From UX to CX to XD – What Experience Design Is and How We Got Here

User design is easily one of the most critical steps in the creation of any product, digital or physical — but user design disappeared many years ago. In its place, customer experience design arose, focusing on not just how the user manipulates the product but more accurately how the customer engages with the brand as a whole, to include marketing campaigns, customer support and (of course) various products

Through this evolution, UX professionals became even more prominent within businesses. Often, UX directors earned seats at decision-making tables, where they could influence more of the initial product design to ensure that customers and users gain the experience they deserve.

Yet, now customer experience design is passing away, and in its place is an even vaguer term: experience design. Where does the user fit into the new era of XD? How do UX designers fit into the XD process? Why do we even need another evolution of user/customer-focused design? Read on to find out.

Experience Design Basics

Like UX professionals, experience designers strive to improve products, processes, events and other experiences. However, unlike UX, the scope of which is primarily confined to understanding and altering products themselves, XD works to understand the people using products/processes/etc., often through persona-building endeavors, user interviews and prototype behavioral observations. Experience designers use various techniques to gather information to ensure they have the correct comprehension of the experience — because people often lie or poorly explain what they think or feel.

Because they are more closely related, XD and CX are often conflated, but XD typically has a more delicate and intimate effect. Both user and customer design suffer from a critical flaw: seeing people as cogs in the commercial machine. Experience designers strive to see people as people, understand how they naturally behave and apply subjective, effective and personal experience to design. It is unlike UX and CX — it is unlike any business field that has come before — and it is important that all business leaders realize its significance.

Experience design is more important to business success than user design or custom design because it is wider-reaching than both its predecessors. While UX designers remain focused on the product and CX designers pay attention to the brand, XD professionals touches every aspect of a business, ensuring each engagement point is as perfect as possible.

Also, Read: Adobe XD is now available for free – A software for UI/UX designers

Successful Careers in XD

There are several paths into the emerging XD field, most of them through existing UX and CX channels. As yet, the vast majority of those holding XD positions claim a user experience design degree, which is undeniably beneficial for educating would-be UX, CX and XD professionals. Many older UX programs focus on computer science, teaching students the intricacies of building and altering software, as well as some aesthetics training. Experience designers specifically would also benefit from advanced courses in psychology, which will prepare them for researching and analyzing human behavior.

Because XD is relatively new, most job hunters won’t be able to find many open positions that are expressly in this field. Instead, most will need to seek out UX or CX positions and subtly alter them into XD work. Most businesses that have invested in UX departments are eager for XD expertise, but few understand that XD exists, much less what it entails. Thus, UX professionals can take responsibility for guiding businesses away from traditional, limited UX and toward incredibly influential XD.

Those new to the field should look for positions in professional areas like these, from which they can develop XD departments:

  • User research
  • Usability analysis
  • Interactive design
  • Virtual design
  • Information architecture

Future XD Trends

XD won’t stay the same for long. Just as UX passed into CX passed into XD, businesses — and U/CX/D professionals — should always expect a change in this field. Already, experts are predicting greater adventures into virtual and augmented reality as well as conversational design or voice interfaces. It’s likely that XD will become more segmented, with professionals choosing specific aspects of the craft rather than developing wide-ranging skills and knowledge. Even the titles of XD professionals are changing, gaining greater prestige with claims like “Product Designer” or “Experience Strategist.”

It is critical that XD designers of the future understand people, but they also need to understand business. If XD is to have any impact at all, designers must earn seats at decision-making tables — or at least maintain the seats UX earned in the past. Then, XD will continue to grow and all people will benefit from these professionals’ good works.