This article has been contributed by Joshua Geary.
UX is more than the latest buzzword, it stands for User Experienceand UX design has become a forefront consideration in the way that products (and even services) are created to meet and exceed consumer expectation.
For marketers it is an exciting time where research and intuitive design are brought together to create a product that not only inspires the initial purchase decision but one that delivers long term user satisfaction.
With no shortage of manufacturers, products and services available worldwide, brands are looking for methods to differentiate themselves from the competition. There are a number of brand strategies that focus on the primary sale, or creating enough purchase compulsion to ensure that consumers buy the product. But, then what? Can that consumer become a brand advocate for your product?
Can their word of mouth or user satisfaction stimulate more sales and create a viral and centrifugal purchase effect? Yes. And that is exactly why UX is so exciting for businesses, marketers and designers.
UX is about creating a sustainable enjoyment or perception of long-term value.
It is also about making the customer happy in a culmination between psychology, social behavior and marketing.
User Experience (UX) in Website and Application Design
What differentiates your application or website from other competitors? We know that commerce has moved to mobile technology where consumers are accessing brand information through smart phones and tablets. There are a number of considerations that go into mobile application design that can make or break the success of commerce. For the contemporary consumer browsing online, if something presents as difficult to use the likelihood of the website or application converting a sale or positive impression is low. Conversions from web or app traffic to sales depend on a seamless UX design.
It is a focus on human centered design. In other words, an UX designer will translate the creative aspect of the application or website into something that is more palatable for customers. What works from an aesthetic standpoint may not work from a navigational one, and brands frequently focused on achieving the coveted “look” may overlook the end users needs. Is the website or application fun to use? It is arduous or difficult to navigate? Does it create a favorable experience or a frustrating one for the consumer? These are all aspects that are analyzed during the UX design process.
Intuitive Customer Design: The Motif Process for UX Designers
When developing a system or communicating brand messaging, the more complicated the system the less likely it is to be enjoyable for the customer. Why is the design of an application or website so important? The efficacy of any ecommerce site is measured on many variables but one of the most critical ones is the creation of drill-down on the site.
When a website is designed in such a way that it motivates the consumer to click through a variety of pages and engage actively with the content, the site has achieved an effective “drill-down”. Statistics have shown that the longer a consumer remains on any website or mobile application the greater the chance of purchase decision and conversion. The brand messaging and promotional communication can be strong, however if the consumer is not compelled to engage with the content there is no delivery of that critical message, and no favorable impression has been created. Whether delivering a user experience through the website or simply a convenient method of purchasing a product or service, UX is factored into making the process enjoyable for the consumer with a profitable outcome for the business.
How is it done? The motif of a website, application, product or service is the communication of a strong, unique aspect that belongs to the brand. Red is the motif for Coca-Cola for instance, and when you see red you may be compelled to think about the beverage company. Identifying (or creating) that motif and communicating it consistently through the channels is part of the challenge; creating take-away recognition and retention for the brand.
Defining Human Centered Concepts
A UX designer will enter into the process as the customer would to engage in the existing user experience to observe and then evaluate how the application is being used. By observing in the role of the customer, the execution or method of delivery of information or goods can be examined for problems. What is the flow like for your customer? Are there obstacles that may impede their overall experience with your brand or product?
Testing will be conducted to:
- Create A/B test data and evaluate conversion rates for different designs, graphics and content communications. This provides the “where” and “when” as well as the “how much” data that is used to refine the user process and diagnose problems.
Often UX designers will employ the use of ‘personas,” which are one or more fictitious users. Essentially these are character profiles that are built around the typical needs and motivations of average customers for the brand or business. Each individual ‘persona’ will embody their own needs and individual preferences to demonstrate how different people would engage with the product, website or application. In order to create a design that has a more universal appeal, different personality types are incorporated in the A/B testing. In the case of a commerce website design, use of ‘personas’ help to develop the wireframe and sitemap for optimal navigation.
Defining User Experience Specifications
When defining the user experience a number of other procedures are used to define obstacles and create more human centered navigation. The UX designer measures how long it will take for the user to meet their website or application objectives and predict the difficulty or satisfaction that they will experience as a result of using it.
Some of the methods for measurement include:
- User journeys (documenting stories about individual personas)
- Evaluating browser specifications and ISP problems
- Hardware issues including optimal resolution settings, required plug-ins and other supportive software
- Overall business objectives and core goals
The UX designer will translate the needs of the customer or users and evaluate the business objectives to bring both together in a way that makes an impact on customer satisfaction while maintaining other needs for the business, such as promotional or profitability.
Laura Klein talks about differentiating what looks good on paper in terms of design versus the practicality of creating what people actually need.
“Not every product change or feature idea needs a fully interactive prototype or a pixel-perfect Photoshop mockup. But learning about the uses of various design deliverables can help you to communicate your grand vision to engineers and other team members so that they can build it.”
What is most exciting about UX is that it acknowledges that the happiness of the customer comes first. This is a significant evolution from businesses who in the past, were more focused on what “they” liked rather than what their customers would enjoy.
When businesses design intuitively for the customer, sales and demand for the product or service increase exponentially. It is why major Brands such as Microsoft have (and continue) to invest in UX research to create brand loyalty in an otherwise very competitive global marketplace. Think about it as design meets consumer empathy and retail profitability.
Joshua Geary is the blogger and marketing consultant for GlideDesign.com located in Austin, Texas. Glide, established in 2002, strives to create raving fans by designing best-in-class websites, providing fanatical web support and delivering quantifiable bottom-line site results.