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Explaining UX to a 10-year-old


In our work, we hear the term UX (User Experience) thrown around all the time, but what does it mean, and how should you be talking about it? This is a question we get all the time, so we asked our UX team to tell us what that meant to them.

We started by asking Brooks Bell Director of UX and Design Jonathan Hildebrand, and he said the best way to explain any complex topic is to think about how you would explain it to a 10-year-old.

As a 10-year-old who loved anything with a motor on it and as an adult who is a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, I immediately thought of my ‘78 BMW. You see, a lot of times people confuse UI and UX, and this motorcycle metaphor is an easy one for me to explain the difference.

On a motorcycle, there are several things to interface with: the handlebars allow you to steer, the stiffness of the shocks affects your ability to corner, the fluidity of the throttle allows for easy acceleration (to name a few). But all of these are elements that you interact with while riding a motorcycle. These are the things that we can design. We can modify form to fit the function. We can decide to add ape hanger bars to have your hands in the air, or drop bars to reduce friction in a cafe stance. We can add stiffer shocks or a shorter seat. All of these are inherently UI decisions.

The user experience of my vintage BMW motorcycle, however, is the feeling of the wind in my mustache, the smile it brings to my face, and the overall sense of freedom, excitement, and vulnerability that it brings. We cannot design an experience… we can only design FOR an experience. This simply means that the design decisions we make (e.g. shorter seat, drop bars, etc.) are done to set the stage for the exhilarating experience that comes from riding my vintage cafe racer.

To draw a parallel to a business case…

Continuing this metaphor as it applies to another trend in the market that uses terms interchangeably and often incorrectly, we can take a look at segmentation and personalization.

Segmentation is a method that many of you are using on your websites. This involves placing like-minded customers and prospects into groups, and creating different experiences for those groups. Much like the many motorcycle manufacturers out there that create different style bikes for different styles of riders. They may have styles that include touring, sport bikes, and/or off-road ones.

While these bikes may address a lot of the needs/wants of large segments of riders, there may be outliers like sport bike enthusiasts that also want to go off road, for instance. This is where personalization comes in to play. This methodology speaks to an individual. It optimizes the customer’s individual experience based on his or her personal behavioral preferences, needs, likes, and dislikes. For that customer, a custom motorcycle like a scrambler would be the best choice. Being able to offer a highly unique and personalized experience for a user it what makes them fall in love with it and come back time and again.

At the end of the day, this is how I think of my vintage bike and the experience it provides me. If reading this made you think of your own website and whether or not you need an exhilarating, personalized experience for each of your users, or maybe just a better way to stage engaging experiences for larger groups of your customers, give Brooks Bell a call at 919.521.5300 or drop us a line via [email protected].