If you’re new to mobile app design or development, 99% of the words you hear will seem alien. There will be several UX terms that can confound you, especially when they are identified by their acronyms.
To save you the hassle, we have compiled a colossal list of UX terms – 85 in total – that can make your conversations more effective with or as a designer. Have a look.
85 UX Terms Every Designer Needs to Know
1. User Interface (UI)
User interface (UI) is the means by which a user interacts with the application. It is what the user sees of the application and can be considered as a set of commands or menus used to interact with the application. It is that space where the user interacts with the machine.
2. User Experience (UX)
User experience (UX) is one of the essential UX terms (obviously) and refers to the experiences and emotions a user undergoes while using an app (or any product as a matter of fact). UX designers can thoughtfully design and place UI elements and use their tricks to delight users.
3. User Experience Design (UXD)
User Experience Design, popularly known as UX design, is the process of designing app screens by keeping in mind the interaction between a user and the application. The primary reason behind UX design is to enhance the user experience of an app with intuitive features, ease of use, and minimal cognitive load.
4. Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Graphical user interface (GUI) is a subset of UI that allows users to interact with an application or machine via graphical elements such as icons and audio indicators. UIs which aren’t GUIs may have text-based components and navigation or command-line interfaces.
5. Interaction Design (IxD)
Interaction design (IxD) is the practice by which the designer focuses on how the user will interact with an application.
6. User Journey Maps
User journey maps is a document that represents how a user interacts with the app to complete tasks or to achieve their goals. It is one of the essential UX terms and is commonly represented as a timeline that includes all touchpoints between a user and the application. These maps allow designers to see an app from a user’s perspective.
7. User Flow
It is the path taken by a user (usually prototypical) to complete a task. User flows don’t have to be linear in nature and may branch out to different paths. For example, a user may visit multiple online stores before purchasing a product from a particular website, whereas another user may click on an ad and directly land on the product page.
Sketching refers to drawing the basics of the UI (usually in papers) as the first step towards conceptualising the mobile app’s design. It can include basic icons and communicates the app’s concept to the stakeholders and is subject to modifications.
Also known as screen blueprint or page schematic, a wireframe depicts the skeletal framework of an app and can be considered as a visual guide. It will contain all the critical elements of the app and will be more detailed than sketches.
Mockups are detailed static representations of the app’s design. Generally, mockups will contain the information structure, basic functionality and dummy content in static form. Mockups are capable of giving the stakeholders a glimpse of what the final app will look like and takes less time to create as compared to prototypes.
Although prototypes are often confused with wireframes, the former stimulates (mimics) a basic level of user interaction. In essence, it is a detailed representation of the final app and allows users to test the primary functions.
12. A/B Testing
A/B testing (also cited as split testing) is the method by which two alternatives of an element are offered to the users (can be a difference in colour, screen layout, position, or size) to determine which they prefer the most.
13. UX Analytics
UX analytics refers to the collection of tools that allow developers or designers to analyse user activity and determine how the design can be enhanced to meet the needs of the users. App development companies may run focus groups or conduct online user surveys to gain qualitative and quantitative data.
14. Usability Testing
Usability testing is performed to identify usability barriers and to determine how easy it is to use an app with a particular design – thereby finding ways to improve usability. It involves several tasks to observe how users interact with an app’s design and include methods such as card sorting, screenshot click testing and tree testing, to name a few.
It is the measure of an app’s usability by individuals who have one or more disabilities. Accessibility design refers to designing for individuals with disabilities such as blindness, colour blindness, deafness, or cognitive impairment.
16. Golden Ratio
Also known as the golden section, the Greek letter Phi or golden mean (and a lot of other names), the golden ratio is approximately equal to 1.618. It is a number inspired by nature and made its way to graphic designing as the ratio is aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. Here’s a golden ratio calculator for you to try out.
It is a system of horizontal and vertical lines that offers a structural basis for the app design. It is a network of lines that provides a standard structure for content placement.
Microcopy is a vital UX writing term that refers to the small bits of meaningful texts that help users understand the context of a screen or perform a task. They can be seen throughout the app as error messages, hints, or labels.
19. Colour Contrast
Colour contrast refers to the difference between any two colours. Black and white create the highest contrast ever possible (according to our current understanding of the colour spectrum). Generally, there must be a considerable contrast between the background and text colour for readability.
If the contrast is too high, it can cause irritation to the eye and gives out a messy impression. However, most manufacturers and apps offer a high contrast setting as an accessibility feature.
20. Colour Wheel
A colour wheel is a circle that shows the relationship between primary, secondary and tertiary colours.
21. Brand Book
It is an official document that holds a brand’s identity and sets brand standards. Along with the design aspect, a brand book may include a company’s overview and communication guidelines as well.
22. Corporate Identity Guideline
It is a manual containing the guidelines for a company’s brand, messaging, and image that are delivered to the public. Just like a style guide, this document contains rules regarding the usage of fonts, colours, and logo.
23. Style Guide
Style guides, also known as “living documents”, explains an organisation’s branding scheme such as fonts, colours and navigation icons, to maintain consistency.
24. UI Kit
It is a collection of files that standardise the UI design of an application. It will include information about functional components such as buttons, navigational elements, widgets, colours, fonts, and forms. It also helps developers to code a component once and reuse it throughout the application.
25. Mood Board
Mood boards are digital collections of images, fonts, icons, and UI elements to communicate the artistic voice, style and direction of a project.
Storyboarding is used to visually predict a user’s experience with an app. With its help, designers can foresee the user flow and determine how users will interact with an app. A UX storyboard focuses on problems rather than user journey or personas.
27. User Scenario
These are scenarios made by designers to display how a typical user might act to perform a task or achieve a goal in a particular environment.
28. User Stories
User stories are representations of small episodes of a user’s life and will describe how the user will interact with the app to accomplish a particular task. User stories allow designers to prioritise and organise how each app screen is designed.
29. White Space
White space is the area between UI elements or content. Although the name signifies the colour “white”, it can vary in colour, texture or pattern.
30. Card Sorting Method
It is an exercise in which participants are asked to sort a collection of cards, based on their interpretation, into different categories. These exercises are used to determine how users associate items with one another and are helpful when it comes to designing navigation or information architecture.
31. Diary Study
Diary study is a critical UX term that refers to the research method by which qualitative data about user behaviour and experiences are collected over time. The period can range from days to even months.
32. Ethnographic Study
It is a qualitative research method by which researchers observe users in their natural habitat to better understand them.
33. Drunk Testing
As the name suggests, drunk testing involves testing a product when under the influence of alcohol. According to its creator, the test is aimed to deliver complete honest feedback.
34. Hallway Testing
It is a method of testing by which users are approached on random, in and around the office and requested to take part in a small usability testing. This testing reduces the formalities needed to test an app and is also helpful in gathering insights from a broader audience.
35. Visual Hierarchy
It is a UX term that describes the method of organising elements in the order of importance with respect to a user. This means, arranging elements in such a way that the most important one should be positioned to be noticed first. Such a hierarchy is attained using colours, contrast or image placement.
36. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A minimum viable product (MVP) is one which includes just the basic yet essential features. More features are added to it based on the feedback from users. It is a cost-effective method of testing the product hypothesis and determining whether the product concept has the potential to fetch the expected return on investment (ROI).
37. User-Centred Design (UCD)
User-centred design is an approach towards understanding who will be the intended users (end-users) of an application or product. In such an approach, designers keep in mind the end-users and their needs throughout the design process – to create highly usable and accessible applications.
A button is a UI element that triggers an action when tapped. There is an “enter” button to submit data or “close” button to close an app.
A checkbox is a UI element that allows users to input their choice for a binary option (yes/no).
40. Call to Action (CTA)
CTAs are visual or UI elements that invite a user to perform a specific, desirable action. For example, a button that reads “try for free” is a CTA.
41. Hamburger Menu
The hamburger menu is one of the essential UX navigation terms. It is a navigational element used in apps or websites and is usually composed of three horizontal lines. It makes navigation a breeze by offering direct navigational access and collapsing menus under it.
Onboarding is one of the significant UX terms that refers to the process of letting app users know how an app works and its features. It is one of the most critical campaigns that can enhance user experience and customer lifetime value.
Gamification refers to the method of integrating game-like elements or features into an app, even though it isn’t explicitly classified as a game. Gamification is performed to engage and retain more users.
44. Design Thinking
Design thinking is a process in which designers try to understand their target audience and challenges associated, to identify alternative strategies that may not be evident at the first look.
With design thinking, designers can better understand the users and bring more empathy into the design process. It revolves around five stages – empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test.
45. Empathy Map
Similar to user personas, an empathy map can be used to gain a deeper understanding of the target users. The map is split into four quadrants with the persona in the middle as says, thinks, does, feel. Empathy map helps in creating a shared understanding of a user’s needs.
End-user is the individual for whom the app is developed.
47. User Research (UXR)
User research (UXR) is the process of understanding the users’ behaviour, motivations, needs and worldviews with the help of a series of observation methods and task analysis. While market research gives an overview of the target audience, UXR focuses on individual behaviour and goals.
48. Pain Points
Pain points are a set of problems that prospective users of an app is currently experiencing. They are the problems which the app will try to resolve.
49. User Engagement
User engagement is the measure of interaction between users and the app. It determines whether the user was able to find value in the app and is related to the overall profitability. The higher a user engages with an app, the more loyal they are.
50. Human Factors
Human factors, also known as ergonomics, is the use of psychological and physiological principles to design an application. It is also called comfort design or functional design and focuses on the interaction between the user and the application’s elements.
51. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
Human-computer interaction, previously referred to as man-machine interaction, is the study of how humans interact with computer systems and enable researchers to understand how to better serve users. Many consider HCI as the forefather of the UX approach.
52. Eye Tracking
An eye-tracking system is used to determine the areas where the user looks the most and to track where a user is currently looking at. Although it has numerous applications in the medical field, eye tracking is used in terms of UX to evaluate the UI.
