What is user experience?

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“Wisdom is the child of experience”

Leonardo Da Vinci

user experience design…
“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose its meaning.”

Donald Norman



UX – The experience of people

UX sounds like something futuristic or very modern (an emerging rapper, an innovative medical preparation or a mark on the fuselage of a spaceship in a science fiction film), but the truth is that it’s just what you’re experiencing right now, live, in real time (yes, right now while you are browsing this site and reading this article, but don’t worry your life is basically made up of a summation of UX). Put simply, UX means User Experience and refers to the experience a person has when interacting with a system (here the system is made up of websites, mobile phones or computers).

User experience and consumer experience are expressions which we frequently encounter, but what is the experience of which we speak when we say that we take care of it to improve its quality? What aspects do we register or take into consideration?

Well, maybe to start it would be better to call it People Experience, I am passionate and interested to take care and worry about quality of people experience in all the contact points, with artifacts or interfaces (for the definitions you can refer to this page on the approach we are pursuing), and this is what made me enter TSW.

PX could therefore stand for People Experience and not for:

px – pixel abbreviation (if used in company with units as the ‘inch’ to measure the resolution graphic of a picture, or with the amount of ‘bits’ to express its color depth) – an indicator of quality of images.

(Piaggio Vespa) PX – motorcycle house icon of the Piaggio company (presented for the first time in 1977 and definitively gone out of production just forty years later in 2017) – an undisputed example of quality in design.

P would be for the English People which is not declinated in the singular because it is the plural form of person, and is not just crowd of folks, but comes from Latin populus and suggests a set, an organized body of subjects, a community of individuals united in a determined context of culture, values and beliefs.

X would be the short for experience, the same X used in UX, as we said before, for User Experience.

But the X could also be a code that identifies where to dig on the map to find the treasure hidden in the pirate island.

The treasure is hidden under the X when we are young treasure hunters, for our researchers the treasure are the feelings of people, it is therefore the very X, the experience indeed.


User experience as a broad field of people-centered design

The end user experience has been brought to the fore by Donald Norman (father of the discipline) in the mid-nineties, after having started to work on user-centered design already ten years before and the success of the word and the thought revolution that it generated led him to the beginning of the new millennium to speak of, or take an interest in, due also to the evolution that his thinking has had over the years, the emotional involvement that design generates beyond ergonomics and usability.

The UX is defined by Norman as the set of all those emotional, psychological and physical that occur before, during and after an interaction. If before it was coined the term was all about Human-Computer Interaction or usability and the focus was on ‘interaction between a product and the user, the focus is now on experience, for this thanks to prof. Norman we speak of (User) Experience Design.

Here is him in person that tells us how the term is used, sometimes, improperly or reductively.

Designing with the end user in mind means planning to bring positive experiences and emotions to life, as well as anticipating and satisfying specific needs. Working for the User Experience means having to do with the personal experiences of any user (who is the person as a whole, but read in the act of living an experience) when interacts with a product or service.

I like the term user experience because it speaks of experience, but it can also be misleading because unfortunately it is limiting to consider the person only as a user. Worse than ever when it comes to consumer experience… and then what difference is there in the end?


But then it is better to talk about user experience or customer experience and what is the difference?

Who is the customer?

The term derives from the English of the 15th century custom which it is derived from the medieval Latin custumarius which in turn comes from the late Latin consuetudinarius derived from the Latin consuetudo meaning: usual practice. Do not come to me and claim that it is not a case of Nomen omen (Latin phrase that means “destiny in the name” and derives from the belief of the Romans that in the name of the person was indicated his destiny) if then the consumers are not at the center but are taken for granted in the usual practices of managers!

Let’s try to see what the customer experience is referring to and what does CX mean?

CX does not refer to the Citroën CX, the high-end passenger car produced by the French firm from 1974 to 1991 which owes its name to the marked aerodynamic characteristics. The aerodynamic penetration coefficient, known precisely with the initials CX, measuring the aerodynamic drag of a body in motion in a fluid (btw it resulted low in the French flagship car, it was in fact equal to 0.375, a significant value in the first half of the ‘70s).

In the case of cars, if we accept a simplification: the lower the CX the smaller is the effort the car will have to make to move, in the case of the experiences which interests us here, the CX is in turn directly proportional, i.e. the better the consumer (which we prefer to call person) experience the better the relationship with the brand or the product, or to remain in metaphor, the less effort that the user, or consumer, if you prefer, must put in relating with company interfaces or artifacts.

