UX: Some thoughts on User Experience - Joe Mabel

A lot of people use the terms "User Interface" (UI) and User Experience ("UX") interchangeably. I don't. To me, UI is the "presentation layer" you interact with in your browser, app, etc. The presentation layer is one of three layers of a typical system, along with a "business logic layer" and a "data layer." The UI to fulfill a particular purpose may be quite different on a PC than on a smartphone; for example, Wikipedia's mobile app provides an UI that is quite different from on a PC, and especially different if you want to edit an article.

UX, on the other hand, is the "whole package." UX includes things like:

UX also includes things that are not even particularly computer-related, e.g. "If I order something from your company and there's a problem, will you be helpful?"

Good UX makes for a site that is a pleasure to use. Common tasks are easily achieved; if a particular common task is inherently difficult, then a system with good UX guides you through it and, once you've mastered it, doesn't insist on continuing to guide you. New features in the latest release still let you do familiar tasks the same way as before, or close enough that you aren't at all confused. You can work out how to do things you rarely do without a phone call or chat session with their tech support people (and without — worse yet — failing at the task because there is no apparent way to reach tech support).

Lately, I've been collecting examples of appalling UX (mostly, but not exclusively, UI examples). With one exception, the following come from very major web sites that most of the people reading this will at least occasionally have used. For obvious reasons, I do not name sites or companies here.

One more pet peeve: while not every site/application can accommodate every common disability — deaf people generally don't download music; blind people don't do computer-aided design for architecture; people with attention deficit disorders probably don't want to use Twitch — most sites/apps should be able to do so, but few give it a moment's thought. In many cases, if the site in question is in the United States, this actually violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and they are setting themselves up for a possible lawsuit. This does not mean "dumbing down" your site or app. In most cases, the same things that would let people with disabilities use the site would also provide a better experience to non-disabled users. A good example is right here on this page, where I describe the Rube Goldberg picture in moderate detail so that someone who cannot see it will still get the point. The clear caption is good for others as well.

My availablility

I am retired from hands-on software development, but for me things like helping people avoid these pitfalls constitute the fun part, so I still do it. In a short (typically half-day or one-day) consulting session, I can help you design your site so that you don't make mistakes like this, or at least you have processes in place so that you can spot mistakes soon after you make them and fix them promptly.

Mail me.

Copyright ©2020 Joseph L. Mabel
Unlike much other content on this site, if you wish to republish this elsewhere, please contact me first.
Originally posted December 22, 2020

Last modified: 23 February 2021

My e-mail address is jmabel@joemabel.com. Normally, I check this at least every 48 hours, more often during the working week.