UX – User Experience

What is user experience, what factors influence UX and what methods can be used to improve it?

User Experience Definition

User Experience – often simply abbreviated as UX – is a term that focuses on the experience of a user when using a product, system or service. DIN EN ISO 9241, an international standard that lays down guidelines for human-computer interaction, defines user experience as follows:

“A person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”

This UX definition gives rise to various findings:

  • A user is a person. And who is this person? In the context of a human-computer interaction, it is a “user”. Thinking a little bit broader, a person can also be – depending on the scenario and/or industry – a customer, a guest, a patient, a client, a visitor etc. And it also means that the products, systems or services are not just computer programs, apps or websites, but all goods, products or services that people interact with.
  • UX looks at the perceptions and reactions of a person. These perceptions and reactions are individual.
  • User Experience does not only start with the concrete use of a product, system or service, but already in the initiation or in the run-up to a possible use. This insight is important when companies try to improve UX holistically.

 

What is User Experience (UX)?

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?

The difference between usability and user experience

The terms user experience and usability are often used synonymously. In fact, there is an essential difference between usability and UX:

  • Usability can be addressed by requirements, for example, for the working environment, the hardware or software used, the operability and user-friendliness.
  • The quality of the implementation of these requirements is the basis for the perceptions and reactions of the users and thus for the user experience.

 

UX in practice

The goal of the user experience

User Experience is therefore about a person and their ideally positive perceptions and reactions when using a product. “We must put the user at the center of our considerations” is therefore an often expressed demand in the course of user-centered development, human centered design or UX design.

The demand is easy to formulate, 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 that may be in a product, system or service – is rarely explicitly perceived, whereas bad usability is.

User experience examples

It is easy to find examples of user experience. Imagine, for example, that there was an update of a software that you use regularly. How do you feel when

  • existing functions that you have used regularly, are no longer available or are now located elsewhere in the menu?
  • the announced new feature was implemented poorly or not at all?
  • the previously working interface to another program no longer works after a release upgrade?

Imagine you are using a mobile phone, i.e. a system consisting of hardware and software. How do you feel when

  • you can no longer use existing charging cables because the new device is delivered with a modified interface?
  • you want to delete pre-installed apps, but the operating system prevents this?
  • you can’t change the battery when the charging power decreases because it is permanently installed?

Imagine you want to fly from Berlin to New York. How do you feel when

  • you have to carry your luggage about 500 metres, because the railway station is so far away from the airport buildings (Schoenefeld Airport) and there are no transport aids (luggage trolleys, conveyors)? Or if you arrive at the airport (Tegel) with 100 other people in a crowded bus, 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 prices for drinks after the security check because you were not allowed to bring your own drinks?
  • you have booked pre-boarding, but are only allowed to board a bus first to be transported to the aircraft 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 lead directly to a bad experience. Furthermore, user experience encompasses more than just direct perception and reaction to a product or service, but also the entire scenario of use (e.g. not only the flight, but also the journey to the airport and the experiences there).

Human senses influence the UX

There are a number of factors that influence the user experience. The basis for the factors lies in the human senses, that is

sense of sight (eyes),
sense of smell (nose),
hearing (ears),
sense of touch (skin),
sense of taste (tongue).

And the sense of movement and balance also influence the user experience.

What influence your senses have on your user experience can be easily understood by your own experience. A good smelling food increases the appetite. Here you will find some information from other sources (in German):

 

Small measures, large UX effect

The user experience can be influenced by a variety of measures. Take the typography of this website as an example. How do you feel about

  • the font, the font size and the font strength,
  • the font color and the contrast between text and background,
  • the line spacing etc.?

With all these points – and many more – we can influence your user experience. In fact, on this site we try to provide understandable information that is easy and good to read on different devices. For example, we don’t try

  • to stress our energy as a service provider with a particularly powerful font,
  • to prove our individuality through a fancy font or
  • using psychological tricks to encourage you to take action.

The provision of relevant information is therefore the main focus. If this is successful, you will have a good user experience. If this could be done even better with a different font or font size, you would have an even better user experience.  

Challenges for companies

Methods for improving the user experience

And how can companies now improve user experience? There are a number of techniques and methods that address UX, at least indirectly:

  • 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.
  • With simple click dummies or wireframes the expectations of users of a software or a website can be easily and early identified.
  • A team’s involvement with a Design Challenge in the course of Design Thinking can address the user experience.

An impulse to discuss:

Without user research there can be no successful user experience design.

Notes:

You can find an overview of DIN EN ISO 9241 here »

Here you will find additional information from our blog:

t2informatik Blog: Clear the way for a positive user experience

Clear the way for a positive user experience

t2informatik Blog: UX Design in an agile environment

UX Design in an agile environment

t2informatik Blog: Design Emergency

Design Emergency