Most people are aware of the importance of UX in any marketing strategy. But did you know that UX is not just a once-off action: it is actually a process of putting the customer at the center of your strategy, and making commercial decisions based on real customer data.
How can you achieve excellent UX? In this article we’ll look at 10 strategies for any successful UX project, whether you do it in-house or with the help of an external consultant.
This article is adapted from a recent Digital Marketing Institute podcast where Will Francis discussed UX with Brian Herron, of award-winning UX agency Each&Other.
Is UX simply all about design, and just creating a delightful customer interface? Or is it more about planning and strategy? In reality, it involves all those things… And then some more.
When people think about UX, they think of the user interface (UI): that’s everything that you see, touch, and interact with on screen. It’s the way a website looks, or what you're tapping at on your phone. People might also think about customer experience (CX), which is the sense of all of the loyalty you've built up, the feeling people have of doing business with you, and the ease with which they do it.
UX fits in the middle of all this. It's a way of understanding the CX that you want to create, the experience that you're trying to get to, and then matching it up to a UI that's actually effective.
“And really, that's all that UX is. It's a way of making decisions based on real customer data. It's a way of parsing out the impact you want to achieve for the business, and then ultimately turning it into a user interface. It's really a mindset more than anything else” Brian Herron
UX aims to deliver digital assets that meet customers’ needs and also serve business goals. In fact, you can think of it as the space in which digital assets, user needs, and business goals intersect.
The digital assets, such as a web page or an app interface, are the most tangible deliverables from a UX project. These should be developed based on solid user research. Only then can you prototype and test them with user groups.
A key goal of UX is to make life as easy as possible for the user. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the voice of the customers. Make sure you understand what they want. Bring them into the decision-making and developing process.
While the user is at the center of any UX project, you also have to take into account the business goals. Developing products without considering business needs is as futile as developing products that don’t meet customer needs.
You need to find a fine balance between what the customer says they need and what the business wants to sell them. If you focus solely on what customers say they want, you may miss out on opportunities to sell them products or services they hadn’t even thought about.
You and your brand might need to focus on UX when you’re either launching a new product or going through some period of change.
When launching a new product, or updating an existing one, companies usually have UX front of mind. They may be watching what their competitors are doing and seeking to deliver a superior UX to their own customers. Most companies now understand the value of investing time and effort on UX early in the development process.
If a company is going through a period of change, say when it seems the market is moving without them, or their competitors are overtaking them, this can be a moment of panic for them. They see that something’s broken, and they call in UX consultants to fix it, similar to calling in the plumber when they notice a leak. However, they may need to look beyond the leak and reimagine their whole plumbing system!
UX research can provide valuable insights into what customers really want and how the company has to evolve in order to meet changing customers’ expectations. For example, if a company’s conversion rates are a worry, a UX consultant might delve deeper, looking at why customers are abandoning their carts or why there are so few returning customers.
Here are ten steps that will help you deliver a great UX strategy.
UX consultancy often begins when a company has noticed a problem, such as high levels of customer complaints. The UX consultancy is brought in as a troubleshooter at this stage, tasked with fixing an immediate problem. Once you’ve clearly identified your problem, you can take steps to address it.
All successful projects and strategies start with a clearly defined goal. This gives focus to all efforts and ensures time isn’t wasted on irrelevant tasks.
So, at the start of your UX journey, set your goal. In other words, what steps do you have to take to address the problem you’ve identified?
In digital marketing, your UX goal is likely to create better digital products that will engage customers (and, ultimately, drive sales). And to do this, you have to learn as much as you can about your users. Once you have robust user-centered data, you can develop goals that align with users’ needs. Learn how to do research you need using our marketing research template.
Take the time to properly analyze what competitors in your space are doing. Go through a customer journey on your website or app, and then go through a similar journey on your competitors’ websites and apps. Assess how well you’re doing compared to your competitors.
Focus on five or six of your competitors. Then set benchmarks to compare how you and the competitors are performing at different touchpoints in the customer journey, such as in social media channels. Do you need to change your interface? Do you need to simplify your customer journey?
Imagine you’re a customer going through all these different websites and apps. Which one would you choose?
When people think of UX, they often start with the user interface (UI). And that’s not a bad place to start.
