What is UX?
If you do a Google image search for, "what is UX design," you get a lot of diagrams and charts and venns and iceburgs and molehills and umbrellas, all kinds of ways of trying to explain what UX is. And the reason for that is UX is still a relatively young field, it's been around for about 20-25 years depending on who you ask, so we're still working on defining clearly what UX is. This is not like biology or something. We're still working on a clear definition of what UX is, but we are all unanimously clear on what it is not. A lot of times when people come into a company as a UX person, the idea that other people have about UX is that you're the person that comes in and makes things pretty. The product is already done, and here this person comes in to make the buttons nice and somehow add some jazz to it. You can't really fault people for that way of thinking, because that's how design has classically been seen. It's been seen classically as the visual, aesthetic part of the product. T...
hat's a valid form of design, but it's not the dominant form of design anymore. That type of design is now referred to as classical design. Sort of like classical music. It's still around, it still has its space, but it's no longer the dominant art form the way it was two, three hundred years ago. This is the classical form of design. You're not designing for that many people and there is a final state that you can reach. You finish that brochure and it's done. You ship it, it's done. You finish that poster, it's done. There is a state of perfection that you can reach where it's out and you don't work on it anymore. Because of that, the designers confidence level is absolute, and those are those traditional professions. You ship that typeface, done. You're never gonna work on that typeface again. So that's what design was like for a long time and then something happened. The internet came, exploded onto the scene, and suddenly you weren't designing something that was done anymore. 'Cause you could update your website or your app instantly at zero cost. They didn't have to buy your poster again. You could just update it, they visit it again, and there's the updates, and you were suddenly designing for so many people that your intuition can't possibly be good enough to design the perfect solution for 700 million people from super diverse cultures all around the world. No matter how good you are, there's no way that you can do that. There is no final state, this type of design is never done, and as such a designer's mindset and confidence level had to change as well. You should still have confidence in your skills, but you need to be open to analyzing and testing, and that, with all of the things that came with UX design that made it a harder way to design, one big advantage was that you could get feedback quicker from your users and make adjustments quicker. That's really a key point to remember about UX design and what makes it different from classical forms of design, is that UX designers make progress through continuous analysis and testing. There's a standard model for that, the learn, build, measure model. In the learn phase, we're gonna drill down on this later on in the class, this is just the intro, but in the learn phase you ask your users or you watch them. The people that are using this product, they call it users for some reason and not people, but it's just a naming convention. People that use your product are called users and you ask them or you watch them using it and you see what they're doing with it, and then based on what you find out by asking or watching them, you build out your first hypotheses. You build out a super, the most basic first version of the product that you can build, and then you get that out to people again through testing and then you see how they work with that. You see if they understand your hypotheses. And if not, then you go back to the drawing board and make adjustments. So it's this iterative cycle. It's something really important to remember, each sketch and each prototype is just a question that you're asking. So I have an idea of how this could work, let's test it out. UX design is hypothesis-driven design, and in that way, UX design is actually more like science than it is like art. And yet a lot of times we still have this association, like when I go into companies, they think that I'm some sort of magician or something. "Can you just do some design there?" They give me no information about who I'm designing for, no time to do it, it's just sort of like they expect that it's some magic thing when it's more like either science or like carpentry almost. Definitely not like sculpting or painting. Another way to think about it is how do you think that this ketchup manufacturer, whose logo I had to delete for legal reasons, how do you think that this ketchup manufacturer went from this bottle to this bottle? You can yell something out. (audience mumbling) Yeah. I still remember when I was a kid, this bottle was always upside-down in the fridge. Always. And it would kinda tilt over to the side unless you put another bottle next to it to make sure that it stands up. And Heinz saw this behavior. They were looking at how people are using that Heinz bottle, and they were like, "Okay, how can we design this "for how people are using it anyway?" So they made the bottom part larger so that it can stand on its own, they made this part flexible that you could squeeze it, and that's the type of thing that a regular user might not come up with on their own, but when they see it, they're like, "Oh my god! This is what I want!" So you get people's attention because it feels like you've read their minds. This is probably barely more expensive to produce from a supply chain perspective than the regular bottle, and it'll stand out more in the grocery shelves because it's a different shape. Having that user focus, it pays dividends in many, many ways. It's not just something that you're doing to make people happy, it's something that has tangible business results, and it's something also that is not just limited to screens. This is a physical object, but this idea of user focus extends beyond just computer screens. And yet, currently, the public perception still sees UX as screen-stuff even though it's much more than just designing stuff for screens. It's a mindset to solving problems. Even later on when you're working in the UX industry a lot of times you'll be making websites and apps, but I want people to remember that it's more than that. That it's a mindset that you can take to other aspects of life too. The person who invented the term UX, Donald Norman, that's actually the mindset that he had when he came up with the term. When he was at Apple in the mid 90s there was no UX. It was just sorta like... And he was trying to figure out, "I know we're working on this user interface, "but it's more than just the user interface, "it's the whole thing that people are experiencing, "so it's kind of like the user's experience, "let's call it user experience design!" I'm sure that's how it happened. But you know that's the thing, that was the original intention of the term, but since then the term has spread so widely that it has lost its meaning and people associate UX with pretty screen stuff. "Hey, can you UX that real quick? "We need some UX on that." I've heard that way too often. Another way to think about it that I really like is from one of my favorite designers, Robert Hoekman, who says, "Designers are not people "who make things pretty. They are people who plan. "Designs are not lines and colors and pixels. "They are plans with an intended effect. "Designers are thinkers and designs are their thoughts." And that's how he taught us in college too. We were taught in college to think an idea through from start to finish, not just make it pretty. UX isn't just the color of the button, it's why is that button there? How will that button help us? And if you don't have a reason for that, then that button shouldn't be there. And of course, more than just buttons, it's an approach to problem solving.