Note – the scope of this definition is limited to the user experience of business and consumer software.
User experience (UX) refers to the overall interaction that people have with a product and, most importantly, how they feel about that interaction. In other words, was the user frustrated, delighted or something in between? User experience is a broad concept covering many aspects of the interaction between the user and the product. It goes beyond the narrower concept of usability, although good usability is widely considered the most important factor in reaching a good user experience.
In order to achieve a good user experience, the minimum basic requirement is good usability. This means that the product meets the needs and goals of the users so that they can complete the task at hand quickly and easily. Second, the product should be desirable and enjoyable to use. It should be aesthetically pleasing, eliminate unnecessary interactions, speak the user’s language, and keep the user feeling in control. The product should not be designed in a way that is best for the system or requires the least amount of work for the development team. It should be optimized for the user, a human being with human desires and limitations. Next, all of the interactions that the user has with the product (from selecting, to purchasing, to downloading, to using, to upgrading, and finally to uninstalling) should be consistent. The interaction design, terminology, tone of voice, and branding should be seamless and harmonized throughout the entire engagement with the product. Finally, and this is certainly the most difficult level to achieve, to reach a superior user experience the product should contain some element that surprises users in an unexpected yet positive way. This may be by fulfilling a need or desire that users did not know they had (think – having a huge music library on a portable device the size of a deck of cards), gaining new insight to the task at hand that was not previously possible (think – personalized book recommendations while browsing online), or just plain doing something fun (think – racking up points and badges on a social media site). But the trickiest part about this level is to design the system in such a way that these elements of surprise do not get in the users’ way or become annoying after the novelty has worn off. All of the examples I mentioned are now commonplace, but someone was the first to do it and was then widely imitated. This expertly executed innovation for users is a hallmark of the very best in the business. This said, let us strive to create enjoyable, consistent, and innovative software, but never compromise on the basic and most important goal of making sure it is usable.