Everybody’s talking about … User Experience (UX)

23 May 2014 by in Business and finance

There are some business phrases that seem to burst on the scene from nowhere and get used by everyone. It’s still unclear whether UX will find a permanent place in business vernacular or sink without a trace.

Where did it come from?
Donald Norman, an academic in the field of cognitive science, design and usability is thought to have coined the term in the mid 1990s, although his definition of the user experience was not the same as the definition commonly used today. These days it’s bandied about in just about every industry although its origins were firmly planted in technology and manufacturing.

But what does it mean?
So what is it? Basically it’s how someone feels about using a product or service. In days gone by our appreciation of a product or service was largely limited to the functionality of the product. Did it work? Did it break down a lot? When things went wrong was a company representative available to help put things right? Did it look good?

Today the user experience still incorporates issues of functionality and performance but includes a holistic (oops, sorry – there’s another word that’s been hijacked by the business world) perspective on how a person feels about using the product or service. The focus has therefore moved past whether or not the thing is fit for purpose and is increasingly focused on pleasure, enjoyment and value as well as performance.

Where will I find UX used?
User experience can be found in every nook and cranny of business – from the service sector to manufacturing. On one hand it’s really another example of business trying to look über-smart by stating the obvious. Most people want to like the products they buy, they want to enjoy using them and they want them to add genuine value to their lives, and common sense alone confirms that this interpretation is not just down to functionality. On the other hand it is quite useful – especially around product design.

Think for a moment about Heinz tomato ketchup. Whether you agree with the sentiment that there really is only one tomato sauce or not it’s a useful analogy for making the distinction between designing the product and designing the experience. The product designer created the old fashioned glass bottles that required a lot of ‘bottom slapping’ or a fair amount of wiggling about with a knife to get any sauce out the bottle – especially as it began to run low. The user experience designer on the other hand was the person who designed the flip top, anti-drip squeeze bottle that sits on its lid and provides a continuous, mess-free supply of sauce for your burgers.

It’s a focus on user experience that creates smart, useful innovations that make you think, ‘Wow why did it take so long for anything to think of that!’

user experienceWhat’s the UX for my company?
Any business that is committed to keeping its customers happy and loyal needs to consider the user experience and its ability to deliver value and a user experience that is appreciated by those customers.

In relation to your products or services do you even know what your customers value the most? There are five main aspects of usability that affect whether or not your user has an enjoyable, ‘relationship enhancing’ experience with your product or whether they want to smash it to smithereens with a hammer!

When considering your product or service ask yourself:

  1. How easy is it to learn and use? Generally speaking the quicker the user can learn how to use the product the better the user experience.
  2. How efficient is it? Does the product or service deliver what it was designed to deliver with minimal effort on the part of the user?
  3. How memorable is it? If the user doesn’t use your product or service for a while, how easy is it to remember how?
  4. How effective is it? Is the product or service error free? Or if an error occurs are they quickly rectifiable?
  5. How satisfied are users with your product or service? Do they like using it or is it a chore? Design faults that may seem minimal can quickly become a source of frustration and irritation that can decimate user experience.

Don’t underestimate the impact and importance of user experience and make sure you monitor social media and online chat about your product experience so that you can use that feedback to improve UX, performance and customer satisfaction.  Remember happy users tell their friends and family about your product and services and unhappy users tell anyone who will listen!