What is User Experience and why should you care?


Searching for a definition of User Experience (UX) would seem a simple task, but Google it and you’ll get neither a succinct nor satisfactory answer. This may be because it's so new (or at least new to the mainstream) and it's still very hard to define. Or perhaps it's because it incorporates a number of disciplines and merges them into one. It's certainly true that someone who practices UX needs to know elements of design, psychology, technology, ergonomics, research techniques, project management, selling techniques – I could go on. So maybe it's not possible to encapsulate it in a couple of sentences, but here’s my attempt at a User Experience definition:

"A UX practitioner researches how people want to use a product or service, and aims to make that experience as simple as possible".

Perhaps this is oversimplifying things a little, but then again, my job is take the complex and make it simple. I am just trying to practice what I preach.

A recent Digital Marketing Insights report by Sift Media (supported by Sift Digital) found that around two thirds of respondents consider User Experience to be a key marketing priority – roughly the same number expect this to remain as a priority in the future. From this we can assume that, rather than being a passing fad amongst digital marketers, UX is on its way to becoming a critical part of the marketing strategy of online brands.

But why is User Experience so important?

From a web perspective it's absolutely vital. We generally go online to perform a task of some kind (to buy something, hire something, email a friend, check our bank statement, etc). And on the whole, when we're online we're impatient. There's just too much ‘stuff’ competing for our attention.

All this means that if you want people to use your website or app you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. This fact wasn't missed on the 20% of those who completed the above survey who provide a fully mobile compatible site (or the 40% that have a strategy in place to do so).

So whether it’s navigating your site to make a purchase or donation, completing a membership subscription form, or downloading a document from a particular landing page, if it's easy for your users to fulfil their intended task, then it's likely they will do so again and again. They may even tell their friends and family about it – you could make that easy for them to do as well! You could also promote other services your site offers – processes which are just as intuitive.

Of course one of the best ways of ensuring a quality digital customer experience is to consult the users themselves. The Digital Marketing Insights report confirms that three quarters of respondents think they should be doing exactly that, although it also suggests that less than half are actually doing so! In essence, by focusing on User Experience you will be well placed to deliver a great customer experience – an old notion, but one that is still as important in today’s world as it always has been.

Read more about the 2013 Digital Marketing Insights report or download it in full.


About the author
As a User Experience Consultant at Sift Digital, Andy Cole is adept at understanding users' needs and designing online experiences to best suit them.