The Value of UX: Driving Real Value in Your Company By Focusing on the User Experience

Take a look at a recent list of top innovative companies leading the marketplace – Apple, Google, Tesla Motors, Microsoft. These companies thrive in large part because they understand that we’ve been living in a different era, The Age of the Customer. They can no longer just be customer focused – they have to be customer-obsessed. They understand the value of focusing on User Experience. It drives innovation and delight and creates real value for their stakeholders.

“It’s no longer sufficient to say that you are simply “customer-centric” or “customer-focused.” The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.”

Forrester Research

So how can we apply the lessons from these market leaders, and transform our own User Experience? Here are five key concepts to get you moving in the right direction.

Invest in Customer Intelligence

A real, research-based understanding of your users is necessary for innovation to happen, and for deeper relationships to form. We need to know who our customers are – how they think, how they feel, what they need. We need to develop genuine empathy for our customers as people.

Former Proctor and Gamble Chairman and CEO, A.G. Lafley has been credited with turning the company around, by focusing on their consumers and their needs in what Proctor and Gamble calls, “Consumer Immersion Experiences.”
The basic idea is that anyone traveling for P&G had to file a travel report, where they observed consumers purchasing their products or using them in everyday life. P&G would spend time with consumers in shops, or in their homes, to develop a thorough understanding of what motivated and inspired them. “Thinking about the customer has focused our priorities,” Lafley said. This concept shouldn’t be exclusive to the P&G’s of the world. All businesses could benefit from actually watching consumers interact with products and services in their natural environment.

“There is nothing like observing the person you’re creating something for to spark new insights.[… ] We’ve found that figuring out what other people actually need is what leads to significant innovations.”

Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence

Design Thinking

Thinking of design as a process, and not the end product, is a shift for a lot of companies. But it can lead to huge leaps in Innovation. Uber didn’t set out to make a better Taxi service – they looked at the whole experience, and thought, there has to be a better way. Design Thinking is about taking a step back, and looking at the whole problem. In our case, that often means looking at the entire customer journey, but from their point of view.

Align Your Business Goals with Your User Goals

After a deep dive into understanding your different types of customers, and what motivates them, make sure you align your business goals with your user goals. Seth Godin sums it up this way,- “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

Create a Style Guide

Creating a consistent visual language and style guide helps your team focus on how you are relating to your customers. Thinking through the types of images, fonts, colors and icons that your company uses to communicate is vital. Committing them to a guide helps you ensure that the tone and feeling are right and that you are consistent. Make sure that these elements translate all the way to the mobile websites you manage. As we talked about last time, a better mobile experience leads directly to better brand engagement, and more dollars. A great style guide example is the design language guide that IBM posted online.

Above All – Be Useful

Usefulness in business would seem to be a requirement but in online experiences, that can be a big challenge. With websites, we talk about cognitive load – “Why should I spend one more second on this site?” It’s important to keep in mind the frame of mind your users are in, when they arrive at your site. They are there to have a question answered, or a task completed. Rarely do they arrive at your site completely relaxed, with an expectation of “Wow me with your graphic design.” Customers pick useful over flashy every time. So above all, make sure that you’re being useful.