The human element of UX design: Beyond websites

Mar 21, 2018

by Michelle Stam, WP graphic designer

If you’ve heard the term “UX design” thrown around but aren’t really sure what it’s all about, you’re not alone. A lot of people I talk to don’t have a clue what it is!

UX, or user experience, is most often associated with web and app development. It is something we focus on heavily when we’re planning a website, since user experience is such an integral part of its success. We know that no matter how amazing a site looks, if users cannot navigate it easily they will not have a good experience.

In the past, I didn’t think UX design applied much to projects I work on that aren’t related to website design. But then I had an epiphany during a UX workshop I attended at the [WO]MAN UP! Creative Conference for Women, put on by the Iowa AIGA. During the session, I began to realize that many of the experiences we have every day are specifically designed for us, the user—like the smells, displays of food, and customer service you experience at a bakery. If the bakery manager is smart, they think through everything that makes their customers have the best experience possible to entice them to come back … for the delicious baked goods AND for the pleasant atmosphere!

My small group defined the steps, actions, and emotions that go with mailing a package. I was surprised by how many steps there actually are!

At the workshop, there was one exercise in particular was helpful (and fun!) in developing my thoughts about UX design. In small groups, we defined the steps, actions, and emotions of a common experience: mailing packages. Overall, everyone had had bad experiences mailing packages. Some of the words we used to describe our emotions were dread, urgency, confusion, stress, and then, finally, relief when the package was sent off.

The number of steps it takes to send a package was eye-opening! From procuring the item, to figuring out how to pack it, to finding the right size box and packing material (don’t forget the tape!), to researching the best shipping method, etc.—there were a lot more things to consider than I realized.

So how do you create a better package-mailing experience? Our group came up with the idea of an app that automates the process so you don’t have to wait in line. After taking a picture of the item, the app tells you everything you need—going as far as estimating the item’s weight—so all you do at the store is pick out packing material. The app shows the available shipping methods and recommends the best option. The store has multiple conveyors, one for each kind of shipping method. After you collect everything you need, from box to tape, you place it on the correct conveyor. The conveyor weighs all the items, and a digital screen tells you the final price. You press a green button to accept that price and automatically pay for it through the app. The shipping company then does the packing, and you’re good to go!

By doing this exercise, I realized that even in my print design work, I do UX design every single day. On each design project, I think through who the audience is and how they will be using the end piece. Is the audience older? Then I need to make the font a bit larger and the spacing between the lines greater so it’s easier for them to read. Are people going to be viewing it at a distance while moving? Then it needs to have minimal text and large graphics. Are they going to be sitting down and flipping through it? Then it should be more detailed and graphically interesting.

In my musings about UX design, I’ve realized that great design must have a thoughtful, human element behind it no matter the medium. Without that, it may be a beautiful design, but like the website that looks wonderful and has terrible navigation, it will fail when it comes to user experience and overall success. Its value will dramatically decrease, and people won’t be motivated to use it. But if a beautiful design creates and supports a great user experience, people will fall in love with it and often become unknowing marketers for it by talking it up within their networks.

Looking for a personalized, thoughtful experience for your next print or web project? Let us know! We understand the importance of having a human element in design and creating a great user experience. The Write Place works hard to get to know our clients so we can provide them with solutions that best fulfill their needs … and we’d love to do that for you!


Contact us today!


“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.” —Steve Jobs

“No design works unless it embodies ideas that are held common by the people for whom the object is intended.” —Adrian Forty



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