User experience highlights the experiential, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. The practice includes a person's perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system. It's dynamic, as it's constantly modified over time due to changing circumstances and new innovations.
Craig Casten - UX expert at Interact has an even simpler analogy - he compares the practice of UX to the construction industry.
"The easiest way for the layman to understand UX is to compare it to the construction of a luxury home. In essence, UX is a big part of constructing an experience. Using the construction analogy, there are three main players in that space. The construction company make up the people who actually build the home, then you have the people that plan that structure - the architects, and finally you've got the interior designers - the people who make everything pretty. So the construction company is like the technology developer who puts it altogether, the interior designer would be the graphic designer and the architect would be the user experience consultant who plans everything in advance."Where does UX fit into the digital landscape?
According to Casten, user experience is directly influenced by digital transformation, which is evolving at breakneck speed due to the ever-changing nature of technology and the speed in which users adapt to that change. We think that we evolve technology, but in many ways technology is evolving us. Keeping up to date with that evolution is an important part of optimising the user experience.
"Digital transformation represents the next big thing in customer experience and ultimately how business is done. Those companies that "get it" early on, that invest more in learning about their digital customers' behaviours, preferences, and expectations, will carry a significant competitive advantage over those that figure it out later."
"Today, the complexity of technology means that, unlike in the past, you can't design and build a cathedral and provide a magnificent artistic creation on the ceiling - you need a team of specialists to make it happen. In order for that team to be cohesive, you need something that binds it all together. You need a common thread and that common thread is the guiding light of providing a great user experience." says Casten.Measuring the efficiency Of UX
There's no doubt about the importance of effective UX, but how do you know you're being effective? There is really only one way to judge the quality of the user experience and that is through direct engagement with the consumer who is using the interface. The UX consultant needs to know and understand the user - their unique experiences, their tastes and other information about their user demographic. Clear understanding about what needs to be provided and the reasons for providing the platform are also essential in underlining an effective UX strategy, as well as measuring it's success.
This is one of the reasons that successful UX strategies will always start with an analysis of both the consumer and the company providing the technology. If this step isn't taken, there is always the danger of ending up with a product that is inappropriate for the market or demographic.
A case in point where demographics haven't been considered is the latest video auto-play function from Facebook:
"Take Facebook for example - their idea of having videos autoplay on opening the page is great for a Western audience. In South Africa we have a large user base made up of those in the lower LSM's and for this consumer base, data is extremely expensive. What is seen as a fabulous design feature elsewhere is an example of a bad user experience in this country - this is why you need to engage with your users and understand their needs."
If there was statistical information to represent how South Africans feel about this change, Facebook might be quick to learn that they don't have a very solid grasp on the demographical data of their South African customers. There are plenty of statistical tools out there for analysing success and ROI in the digital space, but ultimately what it all comes down to in the end is this:
- Why did you do it?
- How did you do it?
- Did it work?
If you can answer all of these properly and back them up with your research and evidence, chances are, you've taken customer experience to an area of success and it's working for your users. This will change. You will need to adapt what you're doing today for your users of tomorrow, but with the proper analysis and a finger on the pulse of technology, you'll more than likely be able to foresee the changes and acclimatise accordingly.
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