UX Crash Course: Stupid Question 4 of 30

Sometimes a question only seems dumb because it is based on a fundamental idea that is incorrect. To illustrate this we will answer the question:

“If my logo makes people happy, is that good UX?”


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Somewhere between the invention of user-centered design and now, people have started using the term “user experience” the wrong way in casual conversations.

Sort of like how people have started to use the word “literally” in the same way they use the word “really” or “totally”. 

It’s wrong. So wrong. But it’s trendy.

Unfortunately, being stupid has been trendy for a long time.

And UX is not immune.


The stupid answer:

A logo requires as much UX design as the wallpaper in the room where you are sitting right now.

If there is no wallpaper in the room where you are sitting, this answer is still true.


The real answer:

Logo design is definitely design. Good logos require talent, and definitely include practical design considerations, like making it look good at small sizes or when it is printed in one colour.

And some logos really do make people happy. Logo designers can be pretty fucking clever, and I don’t want to take anything away from that.

But designing a logo, or a typeface, or a barfing emoji, is not UX design. It’s graphic design (or typography in the case of a typeface). 

Even when I do it. 

Even if it makes people feel things.


Why this isn’t a stupid question:
User Experience Design is a process, not a thing.

The phrase “user experience” or “UX” is short for User Experience Design.

It is the process of designing something based on the user’s perspective rather than the designer’s perspective. Not “a user’s experience”.

We’re not talking about an “experience” in the psychadelic, Jimi Hendrix, “whoa man I can see the music” sense of the word.

Remember yesterday’s lesson when I mentioned that companies used to think about products from the business perspective instead of the customer’s?

The opposite of User Experience Design is Designer Experience Design, not sadness.

Users only consciously experience a small part of what you make for them. The rest is subconscious.

They can’t give you feedback on many parts of UX design, because they aren’t aware of them.

If you make a great little animated button and people smile when they see it, fantastic. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s why you animated that button that matters in UX.

If you did it to make people smile, that’s a nice creative touch in your design. But while they are focusing on that button and smiling like an idiot, they might be ignoring the button they are trying to find — the button that makes your company money.

So “creating happiness” might be terrible user experience design, in that case.

If you animated that button because it gets more clicks, or to help people notice where they made a mistake in a form, or to create affordance, or some other functional reason, that’s UX!

Not because it is animated, or because people smile, but because your animation creates an intentional result. You directed the user’s experience for a functional purpose. And that purpose was based on your research, which led you to a specific problem, and you designed a solution to that problem, and that solution just happened to be an animated button.

So while your logo might make a user happy, it’s not because you have used the process of User Experience Design. It’s because you did that clever thing in the negative space between two letters so it looks like a cake or whatever. (I love that shit, by the way.)

Drugs are not UX. Good weather is not UX. Comedy is not UX. Songs are not UX. And that little yappy dog you carry around in your purse is not UX.

Even if all of those things make you happy.


While we’re on the subject, I have a stupid question of my own: 

Sadness and frustration are experiences too. Why do people only think they’re doing UX when they create positive experiences?


Tomorrow we will answer the question: “How do I explain my UX job to my grandmother?”