What is User Experience (UX) Design?

So, I have made much fuzz about the benefits of user experience design to brands in the part 1 and part 2 of this series, yeah? Now, the immediate question would be, what is user experience design? This is like a bottom up approach–I started from the benefits and now walking all the way up.

Disclaimer: I must state that this post is not intended to be in any way academic but the goal here is to make you see the value of user experience design without having to know the inner workings of the discipline.

The term “user experience” was coined by a cognitive science researcher, Dr. Donald Norman.

Donald Norman

Dr Donald Norman

He was the first to describe the importance of user-centered design–a notion that design decisions should be based on needs and wants of users. In his own words, “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. – See more at: bit.ly/1Hj1iNk

Ok, let me break it down in simple layman’s term. User experience (often abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels, what he appreciates, and his overall experience when interfacing with a system. System here could be a website, a web application or desktop software, and in modern context, wearable technology e.g. Google glass, Apple Watch, Nike Handband etc.

What is user experience design

Courtesy of agitraining.com

User experience design encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with a brand, its services and its products.

Experts in this line of work are often referred to as User Experience Designers or UX Designers for short. They are required to study and evaluate how users feel about a system. They take into consideration things like ease of use, perception of value, utility, efficiency in performing tasks, reactions at different points of engagements, satisfaction ratings etc.

Why is user experience design important?

At the core of any UX effort, is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing to them. It focuses on understanding users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations. It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project.

Sad UX Happy

UX makes the difference

UX could be the difference between a sad and a happy customer. Remember, consumers of your product and/or services don’t just take your word for it anymore. They also listen to what other consumers are saying. A satisfied customer can go a long way in your advertising campaign. So also a dissatisfied one.

When a user experience designer is engaged, some of the following items would be his focus point:

Accessible: Consideration must be made for all users and this is where persona definition comes to play. Users love when they can experience your brand on all major platforms, For example, they want to get to you on their mobile devices.

Useful: Whatever you are providing whether a product or a service, must be original and meet a need. I stand to be corrected but this is essentially the crux of user experience design.

Usable: The user experience designer makes sure that your provisions are easy to use. This is key to repeat business. No one would waste time on doing a task if they have alternatives. Not even you.

Desirable: Evoking good emotions that translates to appreciation is a product of UX. Users love to associate with things that move them towards a happy or satisfactory experience. They want more and would often come back.

Consistent: If users are confused about anything, they would move on. A user experience designer makes sure there is consistency so users can find their way around without difficulty.

The listing above is not exhaustive or conclusive by any chance. I  just came up with this short list and hopefully, it gives you an idea of UX design and its importance.

Here are some related articles

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User Experience

Benefits of User Experience to Brands

From part one of this article, we have established that, user experience is fundamentally about the relationship between consumers and a brand (ideals, ethos, culture, values, norms, products and services).

Now the next question one is forced to ask is, if my brand decides to engage a user experience designer, what do we stand to gain or what benefits are inherent in this kind of venture?

I will outline some of the benefits of user experience design. But note that this is in no way exhaustive.

Ok, lets jump in.

UGC becomes opportunities

If you are wondering what UGC stands for, its User-generated content. According to Wikipedia, It is defined by any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasting, pins digital images, video, audio files, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.”

Big and small brands have access to user-generated content e.g. posts, tweets, comments, feedback etc from their consumers. This creates opportunities to improve the overall customer experience over time. Consumers would not talk where they would not be heard. So if the engagement and experience is woeful, access to such insightful information would not be possible.

Earn consumers’ trust

One of the hardest thing to earn in business of any kind is trust. And the problem about with it is that, once you loose it, its hard to get it back. It is also as hard to earn it in the first place. Sometimes, you wonder, why consumers go after some brands even though they have competition who offer product or services that matches in quality for far less? The answer is simple, trust. Consumers would trust a brand that puts their ‘feelings’ in mind. From what it looks like, how it feels to how it works, everything counts. If a consumer experiences poor technical support, or a sales person was rude, the user is likely to develop a negative perception of that product’s brand and I need not say what that translates to.

