How a Spa experience can explain what UX is all about

by | 11 Oct 2019

The User Experience (UX) is defined by its creator as: “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products”.

In order to provide a great user experience, all customers’ needs have to be uncovered and met to elicit emotion such as “a joy to own, a joy to use(D. Norman and J. Nielsen)

Simple, right? But whenever I try to use this definition with my parents or friends, their faces look more or less like this:

And soon after, the most common question: “What do you mean?”

So, let’s use the UX approach to better explain what User Experience is, starting from the three levels (visceral, behavioural and reflective) that it concerns.

How a Spa experience can explain what UX is about

What did you do last weekend? Can you remember it? Did you enjoy it?

I’ve been with some friends in a beautiful Tuscany Spa, it was modern yet warm, with lots of plants falling from the ceiling. Colours were neutral and lighting soft.



Do you feel you want to go? This is because the description and photos above were able to capture your “visceral” level.

The Visceral level

Can be related with the instinctive “reptilian brain” and concerns itself with appearances.  At this level, visual elements such as colours, shapes, and styles, are used to elicit emotional responses and to improve the overall experience.

In order to reach this level and create a beautiful visual, the UX designers work closest with the UI (user interface) designers creating the Design Principles and the Digital Guidelines along with several other techniques.

Let’s carry on.

In the SPA we had a bath in thermal water where my headache magically disappeared because, as a worker explained to us later on, the water has bicarbonate and other beneficial elements inside. Our skin was so soft, and we felt totally regenerated.


If I have convinced you with this, it is because you have a strong “behavioural” level.

The Behavioural level

Is related with the “mammalian brain” and involves the pleasure and effectiveness of use. More specifically, it refers to the emotions we feel as a result of either accomplishing or failing a goal’s completion. If we feel fast, productive, clever with the minimum conscious effort, it’s likely that the related emotions will be positive and that we will use that product again and again. 

UX designers and UX researchers test the effectiveness and efficiency of a product through different techniques such as Usability testing and outcomes from quantitative research. It is also achieved by respecting the currently accepted “best practices”.


When we arrived back home, we called our beloved and told them everything about the spa experience, promising to bring them with us next time. The following days we kept talking about it with other friends or acquaintances.

This is the “reflective” level.

The Reflective level

Is related with the verbal and self-aware “homo sapiens brain”. The process here is to rationalise the experience and to understand if it can be useful to increase our self-image and our pride. If the answer is yes, we extract information, we create a story and we share it with others.

In order to tap Into this level, UX designers conduct qualitative research and follow techniques such as storytelling and mappings, but they also need to collaborate with all other departments to create a memorable and “sticky” experience.


To summarise, “today the word User Experience is horribly misused, it is used by people to say, I am a user experience designer, ‘I design websites’ or ‘I design apps’, and they have no clue about what they are doing and they think the experience is just with that simple device, or with the website or the app, or who knows what. NO! it’s everything, it is the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life (…)” (D. Norman)







@Image1: Richard Ople,



@Image7: Anastasiya Gepp,