You’ve probably heard the term UX design. But what does it really mean? More than just a popular buzzword, user experience shapes our lives daily and, in the digital world, it has never been more important as the quality of user experience (or UX) is now factored as a criteria for everything from search rankings to content feeds. While a deep dive into UX design can quickly get technical and complex, its foundational principles are surprisingly simple and focused on touchpoints that every marketing program can – and should – apply.
WHAT IS UX DESIGN?
User experience or UX design is the process of shaping the interaction between a user and a product or service. The term “user experience” was coined in the mid-1990s by cognitive scientist Don Norman who defined it as encompassing all aspects of a user’s experience with a brand or a product from beginning to end. The goal of UX design is to understand and then fulfill that user’s expectations and needs at every step along the way.
UX design is often confused with UI or user interface design which focuses more directly on the look and function of a product interface, that is, visual elements like colors, type or navigation elements like buttons or scrolls. UX design, however, is much more broad and focuses on understanding the customer’s journey, the problems they want to solve and the results that hope to achieve. Far from being limited to a website or app interface, UX design applies to a myriad of experiences from the planning and layout of a retail store to the feel of a physical product in someone’s hands to the way you interact with your favorite app.
WHAT IS THE UX DESIGN PROCESS?
Many large organizations today deploy entire teams devoted to understanding and improving their UX design. However, the principles and process of UX design are accessible and beneficial for brands and marketers even on a much simpler level. That’s because they are fundamentally about focusing on building a deep understanding of the customer, then crafting and delivering solutions tailored to their needs, wants and challenges – which is, after all, foundational to all good marketing.
Breaking down the UX design process to its basic elements provides a good road map to begin understanding how to craft experiences that meet your customers’ needs, and surprise and delight them along the way.
#1 – Understand Your Users
The first step in crafting a user-centered experience is understanding that user. That means really understanding them. You have to get to know your customers. Who are they on a personal level? What do they like? What do they dislike? What annoys them? What are the problems that they are trying to solve and where does your brand potentially fit into that picture? That means digging into research from demographics and psychographics to their lifestyle and habits. That also means collecting feedback from your current customers and taking all of it – good and bad – to put it to work in crafting a better experience. Creating your brand’s own buyer personas can be a great way to visualize and humanize this part of the process, so that you can really connect with your customers where they are.
#2 – Conceptualize Solutions
Now that you know your customers like the back of your hand, you can use all that information to evaluate, refine and improve their experience when they interact with your brand or product. Consider how you can create a journey that accomplishes the user’s goals, solves their challenges and offers the solutions or end results they are seeking.
#3 – Put It to the Test.
Once you’ve brainstormed your solutions for user experience, it’s time to test them out and validate or refine what you’ve created. In many cases, this involves creating and testing a prototype. Usability testing can give you the opportunity to try out your ideas with potential users to see how they engage and interact with your brand or product, and then tune it up accordingly to get the results that you want. Does it deliver what the customer wants? Is it intuitive? Is it accessible? Does it provide the customer with a positive experience that they want to repeat?
#4 – Keep It Up.
Like everything else, user experience is ever evolving. Needs grow and change. Products evolve. Technology shifts. Expectations follow. Innovation is not a one-time deal. It’s important to recognize that and keep an eye on your users’ experience accordingly. By proactively evaluating and evolving your user experience on an ongoing basis, you can stay ahead of the curve and the competition.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GOOD UX DESIGN?
Sound like a lot of work? Well, rest assured that your efforts will be rewarded. The benefits of strong UX design are many and meaningful. Some of the most fundamental include:
Customer satisfaction: The more you tailor your experience to your customers’ needs, the more satisfied they will be with the process and the more likely to repeat it.
Trust and credibility: Ever gone looking for a brand or product and landed on a website that was difficult to use or looked like it came straight out of the last decade? What did you do? A strong, intuitive user experience is a proxy for the credibility of the brand and its offerings. Conversely, a poor user experience is an easy disqualifier in a competitive marketplace.
Improved conversion rates: When your customers are able to easily access the information, products or solutions they seek, they are more likely to make a first purchase and perhaps many more.
Improved search performance: As search engine optimization becomes ever more contextual and online search behaviors evolve, your performance from a search optimization perspective is ever more intertwined with the overall user experience that you provide. Platforms from search engines to social media optimize for the best user experience, so to keep your brand and its offerings and content visible, you’ll need to focus on delivering what audiences want with a positive experience.
Ready to start crafting a brand experience that will stand above the rest? Connect with the Clementine team today!
Want to dive deeper? Check out this episode from season two of our Peel Good Marketing podcast for more on UX design.