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How UX Design Influences Us Subconsciously


How do we know if the interaction between a person and an object is working well? Mostly by the fact that it is not necessarily noticeable as such. Because a good user experience often works in the background. Reliably and subconsciously. Don't think about it - just do it.

UX – Our invisible Friend

Let's assume I'm standing in front of a closed door. To the right of it is a switch. I try it out and find that the door can be opened by pressing a button. Click - done. Now I'm standing in front of another door. Here, too, I see a button to the right of the door frame. So I assume that the door can also be opened by pressing a button. I trust my experience. So I press the switch. But: the door does not open - instead, a light comes on. This time, the button is not a door opener, but a light switch. Did I do something wrong? Is there a second button? What needs to be done? And how does the door actually open now? Uncertainty and frustration arise. This is then the point at which a negative experience strikes me as such. It doesn't happen intuitively (anymore). From subconscious frictionlessness to an irritating break.

As soon as users are confused, it is unclear to them what to do or no consistency is recognizable in dealing with the system, we can speak of a poor user experience. Because the goal of a good UX is always a user-friendly, intuitive handling of the system. So much for that, but what exactly does UX mean?

The term UX – What is behind it?

UX design stands for user experience design. It is often confused with UI, user interface design, even though both areas usually go hand in hand. UI design concerns the meaningful and aesthetically visual appearance of a user interface, while UX deals with the interactions between the user and the system. This means that the goal of use and the path that leads to it through the system should ideally be self-explanatory through a good user experience. UX design therefore also means adapting the environment to the people - not trying to influence people's behavior to fit the system. An approach that was tried and used long before the term UX existed.

Once upon a time..

Today's understanding of UX is sometimes rooted in ergonomics. And this can be traced back to ancient Greece. For example, there is a detailed description by Hippocrates of how an operating table should be set up during a surgical procedure. The focus here is on a sensible division of space, as well as a practical arrangement of instruments. The goal was that a surgeon can do the work smoothly and without interruptions. Already here we notice: It was all about adapting the environmental conditions to people and their needs.

She's Miss California

The term "UX design" finds its origins in 1990s California. Cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman coined the term. With his bestseller "The Psychology of Everyday Things," he carried the topic of usability out into the world. He also had the job title of "UX Architect" back in the 90s when he was employed by Apple. A lot has happened since then. UX design can now be found very often in the development of digital products. So let's dive in.

UX and Digital Applications

In the digital environment, a good user experience also doesn't necessarily stand out as such. Let's take an online form as an example. We all know it. I fill in all the fields, a tedious request anyway. I want to submit the form. But what if I make a mistake in my entries? Pretty annoying when I'm only told after I've clicked submit. If it goes well, I scroll up and see which field the error was in. In the worst case, all my entries have been deleted – I have to fill out the whole form again. 

This less than user-friendly operation catches my eye. Because I am annoyed by it. So it makes much more sense to show me an error message directly in the field while I'm typing, so that I can fix it directly: without having to search for the appropriate field or having to make all the entries again. Direct error feedback at the specific input field may be just a small interaction, but it still adds a lot of value for users. And what does a successful UX look like in the context of an entire digital product?

Spotify: Human centered – but make it individual

Expand your own taste in music. Discover new songs that match your taste in music. Spotify is a master at creating a new and successful music experience. Features like Songradio help users find music that suits their tastes without the need for manual searching. So does the expansion of playlists. When I finish listening to my playlist, the music doesn't just stop playing: Songs matching the playlist are played afterwards, which I can add individually. A simple but useful UX gimmick.


The usability of the Spotify "product" is also adapted to user needs. This is noticeable, for example, in the separation between podcasts and music. Audio is not equal to audio; and so they are treated separately within Spotify. Started podcasts are displayed on the homescreen as a quick start, so I can continue listening where I last left off. And because it wouldn't make much sense for started songs, this feature doesn't exist for music.

The music management is just as tailored to the needs of the user and is kept simple and easy to understand: Drag-and-drop functions to change the order of songs in the queue. Easy to add and remove favorite songs. Even the possibility to "block" music from certain artist:s is given: If I don't want to listen to songs from certain artist:in, I can easily set that. And said artist has no chance to end up in my mix of the week, for example. All of this and much more is responsible for Spotify's unique user experience. And what lessons do we take away from this?

Why we love and need UX

Whether it's an app, website, or digital platform – a digital product can only be truly successful if there are people who will use it. The product should reach a specific target group and meet their requirements for use. If users have to change their behavior in favor of the product and at the expense of their needs, no successful UX has been created. That's why UX design is an integral part of the digital product development process. That a system is intuitive and clear to use can only be achieved if the target group is understood - and the operation of the system is adapted to their particular needs and pain points. And that is always worthwhile - promised. :-)