In a world where digital interactions pervade almost every experience that customers have with a brand, business leaders can’t afford to get UX wrong. But how can they get it right when design opinions are endless, design patterns are seemingly infinite and consumer interactions and expectations are ever-evolving?
We recommend taking a step back, understanding the foundations of experience design and debunking some of the contemporary, mainstream myths.
Myth 1: Experience can’t be measured.
Measuring experience may not be intuitive, but it’s certainly possible. The reality is that all it takes to measure experience is a clear understanding of solution goals and a selection of metrics and targets that are good indicators of those goals. The organization can then measure experience design effectiveness by examining the outcomes of these goals. We refer to this business return-on-investment (ROI) in user experience as the “return on experience,” or RoX.
In addition to business outcomes, UX professionals employ a host of direct metrics to better diagnose experience design flaws and prioritize areas to improve. These range from behavioral metrics — quantifying consumer activity through instrumentation and observation — to subjective metrics that quantify end-user reactions to the experience.
Myth 2: Design standards yield success.
There’s no question that sticking to a set of well-crafted design standards is an important part of usability. In fact, we regularly review and analyze digital solutions whose user interfaces comply with well-regarded standards. Yet many of these solutions offer extremely poor user experiences. These solutions might superficially look familiar, but when it comes to actual usage — they just don’t deliver.
In addition to consistency, effective user experiences rely on a deep understanding of the user model — that is, how end users think about the world and their associated needs and motivations. Smart brands acquire this understanding through a combination of direct research and know-how and then choose where to improve the experience by building well-crafted experience frameworks and content taxonomies reflective of the user model.
Myth 3: Analytics alone reveal user needs.
Activity and site logs illustrate what end users are doing, but not why. User behavior is a response to what users encounter in the current solution ecosystem. For example, if users are following ineffective or misleading content and navigational cues, or neglecting to follow potentially valuable but visually obscure links, then the site logs could be merely reflecting these poor design choices.
To gather valid insights about user needs and motivations, analytics need to be supplemented with consumer research and insights methods, such as contextual inquiry, digital ethnography and participatory design. These methods are structured to elicit design-relevant input from end users that, in combination with quantitative analytics, can lead to deep insights that will improve the overall experience as well as specific, tactical UX elements.
Myth 4: Consistency across devices leads to good experience design.
Propagating look and feel, as well as tone and voice, across devices makes sense. But a consistent experience across devices also entails explicitly tuning the interactions to the device and further varying the experience to address the changing context of usage. Experience between channels is simply not transferrable. Brands must consider each channel individually while ensuring that the overall experience is consistent.
Myth 5: CX leaders create great user experiences.
A leading user experience demands a focus on learnability, ease of use and productivity. The key principles of interaction design also include ensuring that users are aware of what actions are possible and how to select those actions. Yet the leaders aren’t always delivering against these best practices.
For example, Apple (the widely proclaimed master of consumer product design) leads the way in balancing form and function to appeal to both the core needs and emotional drivers of its customers. However, the founding fathers of Apple’s human interface design guidelines recently published a critical review of how Apple has abandoned user-centered design principles in favor of aesthetics like flat design and over-simplification. Where Apple products once embodied key principles of interaction design, they now seem to be heading in a different direction.
So, what’s next for brands?
Achieving breakthrough experience design relies on a strong, flexible, user-centered research and strategy process, as well as the right mix of talent.