To answer this question, we have to briefly go into detail and answer what we mean by user experience.

Experience is what people perceive when they act with the world.

A customer or user experience is therefore a combination of perceptions, emotions, memories and existing knowledge resulting from an interaction with a product, system, service or company. It is about everything a user or consumer perceives or feels before (anticipatory), during and after this interaction (e.g., identification or distance).

A good user experience should above all be useful and enjoyable. It is determined by a number of different factors, which I will discuss below.

What is the key to a good user experience by Thomas Sokolowski


Why is a good user experience so important?

We live in a hedonistic age. People want to have enriching experiences that will fill their lives. Customers reward companies whose products don’t bother them but have a positive impact on their lives, especially if they exceed their expectations. They then start to build a close relationship with them and recommend these products to other people, which is the so-called best advertising that can happen to a company. In this way, companies that focus on a good customer experience remain profitable for a long time.

Basically, any user experience can be optimized or transformed. Optimizing means that people feel good before, during and after use. It is about making the product or service feel natural and pleasant. And as I said before, a positive experience goes beyond the user’s expectations. Most users or consumers classify such a surprisingly positive experience as a personal moment.


Origin of the term User Experience

Don Norman was probably the first person to be given the job title of User Experience Architect when he was responsible for product design at Apple in the 1990s. He decisively shaped and popularized the concept of user experience.

But we go back a little bit further: Vitruv, one of the first architects, laid the foundations for human-centered design with his three main requirements for architecture, which are still valid today in modified form for user experience:

  • Firmitas (strength/stability)
  • Utilitas (usefulness) und
  • Venustas (beauty)

In recent decades, numerous research approaches have established themselves in the field of human- or user centered design, which have made it possible to systematically examine user experience.

For example, Marc Hassenzahl, professor of experience design, divides the user experience into a pragmatic and a hedonic quality. (*1).

  • The pragmatic quality describes the perceived ability of a system to support the user in accomplishing certain tasks and enabling the fulfilment of so-called do-goals (action goals of the users). The pragmatic quality has a lot to do with the usability of a system and the human needs for security, controllability and trust.
  • The hedonic quality is influenced by the perceived ability of a system to support the user in achieving so-called be-goals, the focus of which is on the user himself/herself, who usually wants to be happy or satisfied or would like to experience an identification or stimulation through use. The hedonic quality therefore also includes the emotional and aesthetic part of the user experience and shows what a product stands for in the user’s socio-demographic environment, whether it has an innovative or old-fashioned image, for example, or whether you can be seen with it, i. e., whether it has a positive influence on your own reputation.

It is also possible to subdivide by areas that influence a user experience. It is especially helpful to us in answering our first question: What constitutes a good user experience?


A user experience is essentially determined by the following factors:

Let us now look at each of these three areas:

The System

From a user’s point of view, the experience of the user interface is often equated with the service itself. When interacting with the product, it is therefore decided whether the product‘s promises of simplicity or usefulness are actually fulfilled. Positive experiences, regardless of whether they are made when interacting with descriptive media or when using the product itself, form the basis of a fulfilled brand and product promise.

For a good user experience, a number of properties are required from the user interface:

  • Accessibility: findability, technical compatibility, responsiveness, subjectively perceived performance, barrier-free (also for people with handicaps)
  • Utility: utility value of the contents and functions for the target group
  • Usability: effective, efficient and satisfying usability for the user
  • Joy of Use: subjective perceived joy before, during and after use

In the process, laymen often throw “usability” and “user experience” in the same pot. So I keep meeting customers and even designers who confuse the two terms.

Well, it should now be clear to everyone that usability is a sub-section of the user experience, which is the sum of all experiences of a user with a system. Good usability, on the other hand, simply said, ensures that things in a system are not annoying, so you reach your goal quickly and smoothly. That’s why good usability is not so important for some products, for example, if the motivation is high enough to accept adverse circumstances or if you are in an branch where a playful, narrative solution makes sense.

The User

In addition to the properties of the interface, a number of user-specific factors have a major influence on the user experience.

What is the user’s level of knowledge, relationship and previous experience with the product or system? For the anticipatory user experience, it is above all the expectations that are fed by the value propositions and advertising statements known to the user that are relevant. But also the company reputation he is familiar with or the branch or competitor context play an important role.

