If you are contemplating a UX approach to your business, and you definitely should, then you need to read every word of this important post. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about UX and the most important of these will be clarified here.
So let's start this off with a definition.
UX design is the process of providing greater customer satisfaction and enhancing loyalty by making improvements to the ease of use, overall usability and the pleasure experienced by the customer when they interact with your business.
You will notice that there is no mention of web sites or digital interaction of any kind. That is because UX can be applied to any product such as washing machines, TV sets and your next dining out experience.
Despite this, UX is usually associated with the digital world of web sites and mobile applications that lead to the sale of products or services.
1. UX Is An All Or Nothing Strategy
The first critical thing to understand about UX is that it is "all or nothing". There are no half measures. A half hearted attempt to implement UX will end in tears. If your CEO is concerned about the costs of a UX project then send them the link to this post.
To get the most from your UX project you have to understand that it is an iterative process. This means that the UX design will always take longer than you anticipated because it needs to go through a series of iterations to ensure the highest quality outcome.
Amazon apply the UX process to their sites on a consistent basis. They are continuously redesigning and testing different elements of their site so that they can provide the very best UX. Why do they do this? Because the best UX leads to the best conversions.
Consumer habits change all of the time and Amazon responds to this by identifying weak areas of the user experience, making the necessary changes and re-testing. They take a close look at process abandonments and fast page bounces to uncover discrepancies. Then they test alternatives and get the UX back on track.
If it's good enough for Amazon...
2. User Research Is Vital In UX
Many website designers make the mistake of thinking that all users think and act as they do. This is definitely not the case and it must not be left to a website designer to have the final say. An unwanted bias and inefficient design will more than likely be the result.
When examining a project from an internal perspective it is easy to overlook the fact that you know everything about your business and the products and services that it offers. The harsh reality is that your users will not share your passion and their knowledge of what you offer will be limited.
Your customers will have their own goals and priorities uppermost in their minds and will just want to get through your website process as quickly and easily as they can. Therefore your UX design needs to be optimized for external users not internal users.
A classic example of this is Google Buzz. Prior to launch, Google Buzz was tested by over 20,000 Google employees, but when it was released to the public it failed. A feature that was used and liked by the Google employees was disliked by external users and many complaints were received by the company.
You are not the user!
What this all means is that you need real user research that will provide you with the essential insight and external user understanding of the look and feel of your project. It is not enough to rely upon existing market research for this.
Real conversations need to be undertaken so that user "personas" can be created and then your design objectives can be re-aligned to maximize UX.
3. You Will Not Find A Definitive Standard UX Process
You will not find a standard set of procedures to implement UX and it is unlikely that you ever will. This can be a major cause of concern to some business leaders who feel a lot more comfortable when their people are working to a rigid process that has been approved by a central body that are considered to be the authority on the subject.
If this makes you feel uncomfortable then consider this. One of the most powerful aspects of UX is its flexibility. The most effective UX approaches rely on feedback and tactics so a set of formal processes is impractical and would probably stifle the approach.
Your business is unique and so are your customers. If you tried to force a set of standard UX processes on your business you would be very unlikely to achieve the desired result. Specific business and customer problems need to be tackled with maximum flexibility.
It is unlikely that you will find the answers in a manual.
You need to embrace this. All successful UX projects have required unique tactics to ensure their success.
4. UX Design Is Way More Than UI Design
A common misconception about UX is that it is the same thing as UI. Business executives often believe that it is just a matter of designing a few screens and forms to provide the best user experience. UX is a lot more than this.
There are a lot of designers that can provide UI design and create online pages that perform a specific function. But without a UX goal and feedback, this can be likened to writing a book without first considering the plot.
You need to consider the bigger picture here. In our ever changing world we are moving away from just screen design to how different processes and systems interact with each other. A good example of this is the growth of the "Internet Of Things" and the connection and integration of different services and platforms.
UI should be considered a part of a UX strategy. There is a lot more to consider such as your content strategy, usability testing, creating storyboards and accessibility to name but a few.
The bottom line here is that it is not enough to assign a good UI designer to implement your UX design on their own.
5. UX Design Does Not Have To Be Original To Succeed
Another widely held belief is that your UX design needs to be totally unique to be a success. A lot of designers feel that it is necessary to try and reinvent the wheel rather than use existing designs for their websites and other digital interfaces.
What you need to consider here is that many existing designs are tried and tested and have been proven with usability testing and customer feedback. These existing designs may not perfectly fit your business but a few modifications can resolve that quickly.
