Poor user experience can mask the most advanced technologies and limit the potential of the best ideas. In this article, James Greenhalgh, Head of Business Development at 4xxi explains why you should invest time in your product's UX and how to do it.
First we need to look at what happens if we don’t create great user experience (UX). What does it mean for customer acquisition, engagement, retention, revenue, profit, company existence? The list goes on. As it's so critical to the success or failure of a product, let’s explore what we mean by UX.
A number of pillars form the foundations for great UX, but research is the first place to start to understand your user group and product market fit. Who's your target audience? Remember: you may not represent the vision or the views of your main user base, so even though it’s your product try to see it from your audience's perspective.
Research could also impact your company mission statement. In my opinion, Amazon perfectly serves its user base with great UX with a mission statement: “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.” When you go to Amazon's platform, that's the experience you get, even though it may not look the prettiest.
It's often useful to create user personas or profiles for your target market. These can evolve and change as you grow. So, remember to repeat the process to help maintain the user experience as you progress through your product roadmap.
It's important not to confuse UX with usability. Usability describes how easy a product is to use, so it's certainly an important factor. It's concerned with letting users effectively and efficiently achieve their end objective with a product. Listening to music shows the difference quite well. If you released a new album on CD, sure it would be usable and the individual could listen to the music. But the user may need to buy a CD player (if they still exist!), go to a store and then buy the CD. Ultimately, the user experience of that new album makes it very unlikely to succeed.
The same applies to digital products. If the product or service you offer involves multiple clicks, new windows opening and complex visuals, it may suffer the same fate as the CD. This clunky experience will stop the user achieving what they want, and you could quickly lose their attention.
"A good user experience leads to a win-win for your customers and your business. It’s about taking a user-centred approach that empathises with users' needs. This leads to products that solve real issues or desires people have, rather than those we think they might have or that technology can make possible. UX is aligned with the lean startup philosophy of turning ideas into products, measuring how customers respond and then learning whether to pivot or persevere. It is a continuous loop to success." - Kevin Aspinall, UX Director, EValue
Whether web, mobile, tablet or smartwatch, the product needs to be desirable to use. This is where the user interface meets the user experience. The image, the colour, the brand and the information needs to be presented in a clean and simple way. If any element of the page doesn’t need to be there, get rid of it. Communicating with your users and the content you share should be done in as few words as possible. 'Less is more' has never been more true. Consistency is also key – keep the design consistent throughout, as your ultimate aim is to make every user feel like this was built for them.
Now let's consider accessibility: providing an experience which can be accessed by users across a full range of abilities. This includes those who are disabled in some respect, such as hearing loss, impaired vision, motion impaired or learning impaired. Accessible design is now a legal obligation in many jurisdictions including the EU, and failure to deliver it may result in fines.
In summary, it's essential to do your research, have a vision, create a well-defined product strategy and invest time in your users' experience. The best UX is intuitive to the point of being addictive. It limits user’s autonomy, but at the same time, creates a process that they might not have even known they wanted. Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer for Adobe shared his ethos: “rule of thumb for UX: more options, more problems.”
Let's not forget that utility is also a significant factor for the success of a product and technology places a huge role in creating amazing solutions but remember the words of Steve Jobs: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards towards the technology – not the other way round.”
You can read more about how to improve your user experience in our free eBook: