Experience design can sometimes be a slippery term. With all the
other often used terms that float around in its realm in the technology
and web space: interaction design, information architecture, human computer interaction, human factors engineering, usability, and user interface design.
People often end up asking “what is the difference between all these
fields and which one do I need?” This article examines the term and
field of user experience to plainly extrapolate its meaning and connect
the dots with these other fields.
Those of us in the field have stated that the discipline takes the theory and the
techniques of traditional design, which it merges with theoretical and
practical approaches from other disciplines. The result is a
gestalt-like synthesis of unique procedures and methods, and of a
project-based approach to develop objects, environments and systems.
Interaction design seeks to establish a dialogue between products,
people and physical, cultural and historical contexts; to anticipate
how the use of products will affect comprehension; and to determine a
form that is appropriate to its behavior and use.
Experience design takes into consideration not only physical devices but services. Our lives are increasingly
connected through telecommunications networks and filled with immaterial things: music, films, TV
and other information sources. These services, provided by companies and public institutions, are
as important as the machines through which we access them: the phone, pager, PDA or set-top box.
Experience design involves the design of immaterial as well as material things:
services and software as well as hardware. Interactive technologies need a new kind of design, a fusion of sound, graphic and product design,
and time-based narrative.
Developing this new kind of design will lead to a new aesthetic interface: one of use
and experience as well as of form. When function and information (and perhaps entertainment) converge you should get a universal emotional design that takes the most positive human behaviors into account.
Getting The Terms Right
User experience is a term used to describe the overall experience
and satisfaction a user has when using a product or system. It most
commonly refers to a combination of software and business topics, such
as selling over the web, but it applies to any result of interaction
design. Wikipedia definition
Interaction design is a sub-discipline of design which examines the
role of embedded behaviors and intelligence in physical and virtual
spaces as well as the convergence of physical and digital products.
Sometimes referred to by the acronyms “IxD” or “iD”… Wikipedia definition
- Information Architecture (IA) is the art and science of structuring
knowledge (technically data), and defining user interactions. Wikipedia definition
- Usability is the measure of the ease with which particular people
can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to
achieve a particular goal. Usability can also refer to the methods of
measuring usability and the study of the principles that may predict
whether an object is found usable in practice. Wikipedia definition
- Human-computer interaction (HCI) is the study of interaction
between people (users) and computers. It is an interdisciplinary
subject, relating computer science with many other fields of study and
research. Wikipedia definition
- Human factors engineering, also referred to as Ergonomics is the
study of optimizing the interface between human beings, and the
designed objects and environments they interact with. Wikipedia definition
- User interface design is the overall process of designing the
interaction between a human (user) and a machine (computer). It
includes graphic design, information design and a wide variety of
usability methods. Wikipedia definition
User experience design is a subset of the broader field of experience design; the latter being defined as:
…an approach to the design of products, services and
environments based on a holistic consideration of the users’
experience. Experience design is therefore driven by consideration of
the ‘moments’ of engagement between people and brands, and the memories
these moments create. Also known as experiential marketing, customer
experience design, experiential design, brand experience.
Based on this definition, experience design uses the interactions of
customers with products, services and company branding to optimize the
overall impressions left by these. User experience design takes a
similar approach and applies it to a specific set of products–
computer-related ones. For example, an experience designer may refine
the customer service and ambience of a hotel, whereas a user experience
designer will optimize the customer’s interaction when making a
reservation online, interacting with the hotel website or will improve
the staff’s systems for managing hotel operations. The key difference
can be found in the examination of the word ‘user.’
How Does it all work together?
For another perspective on experience design, read “How to Quantify the User Experience”.
There are many articles which deconstruct this discipline, but they all
revolve around the idea of user experience design as a multi-faceted
approach aimed at making consumer experiences with products, sites and technology more pleasing for people to use.
holistic methodology is often more adept at helping to reach a set of
goals that encompass passive and active user interactions–goals
determined both by users and the business or organization.
Experience design is a complex field that is not exactly discrete from
all the others mentioned. In essence, user experience draws from each
of these fields in order to address the various aspects of a user’s
experience. If the user experience is meant to describe the user’s
satisfaction with a product, there are a few key elements which need can be addressed the design and implementation of a website, widget or even marketing campaign.