Whilst it may seem surprising that such an integral part of the business process needs a term at all – much less entire job roles created around it – having a strategy in place for engaging with customers (primarily in the digital sphere) is not only a necessity but a priority. As Tim Loo, strategy director at User Experience design agency Foolproof, says: “In many sectors, digital has become the primary touch point for customers,” and yet many companies are still failing to hit the mark. In a world littered with yesterday’s buzzwords, UX is one term that’s here to stay. So, the million dollar question is, are you working hard to keep the heart of your business healthy?
Loo advises: “To stay ahead of the competition it is no longer enough for businesses to compete on price, product and service; they also have to centre on the quality of the digital experience across multiple devices.” He breaks user experience into three parts:
- Usability – This relates to whether the functions of a website or mobile app or other digital product work for the user. If you’re in the industry of development, always ask yourself: “Can users easily complete the tasks that they want to complete with this product?”
- User Experience (UX) – This is the outcome you’re trying to achieve. What kind of experience does your user receive? Do they become emotionally tied to the product? Would they recommend it to a friend?
- Experience Design – This describes a process of design focused on human outcomes, particularly the level of engagement and satisfaction that the user derives from a product or service.
Blending UX seamlessly with your work has tangible, measurable effects and Jon Davie, managing director of digital marketing agency Zone, refers to web users as “the undisputed drivers of success.” Through identifying exactly what your audience really want – not what you think they want, or what will help smash sales targets and objectives – and how the digital experience can provide that, you can increase brand awareness and develop a positive reputation for your business. For example, Zone’s work with The Scout Association found that volunteers were more interested in being connected to their local group, rather than national events, which – when implemented digitally – lead to a 4,000 per cent increase in volunteers.
It’s not just the customer that can benefit from improved UX though; it also offers businesses the opportunity to up their game and take a more proactive approach to their bottom line. Davie says: “In the real world, the audience doesn’t follow the neat user journeys we sketch out in specification workshops. The UX team are your route to guiding customers through the journey you want them to take.”
Essentially, user experience begins the second that your customers realise that they need the service that you provide. It takes them from the initial hunt, during which time they (hopefully) find you, until they no longer require your service. Robert Fuller, managing director of Innevate, explains: “UX is vitally important as it’ll lead to an action or a behaviour from your target audience and current users,” whether it’s a ‘like’, a sale, or a repeat visit.
On the flipside, ignoring UX can be disastrous. Imagine test driving a car that’s uncomfortable, awkward to manoeuvre and doesn’t have any good gadgets. It does the basics in that you get from A to B, but after a few minutes you’re probably going to give up and move on to a car that’s easier to use, even if it wasn’t the model you originally wanted. In the same vein, even if your service is good, the UX you deliver to your customers needs to be equivalent to the Rolls Royce of cars, otherwise you’ll still lose out on that client, and potentially many others (social media being the last bastion of the disgruntled). Undeniably, the road to UX can seem daunting and time-consuming; but if it were easy then every brand would be wowing their customers and, quite simply, they aren’t.
UX shouldn’t be just an afterthought of the digital experience either; it should weave into every decision along the way. Loo says: “Organisations often make the mistake of thinking that UX comes ‘baked-in’ with their design agency.” In reality, we must always ask: is my product/site/service likeable, easy to understand and easy to use? He clarifies: “The best brands feel consistent, unified and contextual to your needs no matter where and when you interact with them,” and cites Apple as a good example of UX: “They have products that work straight out of the box and a high street presence that blends the best bits of digital and physical retailing. In fact you can argue that the user experience is so good, most of us forgive Apple for their functional irritations and restrictive practices.”
So how can you make sure that you’re giving the user the best possible experience? Engaging with your audience is vital for understanding how to keep them with you until the (hopefully not so) bitter end. Fuller says: “Have a clear understanding of your customers’ needs, be in frequent contact with them and try to create transparency where you can.” He also recommends managing people’s expectations to create a realistic relationship: 2As a general rule of thumb, the approach of ‘under promise and over deliver’ works well. Just don’t make the mistake of not promising enough to not reassure or fulfil the customer’s needs in the first place.” All of this may seem like a lot of time and work, but it’s worth it, and will leave you with a portfolio of positive interactions that will show the weight of your worth.
The facts are these: UX is the top line, the bottom line, and every line in between; and if it’s not pumping through the veins of your business then you may as well give up and go home, because your audience certainly will. As Davie explains: “If we don’t give the people what they want, they’ll find it elsewhere, with a short layover on Twitter to tell the world how, where and why you got it wrong.” And that’s one type of experience that you definitely want to avoid.