A person’s experience when using a product is something that every business should be concerned about. A user can have a great experience or a horrible one. While you cannot directly design a person’s experience of a product, you can take steps to ensure that their experience is a positive one by employing a user-centered design process.
Benefits of user-centered design that you should sell up the chain to get buy-in from all the stakeholders for a project include the following:
- Acquire more customers quickly.
- Retain existing customers.
- Build advocacy for your organization.
- Sell more products in the long run.
- Lower peripheral product costs like user support.
- Reduce intangible costs like wasting time.
- Compete more effectively.
For your organization—whether a startup or an enterprise behemoth—to realize all of these benefits, the people on your product team need to:
- Understand the difference between great design and great experiences.
- Think like a product user, not a product owner.
- Involve users of your product throughout the product planning, design, and development process.
Great Design Is Not Enough
Many people think of user experience as how a product works and looks. In other words, it’s all too easy to think of a user’s interactions with a product as the sole component of user experience. For example, they might focus on questions like these: Is it easy to navigate the product’s user interface? Is the most important content visually prioritized? Does the product look great?
If a resounding “Yes!” is the answer to such questions, it’s easy to believe that you’ve really nailed your product’s user experience. In many ways, you’re probably doing far better than most of your competitors. Yet, a user’s experience of your product encompasses much more than, say, opening an application in a Web browser or on a mobile device.
Let’s look at one example of a question that you might ask: What do users expect of your product before they use it for the first time? Perhaps they have heard the opinions of other users who either love or hate your product. If so, that would be an important part of their overall experience with your product. It would certainly affect their usage of your product, their feelings toward both the product and your company, and a host of other important things that we’ll consider next.
Pixels, Screens, Pages, and Experiences
The concerns of user-centered design include both what happens within a product user interface and user interactions that happen outside the interface. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- your product’s marketing and packaging
- the process of buying, opening, and using the product for the first time
- the process of upgrading to new versions
- onboarding—that is, learning what the product’s capabilities are, how to use it, and how to proceed when things go wrong
- telling others about the product and explaining its benefits and appeal
- the process of obtaining support if something goes wrong or you need a deeper understanding of the product’s capabilities
This list really just scratches the surface, but it gives you a sense of how many things actually affect each person’s experience of using your product.
If you’ve ever needed technical support from your phone or cable company, you understand how that experience has affected the way you feel about their products and services. While you may get great cable channels or clear phone reception, if dealing with support or other representatives of the company was an unpleasant experience, you might still have a negative opinion of the service. A person’s previous interactions with and opinions about your company is part of their user experience.
Thinking Like a Great UX Designer
Throughout the rest of this article, I’d like to provide some insights that you can share with your product team to help everyone think like a great UX designer. To build a product that people enjoy, your whole product team—not just the UX team—needs to focus on the user. Having a user focus will help you to deliver some of those profitability, competitiveness, and growth benefits that I described earlier.