User experience design 101: Keeping people in focus
When it comes to your digital products and experiences, design is a critical lever. Read on to learn what UX design is, the role it plays in delivering a better customer experience, and how to support your user experience teams.
A law school student turned UX designer once said: In many professions, like law for example, you are always trying to be right. You don’t open your mouth unless you’re confident you are right. In design, it’s flipped. We are trying to not be wrong. That mindset opens up a world of possibilities.
If that feels a bit abstract, stay with us. In her own way, this designer was explaining the concept of design thinking. In more formal terms, design thinking is an iterative process that seeks to understand users and challenge assumptions (often about what users want). The goal is to identify strategies and solutions that may not have been apparent at first.
Design thinking is a proven approach to drive innovation.
When it comes to user experience design, the most successful teams take a design thinking approach: They ask questions, they form hypotheses instead of assumptions, they use research and feedback, and they iterate constantly. They keep the user in focus at all times. And they deliver experiences that delight, that foster loyalty and drive revenue.
In this article, we look closely at the world of user experience design and explore how to lay the groundwork for UX success:
- Why user experience design is critical to your overall customer experience,
- What user experience designers care about (and why), and
- How to empower your UX teams to drive loyalty and business impact
First, what is user experience (UX) design?
According to Don Norman, cognitive scientist and user experience architect, “user experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interactions with [a] company, its services, and its products.”
User experience design generally refers to the design process(es) that result in meaningful and relevant user experiences. UX design should not be confused with user interface (UI) design or usability, though the terms are often used interchangeably. Interface and usability are components of the overall user experience, but UX design is concerned with the whole. It is concerned with creating a cumulative (positive) feeling for the user.
FullStory’s Head of Design, Josh Teague, explains it simply: Properly done, user experience design helps people.
Because UX design is broad and multifaceted, companies often build multidisciplinary UX teams. These teams may include:
- Product designers: Often interchangeable with UX designers; tends to be more a more common title within high-tech, consumer companies
- Visual or interface designers: Responsible for pixel-level decisions, such as color, white space, rhythm, proximity, etc.—the cosmetic look of a visual interface
- UX researchers: Tend to have a strong academic background and are generally working to understand people and motivations, focused on testing new ideas
- Interaction designers: Focused on screen-to-screen interactions
- Copywriters: Much of user interface design is all about copy; copywriters focus on the words used to explain the product and its intentions
- Motion designers: Use animation to convey an idea; more common with increases in modern computing power
UX design a crucial part of the customer experience
There’s a reason why UX design is top-of-mind for so many business leaders: these days, experience is everything. Salesforce reports that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its tangible products and services. These experiences form the basis of a person’s positive (or negative) perception of your brand, which greatly influences loyalty.
A strong UX design practice results in better user experiences—it’s innate to the process. User experience design requires you to get close to your user, to understand what motivates them and what hinders them as they flow through your product. It operates from an assumption that the experience you design is just a starting point; ultimately, your user knows best and your job is to follow their lead.
Today, as digital channels continue to increase in importance, UX design teams are seeing new opportunities to rapidly iterate toward better digital user experiences.
User experience design is increasingly focused on digital channels
Over the past several years, digital has increased in importance exponentially—and in 2020, the shift to digital accelerated in ways no one could’ve predicted. People are now taking to their screens and keyboards to do both non-essential and essential shopping.
According to a report from PYMTS.com, 42% of consumers are using digital channels to engage in activities more often than they did before the coronavirus pandemic. And the majority of those who have brought their pre-pandemic routines online plan to keep them there once the crisis has ended.
This means there is a huge opportunity for companies that prioritize building and delivering delightful digital user experiences, placing a spotlight on UX design.
For user experience designers, digital channels present unique challenges: People are more likely to want to accomplish tasks quickly, they often prefer self-service, and alternatives to your product are just a click away. But digital channels also present unique opportunities: You can gather feedback in real-time, you can leverage robust analytics solutions to understand user engagement, and you can iterate rapidly.
Organizations that can support their user experience teams and capitalize on these opportunities will continue to see dividends.
How you can facilitate great user experience design
UX design teams are primarily focused on accomplishing a few primary jobs. By supporting your design team in accomplishing these jobs, your organization can lay the foundation for great user experience design—and great user experiences. Some of these jobs include:
Quantifying the user experience. This is increasingly a shared job between design and product teams. While many think of designers as focused on the qualitative, they are often equally focused on the quantitative. Understanding key quantitative metrics like how many users engage or struggle, where most drop-out of a product, etc. allows design teams to assess the impact of their work and informs future choices.
