What is UX? Is UX the same thing as website design? In just a moment, I’ll set up my very bright spotlight to bring different aspects of the broad field of UX out of the shadows.
First, UX is shorthand for user experience.
Second, there are LOTS of kinds of user experiences—not all of them happen on a website. Or even the majority of them! Most people are awake 16-18 hours every day, and most of those experiences don’t include a website (e.g., showering, dressing, walking the dog).
UX designers, researchers, and strategists work across multiple experience disciplines, or may specialize in just one.
Where UX Teams Work
Broadly speaking, UX professionals work on the following types of teams:
- Innovation Labs
- Product Teams
- Service Teams
- Customer Experience Teams
- Centers of Excellence
But no matter where or how they work, all UXers leverage the same design principles and toolboxes, such as being human-centered, using a defined design process (e.g., design thinking, Double Diamond), and (hopefully) applying professional ethics.
These UX teams generally work 1, 2, or 5 years (or more!) into the future, identifying new markets, products, or business models; and possibly collaborating with start-ups, universities, or even competitors to design the future or disrupt a market.
These are UX teams who design and optimize physical products or digital products. They might be working on 2-week cycles or 2-year cycles. Examples of products include: kiosks in a retail store, self-driving lawn mowers, SaaS apps for digital marketers.
These are UX teams who design and optimize services. Like product teams, their design cycles can be short or very long. Examples of services include: applying for a passport, traveling on an airplane, delivering a package.
Customer Experience Teams (CX)
These UX teams are responsible for governing and measuring customer and employee experiences. They collect behavioral data and VOC surveys to measure relationship- and transactional-level experiences. The CX team may include their own embedded UX design team and/or partner with other UX teams within the organization.
Depending on the industry or organization, you might see variations like PX teams (patient experience) or EX teams (employee experience).
Centers of Excellence
These UX teams—often a team of one—provide UX design and research services to the entire organization (or a few select departments like marketing and IT). These UX teams work in all kinds of organizations, such as corporations, hospitals, universities, governments, and non-profits.
Types of UX Work
Within these broad categories, there is an enormous number of UX specialties.
To name just a few:
- Digital Experiences
- Employee Experiences
- Entertainment Experiences (e.g., museums, theme parks)
- Event Experiences (e.g., fundraisers, conferences)
- Patient Experiences
- Restaurant Experiences
- Retail Experiences
- Rider Experiences
- Student Experiences
- Government Services (e.g., passports, visas)
- Hospitality Services (e.g., hotel)
- Transportation Services (e.g., bus, train)
- Travel Services (e.g., airlines, rental cars)
- Ballot / Voting Machine Design
- Game Design
- IoT Design (e.g., coffee makers, pet feeders)
- Policy Design
- Smart Home Design (e.g., security, temperature)
- Software Design
- Voice User Interface Design (VUI)
- Web Design
Plus, think about everything that has a digital or analog user interface: game controllers, TV remotes, dishwashers, car dashboard controls, printers, electric razors; or anything with complex information on it (e.g., mall directories, subway maps).
Those are ALL user experiences. UX is everywhere.
Is Everything UX?
Based on the fluidity and scope of experiences, you may be wondering… is everything UX? Ha, ha. No.
There are still many aspects of marketing and business intelligence that falls completely outside of UX, such as brand positioning and messaging, brand awareness, audience segmentation, and pricing strategy.
However, none of the components of a brand, product, or service lives in a vacuum or silo. For example, market researchers identify who the target market is, and then UX researchers can help fill in nuances within that target, such as understanding the different ways they think or behave.