What is UX Design? How Experts Define it

What is UX Design?

At its broadest, UX (or User Experience) Design is an umbrella term that covers different disciplines involved in designing a digital product.

These include, amongst others, information architecture, interaction design, usability engineering and human-computer interaction.

But if you’re new to the field, you may have found there doesn’t seem to be a universally accepted textbook answer that completely defines UX Design.

While it can be argued this fluidness in definition is a positive feature, it makes things a bit difficult for students, business stakeholders and anyone else not experienced in the field to understand what it is and it’s value.

Below are collection of definitions from UX Design professionals who walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

What the Experts Say

1. Marcin Treder (CEO and co-founder of UXPin)

“User experience design is a discipline focused on designing the end-to-end experience of a certain product. To design an experience means to plan and act upon a certain set of actions, which should result in a planned change in the behaviour of a target group (when interacting with a product).

A UX designer’s work should always be derived from people’s problems and aim at finding a pleasurable, seductive, inspiring solution. The results of that work should always be measurable through metrics describing user behaviour. UX designers use knowledge and methods that originate from psychology, anthropology, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design and cognitive science.”

2. Luke Wroblewski (Product Director at Google, Author & Internationally Recognized Digital Product Leader)

“I work with many people from other disciplines that need to understand what UX design professionals do. So I need a simple and concise way to explain things. For me that has been:

  • Information architecture defines the structure of information (which can exist in many forms)
  • Interaction design enables people to manipulate and contribute to/create that information
  • Visual design communicates these possibilities to people and creates affinity to them (desirability)
  • User experience is the summation of these considerations.”

3. Jennifer Aldrich (Senior Manager of Design Community Partnerships at InVision)

“UX design is about having complete understanding of the user. UX designers will conduct intensive user research, craft user personas and conduct performance testing and usability testing to see which designs are most effective at getting a user to their end goal in the most delightful way possible.”

4. Don Norman (Co-founder of consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, Director of University of California’s Design Lab and coiner of the term “User Experience Design”)

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

5. Steve Portigal (Principal at Portigal Consulting & author of “Interviewing Users”)

“The creative and analytical process of determining what a website, device, or piece of software is going to be. If we look at an interactive thing like a website or a device or a piece of software, designing the user experience for that thing is the creative and analytical process of determining what it’s going to be—what it’s going to do for people, how they’ll use it, and what it looks/sounds/feels/smells/tastes like.”

6. Laura Klein (Principal at Users Know and author of “UX for Lean Startups”)

“UX design is the process used to determine what the experience will be like when a user interacts with your product. If UX is the experience that a user has while interacting with your product, then UX Design is, by definition, the process by which we determine what that experience will be.

UX Design always happens. Whether it’s intentional or not, somebody makes the decisions about how the human and the product will interact. Good UX Design happens when we make these decisions in a way that understands and fulfills the needs of both our users and our business.”

7. Irene Au (Design Partner for Khosla Ventures, Former Head of Design for Google & Yahoo)

“User experience design is a multidisciplinary field. A well-designed product must be visually appealing and simple, and easy to understand, learn and use. Creating a well-designed product is an endeavor that requires technical skills — an understanding of computer science, human computer interaction and visual perception and cognition — and tremendous creativity.

User experience requires analytical thinking directed toward a great user experience, and that user experience has to be grounded in a deep understanding of what people need, how they think and why they behave the way they do.”

8. Dan Saffer (Senior Product Designer at Twitter and Author)

“Each discipline can only go so far with the constraints they work under, and we have to watch each other’s backs and cover for the flaws of each other. Users don’t care whose fault it is that a product works poorly, only that it works poorly. All the disciplines need work together to figure out solutions to product flaws, with visual, interaction, and industrial design blending their strengths together.

The visual design should make the interaction design look good, which in turn makes the industrial design look good, which makes the visual design look good. (Mix up the order as you will.) Focusing on the connective tissue between disciplines makes products holistic. This is the essence of experience design.”

9. Jesse James Garret (Human Experience Designer, Co-founder of Adaptive Path, Author of “The Elements of User Experience”)

“Experience design is the design of anything, independent of medium, or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome, and human engagement as an explicit goal.”

10. Tomer Sharon (Senior UX Researcher at Google, Author of “Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research)

“UX design is the art and science of generating positive emotions among people who interact with products or services.”


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