This post is the first in a series of 16, originally published on April 15th, 2006 as the “UXE White Paper: User Experience Engineering Essentials.”

I coined the term “User experience engineering (UXE)” to describe a structured research, design, and evaluation process whose goal is to make user interactions with a product or service easy, efficient, and enjoyable. It evolved from usability engineering and applies psychological principles and methodologies.

Our experience of a product can be divided into three primary levels: visceral, behavioral, and sociocultural. The visceral level is an immediate and instinctive reaction that is greatly influenced by the appearance of the product. The behavioral level develops through our interaction with a product and is greatly influenced by its usefulness and usability. The sociocultural level appeals to self-identity and personal symbolism. UXE addresses these three levels of experience in product and service development.

The user experience is engineered in five iterative phases:

  1. Business objectives for UXE. Define the business or organizational objectives for the UXE effort, so UXE produces maximum impact.
  2. User research. Collect targeted data on users (prospective or actual), their tasks, and their environment through observation and discussion.
  3. UX requirement analysis. Define specific product and UX requirements for areas where business objectives and user research overlap.
  4. UX design. Develop a series of increasing detailed models or prototypes (conceptual, architectural, interactive, aesthetic), iteratively evaluating and redesigning each type before going on to the next.
  5. UX evaluation. Evaluate and test models and prototypes to generate new design ideas and to determine whether UX requirements have been met.

Each phase has its own work products that capture knowledge generated in that phase and help designers apply the knowledge in the next phase.

Most major technology companies including IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, eBay, Amazon, and Apple have invested heavily in UXE. UXE is also rapidly making inroads into established industries, with companies like GE Healthcare, Whirlpool, and Procter & Gamble reaping huge product successes from it. Despite this momentum, there is still room for improvement. A review of 700 corporate Web sites, gave only 3% a passing grade, and most high-tech gadgets remain too hard to use. This means UXE can still provide a competitive advantage to any company that chooses to invest in it.

Best-practice companies invest from 10% to 19% of the total product development project budget in UXE, which offers an impressive return on investment (ROI) of $2 to $100 for every $1 invested, accomplished in four main ways:

  1. Increasing sales by improving product appeal, making e-commerce sites more usable, stimulating cross-channel activity, and improving customer retention.
  2. Enhancing productivity by increasing employee efficiency.
  3. Decreasing costs of development, maintenance, support, and training.
  4. Reducing risk of project cancellation and litigation.

For maximum ROI, UXE methods must be used from the beginning of the project so project requirements are based on marketable user needs and development efforts achieve maximum efficiency. In today’s networked, interconnected marketplace, consumers will shift their loyalties to the companies and brands that can provide them with the user experience that they value, so UXE methods offer a competitive advantage with immediate tactical value and long-term strategic benefits.

Contents, UXE Essentials Series