So, you might be wondering… What is User Experience? Where can we find examples of UX in real life? How can we recognize user experience in every day’s life?
In this article, we will try to answer these questions and give you some examples of how UX and UI affect your life in constant ways. And many times, in ways unknown to many, and without us noticing their existence because we already take them as natural.
As we’ve seen in the Definition of User Experience, when we talk about this experience we are talking about a holistic vision about a system or product. Or, in some cases, the planning of a future need.
But UX definition is very broad and vague. It takes from different disciplines and includes them as their own. Thus, the limits of such experience become confusing. If we take the notion of basic components (user, experiencer, intentionality, design), it is possible to recognize what is NOT User Experience.
In terms of technological systems, these distinctions are simple and we won’t go deep on them.
But there are designed experiences that are (or should be) very common. Many people do not recognize them. Or recognize but do not know how to reach the results that the user may perceive.
What is User Experience? Let’s see some examples…
We can see a very common example when we go to a bar or restaurant. The user experience consist in the menu, music, dishes, tablecloths, lighting, attention, brand image, conferred status, etc. In a normal bar, all this won’t be planned in an organic way.
It will be based on previous experiences, aesthetic taste, economic possibilities and maybe some simple market research. Or even replaced by mere intuition.
But in places of certain status, it is possible to find experiences designed by UX professionals. In these cases, every detail generates a maximization of said experience. And therefore, of the benefits.
Another common experience is something that does not exist in my country (Argentina), but it should be common: the design of urban user experiences.
For example, at the time I’m writing this, the city where I live is building major constructions for public transportation. At the same time and place, they are doing sidewalks, leaving only a small space to walk for pedestrians.
Since these works were carried out in densely populated high traffic areas, the pedestrian space (of 1 or 2 people at the same time) is clearly insufficient. So, pedestrians began to walk along the road, with the consequent security risks.
Because of this, drivers must exercise extreme caution, generating blockages in all corners.
All the above chaos got worse because the perpendicular streets began to get blocked at the same time. And the same happened with those streets perpendicular to them, in a domino effect.
Even if you do not live in the city of Buenos Aires, you can probably imagine without more explanations that the user experience is not good.
Or, to be more blunt (yet more accurate): nobody cared about User Experience in any way, by any means whatsoever.
I’m sure this is not happening only in our city (I have seen nightmares like this in several cities around the worl, even in US and Europe).
Getting the UX behind it
What happened here?
Well, we can venture that someone deduced that if both things are done at the same time, you save time. So the works will end sooner.
But of course, the opposite happened.
Due to the chaos generated by the simultaneous interventions, it took much more time.
This is something that any experiencer can demonstrate before the work starts.
Accessibility and Inclusive Design: User Experience at its best
What we do as UX designers (or UX consultants, or UX developers) is to provide the best solution to problems that we face every day.
This is why accessibility is so important to us. Accessibility covers a broad range of solutions to problems many people faces every day. In this particular case, people with some kind of disability.
Now, when we talk about disabilities, we think of people in wheelchairs or blind people.
Obviously this is correct. In both cases we are in the presence of people with a disability (motor and visual, respectively).
But there are other types of disabilities. For example, psychological, neurological, hearing, educational disabilities, etc.
For example, let’s try to imagine what life would be like for a person with infantile paralysis if there were no user experience experts who have created experiences that facilitate their day-to-day life. Both for this person and for her parents.
In this case we use disciplines such as Ergonomics and Human Factors, Psychology, Product Design, Application Design (there are apps that are managed with tablets. For example, we worked on the Geryjoy project, an application for people with Alzheimer’s), User Interface Design (UID), etc.
But there are many types of disabilities, such as dyslexia, autism, deafness, different types of phobias, and much more.
Furthermore, there are partial or situational, temporary and complete or permanent disabilities.
Let’s suppose: a person with a missing arm is going to have a difficult time performing a task. This is a permanent disability.
On the other hand, a person who broke an arm and wears a cast is going to have similar difficulties performing the same task. This is a temporary disability, since he will eventually use both arms again (however, it is probably more difficult for him to perform the same tasks as a person who lives day to day with a complete disability).
