UX is a young field and the terminology can be quite confusing. So we’ve put together a list of definitions based on some of the most authoritative UX sites on the web like usability.gov and nngroup.com. We will be updating this list continuously so we recommend you bookmark the page.
A/B testing – A/B testing is also known as split testing or bucket testing. Users are shown two versions of something at random. For example, variants of a webpage or an app screen. Statistical analysis is used to determine which variant, A or B, performs better with regards to a particular conversion goal. A/B tests help to pinpoint which changes affect user behaviour.
Agile – Agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of frameworks and practices based on the values and principles expressed in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. As the name implies, agile has to do with being flexible in the way you work. The aim is to uncover better ways of developing software by trying things you suspect might work, getting feedback, and adjusting accordingly. When you unify developers and designers in the agile process of product development, you get what is often referred to as agile UX.
Benchmarking – Benchmarking is an essential part of systematically improving the user experience. A benchmark is a standard point of reference against which metrics may be compared or assessed. It indicates where a product or service falls relative to some meaningful comparison. This could be an earlier version of the product or service, a competitor’s product or service, or an industry standard such as the NPS.
Bucket testing – Bucket testing is also known as split testing or A/B testing. Users are shown two versions of something at random. For example, variants of a webpage or an app screen. Statistical analysis is used to determine which variant, A or B, performs better with regards to a particular conversion goal. Bucket tests help to pinpoint which changes affect user behaviour.
Card Sorting – Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a website. Test users are given cards with individual topics on them. Their task is to sort these cards, organising them in categories that make the most sense to them. Card sorting can be carried out with actual cards. But the easier method is to use one of the many software programmes for digital card sorting.
Circular Design – The concept of circular design has to do with creating products, services, and systems that are profitable, user-friendly, and good for the environment. For instance, the brownies in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are made in a bakery that provides jobs and training to low-income residents of its local neighbourhood in New York. Caterpillar is another great example: the company monitors feedback from its smart construction equipment so that it can anticipate and act on repair needs before a machine fails.
Contextual inquiry – This semi-structured interview method helps to obtain information about the specific contexts a product or service is used in. After answering a set of standard questions, users use the product or service in their own environments. The researcher can observe and ask questions, gaining more realistic insights as compared to the laboratory setting.
Corporate design – The corporate design (CD) helps a company to express its overall corporate identity (CI) by defining the company’s standardised appearance across all internal and external communications. Design elements such as imagery, colours, fonts, and more are usually recorded in a brand style guide.
Customer experience – The customer experience, or CX, encompasses usability, user experience, and all of the customer’s interactions with the brand behind the product or service. These include all online and offline touchpoints such as browsing the company’s website, walking past one of their physical storefronts, and even hearing about a brand from a friend.
Design thinking – Design thinking is an iterative approach to problem-solving. It involves a series of steps: empathize (gather different points of view about the problem), define (synthesize that information), ideate (brainstorm all solutions), prototype (visualize feasible solutions), test (get feedback on the solution). Repeat as needed.
Diary study – Diary studies are used to collect qualitative data about user behaviours, activities, and experiences over time. Diary studies can be conducted with traditional diaries. But there are also a number of digital diary-keeping tools available. Importantly, the data is always self-reported: the users log the relevant information at regular intervals.
Double Diamond – The double diamond is a visualization of the design process as divided into four distinct phases. First, designers need to keep an open mind and learn more about the problem at hand (discover). Next, they zero in on the area to focus upon (define). This completes the first diamond shape: open and shut. The next phase requires designers to open up again as they contemplate several different solutions to the now defined problem (develop). Finally, in the last phase, they whittle their selection down to those solutions that are actually feasible (deliver). Thus concludes the double diamond.
Drunk testing – As the name implies, drunk testing involves testing a product or service while under the influence of alcohol. The concept was invented by Richard Littauer, a UX professional and full-stack developer. Littauer claims that one of the best things about intoxicated test users is their inability to filter, resulting in totally honest feedback.
Exclusion criteria – Exclusion criteria are criteria that exclude a test user from participating in a test. If you are testing a new app for Android users, for example, you may want to exclude people who do not own an Android device. You do this by asking users screening questions before the test.
Expert review – Provided the team has access to a UX expert, an expert review can be done at any stage in the design cycle. The expert is expected to deliver a list of usability strengths and weaknesses as well as recommendations for improvement. The conclusions can be presented at a meeting or delivered as a written document. To ensure that the product or service still serves the user needs, the Nielsen Norman Group recommends conducting an expert review at least every two to five years.
Eye tracking – Eye-tracking software enables a computer to track what the user is looking at on the screen. This technology has many different applications. In medicine, for example, it can be used to diagnose autism or anxiety disorders. In UX, eye tracking is used to evaluate interfaces. How and where do users’ eyes move? Which elements do they pay most and least attention to? These insights help to unveil the causes behind usability problems and to develop a more intuitive user experience.
Focus group – A focus group is a research method that brings a group of people together to discuss their experiences using a product or service. A moderator guides the discussion so that each participant gets a chance to provide feedback. Focus groups are not intended to depict user behaviours or usability issues. Instead, these discussions provide insight into users’ opinions and expectations of a product or service.
