User experience: what it is, how to do it and how to optimize 

User experience is everything that refers to a person's experience with a system, product or service. It involves all the user's perceptions before, during and after interactions and must be considered at different levels of interactivity.

user experience (ux)

Today, in an increasingly digital world, much is said about user experience. But there is a lot of confusion on the topic and this name is often confused with others, such as: shopping experience, consumer experience, page experience, customer experience, consumer experience and so on.

Ultimately, all of these terms refer to the same goal: to satisfy the user, to meet their real needs, whatever they may be. After all, with the growth of the internet and the digital transformation, people have more and more access to information and, with that, more power in face of companies and decision making. It is not for nothing that they say that we live customer era

The user experience concerns the use of something, interactions with any type of element, be it physical or digital. But here, we are going to explore the term with a focus on digital, thinking mainly about the reality of virtual stores

For this, we will cover the following topics:

What's up, let's go? 

What is user experience, anyway? 

The user experience refers to the user's perceptions of all the interactions he has with a system, product or service and, at a broader level, of all points of contact with a brand. 

But, as we already said, there is a lot of confusion around what user experience really means, which came from English user experience (UX)

Some, imagine it to be the same thing as customer experience, or customer experience (CX). While others treat it as referring only to a user interface - user interface (UI) - and related only to websites, applications or operating systems. 

To clarify once and for all, how about looking for the definition of the term in its origins?

When and how did the term come about?

The term user experience came up in the 1990s, when Donald Norman, a cognitive psychologist and usability engineering scholar, joined Apple to improve users' experience with their computers. 

When it came out, the term was very comprehensive and, in Norman's own words: "it's all about your experience with a product, even if you're not even close to it". 

See in the video below in more detail what he says:

Initially, the definition of user experience was quite broad and, as we have seen, this is still the most appropriate definition for its inventor. But, over time, the concept has evolved and today it is approached from the perspective of different levels of experience, according to the NN Group - company founded by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen. 

User experience levels

According to the NN Group, there are 3 levels of user experience, as shown in the image below: 

user experience levels

Let's understand each one below:

  • Single interaction level 

This first level is the smallest scope of UX, it deals with the performing a single task and specific by the user. For example, when a customer enters your online store and signs up for the newsletter. He just fills in the email field, clicks the subscribe button and that's it, the action is finished. 

In this case, the experience unfolds in the use of the user interface. It is at this moment that the user is impacted by the experience on the page and by the work carried out in fields such as UX design, interface design and information architecture. 

  • Journey level

In this second level, we have the experience in a broader way. It includes a person’s entire journey as they search achieve a goal. This journey can happen over time and involve different interactions, channels and devices. A good example of this in e-commerce is what we also call shopping experience ou purchase day

In this case, the journey can start in an advertisement or in an organic search on Google, then go through the access to the virtual store website, display of products in store windows, clicks, searches, shopping cart and order closing. And it can also involve confirmation emails and, finally, delivery of the product to the requested location. 

Note that when we think of a digital medium, such as e-commerce, the experience on the page, on the interface and on the purchase journey are predominant at this level.

  • Relationship level 

This is the broadest level of user experience, it involves all interactions between the person and the company over the customer relationship, so it is often called customer experience. It can include several journeys and, consequently, all types of channels and devices existing in that relationship. 

The experience at this level usually involves researching and purchasing a product, all the actions described at the journey level and also a support for the use of that product for several years and / or the relationship through content marketing, email marketing etc. . 

In the most specific case of e-commerce, it may be the signing of a plan in which the customer pays a fixed monthly amount and receives a surprise product every month. An example of this is Hello Melissa, Melissa's signature club. 

One level connects to the other

As you may have noticed, the interaction level UX influences the journey level UX and both influence the relationship level. Each level of experience is important and has its own set of restrictions and goals. One level is not more important than another, so companies should seek to offer a good user experience at each level, respecting their particularities.

What is the difference between user experience and customer experience?

It is very common to confuse user experience with customer experience, but, as we saw in the NN Group's definition of experience levels, CX is part of UX, it is within it, contrary to what many think. Although it is the broadest and most complete level within the user experience. 

But for NN Group, it doesn't matter whether you're going to use the term user experience or customer experience, because they basically mean the same thing. The most important thing is that you understand the different areas of experience, strive to optimize it at all levels and that you and your team use these terms consistently to minimize friction and misunderstandings.

To go deeper into the subject, read this article

The 3 Pillars of User Experience

There are many lists, rules and guides on how to achieve a good user experience, especially with regard to the user interface (UI). But according to Jakob Nielsen, one of the fathers of this concept alongside Donald Norman, there are 3 basic and immutable pillars that are often not followed by UX and UI designers and other professionals in the field. Check out what they are. 

1) Initial focus on users

The first pillar is the initial focus on users. It is important to discover and define the characteristics of the users, what we call develop the persona, and then observe it when doing your tasks - a procedure also called field study

2) Empirical evaluation

The second pillar is the empirical evaluation of the product or interface. That is, the realization of tests with real users, using printed scenarios, paper prototyping or even more elaborate prototypes of the product, system or service in question.

