One of the problems with coining a term like “user experience” or its acronym counterpart “UX” is that it opens up the floodgates for other trendy experience-related acronyms to enter the web design lexicon.

CX, DX, EX, HX, JX, PX, UX, (U)XD…

Is all of this really necessary though?

While I don’t think you need to go adding EX or JX to your vocabulary anytime soon, it’s still a good idea to educate yourself on what these X acronyms mean and how to use them to your advantage in business.

The X’s of Web Design and Marketing

The two most common experience acronyms in web design and marketing are UX and CX. What you may be surprised to learn, however, is that the “X” in these acronyms doesn’t always stand for “experience” nor does it always pertain to the end customer.

Let’s review what each of the X acronyms means and then we’ll talk about which ones you actually need to worry about and use.

Customer Experience (CX)

CX refers to the quality of interactions a customer has with a brand, from the very first encounter to their very last. As such, customer experience is the most important of all the X’s to monitor, measure, and maintain.

Think about all of the places where the CX could go off the rails:

  • A broken form on the website dissuades them from trying to connect with a brand;
  • A support representative fails to respond in a timely fashion, leaving the user feeling helpless;
  • The customer makes a purchase every month for two years, but has noticed a degradation in quality over time.

This is why it’s so important for businesses to have a game plan from Day 1 — especially one that ensures a consistent delivery of products and services throughout the lifetime of a customer relationship. Any misstep in CX could cost a brand a customer’s business and loyalty.

Digital Transformation (DX)

DX refers to a technological evolution within a company. Although it’s not a term you commonly hear thrown around, it’s happening around us all the time.

If you’ve ever made a digital shift within your own business (say, from one OS to another or from a manual process to one that’s automated), you know what far-reaching effects it can have. Your time, money, and sometimes even your clients can be impacted by the change if you don’t prepare for it in advance.

Imagine what happens when it’s not just a sole business owner or freelancer who’s affected by a digital transformation.

Emotional Experience (EX)

There are two ways in which “EX” may be used in design or marketing. This is one way.

Think of emotional experience as a subset of user experience. Instead of focusing on developing a clear set of steps that take a user through their journey, EX design and marketing focus on the elements that evoke strong emotions: Powerful color palettes; Nostalgic images; Messages of urgency.

Any time you build something with the intent of pulling on someone’s emotions, that’s emotional experience design — and it’s a really common thing we do today, even if we don’t all go referring to it as EX.

Employee Experience (EX)

This is the second use of EX you may encounter, though it’s not very likely unless you’re working in a digital agency environment. Even then, this is the kind of term that only corporate might use.

While it might not be a commonplace phrase, the concept is a good one to flesh out, whether you work in a team atmosphere or you have aspirations of hiring your own team someday. All employee experience really refers to is how team members feel about and respond to a work environment and their organization as a whole.

Essentially, EX is UX for an internal organization. And by researching what employees want, collecting feedback on how they feel, and reviewing data on their productivity and job satisfaction, companies can effectively improve the employee experience — which should have a trickle-down effect to CX.

Human Experience (HX)

I’ve heard it said that HX is all about taking UX and CX to a new level.

Even though they’re both meant to create a more pleasing end user experience, the belief is that there’s still too much focus on the technology instead of the humans we should be serving. That it’s only when we stop focusing on how technology can attract and convert and please more customers that we can fulfill the real purpose of a company.

While honesty, transparency, and ethics are the kind of ideals every brand should strive for, it’s not always realistic to prioritize them what with how difficult it is to convince users to convert. There’s just too much information competing for their attention right now. So, while it’s nice to think about being able to market and sell a company to human beings instead of generalizing them as “users” or “customers”, that’s just not feasible for newer and smaller companies.

That said, I think HX is still a worthwhile concept to keep in mind. While you might not be able to do much with it now, it can certainly be a game-changing differentiator once a brand has long been established.

Job Transformation (JX)

JX and DX go hand-in-hand.

Basically, as companies adopt more and more digital solutions, and those solutions become more complex (thanks in part to AI), jobs are going to change. So, rather than hire IT specialists who can manage on-site hardware and software, businesses will be looking for AI specialists and cloud service providers who can help them make the most of their all-digital operation.

Partner Experience (PX)

PX may refer to one of two things. For this one, the partner in the experience could be a business partner, product supplier, SaaS provider, etc. Basically, any third party who you have a relationship with.

As far as web design and marketing goes, PX can affect you in a number of ways.

For example, if you were to manage web hosting on behalf of your clients. You notice that their site’s gone offline, so you reach out to the customer support representative from the web hosting company, but they’re either non-responsive or have no clue what the heck is going on. Who do you think your client is going to be upset with? No matter how much you try to pass the buck, you’re the one who’s set yourself up as the go-between, so it’s going to fall on you.

