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?”
So what are we going to do today?
Each of the six tutorials in this course is set out in four parts. I recommend the following sequence to really make sure you’ve reinforced all your newfound UX knowledge.
- Watch the introductory video at the beginning of each tutorial
- Read the accompanying text to go into depth on the topic
- Carry out the practical task and send it to us for feedback
- Complete the interactive quiz and move on to the next tutorial
In this tutorial, I’m going to give you an introduction to UX design, including its definition and history, before proceeding to look at some examples of good and bad user experience. If you have any questions about the tutorial or UX in general, simply reply to one of the emails that accompany this course and one of our awesome Student Advisors or Mentors will get back to you — quick as a flash! 😊
What is User Experience (UX)?
UX stands for user experience. This refers to the overall experience a user has when interacting with a product or service in a given environment. Depending on how the product or service is designed, the experience can range from delightful to downright frustrating. UX design isn’t limited to the digital space, either. 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 — or bad — UX is all around us all of the time. That’s one of the reasons it’s such an exciting field, and also a reason why you already know a lot more about UX than you realise: Every time you curse a push door that has a pull bar, you’re making a judgement on the quality of its UX design.
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 user-focused pioneer, he emphasized the importance of user-centered design — a design process based on the needs and goals of the user. In doing so, he introduced the term user experience, which 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.
What is User Experience Design (UXD)?
So, where does design fit in with all that? UXD (user experience design) is about designing specifically for the needs of the user or customer, looking at things like ease of use, quality, and efficiency.
In order for humans to make the most out of complex systems like websites and computer programs (or any product, really), designers had to start thinking about how people interact with those same products. They looked for ways to make those interactions as intuitive and straightforward as possible. Remember, though — UX design isn’t limited to digital products. It can even be extended to our collection of IKEA furniture or this very elaborate ramen candy-making kit.
UX designers have to wear many hats, finding just the right balance between scientist, psychologist, sociologist, and artist (among others). In order to produce viable, creative design solutions, you need to analyze past experiences, research new practices, interview potential users, and test, test, test your designs. While you’re not at that level yet, knowing exactly what makes a user experience good or bad is a great place to start! Now’s your chance to test your analytical skills with a short “good vs. bad UX” exercise. Let’s dive right in!
What do good and bad UX look like?
We’re going to look at two cases of good vs. bad UX. We’ll start with familiar physical objects before moving onto a few digital examples.
Take a look at the image below. Notice any good or bad UX design? Upon first glance, the product is recognizable as a faucet, and the design looks functional, having all the necessary components of a tap. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and it might even add an elegant flair to a user’s kitchen or bathroom. Now consider the following questions:
If the tap suddenly dispensed very hot water very quickly, you could have a serious safety concern on your hands. A user shouldn’t have to think 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?
Before we move from the physical world to the digital one, I’ll need to introduce you to wireframes. A wireframe is, to put it simply, a drawing (freehand or digital) of a design. UX design professionals often work with wireframes of digital products — just as architects use blueprints, UX designers use wireframes to communicate their design ideas and demonstrate how a design will function. Wireframes allow designers to focus on the experience of the design without getting distracted by all those fancy visual details, making them a crucial component in every design process! Take a look at the wireframes below. Notice any examples of good or bad UX design?
In the wireframe on the left, you can see that the button given most importance is the delete button. The text is larger, it is highlighted in a bright red color, and it is on the right hand side, which is commonly reserved for confirmations. This unintuitive design could very quickly lead to a user accidentally deleting something they had meant to save.
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. Being unable to have the choice of unsubscribing from something that you no longer want to receive can be frustrating for users and is an example of bad design.
The examples provided above have been corrected to demonstrate good design. In the example on the left, emphasis has been placed on the Save option, and it is in a familiar position, reducing the chances of users accidentally deleting something they want to keep. On the right, users can now confirm their decision to unsubscribe from something they no longer want to receive. 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.”
Are you ready to start thinking like a UX designer?
Now that you know how to spot good and bad UX, let’s start cultivating your critical eye for user experience design. You can start by browsing websites and apps you use frequently and making note of anything that you find intuitive or frustrating.
Focus on how easy or difficult it is for you to use. 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 and keep your notes somewhere you can easily reference later.
Unsure where to start? Think about tasks or errands you often do. For example, if you’re a frequent traveller who uses online booking systems to make hotel reservations, go to your regular site of choice. Write down what you like and dislike and — most importantly — why.
Don’t forget: if you want feedback on your thoughts, get in touch with us!
Take the quiz below to make sure you've learned all the important information—and that it really sticks!