How I Define UX

What is UX?

In the last few years, UX has become a critical aspect of building digital products. Today, good UX is what often differentiates a successful product from one that fails. Because of this, UX has become a high priority for companies and an invaluable component of a business. 

So what is UX? And how can we define it to better understand it?

This is Google's definition. 

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Although somewhat helpful, it felt like an empty, unfulfilling definition. I found myself looking for more. I wanted to better understand how real people understood UX and then create a personal definition for myself. 


I teamed up with a designer friend, Cathrine, to do some guerrilla research, interviewing 10 people to better understand how UX is perceived. We looked to friends and strangers -- men and women, people young and old -- and aimed to talk to a group of individuals with a wide range of life and work experiences to help us answer "What does UX means to you?"

Equipped with a notepad and iPhone camera at-the-ready, this is what we discovered after a morning in downtown San Francisco. 


Interviewee in the park

Interviewee in the park

Perhaps my biggest take away from the interviews came from the diversity of answers we received. Some baseline patterns emerged, yet it was clear that UX had many meanings for many different people. Some discussed UX within the context of digital products, while others talked about UX in the real world. Some talked about UX in relation to their feelings and world view while others, having no prior knowledge of what UX was, invented definitions on the spot! You can take a look at a video of selected interviews here

In all, I found that there is not a singular way to define UX. It's a fluid definition that changes depending on who you talk and changes with context. It's not just a term you can search on Google -- it has personal connotations. 

Finally, I defined UX for myself.

My Personal Definition

User experience is about understanding people. It's about asking the right questions.

It's about understanding context, goals, and how one achieves those goals.

It considers psychology, experience and culture, and through design, informs how people interact with and experience the world around them.

I would like to think of this definition as one that will evolve with time. As I continue to build on my experiences, I'll continue to grow my understanding of UX and how I define it. I'm excited to see how this will change over the year and throughout my career. 

Sketchnoting the Share Economy

Over the weekend, I read an article on Wired titled How AirBnB and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other. It was a fascinating look into the Share Economy and the critical role of trust in driving its success. The article highlighted personal narratives within the movement and provided context for the many peer-to-peer services that are taking hold across the country. 

As a big proponent of the share economy and user of peer-to-peer services like Lyft, AirBnB, CouchSurfing, and yerdle, I was excited about the article and began to take notes with paper and pen. Starting first in bullet points and pros, I found myself progressively moving towards sketches, visually communicating the ideas in the story. Sketching gave new life to my notes and provided a dynamic way to express what I was reading. 

Inspired by Mike Rhode’s Sketchnote Handbook, I decided to scrap my my written notes and instead, sketchnote the article. 

Here’s the final piece:


We are:

A Brief history of Trust:

The share economy as a function of trust over the last 200+ years.

Beginning pre-1800s, the share economy was able to succeed based on a sense of intimate trust. With advances of technology during the 1900s and mass migration to urban areas, trust was lost and proxies for trust emerged. Now with the help of the internet, modern devices, and peer-to-peer businesses, intimate trust is being restored and is helping to bring people together again. 

Additional notes

  • In the Sharing Economy, we’re not anonymous. 
  • Psychology tells us we don’t mess with people we know. 
  • “[The Share Economy] is not just building a business but fundamentally re-wiring our relationship with one another.
  • Money feels secondary; an afterthought to the human connection that upholds the whole experience.
  • My inspiration: Wired

For more on sketchnoting, check out the Sketchnote Army, here