There’s a term floating around the interwebs which in passing looks like an unfortunate slang term fabricated by “kids these days” and will soon join its compatriots in irrelevant obscurity. However, it’s been around for a few years now and has garnered enough relevance you can even get your graduate degree from reputable institutions in user experience (UX).
What is User Experience?
The long definition? As found on Wikipedia:
noun: user experience; plural noun: user experiences
User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product.
A shorter definition: Why you prefer using one website or service over the other when they do exactly the same thing or have the same price point. The seeming intangibles that go unnoticed until they are no longer there.
Imagine, for example, you really want a hamburger. Should be a fairly seamless transaction, right? Walk into the restaurant, sit down, glance at the menu for their offerings, place your order and magically a juicy hamburger will appear before you. Simple. But you know how it feels when one of those elements are off. Perhaps it’s not obvious whether to push or pull the door open, it’s hard to find the burgers on the menu or the server is busy and it takes a long time to place your order.
Translate that experience to an app or website, it’s poor user experience. Is the information or product you’re looking for easy to find? How many clicks did it take to get there? Is the copy easy to read and relevant? Does the point of sale take your preferred payment method? Does the submission form require information you don’t want to provide?
User experience should be followed by, but is often confused for/interchanged with user interface.Let’s pretend your website is a restaurant, a good user interface means the place is well-kempt, has thoughtful and appropriate interior design, the menu’s aren’t sticky and you’re able to relax. Translated to a website, this means all of your buttons look the same and the text is legible as well as attractive. Does it looks nice and is it a place where people want to hang out for a minute?
Both user experience and interface go hand-in-hand to make sure your customer enjoys your establishment and just as importantly, comes back. What does this have to do with your website? As an answer to mobile devices, responsive design is ubiquitous, which is great and necessary as we understand the needs and limits of our users. However, it has led to a lot of same-ness in web design: big images, big type, boxy card-style designs. It works great but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate.
This is where UX becomes essential: when websites all look the same out of necessity, honing in on the minute details will make your website standout and keep visitors coming back.