Defining the User Experience
I don't design user experiences, i design for them
The user experience is what a customer thinks & feels when they engage with a product.
From visiting a website and researching a destination, finding and booking flights, comparing travel insurance products, picking a seat when checking in online, shopping for duty free at the airport to exploring the in flight entertainment options on the plane, each of these involve an interaction that can result in a positive or negative experience for the customer.
User experience design, is the practice of creating products that are useful, easy to use and learn, and are desirable to use.
The biggest biggest mistake we can make in our line of work is assuming we know what the the end user of the product wants and relying only on best practice UX principles to get us to a deliverable. To some extent we can use empathy to walk a mile in our customer's shoes, after all we are all digital consumers and working within this industry provides us all with unique insight into what generally ‘works’. What UX design affords us, is the tools to go further than ‘best practice’ - to ideate, create, test and iterate to ensure the products we create are useful.
Why the sudden interest in 'UX'?
People demand better experiences online.
The experience someone has in 3 minutes using your app, or looking for products or services on your website today, influences weather they spend another 3 minutes tomorrow. It influences whether they book that flight, or not. Buy those shoes, or not. Today customers have a choice, to simply move onto the next website or platform that can provide them with the experience they want, or do they stick with you because you gave them the experience they deserve. Only 17% of consumers have stated they would stay loyal to a brand with un-satisfactory user experience.
With our multi screen lifestyles we spend 80% of our waking lives using digital products. From checking your bus timetable when you leave the house, the software you use all day at work, to the fitness app you log your workout in at the end of the day. We need to be mindful that we are creating products that influence how someone experiences time. We endeavour to ensure is that time is not wasted, but well spent by the experience. That’s how you ensure your customers stay loyal to your offering.
What are the implications?
An awakening in the Force
We’ve had an awakening in the understanding of the user experience by our clients, who are starting to see the importance of user research & testing, and requiring of us evidence of formal procedures in place to verify our insights before their products go live, and they are willing to pay for this because they see the VALUE insights and proof a successful user experience can provide to their products before they go to market.
Larger budgets dedicated to the UX process have enabled us to transition from using our basic instincts and empathy as users ourselves to inform outcomes, to a more formal user centred research, design and testing approach.
Designing for User Experiences
Lets talk about the holistic customer experience.
I don’t just design experiences, I design for them. I look at the big picture for all new projects, using a collaborative approach with Strategy, UX, Creative, Design & Development working closely, making decisions on how it looks and works together. This is the only way to ensure a shared project vision is maintained from the start to the end of the project.
For me, the user experience doesn’t just begin at the first digital touch point when they land on a webpage, or install an app. I take 2 steps back and identify:
Context – Who is the user? What channels did they use to get there? What varying devices may they be using? Is the connection fast or slow? How savvy are the users, do we need to dial up or down the tech to meet their needs?
Motivation – What is the user mindset at the time? Is there a reason for their visit? What problems do we need to solve? What outcomes are they expecting? Are they wanting to be led on a journey, or would they rather explore?
We need to get to know the user, and to do this we must ask them about what they want their experience to be. Identify desire paths - paths of least resistance based on existing product pain points. What level of engagement can we expect from users is determined by who we are talking to. It’s all about asking the right questions to identify the human need, to inform the UX architects when crafting the ideal experience. Persona generation and empathy maps are a helpful resource, to enable UX teams to refer back to user attributes/needs/wants etc to help define the priorities in the rollout of an agile product release, or validate a solution design.
Often we’re able to use user research in conjunction with analytics to identify bottlenecks in the process. We’ve even been able to identify pain points in Apps by reading the comments left in the App stores.
There are 5 very simple principles we can begin with when defining a solution to meet the business and user needs:
- Understand your users and support their goals - what are they trying to achieve using your product? Talk to them, discuss their challenges and fight for their cause.
- Be consistent – ensure actions continually create the desired outcomes. Performing task A should always end in step B.
- Use simple and natural terminology - make it feel like they are not being communicated to by a computer. If there’s a problem, such as an issue logging into the website. make sure you don’t just tell the user there’s a problem, tell them how they can fix it.
- Remove unnecessary mental effort - ‘Don’t make me think’ is one of the most popular UX books by Steve Krug. Why make users hunt for their starting point when we can show them the way through great IA or implementing on-boarding steps.
- Make your interface easy to learn and enjoyable to use - put things on the screen where people expect them, use existing patterns and affordances that digital consumers are familiar with.
These principles are not just the responsibility of the UX team working on a project. It is up to everybody who touches the project to contribute to a successful delivery. An important part of leading a UX team is fostering an understanding that changing your mind is OK! Knowing that through this iteration process we are going to come up with ways to make the product better from the start to the finish.