Finally, let’s take the case of a person who is loaded with grocery bags. This person is momentarily unable to perform the same task as the previous two cases, only for a short period of time. This is called situational disability.
Working in the field of UX for real life, and applying solutions to these problems is one of the most exciting things out there.
And what about Inclusive UX?
As we mentioned earlier, UX design should not only be accessible, but inclusive.
This means that users must be able to live the experiences we design in a fluid way, regardless of differences in race, gender, religion, etc.
Does this mean denying individuality?
Absolutely. That is exactly the challenge: when we generate an inclusive experience, it recognizes individuality and exalts it. A user experience that speaks to me directly from an honest place and that represents me is going to be a user experience that I will want to repeat. A user experience that discriminates against me in some way (implicitly or explicitly) is going to be an experience that I will never want to live again.
In a good user experience, inclusivity harbors accessibility (the reverse is not always the case).
More real life UX examples
UX and UI in real life can be found anywhere and everywhere. Let’s see some examples.
UX and Product Design: Multi Purpose Water Dispenser
This is an example of a multipurpose water dispenser by Global Tap. In this particular model installed at the California Academy of Sciences, you can just drink or fill a bottle.
They also have other designs that include a lower level tap for our furry friends (yes, UX is not only for humans!)
Psychology in User Experience
In the early 1990s, the cleaning manager at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was trying to reduce the “spillage” around the urinals. To improve the hygiene of the bathrooms, psychology applied to the user experience was used. To do this, small photorealistic images of flies were included in the urinals, near the drain. The concept was that people could target the flies.
The person in charge of the project reported a staggering 80 percent reduction in urinary effusion after introducing this fly design. This simple experiment resulted in an 8 percent reduction in total restroom cleaning costs at Schiphol Airport.
A true genius using user psychology
Urban UX: The Anti-Pee Wall
It seems we’ll continue with urine. In this case it’s a great solution for a problem that originated in Hamburg, Germany.
Like many places famous for its nightlife, St. Pauli had a problem with people urinating in the streets, so the Hamburg authorities contacted the Ultra Ever Dry® company.
This company created a product that repels most water-based liquids from any surface. The authorities sprayed this product on the walls throughout the district, along with signs reading “Wir pinkeln zurück” (“We pee”). And if someone tried to urinate, the urine would come back on them.
Later this solution was used in different cities of the world such as London, San Francisco and Paris among others.
Urban UX and Ergonomics: Winter Sun
Imagine not seeing the sun for long periods of time.
Rjukan is a small Norwegian town hidden in a narrow valley that never gets direct sunlight in winter.
There were several attempts to solve this problem, dating back to 1913, when industrialist Sam Eyde devised a solution based on mirrors. However, it did not work.
In 2014, after a decade of research in advanced technologies, local artist Martin Andersen built three giant mirrors powered by solar and wind power. The mirrors are located at the top of the hill, and they follow the sun on its path across the sky. Through this process, it captures its rays, which are then directed towards the city center to the delight of the locals.
Conclusion: UX surrounds us
We could find successful or failed user experiences in almost anything we experience daily. Just take a look around you. From your seat to the device you’re using to read this article. From the door in your room to the lights. From your furniture to each and every product you use every single day.
From the language I chose to use to the images that illustrate this article, the design of this page and the technical specifications related to this website design and development.
And all that is UX happening while reading this article!
All these things are part of the area of interest of an experiencer.
Each of them sets up an experience for themselves, and at the same time, they intertwine, communicate and interact to configure more complex experiences.
As complex as … one day in the life of each of us.
Additional User Experience Resources
User Experience and Experience Design – M. Hassenzahl (PDF)
Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research – M. Kuniavsky (PDF)
User Experience (UX): Towards an experiential perspective on product quality – M. Hassenzahl (PDF)
This article was updated from the original in January 27, 2021, with the help of Mariana Arismendi, PhD and Ariel Gaster, BS.
Disclaimer: This content was translated to English from the original we wrote in Spanish, available in UXpañol
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