UX: a Reintroduction


UX: a Reintroduction

Mar 17, 2014By mStoner Staff

Wherever You Go, There U(X) Are
I’ve noticed something since I moved to Seattle and started attending local meetups. UX (user experience) is much more of a hot topic here than it seemed to be in Chicago during the 13 years I spent in the Windy City prior to heading West. I turned to Google Trends to confirm these suspicions. It turns out I was right.

I’m not sure why UX has more traction out here. It certainly isn’t a new idea. My theory is that UX is more of an emergent topic here because of the vocabulary and values of the tech communities of the west coast, specifically the product development and startup communities of both San Francisco and Seattle.

Defining UX
A bit of a refresher on UX: it’s a broad topic. Nielsen Norman Group defines UX as “all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” According to Nick Finck, Senior Manager of UX at Amazon Web Services, UX has six core disciplines:

  1. user research
  2. content strategy
  3. information architecture
  4. interaction design
  5. visual design
  6. usability evaluation

UX is a holistic framework for thinking about product development, communications projects, or web work. Each of the six core disciplines of UX is a pillar that supports a great experience for the user. Remove one of those pillars, and the work is shakier or incomplete.

UX and mStoner
Our team recently discussed “fit” on projects — what kinds of clients end up being a good fit for us. For me, one of the criteria for best fit is a potential client’s recognition that a web relaunch is a user experience project. A client that thinks this way will value the balanced approach to problem-solving that we take at mStoner. What does balance mean? Well, we’re not a research company, but we do user research. We’re not a usability company, but we do a number of different kinds of tests. The same goes for the other four core UX disciplines.

At mStoner, we see a web relaunch as a comprehensive UX project. Some people view a web relaunch as primarily about a specific trade or skill set, whether that is design, development, or content strategy, or sometimes even as a content management system implementation. Over the years, we’ve done good projects for clients who see one of these niche interests as the main focus of the project. The philosophical point of view matters less than the quality of the work. A web relaunch project that is seen as focused on one of the disciplines can still be successful, provided that the other core disciplines are well-considered. I’ve also come across clients who practice the core disciplines of UX well without acknowledging the term.

UX and Higher Education
What difference does our work make for our audiences? This is the question that matters most. In the next few months, I’ll be exploring UX and how it fits into higher education as a series of posts on this blog. If you’re a skeptic, you’re welcome to call me a Google Trend bandwagoneer.

Further Reading on UX
User Experience Articles on A List Apart
The UX Newsletter by Mailchimp
UX Magazine
User Interface Engineering
UX Booth
Usability Counts