(This was written shortly after I returned from CIID in 2020, before Covid slapped the world.)

Recently, I’ve had a few conversations that went along these lines.

Person X: Oh, did you study interaction design?

Me: Yeah, I did!

X: Cool! Then you’ll understand that design is really about experience.

Me: Yeah, it is.

X: And experience is about

  • “experience is about taking the user not too far but within their comfort zone”
  • “it’s all about the experience… like when I do (an action in our organization) and I get (a particular response), I’m like ‘how is that a good experience??’ “

My guess is that, the term “experience design” has become such a mainstream-yet-woolly-buzzword, that it has basically become yet another container for people to ship their own opinions, biases, interpretations.

Because experience is such a personal-yet-subjective thing, and the term experience design offers the false promise that there is some objective benchmark/measure… so whatever I experience, that must be it.

There is no such thing as UX design.

— Alan Cooper (@MrAlanCooper) May 4, 2018

That might be the reason why interaction-design pioneer Alan Cooper tweeted the above.

Instead of the very hard work of user centered software design and its related politics (which WILL earn respect and “seat at the table,” btw) it was easier to create a bullshit self-aggrandizing mythos around web design. 😀👍

— Dorothy M Danforth (@danforthmedia) May 4, 2018

I’m not going to get into the Tweet-storm that ensued after Alan Cooper’s self-proclaimed “grenade”.

But what I AM going to say is that, all this talk of experience really doesn’t help move forward the dialogue nor design. Because at the end, what the hell are you going to do with that experience as a designer?

Let me rephrase it this way: you’re a single guy or girl, wooing a guy or girl. You want to wow the pants off that person, so you know that the experience you need to create is that of wow the pants off that person.


To me, that’s the problem of using the word experience design, because there’s nothing concrete you can design.

Instead, I would suggest using the phrase touch point design, or interaction design: what’s the interaction you are going to create, and how is that going to behave, in order to create the experience or emotion you are aiming for?

Using Bill Verplank’s Do-Feel-Know loop is very useful in this regard, because you can concretely break-down an interaction into tangible phases or steps that you can actually design:

  • How does the user do an action?
  • How does the user feel in response?
  • How is the user supposed to know?