A scientific view of User Experience

Marc Hassenzahl believes “user experience (UX) is a strange phenomenon” (Hassenzahl & Tractinsky, 2006, p. 91). He also says user experience supports all aspects of the interaction of the user with the whole product and services around it (Hassenzahl, 2006). In another discussion the concept of user experience is associated with a wide variety of meanings (Forlizzi & Battarbee, 2004) from beautiful to hedonic and the functional features of a product (Hassenzahl, 2006).

Hassenzahl (2008), in another article about UX, says: “User Experience (UX) is not just old wine in new bottles” (Hassenzahl, 2008). It tries to widen the horizon of interactive technology in a high quality way, and also tries to have a closer connection to humans in order to create a good experience around a product (Hassenzahl, 2008). Regarding this description, Hassenzahl added a definition; he believes a “Good UX” is the consequence of fulfilling the human needs for autonomy, competency, stimulation, relatedness, and popularity besides being in touch with the product or service.

In another research paper he calls these features hedonic qualities of a product (Hassenzahl, 2005). On the other hand, pragmatic quality will be mentioned. They should facilitate the way that a product can achieve its own functional goals. He puts hedonic quality against pragmatic quality and in another article uses these two qualities to describe a model of user experience.

Hassenzahl (2005) proposes a model for user experience from the two different perspectives of users and designers. In the figure, both models can be reviewed.

hassenzahl.pngBased on this figure it can be observed that a product has specific features such as content, presentational style, functionality, and interactional style. Typically, a designer is choosing these features, and s/he is making the product character. Hassenzahl believes “a character is a high-level description” (Hassenzahl, 2005, p. 32). Cognitive studies show that the function of character is to reduce cognitive complexity and to create particular strategies for handling the product (Hassenzahl, 2005).

On the viewers side, they first catch the product's features. They make characters of a product for themselves and will try to define hedonic and pragmatic attributes of a specific product (Hassenzahl, 2005). Then the whole apparent character lets them judge a product by saying "It is good/bad" (Hassenzahl, 2005, p. 32). It will also allow other consequences such as emotional and behavioral responses. However, the consequences of a particular product character are not always the same. They are moderated by the specific usage situation (Hassenzahl, 2005).

This discussion talks about the importance of creating products that make valuable consequences. There are important issues here: How designers can make sure that they are delivering a product that is meaningful and has decent usability. How they can make a good ‘situation’ for users to get transferred from apparent product character to consequences? In order to answer these issues, it can be valuable to see what the pragmatic and hedonic attributes are.

Pragmatic and Hedonic Attributes

In the area of software products, studies show that pragmatic attributes of these products are “clear”, “supporting”, “useful” and “controllable” (Hassenzahl, 2005, p. 34). A pragmatic product is an instrumental product that satisfies all of the functions that could be expected from those combinations of attributes (Hassenzahl, 2005).

Hassenzahl (2005) counts the rest of a product’s attributes as hedonic attributes (Hassenzahl, 2005). He has chosen this term because it is important to differentiate these two types in order to be able to consider each of them and let them become measureable. Pragmatic attributes try to cover individuals' behavioral goals, while hedonic attributes support the psychological aspects of being good. In Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2014) the adjective hedonic means something ‘connected with feeling of pleasure’. Therefore, mentioning the ‘hedonic’ shows his belief in the powerful potentials available in pleasure, which are stronger than pragmatic attributes (Hassenzahl, 2005). The hedonic function of products can let them be identified as special products and help them be remembered later. For example, “outstanding”, “impressive”, “exciting” and "interesting" can be some of software products’ hedonic attributes (Hassenzahl, 2005, p. 35).

In order to make a successful product, it seems both pragmatic and hedonic attributes must be developed in the best way to make a strong relationship between the product and its users. Regarding the last discussion from Hassenzahl (2005), he also discusses the combination of these two types of product attributes and shows different types of product characteristics based on this combination.


Hassenzahl, M., & Tractinsky, N. (2006). User experience-a research agenda. Behaviour & Information Technology, 25(2), 91-97.
Hassenzahl, M. (2008). User experience (UX): towards an experiential perspective on product quality. In Proceedings of the 20th International Conference of the Association Francophone d'Interaction Homme-Machine (pp. 11-15). ACM.
Hassenzahl, M. (2006). Hedonic, emotional, and experiential perspectives on product quality. Encyclopedia of human computer interaction, 266-272.
Hassenzahl, M. (2005). The thing and I: understanding the relationship between user and product. In Funology (pp. 31-42). Springer Netherlands.
Hassenzahl, M., Beu, A., & Burmester, M. (2001). Engineering joy. Ieee Software, 18(1), 70-76.
Eslamifar, A. (2014). A Tool for Empathetic User Experience Design (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University).

Comments (0)

Have a question about something in this article? You can receive help directly from the article author. Sign up for a free trial to get started.