User Experience Design: It’s the little things

A lot of people ask me what a User Experience Designer does and how it effects an end product or service. I try my best to provide a simple and readily understood explanation, but sometimes even that can be confusing. If you go by the definition found on Wikipedia, User Experience Design is:

…a subset of the field of experience design that pertains to the creation of the architecture and interaction models that affect user experience of a device or system. The scope of the field is directed at affecting “all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used.”

As someone studying in the field I find that definition to be not half bad. For most though, it’s fairly confusing and vague. How about an example then?

Last weekend I upgraded my mobile phone to a HTC Droid Incredible 2 before Verizon switched to tiered data plans in order to keep my unlimited data package. The Incredible 2 is a decent phone, but one of the nifty things that stood out to me about the phone was the function display buttons. The LED buttons display normally when in portrait mode like most phones, however, when you switch the phone to landscape view, the buttons orient themselves accordingly. See blow:

Portrait View:

Droid Incredible 2 Vertical

Landscape View:

Droid Incredible 2 Horizontal

Overall, this little feature isn’t earth-shattering in that you could operate the phone just fine without it, but its inclusion by the designers improves the continuity of the system, and therefore, the entire user experience. Sometimes, UX Designers can create a design, feature, or interaction that completely makes a system. More often than not, however, it’s the culmination of little things that really bring a user’s experience together.

As someone studying User Experience Design, you can’t help but smile at the little things like this.