A significant chunk of revenue for most businesses flows through some flavor of transactional experience via computing – a scenario where there’s no face-to-face contact, no opportunity to persuade through traditional means. Your product, your app, your web site acts as an avatar, an ambassador for you. So when it comes to business via computing, the strength of the customer relationship depends on the experience they have doing business with you. If the site sucks, you suck. If the system is slow and unresponsive, so are you. If the app is confusing and frustrating, they’re frustrated with you too.
Now, I think most of us agree that gaining and maintaining market share depends on the strength of the customer relationship. And the strength of the customer relationship is intimately tied to profitability, growth and a host of other business goals. So it sure stands to reason that the user experience has to work the needs of users into an experience that (a) drives profitability and (b) is directly tied to business results.
So what to do? The short answer is this: STOP putting the cart before the horse. Stop building bloated software with too many functions and too many features. Stop trying to be all things to all people. Spend the time and effort – and yes, money – to figure out the 2 or 3 main things people want from your software or your app or your system, and give it to them in the most simple, straightforward manner possible.
Eliminate all possible barriers to entry, be ruthless about cutting out anything that does not support an engaging, positive user experience. Focus hard on delivering simplified, core functionality – skipping the fancy stuff – and a user experience that delivers short-term results. Once you establish that foothold, then you evolve the functionality and the experience into a larger whole, as the business is able to support those things.
In this networked economy, the user experience IS your brand. And as such it has to deliver a singular, consistent experience and relationship, regardless of delivery channel. Developing and implementing a UX strategy ensures that this happens. That goes beyond the user interface and beyond the underlying technology; it speaks instead to the need to create experiences with software as an encompassing environment. Positive UX means the app, site or system is easy to learn, easy to use and consistently delivers value with every click.
Strategic, effective experience design is the critical difference between limited use and broad adoption. And only one of those scenarios delivers positive business results.
To be effective, UX strategy has to live at the center of business strategy. Companies who embrace this model share the following attributes:
- A customer-centric culture driven by senior management, focused obsessively on being “of service” to customers, and whose user experiences successfully deliver an elegant equilibrium between satisfying customers’ goals and those of the firm.
- Rigorous practices, derived from traditional product development blended with best-practice methods learned from the dot-com era.
- A strong learning culture, where team members are encouraged to continually add to their knowledge, learning new technologies and design techniques and how to apply them to solve business challenges.
- Open communication and a respectful interchange among multi-disciplinary teams – comprised of members from business strategy, technology development and creative design – who have distinct goals, work processes and metrics for success.
- Shared metrics across the enterprise, so that each distinct group understands its contribution to overall user experience and its impact on business success, as well as continual measurement and refinement.
- Profitability as a driving component of the design and development process.
If that’s you, if that sounds like your organization’s culture, great. You’re one step ahead of the game and it’s likely that your competitive position is solid and defendable, and your margins probably reflect that. The challenge now is to continue to sustain and evolve at a consistent, continuous pace.
If that’s not you, if that sounds 180º away from where you are, your company needs to understand that it has a very limited window in which to turn things around. Any organization that wants to remain relevant in the coming years needs to get religion in terms of UX strategy.
Starting right now.