User experience (UX) is what we all undergo almost all the time on our phones and laptops. In fact, even as you are reading this, you are part of a product’s UX. 

WHAT IS UX AFTER ALL?

Digital user experience or UX, is the term widely used to describe the sum total of how a user interacts with a digital product – text, visuals, empty space, instructions, buttons and more. 

UX development involves answering all the below mentioned questions:

  1. Could the product help the user accomplish their goals?
  2. How much time did the user take to achieve their goals using the product?
  3. How many steps did the process entail?
  4. Could the user navigate the interface without hassles or comprehension issues?
  5. Was the entire process seamless?
  6. Did the product cater to a special user’s needs?
  7. Did the product offer a moment of delight, wherever appropriate?

So on and so forth. 

UX IS WHAT WE ALL ARE FAMILIAR WITH

In practical terms, UX is a reference to the numerous microcopy, design elements, user onboarding, empty space, notifications, error messages, functional buttons, and the whole shebang of communication a user has with a digital application. UX may be within a product (such as a success message) and even outside the product, such as a transactional email triggered by an action a user took within the application.

UX or user experience used to be a design discipline until even half a decade back. But it has come to occupy mainstream technological, entrepreneurial, organizational and (lest I forget!) user relevance in a short span of time. 

As brands internationally pump more dollars into marketing and selling their products, the entire experience – and not just the revenues or profits – has begun to matter. This trend is all the more significant given that in the pandemic, users are thinking twice before loosening their purse strings. The conservative sentiment has led the focus to fall on building an emergency corpus, savings and preserving for rainy days rather than splurge. 

A good UX is now more crucial than ever. 

Making tables work: How good UX helps users make complex decisions

A WOKE MODERN USER NEEDS AN AWOKE UX

Corporates are waking up to a ‘woke’ customer. A customer who understands what they need, what they wish to accomplish and that buying mediocre products is no longer a compulsion. An app showing a loading time of a minute or for that matter displaying jargon which requires ‘Googling’ is a no-hoper. 

In a world with declining attention spans (<3 seconds), any form of user strain or labor will put an app’s existence on a smartphone under serious threat. Being uninstalled is a fate an app will inevitably meet if it makes the user do the ‘hard yards’. If the user is to do the dirty work, the user is annoyed, the user is out, and for good. 

There are abundant alternatives on offer, so why should they stick to a trouble making experience?

TECH OMNIPRESENCE BECOMES UX INFLECTION POINT

Transformation and Inflection Points

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of tech platforms, apps, softwares and web like never before. Apps are everywhere, accessed by everyone, being used for everything under the blue sky. Even conventional offline concerns are amplifying their online footprint to be where the users are. 

The prolonged confinement, shift to online channels, user convenience, greater accessibility, comparability and tidy organization of content and choices is driving platform, data and content democratization. This trend has prompted and accelerated extension of the ‘digital embrace’ beyond urban quarters, to even rural belts in emerging nations.

GOOD UX HAS BECOME A SALIENT PART OF PRODUCT STRATEGY

The ubiquity of internet, smart phone technology and digital access have also resulted in a situation where apps and web portals ought to be easy to use, intuitive and helpful. A well oiled machinery taking care of a company’s apps from a user perspective isn’t a luxury but a matter of ‘perform or perish’. 

The need for organizations to conform to UX best practices stems from a plethora of factors:

  • Product innovation becoming the norm as out of the box thinking takes centerstage
  • Cut-throat competition of the virtual arena with players vying for every iota of user attention
  • Boom in app and web development
  • Online set up nixing the tough entry barriers for digital upstarts
  • Onboarding of a steady stream of new users in the online world as pandemic shows hardly any signs of abatement
  • Need for product developers to keep pace with enhancing user awareness

In this light, the underlying experience or UX of using these apps becomes critical to a business’ economic interests, brand equity, recall value, marketing playbooks and long term customer retention.

UX: MAKING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

This paradigm shift and growing influence of UX will no doubt prove to be a key differentiator for tech and non-tech firms in the current product mix. All the more as traditional marketing ploys reach saturation, similarity and familiarity. 

MICROSOFT GOT AWAY WITH DISAGREEABLE UX IN YESTERYEAR, MODERN FIRMS WON’T

If you are a millennial, you will have certainly stumbled upon the rickety user interface of Microsoft Windows in its sunrise years. The blue screen with geeky mumbo-jumbo, the stuff of ‘developer la-la land’, hardly within the realm of consumer conversation.

A UX faux pas, if you will. 

That Microsoft got away with such a complex, nay notorious, arrangement can be attributed to its near monopoly status in developing personal and corporate computing solutions back then. However, with innovation driving change and users waking up to the uber swish, slick and sturdy choices as an Apple iPhone or a Facebook ‘Wall’ began offering, companies could no longer afford gaffes of the Microsoft kind. 

Let’s soften the blows and say that the tech giant set out with good intentions, but had no emphasis or awareness on UX back then.

DEFINING GOOD UX

Finally, let’s define what makes for an optimal user experience. Good UX across platforms, devices, interfaces and media have the some of the following traits in common. 

Good UX:

  1. Is simple, purposeful, easy to use and helpful
  2. Enables users to accomplish their goals in shortest possible time 
  3. Does not come into notice. Yes, UX that is not conspicuous is a good UX. Focus is on the user reaching point A to point B with minimum resistance and not on flaunting a classy app décor
  4. Keeps user at the forefront of the design process
  5. Solves problems and is created with an objective
  6. Takes into account user mood at various points in the product use journey 
  7. Lets the user be in control by providing end to end assistance
The User Experience, Aka UX

In light of UX playing such an integral role in fulfilling a user’s, product’s and company’s long term vision and mission, suffice to say that businesses globally can ill afford a lack of awareness or action on this front. 

PS: Notice how I have used the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ to address the user throughout the article. This is another golden rule of UX I learnt by cutting my teeth in the profession. Let’s keep that for another day!

Parmesh Chopra is a guest author on Difference by Design. If you’ve interesting ideas to share, find out more about submitting a Guest blog here

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