7 Essentials for UX

ZEEF: 7 Essential Resources & Tips to Get Started with UX

ZEEF: 7 Essential Resources & Tips to Get Started with UX

Hi, I’m Alexander Kluge, the curator of the ZEEF UX page.

I’m a remote worker and co-creator of the Colombian startup ON BOARD, an alternative education and travel program for small groups traveling 3–30 days in a selected country, learning from locals, seeing the country through their eyes and initiating transformative processes to benefit the local economy, communities and our participating travelers.

I’m also the founder of Free Write Camp where you practice your writing in creative and hands-on writing exercises, and Coastery Camp, a writing retreat with workshops camping at the coast.

In this article I’ve compiled a collection of 7 essentials (taken from my ZEEF page) to get you started with UX.

1: What is UX?

UX is User Experience and cares about business goals and people’s desires using the product, website, app or service, especially in terms of ease and pleasure of use — which is why it is tightly connected to usability. It is often (not always) related to digital experiences in the web and apps.

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.  — Nielsen Norman Group

UX is generally an interdisciplinary field and not something you do (or a verb). Therefore it comprises aspects of media design, computing, computer science, psychology, culture, marketing, usability and much more (see resource 2).

The basic foundation to understand UX is to put the user (human person) into the center of the design process, in a user-centered design (UCD) approach.

The term is widely and frequently used which makes people confuse it with UI design (see resource 5):

Too often, UX is narrowly defined as one of the many disciplines that make up UX as a whole (e.g., wire framing, information architecture, etc …). On your next project, if you’re asked to “UX it,” stand up for yourself and kindly explain that UX is a holistic process. It’s not a box you can tick off a to-do list. — Tim R. Todish (UX Magazine)

2: The Disciplines of UX

You will often find the term UX Design (UXD), not solely UX, because people talk about the actual creation (design) of experiences. So it makes sense to use the term UX Design. You can see it applied in the diagram by Dan Saffer which shows the disciplines of user experience design.

It’s still not perfect: it’s missing Sound Design and Ergonomics/Human Factors, and the way the circles had to overlap downplays Visual Design. […] HCI is partially out of the circle because of its different (non-design) traditions and methodologies, and also because of its focus on pure research. Industrial design (and, in truth, architecture should do this too), pokes out of the circle because it has involvement in areas that do not directly involve the user, such as manufacturing (or in the case of architecture, building) specifications. — Dan Saffer (Kicker Studio)

3: The Elements of User Experience

As part of his book “The Elements of User Experience” Jesse James Garrett made a crucial contribution to the web world. He differentiates the web as a software (interaction) and a hypertext system (information) – both exist at the same time non-isolated from each other.

UX, according to Garrett, puts the user needs and business objectives first in the design process. They are followed by functional and content specifications to eventually design the information, navigation, interface and visual appearance.

4: The Fundamentals of Experience Design

From a broader perspective, “designing (for) experiences is fundamentally about people, activities, and the context of those activities.”, Steven P. Anderson says.

The interesting observation is the dimension Anderson applies when he doesn’t talk about users but people, and activities and their context, not business owners with their goals. It widens one’s point of view because a whole ecosystem is affected by the the experience (see resource 7), not only two parties (users and businesses).

5: The Difference between UX and UI Design

Design is how it looks, feels and works (as by Steve Jobs famously said). While you learnt above that UI/interaction design is part of the whole UX process a short way to differentiate both could be:

You can have an application with a stunning design that is hairy to use (good UI, bad UX). You can also have an application that has a poor look and feel, but is very intuitive to use (poor UI, good UX). —  Onextrapixel

6: The Cooper Goal Directed Design Process

Reading the goal-directed process Alan Cooper developed can feel overwhelming. Hence, it is very insightful and valuable for more in-depth explorations when you have the goal to create a mindset directed towards human-centered design.

