I stumbled across a post this morning (from back in 2008 by Zurb) titled “User Experience Design Does Not Exist“. It caught my eye, because this is something that has crept back in my mind (again and again) – and as a user experience designer myself, it makes me feel a bit uneasy…but that’s a good thing.
The designers that work on amazon.com don’t create the experience— they’re responsible for building the system, product and service that allowed those different experiences to happen. The designers work to understand how the user interacts with the website to create the most desirable and profitable experiences. We call that interaction design.
Designers need to stop thinking that they’re creating experiences. They’re allowing them to unfold with sound design decisions.
What I do like about what Zurb is saying is that designers need to carefully think about their design decisions – those design decisions will unfold an experience.
Why it should exist, at least for now
For me, the term user experience design simply provides context to what the designer is trying to achieve and focused on: creating a better experience for the person using their design.
These ux designers are typically armed with a specific set of tools and methods that allow them to uncover the things that will make a better experience. These tools include user research, card sorting, usability tests, etc.
The blurry line is in fact interaction design – a well structured discipline that has existed for a long time that aspires to achieve the same thing – a better experience between man and machine (or product).
This diagram from the book, Designing for Interaction by Dan Saffer, shows the relationships between the different disciplines and where they fit in very nicely:
Design schools should teach design, not tools
Another reason I believe it is important to make the distinctive emphasis by calling it user experience design is that there are far too many designers that lack the discipline of design methods and principles (that includes interaction design). This is partly due to the design schools that teach ‘designers’ how to use software (Adobe, etc) and not method or technique.
The ideal world would be that one day user experience design is inherently within the dna of designers, developers or anyone creating products for people.