What’s in an experience?

I battle with this question every day of my working life, and apparently even days when I’m not working. I’m writing this blog post sat on a golden sand beach on the Spanish coast with a glass of sangria in hand. As the waves crash on the shore and as the breeze cools my slightly pink shoulders I still can’t shake this question.

Defining what constitutes a great user experience is near impossible. This is because building a custom app with a good user experience is based upon multiple factors, from your relationship with your client, to the level of usability and interfaces you provide, but the overall aim should be to create happiness before, during and after using your app. Yes, the aim is really for your app to make your users feel happy even before they use it. Seem impossible? I can assure you this isn’t as hard nor as strange as it sounds.

Here are 4 things I recommend focusing on when building custom apps with a great experience.

  1. Understand your users’ world.

To achieve this level of happiness you have to understand your users world and most importantly their pains within it. Unfortunately, the only way to achieve this is to put yourself in the user’s shoes and their shoes are not in your office. Visit your users in their working environment whether this be at home, on the road or in an office it’s important to understand the environments that your custom app will be used in.

The best way to sympathise with your user’s pain is to perform the task/process they do on a daily basis, only then will you have a true understanding of the best experience and custom app to provide.

2 days of work and the excel document corrupts

2. Focus on function.

First and foremost, a custom app has to be functional.
“Ensures that the product behaves according to the functional requirements...” 
You can have the best interfaces and usability in the world but if the custom app does not achieve the original requirements, all that effort, time and client’s budget will have been wasted. This is because you cannot have a great experience without the system achieving what it was supposed to.

3. Usability.

Usability is the ability to use something easily; your decisions when improving usability should be based on making it as easy and clear, for the user to understand your intentions. But be careful: what feels easy to one person in one situation may not suit everyone in every situation. A Formula One driver won’t feel his life has been made easier if you ask him to race in a Mini.

You can never be too clear.

To ensure my systems are as easy as possible to use I follow the 5 E’s of usability; Effective, Efficient, Engaging, Error Tolerant, Easy to Learn by Whitney Quesenbery.

4. Elevate the experience.

“People will buy the image and then fall in love with the detail.”
I used this phrase in a recent presentation at DevCon to highlight that you have to win over a user first before they can truly fall in love with the details and real benefits of any system. A user will make their first vital impressions of your app in just seven seconds, but seven seconds is all you need! The first thing that catches their attention needs to make a positive impact.

Gru seems much happier now with his custom app.

Elevating the experience is about adding those extra touches that set you apart from competitors and engage with users at an emotional level. For inspiration I resort to looking at the products I use on a daily basis; Mail Chimp has lots of great animations, Slack has custom loading messages to brighten your day and Google changes its logo on a daily basis. All of these little extras do nothing to improve functionality or usability but they add to the overall experience.

So why are we talking about this again?

This is so important because on nearly a daily basis I speak to users who have a negative feeling towards a system before they even open it, so much so that they would rather use another tool than the system that has been custom built to improve their working lives.

Removing this negative feeling results in users who want to use the system. This is the golden ticket: having users who want to use a custom app results in a far better quality of data, richer feedback and a company-wide feeling that the custom app has been a great success. It’s much easier for clients to justify investment in a custom app when they have a happy workforce asking for enhancements.

If anyone tells you building a system with the aim of having a great user experience is a waste of time, money and resources. Ask them how much would they would pay to have happy clients and constant repeat business. It may just be the most valuable thing you spend your precious time on!

If you are interested in hearing more, take a look at a recent talk I delivered at FileMaker DevCon looking at User Experience vs Usability or take a look at some of our work at weknowdata.net


For more about custom apps built on the FileMaker Platform go to: www.filemaker.com

To download a free trial go to: www.filemaker.com/trial

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