Search, Social, and User Experience

User experience extends beyond the way things look and beyond the way things function. If we are to examine the entire user experience then how a “user” found the experience is a part of that.

For example, if you were to hear about something from a friend vs not hearing about something at all this would have an impact on your experience. Similarly, if you were to look for the answer to a problem using Google and a site that, unbeknownst to you, contained the exact answer you needed but didn’t show up in the results then the your experience wouldn’t be very good.

When our examination of user experience is strictly limited to the design elements of something digital–and worse, just one page of an entire digital experience as is common in many “user experience” reviews–then the job isn’t getting done.

Elements of user experience which actively prohibit real humans from finding and sharing content are not providing a good experience at all, at least not for the “users.”

What to do about getting a complete user experience perspective?

If you’re involved in making a design/experience presentation or if you’re a client getting ready to receive one of these then there are some things you can do to make sure that you actually make a good digital thing.

Don’t look at a slide-show of your digital experience. If your digital thing isn’t a slide deck, then don’t watch or deliver a slide deck and call it a user experience review. There are many aspects of watching a slide-show that have absolutely nothing to do with a contemporary digital experience. Watching someone scroll and talk through a presentation isn’t anything like navigating a website. The presentation screen is different, the way the control devices fit in your hand is different (as a client watching a review this isn’t even an option), the intent of watching the show is different from the intent of a real human trying to solve a problem. Consuming or presenting a slide-show of your digital experience will bring you further away from your customers, their experience, and your goals.

If mobile is important to you, actually use the mobile version of your experience. There is a lot of chatter about the importance of mobile. Mobile user experience is far more than whether the design fits on a tiny screen. Actually do the things you hope your customers will do. For example, if you are a lead generation business go and fill out your form. Best yet is to have someone watch you go through the process of doing these things, it adds just a little bit of light-weight pressure to know someone is waiting for you to accomplish this task.

Ask how people will begin the user experience. You want to know about the mind of the people experiencing your digital thing. It is very unlikely that they are well fed, fully awake, and pleasantly awaiting the opportunity to experience your digital thing. Know what times of day they are getting there, what problems they are solving, where they might be physically. And, to relate this back to the search/social stuff above, how did they find it? If they have all those human issues–hunger/alertness/distraction/tiredness–and we layer in that they came because a friend said so, or because they are seeking the answer to a specific question this can have an impact on the entire experience. Is this the 4th crappy website containing all the exact same data as the other crappy sites that Google sent them to? Are they trying to remember the 23 clicks their friend told them they have to click in order to answer the question?

These things matter because they have such a strong influence on how the design and content are consumed. Take the time to give these ideas some thought as you build and commission the creation of digital, experiential stuff.

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