How difficult is it to grasp user-experience?

by boon

I was having a reflective conversation with Darren on our way home from Cambridge the other day, after our meeting with Microsoft about our MSc projects. The both of us had very similar experiences stumbling upon UX.

In fact, i had come across it from understanding usability, or more specifically, web usability. And I think I was most familiar with the work of Nielsen’s first book, Designing Web Usability, that led me there. I had no idea (at the time) that it was related to HCI in that sense, which I acquainted mostly with robots and artificial intelligence.

But between that time when I first started learning about HCI and User Experience, to the point I really understood what it was – took about 6 months. That’s 6 months of constant, thought-provoking, soul-searching months – and not something I kind of stumbled upon and appeared to me in a flash of light.

That got us (Darren and I) thinking – if it took us that long to “figure out” User Experience, how long does it actually take regular people to understand it? And some of these regular people can end up being our clients, our bosses, our customers, our co-workers. Do we need to take this into account when we’re trying to communicate the stuff to people, and just be patient about it?

Or, could it be that people do get it once they actually see it work – as in, good design blends into the background – you don’t even notice it’s there.

But some of this matters, right? When you’re trying to communicate design in a project, or when you’re trying to sell a concept to a client, or when you’re trying to push forward a piece of work that no one else seems to understand except you.

My question is – does it matter? And if it does, how can we communicate user experience in the most effective way?