If you are determined to go ahead with a new design approach then it is good practice to test existing designs first so that you can be absolutely certain that a new approach is justified.
6. Too Many Choices Does Not Make A Good UX Design
Whatever design path you choose to go down, do not be tempted to overload your site or application with too many features and choices for the user. Having choices in life is a good thing but if you present users with too many this can confuse and irritate them.
It has been proven that users are far more likely to purchase your products or services if they are not presented with too many choices. This also leads to greater user satisfaction, so if you clutter your interface it is likely to result in much lower conversions.
Avoid multiple feature models and keep it simple.
7. Attention To Detail Provides A Winning UX
The addition of fine details can often have a major impact on user experience. You need to identify where a process has been abandoned because of user confusion or dissatisfaction. An informative error message or a few words that reassure the user can make a significant difference.
A good example of this is BestBuy.com. They made a small change where shoppers were not required to sign up while they were in the checkout process. This change resulted in them generating an extra $300 Million dollars in additional revenue each year.
ClickTale provides another success story. By changing the input of a phone number to an option instead of a mandatory requirement they were able to increase their sign up conversions from 40% to 80%.
Small details can be often overlooked and it is essential that your UX process captures these and implements the best fixes.
8. Accessibility Is A Fundamental Of UX
Many company executives believe that providing total accessibility from a digital perspective is expensive, difficult to achieve and unnecessary. But being able to access your business from almost any device is a critical aspect of UX.
Imagine a retailer turning away customers because they did not arrive by car! Those shoppers that walked to the store or used public transport would be shown the door. How much revenue would that retailer miss out on by implementing that policy?
With the proliferation of mobile devices these days it is a well known fact that the number of mobile only Internet users now exceeds desktop computer usage in many countries. Mobile e-commerce figures are also on the rise. You need to ensure that your business is open to these users and that your site or application accessibility is tested.
There is no requirement to add more functionality or add duplicate content to achieve this. You need to understand the requirements of users with different skills or devices prior to designing your user interface and content.
The costs of building your digital interface from scratch with the needs of different device users in mind is likely to be virtually the same as it would be if these factors were not taken into consideration.
Conversely, if you have already created your site for desktop users only, extra effort and cost is likely but this is worth doing for the long term benefits that it will bring.
9. Usability Testing Is Crucial To UX Success
Why would you take the risk of guessing that your design and site usability is perfect? A lot of executives believe that because they have hired experts there is no requirement to conduct extensive usability tests as they "know what they are doing".
It has been mentioned before but it is worth hearing again - you are not the user. You may be totally confident in the staff that have created your site and that is a good thing. But until you have had it tested externally you can never be satisfied that it has user acceptance.
Don't be fooled by the fact that if you do not receive any complaints then everything must be fine. A winning UX strategy will never overlook usability testing. It should not be forgotten that a large number of users are not in love with technology like your designers are, and they are just looking for quality content on a site that works.
Usability testing is simply running your designs past a number of external users with different skill sets to see if they understand it, can interact well with it, the navigation is simple and intuitive and most importantly they can get to the information that they require easily.
You need to test your site designs early. The sooner you know about any problems and fix them, the happier your users will be. This means that your project can go live earlier and lead to greater long term success from increased numbers of visitors and customers.
Usability testing is simple to set up and manage. It can easily be built into your project timeline. The benefits can be very significant.
10. You May Need A UX Team
There is an expectation out there that it is possible to hire one UX specialist to deliver an entire UX project. If such people do exist then you are likely to be able to count them on one hand.
The reality is that UX encompasses many disciplines, and it is unlikely that any one person could master all of the skill sets required for a successful UX campaign.
Be prepared to hire UX specialists for different disciplines. It will pay you back with interest later.
11. Conversion Rate Optimization Isn't Usability Testing
When you are testing for conversions you need to take two different testing methodologies into consideration - A/B testing and Usability testing. They are not the same, and it is important to understand the difference.
Let's assume that you have two different page designs and you need to know which one has the best conversion rate. You would use A/B testing for this as it is used to compare two different versions of the same landing page.
A/B testing is for testing what impact, if any, design changes on your pages can have on your conversions (or other factors). A/B testing is quantitative.
Usability testing is more focused on "Why". It will answer questions such as "did the visitor complete all the steps of the process?" and "were there any distractions on the page which prevented the user from signing up to the newsletter?"
It is all about ease of use and provides you with important insights into user performance metrics. This is essential; as it does not matter how great the page design is if the user cannot complete your CTA goals.