Remember the difference between confidence and arrogance.

The Confident User Experience

Confidence is something you’re probably attracted to. I’m not talking about confidence in the sense of believing something with absolute certainty, but the kind presented through self-awareness and comfort. The kind that’s endearing and assured without crossing over to abrasiveness and arrogance (see image above).

So what’s the parallel between confidence and user experience?

It’s no secret that confident people get noticed. We’re intrigued by confident people and want to get to know them. We may even go out of our way, or out of our comfort zone, to do so. Think of the people you admire or are interested in — I’d say there’s a good chance that confidence has something to do with that attraction.

The products and services we create should strive to make our customers and users feel as good as we do when interacting with confident people. If left feeling good, or at least like we’ve accomplished something, we’re more likely to interact again.

Confident people are sure of themselves, able to understand what they’re good at, aware of what they’re not, and masters of ongoing improvement. I think we can apply these lessons to create better experiences in the digital channel and beyond.

Speak with Conviction

Creating an experience that speaks with conviction boils down to this:

Know what problem your customers have, design to solve that problem, and clearly state how you do it.

Don’t worry that this problem isn’t common to the general population. Don’t worry about being too direct or ignoring the needs of others. When experiences speak with conviction they make an instant connection and are able to effectively communicate that all-important value proposition.

Be Prepared to be Wrong

Remember, confidence isn’t about knowing (or thinking) you’re right all the time — that’s arrogance (again, image above). The experiences we design are bound to be ‘wrong’ in some cases and we need to be aware of that. When interfaces make a mistake it’s important that a) they recognize the mistake, b) they communicate it to the user, and c) they’re helpful and give the user an opportunity to recover.

Preparing to be wrong is one thing, being comfortable with it is another. To be effective, the experiences we design can’t be right for everyone. Focus on solving problems for a select group of people and you’ll be much further ahead.

Listen More Than You Speak

The advance of voice assistants like Siri and Amazon Echo are ushering in experiences that actually do listen and speak. These experiences need to be excellent ‘listeners’ to ensure what’s ‘spoken’ back to the user is accurate, valuable, and brief. In this context, listening also means learning and providing better responses over time.

For text-based interfaces we can measure ‘speaking’ in terms of how much content is provided. An interface that talks too much, or has too much information, runs the risk of being overwhelming and a cognitive challenge for users.

Though not always the case, text-based interfaces don’t often have the advantage of listening to users over extended periods of time. This is why ‘listening’ should take the form of preliminary and ongoing user research. Research helps ensure what’s being said is of value.

Always Learn

Confident people constantly improve themselves. Acquiring knowledge and skills creates opportunities for the self-improvement necessary to build confidence.

Digital experiences are no different.

As mentioned in a previous post, continuous UX improvements reduce the risk associated with large releases, provide opportunities to gain feedback from real users faster, and offer incremental and continuous increases in value. Of course, these improvements are powered by learning. Learning from watching people use things, learning from talking to customers, learning from understanding the competitive landscape, and learning through experimentation and measurement.