It was once a given that a good product or service could essentially sell itself. Today that’s no longer the case. In an age where competition has transformed the marketplace, customers are opening their wallets based on the experience they have with a brand. This experience begins within 17 microseconds of landing on your website and carries through every click, scroll, and interaction.
User experience (UX) describes every interaction your customer has with your company and your products. It’s no longer just about the product, but the experience of purchasing and using that product: whether it was easy to use, enjoyable, useful, or met a specific need. 70% of CEOs now see user experience (UX) as a competitive differentiator, helping to attract, convert, and retain customers. Indeed, for every $1 invested in UX, brands can see an average of $100 in return – an ROI of 9,900%.
So, let’s take a look at how UX impacts the design of websites, eCommerce platforms, and applications and what makes a good UX design.
What is UX/UI Design?
What is UX design? Put simply, user experience design is about managing the way customers interact with a website, app, or product. UX design accepts that we need to design for the experience, not the aesthetic.
UX design considers seven elements as expressed by the user experience honeycomb created by Peter Morville and further optimized by Katerina Karagianni in terms of how customers use products, as well as how they think and feel about them:
UX design (UXD or UED) operates with the following questions in mind:
- Is it useful? The product or service must fulfill a customer’s want or need. Greater depth of information and originality will up the usefulness factor.
- Is it desirable? The product, service, app, or system should be aesthetically pleasing and to the point. As this is a very emotive element, design focuses on image and branding more than function.
- Is it findable? Is the site or service easy to use? Is the site easy to find? Is internal navigation to find information or make a purchase as streamlined as possible?
- Is it usable? Here we examine ease: how quickly and efficiently can someone do what they came to do? UX design will consider the number of clicks, server speed, and even the familiarity of the design.
- Is it accessible? Do all users experience the product or service in the same way?
- Is it credible? When it comes to trust, considerations such as quality and reputation are essential. Social proof (e.g. online reviews) is how customers measure credibility today.
- Is it valuable? Customers prioritize different aspects of their experience over others, which is why we can consider value as the ideal mix of all the other 6 variables in the honeycomb.
UX refers to the entire experience a customer has with a brand — the process and flow a user goes through when interacting with a product. UX design is an open-ended process that seeks to be ever-cognizant of what the user wants, needs, and feels at every stage of their purchase and use of a product.
The Difference between UX and UI
The user interface (UI) refers to the look rather than the function of a website or product. Put another way: while UX is a process of understanding what a user wants and feels, the UI is the end result — the digital product developed to deliver a service or product to a user.
UI is just one point in the user experience (UX) journey.
UI design, often known as interface design, is about the look of a website — the design, colors, placements, and fonts. You’ll want to ask yourself: is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it usable? UI overlaps a great deal on the “desirable” and “usable” factors in the UX honeycomb, but only represents the digital interactions a customer has with a brand.
Let’s take a specific example to illustrate our point. Imagine you are a seller of organic, all-natural toothpaste. Let’s take a look at what a UX designer and a UI designer would consider:
- How did you find our website?
- Where did you come from?
- What was your first impression of our website?
- How easy was it to find the specific product you wanted, to read about it, and hear from other customers?
- What information ultimately influenced your purchase decision?
- How was the checkout process (fast, smooth, easily connected to purchase options)?
- Did you like the product and its packaging?
- What visual cues helped you find the right product and support your decision?
- Does the design look good on any screen size and resolution?
- Is the website aesthetically pleasing?
Notice the UX designer is focused on interactions with the customer while the UX designer is focused on the aesthetics.
Though UX and UI approach design from different perspectives, there is naturally a lot of harmony and overlap between their respective goals. As such, in some cases, either or both roles can be held by a designer, but UX design will often include contributions from business analysts and QA professionals.
What Makes a Good UX Design?
UX design is hard to get right because UX is not the responsibility of a designer or a team of designers, but instead is an organization’s vision. Great user experience design takes the time to define the customer (persona), the problem, and the best strategy for tackling the problem.
Remember, good UX design should be evaluated by the customer-centric terms we identified earlier; namely, whether the product is useful, usable, findable, credible, accessible, desirable, and ultimately valuable.
Let’s talk about how we can design for the user experience.
Managing the User Experience
While testing can help you refine your UX design, good design begins much earlier in the process. Good design requires an understanding of who your users are and what they need.
Good UX design means thinking like a user and providing a clear pathway to help the user achieve their goals when interacting with the product. Managing the user experience involves an 8-step design process:
- Interview stakeholders to understand user behavior and constraints and identify pain points. This stage helps define the business goal of a product.
- User research will help identify user personas (who are the buyers) and user journeys (the paths used to complete specific tasks), helping you pinpoint the features you need.
- The UX audit reveals any less-than-perfect aspects of your current website, app, or product that could be leading to audience drop-off or churn.
- Define your requirements: what kind of project are you doing; what does it look like; and how does it support the customer and their problem?
- Create a wireframe or information architecture (IA) as a skeleton for what you’re going to create and how it works.
- Create the visual design, focusing on both what it looks like (UI) as well as how it works.
- Prototype with an interactive simulation that allows for input from stakeholders and users. Review and refine based upon input.
- Test with real users, going beyond the basic input you received with prototype users. Testing can involve many approaches including usability testing, analytics, A/B testing.
As an experienced UX design agency, Net Solutions will ensure you get off to a good start with your designs. We blend both quantitative and qualitative research to understand your user, including observations, field studies, focus groups, interviews and controlled experiments. Our UX audits will help reveal how users are experiencing your existing products (or those of competitors) through Usability Heuristics and techniques like Cognitive Walkthroughs and Pluralistic Walkthroughs.
Net Solutions leverages an Agile design process that encourages learning, testing, and iterating with users to continually incorporate user experience feedback. The net result is Good Design.
How do you Measure User Experience?
Your design process incorporates user feedback, helping you arrive at a good UX design. But ultimately you’re going to be asked to prove that. UX measurement includes three types of metrics:
- Perception metrics (e.g. NPA scores)
- Descriptive metrics (e.g. abandonment rates)
- Outcome metrics (e.g. conversion rates, average order sizes, number of calls by reason, how often customers escalate to the call center.)
The Google HEART framework is incredibly useful to measure the quality of your user experience.
What Makes Good UI Design?
We have already established that UX and UI are not the same thing, but a good UI can go a long way to creating a positive user experience. Good UI design is compelling, helping to delight your users. Beyond “delight”, a good UI should be invisible – a user should never notice the menu because they never had to think about where it was or how to use it.
- Place users in control of the interface (with a focus on easy!)
- Make it comfortable to interact with a product
- Reduce cognitive load
- Make user interfaces consistent
Much of good UI is emotive, and — you guessed it — driven by the user experience. Delivering delight to your customers requires a full-spectrum approach to design, from research to design, testing, and delivery.
Net Solutions employs experienced in-house experts in UX and UI who are able to bring your website, commerce platform, or mobile app to life. We employ the best practices and methodologies during our entire design process to help drive revenue and boost ROI.
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