What is User Experience Design?
Posted August 21, 2009on:
I had a need yesterday for a quick definition of user experience and its subsequent value to business. I polled the twittersphere and scoured the web but didn’t find any resource that provided a “quick guide” to UX. Since I had an urgent need, I decided to write my own guide. The guide is a combination of my own ideas and resources (see reference list) I found on the web.
What is a user experience?
A “user experience” encompasses all aspects of the interactions an individual has with a company, its services, and its products. An exemplary user experience meets current customer needs and anticipates future needs, exceeds customer expectations, sends a clear and strategic message, and delights the customer with innovative solutions.
For example, when Henry Ford built his first car, he was quoted as saying “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” A company’s job is not to give users what they want, but to solve problems. The problems that companies are trying to solve are usually social, and so understanding people and how they interact with each other and their environment forms the key understanding and driving force of the product design and direction.
At the core, user experience advocates for the end-user and makes sure to bring the customer’s perspective into the decision making process. In order to achieve this user-centered approach, user experience designers engage in several activities:
- Observe customers in their natural environment to understand how they are currently interacting with existing systems, as well as get insight into how users view the world (their mental models).
- Build empathy and understanding of the customers within the entire product team
- Work with stakeholders to create unified product vision and a user experience strategy. Both the vision and the strategy aim to balance the user needs with business goals.
- Gather further customer data as needed to make educated design decisions
- Utilize sophisticated design methodologies for ideation and innovation of alternative solution to existing options, and constantly ask, “How will this help the customer kick ass?”
- Involve customers in the design process
- Create a structure and organizational system for information environments
- Ensure that the new solutions are useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, valuable, memorable, and pleasing
- Continually listen to customer feedback and adapt to changing customer needs
- Keep in mind all the touch points of a user experience and ensure seamless integration between all components
What is the business value in user experience?
In order to be competitive in the current global market, companies are embracing consumers and realizing the power of design. A poorly designed product/service often frustrates customers, which ultimately affects the bottom line. A good customer experience correlates to loyalty. Loyalty corresponds to a customer’s willingness to buy another product from the firm, and a reluctance to switch business away from the firm. As any business knows, it is much more cost effective to keep existing customers than acquire new ones. Furthermore, the strong research aspect in user experience helps business understand why customers are behaving a certain way, and design can help influence behavior. Perhaps customers are dropping off during the checkout flow, not coming back to the site, or not renewing their license. User experience helps to find out why and provides solutions to the problem. For example, changing a single button on a site increased a site’s annual revenues by $300 million: http://www.uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button
Ultimately, user experience design places a strategic emphasis on the customer, providing value for both the business and the customer. Efficiency is no longer sufficient to be competitive in the current economic climate, a company needs to differentiate through user experience by allowing the customer’s to kick ass, while gaining revenue!
Some cool graphics:
Elements of User Experience Design by Jesse James Garrett: http://www.jjg.net/elements/pdf/elements.pdf
Facets of user experience: http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000029.php
Nielson Norman Group definition of UX
UIE: The Difference between Usability and User Experience
Adaptive Path: Communicate the ROI for Design and Subject to Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World
Kathy Sierra: Subvert from Within: A User Focused Employee Guide