A well-designed UI is likely to deliver good UX. So think about the layout of your interface. How intuitive is it? How easy is it to interact with? Does it address the customers’ needs? (And, is it better than your competitors’ interfaces?)
When designing or modifying your interface, remember to look at it through the eyes of your customers.
However, UX is about more than just having a nice user interface. You have to think about the overall customer experience (CX). How do customers feel when they do business with you? Why do they feel that way?
Think about what makes your business special, that special extra touch that delights customers. For example, perhaps you’ve made it very easy for customers to complete their purchases on your app or website (using one-click purchasing). The button is part of the interface, but the simplicity of the interaction is what makes up the customer experience.
Prototyping is an essential step in any UX project. This is where you create a rough, early version of the product or interface to test on users. Often called the minimum viable product (MVP), it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, the approach during prototyping is often ‘fail fast, fail often’. In other words, learn from your early mistakes and improve quickly.
The key advantage of prototyping is that it enables you to ‘test the market’ before investing in full-scale production. The feedback you get on early MVPs will help you to develop a much better, more user-centric product later on.
Often for prototypes, you have to use clickable mock-ups (created with InVision or Figma, for example) rather than fully functional interfaces. Then, using the feedback you get via your qualitative and quantitative research, you can gradually modify these designs until you have a working prototype.
When gathering research about your prototype, pay attention to be other numbers and the words:
Read more about the principles of market research and data gathering.
User tests are an essential part of any UX program. Try to get as much unbiased qualitative and quantitative data as you can. Ask your users pertinent questions. Observe them using your products. Have them talk through their own experience of using the product for the first time.
Ensure you have users whose feedback and commentary you can trust. Try not to interrupt or guide their commentary. Just let them share their thoughts with you in a free-flowing manner.
As your prototype is polished, you might feel more confident to roll it out to larger groups of test users. An incremental approach is best. There’s no point having a large group of users test a prototype that is nowhere near finalized yet. Start with low-cost small tests first before moving on to the more expensive large-scale tests. So, test early, and as often as you can.
As you conduct several small-scale tests, your final product should begin to take shape, becoming slicker and more focused. And, most importantly, it becomes more aligned to how users will want to use it.
At this stage, you’re ready to perform A/B testing on different versions of the product. This will enable you to fine-tune specific features of the product, such as color palettes, font choices, or button positions.
The aim of prototyping and testing is to get as much useful data as you can before you release the final product.
Quantitative feedback can give you the hard facts, such as statistics about satisfaction or frustration levels.
However, qualitative data may give you more nuanced feedback. That being said, qualitative feedback can be flawed at times, as users may tell you what you want to hear, rather than giving honest feedback. This is why it’s important to collect both qualitative and quantitative data. Does what you saw align with what people said about their experience of using the product?
Look at your analytics and see if you can spot points in your journey that are not effective or that are broken. And check these analytics against what your users are telling you in their feedback and commentary.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is having a significant impact on UX.
AI tools, such as Jasper, Kroma, and Stable Diffusion can be used to complete various UX tasks, such as creating user interfaces. It is particularly useful for mundane, repetitive tasks like replicating changes across multiple screens.
AI can also help solve a lot of the problems that people encounter with UX, such as how to simplify a user interface or how to analyze huge amounts of user data. However, there’s still going to be a strong need for human input and creative intelligence to address human-solvable problems.
By now, it should be clear that UX isn’t a once-off solution. It involves developing a UX mindset. What kind of customer experience do you want to deliver? And how can you deliver that experience, using a clear UI and other digital assets?
Listen to your customers. Gather real data on them. And then use this data to drive business decisions.
Once the UX consultant has identified and analyzed the problem, they’re likely to recommend some immediate, simple solutions. These are usually the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that deliver quick wins for the company. Rarely is there one ‘silver bullet’ that solves all the company’s UX problems.
Instead, the UX consultant is likely to dig deeper and start recommending some systemic changes to help the company develop a UX mindset. This aims to prevent similar UX issues recurring in the future.
These kinds of solutions can be complex to implement and may require the UX consultant to nurture a longer-term working relationship with the company.
By following these ten steps – and working with external experts when necessary – you can make the UX mindset an integral part of your brand culture. This in turn can help ensure that business decisions are always made with the customer in mind.
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