March 26, 2014
It’s a pretty basic concept: You can’t have business if you don’t have customers. Businesses depend upon consumers in the same way that buildings depend upon a foundation. Customers are not only a business’ income source, but they’re also its navigating force, determining direction and purpose for an organization.
However, as digital communication means continue to advance, customers are finding their number of potential choices of companies with which to do business are growing as well. As such, it is all the more important that organizations develop services and products that are easy to learn, intuitive, and efficient, because when customers have a bad experience, they won’t waste time trying to figure things out; they’ll simply take their business elsewhere and, chances are, they won’t ever come back. This is why UX is so important.
UX (or User Experience) takes factors from interaction design, and applies them to everything from physical products, to interactive communication, to intangible services, in order to ensure that a customer’s experience is a positive and rewarding one. Companies that embrace UX design are generally more successful, with an average return of $100 for every $1 invested in UX. So, how should you go about implementing UX? Take a cue from Stanford University’s order of design: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. Here’s how:
To give customers the experience they want, you first have to know what they want. This is where empathy comes in to play. By learning how to feel what the consumer feels, and by being able to understand their concerns from their own unique points of view, you can provide an experience that meets all of their needs. How can you go about doing this? By observing your customers, either directly, through interviews, or with the aid of studies. Have your customers take you through a task, and have them explain everything they might be thinking or feeling as they do so. This will set the stage for you to come to definite conclusions about your UX design.
Once you’ve gathered your raw data from the empathize phase, it’s now time to make sense of all of that information to create an actionable problem statement, or a “point-of-view” (POV), which will help you clearly identify the potential problems you are striving to correct. A POV will focus on the needs of a particular user or group of users. To get these special insights, you’ll need to carefully comb through your data to find patterns and connections. You can do this by reviewing what you learned in phase one, and looking for anything that you found to be strange or unexpected. Decide which needs are most important to fill for your user, and make note of any insights that you developed. Create your POV from these insights and use it to drive the rest of your UX design process.
Once you’ve identified which challenges need to be addressed and resolved, the next step involves idea generation. By combining the raw data from phase one, the identified problems from phase two, and the combined imagination and problem solving skills of your entire team, you’ll be able to create potential solution concepts. This step is more about brainstorming as many possible solutions as you can, rather than identifying which single solution is most promising. Make sure everyone on the team has a voice in this process, and learn to embrace disagreement for what it is: a breeding ground for idea generation.
At the conclusion of phase three, you should have a number of possible solutions. Select several of the most promising of these, and move them forward into the prototyping phase. This involves the actual construction or building of rudimentary designs. Don’t spend large amounts of time or resources on any one of these designs; instead, focus on something that functions well enough to generate useful feedback. Prototyping allows you to find conceptual dead-ends before they can hurt your business. And remember, when you prototype, it should always be with the user in mind.
In actuality, testing doesn’t come after prototyping, but rather happens at the same time. As you seek feedback on the prototypes, you’ll be able to not only refine your solutions, but you’ll also be able to learn more about the customer, and redefine your POV accordingly. When you test, make sure that you’re letting the consumer discover the product or service on their own, without your guidance, and be sure to have multiple prototypes available for comparison. Once you’ve gotten the information that you need, you’ll be able to refine your prototype into an actual product that takes UX to the next level.
David Glenn is a technology fanatic and business enthusiast who loves to keep up with the advancements in each. When he writes, he draws from his experience of more than 30 years as a business owner and entrepreneur.