In recent years, the precepts of good design have expanded to encompass not just physical goods, but services and online businesses as well. Here, the term to know is “user experience,” shorthand for the goal of delivering high-quality, even memorable, experiences to customers. Commonly abbreviated as UX, user experience can be a critical differentiator for just about every business with customers. Yet delivering truly engaging UX takes effort, testing, creativity, imagination, and hard work.
The business writer and consultant Geoffrey Moore made an insightful comment about the importance of UX, framing user experience in terms of “moments of engagement.” He goes on to define these moments:
“You can think of these as tiny milestones in the customer journeys you are seeking to engineer. Which ones mark the key inflection points in those journeys? What are your moments of truth?”
Below we’ve assembled a list of 7 insights about the importance and power of UX that should be relevant to professionals in any line of work.
- 9,900% return on investment. Research from Forester shows that on average every $1 in UX investment generates nearly $100 in business value. To realize that value, organizations need to apply design thinking to every customer-facing aspect of their business and institute a program of continuous improvement.
- UX is a science. There isalso the view that successful UX requires interaction with and input from users. This view holds that the best way to identify areas where your business can improve UX is to preform user testing. In many cases, as few as 5 user tests can reveal the majority of the shortcomings of your product offering. But, importantly, user testing is not a one-time event. Adopt continuous cycles of feedback and improvement to make UX an integral part of your strategy.
- UX is an art. Some proponents of user experience design maintain that the discipline is the domain of the visionary designer. Apple represents this view; Steve Jobs once said that ‘people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ He believed that successful UX emerges from talented designers building a user experience from the ground up, independent of activities like user tests and focus groups.
- Give the user control. One of the true innovations of the UX philosophy is a change in perspective. That is, companies embracing UX need to transition from designing for their own needs to designing for the customer’s needs. User-centric thinking is a pillar of UX, but one that can be difficult for many companies to implement. After all, a large successful company has deeply engrained processes and perspectives; instituting a new worldview doesn’t come easily.
- UX is not UI. For technology companies whose products are experienced through device screens, the distinction between UX and UI (user interface) is an important one. UI generally refers to the digital interface a user interacts with. Its definition is limited to what’s available to the user to take action with. UI is an element of UX in that how the interface works is one factor in the overall user experience. Think of a movie review app: the UI determines the look and feel as well as the functionality of the app, while the UX impacts the user journey and the flow of information, including the steps required to find information.
- Good UX is like a successful dinner party. Barry Katz, a fellow at the legendary design collective IDEO, took inspiration in the ideas of Charles Eames, of Eames chair fame. He suggested that designers think like hosts expecting guests: “You are not creating for yourself. You are creating for another person, not an ‘end-user’ (ugh!) but a guest, whom you must welcome into your world. The people who use what you build must be made to feel at home with what you have done.”
- UX is a competitive differentiator. User experience can provide key competitive advantage even for businesses whose products are otherwise low-value commodities. Just look at the water bottle company Swell. Entrepreneur Sarah Kauss founded the company on the insight that the humble water bottle could become a fashion accessory. Swell borrowed techniques from the fashion industry like name-brand designers and seasonal releases, using UX to create buzz and drive demand. It worked spectacularly: the average Swell customer has purchased 5 of the company’s water bottles.
As a technology company, Entefy is obsessed with how exceptional design impacts people’s lives. Be sure to check out our article discussing the problem of ageist design in digital products.