Why don’t we care more about UX?
UX, or User Experience, has become a sort of buzzword in the tech world. Over the years I’ve seen people shudder at the sheer mention of the term. There’s no shortage of articles online from practitioners sharing their contempt for the term, and that doesn’t account for those that don’t even consider it enough to write about. Coming from a marketing background, I’m experienced in explaining certain topics carefully to avoid audible scoffs when a ‘buzzword’ should apparently devalue the entire concept.
Why do we write-off disciplines as trendy or fluffy instead of considering their true value to a business or product?
UX is not just about good looks or fancy interactions. Every touchpoint, every product, and every post-purchase interaction plays a part in the user’s experience.
Everyone is responsible for UX.
A customer’s experience shouldn’t depend on a single team. Great UX means great design, solid engineering, thoughtful content, and perhaps most importantly: all the details in between. We are all responsible.
Inattention to a customer experience is not limited to tech. While UX, as a term, was coined by the digital world, it has been around forever, and it is in everything we do — online and offline.
Living with UX
My boyfriend and I are house hunting. We’ve been through dozens of houses (our realtor is very patient). I’ve spent hundreds of hours obsessing about layouts, living flows, and square footage. Which reminded me of (you guessed it) user experience design.
Why does UX at home matter if you’re not selling it on a daily basis? If you’re going to live in one, you want it to be the best fit for your lifestyle. When you do go to sell, it could mean the difference between selling in 3 days versus 30 days. It could mean tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket or out of pocket if someone isn’t willing to pay for the experience of living in your home every day.
There were some things that really stood out as UX fails:
- A toilet right next to a floor-to-ceiling window. Even if you’re not actively using the toilet, nobody wants to see your toilet from the sidewalk.
- Laundry rooms. I’ve seen room doors that don’t open wide enough for laundry machine doors to open all the way, and machines that can’t open if the room door is open. Sometimes it feels that people who build laundry rooms in new homes have never used one.
- Awkward little spaces. If it’s not obvious what a space is meant for, or could be used for, it could be a problem. This is why people get paid to ‘stage’ empty houses — so buyers can truly experience a home before purchasing.
It doesn’t matter who is responsible for these kinds of mistakes. If the end user experience sucks, a customer won’t buy the house.
Shopping for UX
Online commerce has long been focused on user experience, because it had to be. In the beginning, users didn’t like using their credit cards online, so we made it secure. As business owners became more aware of abandoned cart rates and missed conversions, we removed barriers in the checkout process and added incentives to buy.
It seems, however, that our friends in brick and mortar aren’t always as committed to every individual customer’s experience.
Online customer experiences are easier to control and keep consistent. Every online customer of a store is set up to have an identical experience (assuming no multivariate testing). Each visitor is greeted the same way, receives the same information, and ultimately has a similar experience. If we’re alerted to a kink in the overall experience, it can often be fixed quickly.
In store, you rely on staff to provide this consistency. You hand-select people, you train them, and you empower and trust them. Humans are far from infallible, but it is possible to control the in-store customer experience. Starbucks is a perfect example. Poor experiences are rare because of extensive customer service training. Starbucks invests in ensuring their baristas have a deep understanding of the experience they want every customer to have. Trusting the people you hire to pay attention to the details creates a well-designed end-to-end experience.
Nordstrom and Apple have built successful stores by focusing on the experience first. Why is a great customer experience a differentiator between competitors? ‘Not being an asshole’ shouldn’t be a differentiator, it should be a universal truth.
The customer experience is the most important thing any brand or team can focus on.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the company ladder, you are responsible for the experience. Advocate for the experience with your team. Request more time for research, because unless you are the product’s target customer, you can’t build the perfect experience in your bubble. Show everyone you care about UX.