User experience (UX) is how a person feels when interacting with your website or your employees feel when they interact with your business applications. UX encompasses a lot of factors, some that are controllable by designers and developers and some that are environmental or just user preference. These factors include usability, accessibility, performance, design/aesthetics, utility, ergonomics, overall human interaction and marketing.
But UX is not exactly the same thing as usability, although they are closely related. UX is the experience, emotion, intuition and connection a user feels when using a site or product. Usability is more about the effectiveness of a site design and how user-friendly it is. Usability is a key component of the overall user experience. When working with and designing your user experience the usability aspects should be equally thought of during the process.
Why It Matters
In terms of design, user experience is just as important as visual identity. Seriously. It doesn't matter what your site or app looks like if people don't know how to interact with it. And moreover, they need to enjoy that interaction. Keep your user experience simple so that the usability of their experience is a positive one.
While UX is important for any digital product, it is even more important for certain types of digital products: complex sites or applications, retail or online sales, point of sale (POS) systems, start-up sites and businesses, small-budget projects and projects or sites that are expected to last a long time.
UX is key for complex sites because users must be able to easily navigate the site and understand how to use it. Neglecting UX can result in a sloppy site that people will not want to come back to. Developing an interaction-rich experience will drive users back to a site. With the user experience you should clearly define what you are promoting and how you want the user to interact with your product. Your website is your product and very well could be the first impression you provide your customer. This can also be the confirmation of your brand from another experience.
One of the most complex types of sites can be those that include retail or online sales. Not only does the site have to be well-organized, it also has to have clear, concise and easy to use signals for how to make a secure and trusted purchase. This is also true of sites that are expected to be around for extended periods of time, such as retail sites. Consider Amazon.com, it has worked using the same basic UX for years.
User experience is key for small and start-up businesses as well because the site is their first impression to users. This debut matters when it comes to directing future traffic and business to your product.
This same concept applies to companies with small budgets. User experience is important because it can create the momentum that propels the business forward. Remember, users decide in just a few seconds whether your site or app is worth their time. That's the only opportunity you get to reel someone in.
When it comes to poor user experience, the issues are noticeable. Think about problems reported with HealthCare.gov and subsequent self-reported issues: inability to compare plans before creating an account, overloaded servers and downtime, problems with account creation, difficulty filling out applications and not enough user testing. All of these problems create a negative emotional connection to the site for users. The negative reactions spread like a wild fire and year's later still exists in our minds.
The Usability Professionals Association defines six key benefits to adding UX to the design and development process:
- Increased productivity
- Increased sales and revenues
- Decreased training and support costs
- Reduced development time and costs
- Reduced maintenance costs
- Increased customer satisfaction
UX and the Design Process
So how can designers start thinking about UX in the design process? You may actually be thinking about it already after reading the beginning of this post.
It starts with the principle of collaborative design, opening the process to a team of creative professionals with the common goal of solving a problem. The team needs to work together to create a set of great aesthetics, vision and goals for a design project while thinking about who the target audience is for.
Think about the connection and experience you want users to have: simple, surprise, formal and credible or emotional. Make sure your experience creates a shared story that will be familiar to all users. Then test, test, test. Again, test, test, and test! Testing will help improve the process and show weaknesses in your UX that you may not have thought of initially.
Is the actual experience what you expected or intended? Do the site/application options work as you expected with the correct outcomes consistently? How do users feel about your overall site and their experiences using it? Are they getting frustrated with all or a piece of the process?
Think about what the UX says about your brand as well. Does it convey a universal message? How does it compare to competitors? Even if you are starting out with a brand new product no one has ever seen before there will be companies that have products that are similar to yours that you can do a comparison to.
Take those answers and work on revisions. The first design is rarely the best option. And certainly it will not be the last solution for your UX.
But WHY Should Designers Care
Isn't UX a developer problem? Developing and designing around a superb user experience is everyone's problem. Developers and designers are equally important in the entire process just are the people that will be using your newly created UX. From the first sketch to the final product, how something works should be talked about every step of the way. So it is just as much as designer problem as developer problem as CEO problem.
Without an effective UX, digital products are likely to fail. It really is that simple so don't give your visitors a reason to hate your product based on a poorly thought out UX process.
UX and Identity
When it comes to your website and business application, user experience can be just as important as visual identity and the two should be thought about in tandem.
Think about common applications you use everyday. We'll use Google for this example: users go back to Google to search daily because of how simple and easy to understand it is. The user types in a question and the system quickly and efficiently sends back a list of options to choose from.
Most users probably know it as always having a white background, a logo that is distinguishable yet changes often and is clear and concise.
The key here is that users have the same feeling about the program regardless of device and use. That is a universal, and effective, user experience exists on the desktop, tablet or mobile device.
User experience is an art form of its own. You never can predict for certain how your site or app will be perceived by your audience but you can take effort in doing your best to provide consistency and a clear UX to your users.
Take a look at your website and business applications that you use and see what works for you and what doesn't. Ask another business associate what their perception is. It very well could be an eye opener and many will see room for improvement.
Every website or business application that JM2 Webdesigners works on we look at the UX and how to integrate the UX with usability for your intended audience. When you are ready to improve your process contact us at 855-456-26609, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our contact form.