What is User Experience, what examples exist and what methods can be used to improve it?
Perceptions and responses of users
User Experience is a term that focuses on the experience of a user when using a product, system or service. The term is defined in DIN EN ISO 9241, an international standard that lays down guidelines for human-computer interaction, as follows: “A person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”
Components of the User Experience
This definition of user experience – often abbreviated as UX – results in two components or conclusions:
- A user is a person. A user can also be a customer, a guest, a patient, a visitor, etc., depending on the scenario and/or industry. The products, systems or services are therefore not only computer programs, apps or websites, but all goods, products or services with which people interact. (See “Various examples of User experience”.)
- User Experience looks at a person’s perceptions and reactions. Even though the terms user experience and usability are often used synonymously, the main difference lies in this point: Usability can be addressed by requirements, for example, for the working environment, the hardware or software used, usability and user-friendliness. The quality of the implementation of these requirements is the basis for the perceptions and reactions of the users.
It is about one person and his or her perceptions and reactions when using a product. “We have to put the user at the center of our considerations” is a demand often made in the course of user-centered development, human-centered design or UX design. The demand is easily formulated, but the implementation is rather difficult, because people are individual; what appeals to one user may not appeal to another. In addition, good usability – whatever this may be in individual cases for a product, system or service – is rarely explicitly perceived, but bad usability is.
If you want to get through the labyrinth quickly, you will find the blue route positive and the red route negative. But what happens if you like to spend time in a labyrinth, does the red route create a positive user experience?
User experience examples
Example 1: Software
Imagine you are using a new version of software. How do you feel when …
- existing functions that you have used regularly, are no longer available or are now elsewhere in the menu?
- the announced new feature was poorly implemented or not implemented at all?
- the previously functioning interface to another program no longer works after a release upgrade?
Example 2: System
Imagine you are using a mobile phone, a system consisting of hardware and software. How do you feel when …
- you can no longer use existing charging cables because the new device comes with a different interface?
- you want to delete pre-installed apps, but the operating system prevents this?
- you can’t replace the battery when the charging power decreases because it’s permanently installed?
Example 3: Travelling by plane (service)
Imagine you want to fly from Berlin to New York. How do you feel when …
- you have to carry your luggage about 500 meters, because the train station is so far away from the airport buildings (Schoenefeld Airport) and there are no transportation aids (baggage carts, roller conveyors)? Or if you come with 100 other people in a crowded bus to the airport (Tegel), because otherwise there is no public transport?
- you have to be at the airport three hours before departure due to the announced security checks, but the check-in counter only opens two hours before departure? And you are allowed to pay overpriced drinks after the security check because you were not allowed to take your own drinks with you?
- you have booked pre-boarding, but are only allowed to board a bus first to be transported to the plane at the same time as all other passengers?
The three examples show that, despite all the intended benefits, changes are not always perceived as beneficial, and unfulfilled expectations immediately lead to a poor user experience. In addition, user experience includes more than just direct perception and reaction to a product, but also the entire scenario of use (e.g. not only the flight, but also the journey to the airport and the experiences there).
Methods for improving the user experience
There are a number of techniques and methods that can also be understood in the broad sense of user experience:
- The Unified Modeling Language (UML) and the System Modeling Language (SysML) know the actor who is at the center of different considerations and serves as a trigger for different actions. In use cases, for example, this actor interacts with a system in which he wants and does something, and the system reacts accordingly.
- User stories focus on the expected functionality: “As a ‘user’ I want ‘functionality’ to achieve ‘benefit'”. They also define acceptance criteria.
- The Kano model tries to determine basic, performance and enthusiasm factors for the use of a product or service. Basic and performance factors are relatively easy to ask for or observe, but enthusiasm factors are not.
- Observation techniques such as field observation, contextual inquiry and apprenticing, or survey techniques with questionnaires, interviews and self-writing help to determine expectations and concrete requirements as well as perceptions and reactions.
- The development of pretotypes and prototypes helps to check interactions and expectations.
- A team’s involvement with a Design Challenge in the course of Design Thinking can address the user experience.