You just downloaded a new app for your phone. You’re landing on a website for the first time. What do you see? What do you notice? Do you know what you’re supposed to do first? If it all makes sense and it’s easy to use – that’s successful UX.
People who visit your site or use your application want a sense of place, a sense of location within that place, and a clear understanding of what they can do there.
You’ll often hear talk about keeping things simple. Users don’t want to think about the interface; it should just “make sense.” While that’s true, don’t underestimate their ability to intuitively recognize common design patterns and best practices and actively avoid products that don’t do those things. People have been trained over the years to have certain expectations even if they don’t know what those are.
UX designers know that most people have a quick “billboard on the freeway” reaction to apps and sites that doesn’t have much to do with how it was coded or what framework the developers used to build it on. According to a study by Google “…the first impression a website’s design creates is crucial in capturing users’ interest. In less than 50 milliseconds, users build an initial “gut feeling” that helps them decide whether they’ll stay or leave.” You really do have one chance to make a first impression and the UX team is responsible for making that an engaging and smooth experience.
How UX Changes the Way People View Your Brand
UX is about creating the experience people have when interacting with the products you build. Those experiences have a direct impact on how your brand is perceived. Are your products clean, clear, and usable? If so, the perception is that your brand is as well. The experience is more important than the visuals, but the visuals are hugely important.
Most companies have a list of brand “values” and have spent a lot of time and resources refining that list. However, in order for that brand to be successful you need to apply those values in every way people interact with you; today, much of that interaction is online and on mobile.
A Stanford study on Guidelines for Web Credibility found that “…people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more… the visual design should match the site’s purpose.” Good UX thinking will take into consideration all of the aspects of your brand, how your users interpret it, and most importantly how that translates across the ways that people interact with your business. UX also plays a large part in anticipating and correcting potential errors while helping to define user behaviors that result in positive outcomes for your projects. In other words, good UX is as vital to brand health as having a well-designed logo.
How UX Can Impact Your Bottom Line
It used to be that people thought of UX as a luxury or a part of the process that’s “nice to have,” but is not necessarily required. Today, companies are seeing that UX is not only required but is a critical element that has a direct and obvious effect on revenue. If you’re not adding good UX to your product development process, you can be sure your competitors are.
As everyday users become more sophisticated, their expectations are higher than ever before. Without good UX you can’t provide your users (your customers) the best experience possible, and a good experience is what they expect.
Including UX from strategy to deployment reduces the risk of creating a poor experience and an opportunity loss that’s directly related to unintended user behavior. Those lost opportunities can come in the form of drops in purchase rates, lower conversion and increased support costs, all of which costs you money. With UX as an integral part of the process, things like click-through rate, time on site, and return visitors all go up. That directly affects revenue.
In addition, studies show that developers can spend up to 50 percent of their time fixing avoidable issues. That’s 50 percent more time added to your project. UX keeps engineering teams moving forward — it can get some of that time back, and that saves money.
How UX and Development Can Work Together
Given the impact of UX on your customers and your bottom line, you want to look for a UX partner that understands how to work collaboratively with your development team. From a high-level and best-practice view, here are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- Establish a consistent process by setting expectations. The development team needs to know what UX is up to. Clear communication and availability to the team keeps developers engaged and confidence high — helping the entire team value UX.
- Create design patterns and libraries of common and core UI elements. Design the UX for one form, for example, and all subsequent forms should follow that pattern. This can often get your design 80 percent of the way and reduce development churn.
- Be an imbedded part of the agile team so you can attack the remaining 20 percent – the inevitable design and project “curve-balls” that come your way.
- Work within established engineering processes. Don’t try and get development teams to follow yours.
- Try and be two sprints ahead if possible.
- Don’t over-document.
- Understand the product AND engineering roadmap. Most UX designers don’t do this. If you know where the teams are headed, you can foresee UX issues that may require more than two sprints to accomplish. Stay ahead and you won’t be a bottleneck.
- Do a UX review as part of the QA process. Make sure the UI is implemented as designed.
Ask any UX designer and they’ll tell you that in many companies it’s all about the engineering and development teams, but forward-thinking companies understand that UX is what customers see and interact with. UX is the customer touch-point. While having a great dev team is vital, it’s the companies that value UX as high (or higher) than development that give themselves a greater chance at success.
That translates into more customers willing to make a purchase. A better experience creates a buyer who’s more confident, and a more confident buyer is more likely to tell others and to be a repeat customer. It’s the UX circle-of-life.
How UX Can Improve Your Product Design Process
If you find that users don’t feel engaged with their experience using your products, look to UX as a way to solve those issues. A strong UX team partner will shed light on how to improve user experiences and how to increase user confidence, which translates directly into more consumer engagement and a closer alignment to your business goals.
We’ve seen the famous Internet UX stories like how one small button change at Amazon increased revenue by $300 million in the first year, or how McAfee cut its support costs by 95 percent with a better experience. There are thousands of smaller everyday examples proving that good UX changes everything for the companies that take the time and dedicate the resources to doing it right.
UX should be considered a vital part of your plan across all project stages. A few ways to highlight UX could be in the areas of:
Preplanning and strategy:
- UX helps define and understand your core user types for the specific project plan. Not all projects within the same company have the same users.
- UX creates a clear connection between your business goals and the people using your products.
- Getting UX involved in the early stages of development planning, and allowing them to understand “how” the project will be built, gives them the ability to craft a UX solution that can take into consideration the nuances of various platforms.
- Understanding the development team’s plans and processes gives UX the opportunity ahead of time to fit within those processes, helping UX to be a more productive team partner.
- UX is the front-end. It’s what people see and interact with. Working with the product team, client team, and the end user, common tools for UX are mock-ups and working prototypes. This gives dev teams a better understanding of how the product will work. Client teams can visualize and adapt things like messaging, and with usability testing we get a clearer idea whether things are working as intended by directly asking users, before we spend time and money on development.
QA and Testing:
- Making sure that things actually work is part of normal development testing. And equally important during that phase is making sure things are built as designed. There should be a “UX test pass” and sign off right along with QA.
Of course there are many different teams and skillsets that go into making a successful project. However, UX is really the only team, at its core, that creates a direct relationship with how people use a product. UX strategy and thinking makes customers happy, drives revenue, and saves costs. Today, in order to be competitive and survive in the short-attention-span world, UX is more than just a “maybe”; it’s a project-defining component!
A lot of time, effort, and money go into the strategy and development of a project, and many of those projects fail for a variety of reasons. Don’t let a poor user experience be one of them.
Bad user experiences are avoidable and correctable. UX provides a clear path to success because it addresses the specific needs of the people who are actually using your website or mobile application. Having a team completely focused and dedicated to understanding the user and advocating for them throughout the process gives you the best chance of meeting your goals and keeping your projects on budget by reducing churn and anticipating issues.
Small projects or large, tight budget or limitless, UX gives your project its best opportunity to succeed.
Does UX rule the world? Absolutely! And it just may be the most important part of your project.