Now, let’s say you’re a solo web designer and want to partner with a copywriter since clients keep asking for help in that area. In that case, PX could affect you in a similar fashion. If the writer were to fall short in their duties (or vice versa), not only would your relationship with them be compromised, but the relationship between you and the client would as well.

Bottom line: the relationships you have with partners and suppliers plays a critical role in your success, so you do need to spend time focusing on those experiences.

Public Experience (PX)

PX, in this instance, is more likely to be used by agencies that specialize in branding and market research. That’s because this one has to do with how a brand is perceived by society. And all of the other acronyms contribute to it.

For instance:

  • An employee believes they were unfairly fired and puts the company on blast on Facebook. It gets picked up by a major news source and the story goes viral.
  • A website is hacked the day before Black Friday, leaving thousands of users without a place to buy all of the gifts they were hoping to get on sale that holiday season.
  • A company releases a new app which parents are calling for a ban on because it reinforces unhealthy stereotypes.

From the product itself to how the company engages with the public, there are many ways in which the PX may be affected. While each of the contributors — including you the web designer — have to be cognizant of how their choices and actions may affect the public image of a brand, it’s more likely the branding team will need to worry about PX.

User Experience (UX)

You’re probably already familiar with UX. This is the term we use to describe how a user (visitor) feels as they walk through a website or app. And how each step they take and each interaction they make, adds up to an overall experience.

In order to “create” a user experience, designers, developers, writers, and marketers need to be able to step inside the shoes of their users and build a journey tailor-made for them. I’ll explain in more detail how that happens in the next point.

(User) Experience Design (UXD)

The subject of user experience design is a common one discussed here. Just recently, the following UXD topics have been explored:

UXD is a discipline that requires a lot of research, attention to detail, and testing. And the end result is a website or app that’s highly usable, accessible, and enjoyable. That’s because every element, step, and interaction has been carefully thought through. And not only that, the experience is constantly reevaluated, tested, and updated to continually serve the end user.

As far as you’re concerned, I’d say that UX/UXD is the most important acronym for you to concern yourself with.


The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of value in accepting the underlying principles of these acronyms. However, I’m not sure we need to make “designer speak” sound any more complicated than it already is.

After all, your clients don’t want to hear you talk about how DX is affecting the way we build the UX of websites. They want real speak. They want to know what exactly you’re going to do for them; not spend extra time asking you to elaborate on what all of that design jargon means.

Plus, if you do get caught up in all of these “experiences”, you might not get anything done. What I’d suggest is to focus on the ones that matter:

UX — even if you’re not an official UX designer by trade — is incredibly important.

CX is another must, though the only CX you can fully control is your own. You’ll have to trust that the clients you work for will deliver the rest on their end.

I also think DX is a good one to keep in the corner of your mind.

Technological advancements aren’t going to stop anytime soon and you’re working in a field where the tools you use and the tech that affects your business are constantly changing. So, while you might not talk about “DX”, you do need to accept that it’s going to have a profound effect on how you work, how you develop processes, and what you’re able to do for clients.

Like I said earlier, the underlying concepts of each of these X acronyms are valid and do hold some value for you as a web designer. As you work on growing your business — by adding more services, hiring employees, upgrading your tech — it would serve you well to keep these in mind to ensure you maintain a positive experience across the board.

Featured image via Unsplash.


The chief marketing officer role has had quite a ride this year, with many brands falling in — and out — of love with the C-level marketing position in 2019. Coca-Cola announced this week it was promoting Manolo Arroyo, president of the Asia Pacific Group, to chief marketing officer after not having a CMO since 2017. Unilever, a company whose former CMO Keith Weed helped lead the fight for a more transparent advertising ecosystem, elevated Conny Braams from EVP of Unilever Middle Europe to chief marketing officer and chief digital officer in March. The company had left the position unfilled following Weed’s departure in December 2018.

Still, other major brands have moved away from the CMO role this year. In July, after McDonald’s CMO Silvia Lagnado exited the company, the brand named two SVP-level roles: an SVP of global marketing and an SVP of marketing technology, but no C-level marketing position. Lyft lost its CMO in May and has not replaced the role since. (In fact, if you search for the word “marketing” on the ride sharing app’s leadership page, you’ll get zero results). Johnson & Johnson is another big brand that decided to cut the CMO role this year when it parted ways with its Chief Marketing Officer Alison Lewis, releasing a statement that the company was establishing, “A new business model that streamlines priorities, allows us to operate more efficiently and increases our investment in categories that offer high potential for growth.”

What’s in a name…or title?

