Making User Experience Count

Photo courtesy: Flickr user Andy BrightWe accept it as truism. Yes, User Experience or #UX counts and is the most important aspect of a product or service. User experience is not just about the design, user interface or measured only when customers are using the product. It is measured across the entire lifecycle. It is about making things easy and frictionless.

Make it easy for prospects to know about your product. Make it easy to buy. Make it easy to onboard. Make it easy to get to results after first use. Make it easy for continued use. Even make it easy to switch.

All these intuitively make sense. But leading with User Experience, however noble this sounds, is no different from leading with tech specs and product features. What is missing in our push for frictionless user experience is data – Data on these key questions

  1. Who is the customer?
  2. Why are they hiring the product?
  3. What are their alternatives?
  4. How do they make buying decisions?
  5. What aspects of the product do they value and are willing to pay for?
  6. What product factors influence repeat business?

Without data on these we risk focusing on improving wrong aspects of user experience. Wrong because those do not affect customer buying decisions or their value perception. Take for instance a widely read short piece on user experience by Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt of NetFlix.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAS1AAAAJDQ4YTI4Mzk5LTRlNTUtNDU1Yy04NTg0LWVjZjA3NzYyOWJjZANeil makes a case why the toiletries at hotels are poorly designed and present bad user experience. He describes the profile of user (wears glasses) and context (about to take bath) and puts forth a recommendation.  He goes on to make design recommendations for better user experience. Makes sense.

But have we answered the six questions on customers?  Take for instance the question of how these customers make buying decisions. How many travelers – leisure or business – do you think will make a buying decision based on user experience of shampoo bottles?

Answering this or the list of six questions is not difficult. We have several methods at our disposal like ethnographic research, conjoint analysis or randomized trials (like AB testing) to get customers to reveal their preferences.

Before getting that crucial data why go down the path of optimizing user experience of one small part of the lifecycle? At best you please those who are already your rabid fans and at worse you incur huge opportunity cost of not focusing on the the right things that drive adoption and grow business.

For instance, an observational study may reveal customers assign more value to check-in process and free breakfast over shampoo bottles at the bathroom. You may be delivering better experience with design change but won’t move the needle on what matters.

User experience is indeed key but leading with it is same as leading with technology (feeds and speeds). Start with the customer and answer the key questions before solving the wrong problem.