If you are approaching design thinking concepts for the first time you may have some preconceived notions about experience design that range from incomplete to completely false. We identified several myths and misconceptions about experience design commonly found in sales and marketing teams to help you skip the confusion.

What is experience design?

Experience design (XD) is the process of creating or improving products and services with the overarching goal of identifying user pain points, planning and implementing solutions, and testing to ensure solutions are successful. Any point of an experience which causes friction in the customer journey should be smoothed out – not only to improve conversion but also to increase brand loyalty and trust. Experience design is most often applied using a specialized practice such as Customer Experience Design or User Experience Design.

Myth #1

XD = Interface Design

A common mistake is conflating XD with user interface (UI) design. Interface design is not the same as experience design, but rather, it is one of the dozens of skills that occur under the umbrella of XD.

When we say interface in the context of design we are referring to the purposeful interaction with and communication of information to the user. Interface design is the process of creating mockups and/or defining user interactions with a website, application, or another tool. It also can include defining the look and function of such interactions as scrolling, swiping, clicking, touching, pinching, zooming, etc. This process is critical to experience design, however, it is only one of many components that make up XD.

The table below illustrates just how broad the practice of experience design can be – where any given project can require a different mix of these capabilities.

XD Perception   

XD Reality

Graphic Design Graphic Design
User Testing User Testing
Interaction Design Interaction Design
Research Research
Information Architecture Information Architecture
Statistical Analysis Statistical Analysis
Usability Testing Usability Testing
Product Design Product Design
Interviews Interviews
Interface Design Interface Design
Feature Development Feature Development
Layout Prototyping Layout Prototyping
Persona Development Persona Development
Copywriting Copywriting
Development Coordination      Development Coordination     


Myth #2

We Can’t Measure Experience

If you aren’t familiar with design research methods, you may assume that experience is too subjective or is a fleeting metric that can not be measured at all. Alas, this is another common myth.

In reality, there are many methods for measuring experience. It starts with a clear understanding of the context and goals followed by the definition of dimensions by which to measure the success of each goal. Every strategy is different but each requires a multifaceted approach combining research, interviews, user observation, persona development, empathy mapping, and much more. Our approach takes into account observational data, quantitative analytics, and even subjective metrics. Goals are measured repeatedly over a period of time to reveal success, which leads us to our next Myth.

Myth #3

We Can Execute An XD Strategy One Time

Anyone who claims experience design is something you can just do just once is perpetuating our next myth. XD is often adopted in the early stages of a new project with the goal of defining customer needs and creating a strategy to address these needs. This can mislead project stakeholders into believing that the XD process will come to an end.

As we regularly mention in our un-cork articles, our design process is purposeful, iterative and is constantly adapting to shifting contexts and customer needs. Experience design pushes a product or service to evolve gradually to better serve customers through new features, interface refinements, and other informed design decisions. This process is critical at the beginning of any project, but as long as you have customers with diverse sets of needs you need experience design! If you don’t deliver on customer expectations, your competition just might.

Myth #4

Analytics alone can identify all user needs

Many organizations hire analytics experts and as a result, lean heavily on their expertise while ignoring the value of a holistic experience strategy.

Quantitative analytics do play an important role in measuring customer behavior but they are not nearly as powerful alone as when coupled with in-depth, qualitative research. After all, our design research methods can help identify strategic goals and inform which metrics need to be measured. 

The key difference we point to is that analytics alone can track user click behavior (the what) but qualitative design research can inform the why – what influences a particular behavior or engagement. For example, a user clicks a misleading or poorly designed link. Standard analytics might only show a user bouncing off the page, whereas design research can inform what was wrong with the link or page content as it relates to user intent. This insight is essential to correcting issues large and small in the pursuit of a frictionless customer experience. 

Myth #5

Our final myth about XD is that anyone can do experience design, regardless of background or expertise. Almost anyone can learn experience design strategies over time, however, practices like customer experience design and service design require years of training. At ikonic, our strategy team has a decade of experience working in user-centered design methods with a focus on customer experience. That kind of knowledge cannot be passed directly between individuals but is learned over time, solving unique sets of problems with diverse clients.

Design Sprint Workshop

Is your team utilizing XD effectively? Do you have an experience design strategy to help guide your entire organization through implementation? At ikonic, we specialize in helping organizations explore design thinking through experience design. If you would like to explore these ideas with our team, contact us today and ask about our design sprint workshop.