Guerrilla testing – Guerilla testing involves approaching people at random in public spaces. They are asked to answer questions and to provide feedback, for example, on an idea or a wireframe. The advantage of this type of research is that it is fast and cheap to conduct. The disadvantage is that the test users are random people who do not necessarily match your target audience.
Hallway testing – Hallway testing involves approaching people in and around the office and asking them to participate in 5- to 10-minute usability tests. Similar to guerilla testing, this method allows for more frequent tests, regardless of the availability of test users who belong to the target audience.
High-fidelity prototype – The fidelity of the prototype refers to the level of detail and functionality built into it. A high-fidelity or hi-fi prototype is a representation of a product or service that closely resembles the final design. High-fidelity prototypes are used to get the most accurate user feedback possible before launching the actual product or service.
Highlight video – Highlight videos consist of a collage of clips collected during user testing. They capture insights such as important opinions the users expressed, behaviours they exhibited, or difficulties they experienced. Highlight videos are especially useful in situations where there are multiple stakeholders. Product managers, C-level executives, and external customers, for example, may not be able to be present for the user tests. Seeing the highlights on tape can help to increase their empathy for the user and to better understand the research team’s findings.
Incentive – Incentives are rewards given to test users to motivate them to take part in a study. Incentives can be money, gift cards/coupon codes, or merchandise. They can be given to the test users as a lump sum or divided into pre- and post-test instalments.
Inclusion criteria – Inclusion criteria are criteria that a test user must fulfil to be allowed to participate in a test. If you are testing a new app for Android users, for example, you may want to include people who have owned an Android device for at least a year. You do this by asking users screening questions before the test.
Information architecture – Information architecture (IA) is the practice of deciding how to arrange and label the parts of digital as well as offline products and services so that they become understandable, usable, and findable. Consequently, good information architecture plays a major role in good user experience (UX).
Interaction design – Often abbreviated as IxD, interaction design is the design of the interaction between the user and the product or service. This interaction involves many different elements such as words (e.g. button labels), visuals (e.g. icons), physical objects or spaces (e.g. designing for users who are sitting at a desk vs standing in a lift), time (e.g. audio feedback), and behaviour (e.g. frequency of use).
Interview – In UX, moderated interviews are often used as a qualitative research method. Conducted in person or on the phone, interviews are usually semi-structured. This means that they are based on a questionnaire but that there is room to explore unforeseen topics brought up by the interviewee.
Jobs to be done – A job to be done (JTBD) is the process consumers go through whenever they aim to optimize their situation with the help of a product or service. Much like an employee works for a company, products and services work for consumers so that they achieve their goals.
Lean UX – Lean UX is a mindset, culture, and process that implements functionality in minimum viable increments. The closed-loop system for defining and measuring value is based on getting immediate feedback to understand if a product or service’s UX will contribute to the business’ objectives.
Low-fidelity prototype – The fidelity of the prototype refers to the level of detail and functionality built into it. A low-fidelity or lo-fi prototype is a basic prototype that does not closely resemble the final design. Low-fidelity prototypes are used to catch design issues at an early stage when iterating is quick and inexpensive.
Minimum viable product – The minimum viable product or MVP is the most basic form of a product that is able to meet a user need. Companies develop MVPs in order to quickly and cheaply test with real customers and get valuable feedback. Therefore, the MVP minimizes the risk of launching an expensive product that is unable to satisfy user needs.
Mockup – While a wireframe mostly represents a product’s structure, a mockup shows how a product is going to look. As such, mockups help make final decisions about visual elements such as colour schemes and fonts. Designers usually use tools like Balsamiq, Mockplus, and Sketch to mock up digital products like websites and apps.
Mystery shopper – A mystery shopper is a test user tasked with shopping at a (physical) store and reporting back about his or her shopping experience. To gain realistic insight, it is critical that none of the store’s employees are in on the secret.
Net Promoter Score – The Net Promoter Score or NPS measures the customer experience and predicts business growth. Ranging from a low of -100 to a high of 100, the NPS is based on how likely customers say they are to recommend your brand to a friend or colleague.
On-site research – Observing users as they use a product or service in its natural environment helps to gain a realistic view of use cases and usability. These site visits to conduct on-site research can entail visiting the user’s home or office. But they can also mean going to a car park if the researcher wants to find out how users interact with a ticket machine, for example.
Over-recruiting – In UX, over-recruiting means purposely inviting more people than necessary to participate in a user test. Over-recruiting is a precautionary measure to be able to compensate for no-shows: people who plan on attending but ultimately fail to do so.
Paper prototype – Paper prototypes are very early prototypes of a product or service. They often consist of simple drawings or sketches, for example, of a user interface. Paper prototypes offer a quick and inexpensive way to test an idea before you actually begin to build the product or service.
Persona – A persona is a fictitious person who represents a particular customer segment that a product or service is geared towards. Usually, personas are developed and documented with a picture as well as descriptions of relevant behaviours, goals, skills, and attitudes.
