Creating a great experience is hard work. When you consider the research, design, validation and execution, it’s no wonder most organizations struggle. Luckily, great technology companies are starting to recognize the value of UX. Apple has shown us that if you design something well, user engagement – and ultimately profitability – will soon follow. (Thank you Apple.)
Although it’s hard to nail the UX, it’s extremely rewarding when you get it right. Here are five UX factors critical to delivering user delight.
Factor #1 – Solve Real Problems
To put it bluntly, it doesn’t matter how well you execute if you’re not solving a real problem. Solving a problem that doesn’t really exist is a waste of everyone’s time and is, personally, one of my biggest pet peeves. Just because it’s “cool” or “neat” (even “nifty”), it doesn’t mean you should build it. Step one should always be the reality check to make sure you’re building something useful.
Take Dropbox as an example. Dropbox solved the real problem of accessing and sharing files from any device. Have you ever been frustrated that you don’t have access to a file you need? Of course you have. Thank you Dropbox for creating a very elegant solution to a very real problem.
Factor #2 – Know Thy User
In order to solve a problem, it’s imperative that you know who you are solving it for. A great solution for the wrong user can get pretty awkward. In order to know your users, it’s imperative that you engage in dialog with them. Talk to as many people as you can and do your best to understand their individual needs. Once you understand your users, you can start solving their specific needs much better. Remember to only solve real problems.
MailChimp is a company that clearly understands their users. After thoroughly interviewing their stakeholders, the MailChimp team created “Fred,” the ideal MailChimp user. This was done to expose assumptions and biases, and also painted a clear picture of their “ideal” user. From here, the team carried out a plethora of interviews with actual users to understand their needs better. Four more personas were created (Mario, Eliza, Ada and Andre) to generalize the different types of users. These personas are extremely valuable because help everyone immediately understand who they are solving a problem for. Relating to the user is exceptionally important and personas play a huge role.
Factor #3 – Make it Delightful
Let’s be honest. Nobody wants to use a product that doesn’t look good. Interacting with beautiful things delights us. Therefore, in order to be successful, products must be beautiful and delight the user. Everyone understands beauty, but delightfulness is something that is still sometimes confusing. Think back and try to remember any product or website you’ve interacted with in the past where, for no apparent reason, you’ve sat there and played with an element.
Flipboard is a company that understands delightfulness. Yes, I’ve found myself (on several occasions) simply flipping pages. The animation is smooth; the gesture is comfortable. Simply put, they nailed it. Beautifully designed and truly delightful to use, the Flipboard application get top marks.
Factor #4 – Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
It’s guaranteed that the first release of your product will be far from perfect. That’s okay because it’s not iteration if you only do it once. The important thing is that you learn from the development process to make refinements. It’s these quick iterative development cycles that allow you to try new things, learn and ultimately adjust.I don’t know how many iterations of Evernote I’ve seen over the past years. I greatly respect their constant endeavour to improve. Take for example the fact that Evernote issues weekly releases to 1000 Android beta testers who then provide feedback on the changes. That’s right. Every week a new product ships to 1000 hungry users to provide feedback and validation. That’s pretty iterative!
Factor #5 – Seek Validation
User validation is the key element in closing the loop back to the first lesson (solving a real problem). The good news is that validation is becoming easier every day with the introduction of powerful new measurement tools and techniques. A/B testing has become widely adopted to measure the effectiveness of an iteration against the existing product. Subjectivity is completely removed and success is measured through quantifiable results.
Recently Etsy introduced the popular concept of infinite scrolling into their applications. Everyone on the team believed that this feature would be a homerun success with their users. Through A/B testing however, Etsy was able to identify that infinite scrolling actually had a negative impact on user engagement. Remember that you’ll never know unless you try and kudos to Etsy for identifying the problem so quickly. Testing and interviews are great tools to seek validation and better understand your users.
Any of the five companies’ referenced in this article could have been used interchangeably for any of the outlined factors. Great companies, like these, know what it takes to develop amazing experiences. Solve real problems, know your users, make the experience delightful, iterate like crazy and seek validation early and often. If you do these things, you will have all the tools necessary to deliver delightful experiences.