What is UX Design? (In the context of web/app design)

To talk about User Experience Design, we have to first talk about User Experience. So…

What is user experience (UX)?

User experience (UX) is the way a user feels about using something. Feels, an emotional reaction that occurs during the use of the product. A good user experience is often satisfaction and pleasure, and a poor UX can range from annoyance to frustration.

User experience is determined by a number of factors (thanks, Wikipedia):

These things all come into play in determining User experience, and therefore are heavily considered in UX Design.

So, from there: UX Design is the design of user experiences.

Let’s get down to the practical, web-design-specific details. UX Design is a bit of an umbrella term. Wikipedia broke it down into discernible parts, and I’m going to borrow from that for these 4:

Visual Design

Ah yeah, this is the good stuff. Aka: User Interface (UI) Design, or even (broader) graphic design. It’s not just about the graphic treatment of the interface elements, but about conveying a consistent message with typography, color, images, and symbols.

Information Architecture

Yep, it’s back. Refresher from the last post: Information Architecture is all about structure and organization for the sake of findability and usability. IAs want every single step in a process to make sense, and focus heavily on information and its presentation.

Interaction Design

Interaction Design is one step away from IA toward Visual Design, but maintains a direct focus on user goals. Of importance are the layout and emphasis on pertinent information and visual cues. It takes into account available user behaviors (ex. drag-drop, mouse-over, etc.) and overall consistency.


There’s just no escaping this guy. Usability asks one question: Does the product effectively do what it is intended to do, for both the user and the manufacturer. Usability is LIEK SEW IMPORTANT to a good user experience.

UX Design is a highly-multidisciplinary field, which may be what draws me to it. UX Designers spend time thinking about psychology, anthropology, architecture, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design, cognitive science…. whatever field their clients happen to be working in…throw marketing and strategy in there, and you’ve got the Thanksgiving Dinner of career paths.

If you’re interested in the theoretical history of UX Design, I recommend starting in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Yes, that is another acronym, but it may interest you. I don’t know why. I don’t ask questions.