In this article, I won’t explain the whole process of designing a user experience. Instead, I will explain the concept and give you some insights to help you taking a step back to improve the user experience that you offer.
What is user experience design?
When you think user experience, generally, you associate it with digital. And you are right, the user experience may refer to the experience that a user can have on a website or an application. Many brands think it is important to be visible on the internet, except that they forget that their website should not be a simple showcase. Instead, they should reproduce as much as possible their in-store experience and embody the spirit of the brand. For instance, Amazon’s employees work hard to improve continuously the user experience. Why is that? Because they want to help people making easier and faster decisions, they want to design simpler, more intuitive and more consistent interfaces, they want to meet customers’ needs… Ok, but are you telling me that Amazon is very kind with people and behaves like a charity? Of course not, they have business objectives set behind this. I will explain it soon.
However, this concept is not a disruptive innovation, it is far from being new and not limited to web activities. This term probably came from Apple in the early 90’s when the psychologist Donald Norman joined the staff, he became the first user experience architect. Regardless of the creator, the user experience is a topic of interest since at least a century (Toyotism, ergonomic researches, customer-centric marketing…). You may have heard about the experience economy, this is what is happening today. I am almost sure that you have already heard the expression: “customer is king”. Well, I think it is a good summary of the concept. The user or the customer is put at the centre of the designing process, whether it’s an application, a computer or even a chair. Apple is a good example. Instead of designing a product, Apple adds value to its products by introducing a real customer experience. From the time the customer purchases the product until they consume it, Apple tries to do its best to bring a fluid user experience: intuitive, simple, aesthetic and appropriate. Apple realised that a good user experience is valuable, and that is mainly why they can set higher prices than their competitors (this is also a strategy to make their products more desirable on the market, but this is not the point of this article).
How can you create a good user experience?
First, you need to understand that bringing a good user experience is not (or at least should not) being the labour of a single person. On the contrary, you need to gather different point of views, and it should be the result of multiple design steps. In other words, you need to collaborate with people from different backgrounds. At least 3 main areas must be considered in the process of designing a UX: business (marketers, financial analysts…), technology (developers, database architects…), and usability (ergonomist, designers…). If you want to create a valuable user experience, you need to consider the technology that you use (I invite you to read another article that I have written on the subject). You cannot afford to have bugs inside your applications or even suffer from a slow user experience. There is nothing worst than frustrated consumers!
A brand have many touch points, and all of them must be considered in the process. Any experience that a user may live with your company should be as fluid as possible. Don’t forget that a user is a person, and any experience that he faces will be associated to a memory, an emotion, a feeling… You must give him the best impression, and for that, you need to anticipate and put yourself in his shoe. Thinking is an important part of the UX, this is part of the marketers’ job. You need to know your target, and for that, you need to identify marketing personas and journeys in order to better adapt your content marketing strategy. We are in an era where one cannot offer undifferentiated content anymore, the content must be adapted and needs to be relevant. The storytelling technique is more and more common because it brings back the user at the centre! It helps the customer feel more comfortable. Moreover, many websites try to implement social features to get people involved such as sharing opinions, forums, chats… And many ecommerce websites try to recommend products to the user, depending on their profile. This is part of the user experience!
For a web app or even a product, if you need to explain how to use it, you are missing something. Ergonomists and designers stand for structuring the information and making simple, accessible and intuitive interfaces. For instance, it is important to clearly separate elements, to make forms easy to use and quick to fulfil, to make prominent call-to-action buttons and to have an intuitive search engine… In other words, you need to work on the user interactions (UI) which are important because it defines the way the user interacts with your application or your product. It is only at the end of the process that you need to add the aesthetics part, and this is probably not the most important step. For instance, some well known websites such as Cdiscount, Amazon or eBay are not so elegant… But their ergonomic is good enough to achieve their intended purpose: selling products. What you need to do is testing! If you do not test your application or your product before reaching the market, you will probably fail. And for that, you should make rapid prototypes in order to test them as quick as possible. You cannot build a proper user experience if you are not listening to your audience. In order to test the efficiency of an interface compared to another, many companies use the A/B testing technique to compare the usability and the conversion of 2 (or more) interface versions. Keep in mind that you are testing if the application or the product reaches the intended purpose.
It is important to be aware that designing a good user experience is expensive and takes time. And if you are a startuper and you want to build a complete and “perfect” user experience, someone else may be quicker and you will probably miss the good time to market. That is why I want to introduce you the concept of MVP which means Minimum Viable Product. In other words, you should build a viable product or application with the minimum features to be on time on the market, and then, you will work continuously to improve it. In this way, you will be able to get massive user feedbacks, change your strategy if necessary and add new features progressively. In addition, you will avoid wasting time to build a “perfect” product during 5 years, and at the end, realise that it is already obsolete. Be careful, your product must be viable and usable, otherwise, it will fail.
Why user experience is so important?
In a very tough competitive environment, you need to stand out from your competitors. Bringing a good user experience is one piece of the puzzle that you should not miss! For instance, Amazon found that every 100ms of latency have a 1% impact on their sales. That is why they work continuously to improve the reactivity of their website. In addition, they use also a lot of data that they collect in order to improve the intended objective. It could be to increase the conversion rate, reduce the bounce rate… In any case, they try to figure out why a user leave a page, gives up during the registration process… And then, when they understand the problem, they solve it (or at least they try). For instance, if they analyse that there is high dropout rate, they can work on their registration form to implement fewer fields, because it leads to greater conversion. It is all about analysing user behaviours. But there are also others metrics that can be taken into account, such as user feedbacks, customer support service load…
What you need to remember is that building a good user experience is tough and requires different skills. It is like an extra added value that generates customer satisfaction which leads to customer loyalty, and therefore help the company generating long-term profits. A user should not be frustrated and that is the key. Don’t neglect the user experience at the expense of the functional part. An application or a product with rich features is not enough, you need to make sure that it is usable and meets the business need.