This article was originally written at Pivot Design Group, a Toronto-based user experience and communication design firm.

User experience design, or UX, isn’t just a trendy buzzword… it’s essential if you’re looking to create products for people, and isn’t that what every organization aims to do? It’s easy to see when businesses treat UX as afterthought because it leads to products that are not intuitive and services that alienate customers and clients.

Here are four things people commonly get wrong about UX.

4. An app is not an experience

If you think launching an app will improve your overall user experience, you’ve got a LOT riding on a single touch point. Sure, that app might make a difference, but it won’t be the be all and end all because it may not be relevant to all of your audiences. Let’s be honest, people will come in contact with your brand/organization via various touch points — social media, Google searches, online reviews, live and in-person experiences, etc. So, your brand user experience will be more successful if you treat your app as just one of the many ways users might experience your overall brand.

Takeaway: Identify key touch points and integrate them all to elevate your overall brand experience.

3. UI is not UX

When you work with a digital agency/designer who’s making beautiful user interfaces (UIs) for you, it doesn’t mean they’re considering the User Experience. True UX identifies and considers users every step of the way—that means talking to and observing the human beings who will be using your product or service. True UX validates or disproves project assumptions and ultimately makes designed outcomes more successful; it’s about arming yourself with insights and concrete evidence, not throwing darts in the dark.

…It’s about arming yourself with insights and concrete evidence, not throwing darts in the dark.

Think of it this way: you can design a UI but you can’t design an experience, you can only influence it. Just because something’s pretty to you or your digital designer, doesn’t mean it’s functional and effective to the user. UX considers both the aesthetic and the functional and how it effects the overarching experience.

Takeaway: As a team of stakeholders, project managers, content owners, designers, and technology partners, you must begin the project by investigating and gathering data so you all gain a solid understanding of who you are designing for. Don’t jump to UI design before you’ve had a chance to validate or disprove your assumptions with a proper UX process.

…you can design a UI but you can’t design an Experience, you can only influence it.

2. UX does not stand alone —it should be “integrated-in” rather than “added-on”

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to project teams. The business or organization at the top usually measures success by looking at the bottom-line. This could come at the expense of user experience if they’re looking to meet certain budgetary targets. The technology team wants to see a functional outcome—user experience might take the back seat because functional does not always mean intuitive.

The role of the UX design team is to learn about and advocate for the users. This means designing beautiful interfaces that are functional, intuitive and ultimately satisfy the bottom-line. It’s like we were made to be the bridge between organizational goals and technological constraints.

Takeaway: It’s impossible to have a successful user experience if you’ve only considered UX at the end of the project. UX can’t be added on; that’s just aesthetics or designing a UI. Instead, UX team members need to be involved in the project from the get-go in order to always put users first.

1. Don’t forget that users are people too

As delightful as the designed interactions may be in your product or service, it’s all for naught if you fail to be relevant to your users. And you can only really understand them if you see them as real, living and feeling people.

A mass survey can give you quantitative data about your users, but UX is about getting into the trenches — learning first-hand about the real people on the user-end of your product or service — then using that qualitative and even anecdotal evidence in boardroom discussions to better inform your planned solutions.

You can’t effectively speak for your users unless you have spoken to them.

Takeaway: We can elevate our design and communication efforts when we better understand the people on the receiving end. You can’t effectively speak for your users unless you have spoken to them (or at least involved them in the learning process). The more you do this before, during and after the project, the more successful and relevant your outcomes will be.

Good UX might look pretty, but it’s more than just aesthetics. It’s about bringing together all the different teams involved in a project—stakeholders, users, designers, and technology partners —to create products that work for the people who’ll be consuming them.

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