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by ulfa o. (uoctaviani@gmail.com)

User Experience  has been growing these past years but the experts have yet to agree in definition of user experience. Studies had been conducted for instance by Hassenzahl, by making questionnaire, asked opinion and input from the UX experts to reach a possible agreement in understanding what UX means. In order to understand user experience, it is essential to have deep understanding about the components: user and experience; and also the relation between the two.

  1. The User

 In the past, user is seen only as a cognitive machine (Wright, 2005). This view arises form usability point of view. It is assumed that user follows cognitive goals and do pragmatic actions. This model also sees the user as individual and how they interact with computer. This model reflects on the user test, where the user sits in front of a computer and given a test to see how the user works on the task. This task-based framework is used in understanding the interaction between human and interface.

Though, current understanding of user experience expands from only looking at the user to obtain their goals but also taking into account the intention and situation around it. It is similar to how action is produced in human, from intention to reach a goal (after processing information in the brain), then the situation from environment and then action from the human.

2. Experience

‘Experience’ is the word that is most likely to express something of the felt life. According to Wright (2005), the openness of ‘experience’ is likely to become confusing unless we do clear definition, and that is quite challenging to do for a couple of reasons. First is that the experience is always present and we are always engaged in experience. Even when we tried to stand back and describe the experience to other people. Reliving this experience is somewhat living the experience of describing the experience. It nevertheless, also an experience. Secondly, we tend to believe we already know what experience is. As the result, it may be difficult to convince the reader to clarify how the word is being used (Wright, 2005).

Experience is an elusive concept that resist specification and finalization (Wright, P, McCarthy, Meekison, 2005). There is a broad understanding in experience, such as in the temporal phase, the scope or the philosophy basis. Despite of the elusiveness nature, experience has been approached and seen from different point of views such as from philosophy, engineering, design, behavior, business, or neuroscience.

Dewey (1925) tried to provide definition about experience in philosophy point of view. He defines experience as:

“… what they strive for, love, believe and endure, and also how men act and are acted upon, the ways in which they do and suffer, desire and enjoy, see, believe, imagine – in short, processes of experiencing. ….. It is “double barreled” in that it recognizes in its primary integrity no division between act and material, subject and object, but contains them both in an unanalyzed totality” (Dewey, 1925, p.10/11).

According to this definition, then experience is constituted by the relationship between self and object by concerned feeling people acting and the the material and tools they use. This definition, is closely resemble the current definition of user experience. User experience is defined as the studying, designing, and evaluating the people with interface (which may be a product, software or system) [ISO 2010].

Experience also means to put meaning into event or activity. “Meaning arises when we try to put what culture and language have crystallised from the past, together with what we feel, wish and think about our present point in life.” —V. Turner (1986, p. 33). From this definition, it making sense of experience is an effort to explain about an event that happened in the past along with the emotion and thoughts that occurred during those event.

Although the another model of user experience (Wright, tech as experience) sees experience as continuity in different temporal phase: before, during and after experiencing the event.

3.User experience

 The 1990s witness the development of technology, penetration to computer to home, influence of computer and communication technology. It is also the beginning of wireless, mobile and ubiquitous computing. The technology, technical aspect and the user are ready for creating interactive consumer products for public user.

Interaction between the user and technology start to matter. The products of technology not only need to be functional but also engaging and easy to use. User is taken as consideration when companies designing products. User experience then start to arise from this set up. Textbook mention user experience as one of the set goals in interaction design, related to but not directly included in more recognized aspect such as usability.

“The user experience development process is all about ensuring that no aspect of the user’s experience with your site happens without your conscious, explicit intent. This means taking into account every possibility of every action the user is likely to take and understanding the user’s expectations at every step of the way through that process.Garrett (2002) That neat, tidy experience actually results from a whole set of decisions—some small, some large—about how the site looks, how it behaves, and what it allows you to do.”Garrett (2002)

Software companies try to design computer and include the user experience in the process. They do pay attention and use the phrase “user-experience design” to remind the designer to pay attention to people’s experience in technology. This leads to different view in user experience; when the companies employing the phrase to indicate that particular user experience can be designed. This suggest a “return to simplicity that of a technologically determinist position on what experience is (Wright, 2005)” which neglects the importance of interaction between the people and technology.

Wright (2005) examine the experience of technology seriously and looking at the usage of user experience in the industry.  Apple Macintosh Developer page defines “User Experience” as “a term that encompasses the visual appearance, interactive behavior, and assistive capabilities of software.” This user experience definition lean more towards technology. The authors are interested in enriching user experience and they have technological vision of how this can be achieved (Wright, 2005). This make sense for their company since they need practical approach in designing user experience which may have work.

Definition in IBM website contains a richer, more transactional approach to user experience. They defined user experience as:

“User Experience Design fully encompasses traditional Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users. HCI design addresses the interaction between a human and a computer. In addition, User Experience Design addresses the user’s initial awareness, discovery, ordering, fulfillment, installation, service, support, upgrades, and end-of-life activities.”

Meanwhile, academia also tries to define user experience in more academic manner. Hassenzahl and Tratinsky (2006) notice that user experience has been a commonly used term in industry while rarely being observed in academia. He constructed a study to define what user experience is by survey from both academia and professional. From there, he concludes user experience as:

“UX is about technology that fulfils more than just instrumental needs in a way that acknowledges its use as a subjective, situated, complex and dynamic encounter. UX is a consequence of a user’s internal state (predispositions, expectations, needs, motivation, mood, etc.), the character- istics of the designed system (e.g. complexity, purpose, usability, functionality, etc.) and the context (or the environment) within which the interaction occurs (e.g. organisational/social setting, meaningfulness of the activ- ity, voluntariness of use, etc.).”

(Hassenzahl & Tratinsky, 2006.)

Lastly, there are also confusion between user experience and other field. One may see that there is a blurred line between user experience, usability, and/or interaction design. Until now, the author has found the distinct difference between user experience and usability. It is mentioned as follows:

“Indeed, UX develop from usability and human computer interaction. However, there are distinctions between the two. User experience goals differ from the more objective usability goals in that they are concerned with how users experience an interactive product from their perspective rather than assessing how useful or productive a system is from its own perspective (Preece et al. 2002, p. 19).”

This paper is an effort to make an academic approach in defining user experience. The author is currently pursuing the clear understanding of user experience and hopefully this paper will be beneficial for those who are also pursuing the same goal. This paper is non-peered review, thus if the reader has suggestion, feel free to inform the author.


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Dewey, J. (1925). Experience and Nature. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court.

Garrett, J. J. 2002. The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web. New Riders.

Hassenzahl, M., & Tractinsky, N. (2006). User experience-a research agenda. Behaviour & information technology25(2), 91-97.

McCarthy, J., & Wright, P. (2004). Technology as experience. interactions,11(5), 42-43. Retrieved on August 16, 2016. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Wright7/publication/224927635_Technology_as_Experience/links/00b7d51e2c675e1620000000.pdf

Preece, J., Rogers, Y., and Sharp, H. (2002). Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction. Wiley.

Turner, V. W., & Bruner, E. M. (1986). The anthropology of experience. University of Illinois Press.

Wright, P, McCarthy, Meekison, (2005). In Mark A. Blythe, Andrew F. Monk, Kees Overbeeke and Peter C. Wright (eds.), Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment, 43—53