How UX Design Moved from Novel to Stereotypical in Less than a Decade
What the issues are with the concept of UX design, and what needs to be focused on more than anything.
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A vain Product Manager who cares for nothing except hedonic design hires two UX designers who promise him the finest, cleanest set of rectangles from a widget kit whose controls are invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "hopelessly blind." The Product Manager's developers cannot see the widgets themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions, and the Product Manager does the same. Finally, the designers report that the mock-up is finished, they mime task completion, and the Product Team marches in procession before the clients.
An intern in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of flat design, blurts out that the Product's interface affords nothing at all to the user, and the cry is taken up by others. The Product Manager suspects this is true, but continues the presentation.
—Hans Christian Andersen, Human Factors Researcher
User Experience Design, 2015 (wiki)
[T]he process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product. UXD encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.
We'd be hard-pressed to find any single area in computer science which isn't subsumed, partly, by this definition. The same definition, line-edited to pare it back to its contents:
To improve use, access, and pleasure...[UX] Design...is design...[about] all aspects...
The usefulness of a label that amounts to tautology, when it purports to organize human-computer interaction, is in doubt. To reach an useful formulation, it's necessary to unpack its contents, align allied pieces of information, and organize them into a whole that doesn't elide the differences between its constituent parts.
Not UX Design
The term “UX” was introduced, first, as an addition to the field of “usability,” and was assigned to define hedonic qualities of interaction with a product. However, when graphic designers began to build interfaces professionally, they also assumed the (invented) title of “UX designers,” and then “UX” became synonymous to “graphic design.”
However, the field of graphic design knows nothing, intrinsically, about human perception and behavior and usability. (It needn't; it has other intellectual sources and other concerns.)
Users and emerging professionals alike believe that UX means look and feel. It doesn't and this misconception is a disaster for developers with an interest in usability, UCD, IA, and the IxD field.
As proof, I'll offer you what's been recently highlighted by the venerable Nielsen Norman Group: a homogenity in that look and feel now pervades—from the novel to the typical—and whatever utility its innovation introduced is now gone.
Back to the Future of the User Interface Design, 1995
Jakob Nielsen wrote seminal heuristics of interaction design based on holistic observation, not aesthetic prejudice.
I have summarized its major themes below:
|Visible Status||Appropriate feedback informs the user about the result of proffered actions.|
|Symmetry of System to Context||Systems serve pre-existing contexts, not the other way around.|
|Recognition, Consistency, and Convention||Do not use the user's working memory to support the interface; the interface supports the task.|
|Flexibility, Control, and Freedom||Allow for optimized and user-determined workflows; build sandboxes, emergency exits, redo and undo.|
|Error Prevention and Recovery||Safeguard against catastrophic and inconvenient errors. Neither error codes nor obfuscation via marketese. Descriptive and constructive indications of problem and solution.|
|Documentation||Systems that ship without documentation as a first-class deliverable are incomplete.|
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