What is user experience?

Graphic of a male sitting behind a computer screen with the words web design on the wall behind him.Technology has advanced to a point where almost anyone can set up a website – no coding experience needed!  It’s easy to get carried away with glitz, glamour, flashing signs and a swinging carousel of images. This is where user experience, or UX, comes into play. And let’s not forget web accessibility. Many of us have something to do with a website. So whether we contribute to one, manage one, or are commissioning one, there are some basics to know.

First some statistics. Seventeen per cent of users will not return after just one bad experience. Forty-eight per cent of users are annoyed by sites that aren’t mobile friendly. 

The DreamHost blog has two articles, one explaining how UX works, and the other is about web accessibility. It’s a pity they weren’t joined up into one article. Accessibility is not an optional add-on. It should be considered from the outset of the initial design and be a continuous process for ongoing content. 

While the UX article focuses on “target audience” and forgets this audience might need accessibility features, it has some useful advice. No need to get too bogged down with detail here. It covers navigation, content, animation, and responsiveness.

The article, 10 ways to make your website accessible is a good start for anyone new to the concept. It covers many of the basics such as colour choice, adding descriptions to images, and text size. Avoid tables for presenting data because screen readers can’t read them unless they are coded correctly. An accessible site expands the potential audience and helps with search engine rankings.

See also Web accessibility techniques: A guide and the section on ICT guidelines on this website for more information. 

Editor’s note: We do our best with accessibility and rely on in-built coding with the free software we use to keep the site running. We receive no funding to run this service. However, we welcome feedback if you find specific difficulties with this website. 

UD, ID, DfA, UX, UA: A terminology muddle

A hand holding a coloured pen is poised over a green post it note. There are drawings on the table and a smartphone. It indicates UX design.The aims of universal design (UD), inclusive design (ID), design for all (DfA), user experience (UX) and universal accessibility (UA), are basically the same – inclusion. So why should we be in a muddle about terms? For most designers and practitioners who understand the underpinning principle of inclusion, it’s not a big deal.  But shouldn’t the key issue be about implementation rather than discussing the nuances of terms? Even if we had one term, would that alter designer and practitioner attitudes towards inclusion?

Nevertheless, researchers find it frustrating not to have one term to cover the concepts. That’s because it makes it difficult to know if people are talking about the same thing when sharing research findings. The debate among academics has resulted in many papers on this topic. Some putting forth arguments that they are all different things. Others lamenting the problems of not having a consistent terminology. A few delve into philosophical arguments.

A paper from 2014 is still relevant today because the arguments haven’t abated. This paper discusses historical, methodological and philosophical aspects. It’s a long paper, probably best suited to academics. It covers just about every aspect of the issues. It also draws in the ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health) and international standards which is quite useful. 

The title of the paper downloadable from ResearchGate says it all, Universal design, inclusive design, accessible design, design for all: different concepts—one goal? On the concept of accessibility—historical, methodological and philosophical aspects.

Editor’s Note: I also wrote on the topic of terminology in relation to housing design, Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled – aren’t they all the same? 

Abstract: Accessibility and equal opportunities for all in the digital age have become increasingly important over the last decade. In one form or another, the concept of accessibility is being considered to a greater or smaller extent in most projects that develop interactive systems. However, the concept varies among different professions, cultures and interest groups. Design for all, universal access and inclusive design are all different names of approaches that largely focus on increasing the accessibility of the interactive system for the widest possible range of use. But, in what way do all these concepts differ and what is the underlying philosophy in all of these concepts? This paper aims at investigating the various concepts used for accessibility, its methodological and historical development and some philosophical aspects of the concept. It can be concluded that there is little or no consensus regarding the definition and use of the concept, and consequently, there is a risk of bringing less accessibility to the target audience. Particularly in international standardization the lack of consensus is striking. Based on this discussion, the authors argue for a much more thorough definition of the concept and discuss what effects it may have on measurability, conformance with standards and the overall usability for the widest possible range of target users.

User Experience Design

Two children sit in front of a laptop computer. the boy has his arms raised in triumph. The girl points and looks amazed.There are three Universal Principles of User Experience Design according to Christopher Murphy in an Adobe blog. They are: Visual Grammar, Language and Typology, and Narrative Design. Understanding of other principles from psychology, anthropology and economics can be overlaid on these principles. As new technologies are imagined and invented they create problems that have never been solved before. Murphy argues that if you keep the the principles in mind at all times, the solutions stand a better chance of standing the test of time. The article goes on to explain the three principles in more detail. For people who are not involved in ICT some of the ideas and strategies are still relevant to other design disciplines – graphics are used in lots of places.

“As designers working in an ever-changing field, it’s important that we develop an understanding of the timeless design principles that underpin everything we do.” The three principles, “…which should sit at the heart of everything we design and build, are critical and will stand the test of time.”