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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 26th October, 2015

UXPin was started by UX Designers and we deeply care for our field and community. Therefore from time to time you’ll find on this blog our opinions on most important UX topics.

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 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 don’t 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 an 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 experience. Fair enough. Of course we can’t control every factor that influence behaviour. 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 behaviour.

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 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 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 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 optimised iteratively till the version that is able to shape most of user’s experience in a particular way.

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

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, behavioural 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

Marcin Treder

by Marcin Treder

Marcin Treder is the CEO and co-founder of UXPin, a product design platform. Since co-founding UXPin in 2010, he has helped build and lead product teams in the Poland and Silicon Valley offices. Previously, he worked on projects for two companies that IPOed and managed the design team for one of the biggest eCommerce companies in Eastern Europe. He holds an M.A. in Cognitive Psychology. Marcin has been given numerous awards, including MIT 30 under 35 for his accomplishments in design and business.

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