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Putting the ‘User’ into User Experience
Blog / Brand Strategy

Putting the ‘User’ into User Experience

Good UX is rooted in customer research and understanding, not assumptions and generalisations.

UX, UI, Design thinking, Customer Experience. What’s the difference? At some point in the recent past, you’ll have heard at least one those terms being chucked around and it’s confusing, right?

But it’s important not get bogged down by the terminology. At the heart of the matter, all these things boil down to the same principle of understanding how your customers behave, what they need to make them happy and being able to deliver it. In other words, designing a great experience for someone whether they’re browsing for a pair of sandals on your webstore, scrolling through an article on their way to work, or simply ‘liking’ that hilarious cat video.

As Leah Buley describes it: “Simply put, user experience is the overall effect created by the interactions and perceptions that someone has when using a product or a service”. Ultimately, UX is all about an outcome for someone, either positive or negative. Bad UX can make your customers feel dumb or stupid. It causes friction.

On the other hand, good UX almost goes unnoticed – it makes customers feel smarter because they accomplish what they wanted to do without having to think. And who doesn’t want to feel smarter?

 

Why does UX matter to your business?

It’s all about a good brand experience that leads to customer satisfaction. As UX pioneer Jesse James Garret puts it: “if customers have a bad experience, they won’t come back. If they have an okay experience with your site but a better experience with a competitor’s site, chances are they’ll go back to the competitor and not you. Features, functions and aesthetics always matter, but user experience has a far greater effect on customer loyalty”. Ultimately then, happy customers equal happy bottom lines.

But, remember - you are not the user!

Good UX is rooted in customer research and understanding

Good UX is all about a user centred design mindset, examining the habits and motivations of REAL people to make them happy. To make your customers happy, you need to understand them and their needs. Sounds obvious, right? But many companies are guilty of simply assuming they know exactly what their customers want and how they behave. For example, how many of us have heard the following?

“I want it to look like so-and-so’s site”

“I think the users will like this”

“All women like pink, right?”

“Nobody scrolls”

“We have to put this widget the client wants in here somewhere”

Clients, designers, developers, and even UX researchers fall prey to what is known as the false-consensus effect, projecting their own assumptions, behaviours and opinions onto the customers. When we don’t stop to think, we all tend to assume that others share our beliefs and will behave in the same way we do. Your needs or a client’s needs are not the same as your customer's needs.

Design based on assumptions has nothing to with what the customer really wants or needs. You need to design based on real people, real data and real insights. In short, if you don’t talk to your customers, how will you know how to talk to them?

When the design process is done like this, before you know it, you’re stuck in an awful feedback loop with the client and you’re onto version nine of amends. Then up pops another stakeholder with their two cents.

This is where the most crucial element of UX comes in - the user research. Generally achieved through a combination of workshops, surveys, interviews and focus groups, the aim is for everyone involved in the project to arrive at a common understanding of the various customers. By no means an exhaustive list, this looks to answer the following:

  • Who are the customers?
  • What do they expect to be able to do with the product (website)?
  • What are their fears/frustrations/challenges?
  • Why do these things matter to them?
  • What is affecting their decision to act?
  • What do we need to do to meet their needs?
  • What provides value to them?
 

Armed with these answers, you can then begin to build an understanding of a customer’s true needs, behaviours and motivations, as well as their pain points (this is where the big opportunities lie).

From here you can form a set of clear personas and user types, eventually arriving at a series of User Stories and Decision Paths like the one below:

AS {THIS USER}
I WANT TO {_______}
SO THAT I CAN {_______}

Now for the bad news. Despite everything we’ve described, UX is not some magical silver bullet. Yeah, sorry about that. It is an ongoing process. Through consistent testing, research and analysis it can help you to validate changes and make improvements wherever possible.

With technology evolving at a dizzying pace, we will soon arrive at a time where even one click is seen by users as one click too many. Here, reducing friction through good UX is going to be more important than ever.

 

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