What Is User Experience Design?

Craig Greenup 07/12/18, 14:01

What Is User Experience Design

Scientist Don Norman gets credit for inventing the phrase, “user experience”, in the late 1990s. And user experience (UX) design is now dominating the way we create digital products

But what is user experience design? And how can we use it to better connect with customers? In this post we’re going to look at:

  • What is user experience design?
  • The importance of UX web design
  • UX vs UI: what’s the difference?
  • What makes good UX design?
  • The UX design process

So let’s dive right in.

What is user experience design?

User experience design, often shortened to UX, is user-centric design. It’s a design process that aims to optimise usability and functionality, while also promoting positive emotions in a user.

Good UX design helps a user to fulfil their end goals with minimal friction. Great UX surprises and delights, going above and beyond to give users an experience that they’re likely to remember.

It’s all about meaningful interactions and enhanced customer experiences.

Throughout this article, we’ll be talking about the UX design of digital products, like websites and apps. But UX principles can be applied to any product – physical or digital – that you provide for your customers.

The importance of UX web design

Now we know what user experience design is. But why would you want to invest time and money to develop a website that offers exceptional UX?

Here are a few important benefits you can expect to gain from web design that puts UX at its core.


One in three consumers say they’ll walk away from a brand after just one bad experience.

Great UX gives customers exceptional digital experiences. They’re never left wondering where to click next. Or how to find the product they’re looking for. Instead, they can achieve their aims quickly and easily.

This type of experience builds a connection between consumers and your brand. And it’s likely to have a user coming back for more.


Google has been quite open about the fact that it uses UX as a ranking factor. Simply put, websites that don’t prioritise the user experience will get less visibility in search results.

So what is Google looking for in terms of UX? Websites have to be secure, mobile responsive and as free as possible from annoying popups.

There are likely to be other user experience ranking signals that we don’t know about. So it’s best to aim for optimal UX and (hopefully) tick all of Google’s SEO boxes.


People tend to leave the website customer funnel when they experience a point of friction. So when there’s no friction? More people make it all the way to checkout. Which means an improved conversion rate.

But it’s not just more sales. It’s higher value sales too. PwC says that brands with the best UX can charge a 16% price premium for their products and services.

UX vs UI: what’s the difference?

UI stands for user interface. And it’s a term you’ll often hear used alongside UX. So what’s the difference between UX and UI?

UI refers to the interface via which a user interacts with a digital product or service.

That might be the graphical user interface of a laptop, the touch interface of a smartphone or the voice user interface of a smart speaker. And all of the interactive elements – like screens, buttons and icons – used within them.

UI design refers to the creation of these interfaces. They’re designed to function beautifully, to appeal aesthetically to users and to provide accessibility for all.

There’s some clear overlap between UI and UX. But whereas UI is focused on the user’s experience of interactive elements, UX design encompasses the entire customer interaction, including their emotional response.

What makes good UX design?

There are lots of factors that work together to produce good UX. But improving end user satisfaction and inspiring customer loyalty sit at the heart of the process.

Achieving these aims means understanding two key things:

  • What your audience wants
  • Which UX design elements help to fulfil those audience desires

Let’s take a look at each of these points in turn.

User insight and empathy

UX web design means putting a user first. This requires empathy. We have to understand customer priorities – and what they’re trying to achieve.

We have to look beyond aesthetics to consider the why, what and how of customer behaviour.

  • Why? What motivates your customers? How do their values and views inform their choices?
  • What? What pain points do your customers experience? What features and functionality will help solve their problems?
  • How? How will the product incorporate all the elements of good UX? How will you create a useful product that is easy and enjoyable to use?

Answers to these questions will vary depending upon exactly who your target audience is. But there are some constants that you can count on.

Firstly, people want websites and apps that are easy and enjoyable to use. And secondly, a design should combine the very best tech with a human touch.

Key UX design elements

Once we have a clear idea of a user, a UX designer will go a little deeper, thinking about the user’s journey from start to finish.

They will then design a product that incorporates customer needs and balances the following UX design elements:


Products need to be designed in a way that is familiar and easy to understand, and therefore easy to use.


The product needs to meet a specific need in your customers, addressing their pain points and enhancing their daily experiences.


Things need to work in a straightforward and intuitive way. But they should also provoke emotion in your audience.

As Don Norman put it:

“It’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.”


Users should be able to have a meaningful experience of your product, regardless of technical skill, or physical and mental ability.


Users should feel confident in your product and your brand, trusting and believing what you tell them.

Tick all of these boxes and users are more likely to develop a positive perception of your brand and products/services.

What does the UX design process look like?

Want to create a website or app built upon UX design? Then here are the four key steps involved in the process.

Step 1: Research

UX design is empathetic and user-centric. It’s all about seeing things from a user’s perspective.

But it’s important that we base our understanding of the end-user on research, rather than gut feeling.

Some common UX research methods include web analytics, card sorting, face-to-face interviews, user surveys, eye-tracking and A/B tests. But whichever research methods a UX designer uses, they’re aiming to find information related to:

  • The users (including different user groups)
  • Their behaviour
  • Their goals
  • Their motivations
  • Their needs

Step 2: Design

A UX designer will now, keeping all of that user research in mind, create product wireframes and prototypes.

They’ll be thinking about:

  • Layout
  • Aesthetics
  • Functionality
  • Navigation
  • Information hierarchy
  • User flow

No coding takes place during this stage of the process so it’s easy to make changes. And by the end of this step, stakeholders can get a real sense of the look and functionality of a product, thanks to an interactive and clickable prototype.

Step 3: Testing

The proof is in the pudding. So next, your UX designer will test the product on real life users.

This is an opportunity to find out if the product actually helps them to solve their problems. And if they enjoy using it.

Getting plenty of user feedback at this stage in the process helps a UX designer to iron out any kinks before creating and launching the final product.

Step 4: Launch

With feedback taken on board and final changes made, your website or app can now go live. But the process doesn’t end there.

Once your digital product is up and running, you’ll have access to lots of new UX data. You can use analytics – and seek further feedback from real life users – to keep honing your UX and better meet user expectations.

Want UX web design that wows your customers?

More and more brands are putting user experience design at the heart of what they do. It’s helping them to boost customer loyalty and conversions, while edging them closer to the top of search results too.

Want to join them? Then get in touch with the Radical Web Design team to find out how we can boost your UX.