We often get asked during initial client meetings, “What is UI/UX design?” We usually respond by saying, “How long do you have?” The truth is, every individual design element, including the words on the page play a role in the user experience. Whereas, the user interface is solely focused on the actual structure and functionality of the site, such as how the buttons perform, or how you navigate between pages; the UX is about the lasting impression or experiences the user walks away with and how this impacts their future interactions with a company or service.
The expectation of most well-versed web users is that they don’t need to put up with bad user experiences because there is another similar service or product just a few clicks away. Zendesk recently reported findings from a survey that 85% of people would pay 25% more for products that came with great customer service, and that 79% feel compelled to tell others about bad experiences they have had with a service or product.
What this tell us, possibly more than anything else is that right now UX or user experience is king, and more than great advertising or marketing, we need to focus on creating positive and memorable user experiences that leave customers not only coming back over and over, but also becoming ambassadors for your company and recommending your website to others.
Another very interesting statistic that came out of the Zendesk study that was particularly important to UX designers, is that 55% of people surveyed, or more than half said that they are more likely to tell others about a new company as a result of their positive experience as opposed to the actual performance of the product or the price.
We fully believe in the theory of less is more when it comes to our UX designs, as we want to create obvious and easy-to-use sites that provide exactly what the user is looking for in the least amount of time or clicks. FuseLab Creative focuses on deleting anything unneeded and refining everything that is needed.
Finding this nexus is not always easy, but it is important to our clients, whether they realize what we have gone through to deliver their unique experience or not.
There are a lot of talented designers out there producing beautiful websites, but the number gets much smaller when we look for designers that are creating beautiful websites that are also able to create logical processes that make signing up for a new service a total pleasure. In many ways, making the mundane beautiful and easy might be the UX/UI designer’s greatest asset.
The beginning of any professional UX design process requires a considerable amount of audience research—at least for us does. How can we create a user experience that is respectful and caters to the user needs if we don’t understand who they are and what they value or need? And, possibly even more important than understanding who our users are, is the understanding of what truly makes them unique.
Many creative agencies develop personas as part of their user research process, but that doesn’t confirm the needed work is actually being done. User personas have countless formats; as a base level of information, we include: a name, photo, quote, basic demographics, customer segmentation, key needs or goal, most common pain points, any brand affinities, technology affinity, and general description.
Although this list may seem long, these are actually key details for any useful persona.
However, critical to this process is a keen eye for those details that will not contribute to a categorical understanding of the persona. Consequently, each area listed here should only include the most essential details and everything the can be cut should be cut in attempt to create the most precise and vivid persona possible. We often create large posters of our personas and put them on the wall during our website design process in order to keep our audience as top-of-mind as possible.
Although personas can create vital insights into our understanding of who we are actually speaking to, it is also important to remember that people, their opinions, and their technological experience evolves. Knowing this, we recommend revisiting your personas every two years, adding and deleting details where needed. Many companies update a lot of their technology every two years, why not update your customer understanding as well? Now that we understand the “who” we move onto the “what,” or more precisely, “what does the ‘who’ want?”
When we begin the process of deciphering how a user may interact with a site, we first need to understand what they are trying to achieve, or what kind of goal they have in mind as they begin their visit. Modeling unique experiences, based on the different personas and the individual goals of each exposes us to the sequential steps a user may go through to achieve something and allows us to map out their journey and test each step for efficiency, branding, clarity, effectiveness; or generally speaking, mapping out these journey’s allows us to test the overall user experience (UX).
If the journey is positive and user is able to get what they were looking for with ease, then we have done our job. If the journey is positive and user was engaged enough to continue on to investigate more on the site after they achieved their original goal, then we have created what we call “site loyalty.”
In other words, when it comes to this particular goal, whether it is buying concert tickets, or researching weather patterns in Alaska, the site we built for this particular user has become their mental “go-to” spot for this function and there is an extremely high probability that they will be back the next time they have this same need. There is also a high probability that they will recommend the site to others close to them, and in a very subtle way, become an ambassador for the website’s assets. This is our ultimate goal of any new build at FuseLab Creative, and I know we are not alone.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Many people are confused as to why user experience is abbreviated with UX, and ask why it isn’t UE? I’ve heard this explained many different ways, but one of my favorites comes from Brian Solis who described it this way: “In math, X represents a variable to be solved for. In business, the X we must solve for is the experience we want to give our customers.” Attend any modern business meeting of marketing executives, and you are bound to hear a variation on the mantra: “Our customer experience is our competitive advantage.”
A lot goes into creating positive and memorable UX, but understanding that we are all human and that our minds react to visuals long before we react to anything that is written, helps us to better understand how important user experience-driven design is in our approach toward creating positive user experiences. We may not realize it if we aren’t paying attention but, we judge the quality of a company, it’s products, its employees and even if we should trust them, usually within the first five seconds of visiting their site.
This brings me to the ultimate lynchpin of UX: great design. Personas and user journeys help us create functional and usable websites, but this is no longer enough. Websites must surprise, elate, and capture the user’s attention in an unshakable way in order to leave a lasting impression. The product or service you are selling is only half of the actual product or service you are selling; the other half is the experience itself. You’ve probably heard people say we need to sell the experience too.
We say you need to sell the experience first. Your users make up their minds about your company well before they actually try your product based on your site’s design, your use of color, and how the look and feel come together to create a strong brand impression. It’s the difference of walking into Sears to buy a new mattress and feeling like you’ve travelled back in time or walking into an Apple Store and feeling like you’ve been propelled into the future. Which do you want for potential customers?