53. Iterative Design
Iterative design is a methodology that places an application as a living project that requires regular tweaking and enhancements. With iterative design, apps undergo a cyclical process of prototyping, testing and refinements.
54. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
55. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Cascading style sheets, popularly known as CSS, is a style sheet language used to describe how HTML will be displayed. It has numerous styling options and gives HTML components their colour, typography, layout and more.
56. Native App
57. Hybrid App
Hybrid apps combine the elements of both web and native applications.
Adaptive design refers to a collection of multiple app layouts explicitly designed for different screen sizes. It is the method by which websites are made mobile-friendly, or mobile apps are made to fit in various screen sizes. In principle, when the system detects a different screen size, it selects and displays the most appropriate screen layout for the screen.
59. Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Responsive web design is similar to the adaptive design – it adapts to different screen sizes. But the difference between the two is that responsive is fluid and adapts to any screen size dynamically, unlike adaptive, which uses static layouts.
60. Mobile-First Design
Mobile-first design is a design approach in which you create an app for the smallest screen first and work your way up to devices with larger screens. It is about delivering the right experience to the right device.
Affordance is a clue that tells what an element is capable of performing. For example, a bulb’s switch is an affordance designed to notify that it can be turned on or off. Similarly, in user interfaces, affordance is used to communicate what can or cannot be done with an element.
62. Information Architecture (IA)
Information architecture (IA) refers to the manner in which an app is structured and how its content is organised. More precisely, IA focuses on labelling, organising and structuring content in an efficient and sustainable manner.
63. Vertical Rhythm
It is a concept that originated from print typography by which the vertical spaces between elements on an app screen are made consistent.
Avatars are graphical images used to represent a user if they haven’t uploaded an image of their own. In some cases, apps allow users to choose their own Avatar or auto generates one considering the user’s preferences. In games, avatars are regarded as the embodiment of a person.
Short for emotion icons, emoticons are pictorial representations of facial expressions. They are an easy way to convey a person’s emotions and can take the form of numbers, letters, punctuation marks, or icons.
Graphics interchange format (GIF) is a never-ending loop of video clips or images, primarily used in an informal setting.
Pixels are the smallest addressable units of digital images or graphics that can be displayed on a screen. The number of pixels of an image is called its resolution.
68. Pixels Per Inch (PPI)
It is the measurement of the number of pixels that can be placed in a one-inch space.
69. Heat Maps
They are graphical representations of areas of your app that receives the most attention from the users in the form of taps. Red represents the areas where the users tap the most.
Breadcrumbs are a method of navigation that allows users to quickly pinpoint their location in an app or website. As the name suggests, they trace the path back to the starting point, especially if there is a sophisticated content structure.
71. Dark Patterns
It is a trick used by apps that results in unintended user actions such as signing up for newsletters or buying additional things. A typical example for this is the little tick mark in the Facebook login page that says “keep me logged in”.
72. Effectiveness Ratios
Effectiveness ratios measure how successfully users completed a predetermined task on an application.
73. Efficiency Ratios
They measure the time taken by a user to successfully complete a predetermined task on an application.
74. Flat Design
Flat design is a UI design style that often uses minimalistic 2-D elements and vivid colours.
Persona is one of the essential UX terms and by definition is a fictional character who represents a particular target group and can vary in terms of age, technical skill, attitude, or profession.
76. Material Design
Developed by Google in 2014, Material design is a design language to deliver high-quality app experiences.
77. Mental Model
Each person has their own way of describing how something works in the real world. A mental model is such an explanation. And this explanation is dependent on the environment in which the person lives. For example, to navigate towards the bottom of a page, some users may have a mental model of “scrolling down”, whereas some will have a model of “swiping up”.
78. 80/20 Rule
Also known as Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule means that 20% of the features and functionality in an environment (app, in this case) will be responsible for 80% of the actions taken in the very environment.
79. 60-30-10 Rule
The 60-30-20 rule is a decorating rule, used to create a colour palette and give a balance to the proportion of colours used. In simpler terms, the rule means that 60% of the space must be a dominant colour, 30% secondary and the remaining 10% must be an accent.
80. Software Development Kit (SDK)
SDK is the acronym for “software development kit”. It is a set of development tools and programs that allows a developer to build custom apps for specific platforms.
81. Application Programming Interface (API)
API is a code that allows apps to communicate with each other and exchange information.
It is a hardware or software component, used to store data for fast retrieval. It is a temporary storage location and significantly shortens access time.
A bug or software bug is a program error that causes the application to crash, preventing them from working, or producing incorrect output. They are a result of human error and need to be corrected for smooth functioning.
84. Hick’s Law
It is related to concepts such as the paradox of choices or cognitive load and in definition means that as the complexity or number of choices increases, the time taken to make a decision increases.
Chatbots are software programs that are powered by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These programs are capable of conversing with humans and uses textual or auditory means to do so. The more you communicate with a chatbot, the more it learns.
In a way, the industry demands that you master these acronyms and terms as a first step towards becoming a mobile app developer or designer. Especially in a corporate setting, having a remarkable UX vocabulary will help you better understand user requirements and effectively communicate with developers and other designers.