Big UX, small UX

In a conversation with a colleague yesterday, I got to thinking about the difference between big and small UX. Big UX being strategic; small being UI and application interface design. The two belong to a single spectrum that spans the user’s interaction with a product.

Big and small UX take up different interests in relationships. Big relationships concern those between a customer or user and a brand. Small relationships are the byproduct of product interactions.

“Big experience” accounts for the mental relationships a user has with a brand — perceptions, expectations, trust, loyalty, and other facets of an individual’s interest in a brand. “Small experience” explicates the manner in which the direct interaction with a product creates an experience ā€” of satisfaction, utility, functionality, surprise, etc.

Both matter. The product alone doesn’t supply all that forms a customer’s experience of a brand. Other intangibles come into play, and are as much factors of marketing, advertising, word of mouth, and social influences. Likewise, brand perceptions and customer relationships are influenced by product experiences. Bad UX and UI result in bad experiences.

In small UX, the relationship is between the user and the product or application. It comes from that interaction.

In big UX, the relationship includes the user, but is not constrained to interactions. So it asks “What interests the user (or customer)?” outside of experiences with our product?

I tend to take small UX for granted. That we are good enough to figure out how to design for the user experience and interaction with a product or application.

Big UX is more of a challenge. Big UX means framing the user experience beyond what can be learned from product interactions. And that’s difficult. Interviews help and are indeed necessary. Observation helps, and provides context. Monitoring social chatter is good, because it captures discourse and conversation.

I am interested in how UX can contribute to business development, as a framework with which to articulate and define user interests. But to speak to the marketing, sales, and business development needs of those in business strategy, UX needs to speak in big UX terms. It needs a language that translates direct product interactions and indirect brand perceptions. One that forcefully defends and articulates user interests, motivations, and experiences.

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