The experts in marketing have succeeded in reflecting in their campaigns and slogans what people want: to love “experiences.” Who has not bought or received as a gift an “experience box”? The slogan of the LAN airline “The pleasure of flying”; the BMW campaign “Do you like driving?”; ING’s “Fresh banking”; or Audi’s recent “Love is in the air” offering packaged air for the experience of driving in different places. And in this way many other campaigns set the product aside to place the emphasis on what their consumers will experience when using it.
The idea can be transferred to a website. When someone enters the website of an airline and selects Tokyo as the destination, above and beyond buying a ticket they are living a part of a story. The visit to the airline’s website forms part of a process that began before entering it and ends long after buying the ticket. We don’t buy a ticket for the mere pleasure of buying it, we do so because there is an ‘offline’ reason: a honeymoon; an export transaction in Asia; a holiday; a relative we haven’t seen for a long time – and many more! The website is just one link in a complete chain of motivations, expectations, questions, emotions, interactions, searches, purchases and memories. For the user, the website is not an end in itself but the means for achieving an objective, for making a story come true. Providing a good experience on the website is as important and as attention-demanding as the rest of the offline elements that form part of the story. Nobody likes finding a hotel room untidy, dirty, smelly or noisy – so why not care for the website in the same way? This is the essence of the User Experience (UX).
Providing a good user experience means simply making the time the users spend on our website a pleasant moment that will accompany them in their story towards a happy ending. A website that provides a good UX has many benefits. On one hand, a user who feels comfortable on the site is more likely to be inclined to buy than a user who does not. In addition, users who feel comfortable on it will spend more time visiting its pages, so they will learn more about the product and will increase the possibilities of immediate or future sales; at the same time, the advertisers will see an advantage in placing their ads on that site, since the more time a user spends on it the more likely they are to see the ad and click on it. Moreover, a user who enjoys being on a website is more likely to repeat the visit, make positive comments on it in social media and register to receive news. A good UX brings nothing but benefits to the website.
Is UX the new way of talking about usability?
Yes and no. Yes, because the UX requires good usability. And no, because usability alone is not enough to give the user a good experience. While usability centres on the user’s efficiency in performing tasks on the website, UX appeals to the emotions. Usability is to a highway what UX is to a mountain road: the former takes us to our destination directly, quickly, comfortably, but it is in the mountains where we enjoy the views, breathe the clear air and feel the cool breeze on our faces.
Elements of UX
There are several aspects of a website that can contribute to generating a good User Experience. Peter Morville’s honeycomb sums it up in 7 points. The UX improves when we create websites:
• That are useful, that have the functionalities the users are going to need.
• That are usable, that enable those functionalities to be used in a fluid and intuitive manner, where the interface is clear and the user can concentrate on the tasks to be performed and not on how to perform them.
• That generate desire, that appeal to the emotions; this is achieved with a design that enhances the brand image and highlights the positive features of the product.
• That help the users to find what they are looking for, situating the information in the expected places.
• That are accessible, that eliminate any type of barriers for both users with disabilities and those who use technology with software and hardware which is not of the latest generation or who access Internet in unfavourable environmental conditions, such as poor lighting, noise, movement, etc.
• That generate credibility and confidence.
• That add value to the product.
The user at the centre of the design
The team of professionals who participate in the design and development of a website is varied: experts in marketing, in contents, in development, in frontends; web analysts, graphic designers, SEO professionals, and so on, all dedicated to creating a product for the user but often without considering the user. When a company incorporates into its structure a UX area, what it is doing is designing for the user with the user. The UX department must be involved in the website project from its earliest conception and throughout its entire life, because it is the element which will be closest to the users. At the moment of design, attention will be paid to the users in order to know their expectations, their needs, their attitude to the product, their uncertainties and frustrations and their abilities. When the website goes online, the UX experts will work to detect possible usability problems and will again take the users into account in their research.
From the user to the customer. The Customer Experience
In an online context, it is so easy for a person to close the browser that in a matter of a second we lose the opportunity of showing them our product, and a second later the user has already entered the competition’s website. The fact of changing the word user to customer helps to integrate the UX into the business vision, to set aside that altruistic halo that has been inherited from the idea of guiding the user because things have always been done that way. We have to understand that the user is our customer, and without the customer there is no business.