User experience: Utopia or millstone?

Design, Digital, User Experience

Adam Elovalis 29 Oct 2016
3 mins
UX - Utopia or millstone?

User experience is not just a design consideration – it can be the measure of your success, writes Cannings Purple Senior Graphic Designer Adam Elovalis.

We live in a world in which even the smallest tweak to a user interface, from Apple’s new design for its Music app, to the way a brand communicates on social media, can create millions of online shares and virtual column inches.

User experience (UX) done well can create reputational kudos. Done badly, it can frustrate and anger your customers and clients.

What is User Experience?

User experience is any method by which a customer or prospective customer interacts with your brand to accomplish tasks. This is generally through a user interface, via an app, website, smart phone or helpdesk. If a customer is approaching your business with a specific goal in mind, the ease with which they achieve that goal is a measure of the success of the user experience. And it’s becoming increasingly important in our connected, digital world.

Frustrating user experiences can create negative PR… or worse.

When Facebook changed its interface in 2009, many users became frustrated. Plenty voiced their concerns through Facebook pages and groups (apparently immune to the irony of their platform of choice). The #bringbackoldfacebook hashtag was born and numerous articles were written on tech blogs about the issue.

Luckily for Facebook, there wasn’t a similar service with better UX waiting in the wings and it lived to see additional (and better) UX changes over the years. This is in contrast to MySpace, for example which was killed off partly because of its clunky user experience by… Facebook!

All of this can be challenging for companies which are still getting used to playing in the digital space. Bad user experience seems particularly obvious on digital platforms and so these companies should focus on making the use of these new services as efficient and easy as possible.

Brilliant user experiences are essential to capturing millennial markets

Millenials are growing in their consumer power. There are now more millennials in America than Baby Boomers, a demographic reversal which happened in April. Millennials are getting older, earning more and becoming more mature in their tastes (Pokémon Go excluded). Brand sentiment isn’t usually inherited from one generation to the next, so just because parents are willing to put up with a clunky online banking experience doesn’t mean their kids won’t vote with their feet and find a better one. And of course, it isn’t just established brands which need to improve their UX. Uber’s much discussed business model is driven by a significantly improved user experience as much as anything else.

If using your business services becomes too cumbersome (or the opportunity to access them doesn’t even exist online) Millennials in particular will tweet, blog, Snapchat and Facebook their discontent before moving to a new service with a better UX.

How can you improve your user experience?

It is human nature to assume our customers are just the same as we are, with our goals and tasks, who go about achieving them in the same way. The best way to test these assumptions is by being curious. Ask questions of your users, or of non-users from similar demographics. Listen to what they’re already saying by monitoring social media. You can also do this through informal conversations as part of your service to your customers and clients, or through customer surveys. Sitting down for a meeting with a customer, and asking what really bugs them about using your services, systems and interfaces is a useful operation for any business.  By asking questions you will uncover the real frustrations your users have which, in turn, can inform better decision making.

Today, poor UX might not be enough to ruin every company’s reputation, but socially-savvy Millenials are looking for better experiences. If we don’t innovate our user experiences for them, someone else will.

Adam Elovalis is Cannings Purple’s Senior Graphic Designer and an expert in design for both digital and print. Contact Adam.

Adam Elovalis More from author

Adam lives and breathes branding strategy and design. An Art Director with a diverse skillset covering strategy, print, user-experience (UX) design, user-interface (UI) design and digital design, Adam developed his knowledge and design touch in a variety of industries including real estate, government, mining, not-for-profit, technology, and information technology.

Today, Adam applies his design thinking, with a particular focus on corporate branding strategy and design, through a range of services including web design, user interface, and user-experience design; logo design, infographic design, animation, and corporate video; and document design, style-guide design, and annual-report design.

Born and bred in Perth, Adam started working with Cannings Purple on a contract basis in 2013, becoming a full-time team member within two years. Adam is married with two kids, enjoys being beaten in online gaming, writing, and occasionally he can be heard preaching at his local church.

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