What a company does with the CMO roles makes a statement, says Marketing Land columnist Anand Thaker. He believes a brand’s choice to leave the role unfilled points to the broader evolution happening between brands and their relationship with the customer. It’s difficult to tell if the industry is leaning away from the CMO title or if brands are simply “re-delegating” CMO responsibilities to new C-level officers. Last month, JCPenney announced Karl Walsh as chief digital officer after naming Shawn Gensch chief customer officer in June. Walsh will lead JCPenney’s digital platforms and the company’s consumer-facing website (overseeing e-commerce initiatives) and will report to Gensch. As CCO, Gensch is, “Responsible for revitalizing the company’s brand, leading marketing initiatives across all channels, shaping the company’s messaging and delivering an outstanding digital experience to JCPenney’s customers,” according to the company’s leadership page.

In JCPenney’s leadership structure, with no CMO in place, digital strategy and online commerce fall into the overarching “customer experience” division led by the chief customer officer who also oversees branding, marketing and messaging.  (JCPenney declined to comment when asked about its decision to have CCO and CDO roles versus a dedicated CMO.)

“The CMO title is really semantics,” says Keith Johnston, VP and research director for Forrester, “The significance of all this is really a final signal that whatever the title is, those in it need to rise to the skills and leadership requirements of what the diverse role of the modern ‘C_O’ must be.”

Johnston says, as things stand with everyone having access to the same technology, branding is more important than ever.

“Disrupters are always around the corner. None of this is about killing what the CMO does, but rather raising the bar to what they may not be delivering: no brand can be launched, sold, experienced or serviced without a synchronized brand strategy (BX) and customer experience strategy (CX),” said Johnston, “The ‘customer’ simply does not separate the two in reality or in their emotions.”

The underlying factor: Growth

Johnston, who helped write Forrester’s recent look at the CMO role, says we are in an era where the demand for growth isn’t a yearly conversation, but one that happens from quarter to quarter — and CMOs are in the middle of it.

“Our research has had ‘growth’ as the #1 goal four out of the last five years for the CMO,” said Johnston.

Following growth, other top goals for the CMO role include customer experience, improved products and services and the ability to innovate, which, as Johnston points out, may not even be initiatives the CMO can control.

“Marketing has a role, of course, but you need more. Budgets and decisions need to be harmonized to drive real growth in today’s market,” said Johnston, “It requires customer focus, great strategy and a brand that speaks to both customers and employees. This is a lofty demand for today’s current CMOs which is why we are reaching for new titles and talent.”

Upgrading the CMO role

Erica Seidel, CEO of The Connective Good, an executive recruitment firm specializing in marketing and marketing technology roles, says she sees a shift happening with CEOs looking at their whole team and realizing they need a lot of upgrading.

“They start that upgrade with a role that can be nice and broad. In that way, the CMO role becomes a ‘breakthrough’ role with tentacles into product, experience, etc,” said Seidel. Her insight into the industry and the CMO role match Forrester’s research that the CMOs who will thrive in the coming year will be the ones who understand customer experience as essential to building the brand.

“In some companies, the CMO role is breaking ‘up’ — splintering into the niche specialties of marketing,” said Seidel. This appears to be what JCPenney is doing with its CCO and CDO roles. But in other cases, Seidel says the CMO role is actually ‘breaking through’ and owning a number of responsibilities that previously may not have belonged to the brand’s marketing organization.

“Strategy, product, channels, customer experience, pricing, analytics and more are unifying into a powerful — and increasingly interconnected — scope of responsibility,” said Seidel, “Just like software, both the best-of-breed and all-in-one approaches can work.”

Marketing’s impact remains the same — regardless of the title

A number of forces are driving these changes for the CMO role. For one, companies are becoming acutely aware of how siloed their teams are in connection to the customer journey. Two, digital transformation and the explosion of marketing technologies have expanded expectations of marketing organizations.

“If we’ve learned anything in the last two decades of digital disruption, it’s that customers won’t wait for companies to change,” said Johnston who believes the chief digital officer role has been nothing more than a proxy for the limitations of the current leadership, “For the CMO, adding this role is code for ‘you’re not digital enough’ for the CIO.”

Regardless of the title, marketing’s role is still focused on the same goals: growing the brand and building an audience, all while delivering exceptional customer experiences, no matter the channel. CMOs, CDOs and chief customer officers are all aiming for the same results, proving the acronyms matter less than what the role can produce.

“The brand ethos that has built many billion-dollar companies still rings true,” said Johnston, “It has just taken a different shape. Hence, whatever the title, the role of the senior-most marketing executive must be seen as a business-critical thinker by the CEO and the board; but that leader must have the modern remit to drive growth effectively and deliver the value of today’s customers’ demand.”

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.