The user experience is regularly touted as the key to unlock your online presence. As a UX specialist, I’m not going to refute this claim, but there are a lot misconceptions around the term “user experience” and what impact it has on your business.
Newsflash. The user experience is not just focused on your users. A good UX strategy will link your business goals with your user needs.
This will allow your users do both what you want them to do and what they want to do. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario.
It’s also a scenario where the lines between the user and the business are blurring, according to Deloitte Digital. Deloitte’s Andy Fitzgerald said: “With the increasing pervasiveness of electronically mediated experiences and the growing importance of the connected environment – the goals of business strategy and user experience strategy are quickly converging. As a result, organisations that learn to bridge the communication gaps between strategic thinking in design and in business will find themselves in a better position to meet customers’ needs and expectations.”
Companies including Google and IBM are ditching project-based strategies in favour of an agile and encompassing UX strategy. For example, Google Material Design (GMD) is a design language that (surprise surprise) was created for designers at Google. Its goal is to ensure consistency and quality across their product range by integrating detailed guidelines and specs in the language. And, under the wing of CEO Ginni Rometty in 2013, IBM began hiring hundreds of designers, increasing its overall UX workforce by 300%, according to IBM’s Todd Wilkens. Wilkens said: “IBM Design is now responsible for the product management practice for IBM as a whole.”
So, how do you strike the right balance between your users’ needs and your business’ goals?
You need to clarify your business objectives. For example, you may want to sell more of a specific product or get your users to sign up to a newsletter or join an email list. Make sure you come up with a clear list of what you want your business to achieve (and what action you want your visitors to take) and prioritise these objectives accordingly.
Next, work out your user objectives. For example, what do you need to do to satisfy their expectations and requirements for your website or app. These goals and objectives may be part of your wider design strategy.
Let’s take a step back. To pinpoint both sets of objectives, you need to carry out comprehensive research and analysis from both your users and your stakeholders.
You should use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data from analytics and user feedback software. You will also need to interview key stakeholders to outline your business objectives.
This will involve extensive user research where you analyse data and validate the problem with your current offering before creating a solution informed by unbiased insights.
Aligning your users and your business
Let’s take a deep dive into the research and analysis you must carry out to start marrying the two business and user perspectives to perfect your user experience:
- Analyse your current position
Carry out an in-depth review of your current user experience. Identify the good points, the pain points, limitations and the impact of each on your business. You will need to carry our primary and secondary research to define each problem and get the necessary context.
It’s important not to just document the positives and negatives of your current offering, you need to understand who and what triggered a particular response, and why.
This will help you to come up with solutions and benchmarks for your user and business objectives in the later stages of this process.
- Document a high level experience
Outline the desired experience for your users, avoiding any fine functional or technical details. Focus, instead, on the benefits to the user and clearly define the user and business outcomes and the specific results you want to achieve with this experience.
You could create personas to better understand your users in terms of their personality type, motivations, pain points and goals. This will help you to break down the complex user needs and pair them with the business objectives. It will also highlight any discrepancies and issues with these objectives so you can formulate the appropriate solutions.
You may want to pull in other departments and gain additional feedback at this stage. Also, try incorporating storyboards or moodboards to further help present and analyse this experience before you have actually created anything.
- Create a UX roadmap
A roadmap will link your current user experience with the desired experience you outlined in the previous step. You need to start drilling down to set priorities and deadlines, as well as cost-to-benefit ratios, trade-offs and resource allocation as you formulise your roadmap.
Wireframing and prototyping will help you give life to your high-level designs and include the necessary functionality to realise your objectives. Again, you may want to brainstorm with other team members or role play the different interactions to highlight any hurdles or unexpected user behaviour you need to take into account.
- Define your benchmarks
Develop the metrics that will indicate progress and clear benchmarks to create the improved user experience you documented in step one. Define these metrics from the perspective of the user experience. For example, the usability, engagement and conversion rates you want to realise on your site. Connect these to your KPIs where possible.
- Review, test and iterate
Present your strategy to your stakeholders and user groups to gauge their response and change your approach, if necessary. Next, ask a wider cross section of users to test your new functionalities before they go live.
You will need to iterate and come up with any solutions this testing phase reveals to achieve the best product or offering for your users and your business.
Also, remember that your strategy will have to adapt to the changing needs of your users. These are more likely to change on a short term basis compared to your business objectives. So, revisit your strategy and revise it as and when you need to.
The user experience is about so much more than the user. It is the process of designing the very best offering for your users and your business. The UK Design Council and the Design Management Institute found that design leadership is linked to shareholder value.
So, if you can truly connect these two disparate demographics you’ll reap the rewards of a thriving business and a growing customer base.