Customer experience (CX) is a term commonly used to define the user experience (UX) for long periods of time. That is in this sense the customer experience is relative to a relationship over time and is less punctual than the user experience even if the original definition of the latter, i.e. UX, was to include all aspects of the interaction of a person with a company, its services and its products.

Originally, in fact, the UX term intended to describe the totality of the interactions that users have with a organization, but since it was proposed in an era, or perhaps I should say a ‘period’ (see the next section on the epoch concept), when computers were the main form of digital interaction, some have begun to assign a limited interpretation: the one associated to an interaction, especially that one mediated by digital interfaces, unlike the broader and long-term relationship between the customer and the company. So conversely even if it was a limiting or circumscribed term, as we have seen, the term customer experience (CX) was used to describe the totality of the interaction a user has with an organization over time.

Our ‘epoch’, which more or less means historical period, is born from the Greek expression εποχή αστέρων which stands for “shutdown of the stars”, and refers to the position of the stars that distinguishes that era, that time or historical period. In the epoch, present or past, the stars do not stop or have ever stopped, but something is blocked or suspended; in philosophy, judgment. This is why we speak of the stone age or classical times, because we have the idea that somehow there was a fixed heaven values, dynamics, although we know that is not so and we indulge in generalization that allows us to contain something bigger than us as the changing of history.

In this’ digital age, everything is pretty baumanian fluid and dissolve the barriers between specialized and humanities, not for intellectual will, but for cultural evolution. This is why even the themes of the era are no longer adequate to distinguish our times, but different models or references are needed.

The moment in which the user experience was defined saw the prevalence of digital experience on computers and this most likely resulted in improper or reductive use of which the prof. Norman complains.

So as we have said the CX has become despite all an expression that covers a wider sphere and expanded over time.

The customer experience then we could define as the product of interactions between the organization and a customer for the duration of the relationship, organizations in business, however, are more often called brands and then: the customer experience is definibile as the customers perceptions – both conscious and subconscious – of their relationship with a brand.

If we consider the relationship between a person and a ‘company’ in the life of that person, you can define the user experience at three different levels:

  • The level of individual interaction, reflecting the experience where the person uses a single device/interface to perform a specific activity relative to an object(service)/artifact.
  • The level of journey, itinerary or route or experiential flow map, which captures the person’s experience while working to achieve a goal (possibly using multiple interaction channels or devices to do so).
  • The level of relationship, referring to all the interactions between the person and the company, for the entire duration of the relationship with the customer.

And on this last point the most common definition of customer experience focuses and it is at this relational level that we refer when we talk about improving experiences with listening. This is an example of a customer journey map taken from NNgroup.com:

The customer experience therefore implies the involvement of the subject (whom we prefer to call a person) at different levels: rational, emotional, sensorial and physical.

There are three elements: the customer journey (classically characterized by say three moments: Exposure, Activation and precisely Experience), the points of brand contact with which the customer interacts, also called touchpoints, and the environments that the client experiences (including the digital environment) during his/her experience, in some product categories retail can be considered still relevant.

A good customer experience means that the experience of the individual in all the touchpoints meet his/her expectations and goes beyond. Customers respond differently to the direct and indirect contact with a company or brand. The direct contact usually occurs when the channels are those of the brand: store, catalogs, websites, newsletters and direct mail, and the purchase or use is activated or initiated by the customer. The indirect contact often involves passing through non-brand owned media such as: advertising, news, recommendations (or criticism) available on social media.

The customer experience includes all aspects of company offer: the price, the quality of customer service, but also advertising, packaging, characteristics of products/services, ease of use and reliability of the brand, reviews or the so-called word-of-mouth or WOM.

Much needs to be considered within customer experience, and a lot lies beyond the time of the purchase decision on which too often marketing focuses on because it sees the customer only as a consumer.

Although we lash out at the inflation of the vocabulary and create new names for old things, we cannot fight the way in which language evolves. Whether you use the most recent term “customer experience” or you prefer the previous one of “user experience”, the point to remember is: there are more levels of experience and many points of contact, each one is equally important in providing a good experience to users, who are the center of consumer-centric approaches, because they are subjects of experience.

But didn’t we say that ‘users’ do not exist? Well, not precisely in that reductionist form and now also let me try to widen the meaning of the term ‘use’ and the expectations that this entails.


