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Useful terms & definitions


Useful terms & definitions

A/B Testing

Test two or more iterations or versions of a design which enables designers to test out different ideas with users to choose a better option.

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design refers to graphical user interface (GUI) design that adapts to different screen sizes.

Above the fold

The content on a webpage that doesn’t require scrolling to experience

Accessibility (a11y)

Designing products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. Accessibility is just one aspect of inclusive design

Advertising Agencies

Teams of creatives hired by clients to build marketing campaign


A feeling of like-mindedness or compatibility toward something or someone

Affinity Diagram

A method of synthesizing that organizes data into groups with common themes or relationships


Provides on-the-job training to help people develop real skills


Everything from the text and images to the design specifications, like font style, color, size, and spacing

Basic Grid

Intersecting lines that divide pages into small squares, which allows you to easily lay out elements in a design


Favoring or having prejudice against something based on limited information


A method of containment that uses continuous lines that often form shapes, like squares or rectangles, to break up sections of a page

Brand Identity

The visual appearance and voice of a company

Big Picture Storyboard

A series of visually rendered panels that focus on the user’s experience

Call-to-Action (CTA)

A visual prompt that tells the user to take action, like to click a button

Case study

Summarized presentation of a design project that typically includes the project’s goal and objectives, your role in the project, the process your team followed and the outcome of the project

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load is the mental processing power needed to use a product

Competitive Audit

An overview of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses

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Competitive Audit Report

A competitive analysis report outlines the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors compared to those of your own business.

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Confirmation Bias

Occurs when you start looking for evidence to prove a hypothesis you have


The use of visual barriers to keep elements of a design neat and organized; the four methods of containment are dividers, borders, fill, and shadow

Close-Up Storyboard

A series of visually rendered panels that focus on the product

Common Region

The principle that elements located within the same area are perceived to be grouped together

Conversion Rate

Measures the percentage of users who complete a desired action


A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives

Data-Driven Design

This approach of data-driven design helps to create a user-centric design and a better user experience. It enables you to make better design choices based on real evidence about the user’s behavior, attitude, needs, etc.

Design Culture

Design culture is an organizational culture focused on approaches that improve customer experiences through design.

Design Critique Session

A planned period of time where UX designers present their work to team members and listen to feedback

Design Principle

Design principles are widely applicable laws, guidelines, biases and design considerations which designers apply with discretion

Design Research

Design Research is done while you design. Within the product development lifecycle, design research happens during the design stage (stage three) to help inform your designs, to fit the needs of users, and to reduce risk

Design Sprint

A time-bound process with five phases typically spread over five 8-hour days. The goal of design sprints is to answer critical business questions through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with users

Design Sprint Brief

The sprint brief will act as a guidepost for the team throughout the sprint.

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Design Studio

A one-stop shop for the look of brands, products and services

Design Thinking

A way to create solutions that address a real user problem and are functional and affordable


The conversion of design into code, also known as handoff occurs when a design has reached a stage where the developers are to implement the design

Design System

A series of reusable elements that allow teams to design and develop a product following predetermined standards


A method of containment that uses single lines to separate sections of a page


Address of your website

Design Research

Answers the question: How should we build it?

Direct Competitors

Have offerings that are similar to your product and focus on the same audience


Removing any identifying information from a users’ data that is collected during a research study

Drop-Off Rates

The number of users who abandon the experience

Edge Case

A situation that arises if a user take an action that pushes the product to the limit. For eg, if a user selects a birth date which is in the future


Figuring out pain points, behavior, wants, and much more about the user before making any design decisions.


A way of attracting attention to text, a button, or another object in a design

Equity-focused design

Equity-focused design seeks to build products that meet the needs of specific individuals in groups who have been excluded in the past


Building blocks for creating a design

Elements of Design

Design elements are the fundamentals to all designs: form, shape, line, texture, color, space, movement.


