UXD (User Experience Design) is one of those hoity-toity web development subjects that people like to discuss, but seldom actually delve into. It is a process that asks tough questions, which usually take time and money to answer. It is perceived to take away resources from the actual hands-on design and development of a project and adds a layer of often unbudgeted expense. Although user experience encompasses all aspects of a user’s interaction with a company and their offerings, often the first touch point is your web site. So, incorporating UXD into your web development is a smart business move.
The reality is that User Experience Design can cost a lot of time and money. There are many companies that dive into this so deeply that it is the whole of their business. However, all specialties have a range of scope. At the most basic level, whenever developing a web site or application, always keep in mind:
- who your user is
- what they are looking for
- make it easy for them to find it
Offer advice and show that you care enough to give them a jump-start on their process. This not only begins to build good rapport, but also shows your knowledge of the subject, which in turn builds your credibility and the user’s confidence in your capabilities. It’s that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling that you’re after.
So, before you give up on user experience before you start, just think about your users BEFORE the next project is on your desk and needed yesterday.
Who’s Your User?
Many of the questions that UXD attempts to answer come from being able to identify your user very specifically. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down with a new client and asked “Who’s your user?” They usually say “our customers” or “potential customers” or “our employees.” But that is never enough of an answer. So, what is a better answer? That, of course, will change depending on your objectives, but try to answer these questions for a start…
- What types of market needs are driving your customers/prospects to your web site?
- What are your users looking for on your web site?
- Can they find it easily?
- If they cannot find it or you don’t offer it, can they easily contact you for more information?
- What are your users in need of from your site, business, or services?
- Do you help users find a solution to their problem?
- Are your explanations clear?
- Are you easily meeting the needs of your user?
- Are your users a serious group? Or a fun group? Talk to them on their level.
How to Deliver a Great User Experience
Once you have answered the above questions, it is your web developer’s job to translate these answers into content and an interface that makes your company unique and memorable. That is not to say that every web site or web application needs to have award-winning copy and design. However, it should always be professional and must reflect your business in a way that makes your customer feel confident about doing business with you. This includes clarity, consistency and transparency at the very least. Users no longer want to be spoken at, they want to engage. And that means that you need to talk to them in terms that they understand. I hope I’m doing a good job in this article…:)
Don’t Be Seduced
Web designers and developers often lean on the ‘wow factor’ to deliver a user experience. And, in some cases, this will be enough…for a time. But ‘wow’ can become ‘ho hum’ if the site does not meet or exceed user expectations. Be sure to consider all aspects of the development process including, functionality, content development, project management, visual appeal, experience in solving business challenges, social media interaction, search engine optimization…just to name the basics.
With computers and mobile devices gaining ground every day, we will continue to see the rise in their use for everyday interactions. Touch screens that were scarce a decade ago, are now in common use. Before long, we will be using wearable devices and communicating interactively with gestures and inferences. (Note: this paragraph was originally written in 2012…look where we are now!) Looking toward the future, computers promise to become even more integrated into our everyday lives…the Internet of Things is growing exponentially.
One could easily argue that I have over-simplified a very large subject that encompasses way more than what I have identified in this short article. Just do a search for “user experience design” and you’ll find a plethora of information. However, the bottom line is that a good user experience is transparent (e.g.: Apple Computer, Audi, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s) and meets or exceeds users’ expectations, whether it is a business’s marketing web site or custom software. Just realize that it does take some work to get there and even a little extra attention in this area will always lead to greater user satisfaction, better retention of your brand, and improved conversion rates. So, why not start balancing user needs and expectations with your business goals to create a better user experience?