UX vs. UISome argue that you cannot design a user’s experience. After all there are so many things beyond your control that you cannot influence. But that is not my point. My point is that many people claim to design experiences, when they are actually designing a user interface. You see the user interface is just a tiny part of the experience, not the whole thing. Take, for example, the rides at Disney. These rides are a crucial component of the Disney experience, but they are not the whole thing. Disney know this, which is why they craft every aspect of their customers’ experience, from the moment you buy tickets, to the member of staff who waves goodbye as you leave the park. There is nothing wrong with being a user interface designer. But if you are keen to start designing the user experience, you will need to step outside of your comfort zone.
Adjust your attitudeThe first step to becoming a user experience designer is a change in attitude. As designers we tend to have a focused view on what our role is. But if we are going to call ourselves user experience designers we need to ditch the it’s not my area mentality. [pullquote]A user experience designer has to be a maverick…willing to challenge traditional business[/pullquote] Take, for example, content. We are quick to complain if the client does not deliver the content or if the content is of poor quality. But we are slow to correct the situation. After all it is not our job. We are not paid to write copy. Even so, if you call yourself a user experience designer you are responsible for any area that impacts the user experience. Even if somebody else also considers that area their responsibility. A user experience designer has to be a maverick. Somebody willing to challenge traditional business silos and roles. You need to be somebody who doesn’t give up on a better user experience just because you meet a barrier. Imagine you cannot take a particular design approach. Somebody feels it would break the company’s brand guidelines. What will you do? A user interface designer may accept that constraint. After all, branding is outside their area of responsibility. A user experience designer would not. They would find out who owns the brand guidelines and work with them to find the right solution. You see, user experience design is about collaborating with others to create the best user experience.
Collaboration lies at the heart of good user experienceThere is no way you can create a great user experience alone. There are too many factors involved, too many disciplines required. Being a user experience designer requires a collaborative relationship with a range of specialists. A user experience designer works with:
- user interface designers;
- content specialists;
- business strategists;
- mobile experts;
Following UX beyond the screenIf we wish to call ourselves user experience designers, we need to consider the context of the users’ digital experience. Digital interactions do not happen in isolation. They are a part of a broader customer experience. You can have the best website in the world; but if the rest of the customer experience is poor, you have achieved nothing. [pullquote]The success of Zappos.com was not down to their user interface[/pullquote] The success of Zappos.com was not down to their user interface. It was down to the amazing experience created by their return and shipping policy. I once worked on an e-commerce site that delivered frozen ready meals to the elderly. This was not an audience who were particularly comfortable with the idea of e-commerce. We needed to do everything possible to make it a painless experience. Many of the things we did focused on simplifying the online purchasing experience. That, and reassuring the user about things like security or privacy. But one key component of the experience lay beyond the user interface. Many of our elderly customers were nervous about a stranger delivering goods to their door. This was especially true when one of the services offered was unpacking the delivery in the customer’s home. As a user interface designer it would be tempting to add a reassuring message onto the website and conclude that was all you could do. Instead, together with the client, we decided to police check all the delivery people as a way of reassuring customers. It is always important to remember that the digital tools we build are just one small part of the customer experience. Other areas such as customer service, fulfillment, governance and strategy are also crucial to the experience.
How far are you willing to go?Have you had enough of building websites or mobile apps that fail? Fail because of shortcomings in other areas of the user experience? If so then it is time to push the boundaries of your role. It is time to start questioning and collaborating with everybody to build a better experience. Do not presume you have all the answers. But be willing to challenge the status quo. Ask difficult questions. Do whatever it takes, if it has the potential to improve the user’s experience. Featured image, collaboration image via Shutterstock.
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