User experience (UX) has become one of the keys to success in the digital economy. Design is pivotal, but on its own will not be enough to win the heart of those that download an app or visit a website.
Psychology, marketing, technology and design all join forces in the new professions of the digital economy - profiles with no room for resistance to change. Instead, flexibility is the best defense. This describes user experience experts to a tee – a discipline that’s on the rise and which requires a wide range of knowledge in order to make a website or app’s navigation as efficient, simple and enjoyable as possible.
UX is both much more than just design and much more important than what many may think. “It is in UX where Apple won the battle: it built a mobile phone that was actually a computer and made everything tremendously simple,” says Manrique García, Global Head of Design Research at BBVA.
To establish the perfect connection with the user or customer, user experience builds on two pillars. On the one hand, the harmony and consistency of each one of the points of contact, whether a mobile phone, a tablet, a pc and also, why not, the offline world; it requires a holistic approach, where simplicity is always prioritized. UX specialists needs to take into account the entire business flow of their companies, all the potential scenarios for customer interaction, and a massive history of past interactions to act accordingly.
This is the substance of the relationship that a good UX can help build with customers. And the form? Marc Ribas, head of UX digital consulting firm Multiplica’s Madrid office, sums it all up in one sentence: “We need to build digital products that appeal to our customer’s rational side, but have an impact at an emotional level.”
“Everything has to flow seamlessly, taking into account that the user is, by definition, complex,” says García, “and that there is an artistic and aesthetic side to UX, that requires focusing on brand development.” BBVA’s expert is a perfect example of the multidisciplinary profile of those that work in this field: He holds a degree in sociology and worked as a professional photographer. 15 years ago, BBVA hired him to assist with some design duties.
But, let’s get down to the details How do these general principles translate into specific decisions?
For Ribas, “the first rule is to explain what we are offering clearly. It seems obvious, but not all websites do this.” We need to get straight to the point, because “online users are a bit impatient.” Unsurprisingly, one of the most mentioned books about UX is Steve Krug’s ‘Don’t make me think.’
All these points are particularly important in landing pages, which we define as the pages designed to win over new customers, with a narrow focus and a clear action button, surrounded only by essential information.
If this landing page includes a form that you are hoping will help you get a new customers to sign up – or at least share their contact details – you need to keep it simple and easy to fill out. Once you establish this first connection and get someone who might be interested in your company to share their email, you will have more opportunities to ask them for additional details.
Keep your checkout processes simple too: “Be careful not to make too many questions to your user: only the essential ones. They need to understand at all times why we need this information. Amazon’s snappy processes have become the standards to which we all need to adhere,” says Ribas, who has a strong opinion about long texts and recommends arranging the websites information in small pills that meet the needs, solve the doubts and inform those that visit your digital product.
Snappiness and efficiency, always keeping in mind that users, as García says “need to feel that they are part of a process, to understand what is going on.” This feeling of control is particularly important in everything that has to do with their finances: nobody likes losing sight of their money.
Because, although UX is much more than just design, the details of the design are pivotal. Let’s see a quick example with colors. Cold colors, such as blue, convey a feeling of peace of mind, tranquility; hot colors, such as red, energy and passion. The people responsible for delivering an optimal user experience need to be perfectly aware of what their brand is trying to sell, and act accordingly and consistently: a combination of red and blue may look wonderfully nice, but it distorts and sends a confusing message to consumers.
And the future?
UX professionals know that the world that we live in changes constantly, driven basically, but not exclusively by technology. “Automatisms are the next big thing in this field: as users, we will be required to think less and less. Machines will think for us,” says García.
We are venturing into the chatbot era: if an AI interface is already capable of placing a pizza order for us, shouldn’t it be able to check our account balance or even order a money transfer? This is one of the hottest trends for the near future. After all, who hasn’t heard about Apple’s Siri? However, Ribas thinks that the wisest thing is to take a cautious approach: “We should be careful not to build our customer’s expectations too high, because there are already many bots at work that are generating frustrating experiences.”
Integrating these bots into a solid user experience will become one of the biggest challenges for the people working in this field in the near future. But things are changing constantly: Virtual reality may also bloom into a disruptive technology. Technology tools may be evolving constantly, but the UX challenge remains the same: digital products need to be capable of winning over and building a loyal customer base.
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