UX Best Practices


March 09, 2022


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Experience Design & User Experience Design

Over the past few years, the term Experience Design and User Experience have become so closely associated that they're often used interchangeably. They're interconnected, but they're not identical. And that disparity means there are vital differences between them.

Donalad Arthur Norman coined the term ‘User Experience Design’ while employed at Apple as a User Interface Architect. Sometime during the early 1990s, he decided to change his title to User Experience Architect. Why did he do it? In Don’s own words -

“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 a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

The term User Experience Design was not coined until the early 1990s, but examples of Experience Design date back even earlier. For instance, Walt Disney is often regarded as one of the world’s first Experience Designer because of his theme parks and resorts.

Walt Disney had the vision to create an amusement park that was fun for both children and adults alike. However, during the 1950s, amusement parks were seen as dirty and dowdy places where children shouldn’t go. Walt Dis¬ney wanted to change that perception and provide park-goers with a positive experience. The designers and engineers put a lot of thought and contemplation into the park (“Disney Imagineers”).

An example of good experience design at the parks is the variety of choices that visitors can select from. The parks were designed to appeal to all kinds of guests. Whether you’re a teenager looking for thrill-seeking rides or a young family wanting to ride Dumbo the flying elephant or the teacup ride, there’s something for everyone here.

So, what precisely is the difference between Experience Design & User Experience?

Well, most people believe it’s a debate about semantics. But we beg to differ.

In contrast, Experience design (XD) follows a more comprehensive directive. Experience Design is a discipline that creates expansive experiences for each & every user in all aspects of a product, service, or occasion. It looks at digital, physical, and indirect (family member, friends, family member) experiences from the end-user’s perspective. Experience design involves technology but generally considers more elements (like technology, environmental factors, spatial factors, physical objects) into consideration. Experience designers are holistic problem solvers who look at the entire brand ecosystem and focus on ‘moments of engagement, touchpoints, between people, and the ideas, feelings, and memories that these interactions create.’

To summarise, the practice of User Experience (UX) Design focuses primarily on the digital world, and Experience Design (XD) takes into account the physical, emotional and digital world. Both fields include the use of technology and design. In our humble opinion, it is safe to say that User Experience Design is a subset of Experience Design.