Can UX Be Designed?

Courtesy of General Assembly.

Courtesy of General Assembly.


It’s a loaded question, correct? Don Norman, whom coined the term User Experience, was aware as to how to distinguish what UX was. Norman was aware that people were interacting with design and technology through their own experience. Therefore, it could be argued that UX was initially a designed process before it was even defined. Tony Golsby-Smith defines this experience as Fourth-Order Design–the designer being aware of social and cultural implications that surround the experience of a product.

What begs to be questioned, is if user experience cannot be designed because user experience depends not only on the explicit product itself, but also on the user and the situation in which he or she uses the product. My  reaction to this is, “How did user experience begin in the first place?”

To define UX, Michael Cummings delivers his perception of what it means: “a judicious application of certain user-centered design practices, a highly contextual design mentality, and use of certain methods and techniques that are applied through process management to produce cohesive, predictable, and desirable effects in a specific person, or persona… All so that the effects produced meet the user’s own goals and measures of success and enjoyment, as well as the objectives of the providing organization” (Cummings).

Cummings further explains that “our lives are governed by: pre-existing perceptions, beliefs, assumptions, and emotional states; and conscious and preconscious thought processes” (Cummings).

Another area that I wondered in relation to the user and the situation, is if the person’s mood, attitude, perception or persona is positive or negative from the moment that the person begins the user experience. If enough users of mixed factors (positive and negative) begin to experience the same UX, a pattern will exist for designers to ultimately design a user experience–albiet, not a definite solution, nor an appropriate means with determining a successful experience. Dan Dennett’s TED Talk points to yet another aspect of our mood: our consciousness. We may think we know what we’re experiencing, yet the mind is reacting or processing what we have already experienced before. Dennett’s point is that our memories tend to inflate what we really experienced (Dennett).

Marc Hassenzahl explains that the nature of UX is not about the design of the user experience, inasmuch as it is about designing an experience that relies on a device. “Need-fulfillment is what makes an experience pleasurable” (Hassenzahl). Don Norman comments on Hassenzahl’s point. We can’t design the UX, but we can support it and hopefully with a positive measure. “The product provides the how part of an experience. It is up to people to provide the what and the why. But designers can help here as well, setting the framework, providing the initiative, providing examples” (Norman).

The most recent devices that have provoked a positive experience for a large sector of people, is the iPhone. For example, the iPhone (and its apps) extends our initial experience of browsing the Internet on a computer, as it enables us to amplify multi-tasking. The user can receive or place a call while sending a text message, watching a video, playing a game, creating a reminder or checking the weather faster than it would take to do so on a computer browser with two hands. Not to mention that its most obvious feature is its mobility and personable, physical size. Wasn’t the iPhone designed to enhance the user experience?

Works Cited

Cummings, Michael. UX Design Defined. User Experience. UX Design. Blog. Aug 16, 2010. http://uxdesign.com/ux-defined

Dennett, Dan. The Illusion of Consciousness. TED: Ideas worth spreading. Video. Feb 2003. Accessed: Jan 10, 2013. http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_our_consciousness.html

Hassenzahl, Marc. User Experience and Experience Design. Interaction Design Foundation. Web. Accessed: Jan 10, 2013. http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/user_experience_and_experience_design.html

Norman, Donald. User Experience and Experience Design. Interaction Design Foundation. Web. Accessed: Jan 10, 2013. http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/user_experience_and_experience_design.html