12 disciplines under the umbrella term of UX

Confused about how many different design disciplines fall under the umbrella of user experience? This article provides a comprehensive glossary that explains their subtle differences and interrelationships.

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What do you mean by UX?

UX in the digital world is fundamentally about designing products with the user in mind, and involves empathising with users to understand their needs and goals. By prioritising user-centred principles such as usability, accessibility and relevance, products can be made better and more meaningful for end users.

Although simple in theory, 'user experience' (or 'UX' in jargon) can mean many different things, with different disciplines under the umbrella, each with its own focus, components and objectives.

User Research

User research is a discipline in which the product team gathers insights into user behaviour and preferences to inform decisions during product development. UX researchers conduct interviews, surveys, field studies or focus groups with relevant target users to gain a good understanding of their motivations, pain points and goals, and this information is used to build a product that attempts to meet these needs.

User research goes beyond testing stakeholder theories on a handful of acquaintances. To be effective, it needs the right users in the right context, collecting rich data and digging deep to validate whether a solution effectively addresses real user needs.

Information Architecture (IA)

Information Architecture (IA) is the discipline of organising and structuring information on a digital platform’s interface, creating intuitive navigation systems and clear content hierarchies based on logic and design principles that ultimately help users find information quickly and easily, making the product more usable.

To be effective, information architecture must be informed by overall business goals, user research, a sound content strategy and any technological constraints, all of which will guide design decisions about a product's information architecture.


Agile processes have become the norm in product development, and with them prototyping as a core UX discipline. Prototyping consists of building interactive mockups or 'dummies' to test and iterate design concepts before committing significant resources to their implementation.

Depending on your goals and situation, prototypes can take different forms. From pen-and-paper prototypes for drawing and testing concepts, to advanced low-code or figma prototypes with a full interface that mimics a real product.

Content Strategy

Content strategy focuses on planning, creating and maintaining content (text, visual, audio, etc.) in a way that meets user needs and business goals. Content strategists decide what content to create, where and how to publish it, and how to maintain and update it over time.

Closely related to marketing, content strategy also strongly shapes the user experience of a product, with clear and consistent content that engages and retains users or effectively guides them through tasks and product flows.

User Interface (UI) Design

User Interface Design (UI) is the art and science of designing the visual elements and interactive components such as buttons, menus, icons and other graphical elements to ensure a seamless and intuitive user experience for a product. UI designers are experts at organising, presenting and communicating information visually on a screen.

Beyond the visual aspects, designers must anticipate user behaviour and create interfaces that respond appropriately to user input, provide feedback, and are easy to understand, navigate, and use for ultimate user satisfaction.

Interaction Design (IxD)

Interaction designers are primarily concerned with designing the interactive aspects of digital products and systems and how users  interact with, experience, and navigate through an interface.

This specific discipline looks at the design of in-depth user flows, the design of micro-interactions such as feedback and response interactions, but also focuses on accessibility and interaction quality across multiple devices.

Service design

Service Design is a holistic approach that considers the entire lifecycle of a service. By blueprinting a broader product and delivery process, service designers consider the entire ecosystem, including people, processes, technologies and physical environments, to create consistent and user-centric service experiences that deliver value to both users and the organisation.

Service design is applicable wherever a service is delivered, whether it's through digital channels, physical interactions, or a combination of both. Many industries, such as retail, healthcare, finance, transport, hospitality and government, can benefit greatly from applying service design principles to improve their digital service experiences.


Accessibility in UX refers to the practice of building digital products and services so that they can be accessed and used by people with disabilities, as well as people with different needs and preferences.

Accessibility is a standard in most UX design disciplines, as well as in development and content. It encompasses principles such as inclusive design (designing with empathy to create inclusive experiences for everyone), WCAG guidelines (making web content more accessible to people with disabilities), and can include assistive technologies, for example.

Usability Testing

Usability testing focuses on evaluating the usability and user experience of digital products and services through direct observation and feedback from representative users to identify problems with the product and potential areas for improvement.

Designers plan tests, recruit participants and observe user interactions, collecting data using a variety of methods. This data is then analysed and used to inform the next design cycle, leading to continuous improvement of the user experience.

UX Strategy

UX strategy involves the development of plans and frameworks that align the direction and vision of the overall user experience with broader business objectives, and outline how UX will support business success.

UX strategists define KPIs and metrics to measure the success of UX initiatives, develop frameworks for research, design and implementation, plan for growth, and understand the broader landscape that can help inform strategic UX decisions.

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