Define user experience - a girl sitting on the couch with her phone.

Defining user experience design But mostly what it isn't

I think today we’re getting much better at articulating the user experience profession, but still there are a few folks out there who are misrepresenting and misidentifying certain aspects.

Per Axbom recently published a post that summed this predicament up perfectly in “Slaying 5 UX myths for the good of mankind.

He’s not calling people out on there shit, or being despondent towards those who are truly trying to learn, he’s merely demystifying certain things that I feel all UX practitioners need to do more often.

1. UX is about asking users what they want

This is good one, because I think we all run head-on into a project with this mind-set. It can be difficult to really coax out needs from a user without straight out asking them, and at times the wrong questions asked can provide answers that can make or break an experience.

…it is that humans – yes, you and me both – are eerily unaware of their own decision-making processes.

Per describes information retrieval as more about listening, observing and identifying patterns rather than asking.

2. UX is about designing interfaces

Per believes that as a UX designer we are obligated to look at the bigger picture; observing business goals, available personnel and resources and investments in other channels and touchpoints.

It isn’t just about interaction or interface design. I’m a user experience designer, interface designer and information architect, and even though these skills can be performed separately, they must exist as a component of a much larger UX process.

If you’re the majestic Unicorn of UX design where you can perform and provide the necessary research and understanding to backup your interaction design decisions then great – otherwise do as Per points out in that there should always be a…

..handover from UX responsibles to interaction designers…

3. UX is about coming up with new, trendy solutions

Disclaimer: I hate trends.

Trends are useless in context to a user because of the varying diversity and nature of how we are physiologically and psychologically.

Per believes that staying up to date with emerging technologies is absolutely important and that you should have a firm grasp of available options – which I agree with 100%.

But there seems to be two competing notions here:

I want something that is brand new, cool and shiny, because I’m the new guy or I’ve got money to burn.


I want to use, build or design this because everyone else is talking, using or buying it.

Trendy to me is about the latter, and even though vanity and the excitement of something new can apply to both – Per seems to be talking about how organizations want the first.

His anecdote about going back to using Microsoft Outlook after a failed attempt at a new, custom 3rd party tool is fascinating and can be classified as out-of-the-box thinking by most.

Or it’s just straight-up good investigation and understanding of his users.

4. UX is about making users understand instantly how it works.

The very idea that everything can be design for immediate comprehension is, however pretty far-fetched.

I could personally drum this statement into a few peoples heads – because it is so true. If your product is going to solve a users need, they are always willing to go through an onboarding process that can mitigate the problem of understanding a new interface. Plus, you can get creative with how your messaging adds to the journey you lay out for users. Just be sure not to annoy or interrupt them.

5. UX is about digital experiences

Yes, more and more people are staying connected for longer. The internet of things and wearables has made us more acutely aware of things that were just dusty old fixtures, dials or objects we interacted with daily with routine abandon.

A comment Per makes, that I think most of us should be aware of by now, is that UX is not limited to the digital space. True.

It’s not just knowing where UX is limited to, as much as it is about being aware of the full spectrum of products (or touchpoints) and brand can have.

I want to ensure the part of the whole experience I am responsible for does not clash with other touchpoints.

Sounds simple in theory, but can be a monumental undertaking if you’re siloed or fighting an organization with no transparency.

In Short

I’m sure 1000’s of UX practitioners (myself included) out there can agree with Per in that it is our job to correct peoples preconceptions of what we do – in a nice way of course.

Mr. Axbom has a colourful insight into user experience design, and if you’re not following him or subscribing to his blog – you really should. One thing I find, is that the collective knowledge of UX designers, UI designers, and anyone involved in making things for people to use is vast and really great resource for learning.