Prioritizing experience opportunities, debts, and trade-offs. Designers must often balance the ideal with the reality. It’s a constant push and pull between what design is trying to achieve, what is possible right now, and what changes will take them one step closer to that ideal. Design teams are also battling debts. For example: A faster pace means your organization can ship new products and features more quickly; but that speed also increases the likelihood of creating debts in interface design and consistency, which will eventually have to be addressed.
Uncovering usability issues. Design is concerned with making people’s lives better, and making experiences more usable is often at the core of this mission. Users have a finite amount of “click energy” before they lose the will to continue. How easy is it for your user to take a desired action? How much effort is required? The job of a UX designer is to provide a seamless pathway to their desired action.
Communicating with the business about the importance of user experience. This has gotten easier over the last few decades as design has risen to consumer-level importance—particularly when it comes to digital products. However, designers can still struggle to get buy-in to prioritize user-focused changes. To communicate effectively, designers rely on visuals and storytelling.
How to link user experience design to business impact
While it’s true that UX design is focused on understanding users and crafting high quality experiences, designers won’t get stakeholder buy-in if they can’t demonstrate how their efforts impact the bottom line.
The goal for any user experience team should be to ship quality, impactful experiences quickly; this goal is only achievable when your UX design process is built on reliable measurement and a commitment to iteration.
Google, FullStory and many other organizations use the HEART framework to measure the impact of user experience design. While this framework is just one approach, it is useful in demonstrating the types of things you should measure to evaluate success:
- Happiness: Measures of user attitudes, often collected via survey. For example: satisfaction, perceived ease of use, and net-promoter score. Learn more about measuring user happiness or satisfaction here.
- Engagement: Level of user involvement, typically measured via behavioral proxies such as frequency, intensity, or depth of interaction over some time period. Examples might include the number of visits per user per week or the number of searches per user per day.
- Adoption: New users of a product or feature. For example: the number of users created in the last seven days or the percentage of FullStory users who have created a Dashboard (a new FullStory feature).
- Retention: The rate at which existing users are returning. For example: how many of the active users from a given time period are still present in some later time period? Some teams may be more interested in failure to retain, commonly known as churn.
- Task success: Includes traditional behavioral metrics of user experience, such as efficiency (e.g. time to complete a task), effectiveness (e.g. percent of tasks completed), and error rate. This category is most applicable to areas of your product that are very task-focused, such as search or create workflows.
The right technologies allow you to better evaluate the impact of your UX design (and take action to improve it)
The right technologies allow you to measure and understand the impact of your UX design choices. With FullStory and Qualtrics, for example, you can seamlessly reconcile qualitative customer feedback (an indicator of Happiness) with digital experience analytics (measuring Engagement, Adoption, Task Success, etc.) to understand and take action on pressing user experience issues and opportunities.
You can use this integration to:
- Zoom in on sessions where a user left specific feedback, a low NPS score, or any other response data and get a full view of their experience
- Detect how your experience metrics correlate with conversion rates
- Get notified whenever negative feedback is provided on a key page and get more context about the user’s experience.
- View customer experience data across your online touch points within Qualtrics’ XM Directory.
- Automatically trigger Qualtrics feedback solicits, live intercepts, and/or support tickets at the exact moment a customer experiences frustration.
Curious about how FullStory’s digital experience analytics platform + Qualtrics’ experience management platform work together to power user experience design? Learn more about the Qualtrics + FullStory integration here.
Great user experience design is a critical lever for any company; the process, done properly, keeps you focused on your user and enables you to deliver better experiences. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Seamless, delightful UX design can have a highly positive impact on how a user perceives your entire brand, and can be a key differentiator between your product and your direct competitors’
- As our lives increasingly take place online, user experience is becoming synonymous with digital experience, and companies will need to prioritize the digital user experience to survive
- The inherent mission of UX design is to build better experiences and guide users to take a desired action, but designers need a measurement framework (like the HEART framework) in order to earn buy-in from company stakeholders
- Having the right technologies in place is essential to implement a successful UX design strategy
How FullStory facilitates storytelling for UX designers
FullStory’s digital experience analytics platform is an invaluable tool in helping designers and UX folks tell stories to move business. Few things rally an organization to action like showing a stakeholder a user’s session via session replay where that user is frustrated, struggling, or clearly confused. People, in their gut, want to fix broken experiences when they see a user struggling.
Further reading: Treat UX problems like the bugs they are
May 12, 2021
Global consumer trends: how the pandemic changed the world and what we’ve learned for the future
April 26, 2021
How customer experience learnings helped Veolia improve the employee experience
April 26, 2021
Bringing healthcare into the future with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network
April 17, 2021