When a consumer knows that their experience is paramount to you as a brand, they would keep coming back. Even when they cannot afford to buy the offerings at the time, they would still come around. Well, I do and I know many other people who do too. It a simple case of consumer trust.

Builds stronger brand community

More and more consumers are relying on the opinions and recommendations of other online users when making a purchase decision. And interestingly, consumers love to share their experience about their interaction with a brand. This far outweighs all the marketing strategies that any brand could engage as the testimonial from a consumer to another is what ‘sells’ a brand. If their experience was great, they would talk about it and almost inherently promote it. This would grow the brand’s audience, and increase its reach.

Avoid unnecessary overhead

Some very costly problems could be avoided. Many brands would tell you, it costs dramatically more to fix problems after the fact than it does to incorporate consumer feedback early in the process. The problems that come up may result in lost conversion opportunities or expensive fixes.

If you give user experience design priority – the right place – not after the production life-cycle i.e. early in the process of your brand’s promotions and the likes, you can save significant amount and resources down the line.

Competition Leverage

The more consumers experience better offerings (products and/ or services), the more their expectations evolve. And this is happening at the speed of conversation. As they come across better experiences, they will switch without hesitating to the product and/or service that offers the best experience.

Therefore, to build better consumer experiences, you have to know how and where consumers are setting their expectations for your products and services.

That’s why, to build the best digital experiences for your customers, you have to know how and where they are setting their expectations for your products and services. If you know users’ reactions to competitors’ digital offerings, you can improve your own.

 

Ok, I have tried to outline some of the benefits of user experience design, howbeit, not exhaustive.

So, let’s be honest, everyone loves to share great moments, even you. So ask yourself, when a friend or family comes to you to ask about a brand that gave you next to the best experience ever on any platform, how are you likely to respond? I would leave that for you to ponder. Remember, you are a consumer too.

If I missed benefits that you feel are very important, please feel free to comment on that. I would love that. If you have questions, comments, thoughts, or opinions, please add them in the comments. If this has been helpful, please like and share with others. Thanks.

Brands & User Experience (UX) Design

The success of any brand depends on its ability to inspire consumers with its brand promise. And to deliver excellent performance across every experience point that its consumers have with its products and services. This inherently develops a relationship that is emotional and social. It  also evolves as experiences with the brand accumulates which eventually translates to the brand’s performance. I believe that managing a brand is all about managing that relationship.

brand-experience

 

Now, I am not a brand manager by any shot (at least not at the moment), but over the years, working as a User Experience Designer and Software Developer,  has afforded me the opportunity to work in close proximity with brand managers, brand experience enthusiasts and the likes. And in the course of this experience, I have encountered many misconceptions about User Experience which for the most part, seems to tarnish its usefulness. I would like to use this article to correct some of these misgivings and help with the understanding of its value.

Ok, let’s jump in.

User experience is fundamentally about the relationship between people and a brand (ideals, ethos, culture, values, norms, products and services). More than that however, it’s about identifying and designing that relationship. As the amount of technology and digital disruption in the world increases, so too, the nature of this relationship comes to the fore. With new trends in wearable technology (Apple Watch and Google Glass for example) and the Internet of Things becoming ever more prevalent, this disruption will increase, while the perceptions of user experience as being tied only to screens or mere interface design, will also be challenged.

One of the biggest misconception that many brand managers have is that, user experience design is about creating beautiful interfaces. While in all fairness, this is part of User Experience, it is really only a small part of a much larger discipline. The act of designing an interface when it occurs on a screen is called User Interface Design, or Interaction Design. This is a piece of the larger user experience pie and only part of the skills associated with the discipline.

