I first came to hear about the UX industry in my Sophomore year of college through an older mentor who had transitioned into the field years before. I can't say it sounded very appealing to me as what it came across as was just creating websites which did not excite me very much. Gradually I learned more about it and by the end of my senior year of college I was seriously considering going into the field.
However I was heavily invested in architecture so I thought to give it a try. But after my first internship at an architecture firm I decided it wasn't for me (refer to a previous post about this), and so I started my abrupt turn into UX with many of my friends, family, and old classmates wondering what in the world UX was.
I realized just how difficult this was to explain, because it wasn't just "building websites" in my mind. I would refer them to the things that excited me like Don Norman's works or Ideo projects, but I couldn't put into peoples minds exactly what it was. I came from a discipline that made the connection simple: I studied Architecture, to become an architect, to design buildings.
Online didn't help either as there were so many different definitions:
"User experience (UX) is a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system, or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful, and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership."Wikipedia
“UX design is the process of making websites, apps, and other pieces of technology (plus physical products) as easy and delightful to use as possible.”Springboard
“UX design focuses on the interaction between real human users (like you and me) and everyday products and services, such as websites, apps, and even coffee machines. It’s an extremely varied discipline, combining aspects of psychology, business, market research, design, and technology.”Career Foundry
I felt like when I read these definitions I would second guess if I even knew what UX Design was. It just seemed so vague, however it was Don Normans thoughts on the subject that I think really but what I had in mind into words:
"Products that provide great user experience (e.g., the iPhone) are thus designed with not only the product’s consumption or use in mind but also the entire process of acquiring, owning and even troubleshooting it. Similarly, UX designers don’t just focus on creating products that are usable; we concentrate on other aspects of the user experience, such as pleasure, efficiency and fun, too. Consequently, there is no single definition of a good user experience. Instead, a good user experience is one that meets a particular user’s needs in the specific context where he or she uses the product."Don Norman
In short I think Don Norman is saying you cannot put UX in a box like architecture, architecture will adapt to a persons context in terms of location, but it will always be designing some sort of structure. UX on the other hand, the context determines your response and what your job actually is. You are not designing the product but the system the product operates in, yet it might appear that your only visible outcome is something like the app or website that might come out of it.
But that is just what good UX should do, it should be the invisible force behind the product that people don't see. Dain Miller puts it like this:
“UI is the saddle, the stirrups, & the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.”Dain Miller