30 non-surface level UX terms every designer must know

A quick primer of UX vocabulary to feel more comfortable in industry


Christian Leong

3 years ago | 3 min read

The UX industry is littered with surface-level, buzzwords that have come to symbolize naïveté in design. User-centered design, I’m looking at you. Here are 30 advanced terms I’ve learned during my time in industry to help you avoid this.

UX Related Terms

1. Hero use case

The storybook use case of a design. Oftentimes the easiest and most powerful story tied to the design. This is the use case that will apply to the most users in the context of your design.

2. Happy path

The optimal journey a user takes through your design. Is sometimes, but not always the hero use case.

3. Wayfinding

Ways in which users navigate through your product. I.e. profile pictures are sometimes used as elements to improve wayfinding, with regards to locating user preferences.

4. Friction

Challenges that prevent users from reaching their intended goals within the context of a design. Can be used in positive contexts as constraints designed intentionally to dissuade users from taking unwanted actions.

5. Constraint

A preventative mechanism used to guide users away from sub-optimal actions. I.e. greying out an unavailable option is a constraint.

6. Edge case

A type of use case that only occurs for a minority of the user base. I.e. colorblind modes are usually edge cases.

7. Iteration

An incremental change to a design. In the development process, these usually happen after testing.

8. Entry point

The first presented screen of an experience.

9. Ingress

A touchpoint used to transition to another screen. I.e. tapping an app logo is an ingress into that app.

10. Schema

A set of expectations for a given experience. Oftentimes used as a singular descriptor to communicate the ways that users perceive or will perceive your experience.

11. Script

A set of expectations for how an experience will play out. I.e. when ordering ice cream, one goes to the store, looks at the ice cream, tastes the ice cream, and finally buys the ice cream.

12. Heuristic

A mental shortcut used to make a quick, but sometimes un-optimal decisions. I.e. educated guesses.

13. Motivation

A reason for users to use your design. One of the core considerations during hypothesis discovery.

14. User value

Value new design delivers to the user, oftentimes measured through pros and cons.

Business Related Terms

15. Feature intake

A repository of features to be worked on, communicated by product teams, but most often managed by non-product teams.

16. Scope

Oftentimes described by product teams as “what is in scope” and “what is out of scope”. Features planned to be completed during a certain time period.

17. Requirement

Objectives that in scope design must accomplish. Oftentimes communicated in the form of user stories: As a user I must be able to…

18. BRD

Business Review Document. A document used to communicate a feature’s requirements, scope, questions, and other important developmental information. Oftentimes written by a member of the product team.

19. MVP

Minimum viable product. A baseline framework consisting of minimum requirements needed to give users a baseline experience of that product.

20. Limited rollout

Sometimes, but not always an MVP — a product release with limited (functionality). Oftentimes used in the context of testing core functionalities, or making sure core functionalities achieve their goals within the product.

21. North star

A future vision for a feature or product. Definition of “future” can vary–i.e. the vision could be for a year down the road or 10 years down the road.

22. Roadmap

A detailed plan with key milestones developed by the product team to communicate and facilitate the developmental process timing.

23. Sprint

A time-boxed period within the agile development process that a certain amount of work is planned for. Progress is then reported once the sprint ends.

24. Time-box

A set amount of time committed to a project. I.e. I am time-boxing an hour out of my day to design despite most of my day being filled with meetings.

Engineering Related Terms

25. Redlines

A detailed guideline used to specify exact characteristics of a design (i.e. margins, spacing, color hexes).

26. IxD spec

An interactions guideline detailing the possible interactions that can be taken within an experience. These guidelines can be made by flipping through the interactions in a presentation software, or digitally through a prototyping software.

27. Dough boy

A prototypical representation of an object. I.e. a dough boy avatar might be an un-detailed silhouette of a man/woman.

Miscellaneous terms

28. Sync

A meeting, most oftentimes used to sync, or update stakeholders on project progress.

29. Workaround

An untraditional solution to a problem usually occurring offline at the office. I.e. paper prototypes are workarounds for digitally developed prototypes.

30. Kickoff

An initial exploratory meeting to consolidate knowledge, and understand a new feature’s product space prior to designing.


Created by

Christian Leong







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