User experience is more than just interfaces

Design is about making things that people need. User experience is an art and science of providing that design i.e. that need is the center of a User experience design effort. It has the habit of asking “why?” about a brand’s product decisions. Why choose this color? Why use this style? Why do we want this size? Why does it have to be round? Why would users want it this way and not that way? And so on. These ‘whys’ are often asked with consideration to the consumers’ need, their understanding and proximity to the consumers and not to some grand marketing theologies (I am sure Steve Jobs would have agreed with me on this one). This can at times place user experience designers at odds with marketing teams and sometimes brand managers, who are more closely focused on how to drive products sales, meet targets and sales volumes or generally improve on the brand’s consumer perception etc. Clearly, there  is absolutely nothing wrong with this. As a matter of fact, user experience design is useless if it does not bring any capital gains or ROI. But, I also believe that at the end, if the consumers’ need and user experience is given the place it deserves, it will help marketers and brand managers, as it can give them valuable intelligence around how to sell or position a product more effectively.

All brand stakeholders should collaborate in design and delivery of effective and consistent user experience. Reputation is built or tarnished at the speed of conversation. Whether, you believe it or not, your consumers will be your #1 brand advocate almost unconsciously, and what they are saying would be a result of what they experienced. And they better be saying the right things.

User experience is about the need for the product, not just its promotion or ‘market-eye’

Consumers are really just people with a need – which a brand’s product addresses. No two people experience the same product exactly the same way. Experience vary from person to person and it is bound to happen on products we promote regardless of whether or not we include them in our marketing strategy. Consumers would interact with our product and they are the best judge of the satisfaction they derive from such engagements.

Most times, brands adopt different business models. marketing strategies, marketing-focused research, promotions, that seeks to explain their customers in terms of the brand’s own capability or market share, rather than customers’ own need. Then we get to generate charts and analytic reports on the consequences of these precinct adoptions. But, in reality, people just want products that meet their need — tailored or bespoke experience so to say.

Every consumer interaction or engagement with a brand would produce an experience.

Experience will always happen. However, it is up to you to decide whether you’ll design for it or not

Today’s technology trends are quickly changing how consumers discover and share information in real-time. It has also changed how they connect with each other from every part of the world. And as these smart and connected technology mature beyond a luxury into everyday commodities, consumer expectations would only inflate. Consumers are becoming less forgiving and more impatient and brands that do not meet up will fade away faster than they appeared. I need not mention popular brands that disappeared when competition arose and brands with more consumer-centered approach to their design philosophy, swept them off.

The truth is, the dynamics that govern the relationship between brands and consumers is constantly evolving. For brands to compete for attention now takes something greater than mere presences in the right channels or support for the most popular devices. From digital wearables to social networks to mobile apps to commerce to digital, experiential strategies form the bridge where intentions meet outcomes. By starting with the end in mind, user experience packages efficiency and enchantment to deliver more meaningful, engaging, and rewarding consumer journeys. So to state it plainly, consumer needs are fast evolving than the readiness for most brands to adapt.

User experience evolves with consumer needs and not the other way round 

Business owners, marketing managers, agencies, brand managers, digital marketers, developers, social media managers, consultants, and anyone responsible for any element of consumer engagement can learn from the art and science of user experience. To that end, user experience design is a role that should, in some way, shape or form, find a home within the design of any new media strategy adopted by brands today.

It is very likely that you have had an interaction with a product or service that does not deliver the way you expect or that does not quite meet your need. How did it make you feel? Cheated? Frustrated? Confused? Stupid? Angry? When your product or service does not deliver the way your consumers expect it to, these are some of the feelings that they experience too.

I believe, it is in the realm of all possibility that your consumers are most likely going to be your customers and as such, any of these emotions are the last thing you want them to experience when engaging with your brand.

So, in conclusion, I would say it is important that the place of user experience design (or call it, Consumer Experience Design)  in brand perception and experience management is not overlooked.

In the second part of this article, I would outline some of the benefits of user experience design to a brand.

Feel free to drop a comment.