The definition of 'User Experience' - everything you wanted to know

What is ‘User Experience’ or ‘UX’?

User experience (UX) is the way that someone interacts with your organisation through a particular channel. It’s how your customers view you, how easy you are to interact with and whether those opinions are positive or negative as a result of these interactions. User experience is also the practice of researching your users’ needs and designing and implementing a strategy that will meet them.

It’s everything from how long it takes for your website to load, to the content on your website, how you go about making a purchase, or how they interact with a consultant through web chat.

A great user experience is void of noise and clutter, and helps your customer focus in on the one thing that they’re actually looking for from you quickly, whether that be information or a service.

What is the difference between User Experience and Customer Experience (CX)?

UX is what the user sees when they’re interacting with your product, service or website through images, text, video and more. UX designers research user needs and design and implement strategies to meet them, focussing on each individual interactions.

Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all the different interactions you have with an organisation, focussing on the bigger picture. It’s how they interact across multiple touch-points along a user journey that could last years from an initial prospect, through to repeat customer.

Why should I care about UX?

Quite simply, when you meet your customers’ needs, you also meet your own, by increasing awareness of your products/services, educating them as to the potential solutions you could provide them with, or maximising your ability to convert conversations into ROI.

How can you measure UX?

There are many metrics you can use to measure how visitors to your website respond to the user experience it offers. Analytics, heat-maps, conversion funnels and even user recordings are great ways of seeing how people use your website, but speaking to your customers directly is also essential.

The truth of the matter is that you’re measuring the usability of your product, which, to quote author Steve Krug: "really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average ability and experience can use the thing for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated."

Collecting metrics to find out what is happening when people visit your website, however, is just part of the story. Just as important is how you read them and then, what you do with them. There is such a thing as too much data, with many marketing managers being too caught up in figures, but not thinking hard enough about what those figures actually mean.

It’s also important to ensure that your data is reliable. Look beyond the analytics alone and consider the entire system, which includes the team who work behind the website for the company, from management through to customer support and sales. Occasionally, the website can be great but the team working in conjunction with it, (who aren’t following the correct processes and recording the associated information), that is letting the ship sink.

The person reading the metrics needs to understand the context in which they exist in the entire business ecosystem. This means digging deep and looking at individual customer interactions and asking your users directly about their experiences with your brand to get more context and make your data more meaningful.

What is the psychology behind UX?

Psychology is the study of the mind and human behaviour, understanding why people do what they do, how they experience and behave in the world, why they like or dislike certain things and how they adapt to their environments.

It’s important to combine psychology with UX because UX is all about trying to deliver a better experience and without understanding your user, you can’t understand what they want. Understanding the motivations behind their behaviour is a key aspect of this, as every user group of your website will approach and experience similar situations in completely different ways.

The key is to understand the way that your customers think and how they go about finding information. By grouping them into identifiable user segments and then tapping into their thought processes, you can help them to feel comfortable and confident in your brand and website, making them more likely to return or recommend it to a friend.

Within UX psychology, there are two important things to remember:

1. It’s all about individual ‘beliefs’, not facts. You need to understand your customers by asking them the right questions and observing their behaviour.

2. Your customers’ beliefs shape their behaviour, so you’ll need to understand them if you want to enable certain behaviours on your site.

How do you know what UX people want?

There is a two-step process to discovering what UX best suits your customers. The first is to monitor their movements and ask the right questions. The second is to put yourself in their shoes and go through the entire process as if you had never heard of your brand before.

Let’s look at these separately:

Monitor your customer’s movements

You can monitor your customer’s movements through a series of online tools available through both free and paid subscriptions. Most websites already use Google Analytics to understand what kind of traffic is visiting their website and where it’s coming from, but this only tells part of the story.

Make yourself a customer

When you’ve spent a long time working on something, you become personally invested in it and your expertise in the area grows. As a result, you begin to innately understand things that the average person just doesn’t have any use for in their day to day life. When you put yourself in your customer's shoes, you need to forget everything you know about your product and processes, and pretend to be completely green.

