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67% of the buyer's journey is now done digitally*
Most people today understand the distinction between the online user experience, the customer experience and website usability but while a difference exists they are also interdependent.
Let's explore in more detail...
The user experience (UX) - in the digital arena relates to the total sum of all interactions that the user – your existing or potential customer - has with you online.
Those interactions include:
- Journey mapping – what does it feel like to the user as they progress from start to finish across different channels?
- Visual design – how does the visual design on your website, social and other digital channels affect the user’s mood, their belief in what you stand for (and does this chime with their beliefs?)
- Usability – is your website user friendly? Has it been adapted for mobile use? Is the user able to switch from channel to channel with ease?
- Content planning and strategy – Is your online information up to date, current, relevant? If it is you'll find your user builds up trust in you as an authoritative and fresh source
User experience also extends well beyond the website when it morphs into what we distinguish as the customer experience (CX). Why would you invest in creating the best UX only to have this all go to waste with appalling customer service, an incomprehensible agent in a Call Centre or lack of communication dealing with an order, payment, support request or product issue?
I’d like to steal and mangle an example from Jared Spool - an American writer and authority on subjects of usability, software, design and research:
"A customer walks into a well-known electronic retailer who’s invested in store design and easily locates the combi-oven that they want to purchase, walks up to the checkout and pays for it, ready to be collected the next day when they have their car available.
The next day, excited with the prospect of owing a super combi-oven and creating the most delightful dishes for friends and family, the customer walks in the store but is confused because there is no obvious place to collect the purchase. After wandering around for a while, with no one offering to help, the customer spots a sign for a customer service desk in a dark corner and waits 10 minutes in a queue to be served.
The member of staff who looks harassed by the other customer complaints then points out that the customer needs to go to the “Collections” desk which is even more hidden by a pile of white goods in another corner. Having arrived at the correct place, the bored member of staff then sighs and informs the customer that their lovely, shiny combi-oven is out of stock and won’t be replenished. The only option is to refund the purchase by calling an 0845 number (the store can’t authorise refunds) and so the customer leaves the store, with no lovely new combi-oven and a purchase on their credit card that they need to resolve".
The point of this example is that the store was very usable in that it allowed the customer to find, select and pay for a product they wanted, but their overall customer experience was dreadful.
To put it another way, ask the question “Did the user have the best possible experience when interacting with us?”
Usability is simply how easy (or not) it is for the user to accomplish a particular task – such as finding out how to contact you or filtering products to make the selection process easier.
There is no short cut to designing an excellent UX and to create the highest levels of usability – you have to understand your audience and what they are hoping to achieve through their interactions with you. For us, the first step when building a new website is certainly the creation of customer persona's; a process that forms part of our Discovery phase which includes researching the user using surveys, interviews and journey mapping. Once we have enough information about what the user is looking for, we then design and develop a website that offers the best possible experience in a way that's simple and straight forward to use.
Finally, don't forget that all good websites are never the finished article but require constant user testing to make continual updates. After all if your users are telling you they need to carry out a particular action easily or need additional information, make sure it you give it to them!