What is “UX” and Why Should You Care?

by | Jul 12, 2016

What is “UX” and Why Should You Care?

A recent survey found that enterprise software use is enjoying steady growth, but consumer software still provides a better user experience. More than 4 in 10 professionals (44%) reported that the overall user experience with business software products is either somewhat or significantly worse than consumer software products and another 23% feel it’s about the same, according to a Tech Pro Research report published by ZDNet.

This challenge in business software development has mobilized the attention of some innovative legal technology companies who are making significant investments to improve the user experience with their products. We spoke recently to Michael Etgen, senior user experience architect at LexisNexis, for a look behind the scenes of user experience in litigation software development. In this first installment of a three-part series this summer, we explore what UX means, why it’s important in business software products and the training required to be a good UX architect.

The origin of the term “user experience” is widely attributed to Donald Norman, a User Experience Architect for Apple, back in the early-1990s. Norman later said he invented the term “because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow.” Given the tech industry’s love for acronyms, it was inevitable that a slick one would emerge . . . and so it did, with User Experience soon becoming UX.

In simple terms, UX refers to the various ways that individual users interact with a certain software product. The concept isn’t complicated and the discussion isn’t new. A decade ago, experts were opining that a great user experience is an essential component of a quality software product, providing a way to differentiate a product from its competitors.

“I’ve been doing UX work on enterprise software for close to 20 years now,” said Etgen. “As a UX architect, I have responsibility for looking at the user experience for legal software products in a big picture way. We do get engaged with things such as user research, information architecture, user personas and interaction models, but I think the most critical thing we do is work directly with customers, product managers and engineers to define unique user experiences that go beyond customer expectations.”

Etgen explained that most litigation professionals don’t know where it’s possible to go with technology, so UX architects strive to create products that are not just easy to use, but maybe even take them places they didn’t even imagine.

“My educational background is in cognitive psychology and human computer interaction, which I think gives me the ability to appreciate both the technical and user experience aspects of software,” said Etgen. “My role now is to focus on the UX for our newest eDiscovery platform, Lexis DiscoveryIQ, which features lots of new and interesting things like machine learning technology. We’re trying to help make eDiscovery more efficient, more cost-effective and way easier to use.”

In the second installment of our series later this summer, we’ll dive into one particular example of litigation software with Etgen and explore why “predictive coding” technology has so far failed to fulfill its promise in eDiscovery.

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This post is by Daryn Teague, who provides support to the litigation software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.


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