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User Experience: UX and Your Brand
What is User Experience?
Let’s start at the basics and move into an overview of the process. User Experience (UX) is now the backbone of meaningful website design. Designing with a user-centered purpose which is the culmination of content, layout, and (yes) the user.
UX is a multilevel dive into the understanding of your brand, your products, or your service through human behavior. At its most basic concept, UX is the primordial feeling we get when we experience something, anything, such as happiness, sadness, fear, or anger. These are the fuel for breaking the barrier of obscurity—simply being noticed.
We then use what we learn from user reactions to enhance their interaction. This is the well-devised value that the user experiences while understanding your brand core values.
The UX design process can be broken down into five important phases; Strategy, Research, Analysis, Design, and Evaluation.
- Strategy – This phase starts with a clear understanding of the brand, product, and/or service. Defining the purpose and goal is the foundation for this results-driven process.
- Research – Using a variety of methods, such as interviews, surveys, competitive research, and observations to gather mostly qualitative and some quantitative data which will be the building blocks of the UX design. Quantitative data is information about quantities, such as statistics, while qualitative data is descriptive which can be observed but not measured, such as language.)
- Analysis – The analysis phase uses a series of methods that begin with building personas and scenarios to formulating a sitemap. This information is used to begin constructing a hierarchy of information that will be used to define the user interface (UI).
- Design – The design phase uses wireframes, prototypes, and ultimately workflows to build a data-driven road map from the details gathered from the first three phases. These range in producing conceptual sketches, to an organized visual hierarchy, to interactive prototypes to simulate the user experience of the final website. From the findings here we can next move into site development.
- Evaluation – After the website is launched and being actively used, we can then use site metrics and testing to analyze the effectiveness of the UX and either validate or flag areas that can be fine-tuned for better user experience.
During the UX design process, there are two criteria that are essential for it to be a success and to ensure that your message is being received and is effective: Goals and Pain Points. These two elements are powerful in that they provide both insight into improving the current UX and direction for the dynamic growth of your website.
When you land on a website that you have never been on before you will need to pass through a series of triggers before you can move forward:
- Does this website have the content I’m looking for?
- Do I understand the content that is on this website?
- Can I easily navigate to the specific content I’m looking for once I know I’m in the right place?
If your website fails at any one of these points then you are going to lose the interest of your potential customer. From the point the user lands on your site you only have a few seconds to engage them, otherwise, they will simply bounce to another search engine result. Like it or not, this is their perspective and it is driven by a need to reach a specific goal. It is vital to ensure that your goals are in line with your target audience to achieve the conversions you’re looking for.
What is the purpose of your website? This is something you should know even before you set goals. When a user arrives at your site what action do you want them to take? When they leave your site what information do you want them to take with them?
Here we have broken down website purposes into four general categories: corporate, sales, informational, and other.
- Corporate websites are the face of a brand and have a few important facets; brand awareness, customer relationship, and product or service information. These three points are the what and the why behind your purpose. It could be all three, but priority needs to be given to one in order to establish your information hierarchy.
- Sales websites can range from e-commerce to lead generation sites. The main purpose of these types of sites is to funnel your user into a specific action—which may be completing a purchase, making a phone call, or something else entirely. But the purpose of these sites is to always lead to a conversion.
- Informational sites may be education, entertainment, or news-based. This type of site is entirely rated by the quality of its content. High-quality content means a higher authority which in turn promotes more trust. The purpose of these sites is to garner relationships and impart information, ie. spread the word and enrich the lives of the reader.
- Other is a universal purpose that captures anything and everything from social media, crowdfunding, directory, forum, media sharing, and other websites that are already built around a specific objective (or at least initially).
Once you can establish the purpose you can move on to website goals, knowing is only half the battle.
The goals of your website should fit into your specific purpose. In other words, the goals should not only promote your website but they should be built around your target audience—the users your purpose is speaking to. Goals can be formulated from questions such as:
|Who is going to use your website?||[know your audience]|
|What problem does your website solve?||[know your purpose]|
|Why are they going to use your website?||[know your competitors]|
|What about your website is memorable?||[know your UX]|
|What will the user take away from it?||[know your information hierarchy]|
As your website grows and evolves, then revisit your goals and adapt them as necessary to a changing landscape. Websites need to remain dynamic with the needs and wants of your audience to remain effective. Static websites with content that remain unchanged are likely to be forgotten as competitors and newer websites steal the attention of who would be listening to your message.
Once you bridge the few second gap and you have served the correct content in an easily understood way, you then need to resolve any possible pain points that may drive your user away. Frustration is possibly the worst way to lose a potential relationship because in most cases it is easily avoidable with enough consideration and analysis. Generally speaking, there are a few pain points that tend to stand out with the general populous of sites: poor web design, too many choices, and unclear messaging.
Poor Web Design
Does your website load too slowly? According to Neil Patel, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Furthermore, any website the lacks appropriate aesthetic qualities and clear navigation will deter even more people. Hubspot called out 8 guidelines to follow for good web design:
- Simplicity – Make sure your message and design are easy to understand.
- Hierarchy – There should be an obvious chain of information that directs users to key points.
- Navigability – There should not be any confusion for the user to find their destination.
- Consistency – The branding and style of the layout of your site should be cohesive.
- Accessibility – With a rising rate of mobile users, your site needs to be usable across every device.
- Conventionality – Follow set standards, don’t confuse your users by requiring them to learn how to use your site.
- Credibility – Transparency, and honesty are the best pathways to building lasting relationships.
- User-centricity – Usability and user experience needs to be a priority.
These web design standards should be simple to follow and easy to maintain. But even a well-designed website will degrade over time. Without strict handling of information updates and navigation changes, these websites can have a detrimental UX breakdown over time. Web maintenance is just as much a part of UX as the initial research, design, and deployment.