Experience of use and meaningful (and subjective) user experience

We talked about the subject of that X, whether it is a U or a C, but now let’s try to consider the significance of the X and perhaps another common definition there can come in help. The user experience has in fact another synonym: experience of use.

In Philosophy the term experience (or empirìa) refers to different meanings:

In knowledge it is the moment when the sensation intervenes;

Regarding the inner sensitivity is intuitive perception, immediate, of a feeling or an emotion;

In the philosophy of science it is the foundation of scientific observations based on “sensible experiences” and “necessary demonstrations (the two expressions are by Galileo Galilei in the Letter to Benedetto Castelli of December 21, 1613).

The ISO 9241-210 defines experience of use as “the perceptions and reactions of a user arising from use or from expectation of use of a product, system or service.” The experience of use is subjective and focuses on the act of use.

Additional notes of this definition explain that the experience of use includes all the emotions of the user, his/her beliefs, preferences, psychological and physical reactions, behaviors and actions that occur before, during and after the use; in these same notes they are also listed three factors that influence experience of use: the system, the user and the use context.

The subjectivity of the experience produced by the use of a product/service is highlighted, but also by the forecast of its use. This second aspect (expectation of use) clearly separates the user experience from the quality in use defined in the ISO/IEC 9126 and includes particularly relevant dimensions in the selection and purchase phase of a new technology. The temporal dimension in fact explodes when the object of analysis is moved from the use (as an event) to the user: the user experience is emancipated from contingent use and embraces the anticipation, the planning, the memory of such use, the desire of experience of interaction, the projection of this experience on construction processes of identity.

The third of the standard notes declares that the usability affects some aspects of the experience of use, for example “usability criteria can be used to assess aspects of experience of use”. Unfortunately, the standard does not further clarifies the relationship between experience of use and usability.

In part, the two concepts overlap, see the following section about the user perspective at the center in the user experience design, but simplifying we can say that the usability corresponds only to the pragmatic  aspects (the ability to perform a task with efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction), while the experience of use also includes the hedonistic ones (for further explanation see my previous contribution on usability and on user tests that involve people to evaluate and improve the experiences that can and must become simple, natural and rewarding).

For UX, please remember, we mean what a person feels when using a product, system or service. The experience of use concerns the experiential, affective, the attribution of meaning and value connected with the ownership of a product and related to the interaction with it, it also includes the personal perceptions of issues such as the usefulness, simplicity of use and system efficiency.

The experience of use has a subjective nature because it affects the thoughts and feelings of an individual towards a system; moreover, it is dynamic as it changes over time as circumstances change.

The term user experience design has spread in recent years in many contexts and different disciplines; such rapid adoption, however, was not accompanied by a precise definition of the concept, which are therefore attributed partially different meanings, however, all united by the ambition to overcome the concept of usability and to study the experience of interaction with the media interfaces in their totality, enlarging however the number of dimensions analysed.

There might come to the rescue the humanistic culture, already called into question previously, and in fact: the significant experience in the philosophy of science is implied in the revision or cancellation of previous scientific theories (as it happened with the Galilean revolution, which contributed to shift from the Ptolemaic theory to that Copernican, or more recently with the discovery of radioactivity by the spouses Marie and Pierre Curie, which caused the collapse of the concept of atom as an inseparable unity). As for what the theme of the user experience is concerned, a meaningful user experience is perhaps a concept a little deflated, not expected to force a paradigm shift or a radical overhaul, but it certainly calls into question the experience had so far, and too often considered a standard, with a good or a service when we experience a new one and this, perhaps repeatedly (but a couple of times are enough) satisfies us, simplifies life and becomes natural. This is a meaningful user experience and really changes the perspective and clears the field, creating a benchmark or a new experience model (paradigmatic if you wish) with respect to which the experience in particular but also the model or paradigm of interaction in general of the subject changes (just retrace the parables of: Blockbuster, Nokia, Kodak, Toys R Us, etc.).

We talk about use, but we know that experiences are different and are the complex of feelings, memories, thoughts, tastes, etc. that a person has or carries with him/her (every day, every hour, everywhere). We have substituted the trust in the wonderful work of Providence with the expectations towards Technology. People would be the ones to be valued and the tools are designed to be used.

We should therefore value humans and use technology, unfortunately we value technology and use human beings.

