The term User Experience goes back to Don Norman sometime in the early 90s.

But where did the abbreviation UX, rather than UE, come from?

I'm guessing that it was influenced by the release of Windows XP ("short for Experience") which came out in late 2001).

I came across a copy of the UPA Magazine from Winter 2002 which is called 'User Experience' and a page in this gives "The UX Book Selection" - so UX rather than UE was being used then.

Can anyone provide some earlier history or references?

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    All I can say is that your guess is definitely not right, here is another older popular source that uses x rather than e to denote experience: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/25901/… Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 12:19
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    not even necessarily, just hit me that phonetically x is eks and e is just e at best and experience starting with eksp it makes sense to abbreviate it with x instead of e. Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 12:54
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    @adrianh, I don't think this is a duplicate. That question is about the origin of the term "user experience"; this one is about the origin of the abbreviation "UX". Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 20:55
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    The linked question is about the term User Experience, this question is about the abbrevation UX. So it's not a duplicate.
    – stefan.s
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 10:50
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    Is this really a UX question? Seems much more of an English.se question. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 3:16

4 Answers 4


I find it glaring that the sound of the letter 'X' (ex) is the same as the opening sound in experience, whereas the letter 'E' sounds like the start of international.

So I think that sound-wise, UX is closer to User Experience than UE.

Just to support this:

A cloth tag showing the size XL

Extra large is marked 'XL' and not 'EL'.

Also, the sound of UE (U-yi) reminds of GUI (Gu-yi) and UI (which some pronounce yu-aye, while others U-yi - just like UE).

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    also XML, FX, Xmas …
    – Crissov
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 20:53
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    Good point about XML ( EXtensible Markup Language ) which Wikipedia gives as introduced in 1996. So the dropping the E idea was around at this point in the tech world.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 23:44
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    I agree that seeing E in XL sort of situations would just look weird. X just seems to make sense for EX words. It could be said its just due to a quirk of English and our fear of leaving X's out in the open (where the children can see them) that means there's an E there. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 14:01
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    I agree with everything except for "e" being the same sound as the i in international
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 3:09

1. UE was used before UX

This is the first recorded instance of "User Experience" as a job role that I could find and it came from an Apple document from 1995...

This office has introduced a new procedure for products, which starts with the creation of a "User Experience Requirements Document" (UERD).

-- source: Don Norman, Jim Miller, Austin Henderson -- Apple Computer, Inc.

2. UX has less competition than UE

A single abbreviation can mean many different things and a quick search reveals 47 definitions for UE and only 9 definitions for UX

3. UX sounds better

Saying the first syllable of each word User Experience sounds like UX.

Apple has a job listing for a UI/UX Developer (at the time of this posting). If they really did coin the term "User Experience" using the initials UE back in 1995 they seem to agree that UX is the term professionals understand and use today.

  • I admit that this conclusion is only conjecture, however, it does seem more likely than this other possible scenario... One day a dyslexic Windows XP engineer interpreted UE as EU and thought, "Why is the European Union suing Microsoft for bundling their browser into Windows XP?" and then decided to get back at them by creating a Windows UX - User eXperience job position.
    – DaveAlger
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:12
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    On the competition front, you also have “CXO” avoiding clear confusion with “CEO”. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 20:01

The earliest historical reference I could find on the etymology of UX is from a 2005 UX Week conference by Adaptive Path, which has hosted the conference each year since. (The 2005 conference is no longer listed on their website; the link resolves to photos from the event.)

Most other references to the term begin in 2008. (Search for the term " UX" on wired.com, oldest first. After the Vaio reviews, the UX references begin on 8/10/08.) Don't forget to put the space before UX in the search and enclose it in quotes.

For more research, the founder of Adaptive Path, Mike Kuniavsky, wrote this paper in 2001, describing user experience, but the paper does not use the acronym UX. If you are feeling particularly curious, you could ask him more about the etymology of the term.

  • It became more widely used around 2007 / 2008 when (in the UK) there was a sudden increase in the number of people interested in interface design. This may in turn have been to do with the broadening in of the scope of interface design to include Mobile Phone Apps ( the first iPhone came out in 2007 ).
    – PhillipW
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 20:37

I like all aforementioned answers. I would also add that in many instances we are using "X" to show power/importance of a concept. We may find a number of websites and companies who are trying to select a word for their brands that contains X to empower their branding. Besides, this is kinda formal in computer science to replace "ex" with X, for those who are familiar with Extreme Programming (XP) this argument makes sense.

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