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. Commented May 5, 2012 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
    Commented May 5, 2012 at 20:47
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    Dieter Rams was a UX Designer.
    – PhillipW
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 8:51
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    Designing difficult things is simple; designing simple things is difficult.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 13:30

9 Answers 9


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. Commented May 11, 2012 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
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 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.

  • Simplicity rules! Great answer! Commented May 6, 2012 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
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 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
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 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. Commented Jul 8, 2016 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.


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
    Commented May 6, 2012 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. Commented May 6, 2012 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
    Commented May 6, 2012 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. Commented May 6, 2012 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.


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?)


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.


User Experience Design (UX) is usually about the parts of computer which you see with your eyes, sometimes buttons and text.

A computer has many parts other than the screen or display. The parts of a computer which are "under-the-hood" and which people you do not look at very often are less a part of User Experience Design than the button you see with your eyes or the words which you read.

If you set an alarm to wake yourself up early in the morning one day, then the parts of the the alarm clock which you can see without taking the alarm clock apart are part of user experience design.

More broadly, UX could be the parts of a man-made machine which people uses their senses to interact with (sight, sound, touch, and hearing).

The terms front end and back end are also used. Computer programmers use the phrase *back-end like the back of a grocery store. The back-end is where store customers are not allowed to go. The back-end of a cellphone application is not as pretty to look at as the front end.

UX is almost the opposite of back-end.

As another example, the steering wheel of a car is far closer to being UX design than the engine of the car. The car's transmission, car's alternator, or other engine parts are considered to be backend.

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