Tech4Africa: How usable is your digital product, really?

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User Experience

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction” — Albert Einstein

Simplicity is at the core of great digital user experience, whether you’re building a website, app or any other digital marketing campaign. Making sure your user’s experience is slick, smooth and, most importantly, gives them the information they want quickly and easily, will determine the success or failure of your product or campaign.

What exactly is “user experience” (UX)?

UX is a hot buzzword at the moment, but misunderstanding what exactly it is and implementing the incorrect UX processes can ruin a digital product and return on investment.

Sebabatso Afrika, of digital agency Aqua Online, defines usability as the “quality of a user’s interaction with an online product”. A user’s experience of a digital product, and how they feel after interacting with the brand, is made of up four key elements: Functionality, content, branding and usability.

All four of these criteria determine whether the user found their interaction with the product satisfying and useful: Did it give me what I was looking for? Was it relevant? Was the content up to date? Did it help me to achieve my tasks and goals? Was the journey to the content easy and interactive? Did it deliver what it promised at the start?

Afrika breaks usability down further in terms of the quality of the user experience. This means that a user’s experience of navigating a digital product must satisfy all of the following criteria in order to take away a positive brand experience:

  • Ease of learning: Must be quick and easy to find information
  • Efficiency of use: The info should only be a click or two away
  • Memorability: Branding and product positioning should stick in their head
  • Error frequency and severity: Keep this to an absolute minimum
  • Subjective satisfaction: User must feel good after engaging with the product

So, how do we get it right?

Put simply:

  • Identify clear business goals and objectives from the beginning;
  • Proper planning and scoping before any design or development is done;
  • Testing, testing and more user testing — at prototype stage, all the way through the development process, and after deployment.
  • Keep in constant contact with your users and monitor your metrics analytics to determine if their navigation patterns are matching what’s desired or expected.

Louis van Rensburg, GM of digital agency World Wide Creative, also emphasises the importance of being proactive. Eighty percent of the UX analyses on digital products they perform are reactive, when a lot of cost and time could’ve been saved by doing the UX analysis right at the beginning before the product went live and turned out not to work as expected.

Digital products are about the people using them, so defining and understanding the target market is also incredibly important, says van Rensburg. Also take into account the following:

Attention: What’s going to grab the attention of your target marking in a highly saturated digital marketing landscape?

Competition: What are your competitors doing, and how can you make your product unique and easier to use?

Trust: Build a long-term relationship with your users, a great user experience will build trust in your brand and keep users coming back

Results: Keep an eye on these always – you need to know what your users are doing, when and why.

Skills: Get the right strategists and creative involved from the start, and make sure they are communicating with each other.

It’s also very important to make sure that your UX analysis integrates with every digital touch point for the brand – all digital marketing channels need to work together for you to present a consistent brand message to your users.

Getting UX right doesn’t always mean writing a 20 page document and scope of work, sometimes small tweaks to a form or call to action can mean a world of difference in terms of conversion and interactivity.

Creating a beautiful digital campaign design also doesn’t necessarily mean that your user’s experience will be good either. Usability is about making sure that everything works — users will value having their time saved a lot more than a pretty website that doesn’t work.

Remember, “usability is the bridge between strategy and creative,” neither will work without it, says Afrika.

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