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User Experience…What’s That?

Last Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to mingle with the family members that I rarely get to see which inevitably leads to the predictable small talk question of “so what are you up to?” It was around this time I had just started a position in the User Experience (UX) practice at Tallan and the concept of user experience was still fairly new to me and completely unknown to the person I was talking to.

Commence Small Talk:

“So, user experience huh? Tell me more about it”
“Well…it’s not easily defined”
“Give it a shot.”

You ever have that moment when you are explaining something, and you can tell you have lost the person on the other end of the conversation? This happens to me often, but in this moment, it happened quicker than usual as I attempted to use imagery of Apple, Amazon and pretty websites to stumble along with my terrible explanation. Long story short, my family now thinks I am in customer service for a graphic design company. Nailed it.

One of my favorite lines from Batman Begins is when Alfred reminds Bruce Wayne that failure is an ever-evolving process and never final; he says “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” I like to try to apply that line in life; especially in moments like this. With that said, I need to redeem myself by making another attempt at explaining what user experience is as simply as possible for anyone to understand, so here goes nothing:

“You know that awesome feeling when you easily find something you want at Amazon for a really great price, order it with Amazon’s convenient 1-Click, and then receive it two days later in the Frustration Free packaging with a big Amazon smile on it? That’s the work of user experience right there.” – Quora

Amazon’s success was built upon a mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Did you know in the company’s first year they invested 100x more into UX than advertising? By doing so they were creating an experience for its customers, in particularly the way they interact and use the retail platform. As for the example above, I think it is safe to say that most of us have felt the way that was described, from beginning to the end of the purchase journey there is an overall good experience when dealing with Amazon. It is this experience that creates a lasting great impression that drives most of Amazon’s customers to return and buy more items. Let’s focus on that idea of impressions.

I believe user experience is forming people’s impressions. Think about it, if someone leaves a good impression on you then you’re more likely to interact with that person and have overall positive feelings towards them. On the flipside, if someone leaves a bad impression on you then you’re more likely to avoid that person and have negative feelings. Can we imply the same feelings of impression that can be applied to digital and tangible products?

As user experience professionals our work should be simple and defined as this: user experience is ensuring that the products people use (digital or physical) create good impressions with the goal of turning those good impressions into great impressions.

How people engage and use a product are essential to how that product shapes the user’s experience when interacting with it. Good user experience leans toward lasting positive impressions which can ultimately create repeated use, repeat sales and an overall positive view towards brands or organizations from a user or customer standpoint.

So, there you have it; I think it’s safe to assume that I will have a better answer next Thanksgiving when the question about my job in the user experience profession comes up.


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