UX or UI

We have repeatedly used the term interface and from the start we talked about ambiguity, seemingly terminological, sometimes conceptual, in common usage, let us now try to dissolve another one.

Is this UI or UX?

The UX is different from the UI, which stands for User Interface and if specially linked to the term design is a subset of UX design, the one in particular that looks after the visual aspects and presentation of the product or the brand, of the service or company (UI User Interface and UX User Experience, to remind us that as the U in the acronyms the user comes first anyhow and that I and X = 1 and 10, like one and ten written with Roman numerals, to say that the second is larger than the first and actually contains it, or the experience contains the interface).

The user interface (UI) is anything with which a user can interact to use a product or service. If we limit ourselves to digital, it includes: screens and touchscreens, keyboards, colors, sounds and even lights. To understand the evolution of user interface, however, it is helpful to learn a bit more on its history.

At the most basic level, the user interface, UI, is composed of all the elements, it is important to remember not only visual, allowing someone to interact with a product or service. UX, on the other hand, is what the individual picks from whole experience interaction with that product or service.

Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen explained the concept well when they wrote:

It’s important to distinguish the total user experience from the user interface (UI), even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. As an example, consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.

User Experience Design (UXD or UED) is the process to improve user satisfaction with a product or service by improving the usability, accessibility and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product or service.

Where UX Design is a more analytical and technical field, UI Design is closer to what we call graphic design, although the responsibilities and interconnections are a bit more complex and complicated, and the interface is not a matter to be left only in the hands of the graphic designers. It happens too often that an UX designer is in charge of the conceptual aspects of the design process, letting the designer of user interface to focus on the most tangible elements.

To summarize with a metaphor: UI is the bridge that takes us where we want to go, UX is the feeling we experience when we arrive. Designers who will know how to be users, imagine themselves as such or those that will confront with users, or people, will design the best UX and UI.

Those working on the UX focus on the user journey to solve a problem (alas too often) or to improve the integral experience of a system (unfortunately too seldom, despite being in fashion), the work on the UI is often focused on how the surfaces of a product look and work.

To develop an user experience on the level of satisfaction of the people is not the responsibility of a single person or a team, but is or should be the vision of a company.

Companies produce for, and are at the service of, people, it’s always been like that, only recently they have become consumers or customers (in this regard, see the page on the value of reconnecting with people in the section With People on our site), and the customer service or client service, however, it is good to remember, it is an attitude (a vision if you whish) not a department, a service or even a job title.


The research with users, people return into the big picture

The users research is a key step in the UX design process and takes many forms. Christopher Rohrer, who writes for the Nielsen Norman Group, explains user search styles that include a combination of four elements:

  • Behavioral research, which observes what people do.
  • Attitudinal research, which observes what people say.
  • Qualitative research, which analyses why people do things and how to improve those things.
  • Quantitative research, which analyses data relating to measurable elements, such as the number of potential customers that become actual customers or the quantity of a product that a company sells.

The behavioral and attitudinal, quantitative and qualitative research directions coexist in a complementary relationship according to the problematic under inspection: quantity and quality unite in The Sixth W model to provide a complete overview and collect all feedback from participants needed to understand the lived experience.

With the tests we conduct in the laboratory or in the field with TSW researchers, we analyse the behavior and expectations of people through the different touchpoints in their relational journey with companies and their products or services. The mixed methods approach integrates experiential tests with quantitative analysis models, in order to obtain a complete and objective view.

The method consists of qualitative research protocols and the use of neurotechnologies or more correctly bio-metric instruments (such as eye trackers, biometric sensors and stimulus sensors and monitoring of the so-called brain activity) and analysis tools that allow physiological, attentional, emotional, cognitive, interactional and behavioral data to be collected in relation to analog or digital interfaces.

This approach could be called neuroscientific or neuromarketing. We prefer to talk about psychophysiology and neuroscience applied in the study of consumers and in the analysis of user experience.

The neuromarketing, if understood as a discipline, or para-discipline (see my previous contribution in this regard) and not as a user testing activity, as a challenge to the limits of understanding behavior and experiences, can be coupled and work in synergy with a more extended user experience concept, closer to human-centered desing than to user testing, which can despite the intentions sometimes lead to a datafication, prevailing say, or reification of users.

Really understanding the feelings of our users has always been the dream of user experience researchers.

