UX Design for Beginners >

Tutorial 1: What Is UX Design?

Tutorial 1: What Is UX Design?

“Hi there! 😎I’m Jeff, Head of Design here at CareerFoundry, and I’ll be taking you through this first UX design tutorial. I’ve been working as a UX designer for seven glorious years, and I love the fact that I’m now able to impart my knowledge to the next generation of UX designers. What I like most about UX design? Well, by consulting your user first, you can save tons of time. I mean, if you could design something right the first time, why wouldn’t you?”

This course is made up of six tutorials, with each tutorial divided up into four parts. To really get the most out of these lessons, I recommend the following sequence:

  1. Watch the introductory video at the beginning of each tutorial
  2. Read through the accompanying text
  3. Complete the practical task
  4. Take the interactive quiz and move on to the next tutorial

So what are we going to do today?

In this tutorial, I’m going to give you a comprehensive introduction to user experience (UX) design. We’ll look at what exactly UX design is and explore the history behind it. Then we’ll look at some examples of good and bad UX. We’ll round off with a quick practical exercise and an interactive quiz. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a clear idea of what UX design is and why it’s so important. Ready? Let’s begin!

  1. What is user experience (UX)?
  2. What is user experience design (UXD)?
  3. Where does UX design come from?
  4. What do good and bad UX look like?
  5. Practical exercise: Are you ready to start thinking like a UX designer?

PSST! If you have any questions about this tutorial, or about UX in general, simply reply to one of the emails that accompany this course. One of our awesome program advisors will get back to you, quick as a flash! Not getting any emails? Then sign up to receive them!

1. What is user experience (UX)?

User experience, or UX, is a term used to describe the overall experience a user has when interacting with a product or service in a given context. Depending on how the product or service is designed, the experience can range from delightful to downright frustrating!

You’ll often hear about UX in relation to digital products, such as websites and apps—but UX isn’t limited to the digital space. Anything that can be experienced can be designed, from the packaging of a toothbrush to the wheels of an orthopaedic chair.

The impact of good (and bad!) UX is everywhere. That’s one of the reasons it’s such an exciting field, and also explains why you already know a lot more about UX than you realize. Every time you curse a push door that has a pull bar, or close a confusing website in frustration, you’re making a judgement on the quality of its UX design.

So: UX is all about the user’s interaction or experience with a product or service. With that in mind, let’s move on to part two…

2. What is user experience design (UXD)?

User experience design, or UXD, considers each and every element that shapes the user experience. It’s all about designing specifically for the needs of the user or customer, looking at things like ease of use, quality, and efficiency.

If you think about it, humans can only benefit from complex systems like websites and computer programs (or any product, really) if these systems are somewhat user-friendly. UX designers look to bridge the gap between the product and the human user. They think about how people interact with a given product, and look for ways to make these interactions as intuitive and straightforward as possible.

UX designers have to wear many different hats, finding just the right balance between scientist, psychologist, sociologist, and artist (among others!). In order to come up with viable, creative, and user-friendly design solutions, you need to analyze past experiences, research new practices, interview real or potential users, and test, test, test your designs! We’ll look at the UX design process in more detail in the next tutorial. For now, though, let’s take a quick look at the history of UX design.

3. Where does UX design come from?

The term “UX” was first coined in the 1990s by Dr. Donald Norman, an electrical engineer and cognitive scientist at Apple. A pioneer of user-centered design, Norman emphasized the importance of designing based on the needs and goals of the end user. In doing so, he introduced the term “user experience”, which, in Norman’s own words, is meant to encompass “all aspects of a person’s experience with a system, from the materials used to the interaction itself (physical or digital), along with the interface, graphics, and orientation.”

If you’d like to learn more about the origins of UX, check out this fascinating history of UX design—a definitive timeline.

Now we know what UX design is and where it comes from, it’s time to put what we’ve learned into context with some real-life examples. Onto part four!

4. What do good and bad UX look like?

We’re now going to look at two cases of good vs. bad UX. We’ll start with a familiar physical object before moving on to a digital example.

Good vs. bad UX design: Example 1

Take a look at the image below. Notice any good or bad UX design? At first glance, the product is recognizable as a faucet, and the design looks functional; it’s got all the necessary components of a tap. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and might even add an elegant flair to your kitchen or bathroom. Now consider the following questions:

An example of the bad UX design of a physical object

It’s impossible to tell, isn’t it? If the tap suddenly dispensed piping hot water very quickly, you could have a serious safety concern on your hands. A user shouldn’t have to think so hard about how to make the tap function how they want it to—they should be able to use it without error right from the start.

What could you do to make the design safer and more intuitive? Are there any easy yet effective fixes?

Good vs. bad UX design: Example 2

Before we consider our digital example, allow me to introduce you to wireframes. You can read a comprehensive introduction to wireframes here, but, put simply, a wireframe is a drawing of a design. Just like architects use blueprints, UX designers use wireframes to communicate their initial design ideas and to demonstrate how the design will function. Wireframes can be hand-drawn or created on a computer, and are often used when designing digital products. It’s important to note that wireframes focus on the general layout and functionality of the product—visuals and styling elements are kept to a minimum!

With that in mind, take a look at the wireframes below. Notice any examples of good or bad UX design?

An example of the bad UX design of a physical element

In the wireframe on the left, you can see that the most prominent button is the “delete” button. The text is larger, it is highlighted in a bright red color, and it’s on the right hand side, which is usually reserved for confirmations. This unintuitive design could very quickly lead to a user accidentally deleting something they had meant to save. Not a great user experience!

Then there’s the wireframe on the right. Whilst the unsubscribe check box is selected, there is no option to actually unsubscribe. The buttons only allow you to subscribe or cancel. Not having the option of unsubscribing from something that you no longer want to receive can be extremely frustrating for users. Another example of bad UX design!

Fixing bad UX design

In the wireframes below, we’ve corrected the original wireframes in order to demonstrate good UX design.

The resolution of the bad UX design to make it good

In the example on the left, emphasis has now been placed on the “save” option, and it’s situated in a familiar position, reducing the chances of users accidentally deleting something they want to keep. In the example on the right, users can now confirm their decision to unsubscribe. Unlike the original example, the copy is straightforward and the consequences of confirming the action are clear.

😎 Pro Tip!

“When analyzing a user experience, you can start by comparing the experience to industry standards for “good UX.” A product with good UX will be: Useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, and credible. Keeping these traits in mind as you conduct your analysis will hold you in good stead as you continue your UX journey.”

5. Practical exercise: Are you ready to start thinking like a UX designer?

Now you know how to spot good and bad UX, let’s start cultivating your critical eye for user experience design. Your mission for today is to start browsing websites and apps you use frequently and to make a note of anything that you find intuitive or frustrating.

Focus on how easy or difficult the website or app is for you to use. Can you find what you’re looking for? Is it easy for you to accomplish your goals? Remember: the key lies in whether the website or app is meeting the needs of the user—in other words, YOU! Jot down a few thoughts on each website and keep your notes somewhere for easy reference later on.

Not sure where to start? Think about tasks or errands you often complete online, such as shopping or booking a trip. If you’re a frequent traveller who often books flights online, for example, go to your regular site of choice. Write down what you like and dislike, and, most importantly, why.

It’s a wrap!

That just about concludes our first UX design tutorial. Before you go, be sure to test your knowledge with our interactive quiz. See you next time!

Take the quiz below to make sure you've learned all the important information—and that it really sticks! 


Senior Program



Intrigued by a career in UX design? Arrange a call with your program advisor today to find out if UX design is a good fit for you—and how you can become a UX designer from scratch with the full CareerFoundry UX Design Program.