Introducing Eliga’s UX glossary
To help our clients make sense of the technical language we commonly use, we’ve compiled a user experience or UX glossary. Navigating the world of UX can be challenging at the best of times. With so many terms, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Here are 50 essential UX terms that we regularly use when creating delightful experiences:
1. A/B Testing
Also referred to as split testing, this test compares two versions of a web page with a single variable, such as a call to action (CTA). The purpose of this test is to understand which version performs better.
Accessibility is one of the most important UX concepts, ensuring designs are accessible to anyone with disabilities. From people who are colour blind to users with cognitive disabilities, accessible designs ensure that everyone can access and use a design.
Adaptive design refers to a collection of layouts for different devices. Once the type of device being used is detected, the optimal layout of a website will automatically be displayed, and this typically spans mobile, desktop, and tablet layouts.
4. Affinity Diagramming
This allows UX designers to organise numerous ideas in natural relationships, after a brainstorming session. It can also be used to generate, organise, or consolidate information. It’s particularly useful for understanding a product, process, or problem.
Agile is one of our favourite words. It describes an incremental approach to all development and ways of working. A programme of work or project can be broken down into smaller parts. This is true of agile UX, where smaller elements of functionality are assigned to a designer or developer to complete within, typically, two-week cycles, also known as iterations.
6. Attitudinal Research
This type of research accesses users’ attitudes or feelings about an experience. Consequently, this helps determine what a user likes or dislikes about a feature, before using it. This differs from behavioural research, which focuses primarily on how a user reacts.
7. Behavioural Research
As mentioned above, this research focuses on the actions a user takes, allowing teams to better understand and observe users’ behaviour. Additionally, behaviour research encompasses many different methods including ethnographic studies, usability studies, A/B tests, and eye-tracking studies.
Biases exist on many levels, but in design, this can refer to accessibility and inclusion. When we design experiences that do not consider all users’ needs, especially with respect to accessibility, this means the design is not optimal for all audiences.
9. Card Sorting
Card sorting is helpful in user experience design as it is used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. By testing a group of users, a category tree is produced. From this category tree, teams can design information architecture, workflows, menus, or site navigation paths.
Once users land on a website, they click their way through the site to complete a task. This process, known as a clickstream, details the number of clicks it takes for users to accomplish a task.
11. Competitor Analysis
This analysis involves researching, categorising, and evaluating a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses to better understand the opportunity and risk. The goal is to gain a comprehensive overview of the market and target audience.
12. Customer Experience (CX)
Customer experience follows the whole journey of a customer’s decision to purchase a product or service from initial research to sales transactions. CX follows all the various interactions a user has with a brand through different channels and products.
13. Design Thinking
You’ll hear us speak a lot about ‘Design Thinking’ and the five-stage method: empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test. As a result, this term occupies a top spot in our UX glossary. Our product designer, Charles Crook, has detailed our design thinking approach. You can learn more about it here.
14. Diary Study
Fairly intuitive, a diary study is a qualitative research process which allows UX teams to collect information from users over a set period. Participants are asked to write about their everyday lives in a journal to give greater context.
15. Empathy Map
As empathy is an important aspect of any design approach, empathy maps are a great way to visualise your users’ behaviours, attitudes, and feelings. These maps are divided into four equal quadrants to map out what users are saying, thinking, doing and more importantly, feeling. Finally, these quadrants are filled with information gathered during user research.
One of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of the design process. Who will be using this product? This person is the end-user and is the central focus for any UX designer, no matter his or her approach.
17. Ethnographic Study
This type of study focuses on users’ environments, giving insight into their experiences, perspectives, and daily practices. It also gives greater insight into a group or culture, by helping teams understand a user’s context.
You may have heard of heat maps or used them in your research. However, eye tracking is just as important as it allows designers to track and fine-tune their efforts. As a result, it measures user eye activity with specific tools to understand where users look and in what order.
19. Field Studies
Field studies rely on flexible user tests, using a mix of usability testing with adaptive interviews. This type of study provides valuable insights and information gathered from interviewing users about tasks and challenges. In adaptive interviews, questions are refined in a gradual discovery process.
Flowcharts are another vital aspect of a UX designer’s toolkit. They illustrate the steps a user takes to complete a task.
21. Grid System
This system helps a UX designer arrange content on a screen, using vertical and horizontal lines, which create columns and gutters.
22. Heat Map
Heat maps are an important part of testing a product or app. It shows which areas receive the most attention from users. The graphical representation uses a warm and cool colour spectrum to track a user’s movements. Red areas signal the areas of most interest and interaction.
23. Information Architecture (IA)
Information architecture is as important as the design approach. It describes the process of organising a product in an intuitive and easily understandable way. It includes the content we interact with as well as website navigation.
24. Interaction Design (IxD)
Interaction design (IxD) is a vital aspect of data visualisation. It helps break down complex, technical information into digestible chunks for users to consume. Furthermore, these interactive digital products help create engaging customer experiences from start to finish.
25. Lean UX
Lean and agile go together. This collaborative, user-centric approach is based on ‘learning loops’, which allow teams to build, learn and measure through an iterative process versus design documentation.
A very trendy topic, microcopy is the small bits of text that appear on apps or websites. This copy helps users navigate. It could be any element from labels on buttons to error messages. All text influences a product’s UX and the overall customer experience, helping improve it.
Mockups are the building blocks of any product. They are static images, depicting what the product will look like. They cannot be clicked through or interacted with in the same way a demo can.
