What is User Experience, Is it important?

What is User Experience?

User Experience has existed as part of digital strategies for a very long time. It is however only in the last 6 years that it’s become one of the more common buzz words to throw around (like ‘Agile’) – Remember when the only person you needed was a website administrator, and now you’ve got your entire website team – The marketing and traffic experts, the SEO expert, the UI designer, the UX consultant, Front end developer, back end developer, project manager and many more. To give an idea, UX –  User Experience was coined in the early 90s by Don Normon, who was at the time Apples User Experience expert. User Experience is often confused and placed under UI (User Interface) design or under CRO (Conversion Rate optimisation) but it isn’t it. It’s a process and journey in its own right… just a process and journey that massively overlaps with UI and CRO – and to be fair why wouldn’t it when the end goal is always the same – Have a bloody amazing site where customers complete whatever goal you set (be it awareness, lead generation or direct sales).

Who are your users/customers?

Understanding User Experience is all about defining who your customers actually are and building profiles. Then using those profiles you start to look at the site design and even the style of language you use on the website to make sure that it matches the expectation that customer base would have. User Experience covers everything prior to the customer ending up on your website (like brand awareness, how they perceive adverts, reviews of your company etc), their experience on your website (how easy it is to use, how confident they were and how satisfied they were with the result) and finally their experience after their main interaction (For example how the delivery went, what after-sales support you may offer, How you may market to them via email or follow up for review). So you start to understand that UX is all about mapping the touchpoints that users will come into contact with your organisation and how each of those touchpoints will satisfy their needs (balanced with the need for your organisations’ needs – like marketing or assisting conversion). It is possible to do the process of UX with only a rough idea of your customer profile and using your own experience mostly just by following some basic and quite generic UX (which in turn is best practice UI and CRO) but remember just like with CRO – You are not the true customer of your website and never will be, you already know the journey and will always find your way to the end, think favourably of your organisation, you won’t lack any confidence and you’ll bypass the true reading of any text.

So where do you start?

  1. Who are your customers/visitors to your website (and who your brand is aimed at)?
  2. What goals are your customers/visitors trying to achieve on your website (or again goals with your brand)
  3. What steps/tasks do your customers/visitors need to go through to reach the goal?
  4. What geographical or social elements of the customers will affect them when interacting with your website (and brand)?

How do you gain this information?

Where there’s the smallest possible chance that you gained this while creating your brand and company to start with. For example, you may have already documented a lot of this as part of your general marketing. That said, even if you have then your identified customer profiles expectations will age and need to be revised often (for example 5-10 years ago having a mobile-friendly website wasn’t as much of a customer expectation as it is now). learning from your potential customers can be quite easy, you can do it by;  Running workshops directly with them and run through the brand and journeys, place surveys, questionnaires and opportunity for remote UX interviews on the website, or less direct and review heatmap or analytical software to learn what it is they searching for when they find your brand (and what it is they try to do on your website when they get there).

What’s the most important thing when it comes to User Experience….

At #1 it has to be the end-user – Of which you need to remember you and your team are not. #2 is remembering the big picture, Don’t get too trapped in the detail unless you’ve really got the time to spare. #3 Ask a lot of questions – (Who are our customers, what are they thinking, what would satisfy their requirements and expectations from our brand, What do they know about your business to start with? What communication are you sending your customers (Before, during and after purchase), What about how customers feel about your prices, what expectations do they have about different delivery couriers and timelines), and generally keep asking user-centric questions either about your user or directly to your users? Remember that not everyone bothers with the expensive of true UX, they revert to their own guesses and experiences ignoring the actual expectations, satisfaction, confidence and general experience of the user.