As many have said, it is fair to say that if you are designing a User Experience for software you are probably doing one or more of the following – Visual Design, Interaction Design, and User Research.

This is in no way a complete list.

These disciplines are the tools or patterns which are used to implement a great user experience. Great, so according to what we’ve just talked about, if we use these tools and mix in many of the well talked about strategies dotted around we should end up with a great user experience.

Well, maybe; depending on the context of the design you are chasing after.

A good friend of mine recently told me about a conversation he’d had with a company offering their services as software developers. Only they weren’t offering their services as software developers, instead they were offering experiences. In their words—’people don’t want software anymore, they want experiences’. Let us say the remainder of the conversation did not go well once their ability at software development was tested and left wanting. When you’ve worked with companies who don’t give two shakes of a rat’s tail about the experience your software brings; and not many do. You are rewarded by creating great software and designs which simply work. In some cases, I would even go as far as saying UX design, at its core, doesn’t even come into the mix. Instead, good UI design has the stage here. And yes, even though UI and UX are not the same thing, they do share a very strong relationship.

Which brings me to this…

Please please please stop throwing titles like Experience Design, Software Design and Engineering up in the air like they were nothing. We need to start treating these words with the respect they deserve. There are those out there that do, but there appears to be a generation rising up which do not. The heart is going out of it, and with it I can see a myriad of applications out there which just look at act like many others preceding them. Each one of the mentioned disciplines can take decades to truly master.

Anyway, as I said before, there are times which UX can be happily left sitting on the side-lines watching. What I mean by this is that to those who are starting up, or have limited resources; not thinking about UX too much could actually be helpful. Why? Focusing on building great software with attention paid to a robust, easy to manage, repair and maintain product; which does what it’s supposed to do well. Delivers with it as a bi-product a good response.

However, even sitting at the side, UX can still dish out a little advice. During those times, making use of good design disciplines can govern a UI design and achieve good results. These disciplines of design were certainly not spawned from UX design, they are just good practices we see in many designs. We can also name some of these too; like the gestalt principle, colour theory, graphics design, spacing and typography.

Though I must add a warning here…

Like subjects mentioned such as Interaction Design, their mastery is no trivial thing. Take typography for example. You may be able to select a nice typeface that affords your application legibility and a pleasant appearance. With a little more practice you may be able to select a typeface which best suits the purpose of your application. To take that further, and design or select a typeface specifically for the context of your application is an entirely different level of craftsmanship.

In the world of UX design where the Context is king, going beyond tips, practices, tools and or strategies. We begin to enter a subject which truly demands a life time of dedication. Designing experiences is possible, but only if we understand the context of its existence.

And this is where the true heart of UX design lives—inside the context of its existence.

This is where I shall leave you, but if you want to know more about context. Please take a look at my course on building the Context of a UX design here on Pluralsight. Feedback and criticism is always welcome.

a demo of which can also be found here…
UX First and in Context Demo

You can also find me floating around on twitter @GLanata