Two User Experiences in the last week stand out in my mind – one rewarding and one hellishly frustrating, and both involving accessing an account on a banking website. According to Wikipedia “User experience (UX) refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.”
The excitement of my first Starbucks drive-thru ranks as pleasurable as watching my first pay per view movie. Wasn’t progress just incredibly amazing!? Sometimes, however, the technology becomes the norm and retro ways of interaction refreshingly unique. There are likely more than a handful of us who, after the daily exuberance of working and living in the online world, relish the old-world charm of standing in line and making personal contact with a bank teller.
We have written before that user behaviors and expectations in digital environments are not new phenomena; they did not jump into being the moment the first website went online. Whether standing in a quiet museum, conversing over dinner, or sourcing information on a website, people require certain things to have concentrated experiences: unobstructed access, good light, and freedom from distractions. Every gallery curator kniws this. But anyone who has tried to find information on a website, on a mobile phone, while walking through a crowd at noon knows how rare a concentrated experience is.
Putting aside the device for a moment (which is hard to do if you are to continue reading this) at the heart of a rewarding user experience is nothing at all technological. It is ensuring that a user and the product (or content) connect – and ideally in a good way. Content must useful, user-centered, clear, consistent, concise, supported, and it must be delivered in context. A meaningful analysis of a user’s context requires not only an understanding of users’ goals, but also of their behaviors: what are they doing, how are they feeling, and what are they capable of. Guaranteeing good user experience is finding the sweet spot – that conjunction of a user’s physical, emotional, and cognitive needs.
The adage “If the visitor does not find what they are looking for they will leave” is as relevant to the internet as it is to a shopping mall. The difference is that we have become accustomed to finding what we want on the www quickly and moving on to other websites if we do not. A shopping mall has you, at least physically, at a greater disadvantage. Someone using the latest smartphone, with the fastest connection, looking at the best website ever designed will still probably have a lousy user experience if they cannot find the information they are seeking.
If you are as interested in User Experience as we are, the new Smashing Magazine book “User Experience Revolution” is available for pre-order now on their website: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/user-experience-revolution/