“Are they having fun? Are they frustrated? Are they genuinely interested and involved? Does my product or service meet the needs and desires of the people I am designing for? “

Understanding how a user really feels in relation to an interface-mediated experience can help us optimize specific aspects of the experience in bringing out certain experiences and consequently improving the interface first, but ultimately the experience and depending on the cases, yes, even people’s lives.


The user’s perspective as the fulcrum of the user experience design

In English the word design can be used both as a noun and as a verb, it takes on meanings such as “intention”, “purpose”, “plan”, “intent”, “objective”, “attack”, “conspiracy”, or “architect”, “simulate”, “devise”, “sketching”, “organizing”, “acting strategically”. You notice immediately how these meanings are closely related to an idea of deliberate planning, but also with the word “cunning” and “stratagem”. The term derives from the Latin signum which corresponds to the Italian “segno”; thus, from the point of view of the etymological root the word design means “disegno”. Yet at present this term has taken on an international meaning that goes far beyond its etymology. Design in this sense is to project, not only furniture, and a designer is a planner, not an abstract creator, a concrete producer beyond the graphic sketch, to which the meaning of graphic designer reminds us, but of the whole system that rotates around the identified experience: everyday objects, health services, payment systems, urban viability or a society public education model.

The design, as we have pointed out several times already, has to deal with the subjectivity of experience and the opportunity of individuals to make experience. It would be interesting to assess whether the experience is made or lived, let’s say that the designer, if he is good, makes it, lives it and makes it live.

This is the theoretical basis of the user-centered design, mentioned above, which reveals the diversity of individual experiences, despite the common heritage of cognitive processes and the need to recover subjectivity, an unpredictable and non-modelable component, at the cost of losing realism. In this passage psychology renounces the claim to give the general rules of human behavior, to propose rules to design. It is the passage from the ergonomics of the standard, which is valid for everyone, to the ergonomics of the guidelines, which insist on a flexible and attentive to contexts design methodology.

The relationships between ergonomics and design are reformulated: both disciplines must look to the user, the recipient of the design process. It is the user the only expert of himself, of his way of living and working. Psychology can offer the tools that can help in expressing and communicating this expertise, which is largely tacit and therefore dumb: may be shown, but not spoken. People are all different, to design for the user means then to design for personalization or customization (in a circular or iterative way though and not in an individualistic and narcissistic one).

In this light, usability is a subset of overall user experience. The usability answers the question “Can the user achieve his/her objective?” With effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of results (according to the definition of usability ISO 9241-11). The user experience also answers the question: “Did the user have an experience as pleasant as possible while doing so?”. The user experience requires a lot more effort to be able to do well, but the results have a better impact and change the experiences.

Expert definitions:

Usability is an attribute of quality which assesses how easily can a user interfaces is easy to use. More precisely, it tells us how much we need to learn how to use that thing, how efficiently we use it, how well we can keep it in mind, how high is the chance of making mistakes when using it and how pleasant it is to use it. If the user cannot or does not want to use a given feature of an object or program, that functionality might well not be there.”

Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger


User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.”

Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman


The field of experience of use was founded to have an holistic approach to the way a person perceives and feels while using a system. Attention is focused on the value and meaning in use rather than on performances. The user experience entails, in short, emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. But even the experience that user has of the brand logo, the presentation, the functionality, the performance system, the interactive behavior, the physical and mental state of the user (also deriving from previous experiences) attitudes, skills and personality. And we must not forget the context of use.

Trying to contextualize these definitions in a digital perspective, the goal of usability is to create websites and platforms, interfaces and interactive systems, accessible and easy to use, while the UX is to provide a memorable experience to user before, during and after the use of a specific platform or interface.

Recent advances in digital technology have shifted the man-machine interaction in almost every area of human activities and this has redirected the attention from engineering of usability, even if understood in the broadest sense that Norman gives the design, towards a larger window in which users’ emotions, their values and motivations have equal if not greater importance, of efficiency, effectiveness and minimal subjective satisfaction (the three traditional metrics of usability).

This is why it is necessary to appeal to the human sciences and to the disciplines that study both the psyche and human physiology, because the product has become us (please see the nota bene of next paragraph) and a good marketer today as yesterday must know the product.