As you walk yourself through each step of your website, you need to ask yourself questions such as ‘Could my grandmother work this out?’. If she’d struggle, then you need to rethink that step of the process.

What interactions should you test the UX for?

Every step counts: each interaction, or potential interaction, with a customer should go through a process of being checked for its UX.

How do you guide a user to get them to what they need?

If your UX is good, a user should be able to guide themselves to what they need without any help.

How do you appraise a website? (How do you know if the UX is good?)

Often, the first question people ask themselves when appraising their own product or website is: “Could my grandparents use this without becoming frustrated?” While this is an excellent place to start, it doesn’t cover the entire process of understanding whether or not your UX is good.

  • Short, sweet, to the point
  • Easy to digest information
  • Minimal effort on user’s part
  • Easy to look at

How can I tell what kind of UX my customers like/don’t like?

Quite simply, the best way to understand how your customers feel about your current UX is to ask them, point blank, what they think of your website, what they like most, and where they think there should be improvements.

You can take the time to ask them following every experience, but the key is to keep the questions brief so that they don’t feel like their time is being wasted. Many companies find that asking the customer to rate their experience out of ten can help, with a follow up question: 'What can we improve for low level scores?'

It can be useful to outsource this process. The reason fro this is that an external third party will not ask leading questions and your customers are more likely to open up if their feedback in anonymous and said to someone not directly already known by them.

How do you plan UX into your next project?

Many larger companies, especially one’s with a digital focus, have a full time UX designer or a freelancer they call when they have UX needs.

When developing a website or digital product, a UX designer will work through several key steps to ensure that the final product meets the needs of the customer group it’s intended for. They start by mocking up wireframes, which is essentially the basic layout of a website and how each page interconnects with the next.

They will also create personas, usually based on research led by the marketing team, to work out what kind of customer will be using the product. These personas will help them set out goals that need to be achieved to ensure that the product is not only usable, but something that customers enjoy using and come back to time and again.

User testing is an important step in the process and one UX designers take incredibly seriously. They set out tasks and ask users to complete them, while narrating out loud exactly what they are doing.

If your project is relatively small, it may seem unnecessary to hire someone to take care of these steps, so consider appointing someone within your team who can ask themselves the following questions at each step of development:

  • Who is this product for?
  • If I’d never seen this product before, would I innately know how to use it?
  • Would someone easily be able to learn how to use the product?

How does UX go beyond the internet? (customer experience, human touch points, emails, social, phone, websites etc.)

User experience extends far beyond the digital space. It’s that feeling of frustration when a train is late and you’re going to miss your connection, or the gratitude you feel when a store assistant remembers your face and produces the sunglasses you left behind at your last visit.

In fact, our entire lives are made up of user experiences, from turning on our television and digesting the local news each evening, to squeezing out toothpaste onto our toothbrushes. Someone has worked hard to ensure these activities are simple, effective and as enjoyable as possible. Every time we interact with a product, we’re interacting with it in a way that the company intended (well, at least they hope we are) due to it going through rigorous user testing.

How does digital UX interact with customer experience?

As we mentioned at the very beginning, customer experience is the sum of all interactions with a brand, so it’s important to remember that the two cross over regularly when it comes time for the customer to communicate with your company or make a purchase.

The UX on your website could be outstanding, but the moment they speak to one of your staff, that could change in an instant if your team isn’t up for the task of handling that customer’s request. On the flip side, a great team can be let down by a slow loading, poor quality website, or an email or phone system that regularly breaks.

It’s worthwhile, therefore, investing in your user experience, as it can directly impact not just the sentiment towards your and your organisation, but also your bottom-line.

You can find out more about UX and the psychology behind it, with practical tips and information about some basic design principles, by downloading our free guide: ‘Understanding the psychology of user experience’ here.

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