There’s a discrepancy between what a UX team is expected to achieve (to define and manage user experience) and their actual remit (to define how users interact with the digital interface).

In order to achieve user experience greatness, every team needs to consider how their decisions affect the user’s experience of the product. Not just the obvious, direct implications for the current screen or process, but subtle effects elsewhere. What expectations does this set? And how is this experience affected by the user expectations set elsewhere?

Imagine a fictional movie streaming service. Let’s say, for example, that the product team want to introduce HD streaming. The technology team choose a new streaming supplier in order to offer HD. The user experience team re-design the interface to allow users to filter for HD movies. The marketing team run a campaign to tell customers about this new addition to the service, and how much it will improve their movie experience. Every team has done their best to meet their objectives. Great!

One of our users, Maggie, sees the HD campaign. She’s been happily using the service for a few months, but her expectations have now changed. As the HD service is new, not many titles are available and Maggie is a little disappointed. When she tries to play HD content she finds that it buffers a lot, her connection’s not up to it. What’s more, the media player looks different and doesn’t have keyboard controls.

Maggie is clearly having a worse experience despite the service being improved in real terms. Several things caused this:

The role of UX

Decisions will always affect user experience in unexpected ways. UX designers are often the first to notice and raise potential user experience problems, and to suggest solutions – we are problem solvers at heart. However, this doesn’t mean that bad user experiences are caused by bad design, nor that clever design is always the solution. User experience is something that every team should consider and take responsibility for.

In many ways it’s impossible to be a user experience designer. UX teams commonly tackle interaction design, visual design, information architecture, usability and user research. They are only able to influence user experience as far as it relates to the digital interface.

‘UX’ as a term is probably not going away so it’s good to remind ourselves now and again that it means more than just ‘wireframes’.