Consumers, whom we consider people, have been marginalized, became outcasts, or exalted in the slides of the conferences, placed as personas on a pedestal for statues or worse still as the basis of the CBEE pyramid (Customer Based Brand Equity Pyramid), but then as it happens with the saints of which we celebrated the feast, they were abandoned and duped the whole year (“Once on shore we pray no more.” will be a more correct translation of the Italian proverbial way of saying “Fatta la festa, gabbato lo santo.” which is reflected in the Spanish “El peligro pasado, el santo olvidado.” that keeps the reference to the saint), in all these years.

Using an ethnographic perspective and looking at this cultural choice as a political, legal and civil exclusion we could say that as with some populations, as with some forms of diversity… since someone has claimed the right to choose for them and, with force… as for them we might say: “Nothing About Us without Us”.


The 4 new E that could replace the old P, where Experience (if not you) is the new Product

The world of marketing has clearly changed in recent years, many of the tools and hypotheses with which we have grown are obsolete and no longer valid, so much so that Brian Fetherstonhaugh, President and CEO of Ogilvy One Worldwide, proposed to replace the traditional 4Ps of marketing mix (compare to a digression on my contribution on the fifth P of People) with a modern version: the 4Es.

According to Fetherstonhaugh:


The Product has become Experience

The Price has become Exchange

The Place has become Everyplace

The Promotion has become Evangelism


From the product to the experience

For a company to survive in the highly competitive global economy nowadays, it should be flexible enough to transform his field of work.

Rather than concentrate your marketing efforts on the products supplied by your organization, which for one reason or another change with increasing speed, the experience focuses on the experience of the end user, so you do not sell products/services anymore: now you are offering solutions that meet customer’s needs.

In this new approach the product has been put aside and the experience has entered the scene. In fact the experience is what can really engage potential customers and attract them to a brand. Creating emotions and positive feelings can create a link between a brand and consumers. A bond that is likely to last over time.

The product is an attribute of the company, the experience is lived by the consumer, or rather the conjunction of our experiences in the relationship with a brand or a company.

For several years, major companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have recognized that the user experience has a direct impact on economic performance. These companies have not achieved success by chance. Every day and constantly they study every aspect of their business with people and customers to ensure high levels of satisfaction.


Note to the reader: today the product is you, perhaps the doubt had already come to you, in the world of digital there is the motto: “If it’s free, you are the product.”, but even if you hadn’t heard it you know that your full name, address, mobile number, tastes, sexual and buying preferences are known to Big G or present in the galaxy Z (Facebook, Instagram and Messenger) and are of great interest to advertisers all over the world and you also know for having tried it that Amazon cares more about you and your interactions than about the products, its own or from others, that it markets and distributes.


From the price to the exchange

The evolution from the price to the exchange highlights the need to recognize the value. In today’s world, price is still important, in fact the purpose of any business is the sale of products for a profit, but it is necessary to bring out the value that is being offered to the customer in exchange for what he is paying, even if many people think that most consumers are price-oriented, if this were true then everyone would buy at the discount store! There are many cases where customers do not follow the lowest price, but rather they choose the solution that offers the highest value. This value is something that the customer gets, beside the product, after performing the purchase. Therefore a company that does not want to remain anchored to the strategies of the past have to think about what it wants to truly offer its consumers to have in concrete exchange for their attention and loyalty.

Since there was an evolution in the understanding of the exchange that takes place between seller and buyer, between supply and demand, and it is no longer just taking the money to give a good in return, rather bringing a “value”, even the way we understand our work must evolve and we need to change the objective of our work, from the profit to the value (or rather, in the words of Christian Carniato the founder and CEO of TSW reported in this heartfelt story: “… find in it the value, and perhaps the true and original goal, to make profit by generating value for individuals (and only thanks to this bring value to the shareholders”).


From one place to everywhere

With the advent of digital commerce purchasing methods have changed a lot. If before it was necessary to get the products in physical stores, now with the e-commerce it is no longer necessary to have intermediaries.

Purchase can be made anywhere and any time without constraints. This is why from place (distribution) we pass to every place (everywhere). You can buy a good, as well as a service through the use of the mobile phone breaking down every physical boundary and speeding up the process.

The sense of everywhere, however, also translates into a solid presence on social media, as well as in the construction of a brand website. By doing this, potential customers can be more easily involved and then turned into consumers.

