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Can User Experience be Designed? Yes, Because Design is a Hypothesis!

Marcin Treder
By Marcin Treder on 12th July, 2012 Updated on 8th July, 2019

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Back in 2010 question „Can User Experience be designed?” became strangely popular. User Experience field, which really had just started to grow worldwide, needed to face a fierce attack on its heart or ekhm…rather name. Two years passed quickly and the question keeps coming back like a creepy, unwelcomed, boomerang. Every couple of weeks someone asks me if experience can be designed and I almost want to scream „Yes! Yes, it can!”.

Hold on. Here’s a classic list of articles. Have fun:


And now – juicy part of the post.

Why I agree with neither protagonists nor antagonists? Because they all tend to treat results of User Experience Designers work as something strangely fixed. I’d rather say that every design is a hypothesis that requires validation and most probably should be subject of optimisation after thorough measurement.

Well, let me explain that thought in details.

Antagonists of User Experience Design argue that designers can’t design experience, because they cannot control all the factors that influence the experience. Fair enough. Of course, we can’t control every factor that influences behavior. Dooh.

So to say, we wouldn’t be able to actually design anything, because we cannot completely control how designed products will be used. Oh damn…maybe design doesn’t exist at all!?

Fortunately, it exists and well…is not about control of every factor influencing behavior.

If I design a chair and one person uses it as a table, does my design fail? No! Maybe this one particular person doesn’t have a better table at home or just loves to use chairs as tables. I can’t control it! In the world of scientific research, we call such people „deviants”. Deviants don’t count when it comes to the assessment of certain research hypothesis.

On the other hand, let say I sold 100 chairs that I designed and all my customers use them as tables. Damn…there must be something wrong with my chair, right? Probably it does not suggest the action of sitting, but rather some table-like experience. If I still want to produce a chair, I need to change it right now. I need to change it in a way that will suggest sitting as a primary action and will be so comfortable that everyone will want to have one to sit on.

Do you see where I’m going?

User Experience Design is about planning factors that should be able to shape behavioural and emotional reaction of most users in a planned way.

Result of User Experience Designer work is a hypothesis, not a fixed being. It should be measured and optimized iteratively till the version that is able to shape most of user’s experience in a particular way.

Desired behavioral and emotional reaction should be characterized by measurable metrics. Metrics form goals. Design that is unable to achieve goals, equals design that doesn’t shape experience in a planned way, equals design that requires optimization.

Do we plan to get 100% conversion rate? No. Why? Because it would be extremely stupid. We can’t control all the factors and influence every person.

Ain’t that simple?

We, User Experience Designers, care for overall users’ experience because we are metrics and goals driven. We care for specific, planned by us, behavioral and emotional reaction.

Don Norman says:

„I don’t like the term “usability,” and I don’t want to be called an “HCI expert.” I believe that what’s really important to the people who use our products is much more than whether I can use something, whether I can actually click on the right icon, whether I can call up the right command… What’s important is the entire experience, from when I first hear about the product to purchasing it, to opening the box, to getting it running, to getting service, to maintaining it, to upgrading it. Everything matters – industrial design, graphics design, instructional design, all the usability, the behavioral design… so, I coined the term “user experience” some time ago to try to capture all these aspects.”

Hope that clarifies this complicated matter a little bit.

Marcin Treder

ps. Now you know why latest version of our UX Design App lets you create iterations of your work

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