Skip to main content

Usability vs. User Experience

As per my old article here about UX Design, I believe that there’s something missing, especially for the Perceptual Control part ..
How come defending the users’ rights and in the same time controlling their perceptions ?!
I believe that the other way around makes more sense, by measuring the User Experience in order to improve Usability, and by getting efficient Usability we create superior User Experience ..
In other words, Usability is the actual key, always has been !
Neither Usability nor User Experience needs to be designed ..
Usability needs engineering, and User Experience needs measuring ..
But both applies to an interactive product, and that is the only part which needs to be designed, as in Interaction Design ..

Usability defines the extent of use (satisfying context) ..
User Experience defines the perception of use (responsive feelings) ..

Usability creates User Experience ..
User Experience emphasizes Usability acceptance ..

Usability Engineering researches the ease of use ..
User Experience Design .. hold on

I was wrong, User Experience cannot be designed (why?), but we can Design for the User Experience, in which case, we should refer to Interaction Design instead ..

Interaction Design harnesses Usability to exceed desirable expectations from User Experience ..


It all starts with Usability Engineering then, interesting !

According to Wikipedia, common usability evaluation methods include:

  • Usability testing (Gold standard of Usability Engineering, but the most involved and expensive method)
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Questionnaires/Surveys
  • Cognitive walkthroughs
  • Heuristic evaluations
  • Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) method
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Think aloud protocol

Online Resources:

UX Strategy Simplified

Today I had an interesting question, what is my UX Strategy?

My answer was something about parallel work streams and synchronizing UX with development, sounds like a good idea at the moment ..
After doing my homework, I think I have more accurate answer to that ..
In fact, it wasn’t quite correct trying to think of a strategy in a single statement, if there is no identified actions it would be more like a discipline then a strategy ..

“A strategy is a set of coordinated, orchestrated, planned actions, or tactics, which will take you along a journey to reach a desired future state, over an established period of time. Design objectives are conditions or outcomes that a project must meet, often of tactical nature. User experience (UX) strategy shouldn’t therefore be confused with design objectives.” Renato Feijó – Johnny Holland Magazine

There’re many UX strategies, I had to read tons of words just to figure that out!
After all, I find the following more straightforward and compelling UX Strategy:

  1. User Stories: frame the problem space without identifying the solution.
  2. Key Scenarios: combining user stories to expose enough detail about the nature of the project.
  3. User Pathways: walkthrough process represented by post-its.
  4. Interactive Prototypes: visualizing pathways into paper prototypes and mock-ups.
  5. Wireframes: modeling user interfaces in preparation for the actual designs.

For more Agile UX Strategy, here is an article by Austin Govella


User Stories: a strategic design tool
Emerging a User Experience Strategy

What is UX Design?

I have noticed recently that most people (at least in my country) do not understand the abbreviation UX (User Experience), others just refer that to UI (User Interface)!

Well, I must say that they are obviously mistaken!
The only relation between both is that UX might be a result of UI but not necessarily, we can achieve UX even when there’s no UI at all!

UX is about user feelings and perceptions.
UI is about interaction controls for the user.

Who is the UI Designer?
He is the person who has the talent to create elegant interface elements to appeal the user.
Practically, his role is about shape and color, and it is a unique criteria, requires long experience and large amount of time to satisfy various tastes.
His tools should be freehand sketching and digital design software like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Unlike the UX Designer, who has the knowledge of human psychology in terms of reactions and responses to designs, his role is about defending the user rights and controlling user perceptions for designs (specifications, user scenarios, wireframes, ..,etc).
His tools are the same as UI Designer in addition to OmniGraffle, Axure, .., etc.

Unfortunately, some employers not just treating UX Designer as UI Designer, they also require a full set of skills in scripting and mark-up languages in order to develop the actual UI interfaces, much like they combine UX Designer, UI Designer, and UI Developer in one role! sometimes they even require much more technical skills like advanced server scripting languages like PHP, Perl, .NET, ..,etc!

I am in fact one person who do believe that each UX Designer should have background about technologies and development, it helps to fully understand how to implement certain designs according to the latest available technologies ..
But not to do the whole task starting from conceptualization going through design and ending with final interactive product! it’s simply a huge waste of time and much higher expectations from a single talented person ..

It would be more efficient if the UX Designer works closely with Marketing Directors, Information Architects, and Creative Directors ..
It’s about time to emphasize the business needs by satisfying the actual users, the global competition went too high due to the wide production for different designs, the users are increasingly get lost and that affects business needs for sure ..

Related articles about wider perceptions that covers this subject:

Interaction vs. Interactive Design
Reactive / Responsive / Interactive

Interaction vs. Interactive Design

As per my previous post here, I was trying to make my own approach to the facts behind the most confusing perspectives (Reactive, Responsive, and Interactive) ..

I’ve been led to a point where Interaction and Interactive terms are quite different yet related, and as I said it is a literate issue from my point of view ..

Interaction – noun.
Interaction Design is referring design to interactivity (designing the interactivity).

Interactive – adjective.
Interactive Design is referring interactivity to design (interacting the design).

I think I need to explain more ..
If we agree with my definition to the term “Interactive” to be a two-way flow of information (communication channel) between objects and users, in other words, how information flows from objects to users and how users respond to it.
On the other hand, if we define the term “Design” to some sort of specification to an object.
Then we can say:

Interaction Design is referring to the specification of interactive objects (objects responsive to users).

Interactive Design is referring to the information flows in response to the object’s specification.

For an instance, a cell phone is in fact is an interactive object, which means it responds to user’s actions ..
Specifying how users can interact like how many buttons, shape, size, color, .. ,etc.
I call that Interaction Design.
Controlling how information flows to users based on those specifications like visual interface, sounds, vibration, animation, .. ,etc.
I call that Interactive Design.

The way I see it, when we talk about designs in which the user can interact like Architectural Design, Industrial Design, and Graphic User Interfaces, then we are in fact designing the interactive objects (Interaction Design).
And when we talk about use cases and scenarios to control the user response to certain designs like Visualizations, Animations, Sounds, and Movements, then we are in fact interacting the designed objects (Interactive Design), in other words, Moods, Expectations, and Know-how.

There is a thin line between both perspectives, but the obvious part is “Interactivity”, it is necessary for both terms (Interaction and Interactive), if the user can not interact with objects then there is no place for neither Interaction Design nor Interactive Design.

Reactive / Responsive / Interactive

Reactive is acting in response to a stimulus without proper observation (emotional over mental)
Responsive is taking appropriate action in the moment after discern and differentiate relative priorities (mental over emotional)
Interactive is allowing a two-way flow of information between parties (emotional, mental, and physical)

Interactive Design actually refers to the communication channel produced by certain design, unlike Responsive Design which creates a single reaction controlled by design.
Reactive Design is something completely different, there’s no specific actions needs to be taken in response to design, hence it’s all about emotions, so to speak!

In other words, Interactive Design could be described as a set of Responsive Designs!
To control all possible reactions there must be a well managed flow of information (Information Architecture), and to deliver those reactions there must be a well designed User Scenarios (User Experience).

In case we refer the common abbreviation IxD to Interactive Design as well, then:

IxD = IA + UX

Interaction Design and Interactive Design are not quite similar, in fact it’s a literate issue ..
Interaction Design is designing the objects with which the user can interact (Architectural, Industrial, User Interface).
Interactive Design is designing the communication channel in which the user can interact with objects (Presentation, Visualization, Advertisement).

Alternatively, Interaction Design is essential to Interactive Design, without the interaction objects there’s no place for the interactive channel!