So we, user experience designers typically work on user interfaces of digital products, whether it’s a mobile app, a web application, or an embedded product user interface for an electronics device/etc.
Naturally, many people think that UX designers only build digital user interfaces and that’s all they care.
A user interface is certainly a touchpoint and a trigger for a user experience to happen, for sure.
But a user interface itself is just a medium, just a trigger.
In order for a user experience to happen, you need to have a user, who interacts with a product via its user interface.
Furthermore, in order for this to actually happen, you need a certain context, a reason why this user is interacting with this product via its user interface.
Then you will start to realize that what initially seemed like a symbolization of UX (a product user interface), is only one component of a user experience, and user experience is something much bigger.
So what do all these mean to UX designers?
What this means is that one particular product user interface could provide an excellent user experience in one context, but may provide a terrible user experience in another context.
It also means that the same product user interface could result in an excellent user experience for a user A, while it could end up producing a poor user experience for a user B.
This also means a person’s user experience is also influenced by her cultural, educational and social background.
I recently had an interesting experience when talking to one of my friends.
I created a chart comparing a few things, and initially used a circle to represent “yes/positive”, an “X” to represent “no/negative”, a triangle to represent in-between.
I am Japanese, born and raised in Japan, so I still have Japanese cultural background after having been lived in the US for quite some time.
My friend, who is originally from India, seemed confused about these symbols that I used in the chart.
Only after seeing her confusion, I realized that how I used these symbols are completely based on my Japanese cultural background.
In Japan, teachers mark student’s answer sheet with circles for correct answers, crosses for wrong answers, and triangles for imperfect but not completely wrong answers.
However in Western culture, teachers use checkmarks for correct answers, and circles to highlight wrong answers!
It was funny because I kew all these differences through my own experience in the past.
And I’m a user experience designer with years of experience!
Yet still, I completely forgot about all these, and my behavior was heavily dictated by my own cultural background without me realizing it.
This episode illustrates just a tip of an iceberg in terms of how each person’s user experience of a particular product is influenced by her own cultural, educational and social background, which shapes her perception and understanding when experiencing a product.
All of which is why, conducting user research and clarifying the target user are so important when working on a user experience project.