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I'm trying to explain what UX Design is to my not-too-tech-savvy parents. All the descriptions I've come across thus far are lengthy and "deep" and very task-oriented. I've yet to find a concise paragraph or two (ironic -- because I want this description to be maximally usable by the parents).

Anyone know of a resource or method of explaining it?

I found http://startupsthisishowdesignworks.com/ and this paragraph seems pretty good (although could be meh out of context):

User Experience (UX) design "incorporates aspects of psychology, anthropology, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design and cognitive science. Depending on the purpose of the product, UX may also involve content design disciplines such as communication design, instructional design, or game design."

The goal of UX design is to create a seamless, simple, and useful interaction between a user and a product, whether it be hardware or software. As with UI design, user experience design focuses on creating interactions designed to meet or assist a user's goals and needs.

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It's about creating a tool for a task, and making it so that people can do the task without really noticing they're using the tool. – Roger Attrill May 5 '12 at 18:34
    
I typically describe it much like @RogerAttrill's comment. Unlike many other aspects of "a technical profession" (writ large), UX is ready made for explaining to non-tech-savvy people... – jcmeloni May 5 '12 at 20:47
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Dieter Rams was a UX Designer. – PhillipW May 6 '12 at 8:51
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Designing difficult things is simple; designing simple things is difficult. – zzzzBov May 8 '12 at 13:30

11 Answers 11

up vote 17 down vote accepted

User experience is about making the things you do easy rather than frustrating. It is about taking complex tasks, like ordering something from Amazon, and finding ways to take people through the process so they understand what is happening, what they need to do, and accomplish their task. Computers are immensely complex; UX is about making that complexity manageable for everyone, not just geeks.

UX isn't just about computers however; it's also about physical items. In fact, the 'Good Grips' series of kitchen and household tools is all about applying better usability to common tools to make them easier and more pleasant to use. UX work is a large part of what architects do... designing homes and buildings that are easy and pleasant to use, not just pretty.

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+1 for the comment that UX is not just about computers. Nearly everything can benefit from better UX design. Look at how chairs, for example, have evolved over the years to provide a better experience for the people sitting in them. – cspray May 11 '12 at 17:44
    
There are many aspects to the 'experience' of the users, and usability, joy, simplicity are just some of the things that can be engineered and designed by UX professionals. – Michael Lai Aug 19 '13 at 0:38

Ask them:

"What software do you love using? Which software do you hate using?"

Then point out the one you love likely had user experience people on the team.

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Simplicity rules! Great answer! – Benny Skogberg May 6 '12 at 19:51

I've had the same problem with my parents and narrowed it down to:

I make websites and computer programs easier to use.

:)

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Is it just about being easier to user? Because that would be dealing with usability issues primarily. You also want to make people love or enjoy using the websites/programs. – Michael Lai Aug 19 '13 at 0:36
    
That only covers the pragmatic part, the efficiency. But you leave out the hedonistic part, which is the joy of use – Big_Chair Jul 8 at 14:53
    
+1 I usually say something along these lines as well. Perhaps the other commenters would prefer the phrase "more enjoyable" rather than "easier"? UX is a huge concept that encompasses a lot (i.e. the entire user experience). I'd say this is a sufficient 9-word simplification--an excellent summary for explaining your job when you're meeting someone new. – maxathousand Jul 8 at 16:20

If my non tech-savvy parents asked me what I'm doing as a UX Designer, I would tell them something like this:

When you enter an apartment and the door leads you into the hallway instead of taking you directly into the bathroom, that is UX - the logical functions that makes a product correspond to your expectations.

Where do you want the bathroom to be? How many bedrooms? Is this apartment for young people, or perhaps for someone in his 70s? (in which case the structure would be different).

When you admire the carpet and the painted walls of the apartment, that is User Interaction.

If you want to have a nice functional apartment, you better opt for both.

Obviously, you cannot explain them the whole concept in a thorough manner, but at least you can help them educate their intuition.

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So, for defining UX: The first paragraph here is good: It's simple and to the point... But come to think of it... most people nowadays are pretty tech savvy, so it should be easy for you to try.

Also, you can compare this definition to CX (customer experience) that way a non-tech savvy person will have some idea to connect it with (after all, the two concepts are somewhat related because they are so focused on the person)

you can use the factors/adjectives describing UX from this image to explain... enter image description here

You can say something like "First, I sketch ideas of how I can create value and make the product desirable" then "I research to see if the product is usable and findable... if not, I go back and fix it"

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Some days ago I was watching this video of Sarah Kahn (UX Engineer for Adzerk) which she made for a video course on tutsplus. I would suggest to see this video http://tutsplus.com/lesson/what-is-ux-design/ here Sarah is explaining what is UX design with examples.

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I have a made up a line for these times and it works most of the times :

We design the Look and Feel with respect to the Behavior of the end user

Its the experience people get before, after and during the interaction with the product. By knowing the behaviors of the users we try to create them a better ecosystem with our products.

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That seems to be a better description for a graphic designer than someone who specializes in the experience of a site. – Adam Grant May 6 '12 at 3:17
    
@ajkochanowicz Graphic designer really doesn't have to care anything about behaviors of the users, This line is specially to those who create the UI coming from the UX field. – Pratheep ch May 6 '12 at 11:55
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Graphic Designers absolutely have to care about the behaviors of the users. UX isn't done in an isolated silo, everyone involved with the project have to care about UX. – DA01 May 6 '12 at 19:22
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@DA01 Ya I totally agree, nowadays its like .. "everyone in the team should care and know about UX". But when it comes to big agencies graphic designers are taken from the pressure of ux , as there is big team specially for UX. – Pratheep ch May 6 '12 at 20:44

I see myself as an engineer building roads for computers. There is a goal and there is a lot of possible ways to reach it. My task is to find the best, most efficient road to reach the goal.

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I always try to relate it to something frustrating in the physical world - like getting confused by doors, tools, elevators, panels etc. It makes it easier for people to relate it to what we do digitally. Then I say UX Designers work to prevent those frustrations from happening in the first place through research and testing. It's of course more complex than that, but for a basic understanding it's worked pretty well!

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I agree with most of this, however I would argue a car's dashboard is typically very well designed. Yes, there are a lot of buttons and knobs, but each map to one specific function, providing high visibility of available functions. High use of functional grouping (all the air conditioning controls are close to each other), clear icons, and a preference to maintain convention all tend to enable me to drive and control standard features any consumer car without much hesitation. – maxathousand Jul 8 at 16:16
    
@maxathousand very true! I was thinking on the fly :) – belladactyl Jul 8 at 17:07

These are all good answers. I tend to add that, in order to design things to be easier for people to use, I do a lot of research with the people who use the system and learn what their particular needs are. (Otherwise, what do we base our designs on? Assumptions and opinions?)

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Sometimes a personal example works best.

I'd ask them to "Name something that is really frustrating to use" - whatever the response is respond to it as a UX problem with what if suggestions.

Eg if they said "Why is the PVR so hard to use?!"

Provide a list of possible things that would make it better with the explanation:

"Well UX is all about making the experience for the user better"

  1. If you could tell it which shows were recorded for who you could limit your view to only shows you recorded, right?
  2. If you could tell it your favourite shows (or it could learn what types of shows you like it could better predict what you want to record saving you time from searching
  3. If the remote had a alphabet keyboard it would be much easier to type in search words, right?

My job as a UX designer/developer is to look and see where things can be improved by changing workflows, designs, and making a series of small tweaks to make sure it is as good as it can be.

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