User Experience Defined (in business speak)

I recently had to present how “UX” works here at TUI UK, and in that I outlined the mission statement for what the team does. Our modus operandi as it were. This morning, I was asked for a definition of UX for use in a high level business document, so I extended my UX mission statement, and gave this as a definition:

We take a business problem and craft elegant, beautiful and effective, customer-centric and commercially beneficial solutions. We follow a methodological process, from qualitative and quantitative research all the way through to rapid prototyping and testing, resulting in well thought out, evidence based and validated solutions.


I know that it doesn’t go through all the steps between research and testing (sketching, co-design, paper prototyping etc. etc.), not does it outline the types of research or types of testing (formative, summative, usability, BERT etc.) – but I think that, for a business stakeholder, it gives a nice vignette of what we of.

What do you think?

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Create a UX Playground for innovation

In case you don’t know, I look after the User Experience and Design teams here at TUI Travel, beside Luton Airport. We’re doing some pretty cool and exciting things up here, as part of a large programme of work. This work includes a complete overhaul of two of the biggest travel websites out there, and What’s particularly exciting is that we, the UX & Design team, are playing a key role in setting, and implementing, the vision for these sites.

This vision is to completely revolutionise the way people book holidays. This isn’t just web, we are neck deep in cross-channel engagement and multi-platform delivery.

So, why am I wasting your precious reading minutes telling you this?

Having fun in the UX Playground

It’s been commented a few times that we’ve created a UX Playground for ourselves up here at TUI Towers! The comments have been prompted by the rich number of UX and Design techniques that we try and use here. However, the term UX Playground can be interpreted both negatively and positively.

Let me elaborate! I firmly believe in the need to employ a varied array of techniques, for both research and design. I am also convinced that you need to try techniques that you think will yield the best results for you (in the environment that you are in). Some of these may not work, others will.

The upside of the UX Playground

We do lots of different types of research, and we try lots of different types of research to get the best possible results. This is for three primary reasons:

  1. We do research to get insight into customer behaviour.
  2. We do research to give us a solid foundation for all design work.
  3. We do research that provides us with the rationale and justification for our design decisions.

Digital Diary Study Entries

We also try lots of different design techniques, again to get the best possible results. Sometimes that means going back over work, trying a new approach and seeing if we can make it better. This isn’t gold plating, but if we have any doubt about what we’ve done, a new approach gives us a fresh perspective on things. And we always refer back to our research.

The positive side of this is that the team gets lots of exposure to new and varied research and design activities. Some which, in other environments, you may not see very often. For example, we are currently in the middle of a digital diary study, where participants post to an online diary; but we’re also using postcards as an extra dimension to this. We’ve researched and created a mental model and done some really exciting emotional response testing.

Our design process involves varied techniques too. From Design Jams involving people from all around the business, to collaborative persona needs and user journey creation sessions.

This is great fun. Exploring new ways of getting insight and new design techniques. It’s interesting, it’s varied and, most importantly, it’s productive.

It allows us to most effectively deliver the best results to the business.

Dispelling the negatives of the UX Playground

Brainstorming Persona needs

There is a negative connotation that could be inferred from the term UX Playground (and I’m in no way saying that the people who coined the term meant it in anything other than a positive way!). There could be a perception that we are just trying things out for the sake of it.

Let me refute that now: we’re not! Everything we do is to give us the greatest insight into customers, and to allow us to deliver solutions that afford the maximum competitive advantage to the business.

When we try new techniques we look for the most cost effective way of testing them. If the results yielded are good, then we invest a more, as long as that investment is returned by a tangible business insight and benefit.

My advice: create a UX Playground

If you can, I would advocate creating a UX Playground. An environment where research is an integral part of the process, and where new research methods can be freely explored (in a cost effective and timely manner).

Create a UX Playground where new techniques for collaborative design are explored. Where Gamestorming concepts are used with the business, so that these sessions are fun for all involved.

By making things a little more fun, we become more creative; we make it more engaging for non UX and Design collaborators; and create an workplace that fosters the premiss of trying new things, an environment where innovation is the norm.


PS: if you’re interested in helping us to revolutionise the way people book holidays online, and having fun doing it, drop me a line (alex <dot> horstmann <at> thomson <dot> co <dot> uk) – we’re always looking for great people to come and join us here at TUI Towers!



Looking for some senior UX freelancers

Working for the largest name in travel, you will be working on a incredibly exciting eCommerce redesign project.

We are overhauling our hero brands and, as well as some other smaller ones. With revenues over £1bn, these are the biggest travel sites out there. Here at TUI Travel we have a vision to revolutionise the way people buy holidays; online, cross-channel and mobile.

Want to come and help us to deliver this?

We are looking for a highly experienced UXD/UXA/whatever title you use to join a large user experience and design team. You will be designing, innovating and communicating design throughout the design and development stages of the project.

You will have worked on large, transactional web sites/applications. You will be a creative thinker who will be able to bring new and exciting ideas to the team. It’s vital that you are able to lead design choices, solve complex problems and present solutions that create an incredible user experience.


  • Up to date CV.
  • Portfolio, including examples of most recent work.


  • 5 years experience in user experience design, prior experience in eCommerce/transactional sites preferred.
  • Proficient in Omnigraffle/Visio.
  • Experience in full lifecycle UCD projects.
  • Experience of redesign projects preferred.
  • Writing, carrying out and evaluating user testing & usability testing.


  • User research, including contextual enquiry, focus groups and interviews.
  • Defining site structures and generating of task and process flows.
  • Carrying out user testing.
  • Generation of personas.
  • Wireframe design and interaction design definition.
  • Presenting concepts and techniques to stakeholders.

Facts and Figures:

Contract type:
6 months initially – but this is a big programme of work, so we’re likely to extend by another 6months. 

£400 per day 

Working hours:
We’re reasonably flexible! Some people start at 0830 and leave earlier, others start a little later. We do our daily stand-up at 0930, so that kicks off the day officially. 

We are based in quite nice offices beside Luton Airport (here: There’s a canteen, a coffee shop, break out areas, games area…. 

Travel by train:
Luton Airport Parkway is on the Thameslink route, which has very regular and quick connections from London (30mins from St. Pancras). All people based here have access to a 50% travel discount card for train tickets. 

Travel by car:
We’re 5mins from the M1, and we have on-site parking for all staff. 

The Team:
The UC & Design team is currently 14 strong, made up of UXers, Designers and front end developers. We put a strong emphasis on learning and exploring new things. We hold regular ‘brown bag’/lunch and learn talks, UX Video session etc. Read more about these activities.

Want more information? You can get me on twitter @alexhorstmann, or by email on