28. Mood Board
Think of a mood board as a collection of assets and materials. This collection communicates the style, voice, direction and language of a company’s design, brand, or project.
You’ll often hear Product Owners or tech teams talking about an MVP or Minimum Viable Product. To release an MVP, companies need to work on the essential set of features to launch a product. Further elements can be developed later. MVPs are released quickly to gain valuable user insights and enhance different aspects of the customer experience with these insights.
30. Pain Points
Pain points describe a problem faced by users in a particular market. They can include any problem in the customer journey from signup to completing a purchase.
31. Participatory Design
Participatory design is an approach that involves all stakeholders at every stage. It can also be referred to as co-design or cooperative design. From initial discovery to ideation, it encourages stakeholders to take an active role in co-creating solutions that will benefit everyone.
Personas are an essential stage of user research. It’s not enough to create personas at the start of product development. They need to be revisited continuously to make sure they are up-to-date and reflect changes in social norms. While personas represent a potential end-user, they are not based on a single real person, but rather a collation of the information and data from a group of real users. Consequently, persona spectrums are the next generation as they help understand identity on a spectrum and that people have many different lived experiences.
A prototype refers to a model used for testing. There are two types of prototypes, ‘low-fidelity’ and ‘high-fidelity’. A low-fidelity prototype is used during the beginning of development, using paper and pencil to validate design concepts or flows. A UX designer will use a high-fidelity prototype in later stages of product development. Prototypes help UX designers continually refine their designs, mimicking the look and feel of the current iteration.
34. Qualitative Research
This kind of research uses methods like participant observation or case studies to build a narrative, describing a user’s setting or practices. It differs from quantitative research. However, both are equally important in UX and product development.
35. Quantitative Research
This kind of research gathers and analyses numerical data to determine patterns and averages and make predictions. It is also used to test causal relationships and generalises results to wider populations.
There’s some confusion about the difference between adaptive and responsive websites. Responsive websites adapt to fit the device they are displayed on, using a single layout that increases or decreases depending on the device type. This allows content to be rearranged on the screen and easily read. Adaptive design is slightly different because it uses several different layouts that are matched to the appropriate device.
37. Service Design
This approach uses the same methods and tools of design thinking to deliver improved services that are not only more efficient but also more appealing to service users and providers. It also considers processes and logistics.
38. Site Map
Site maps allow UX designers to plan a website using a visual representation of all its pages and different hierarchies.
This term describes anyone who has an interest in a company. It encompasses all individuals who affect change or will be affected by any change. Stakeholders are usually a company’s investors, leaders, and employees. It can also refer to a company’s customers, partners, and suppliers, depending on the context or project.
A storyboard is another helpful UX tool to better understand a user’s experience with a product. It not only visually predicts this experience, but also explores this space, highlighting problems and solutions. Storyboards look a bit like comic strips, showing different scenarios.
UX surveys help make sense of user behaviour. Collecting customer feedback not only gives valuable insight but also helps you understand how people are experiencing your product. As a result, designers can prioritise changes, helping improve UX and create a better, frictionless experience for customers.
42. Task Analysis
When it comes to prototyping and testing, task analysis is another important stage of a company’s design approach. Typically, a team will list the tasks or steps a user takes to complete a goal. Task analysis also improves user experience by identifying and communicating potential problems. Consequently, this addresses issues more efficiently.
43. Unit Testing
Unit testing involves checking that different test parts of an application are working correctly. It is worth noting that this kind of testing can be done manually or as part of an automated process.
44. Usability Testing
When it comes to inclusion, usability testing is an essential research method. It allows UX teams and product owners to evaluate how easy a product is to use by testing on a group that is representative of different users. This relates to broader topics of accessibility and inclusion.
45. User-centred Design
It goes without saying that the number one focus of any UX designer should be the user. With a user-centric approach to design, the user and his or her needs are always at the forefront of any iterative design framework.
46. User Experience (UX)
Again, empathy and understanding users’ needs are at the heart of any user-centric approach. This means that UX designers should understand the emotions, attitudes, and perceptions of a user regarding a product, system, or service. A good UX experience depends on accessibility. As a result, it must be findable, intuitive, seamless, and responsive.
47. User Flow
User flows are the intended steps or actions a user needs to take on a product or to complete a goal. These steps include the name of the task and a description of what is happening in each step.
48. User Interface (UI)
As the term suggests, a user interface describes the different components a user needs to interact with a product. A UI contains different elements from buttons to input fields, helping a user complete a series of steps or goals.
49. User Stories
User stories are a format commonly used by tech teams to create stories or tickets on boards. Here’s an example of a user story: ‘As a <insert kind of user>, I want <insert feature or action>, to be able to <insert the desired outcome>.’
Wireframes are another essential tool in a UX designer’s kit. They act as a ‘blueprint’ or a screen. Consequently, this low-fidelity prototype is great for product development, helping teams work collaboratively, before producing high-fidelity designs.
The world of user experience (UX) is constantly evolving as it aligns with shifting customer expectations. While it’s difficult to believe that UX was coined less than two decades ago when Apple’s cognitive psychologist Donald Norman joined in 1993, it has become a cornerstone of successful product development, innovation, and collaboration.
Today, we take UX for granted. We expect frictionless experiences, but we don’t always appreciate the research and design approach behind delightful experiences. These 50 terms in our UX glossary give a small glimpse into the world of user experience.
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