The Spirit of UX

The Spirit of UX

By Lucas Lu. Published on
Nov 5, 2016

In order to be good at anything, you have to have a strong passion, an internal drive if you will, that fuels your desire to become better at that endeavor. 

The term "User Experience" or simply "UX" was made into a buzzword as the internet became cluttered with websites that had horrendous user experiences. However, UX is one of the world's oldest unrecognized skills. It existed long before we knew what it was. When the first caveman started carving art on the wall inside a cave holding up a fire-lit tree branch, that was UX. When warriors in the medieval times got fitted for weapons and protective gears, that was UX. When Henry Ford built the first assembly line to produce the low-cost, reliable Model T, that was UX. When the first customer swiped the plastic with a magnetic stripe made by IBM, that was also UX.

You see, the true spirit of UX extends way beyond the scope of the internet and software applications, which seem to be the focus of everybody. It trickles through every aspect of our daily life. We start engaging with UX the moment we wake up in the morning, sometimes even during our sleeps. Keeping this idea in mind is fundamental to creating the best user experience for every stage of user-product interaction.

A Chip on the Shoulder

So, what is the true spirit of UX? Let me reframe the question by asking: what is that one thing that everybody eagerly wants? Not money. Not fancy cars. Not flashy clothes. It's happiness. Happiness, or the pursuit of happiness, is what makes everybody get out of bed in the morning. The world is a better place when there is more happiness. It is no coincidence that some of the best countries to live in the world regularly have the highest total happiness index. 

So where does happiness come from? Generally speaking, happiness results in validation of ourselves from others. But we need to dig deeper. We are living in a world filled with infinite points of engagement. We interact with family members and co-workers, we turn on the computer, we drive our cars and we read books. Every point of engagement is either an interaction with a real human being or an object whose goal is to make our life, presumably, better. 

Ah, "make our life better", we are onto something here. Let's rationalize this by plugging different variables into a simple mathematical equation:


happiness (H) = great experiences (E), 

also if 

great experiences (E) = great interactions with people (P) + great interactions with objects (UX)

assume that we have no control over P, therefore it is a constant number.


happiness (H) = great interactions with people (P) + great interactions with objects (UX)

Since P is constant, happiness H varies as UX changes!

What does this mean? It means that if we can maximize the value for UX, we are going to maximize the value for H. 

Design for Happiness

We now have the scope of UX understood, it's time to dig a little deeper into the mechanics of creating great user experiences. Every object, a car or software, that has ever been created, was given a purpose by its creator. This purpose is designed to solve a specific user issue. We can think of products as employees, they are hired to do a specific job for us. If the product solves our problem or satisfies our need, it's suffice to say the product has a relatively good user experience. What about products that satisfy our need but have a horrible user experience? This is not a convincing argument because a user will long give up before he/she survives the hair-pulling, pain-inflicting process to see the end result.

When our needs are met, and process improves incrementally over time, the user can experience a great deal of happiness. When the majority of interactions are predicated on happiness created by successful delivery of promises by a product in a person's life (P is constant), he/she will be a very happy person.

As a UX designer, I constantly remind myself the chip on my shoulder: design for happiness. Every wireframe, dialogue box, chart, color, typography, have to reflect the upmost adherence to this principle. Looking at user experience design from such a high level gave me a tremendous perspective and clarity that allows me to focus on the most important tasks. 

Let's design for happiness.