Pool – In UX, the pool is the test user database. A company will usually have a fairly small and narrow pool of test users that closely matches their target audience. A professional recruitment agency, on the other hand, will have a large pool with a wide variety of test users. This allows them to recruit quickly, no matter the customer’s requirements.
Qualitative research – Qualitative studies are often used for exploration: discovering users’ reasons and motivations behind their behaviours. Users’ feedback and opinions give researchers insight into the target audience’s needs and problems. Based on this insight, they can generate hypotheses to be validated with quantitative research.
Quantitative research – In UX, quantitative data is often collected via surveys, questionnaires, and unmoderated usability tests. Unlike qualitative research, which focuses on why something occurs, quantitative studies focus on what: the objective measurability and the statistical relevance of the collected data.
Remote testing – Remote testing means that, during the test, the researcher and the user are not at the same location. A remote usability test of a toaster oven, for example, could be done via Skype: the user is at home with the device while the researcher can watch and ask questions from anywhere. Consequently, remote tests are usually cheaper and more convenient for both parties.
Responsive design – A responsive design (or responsive web design) responds to the user’s device and screen size. On a desktop computer, for example, a responsive web page may appear to have a two-column layout and fairly large font size. On a mobile phone, which has a smaller screen but is held closer to the face, the same content may appear within a single column and with a smaller font. The idea behind responsive design is to create websites and apps that remain consistently user-friendly across all devices.
Scenario – A scenario is a short description of a possible use case. The goal is to help the test user put the product or service into context. Assuming the task is to test a new design for an e-banking app, the scenario could be: A month ago, you took a trip abroad with your friend. You paid for the hotel and your friend says he’s transferred his half – £200 – to you already. Please check whether the money is in your account.
Screener – As the name implies, screeners are short questionnaires with which to screen possible test users or study participants. The idea is to separate persons who fulfil the inclusion criteria from persons who fulfil the exclusion criteria. You can download two usability test screener templates here and here.
Script – In UX, the script is the document the researcher gives the users to explain the context of the test and the different test scenarios. Usually, this document includes some introductory information, some ground rules, a detailed description of the individual tasks, and a debrief section.
Split testing – Split testing is also known as A/B testing or bucket testing. Users are shown two versions of something at random. For example, variants of a webpage or an app screen. Statistical analysis is used to determine which variant, A or B, performs better with regards to a particular conversion goal. Split tests help to pinpoint which changes affect user behaviour.
Think-aloud testing – Some usability studies require test users to think aloud. For example, as they navigate a website, they are instructed to tell the researcher why they are clicking on certain things rather than others and what springs to mind as they do so. One disadvantage of this method is that the situation is rather unnatural and so the researcher has to continuously remind the user to keep talking.
Tree testing – Tree testing or reverse card sorting is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure. With the help of tools like Treejack, users are shown a menu structure in its most basic form, i.e. without a layout or design. Then, users are asked to locate certain items within the site.
Usability – Usability refers to the ease of use of a product or service. A usable product or service is one that is easy for users to become familiar with and competent in. Importantly, however, no design is usable per se. Instead, the combination of a design’s features and a user’s context determine the level of usability. Usability tests are conducted to measure this level of usability, frequently in a dedicated usability lab with special infrastructure like eye-tracking systems.
User-centred design – User-centred design (UCD) is an iterative design process that involves users in each phase. UCD aims to capture and address the whole user experience. Therefore, it also includes professionals from across multiple disciplines (e.g. ethnographers, psychologists, engineers, and domain experts).
User experience – The user experience or UX encompasses the usability of a product or service as well as all of the user’s interactions with the company that makes said product or service. The ultimate user experience is when the user feels that the product or service is a joy to use.
User interface – The user interface (UI) is the access point that allows the user to interact with a device or system. For example: the touchscreen on a printer. If a UI includes graphical elements such as icons and buttons, it is called a graphical user interface (GUI). If it includes sounds, too, it is called a multimedia user interface (MUI).
User journey – The user journey is a model that describes each of the user’s touchpoints with a company on a timeline. In UX, these touchpoints are frequently online: a user might begin by searching for the product or service on Google or Bing. Then, they proceed to the company website, read up on the specs, and complete the purchase. For example, booking a flight on the airline or a comparison service’s website. The user journey is divided into several individual steps so that each one can be designed, optimized, and tested individually.
UX design – UX design is the process of improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
UX research – UX research (or user experience research) aims to uncover how, when, where, why, etc. a product or service is used. It encompasses qualitative and quantitative research methods like interviews, contextual inquiries, diary studies, card sorting, usability tests, and more. Depending on the situation, UX research can be used for many different purposes, for example, to validate and discard assumptions or to build user personas.
Visual design – Visual design has to do with aesthetics and the strategic use of images, colours, shapes, space, and fonts to improve usability and the user experience. The term is often used interchangeably with UI design and graphic design.
Web design – Web design is an antiquated umbrella term. Today, web design is divided into interaction design, UX design, and visual design.
Wireframe – While a mockup shows how a product is going to look, a wireframe mostly represents a product’s structure. Wireframes are low-fidelity prototypes. But they convey the most important information: the user interface is described in writing as well as with simple visuals like lines, boxes, and grey areas.