User experience engineering (UXE) is a structured research, design, and evaluation process whose goal is to make user interactions with a product or service easy, efficient, and enjoyable. UXE methods can be and are applied to the development of virtually any product or service, from mops [142] to surgical devices [98], to retail environments [32]. However, the term is most frequently applied to digital products such as software, Web sites, and electronic devices. This paper focuses primarily on UXE as it is applied in the digital context.

UXE has been influenced by the fields of human factors and ergonomics and is considered a practical application of research in human-computer interaction [95]. It evolved from, and shares much in common with, usability engineering [78; 866] whose central concern is product usability, defined in ISO 9241 as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction” [18]. A user’s experience of a product includes its usability and extends to the user’s emotional interaction with the product and the organizational channels that promote, supply, and support it. UXE addresses these additional elements. User experience professionals typically work closely with marketers, software engineers, graphic artists, industrial designers, customer support staff, and other professionals as good user experience results from a team effort.

If engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to practical problems, the science from which UXE draws most of its primary theoretical and methodological inspiration is psychology. UXE applies experimentally validated principles [22; 84; 95] from the fields of sensation, perception, and cognition [20], emotion and motivation [92], as well as social psychology [38; 39]. UXE also adapts research methods from experimental psychology [116] and related social sciences such as anthropology and sociology [81; 140].

What are the Levels of a User’s Experience?

Our experience of a product can be divided into three primary levels [92]: visceral, behavioral, and sociocultural (elsewhere referred to as reflective [92] or symbolic [107]). The visceral level of experience is an immediate and instinctive reaction that is greatly influenced by the appearance of the product. The sleek lines of a classic automobile appeal to this level of experience. The behavioral level of experience develops through our interaction with a product and is greatly influenced by its usefulness and usability. A cup holder in an automobile need not be attractive because it is useful. If you drive your car along a winding road and can drink your beverage without spilling it on yourself, it is usable. This combination of usefulness and usability appeals to the behavioral level of experience. The sociocultural level of experience appeals to self-identity and personal symbolism and is influenced by cultural norms. Driving a mini-van says something different than driving a sports car. Most importantly it says something to the driver, it is an act of self-definition [36; 108].

Contents, User Experience Engineering (UXE) Essentials Series