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2 minute read

What is UX any way?

In the beginning there was the wheel and for a time, it was good.

So this question comes up now and then, “what is UX?”. You probably already know it stands for User Experience, but how does it help, and who is it really helping? So now we come to the rabbit hole, and be warned, it’s easy to get lost down there.

The truth is a simple one. We have been doing UX forever. It is why we no longer roll around on wheels made of stone, a la The Flintstones, or use mobile phones the size of house bricks. Instead, we invent things and give them to the world, but we aren’t satisfied, so we make those things better and better and better.

UX, as a term, tries to define a part of the digital design process, but a common misconception is that it only has a role during the initial stages of a project. In the early phases, we create ‘prototypes’ that help to define the project outcome. These early prototypes are the first iterations of UX, an intuitive user flow that the rest of the project will be built around.

As designers, developers and marketeers, we naturally approach a new project through the lens of our experience with what’s gone before. But the key to creating something new is in User Experience. So to make something better, we first have to see where it could be made more intuitive or user-friendly.

This requires information from the users themselves and analysis of feedback and website analytics we gain as a result. This is how we shape our good ideas into perfect ones.

We invent things and give them to the world, but we aren’t satisfied so we make those things better and better and better.

Matthew Laakvand, UI/UX Developer

Using Google Analytics on a website with global reach might reveal that a portion of the user flow works incredibly well in North America but doesn’t perform so well for users in China. For example, using the colour red indicates a negative step for us western folks, but in China red is the colour of luck and good fortune — not a negative connotation!

In simple terms, UX is about using real-world data and experience to identify things that could be improved, then developing solutions to those problems.

It isn’t about wholly reinventing something; it’s about refining it.

We probably should acknowledge that rival competition is the driving force to make a product better. That is the cynical truth, but progress is progress. To answer my earlier question, “Who is UX really helping?” the answer should be both the stakeholder and the user. If your product is giving the user a positive experience, they will keep using it and will likely recommend it to someone they know.

It is up to us, the designers, developers and marketeers, to be the drivers for improvements and innovation for our customers and clients. Because what is good for them is good for us too.