What is User Experience (UX) design for building DSS?

by Ciara Heavin
Managing Editor, Journal of Decision Systems


Daniel J. Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

People must interact with a computerized decision support system to use it. Design of the software interface between the application and the user largely determines whether a given decision support capability will be used and whether it will be used effectively, cf., Power, 2011.

User Experience (UX) design or a user-centric approach to design is a process of developing technical artifacts to maximize user satisfaction by ensuring heightened usability, accessibility, utility, performance, marketing, ergonomics and human interaction (Cousins, 2013). The term user experience design was first coined by Dr. Donald Norman, a cognitive science researcher who was also the first to describe the importance of user-centered design. UX moves beyond good user interface (UI) design to explore the interaction between the user and technology.

There has been much focus on good user interface design for computerized DSS. Traditional UI design looks at the use of graphics, data displays and color coding used in the design of applications and especially executive dashboards of information. While also incorporating the design or overall aesthetics of an application, UX digs deeper to understand how a user feels when they interact with a system, taking into consideration the context(s) within which they are accessing and using the system. It is difficult to design an effective DSS without considering the broader context within which senior managers and knowledge workers operate. Therefore, it is useful to consider UX when designing computerized decision supports systems.

Glushko (2015) suggests that UX needs to be central to the design of the next generation of computerized decision support. He offers six recommendations for pursuing UX design for DSS:

1. Do thorough user research, focusing on the context of use

2. Do service-experience mapping, outlining all channels that an executive might use identifying channels that they could or should be using

3. Hire a UX designer onto the team

4. Start by building a minimum viable product (MVP)

5. Test your prototype with the actual audience

6. Identify any major gaps in your working product as quickly as possible

UX design is widely used and understood for desktop and mobile websites, applications and ecommerce. There is an opportunity to further explore best practice in UX design for a variety of computerized decision aids, particularly mobile DSS.


Cousins, C. (2013) Why does user experience matter?

Glushko, A. (2015) Designing the Next Generation of Decision-Support Systems for Business Executives,

Power, D. J. (2011) "What rules should guide DSS user interface design?" DSS News, Vol. 12, No. 4, February 13 at URL

Norman, D. and J. Nielsen, "The Definition of User Experience (UX)," at URL

Summary: "User experience" encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company's offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.

It's important to distinguish the total user experience from the user interface (UI), even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. As an example, consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.

We should also distinguish UX and usability: According to the definition of usability, it is a quality attribute of the UI, covering whether the system is easy to learn, efficient to use, pleasant, and so forth. Again, this is very important, and again total user experience is an even broader concept.

Last update: 2018-11-15 03:11
Author: Daniel Power

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