Too Many Choices
Overwhelming the user by providing too many choices right away is another way to quickly lose your users attention. Choices need to be prioritized and organized in a hierarchy to be easily navigable. Can you imagine if you went to amazon.com and every product was listed as hyperlinks? That would be millions of links to sort through—where would you start? How far would you go? Most users would simply be overwhelmed and go somewhere else after one page of links. The process of finding what you are looking for would not only seem endless but would ultimately deter countless sales to other, better equipped, e-commerce websites. This is why it is crucial for mega-sites like Amazon to pay close attention to user experience and realize the most common pathways people will tend to take in order to find the products they are looking for. This goes far beyond accessibility… it’s building roadmaps and information structures that naturally unfold to follow the paths most users will choose.
Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University, set up an experiment that dealt with this same exact issue. She set up a free tasting booth at a supermarket on one Saturday with 24 flavors of jam. Then on the following Saturday with only 6 flavors. When 24 jams were available, 60% of the customers stopped for a taste test and 3% of those bought some jam. When 6 jams were available, 40% of the customers stopped for a taste test, but 30% bought some. The smaller display sold more jams, about 6 times more, which was a massive increase in sales. You might think more choices would equal more sales, but when it came time to decide, it was easier when there was less to choose from and inherently less stress involved with making decisions. The pathway to the best tasting jam was much clearer with fewer choices.
Even with websites with a massive amount of information, knowing the needs of your target audience can help fine-tune its information hierarchy. Being able to prioritize information allows you to use chunking to feed information in bite-size chunks in order to be more easily understood and remembered. This process of spoon-feeding also allows you to control how the content of your website is both accessed and in what order. Using this method to construct a path for your users to follow is one of the most effective ways to not only increase user experience but also make your message more memorable.
Who is the expert about your brand? Where do you go to find out more about it? What do you learn? Is it what you expected? Does it vary from source to source?
No one should know more about the brand than the brand. Sound strange? Let’s think about this. You go into a shoe store and look at a pair of Nikes; you like them, they fit well and look great but the salesperson sounds like he just wants to sell you any pair of shoes. Trust wanes as authority diminishes, so you go to Nike’s website. But their logo doesn’t match the shoes and the message is inconsistent. Unbelievable right? And that is because Nike knows Nike. When the salesperson fails, you go to the website, see the shoes just as you expected, and you buy the shoes elsewhere. Nike’s message is consistent and their branding does not vary across any channel, whether it’s their website, social media, tv commercials, billboards and so on. Their message is very clear and you trust the brand because of it.
But what if the message is unclear? The two most important factors are that the brand message and the brand personality are consistent across all channels. If either of these wavers than you are going to lose the interest and trust of your user.
Brand Message is the language of your brand. It is the line of communication between your business (website, advertising, marketing, etc.) and your target audience. It conveys the content in a narrative that is designed to speak to the user’s values and desires. It should focus on what is important to your brand and communicate it consistently and effectively. The brand message is what you are saying.
Brand Personality is the voice of your brand. This is the tone and manner that you use to express your brand message. The brand personality should relate to the target audience and elicit an emotional response with the intention of building a relationship. It is the set of human traits assigned to the brand identity that resonates with the target audience. The brand personality is how you say it.
The reason why messaging fails is that either of these brand elements is not convincing. When you are applying empathetic connections to brand awareness, any sort of discrepancies corrupt the illusion. When you personify a brand it then means that the voice, the message, and the continued narrative all have to be consistent to be believable. When they are consistent and believable it opens the door to engaging your user in both a captivating and memorable way that elicits a common interest and a lasting conversation.
Cambridge dictionary defines engagement as the process of encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organization. User engagement is a way to measure whether users find value in a brand, product, or service. This value can be measured in website actions such as clicks, shares, downloads, and other activities that fulfill the goals of a website. The point here is to hold the attention of the user and induce some form of participation.
UX is in line with user engagement since you need to enhance and improve the inherent value of your website and content to engage the user. But this idea goes way beyond simply being entertaining because you are looking for a specific goal to be completed when a user visits your website. The captive interest of your users is the overarching goal here.
Although structural elements also need careful UX deliberation, the content, the information hierarchy, and navigational flow of your website all need to be on the same page to communicate to your target audience impactfully. It is the entire game plan that motivates and achieves true user engagement.
Brands need to not only be identifiable, but they also need to resonate with the segment of users that are going to be the audience you are trying to reach. You can yell your message at the top of your lungs, but if that information is failing to reach your users then all of your efforts are wasted. Only through a clear and concise understanding of your audience can this true synergistic conversation begin. What’s the point of a million followers if your company is struggling to pay the rent.
User engagement is the measurable success of your brands UX. Where UX is the process, user engagement is the relationship with your brand.
UX & Your Brand
UX is the process of defining the purpose and message of your brand with the needs and desires of your audience. Using strategy, research and analysis to lay the infrastructure. Then to use design and evaluation to build and validate this results-driven process.
Your goals and pain points are the roadmap and influence to speak to your brand’s audience. The content should be thoughtfully organized in an easy to understand hierarchy while your message needs to be clear and consistent across every channel.
User engagement will be the defining result of your brands UX design. When properly applied, user engagement ensures that your message will not only reach your target audience but will be heard by them.
UX is the relationship between your brand and your users that is the underlying structure to establishing not only trust but a consistent dialogue that promotes what your brand needs to flourish.
What user experience is, comes down to perspective. A brand creates, builds, and markets an idea… UX is what that idea means to the people who use it.
We’d love to answer any questions you may have. Contact us and let’s talk.