User experience: What is it, and why is it so important?

User experience: What is it, and why is it so important?

Most have heard about user experience or UX, but not many can give an example of it. While people commonly think about design or technology when talking about UX, everyone actually interacts with UX every day. 

Everyday interaction with UX 

Have you ever taken the time to look hard at your car’s entertainment screen? Or maybe the easy to navigate touch screen on a coffee machine? No? – what about the latest app you’ve downloaded? How much did layout and functionality take part in your decision making?

User experience is the overall emotional experience we are left with when using any product or service. We have certain expectations when using such things. Often these include functionality, design, and efficiency. Nothing is worse than a hard to navigate entertainment system or touch screen that doesn’t have an optimized screen layout. 

Why user experience will make or break your product 

Functionality and value for the user are often in the front seat when new applications are designed. While these certainly are important, the overall UX should be the main focus. It doesn’t matter much if you have the best tools in the world integrated into your app if no one can find or use them. People rarely remember websites or products with excellent UX but will be able to tell you about products with horrible user experience for a long time after they used it.

You might be wondering why? When we come across sites or products with excellent UX, we rarely notice. The website or product moves along seamlessly, and we get the expected value or more out of it. Products with poor UX offer a terrible experience, often resulting in frustration, impatience, or even anger toward the product. Left with a bad impression, users are more likely to remember the product and share their frustration about it. 

Four simple steps to ensure good UX 

User behavior might be hard to predict, but we can take a few simple steps to ensure the best possible starting point. While great design and exemplary interfaces can go a long way, irrational behavior might occur, rendering it useless; despite knowing why users visit our site or use a product, their intention or view might differ. 

Step 1: Why is the user there in the first place? 

The most critical piece of understanding required for a good UX is knowing why a user is using a site, app, or product? 

By mapping out what experience our users are looking for, we can start mapping out an action flow. Use sticky-notes or flowcharts to create a series of actions that our users are likely to implement. For example, take the whole exercise from landing page to end result. Do they enter your site and search for something, watch a video, or browse through articles looking for the right answer? 

When the flow is mapped out, please go through it. Check that all links or interfaces lead to where expected. If they don’t? – Correct them, and start over again.

Step 2: Put yourself in the users’ place 

This might be a little bit more tricky but worthwhile. How do we want the user to feel when entering our site or using our product? Entering our site, we might want them to feel welcome, then they go onto the article archive, and we want them to experience curiosity. After finding the article that piqued their interest, we want them to feel satisfied with the experience. 

This step is all about UX; the implementation of color, layout, presentation, and sound affects the ultimate user experience. Map out what you want the user to feel while using the product and create that good experience. This approach can be copied across all product types, regardless of your industry.

Step 3: Go back to the drawing table 

Now it’s time to design the UX based on Steps 1 and 2. We know why the user is using our product, and we know what emotions we want to evoke in the user experience. With this in mind, we can start designing the flow of actions creating this experience. Replicate the flow from Step 1 and create the interface to make this possible.

Step 4: Test with users

While we might be able to do a lot of testing ourselves, the most valuable insight comes from the intended end-user. That is why beta launches offer so much invaluable information toward the development of the end product. If you have the timeframe and budget, try to let users experience the product and use their feedback to adjust accordingly.

While user experience can be hard to specify, the overall definition is pretty clear. UX is all about the journey a user experience from entering a site/product/system until they finish it again. The importance of good UX is what separates a good product from a bad one, a successful site from a failing one. As we delve into a more digitalized world, UX will only increase in importance.

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