UX in layman language!

One fine morning on the breakfast table; my mom asked me “What do you do, nowadays?” I was busy checking emails; I just said, “I’m working as a UX Designer”. I observed there was a big question mark on her face. So, I tried to explain her that UX is a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service. From her expressions, it’s clear that she didn’t understand anything but she understood that I’m doing something special; in result, there was proud feeling for me on her face. As I was in hurry, I said, “Don’t worry… I’ll explain you in details, later”.

That entire day, this incidence haunted me. Various questions revolving in my mind. How should I explain her? What will be the better way to tell her? What is UX for her? Then it hit me many friends, relatives, neighbors also asked me similar question. I told them ‘I design for designs’, ‘I design for better user experience’, etc. No matter what I told them the response was limited to –“ohh, So you do websites”, “Steve Jobs, hmm” (and I’ve no idea what that person knows about Steve), “Good, can you edit my old photo in photoshop?” and many more!

So, I started giving some daily examples around them. I started to relate them in some stories.
How many times you pulled the door which was supposed to push?
If so then don’t worry; this scenario happens with many people. Those people felt embarrassing and ashamed in front of others. Most of the push doors have bar handle with the message ‘push’ on it. People felt embarrassed and ashamed about the fact that they missed such an obvious instruction. Now, is it really their fault not to check label while entering or exiting the room? Why can’t they just do it seamlessly? Little do they know, its not their mistake, it’s a bad design. Bad designs birth to bad user experiences. Imagine, instead of having bar handle for the push door; it has a simple flat surface design. When people see that there is no handle to pull, natural reaction is to push. Well, job done. It’s a good design. Good designs serve better user experiences.

User experience:
UX is like “They signed up quickly; they figured out what to do; they had an “Aha!” moment!”
It’s simply makes life easy even in complex situations.

Let’s see some easy steps to explain it:

Empathies: Never get angry on these people. You need to know that they are not design expertise but you are. Try to understand their curiosity. Try to understand what they do. It will help you to explain in right manner.

Story telling: As a UX Designer you should be a good story teller. Tell them design stories of everyday things that they came across. Check what kind of issues they face while interacting with the designs around them like elevator buttons, remote controls, bathroom taps, switches, and many more.

Involve: Involve them into design discussions by explaining them some of the design challenges you faced. Tell them how you find the solutions.

Leave the mark: Tell them that it’s not a magic wand. “If you come across any new design and you use it without any issues, feel satisfied first time then remember that experience doesn’t come by accident. Someone has put lot of design thinking behind it.”

If nothing works just tell them ‘I make beautiful designs that make your life easy’!

Happy UXing!


  • Simple yet very effective way of explaining what UX designers do to improvise products from user point of view. Seems you have got an excellent knack of understanding design evolution system. Keep it up.

    Manish Keshav Mulay
    Design Head,
    EAMS, Engineering & Management India Pvt. Ltd.

  • What an interesting remark on ‘How many times you pulled the door which was supposed to push?”.

    A 2 sided door, with push written on both sides is a better solution than a 1 sided door with handles on both sides. It doesn’t even matter if push or pull is written or not, or there are handles or not.

    The issue really is with the instruction, and not just the handles. Why? I want to open a door, simple. I don’t think it necessary to read instructions on how to.

    The issue is nobody has tried to solve this one particular problem, they have gives us ‘other solutions’ instead. Eg: Sliding doors, Swivel doors, etc…
    This particular example is an epic usability/user-experience failure. Yet so ridiculously common around the world. What an awesome opportunity gone waste 🙁

    The empathy factor is awfully important, and what you wrote about it is perfect. It’s only when we understand what ‘they’ do, will we (as UXers) understand ‘what’ to give them.

  • […] We need to design our surroundings that will help us to complete our tasks without any issues. UX is everywhere right from nuclear plants to our bathroom taps. UX is all over the things we use everyday. If there […]

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