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What Is User Experience Design?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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User experience design is the creation of systems that are easy and pleasant for users. The designer thinks about the look and feel the system should have in order to accomplish a goal and works with other members of the design team to create a memorable user experience. This differs from other aspects of design, which focus on topics like making a system functional and creating an interface that users can readily control, although both of these can play a role in the user experience as well. User experience designers can work as freelance consultants or full time employees at companies with products constantly in development.

Development should include user experience design from the very start as a company thinks about a product it wants to make, discusses the goal, and talks about what it wants users to get out of it. The company ideally wants users to have a pleasurable and memorable experience. The response to a user experience can vary depending on context and design; what makes a software program pleasurable, for example, might not work as well for an elevator.

Designers look not just at software, but also electronics as a whole, which can include everything from alarm clocks to personal digital assistants. A user experience designer can work with other members of the design team to convey a particular emotion, look, and feel for users. For example, a company might want a whimsical desktop application that feels fun and slightly silly to use. The user experience design might integrate bold colors, striking visuals, and the use of quirky, off-beat language to make the user feel immersed in the experience of fun and whimsy. Conversely, an accounting program might need a more formal, professional feel.

Attention to this area of the product development and design process is critical. Good user experience design can be so seamless that people don't think about it as they interact with a product, though they may describe it as fun and easy to use. Bad design, on the other hand, can make consumers feel awkward, even if they are not able to pin down the nature of the problem. Seemingly simple decisions like positioning a button or deciding what kinds of functions to make accessible with a single click can be critical for user experiences.

Training in user experience design is available through formal education as well as on the job experience. People with an interest in this field can look at job listings for industries that interest them to determine what kinds of qualifications are expected. This can help prospective employees decide on what kind of education they want to pursue for develop their careers. They might require degrees in design and engineering, or could benefit from immediately entering the job market and working on existing projects.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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