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What is UX Design?

User Experience Design
UX stands for user experience design. But what does that mean, what does it have to do with tomato ketchup, and what difference does UX design make to the University?

What is UX design?

If you’re reading this article you’re likely wondering what UX design is all about. I am asked this question regularly, and you’ll have to bear with me as there is no short answer!

UX stands for User Experience. It’s not just about web design, UX is important to everything that has been designed. From your favourite mobile phone app to an everyday object like a door handle, UX has been considered.

Put simply, UX is the way in which we experience a product, system or service. Therefore, UX design is the process of designing digital and physical products, to make them useful, easy to use and enjoyable to interact with. An easy to understand example of this is the tomato ketchup bottle.

User Experience Design and Tomato Ketchup

What’s tomato ketchup got to do with it?

Back in the days of my childhood, ketchup came in an upright glass bottle, with a long, thin neck. When you were nearing the end of the bottle, you had to hold the bottle upside down and hit the base with the heel of your hand to get some ketchup onto your plate. More often than not, when the ketchup eventually decided to come out (after a lot of hitting and shaking) you’d get a lot more than you bargained for. Not a great user experience. It wasn’t useful, easy or enjoyable to use.

The advent of the squeezy bottle was a real game changer. No more hitting and shaking to get the ketchup onto your plate. Further refinements saw the design being refined to the upside-down bottle, which helped consumers get the ketchup out of the bottle even more easily. Next time you use your ketchup you might notice that even the shape of the bottle has been carefully considered to fit your hand, and make it easy for you to squeeze! Now that is good ux. The designer has considered the user, observed how they interact with the product, improved the design and then, importantly, gone through the whole process again to further improve the experience.

Why is UX important to the digital team?

This isn’t about ketchup at all, it’s about websites, but the same thing applies. Here at Warwick, the digital team work together to design the University's digital products with a focus on user needs. We might also describe the user as audience, customers or people. But essentially, the user is the person using the website. Mainly, in our case, the prospective student.

Today’s students have high expectations of a digital experience, as they are spoiled by the sophistication offered by their bank, by Google, by social media. Every time these students interact with our website, from the early stages of researching a course through to enrolment, they are left with an impression of the institution.

For us, UX design is about making the prospective student’s experience with our digital space the best it can be. We want to attract people to our site who are interested in coming to study at Warwick, and then, once they are using our website, we want to make their journey from the home page through to applying for and accepting an offer, as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Offering a good user experience enables our users to quickly and easily reach their goals on the website, meaning that they are more likely to stick around or revisit, and the possibility of potential students becoming actual students becomes greater. A good user experience also benefits our staff, as ensuring that the website is easy to use, equals less enquiries and a huge saving on time and effort.

Author: Louise Nangla