If you want to maximize adoption or stand out in a crowded market, focusing on user experience is a must.

Over the last 20 years or so, as new technologies emerged that promised to drive high levels of business innovation and value, the tech community emphasized these technologies using the buzzword “X first”, with the "X" replaced by the technology or platform of the moment. Remember "mobile first?" Then came "cloud first." Today, we are hearing "AI first." User experience evolved on a parallel journey over this time, from customer experience (CX) to user experience (UX) to digital experience (DX), but in truth, all these terms are just subsets of overall user experience.

Why Do People Use a New Product or Service?

People have pain points and the new product or service is going to solve their pain points. Using a new product or service requires change, and change is tough. Change can be daunting. But change can be accepted, provided that the overall experience of using the product or service is excellent.

Coming up with a seamless, engaging, and unique experience does not happen by accidentit happens by design. iPad-like products existed long before the Apple iPad was born! What made an iPad an iPad, and drove exponential adoption, was its design – not just how it looked and felt, but how it actually worked. A well-developed user interface (UI) and thoughtful user experience (UX) can make or break your product or service.

Experiences Versus Things

We carry the memory of experiences with us much longer than we do the memory of things – all the more reason for businesses to focus on experiences. Deliberate and purposeful design of service interaction is of equal, if not greater, importance. Year after year, research shows that companies with a determined focus on a superior user experience perform significantly better. They enjoy higher revenues due to better retention, less price sensitivity, greater wallet share, and positive word-of-mouth. They have lower expenses thanks to reduced customer acquisition costs and fewer customer service incidents. That is why it is extremely important to focus on UX from the very start when planning your product or service.

How UX Is Different From UI

In short, UI is how good a car looks and UX is how good you feel driving the car. A good UI is about the optimal use of white space, proper usage of colors, smart choice of shapes and sizes of icons, and ensuring the interfaces looks consistent on all touch points. The UI designer’s role is limited to just a sub-section of the overall UX design. UX design is more about function than form. Consistency, simplicity, and “don’t-make-me-think” are key phrases associated with better UX.

Something that looks great but is difficult to use is an example of great UI and poor UX; something that is very usable but looks terrible is an example of great UX and poor UI. We see a plethora of examples of both in day-to-day life.

What a UX Design Process Looks Like

The UX design process usually starts with research comprised of:

  1. Understanding: user interviews to identify their requirements
  2. User personas: represent a typical user to identify their goals, frustrations, etc.
  3. Use cases: how different people might use this product or service
  4. Journey maps: how different user personas might start and finish the experience

Next up is brainstorming, which includes:

  1. User flows: diagrams outlining the steps a user might take during the experience as they go from step to step in the UI
  2. Wireframes: rough skeletons of UI and various components that make up the UI

After that comes implementation.

  1. Prototype: low and/or high fidelity versions of the product created by a UI designer, which may or may not be interactive
  2. Working product: developers and engineers convert the approved prototype into the final product through front-end and back-end development

And finally comes reporting for providing  a feedback loop and enabling continuous improvement:

  1. Usability reporting: observing real use of the product
  2. Split testing: testing the effectiveness of one design over another
  3. Analytics: additional metrics such as time spent on pages, bounce rates, etc.


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Getting Started

One way to start is to identify the moments or micro-experiences that matter most to your customers, and understand frictions in them. Depending on your business, some examples could be search, sign-up, check out, reservation, and making an appointment. Everyone around you will have opinions about what those customer experiences should look like, which will often be contradictory to each other, and thought through from beginning to end. Knowing your end-to-end customer journey map, and representing the true voice of customer, and not a specific business unit, are key to creating an elevated user experience. Otherwise, you will probably end up with a laundry list of half-baked ideas that do nothing to move the needle.

The business world is undergoing a revolution, driven by technology. We have an opportunity to harness the energy of this change and capitalize on this momentum with the goals of creating new, amazing and nimble businesses that resonate within the hearts of our customers and our communities. If you are looking to stand out in a crowded market, focusing on UX is a must. Mobile, cloud, digital, and AI are enablers of awesome user experiences. Choose them wisely. Start with key moments and micro experiences that are critical to your customers and start by improving those. A UX-first mindset drives greater brand awareness and recognition, and results in happier employees, higher customer satisfaction and greater Net Promoter Scores.

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