What is UX?
UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want
User experience, or UX is a way to ensure your customers are happy with your product or service. The aim is to align the customer’s wishes and demands to meet with your work. And now in the digital age, it’s more crucial than ever! Don Norman is to be credited with the term of user experience in the late 90’s. He describes it as a way to encompass all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
UX applies to anything that can be experienced: a website, a coffee machine, a visit to the supermarket etc. The “user experience” part refers to the interaction between the user and a product or service. And when adding the word design, we are considering all the different elements that shape this experience. A UX designer thinks about how the experience makes the user feel and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their desired tasks. For example: how easy is the checkout process when shopping online? How easy is it for you to have a grip on a vegetable peeler? Does your online banking app make it easy for you to manage your money? The ultimate purpose of UX design is to create easy, efficient, relevant, and all-round pleasant experiences for the user.
We have been working a lot with UX designing with Variance Team Building. Our core problem is how to connect students from different fields easily and in a way that it feels natural and fun. How could we build a service that tackles our customers’ needs? We found out that nowadays to network, you basically need to go to networking events or be active on LinkedIn. Those options don’t make the process easy for everybody. With networking events, you first need to find the right people and that means talking to these people, telling your story, listening their story and then keep repeating it until you might find someone potential to take you on wards whatever your mission is. Even that doesn’t tackle the problem of having an effective way to match with like-minded people who could become a team for you to work on real-life problems.
Sometimes you may stumble to a term UI design. The main difference with UX and UI is that UI is strictly only for interfaces, the things you can’t have your hands on.
UI considers all the visual and interactive elements of a product interface, including buttons, icons, spacing, typography, color schemes, and responsive design.
If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which give it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions. And UI design represents the cosmetics of the body; its presentation, its senses and reactions. (Lamprecht 2019)
For example, since we are building an online platform, we could be talking about UI design as well as UX design. But if we would build a concrete product, say a vegetable peeler, the right term in that case would be UX.
UX strategy walks hand-by-hand with the business strategy
Most of the time, if a UX design isn’t working on a wished level, it isn’t due to the visual execution but rather the missing of syncing it with the business strategy. Now this can be overcome with a UX strategy. The aim is to have a big-picture view of the problem you are trying to solve and figure whether your UX is really fitting with your business plan. And how to determine if they fit? A very first note is to recall on the desirability of your product you are offering. This is the time to carry out pilots and validation through prototypes; you want to make sure you are serving the customers desires rather than your own. To save money and time, you want to start with your business strategy and on top of that build your UX strategy, not the other way around.
UX could be the competitive advantage
A company’s strategy is its DNA; it guides the actions that will be taken. As Michael Porter, a business practitioner and theorists lay’s it out, a company needs to have a competitive advantage in order to be viable. Without this, a business unlikely will cease to exist. But how to get this advantage? One way is to offer differentiation. This means, a company will offer something that competitors on that field don’t have and it will bring customers to engage on your product rather than somebody else’s and are more likely willing to pay more. An example for this could be Starbucks; due to their unique experience, they can charge higher on any sort of a coffee compared to most cafeterias. Another example is Twitter; before it launched, there was no platform for people to broadcast information on such short form.
The other way of achieving competitive advantage is through cost-leadership. To put it simply; making your product cheaper for the customer compared to your competition. Walmart has managed this well, as they have managed to stay in the game despite selling products at a price point compared to competition. Through this tactic they have raised their volume so high, that they will compensate their lower prices with it.
To gain the ultimate position in the markets, combining both differentiation and cost-leadership you gain what is called the value innovation. To get there you need to create a non-existing product with no previous competition that is also cheap for the customer. A prime example is Facebook. No such platform of its kind had existed, and it was and still is free for its users.
Testing UX could save a lot time and money
Nowadays there are more than the two options, success or failure. There are tools and methods for removing risks and simultaneously reducing the costs, had the event of failure occur. And how is this done? User testing. Once more, rather than assuming of a working product (as it works for use) it should be tested with non-biased users to gain actually viable data from the UX. Even often times the prototype doesn’t need to be fixed or molded in all, some fine tuning may be essential for it to fit the market.
Airbnb has done this great. They offer simple and straight forward interface on their platform for renting housing and they have given customers multiple options for filtering their needs based on price, house type, location, feedback etc.
With Variance Team Building, we are also planning to use different filters to find the perfect match. The UX will play a big role with our competitive advantage. But to ensure there is an actual need for our ideas (like the filters or techniques to match people), before interviewing actual people, we created some provisional personas. In other words, we imagined a set of our possible customers. The more detailed we managed to create them, the smoother and better view we had for the actual customer profiles. We asked questions like: What is their name? How about their age, sex, education and monthly salary? How do they spend their free time? What devices and platform do they use?
And of course, every idea we are scrutinizing has more detailed questions built around it. Two questions are crucial however, be the idea whatever; “What are they trying to achieve” and “what motivates them”. Through these mini experimentations with the provisional personas and testing those hypotheses with the real customers, we are able to gain valuable data to support the actual need of the idea. It exists in users, not just in our own minds.
A very essential “task” to validate your idea is to observe your competition. It’s like peeling onions; the more layers you remove, the closer to the core you get. The deeper you go with this one, it is very likely you will find out that all your ideas and adaptions weren’t all that original as you may have thought. While it can be highly unpleasant to realize such points, it is truly essential for you to find out what is your niche. A couple of useful tactics to look for from your competitors are when and how they were funded and how much traffic do they get from using different sorts of free services (e.g. Alexa). These might give you some vital insights on how or how not to go on about with such strategies yourself.
Lamprecht, E. 2019. The Difference Between UX and UI Design – A Layman’s Guide https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/the-difference-between-ux-and-ui-design-a-laymans-guide/