Humanising User Experience – In a digital world

John Pike – UX Designer

User Experience or as it’s more commonly abbreviated ‘UX’, is a term recognised by many, but is also a term that is quite overwhelming and sometimes misunderstood. This is due to the vastness of disciplines associated with it. The topic of User Experience can also lead to many open-ended questions – what is UX? How can it benefit my business? What is the importance of it? To name a few. 

Enough with the questions…

Long before the days of smart phones and laptops, people have been engaging in all types of experiences outside of the screen. In fact, every time a person looks, listens, smells, tastes or touches, you could say that they are participating in an experience. To appreciate User Experience we must first and foremost appreciate what it means to ‘experience’ as ‘people’ not just ‘users’ in the real world.

Technical jargon aside, here’s a more humanised approach to understanding User Experience.

Let’s talk experiences…

Take a moment to think about a favourite memory or moment in time. It can be anything you like... have you thought of something yet?

OK, we’re going to assume (even though we shouldn’t) that this memory is a ‘good’ one and left a lasting impression. After all, you’ve been able to extract it from all those other memories. And it’s this impression that truly defines the experience you had and why you remember it. That’s not to say that bad experiences don't also have a profound effect. But we’ll come onto this a bit later.

Good experiences often make us champion a moment in time. They encourage us to share stories, they make us loyalists and advocates. Furthermore, experiences can help us to improve our clarity of thought, which in return alleviates external stresses. Due to this, we often find ourselves trying to recreate those positive feelings by discovering new experiences. Or sometimes nostalgia creeps in and we even challenge ourselves to try and replicate a favourite past time. 

This is what makes good experiences such an essential part of our lives.

Different experiences to be had…

Interestingly, what is perceived as a good experience by one person isn’t always perceived in the same way by another. Individual interpretation can challenge the notion of any experience.  

Imagine a scenario where two people are attending an evening concert. Both have an equal passion for the band, and it’s their first time watching them live. They have front row tickets and share the same excellent view. But for whatever reason, one person enjoys the experience so much more than the other. And why’s that?

Was it to do with:

  • The vocals? 
  • The lighting? 
  • The sound? 
  • The outfits? 
  • The atmosphere? 
  • The dancing? 
  • The song choice? 
  • The temperature? 

It could be any or none of the above. Perhaps it wasn’t even the concert – maybe a situation occurred before, during or after the event that had an impact on the experience. This demonstrates how experiences aren’t always so linear and that their complexities can lie within the ifs, whys, whats, wheres and whens.

Say hello to experiences…

Experiences surround us on a day-to-day basis. Without meaning to scare, you can’t really escape them. In fact we don’t always try to. We often welcome experiences with open arms. Take our morning routines for example. From the moment we wake up, we engage in experiences through the objects that surround us – the objects that we choose to be there.

These experiences aren’t meant to wow us. In fact most are quite mundane – after all, how much enjoyment do we get from using a kettle or running a bath? But interestingly they don’t need to wow us. They’re purely functional and familiar experiences that manifest into something greater: They help us to save time in a world where we’re all time sensitive and help us to complete tasks we otherwise couldn’t complete. It’s no wonder we welcome them in. It’s just makes for a more convenient way of living. 

Familiar experiences also have their contextual place. That’s why we can so easily move from one environment to another and have a near equal experience every time.

 

We’ve had the good – now here’s the bad and the ugly…

Experiences do have the tendency to let people down and sometimes quite unexpectedly. When they do, this can suddenly remove our sense of control; effecting our time and patience. It can become such a problem that people often move on, without hesitation, in search for an alternative hoping to turn a bad experience into a better one. Once trust is lost, can we ever give a bad experience a second chance? If we can, what would it take to welcome that experience back?  People often share their bad experiences too. We like to warn others of the potential risks involved, especially if they were to adopt them. A person having a preconceived idea can be detrimental to an experience. It can cause bias and influence a person’s decision whether to engage or not.

So, how does ‘User Experience’ in the digital space fit into all of this?

Well… that’s just it. It’s all of the above and more. But stripped right back; User Experience is a demonstration of humans understanding other humans. It just so happens this understanding is achieved within a digital space. The real world and digital world are so closely aligned because people are at the heart of them. The same people who can seamlessly move in and out of these two worlds (environments) to go about their daily lives.

Good user (people) experience is achieved when addressed from an audience first perspective. Too often decisions are made based on personal preference rather than what’s right for the intended audience. Furthermore, if assumptions are made then this can also be to the detriment of the overall experience. Good user experience relies on research and discovery to help enable more informed decision making. These decisions can help influence a greater connection with people, thus making users (people) more likely to become brand advocates.

So if you find yourself asking the question: How will UX benefit my business? Shouldn’t you really be asking yourself: How can I maximize UX to benefit my customers so it ultimately benefits my business?

Taking an audience first approach, this question should be fairly simple to answer.

What’s next?

There are many processes and procedures that determine how to discover, define and create a good user experience (this topic will be covered in a later post). In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss how user experience can help connect you with your customers – then send us an email… or be a little more ‘human’ and pick up the phone (we like a chat). Better still, come and join us at the farmhouse (we also like cake).

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