The ability to understand someone else’s feelings or thoughts in a situation

Empathy Map

An easily understood chart that explains everything designers have learned about a type of user

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End User

The specific audience a UX designer creates something for


A popular shape or pattern which represents the way users read text or view content. Users start from the top left, and then keep on reading right, much like a reading book


The person who runs the design critique and guides the process


Asking for or receiving ideas about what is or isn’t working in a product design


How closely a design matches the look and feel of the final product


A method of containment that assigns colors to borders and shapes

Five Elements of UX Design

Steps a designer takes to turn an idea into a working product. The five elements are strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface, where each element refers to a specific layer involved in creating the user experience

Friendliness Bias

The tendency of people to agree with those they like in order to maintain a non-confrontational conversation


The size, thickness, and emphasis of characters of text

Foundational Research

Answers the questions: What should we build? What are the user problems? How can we solve them?


Creates the basic structure that focuses and supports the problem you’re trying to solve, like an outline for a project


Designers who work for themselves and market their services to businesses to find customers


UX designer with a broad number of responsibilities such as user research, branding, user flows, UX writing, visual design, prototyping, production design, information architecture, and usability testing, among other things

Gestalt Principles

Gestalt Principles are principles/laws of human perception that describe how humans group similar elements, recognize patterns and simplify complex images when we perceive objects. Designers use the principles to organize content on websites and other interfaces so it is aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand


Any method of interaction a user has with information on their device using touch

Goal Statement

A goal statement is a document that demonstrates your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.

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Groupthink is when one person shares an opinion and everyone immediately agrees with it instead of sharing their own feelings about a subject or topic


The stage of the design process where designers transfer assets, designs and documents to the developers to code

Happy Path

An ideal situation where everything happens perfectly as the designers were expecting. We also call it "Ideal case" or "Ideal path"

Hero image

The hero image is the large banner at the top of a website


A visual design principle that orders elements on a page and classifies them by their level of importance


A design that closely matches the look and feel of the final product and is more refined or polished; called “hi-fi” for short

Human Centered Design

Human-centered design is an approach to problem solving, commonly used in design and management frameworks that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.

Hypothesis Statement

A hypothesis is a statement made with limited knowledge about a given situation that requires validation to be confirmed as true or false to such a degree where the team can continue their investigation and find the best solution to a given problem.

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A system of graphic images or symbols associated with a subject or an idea

Inclusive Design

Focuses on finding solutions to meet different needs. Inclusive design means making design choices that take into account personal identifiers like ability, race, economic status, language, age, and gender


Makes the prototype functional

Implicit Bias

The collection of attitudes and stereotypes associated with people, without one’s conscious knowledge

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the framework of a website, or how it's organized, categorized, and structured


Interviews are a research method used to collect in-depth information on people's opinions, thoughts, experiences, and feelings. Interviews can be performed one-on-one or in a group setting, like a focus group.


An observation about people that helps you understand the user or their needs from a new perspective


Revise the original design to create a new and improved version

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Critical measures of progress toward an end goal


Ways to arrange elements on a page

Layout Grid

A series of columns and alleys that allow you to organize elements in a design


A design that has a lower amount of complexity and is less refined or polished; called “lo-fi” for short


The steps to take to conduct research, collect data, and analyze data


A high-fidelity design that represents your final product, without the interactivity of a prototype


A way to animate static design elements to focus the user’s attention and tell stories

Negative/White space

The gaps between elements in a design

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

A contract that gives one party legal protection against another party stealing their ideas or revealing proprietary information before a product is launched


The person who captures all of the ideas and feedback from the reviewers during a design critique


A few-step process of introducing the user to our product when he first opens an application or a link to a service

Pain Points

Problems, issues, or things that irritate people. These are found during user reseach, or even through customer support. These are part of the user's problems that will be addressed in the design process


Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way.

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Post-Launch Research

Post-launch research can be used to evaluate how well a launch feature is meeting the needs of users


A group of slides, where each slide has new information


The designer who is sharing their work with others in the design critique session

Primary Research

Primary research is research you conduct yourself. Information from direct interactions with users, like interviews, surveys, or usability studies, are considered primary research.

Problem Statement

A problem statement is a clear description of the issue (problem) which also includes a vision and methods used to make ways into solving the problem.

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Project Stakeholders

People who are involved in the project or who will be affected by its results


The balance or harmony between elements that are scaled


A Gestalt Principle that describes how elements that are close together appear to be more related than elements that are spaced farther apart


A prototype is an early model of a product that demonstrates functionality, like a wireframe, but a lot more advanced

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is primarily collected through observations and conversations. Qualitative research is based on understanding users’ needs and aims to answer questions like “why” or “how did this happen?”

