You’ve probably heard the age old example of how a retailer got an additional $300 million in revenue by replacing the “Register” button with a “Continue” button that allowed guest purchases. But what is remarkable about it and numerous other current stories highlighting the immense value of improved user experience, is that both the problem and solution were found not via some complex engineering process, but by the very fundamental step of experience design – knowing, understanding and empathizing with your user.
Today, if your app isn’t beautiful, product isn’t simple, website isn’t elegant, and easy-to-use from day one, your startup has very little hope of becoming a billion-dollar business. Design is the premise for any business to thrive.
In this context, guess who’s the hottest hire in the most prominent startup city today? No, it’s not the data scientist, mobile app engineer, or digital marketer; it’s a user experience designer.
Data from jobs website Glassdoor showed that, in early May, 2,260 companies nationally were hoping to hire user experience (UX) designers. That compares to 975 companies trying to hire big data engineers, another “hot” hire. (Forbes and Glassdoor Research)
Having been a key enabler of Design Led Business Transformation in several Fortune 100 companies for over 20 years, I’ve seen a huge shift in the last few years towards creating a stellar user experience.
Let’s rewind the clock to just 5 years ago, massive software giants ranging from SAP to Oracle sold complex, costly software that took months (even years for some) to get the hang of it. Users sat through numerous training courses, muddled through complicated screens to even figure out basic tasks. Some tools that boasted the ability to boost productivity, often ended up hampering them.
Next came companies like Salesforce.com, NetSuite, etc. in a rush to accelerate time to market, missing out on the very core elements of user experience. Well, if the same software was released now, no one will put up with the dreadful UX.
While most enterprises have failed miserably in massive roll-outs without a killer user experience, you can imagine how startups end up turning their ideas into a nightmare.
Almost all startups fall in love with their idea, having the least or no inclination to go spend time learning more about potential customers and the experience they expect.
Most fall in the above category, but a few disruptive companies have made a stellar difference – making it difficult even for Big Giants to catch up.
Let’s look at some examples to see how far we have come.
Housing.com Vs (Ex) Real Estate Pioneers
Housing.Com, currently equipped with the two rounds of angel funding, these guys have amazed the big domains like 99acers and Magicbricks. They have led the charge by baking user experience into their DNA.
Wondering how they managed to up the ante and create an oomph? Doesn’t the very first look of the website say it all?
The number of UX designer job listings for Housing.com is greater than the summation of all other functional roles put together.
Myntra Vs Yebhi.com
What hooks the user to your business over time? Doesn’t it by default narrow down to user experience?
The stats say it all! Jabong and Myntra hit an all-time high by making UX a key strategic differentiator.
Every job posting of Myntra revolves around creating and delivering meaningful experiences, to establish themselves as “The Online” portal.
So, as Startups, what does a design-driven world mean to your company at a practical level?
For Experience Design that transforms the way you do business, your product development efforts have to be centered around the user, with empathy – built in from the get go. And as you can’t empathize with a contrived persona or a figment of the team’s imagination, you’ve got to take the time and effort to know your user. Understanding your user’s journey provides solid data points and remarkable insights for grounded and connected design.
But the digital customer of today interacts with your website/product through multiple channels and devices, ultimately making her “buy/ditch” judgement call based on her experience with your business as a whole. So how do you analyze such complex user journeys through the myriad touch-points?
Know Thy User
The research and discovery process is an essential investment to ensure that the experience map captures the entire customer journey. Piece together the big picture of how and why your customers are interacting with different channels, touch points, products and services across a timeline. Select the user research techniques that best fit spanning cognitive, contextual, qualitative and quantitative aspects (user interviews, market research, competitive analysis, website analytics, field surveys, focus group workshops, user task observation, etc.). This step will serve as the backbone to the entire experience mapping process, hence empathetically immerse yourself in the customer’s point of view.
Map the User Stories
Bring the data you collected to life with user scenario mapping. Chart out the information architecture that emphasises the most important dimensions of customer experience.
PET (Persuasive, Emotion and Trust) is a useful methodology for making user experience more engaging, and effective. It adds a layer of psychology to gently nudge customers towards the desired action. Design your journey through the lens of PET- encouraging users to engage, connect, convert and return instead of merely browsing, searching and consuming.
Build the Experience Map
Before implementing your user experience maps identify the key takeaways from the steps above. This should essentially include strategic insights, stakeholder recommendations, design guidelines, key observations of user behaviour at different touch points and persona requirements. You can get creative with your map and don’t be afraid to change it – digitize and share your customer’s journey map, tweak it on the go.
Experience mapping is not an easy task, it takes quite a bit of time and effort, and there is no one right way to build an experience map – the techniques and tools have to be adjusted based on the context. But remember, the cost of fixing bad user experience/incorrect user hypotheses grow exponentially as the product development lifecycle progresses. When done well, you can gain a single view of your customer interacting with your products or services in the multi-channel world. The output of a journey map can also be mined further to serve as a backbone for strategic recommendations and tactical business initiatives.
While large enterprises are realizing the need to fix the User Experience Conundrum, startups are at an advantage by leading the way with design.
This article was originally published on Linkedin