What is User Experience Design?
UX, or User Experience, design takes into account all aspects of the customer experience. It can be easy to simplify that to just website or mobile experience, but true UX design encompasses so much more than that. It definitely is important that your end users (we’ll call them customers, that feels more personable) have a seamless and easy online experience, but if you stopped there you’d be missing a huge part of the story.
Think about your client’s brand (fonts, colours, tone), design (including offline marketing materials), usability, and customer base. No matter what you’re doing, there should be consistency throughout—and the customer needs to be the focus of every single decision made.
UX Design, On and Off the Screen
We’ve already hinted at it, but user experience extends far beyond a company’s online presence. And arguably, the online experience is the easiest one to tackle, because there’s so much rich data through things like heat mapping and analytics.
It all starts with knowing who the customers are. Not who you want them to be, but who they actually are. Do research on your customer demographic, then cater to the results. Decisions about everything else should revolve around who’s actually engaging with the content.
Next comes the brand strategy. Knowing the customer from your previous research, decide on your brand’s persona. What is the tone of written material? What are the colours? Fonts? Carry that brand throughout every single piece of company literature including brochures, business cards, website, and social media.
Now that you know the brand, you can move on to the online presence. You already know how the website should look, now think about how it should flow. Are you making it easy for customers to journey from end-to-end? Are there strong calls-to-action, and can a customer go from info to purchase in one click? How fast does the page load and how can you improve that speed?
UX design is the entire user experience, starting long before a customer ends up on a webpage.
The Effect of Good (and Bad) UX Design
Customers today are looking for experience. They base their decisions on how easy it is to do business, not necessarily the price. Your product obviously needs to be priced comparatively, but if you make it hard for customers to get what they want, they’ll gladly pay a few bucks more to save their sanity.
Further, customers base much of their purchase decisions on trust. It can take awhile to convert a customer, and it all starts with consistent messaging and predictable experience. If your UX design extends across your entire portfolio, it’s easier for customers to recognize and, by extension, trust you.
A sloppy, disjointed UX design will cost you conversions, and that’s money not in your pocket. Google is paying particular attention to page load speed, mobile responsiveness, and content “above the fold,” ranking faster pages with better experiences higher in their results.
Always Validate Your Design
You’ve nailed down the customer, you’ve thought about the experience, you’ve made your first designs. It would be easy to stop there, but work completed on assumptions rarely outputs the best possible results.
You should have already done research into your true customer base, now it’s time to test your design with those customers. Float your UX design to a group of customers in your key demographics and see how easily they navigate through your creation. This will give you true data and validation, highlighting those areas that are still causing effort or lacking in consistency.
True customer testing needs to be done correctly to be relevant. The most crucial role is your moderator—someone to be with your tester and guide the interaction. This person cannot asking leading questions, must stay poker-faced at all times, and must keep the tester on track. Questions like “how would you make a purchase from this page?” are good, because it allows the tester to show you what they would try (and is a goldmine into how your customers’ brains work). Questions like “click on buy now, do you like where that is located?” are too rigid in nature, and pigeon-holes your tester into an opinion without getting them to share their raw and honest thoughts.
Next, you need a panel of people observing the interaction in a different room. Video conference where the tester cannot see the panel is great, and in a pinch you can play back the video for a group at a later time. Have them observe where the tester is clicking, their facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. The panel should take notes, then compare. Where did the tester look frustrated? Confused?
Repeat with several more testers and find the trends. Make changes as appropriate.
Of course, you could send out a beta page or brand package and ask customers to fill out a feedback survey, and that kind of data can be great, too—but you miss natural reactions and facial expressions that often tell a much bigger story than answers to a survey ever could. In the absence of resources or budget, any kind of customer feedback is better than none, but in the long run, it’s absolutely worth it to invest in this research from the get-go.