‘Everywhere’ reflects the possibility and the ability of consumers to access your solutions as they please, business developers must learn to ‘intercept’ their customers rather than ‘interrupt’ them, customers must be involved when they are more likely to be receptive towards your product or service; knowing how it can be difficult, your marketing efforts must be designed so as to make sure that when the time is right, you’re there in their mind. Therefore it is necessary to develop a strong presence both online and offline.


From promotion to evangelism

The promotion of a product is still essential now for a winning marketing strategy. Even in this case, however, advertising has evolved a lot. In today’s society a more moderate use is made of that type of unidirectional promotion typical of the past. Consumer involvement has become an essential element of a new way of marketing. You want it to be the purchaser himself to speak well of the brand.

To ensure that this happens, the company must necessarily find topics that closely relate to a large slice of the population. If people recognize themselves in that message, they will be moved and will be favorable to conveying that particular theme.

The brand therefore, rather than extolling its qualities, strives to satisfy customers to the point of encouraging them to recommend products spontaneously. Here consumers become testimonials of the brand in general and of a specific product in particular. In doing so, word of mouth feeds brand’s reputation.

These days it is not only important to promote the products you’re selling, you have to learn how to make a step forward in turning your customers into evangelists of her brand. If you are promoting a technical solution, push it beyond instructing and training your potential customers about the technical aspects of your solution, offer useful information about the solution and educate your guests (i.e.: to add value and to give hospitality to the experiences, as proposed in this article on the deep meaning in the gift and debt of hospitality written by Christian Carniato), you will be able to build a relationship e personal relationships with them, this will produce a positive impact on your business.


The requirements with the 5Ws and the sixth W, or the WITH, in the search for the quality of the user experience

Whether you are a high school student or an expert problem solver, an amateur journalist or a professional writer, or a manager who has attended Anglo-Saxon modelled training courses or a long-term PM, you will be used to using to start with a project or you will have heard anyway of the five double-u or“Five Ws”: who, what, where, when, why.

This approach does not actually come from the Anglo-Saxon world, but it is a reduction of a model of classical Roman rhetoric (yes, before we were conquered by the Angles, we were the ones who dominated those lands), in any case this is the source:


Quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando?


It is a Latin phrase, which translated literally means “who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when?”

It is a hexameter which contains the criteria to be respected in the performance of a literary composition: that is, to consider the person who acts (quis); the action that is performed (quid); the place where it is performed (ubi); the means he/she uses in performing (quibus auxiliis); the purpose he/she aims at (cur); the way he/she does it (quomodo); the time it takes and in which he/she does it (quando).

The author of this hexameter is Cicero, who in his treatise “Rhetoricorum, seu De inventione rhetorica” expresses the principles of construction of an oration.

Beyond the classical rhetoric and beside the size of the project, when you have to determine the requirements for a new solution or useful to improving an existing one, it is always helpful to remember the 5Ws:


  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHY



Who concerns the identification the various actors and actors in a solution.

These are examples of the types of questions you should ask about the “who” of the expected solution:

Who needs to use or interact with the solution?

Who derives value from the solution?

Who is paying for the solution?

Who will support the solution?

Who is allowed to perform various tasks within the solution?

Who will administer the solution?

Who am I missing?


Businesses or people?


Are the right people talking? – ORGANIZATION

Do we talk with the right people? – CLIENT

Do we talk to the right people? – CONSUMER

Many experiences as many users, but one only answer that appears modelled for me, is it possible?

Do we care about the consumer with his/her idiosyncratic moments to modify and improve his/her experience?



What concerns the identification of the various functions, data, input, output, results, artifacts, etc. of the expected solution.

These are examples of the types of questions you should ask about the “what” of the expected solution:

What are the objectives of the project and the solution?

What do users need to be able to integrate with the solution?

What are the main data elements?

What data elements does the solution need to integrate with other systems?

What are the volumetric elements for the solution (for example, number of users, number of transactions, data growth rate, etc.)?

What problems does it solve or mitigate the solution?

What am I missing?


Products or services?

How do we deal with digital interactions (web, app) and physical ones (retail, etc.)?

What needs or gaps do we want to fill? Do we also carry informational values? – CONTENTS

Is innovation really compatible with reliability and simplicity? – USABILITY

Is the service provided or the product promoted really the best? – PREMIUMNESS

What is the added value that the brand brings?

Is consumer value proposition and services clear to everyone?

In the purchase of the product or service are there economic transactions or even other value transfers? – COMMITMENT AND SOCIAL VALUE

Do we work on all fronts to really let users experience something simple?



