In the marketing world, the term UX—or user experience—gets thrown around a lot.
But like Inigo Montoya once said:
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
User experience, as my friend Joe Natoli puts it, is a value loop in three parts:
- The website/app user must perceive that it’s valuable to them.
- The only way to validate that value is through use. Proof equals trust, which means they use, contact, and/or purchase.
- When both happen, value comes back to the creator in increased market share, customer loyalty, money made, or money saved.
Too many confuse UX with design.
And while design is an important part of UX, it isn’t the entire picture.
You can’t create a great user experience without first understanding the user’s needs.
And when it comes to those “needs,” unfortunately, a lot of smart people just make educated guesses.
You can assume you know a user all you want.
But, we know what happens when you assume (you make an ass of u and me).
Seriously though, we have data out the wazoo. Why do we still guess about user experience?
A Shift in Culture
You don’t just decide to do UX. It doesn’t work that way.
UX isn’t a check box to mark or a singular event, it’s a process.
UX requires a full commitment from everyone in your company, which means it’s not an issue for marketing, IT, or customer service. It’s cultural.
To develop a quality user experience, whether it’s for a website or app, you must be hyper focused on the user.
Sounds obvious, right? I mean the word “user” is in the name.
Yet it’s consistently overlooked.
Good UX starts with creating and fostering a user-centric culture.
Are you truly focused on serving the needs of your target audience? Your user?
If you’re not, you might as well just keep guessing.
A user-centric culture is:
- A culture where anyone can ask, “Is this best for the user?” No silos!
- An entire organization relentlessly focused on user needs.
- A company committed to aligning organizational goals to user needs.
If you’ve read Gini Dietrich’s book, Marketing in the Round, you know about breaking down silos in an organization.
If not, read it, it’s good!
A typical small- to mid-sized company will have groups or departments:
- The C-Suite: The people who get paid way too much, play golf a lot, and seem to have an endless supply of freshly pressed shirts.
- Operations: The people who tell other people what to do and make sure the intern doesn’t get sold on the black market.
- Sales: The people with the ability to make anyone feel the need for a shower.
- Marketing: The people who buy lots of pens and customized thumb drives.
- Customer Service: The people who must deal with the lies of the sales people.
- The Rest: The people who think they can do a better job than anyone in any of the other groups.
Of course, I’m being sarcastic (slightly).
The point is we cannot create good UX without breaking down these rivalries and smashing these misconceptions.
If people spend most of their time worrying about what some other group is doing right or wrong, there isn’t a focus on the user.
When you rally the entire team around a common cause, everyone has a clear sense of purpose and a vision for the future; they have a relentless focus on the user.
A Relentless Focus on the User
It’s time to make a change.
I’m not going to presume that I know how your organization is set up or how it operates.
Every organization is different, and that’s a good thing.
One user-centric approach will not work for all companies and with all teams. And that’s fine, too.
But, becoming a user-centric organization always starts with the same question:
How can we better serve the needs of our users while still achieving our goals?
Your Digital Marketing Priorities
What are your priorities?
Ask anyone in your company right now, and you’ll likely get completely different answers from each department.
What Your Audience Wants
Figuring out what your audience wants can be simple, or it can be overly complicated.
I recommend you start with the simple option first.
Your audience is telling you something every day.
Using this free tool, you can look at top pages visited, pages where people stick around and take in the scenery (time on site), or pages where someone came and immediately left (bounce).
You can also see where users started before they hit your site.
And you can look at whether pages, offers, or calls-to-action are converting (turning a user into a prospect, client, or member).
With a simple survey tool such as Survey Monkey, you can ask your users what they want.
I don’t recommend surveying until you’ve looked at your analytics.
Because you want a baseline understanding of a user’s engagement, so you have some context when you create the survey.
You can ask them direct questions that uncover their goals, expectations, and motivations, i.e., power, glory, fame, 20 percent off.
You can also get a sense of what their behavior will be like while using your website or app.
Are users busy? On the go? Are they looking for quick info? Or do they want a deep data dive from their desktop?
Focus groups can be useful but be careful.
The participants may not be as forthcoming as they would in an anonymous survey because someone from the company is in the room.
Bring in someone neutral to conduct the focus group so as not to skew the results.
The facilitator can ask them strategic questions you’ve supplied, but their answers will be more authentic.
In these groups, you can do things such as card sorting or user testing (video taken of a real user navigating through your website or app).
Start with these activities first.
Compile your data into a clear, concise report that you will present to your team.
Discuss the findings and identify where you would benefit from additional, more in-depth information.
What You Want Your Audience to Do
If you ask everyone in your organization to identify the goals of your website or app, you will get a variety of answers.
Those focused on the bottom line might skip over the importance of customer service.
Those focused on brand building might miss the need to solve real problems in real time.
You’re looking for primary goals.
These are the outcomes that determine the level of success of your website or app.
Ask everyone what they think the website or app goals are and write it all down. Then, assign a benefit to each goal.
For example, if you want to increase traffic, what is the benefit (and don’t say more eyeballs)?
Maybe it’s something like this:
1,000 new visitors → five new inquiries → one new client
Then, rank those benefits.
You can leave this up to the higher-ups, but it’s interesting to see where each department ranks each benefit and why.
This type of ranking could start a very fruitful conversation that forces you to rethink how you interact with your users.
Your Digital Marketing Priorities
By mapping the user needs against your ranked goals and benefits, you can see your priorities.
When you map success to user needs, you eliminate all the noise. You solve problems.
You are now a resource for your target audience. And, in doing so, you’re seeing successful outcomes and learning from the failures.
Knowing where user needs map to goals allows you to be user-centric without sacrificing what it takes to succeed.
There is a lot more to this, of course.
I’m merely scratching the UX surface.
Once you start down this path, you will see the benefit of a user-centric culture.
A culture with:
- Relentless user focus
- Defined goals aligned with user and company needs
- A strategy for tracking successes and failures
- The will to change course based on results
UX is not just design; it’s a journey you take with your users.