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BuyerSteps Authors: Shelly Palmer, Jason Bloomberg, APM Blog, William Schmarzo, OnPage Blog

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Why User Experience Is Critical to Your Business Outcomes

There are customers who love engaging with your business, and those who don’t. Now more than ever, this dichotomy has significant competitive implications. Social media enables the user experience to go viral, which gives a megaphone to your business’s most dissatisfied customers. This—among less dramatic reasons—is why modern organizations have placed the discipline of User Experience, or UX, at the core of what they do.

UX encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with a business’s products and services. The UX mindset is rooted in how your firm approaches design, research, and strategy. And when design and research are elevated by a strategy that is directly accountable to user needs, the results can be transformative. A company that is UX-driven better sets itself up for growth and repeat business—not just because their application features do the job, but because customers love doing the job with their application features. Read on to learn how to promote the culture of UX in your organization.

 

Start With a Strategy

Think of a positive experience you had while shopping online. You might remember completing a successful search, using informative tools for comparison shopping, and cruising through a frictionless checkout process. Now bring to mind a negative interaction: zero search results, puzzling navigation and taxonomy, unclear item stock levels, no guest checkout. Companies notorious for negative customer experiences neglect to meaningfully connect UX with their strategic vision. This applies to both brick-and-mortar stores, websites, and mobile apps.

The user experience is dynamic, and to optimize for it requires ongoing dialogue. A UX-conscious firm creates processes to actively listen to, understand, and give voice to current and potential customers. A company that values the user experience hears this voice at every step of production and responds accordingly.

It follows, then, that a firm’s design and research activities should carry the lion’s share of a user-centered vision. Let’s turn now to the hallmarks of health in both design and research.

Design

  • Design is iterative, and evolves from sketches to high fidelity through a user-conscious process. If you’re not agile, make a plan to get there.
  • Both visual and interactive design should receive equal attention. Don’t focus on one at the other’s expense.
  • Establish standards and best practices that guide most day-to-day design decisions.
  • A qualified design practitioner is comfortable in agile environments and cognizant of strategy and research when they’re on the job. In this sense, the best designers are creative business solutions specialists who are sympathetic toward the end user experience.

Research

  • Most research falls into two categories: generative (or discovery) and evaluative. Discover what should be built and evaluate how it should be improved.
  • Generative research includes ethnography, needs analysis, surveys, and focus groups.
  • Evaluative research typically employs usability tests, heuristic evaluations, A-B testing, and competitive best-of-breed tests. It’s not uncommon for evaluative research to occasionally yield generative results.
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are typically best suited to determine the what and why of user pain points. Try not to mix these disciplines in the same study.
  • A qualified research practitioner has a strong command of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and understands when each is called for. Often, they are the first to hear a user’s pain and will naturally advocate for them.
  • Today speed of research is of equal importance to quality. Those who research faster are able to make UX improvements faster. To this extent, end user measurement and analytics provide valuable insights into the user’s journey, the smartphone or tablet they use, and where they are located.

Next Steps

Investing in the following areas will help your company bring the user experience into focus. Even modern organizations will benefit from these actions, as customer needs are always in flux.

  • Know your users
    All too often, products are built on myths of users, not on an accurate assessment of their needs. If you haven’t invested in quality persona development, do it. The earlier the better.
  • Benchmark
    To assist in justifying UX ROI, you need to know where things stand today. What happens when users encounter your service? Why are they abandoning? What are the top three pain points? Click stream analysis, usability studies, and heuristic evaluations are tried-and-true ways of getting your bearing. Evaluate as many user touchpoints as feasible.
  • Strengthen your data awareness
    Invest in measurement and analytics architecture. Structure your organization so the people who first receive analytics are not incentivized to skew the data in any way. Research, product, and design groups should enjoy equal access to quality metrics. Otherwise, an “us versus them” mentality can develop. Invest in end user measurement and analytics solutions to get closer to your users and understand how every image, function, and feature impact UX.
  • Define your vision and your customer’s place within it
    Strategic conversations frequently exclude user experience. To foster a true UX culture, your organization should proactively give customer needs a voice in most critical decisions. This means establishing goals and accountability pursuant to those needs.

How to Measure the Results

Firms with lower UX awareness or limited availability of analytics often focus their attention on metrics gleaned within or between research exercises (such as time to task completion or benchmark ratings). While this field of view can prove useful in evaluating customer interactions in isolation, it often misses the larger context of satisfaction across the full spectrum of brand touchpoints.

A mature approach to measuring the impact of user experience taps into diverse data sources. Taken as a whole, measurements including surveys, click stream analytics, call center metrics, and conversion rates can tell a compelling story. Add to that the insight provided by qualitative research methodologies, and a panoramic view of the user journey begins to emerge. Today’s most UX-forward organizations consider all these factors, along with more conventional business KPIs, in order to justify their focus on user needs.

Conclusion

Drawing up a strategic UX roadmap is a great way to link tactics and methods with a user-centered vision for success. This helps promote holistic thinking about how your customer interacts with your brand. What should result is an organization that is both tuned in to its user’s needs and experiences and ready to be changed by what it learns.

The post Why User Experience Is Critical to Your Business Outcomes appeared first on Application Performance Monitoring Blog | AppDynamics.

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