 3) Iterative design 

The third immutable pillar is iterative design, which is repeated. Jakob Nielsen believes that you can never make the perfect user interface on the first try, regardless of how good the designer is. 

You must always go through the cycle: design, test (prototype), evaluation, redesign. The more often this is done, the more chances of increasing the quality of the design and / or final product

design cycle - user experience

It is extremely important to take these 3 basic pillars into account when creating your product, website or online store. Remember: making beans with rice well done is much more effective than creating amazing things that do not fulfill the main objective. 

How to guarantee an excellent user experience?

Well, after all this, you must be thinking: “cool, it is essential to follow the 3 pillars thinking about the 3 levels of interactivity, but, after all, how to guarantee an excellent user experience in my online store?”, “How should I start ? ”. 

Regardless of the level of experience, the relationship with the product or system is the center of everything, it is the reason for all of this to exist. According to ergonomics expert Patrick Jordan, there is a hierarchy of consumer needs with respect to the product and / or system that must be observed: 1) functionality, 2) usability and 3) pleasure.

consumer needs hierarchy - user experience

Thinking about the reality of a virtual store, we can say that all products sold in it should meet these needs, as well as the interface of the website itself.

But, let's stick here to the site, that is, the experience within the virtual store, also called page experience, which is even one of Google’s new ranking factors. 


Your online store should be able to perform the functions for which it was designed, that is, the customer must be able to find and view the products he wants and finalize the purchase, if he is interested. 

In addition to having a functional website, having a smart search helps to optimize searches and prevents the customer from finding the desired product.


In addition, you must ensure usability within your store, taking into account the following characteristics: ease of use, accessibility, intuitiveness e efficiency

A widely used method to identify possible usability problems in an interface are the 10 Nielsen heuristics

  1. System visibility: the system needs to keep the user informed of what is happening. 
  2. Mapping between the system and the real world: it is important to use a language familiar to the user, using words, phrases and concepts that are understandable and already known to him.
  3. User freedom and control: the system should offer options for leaving an unwanted state, without loss of information.
  4. Consistency and standards: the system must follow standards and conventions of similar platforms. 
  5. Error prevention: it is important that the system notifies the user of a possible error before it happens. For example, when entering a wrong email address.
  6. Recognize rather than remember: the system should retrieve previously offered information, such as CPF number, instead of asking for it again every time. 
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use: if possible, offer shortcuts to simplify user actions.
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design: one should avoid irrelevant or rarely needed information in windows and dialogs.
  9. Support for the user to recognize, diagnose and recover errors: error messages must be clear, demonstrate the problem accurately and suggest a solution. 
  10. Help and documentation: it is important that the system has a help section and supporting documentation. 

Furthermore, it values ​​the responsiveness - adaptable website for all screen sizes - and site performance optimization (WPO): host the site in a safe and stable manner, preventing it from going offline; and values ​​the speed, optimizing images, deactivating unnecessary plugins and choosing a theme that is not so heavy. 

Pleasure / desirability

Despite seeming to be of lesser relevance, according to Jordan, pleasure or desirability is another very important point to note. Therefore, your online store should be visually attractive: invest in a visual identity and bet on differentials, such as gamification, interactivity, UX writing and personalized product recommendation com smart shop windows. Anyway, anything that can make browsing more enjoyable. 

Quality at all levels of experience

Although we have focused on issues related to the interface, ensure that the customer experience has quality and meets the criteria of functionality, usability and pleasure at all points of contact with the user, such as:

  • tools you use;
  • emails you send;
  • content marketing;
  • product recommendation;
  • delivery;
  • attendance;
  • relationship;
  • sales channels;
  • Support;
  • after sales.

How can I further optimize my e-commerce experience?

I did all this and I want to further optimize the user experience within my online store, what to do? Invest in solutions with artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is able to store and process an immense amount of data and information and learn from the system and users. This has been increasingly used in favor of the user experience, through the process automation and experience customization

Automation optimizes the time of both the end customer and the professionals, who can dedicate themselves more to customers and strategic tasks. Personalization makes the client feel unique and special. 

Artificial intelligence for e-commerce

Check out some technologies for e-commerce where it is already possible to rely on artificial intelligence:

To learn more, read also: 4 examples of artificial intelligence in e-commerce.


If you've made it this far, you've already realized how important and broad the user experience is. You already know that it has 3 different levels of interactivity, which must be respected in the same way; knows the 3 basic and immutable pillars of the user experience; knows the hierarchy of consumer needs and Nielsen's heuristics; and knows how to optimize the experience through the use of AI. 

In fact, it is not an easy and simple task, but you have certainly taken a big step in the quest to ensure an excellent user experience. 

We hope this content has been useful and will help you in the next steps.

Did you know that SmartHint’s main focus is elevating the e-commerce experience through the use of artificial intelligence? With this, we optimize and personalize the user experience within the virtual store, through an intelligent search, a recommendation system with autonomous showcases and retention pop-ups. Discover our technology! 

To share:

About the author:

Tânia d'Arc
Graduated in letters and post-graduated in digital media, she is passionate about words, communication and details.