Quantitative research

Quantitative research focuses on data that can be gathered by counting or measuring. Quantitative research is based on numerical data that’s often collected from large-scale surveys. This type of research aims to answer questions like “how many?” and “how much?”


Understand audiences and learn about their backgrounds: demographics, like age and location, motivations, pain points, emotions and life goals

Research Study

A step-by-step examination of a group of users and their needs, which adds realistic context to the design process

Research Report

A document to share research insights in detail, with few visuals


Someone who gives feedback about the design and offers clear actions to take during a design critique session


Concept that’s used to explain the size relationship between a given element and the other elements in the design


Describes a system that’s able to maintain performance levels when workload increases


A method of containment that creates dimension in combination with borders or fill

Secondary Research

Secondary research is research that uses information someone else has put together. For example, using information from sources like books, articles, or journals is considered secondary research.

Serial Position Effect

When given a list of items, people are more likely to remember the first few and the last few, while the items in the middle tend to blur


A Gestalt Principle that describes how elements that look alike are perceived to have the same function


Skeleton screens provide an alternative to the traditional loading method. Rather than show an abstract widget, skeleton screens create anticipation of what is to come and reduce cognitive load.

Social desirability bias

The tendency for people to answer questions in a way that will be viewed favorably by others


A specialist dives deep into one particular UX design role, like interaction, visual, or motion design


A storyboard in UX is a tool that visually predicts and explores a user's experience with a product.

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A survey is an activity where many people are asked the same questions in order to understand what most people think about a product. Surveys are a great way to measure the success of your product, during development and after it’s launched.


Combine ideas to draw conclusions

System Usability Scale (SUS)

A questionnaire used to measure the usability of designs

T-Shaped Designer

A T-shaped designer specializes in one kind of UX design and has a breadth of knowledge in other areas

Thumb zone

Graphical representation of the product areas (using the color spectrum) that are easiest or hardest to click with the thumb

Time On Task

The amount of time it takes for a user to complete a task


The technique of arranging letters and text to make the language readable, clear, and visually appealing

Typography Hierarchy

The ordering of typefaces and fonts in a layout to create divisions that show users where to focus and how to find information


The overall style of text, distinguished by stroke weight, shape, type of serif, and line lengths

Type Classification

A general system to describe styles of type, like serif and sans serif


User Centered Design is the philosophy that designers should empathize with the user, put the user in the center of the process and focus on them.


Measures how well elements of your design work together to communicate an idea

Universal Design

Universal design is the process of creating one product for users with the widest range of abilities and in the widest range of situations

Usability Study

A usability study is a technique used to evaluate a product by testing it on users. Usability studies help demonstrate if a product is on the right track or if the design needs to be adjusted.

Use of navigation vs. Search

The number of people who use a website or app’s navigation compared to the number of people who use the search functionality


A user is any person who uses a product

User-Centric Design

User-Centered Design or User-Driven Development is a framework of processes in which usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks and workflow of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process

User Error Rates

Indicate the parts of a design that cause users to make errors

User Experience

User experience is how a person, the user, feels about interacting with or experiencing a product

User Experience Evaluation

When it comes to evaluating user experience, there are a few key questions to examine

UX Research

UX Research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation and feedback.

User Story

User stories are representations of small instances in peoples' lives. They are a type of scenario used in design processes to enable a designer to empathize with a user and, from there, generate ideas that fit into the user's life.

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Differentiating the elements in your design to add visual interest

Visual Balance

The sense that a design is equally weighted on both sides of its emphasized center

Visual Design

How a product or technology appears to users

Visual Weight

A measure of the force that an element exerts to attract the eye

Vulnerable Populations

Groups of people who have limited ability to provide their consent or have special privacy concerns


A wireframe is an outline or a sketch of a product or a screen. It helps the designer figure out how a page is arranged, where each piece of a product fits in with the others, and how users will likely interact with the product

60-30-10 rule

The principle of decorating a design according to a given color scheme. It is, in short, the proportion of using the colors in the way of 60% + 30% +10%