Basically, you find one person, understand their vision and their final desired end state, and then make them ecstatically happy about reaching their end state. That is the essence of Goal-Directed Design.  —  Alan Cooper

And continues saying:

And what you need are two things: 1) Find (or synthesize) the right person and 2) Design for that person. At a place like Apple, Steve Jobs was already that right person, and they needed look no further. See here the whole goal-directed design process.  —  Alan Cooper

7: About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design

For many the most important book and crucial reading in order to profoundly understand designing experiences for the digital age is ¨About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design” by Alan Cooper. It covers topics like:

  • Understanding Goal-Directed Design (see resource 6)
  • Designing Behavior and Form
  • Designing Interaction Details


The next level of UX is human story experience design (HSXD) combining the lessons learnt from designing experiences with the power of (transmedia) storytelling and story-writing.

More UX? Explore my ZEEF page for more hands-on articles, guides, tutorials and blogs, there is still tons of UX information to discover. (You can also contribute to the page by suggesting other quality UX links).

Ready for some German? I offer two scientific papers to read for free:

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3 Tips To Write Drunk But Not Get Drunk

The popular saying of “Write drunk, edit sober” refers to literally being and getting drunk to be liberated in your thoughts. Since I don’t enjoy the idea of becoming an alcoholic because I want to write a lot, here’s how to write in states in which you seem to be drunk but are actually not — at least not through alcohol.

Tip 1: Wake up earlier than you usually do

If you normally wake up at 5am, wake up at 3am. This way you don’t fully realize that you’re awake which is reflected on your writing as well. It keeps your rational mind or inner censorship shut and lets you write freely.

In a recent conversation in Guatemala a friends told me that another friend who is a writer applies that technique very well. If waking up early is hard for you, I can imagine it is, try approaching your goal time, e.g. 3am, step by step. The morning you start you wake up at 6am, the next morning 5.30am, and so on. It’s ok if it takes a week or two to reach the goal time.

Tip 2: Laughter with friends

Honestly, it’s been quite some years that I had deep laughter with friends that made me feel drunk. I remember I must have been 16 or 17 years old (I’m 32 now) when I watched a Stargate on German television with a friend — it’s when Macgyver (Richard Dean Anderson) was in the show. We were watching, commenting, analyzing on what we saw, pretty much like nerds. Although I never felt like a Sci-Fi nerd, maybe I was. My friend was for sure.

This relaxed state of being surrounded by the “Flimmerkiste” (old-fashioned German word to say “TV set”) providing us with content while we can go ahead and find all the weird, sometimes illogical things the TV presents us with and laugh about them strongly — so strong that my lower jaw started hurting because it got stuck. Since Stargate was only the beginning of our television enjoyment we spent some good hours building a “golden” triangle of my friend, the TV set and me. The good old times, you could say. Yes. For sure.

Tip 3: Walk a very long time and distance in a row

In April 2014, when I ended my trip through South East Asia, I spent some days in Singapore to discover what I today know as a very European-ized city-state in the heart of Asia. I lived in a friend’s big shared house I met through another friend in the Philippines. The other day I walked 4.5 hours (about 17 kilometers) from this very central house to the direction of the small island of Pulau Ubin, at the border to Malaysia. I was curious about it since I love a lot little islands.

Walking means I start thinking. Walking is my vehicle to start reflecting. That’s why traveling plays such a big role in my life. Walking is so special because it includes exhaustion and revelation at the same. Walking some hours in a row in a good speed gets you into a very focused state of mind — you feel tired (exhausted) but don’t care too much about it. When your mind is like that — again relaxed like in tip 2 — it’s easier to have revelations or personal insights. These insights will help you in your writing because when you start walking with a writing block in the back of your head, the long walk will unblock you.

In my personal case, on that specific day (April 26, 2014), I wrote:

It translates to:

Sports, radio and the advertisement are the places where it’s more likely to find your place as a rebel and unconventional thinker and where you can live out that part of your personality.

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy learning how to write and help nonprofits and new startups that bootstrap. You may also join my exclusive Facebook group “Find your coast. Write in focus.” in which you learn overcoming the hurdle of starting to write and tackling the problem of everyday distraction.

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