Fewer things in User Experience Design are more contended than the definition of User Experience Design. Most of us who practice it agree on the goals of UX Design (happy users) and even the methods we use to get there (contextual inquiries, user journey maps, wireframes, usability studies, etc). But defining “the thing itself” continues to baffle us

Below is an excerpt from an article originally published on UX Booth. To read the full article, head over to UX Booth’s website.

In his recent article on UX Booth, Darren Northcott provides a compelling argument for one way we might begin to whittle away at a useful definition. Specifically, Darren describes the difference between UX and Information Architecture, stating that “User Experience takes Information Architecture as its foundation and brings it to the next level.” As Darren explains it, while information architects focus primarily on organization and labeling, “UX designers work to make things more profound, targeting their users on an emotional level.”

On the whole I agree with Darren’s analysis and find that he provides a compelling account of the goals of UX Design as well as how information architecture works toward accomplishing those goals. There is, however, something in the way we’ve come to understand User Experience Designers reflected in Darren’s approach that troubles me. Darren writes that “User Experience Designers [...] employ user-centered design to produce a cohesive, predictable, and desirable affect in their target audience. Whoa.”

Whoa, indeed. Are we really able, as User Experience Designers, to create emotional states? That’s what I hear when I read sentences like this. And I’m afraid that’s what those outside of User Experience hear as well (which would explain the longstanding confusion). One begins to understand how, from an outsider’s point of view, this might sound questionable – even diabolical. Do we really claim that user experience designers are magical beings that poop rainbows of surprise and delight? Or is there something else going on here? Let’s investigate!