Where concerns with various geographical and/or logistical aspects of a solution.

These are examples of the types of questions you should ask about the “where” of the expected solution:

Where are the users located?

Where should users be able to use the solution?

Where will the solution take place?

From which devices should users be able to interact with the solution?

Where can or should the solution be hosted?

Where will the data be stored?

Towards where will the solution move?


Where do you come into contact with the product?

How and where do the services or products that we offer in my day help me?

Where I find the logo?

Who are the campaigns aimed at and where are they planned?

Is the place where it happens or the interface through which the interaction passes welcoming?

Does it express the brand or at least is it suitable for the service provided?

The experience goes directly or needs to disappear to be effective?

Where would I like to find it tomorrow?

Is the brand with me, close to me?



When concerns to various temporal events, activities, etc. of the expected solution.

These are examples of the types of questions you should ask about the “when” of the expected solution:

When should the solution be ready for launch?

When do users need to be able to perform specific tasks?

When you need to perform regular tasks (e.g.: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.)?

When the solution has to be available for the use (normal working hours, 24/7/365, etc.)?

When can or should the solution not be available?

Do any activities need to keep a track record?

When can data be deleted from the solution?


The time variable enters positively in the users’ day?

How much life do I earn with the proposed service? – EFFICIENCY

The difference between not having time for something and having it is called interest! – ENGAGEMENT

How much time saved by users do we want it to be spent with or for us?

If I associate service with: more sport, more family, more life… it’s not a service, but a gift.

How much time can I save?

The time is the true currency of the interactions! Additional time for the things the customer cares of and will care of us for that.



Why concerns with the various drivers and/or constraints (internal and/or external) imposed on a solution.

These are examples of the types of questions you should ask about the “why” of the desired solution:

Why was the solution born?

Why the solution is needed (for example, changing business conditions, new initiatives, replacing the legacy system, updating the technology, etc.)

Why now?

Why will it work, affirm itself?

What statutory or organizational norms will this solution satisfy (i.e.: the rules that guide the solution)?

What statutory or organizational rules must this solution satisfy (i.e.: rules that are constraints to the solution)?

Why will it end up being a solution?


Why is the measure of relationships!

Is the brand’s mission considered relevant?

The consumer benefits is appropriate to the expectations and to the recent technological transformations?

Is the involvement of the actors involved from time to time adequate? – SATISFACTION

Is it true that the improvement of the interactions improves lives?

Why we cannot do without this product or service?

Would a world be possible without the brand? Would it be nice?



The With is the sixth W, it is a variable necessary for us and it is not a question, but a conjunction that reminds us of the need for relationship, care and listening to the client. There are no coded questions for a check list, but these could be points of inquiry:


Is the end user at the center of the offer?

User truly feels like someone of whom we care?

Did the user participate in defining the offer?

What would he/she like from the brand? Something more or different?

Care, courtesy, availability, solicitude and promptness in responding to requests, anticipation of needs are qualities associated with the brand?

Communication is adequate to the best experience possible and consistent with the daily experience lived by the end customer?

Do we know how to listen?

Do we really relate to and question the user in proposing our services? – USER – CENTERED DESIGN


Now, beyond the check lists and the standard models, let’s try to understand why the questions are important to us and what radical exhortation they have brought us.

To do this we try with an orthographic experiment: if we replace the ‘W’ in the 5Ws (where, when, what, why, who) with a ‘T’ maybe we could be really approaching to answer the questions or anyhow to the core of the inquiry…

In fact:

Where becomes There

When becomes Then

What becomes That

Why becomes Thy (archaic as in “Honor thy father”)


Who it becomes Thou (archaic as in “Thou shalt not kill”)

Ok, but what’s the point then? I suggested to change a consonant in the famous Anglo-Saxon journalism Ws only to recall that there should be a shift to the taking of personal responsibility instead of leaving unanswered questions… for this reason the WITH, the sixth W, comes in and a relational point of view, since it is in the confrontation with the Other that are emerging the most interesting ideas and by experience the solution is often close to the subject.

Instead of looking for an extrinsic explanation, the WITH is a relational method to bring to light an intrinsic meaning or an inner value that starts from the awareness that first of all the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ are either internalized or do not have much sense

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30 July 2019 Bernardo Lecci

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TAG: UX and UI usability test experience design qualitative research The Sixth W approach user testing