This means that whether the user experience of a touchpoint is perceived as good always depends on the expectations in a particular context. For example, the handling of a complex game is often very difficult to learn, while the joy of use is so high that the players can’t let go and accept all difficulties.

The Context

The situation in which the product or system is used is therefore essential. These conditions are not necessarily stable; they can be very different for individual users at the same time or they can gradually change for one and the same user.

In any case, a user experience is dynamic in nature. For example, the use of a new product can be confusing for a new user at first and can also cause negative feelings. Later, when a user is familiar with a product or system, his or her experiences can be positive again.

We see that designing a good user experience is all about understanding the context in which a user interacts with a product or system and finding out what role it plays in their everyday life. For this purpose, user research (analyses, interviews, observations) is usually carried out and empathy maps, personas and user journeys are developed on the basis of these findings. These then accompany every design or functional decision and help all persons involved in the development to keep an eye on the future users.


The difference between surveys and observations

It should be noted at this point: A simple survey of the subjective wishes of users is often not sufficient to determine the user’s needs. Almost always, the statements of the users about “their” use and the actual use by the users fall far apart.

This is because people are not always aware of their motives. Many users say, for example, that they like the simplest possible applications, only with the functions they need. In fact, however, most users buy the application that contains as many functions as possible, with the thought, “You never know, I just might need that.” In the case of a purchase decision, most users accept the higher degree of complexity and the longer learning curve, although they don’t like it, just to be on the safe side. In this case, would the pure user survey have done us any benefit? Not much.

People also perceive a test environment differently than the actual “natural” use. Anyone who has proofread a text knows this difference. The same thing happens when you ask people to test an application or product. They fall into a critical assessment mode that lets them perceive things differently than if they were in a normal use mode. It is often observed that test subjects “look for hair in the soup” and list marginal weaknesses that would not have been noticed during normal use.

And even more so, if the task is to find mistakes, it can be frustrating for the seeker to find none. You wonder if you weren’t thorough enough. Have you possibly missed a number of mistakes?

Tests have shown that the more errors they find, the more successful and satisfying people feel when they search for errors. In other words, a proofreader is more pleased with an error-rich text than with a flawless one. As a consequence, in faultless or low-error systems, the search is usually carried out with the highest degree of thoroughness until at least a few errors have been found. Very often, the alleged mistakes are not even real errors.

And vice versa: an error search is carried out much more inattentively if the test object shows many significant errors, i. e., the search for errors provides quite simply many errors found.

Therefore, it is generally not sufficient to conduct user surveys or user tests. Reliable results can only be obtained by observing users during their normal use of the product or service and interviewing them contextually.


What is UX-Design?

In general, UX design is the process of optimizing the user experience. It is a design approach that takes into account all aspects of a user’s interaction with a product or service. It is based on a deep understanding of the user, his or her behaviour, needs, objectives and motivations, as well as the context in which a product or service is used, with the aim of finding a solution that optimally satisfies all areas of the user experience.

It is about creating products or services that people can use with ease and joy. It is just as important to achieve the company or project goals, i. e., to bring them into harmony with those of the user.

UX design does not juggle every situation for every user, because as individuals, all people are different. What works for one person can have the opposite effect for another person. Rather, UX design is about finding the best and most far-reaching solution for the targeted audience.


What is meant by “joy of use”?

One of the most frequently cited concepts in the field of user experience is Joy of Use. Hardly any digital medium is developed today without the goal of such an emotional appeal.

What’s that all about? Does a bank’s website have to be funny? Not necessarily. Therefore, it makes sense to distinguish between fun (in the sense of entertainment) and joy (in the sense of an enriching experience). Fun in the sense of entertainment can offer an online game or a funny app. Joy, on the other hand, comes from the user when his or her goals are effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily achieved by the product or system, and when this happens in an innovative and original way, so that the experience gained is an enriching quality for him or her.


The Role of Aesthetics

Paul Adams, VP of Product at Intercom, put it this way: “Of course, the aesthetic dimension of a product has a real impact on human perception. It even enhances the user-friendliness of a product, but it’s not all that makes a successful user experience.

A beautiful product that solves a problem no one has will fail. An ugly product that solves a real problem well can succeed.”


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