3 very important things you need to understand about user experience

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It’s safe to say that we have all heard the phrases “UX” and “user experience” being used in conversation. Although people are beginning understand the value of providing a good user experience, they don’t necessarily understand what it is or how it works. In a nutshell, user experience is a concept or approach that is applied at all interaction points with your customer. It’s all about putting the user first, understanding their needs, and building a positive relationship with them.

So why is this important? The benefits are infinite; some are immediate and some are indirect, only realised after a period of time. Among many other things, a good user experience should ultimately affect your bottom line by increasing sales. By creating customer loyalty, it will improve customer reach through word of mouth marketing and ultimately result in greater cash flow.

Here are the three most important things you need to understand about providing a good user experience.

1. Get to know your users
Since users are central to the user experience, you really need to get into their heads and understand what their needs are before being able to deliver the right solution. Most importantly, you need to understand that you are not your user. A good user experience is about managing your user’s expectations and continuously aiming to surprise and delight them during your relationship.

Try to imagine how you would behave if you were dating your users. Firstly, to find potential suitors, you need to know what they find attractive. Once you have their interest, you generally want to get to know them better. You can only make them happy by understanding what they want, and how they think and feel. Communication is key — if you have an argument, you want to continue the relationship by making amends.

Remember that users are people who want to feel like they are important and that you care about them. The bottom line is that you want to make your users fall in love with you… so start wooing them.

2. Keep it simple, stupid!
Making things easier goes a long way towards encouraging people to do them more often. The goal is to limit confusion and brain strain by making tasks effortless and intuitive to your users. Ultimately you don’t want them to have to think very hard, if at all.

The more complex and time-consuming a task is to complete, the higher the chance your user will give up and go elsewhere. They may even believe that it was their fault that they couldn’t complete the action, and that they should have known better. It is important to always make your users feel good about themselves, because the better they feel when interacting with you, the more they relate that feeling to your organisation, and the more likely they will be to continue using your service or product.

Take the Apple iPhone as an example. If you hand it to a two-year old, they will most likely push the button (since there is only one!) and play with the icons on the screen which react to their touch, keeping them entertained. If you can do this with your product, you have done a good job! Now compare that with handing a more complex phone such as a BlackBerry to the same toddler – they would most likely push buttons, get bored at the lack of response, and put it in their mouth.

3. Remember the bigger picture
With multiple touch points and interactions between the user and your organisation, it is a good idea to take a step back from the current task you want them to perform, and look at the overall experience they are having with your organisation. Maintain consistency. If the experience they have when they purchase something is completely different to the experience of returning that purchase, they will most likely remember the more recent and most negative experience, which will change their perception of your organisation — and the relationship breaks up.

All too often, the context of the user is forgotten. What environment are they in when interacting with your brand? Keeping this in mind will help you to provide more relevant solutions that actually add value to them in their current situation.

Imagine a mother dropping her daughter off at soccer practice. This task in itself is very simple — she drives from point A to B. Now consider the bigger picture, which includes her having to also drop her son off at dance classes at the same time. This would create a conflict, both in her schedule and in her family! Thinking of the bigger picture will allow you to understand how all actions relate to one another and fit together to form the experience.

So, where do you start?
Start small. You don’t need to have a huge budget or lots of time to be able to improve your customer’s experience — the little things can add up.

Change the way you think. The more you start thinking of your users, the closer you will be to providing a good experience for them.

Learn the basics. With so many great resources available, there is no excuse for not trying. Read widely, or consider taking an online course on the topic. Most of all, experiment!

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