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Ever heard of analogies in user experience? In this article, How the analogies method UX Help Improve the User Experience, we will discuss what the analogy method is and how it help designers provide better UX.

This article will also cover the following:

Defining UX analogy

A UX analogy is a method UX professionals use to help others understand new concepts. It often compares two concepts, not necessarily related, to create a common theme.  This method helps UX professionals better understand the need to do UX design before product development. It focuses first on interaction design and information architecture before creating a visual design.

To better understand the concept of analogy and how it relates to user experience, we will define related terms associated with the UX analogy method. These are:


Defining interface metaphor in UX

In UX design, an interface metaphor has defined a set of user interface visuals, actions, and procedures that exploit users' already available knowledge about the other domains.

The interface metaphor aims to give the user immediate knowledge about how to interact with the product’s user interface.


Defining analogy in design thinking

Analogy, as we have defined earlier, is about comparing two dissimilar things together to draw on a parallel theme or create a larger point.

In UX, using the analogy method works best during the brainstorming sessions, or often called the ideation stages.


Why use analogies in UX?

Humans are familiar with analogies. We use these to make sense of the word. We continually use analogies as a way of understanding the things around us. It helps us better understand new concepts, teach them to others, and see the familiar in a new vision, enabling us to generate sounding solutions to existing problems.

In UX, analogies are used the same way. Here are the benefits of applying the analogy method:  

Understanding the unfamiliar

One obvious benefit of applying UX analogies is it helps us see new concepts and experiences in a new light. Human minds constantly and unconsciously compare new concepts we already know to understand these concepts better. We often look for similarities between our past experiences and any new situation to help us understand the new and unfamiliar.

Communicating new concepts

Another benefit that the analogy method brings is it helps UX professionals explain to others and help them understand new concepts.

This is often seen when a UX professional tries explaining the UX design process to a beginner. We often use the building-a-house analogy, comparing a UX designer to an architect, site maps and wireframes to blueprints, and software development to constructing the house.

This comparison helps beginners to UX fully understand that there is a need to do UX design before beginning product development.

Solving problems

Another human behavior we see when it comes to understanding a new problem is we often think about similar problems or situations we’ve encountered in the past. Then we compare the similarities, contrast the differences, and apply the lessons we learned to our current situation.

That said, the analogy method is useful in problem-solving, especially when it comes to facing an unfamiliar problem. In this case, we can think about similar problems or situations we’ve encountered in the past, then compare their similarities and contrast their differences. And we apply the lessons we learned to our current situation.

Comparing similarities between different domains helps us generate novel solutions to problems.

Looking into the familiar from a different view

The analogies in UX can also provide a technique for generating new ideas. This is a way where we often compare familiar concepts to something else that is somehow unrelated.

Asking questions like “What else is this like?” or “Where else have I seen something like this before?” can generate analogies that enable us to see something familiar from the point of view.

Learning concepts from another field

There are some instances where we also compare user experience to another related field like architecture, print design, and engineering.

Most of the time, since these fields can become highly technical, it is easier to apply analogies to see the connecting dots between user experience and these fields. Each of them focuses on designing experiences. Examining how professionals in other domains handle similar situations can lead us to new ideas.

A fresher look at user experience

There are instances where we also compare user experience to something that isn’t so obviously connected to it.

For example, let us take a step back and see user experience from a new perspective. This style of comparisons enables us to re-examine elements of user experience that are so common and familiar that we don’t even consciously think about them anymore.

Grabbing attention by humor

Yes, we can also do analogies using humor. These kinds of analogies may also provide good points; however, the goal is to attract our attention with what may seem like a ridiculous comparison.

In this approach, we may write an article about user experience: What UX Expert Can Learn from Mr. Bean. It is interesting to compare user experience with a famous show in the 90s and make some good connections. Now we have a unique and humorous article that will attract attention.


When to utilize UX analogies

We have already defined what analogies are and how they are connected to us as humans in our everyday experience of the world.

Particularly, we have learned that analogies are part of the human experience.

While we have also explained that analogies in UX are utilized in a similar way, things may be a bit different in the design world.  

However, the purpose of using analogies holds true in the real world and in UX.

We use UX analogies to:

  • build empathy with users
  • synthesize and define information
  • generate new ideas around a problem
  • gain a fresh way of looking at an environment


How analogies are used in improving user experience

Below are five reasons why UX analogies are often used to improve the user experience:

Analogies translate abstract to concrete terms

We have already discussed how using analogies can help users better understand unfamiliar terms. Linking abstract information to a concrete concept becomes easier for people to understand the piece of information.

This method is applied to web icons based on familiar concepts people see in daily life.  

These web icons usually refer to something that users know from the real world so they can somehow relate to an abstract concept on the web.

Analogies create familiarity

Humans love to recognize things. Notice whenever we cannot recognize something, our brains try their best to make sense of it? This is where Gestalt principles are often applied in UX user experience design.

We naturally want to recognize things by analyzing patterns to get an idea of what we are looking at. It is by recognizing mental patterns it helps us to accept and understand the unfamiliar.

For example, an exclamation mark signals importance. Thus, we often see this applied as an icon to alert users to read and note the important message.

Analogies trigger emotions

Analogies in UX are also utilized to trigger emotions since emotions not only make a UX design aesthetic more effective, pleasurable, and memorable.

Sometimes, the user experience design requires a burst of personality that is used for recognizing patterns and marketing purposes.

For example, a website may have written a good subject, but also the website uses colors in designing the page. From yellow for happiness, blue for serenity, and red for excitement, color can create an appropriate emotional cue in user experience design. Individual preferences may influence a particular viewer more, but each color has an established emotional weight that the average viewer recognizes.

Analogies draw users’ attention

Analogies are also used to make a user experience design stand out from the other elements on the website. The purpose of doing this is to draw attention to a website in general or to very specific elements within a web page.

One way to make a design thinking element stand out is to use bold and large fonts. Large, bold, in-your-face typography is very popular these days. You can incorporate oversized font into the design to draw attention to a product or service. This simple change to a webpage can draw in a prospect and encourage them to look harder at what you have to offer them.

Analogies motivate users to take action

Analogies can also influence users’ actions by translating interactions that we know from the real world to online. In the same way, we can also transfer knowledge to the screen. By doing this, analogies become engaging and actionable because users intuitively know what to do.

We can look at how interaction design websites respond to a user’s interaction. These websites can also guide the user journey with captivating animations, videos, and other interactive elements. Additionally, most of these types of websites do more than delight users — they help keep the users engaged on the site longer.


Conclusion

Now that we have identified analogies in terms of user experience, we can gather new ideas of structure from a design thinking, experience, or problem solving based on analogies.

Analogies often require a great understanding and knowledge of the area in design and industry analysis. We suggest taking your time to analyze and dig deeper to be able to come up with good utilization of analogies in UX.


Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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