Welcome to the first article in our user experience series from IQ Inc! For the first post in the series, we will explain why a proper understanding of user experience (UX) is essential for IQ and our clients when creating or updating products.
What is user experience?
User experience has become a buzzword in the tech community in recent years. It has been lumped in with web app development or equated with “making things look pretty.” A good user experience designer may not necessarily be a good user interface designer because the two disciplines, though linked, are distinct. And to set the record straight: user experience is not about having a “gut” feeling or touchy-feely decisions about how a product should look or behave.
At its core, user experience is about problem-solving. It involves identifying and understanding the tasks that a user wants to perform (e.g., “The user wants to invite friends out to dinner), followed by observing and reasoning about pain points that the user has with how he or she currently performs that task (e.g., The user messages each friend individually and inquires about their availability).
This step is called “user research.” It is about understanding who the users are, including their wants, desires, constraints, and fears. It also includes understanding current solutions to the problem and their strengths and weaknesses.
User experience also incorporates brainstorming, prototyping, evaluating, and iterating on potential solutions to the problem posed in the first step. It is at this stage that many other disciplines are brought to bear on the issue, including information architecture, visual design, content strategy, and usability evaluations.
In essence, a user experience practitioner is an advocate for the user. We want to see products developed here at IQ meet the exact needs of those using them.
Why does UX matter?
Your product, its interface, and interactions give users a firsthand look into your company and what it values. That first impression can be the difference between a repeat customer or a weak recommendation. It can affect how long users want to use your product and whether or not trust and brand loyalty forms in their minds. It can be the difference between a user deciding to sign up for a service or getting frustrated and moving on to a competitor’s offerings.
Excellent user experience helps IQ find and retain customers, reduce churn, and minimize the overhead costs in training, support, and bugs. In this day and age, customers are much savvier and expect better from the products that they use. Companies cannot afford to neglect user experience when considering their product. But isn’t it more about the features?
Well, yes, and no.
Imagine there are two products with the same feature set. Product A’s features are well-organized, with proper visual hierarchy, an elegant color palette, and adherence to appropriate layout principles. Also, the communication, user-prompts, and wording used throughout the product indicate that the user is in control, and empowers them through their journey. In contrast, consider Product B, whose features are stitched together as if they were an afterthought. The organization and flow of Product B is confusing. Despite all features being present, users find it unintuitive to perform even the simplest of tasks.
Now, what if Product A retained its thoughtful product design but instead had fewer features? Studies have shown that more customers were still willing to use Product A. Why? Because it is delightful to use. It instills trust and exhibits professionalism. It gets customers hooked and wanting more.
Of course, it is impossible to sell a product that looks pretty but has no real features. Customers aren’t dumb. The latest shiny design that has no substance won’t attract them either. It is not a question of which to have: features or polish. The issue is that it should be both. The product as a whole needs to be built with the user experience in mind, not as an afterthought.
It’s time to start thinking about the user
Together, let’s commit to building and designing products and services that keep the user, and their desires, in mind. Stay tuned for more posts in this series as we explore the world of user experience.
Author: Sam Cheng