tools and case studies: http://www.designkit.org/


Usability Testing

Usability Testing is the practice of evaluating how a design works. It gives the understanding of the process of how users interact with the design and why they use it in a specific manner. It is conducted in the design stage very often and over multiple times until the product is finalised and released. Usability testing can help identify problems in a design and help to come up with possible solutions to solve the problem using different methods via testing. It is recommended to do usability testing as much as possible before finding the Design and throughout the product development process.

You can read more about if whether Usability Testing is Qualitative and Quantitative


Lean UX

Lean UX is a technique used during projects that incorporates the Agile development method. It is a system that helps create well-designed products through frequent iterations and feedback from users. So that changes can be made quickly over time while improving the product and design. The process also commonly involves contributors, stakeholders and even business owners to help with the phase using their perspective.


User Flows

User flow are diagrams used to map out and show how a complete path a user takes when interacting with a product. The user flow shows the detailed steps of the user’s movement through when using the product, from the entry and exit point, to every step of the process. It helps designers and developers to understand what are the different possible paths a user can take when using their product, so that they know what the user focuses and needs are.


Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic Research is the study of people, which involves interacting and observing them performing the task assigned to them in their own environment. It can be done through various research methods, like face-to-face interview and observation etc. This is to help gain insights into how users interact and react to the task in their environment. While it is the most time consuming research methodology, ethnography provides insights with least bias compared to the other qualitative research methods.


About the Author - Adrian Ng

Adrian is a UX Research Intern at UXArmy Singapore. Currently in pursuit of a ‘Diploma in Design for User Experience’ at Republic Polytechnic, he is doing exciting things in UX design. He is improving his UX knowledge by hands-on learning of new skills.

During his free time Adrian enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends & family, as well as physical activities such as swimming, basketball, volleyball and going for runs etc. While not doing those, you can find him surfing the web and reading up random stuff for self-improvement.



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