The Essential Elements of Holistic UX

Header image: Stephen P. Anderson

Designing for user experience is something that has become a norm. Apps, websites, and products that fail to live up to user expectations and elicit emotions, such as delight or joy, continuously disappoint and lose their users. Everything from visual aesthetics to interactions and emotional connections must feel real to create an engaging and holistic experience that keeps users happy.

In this post, I explore the essential elements of holistic UX that you should consider when planning your designs. Remember, user experience is first and foremost about feelings.

What is UX?

Before we go any further, let’s agree on what UX actually stands for. UX is an abbreviation for user experience and it refers to all the aspects of the end-user’s interaction with a system, product, service or company. When we talk about UX in design, it has mostly to do with how a user feels about interacting with a system, which could be a website, a web application or a mobile app. This overall experience encompasses all the elements that together make up an interface, including visual design, text, layout, brand, sound, and interaction. A good UX coordinates all these elements to ensure they work in harmony and allow for the best human-computer interaction possible.

The Look: Credibility, Trust, Harmony, Spirit

It takes a user just a couple of seconds of viewing a design (before they even read a single word) to determine how they feel about it and their opinion about the trustworthiness and quality of what they’re looking at. The visual aesthetic of a design has an incredible power to either draw people in to dive deeper into the site’s content, or move on to something else (something that looks more credible and worth their time).

Holistic UX takes into account the importance of creating an interface that emanates trust and assurance. It also seeks to create harmony between all the aspects of a design. An interface that has a personality and evokes emotions through the use of colours, graphic elements, typography and other elements, helps to create a harmonious relationship with the user. A positive first impression is the only way to get the user to actually interact with a design.

The Feel: Creating the “Joy of Use”

One of the ways used to measure the success of a UX design is by applying the “joy of use” concept. In the simplest sense, the “joy of use” refers to a user’s emotions when interacting with a system. Does the user feel joy, or – more importantly – has the user had a successful experience? Joy occurs when the user is able to achieve their objectives easily and comfortably, the sought-after information is displayed in an easily digestible manner and the visual aesthetics meet the user’s standards.

Joy should not be mistaken with fun, though. There’s a big difference between these two emotional responses, and, needless to say, great UX designs don’t need to be fun to satisfy users’ needs. Would a bank website that looks fun elicit trust and credibility? Perhaps not. Giving the user what they want in a way that appeals to them is what we call creating the “joy of use.”

Usability: Functionality, Individuality, Predictability

One of the most prevalent myths about UX is that it is all about usability. Obviously, usability is one of the main facets of UX and its importance is unquestionable. However, UX design has a lot more to it than just ensuring a product is easy to use. Creating a meaningful, delightful overall experience is at the heart of holistic UX.

If users feel comfortable and happy while interacting with a system, it’s safe to assume they’ll continue to use it. How can we, as designers, make sure the designs we put out are pleasurable, immersive and accessible to users? A reliable method is to focus on nailing three key aspects: functionality, individuality and predictability.

It goes without saying that a design must be functional, solve problems and make life easier for its users. Yet, that is not enough to create an overall satisfying experience. Predictability and individuality also play an important role. A predictable UX means that all aspects of the interaction design set accurate expectations about what happens after a user taps, swipes or clicks on something before it actually happens. Predictability makes people feel more comfortable, gives them a sense of control and makes them move forward.

Finally, to really engage users, products need to possess a factor of uniqueness. By giving your app, product, or website a strong personality, you can help users empathize and connect with you, establishing an emotionally-driven relationship.

The Takeaways

The most important lesson designers need to learn is that good UX is not only about eliminating frustrations and solving problems, it’s just as much about being thoughtful, getting users absorbed in the experience and evoking positive emotions.