User Experience

User Experience (UX), a long established principle. It seems that we all have our own perceptions of what it is and what it means. It is most often identified as correlated to the digital design discipline. Yet in the past few years, undoubtedly more attention is being paid to the subject beyond simply designing a user-friendly interface. UX is most often tied with merely website or software, but it is more than what we assume. Almost everything we do in life is a user experience: the payments we make, the electronic devices we purchase, the theme parks we visit, the mobile applications we download, and the cafes we eat or drink in.

What is UX?
UX isn’t as simple as we thought. It isn’t simply the outcome of aesthetic design or good usability. Instead, having a deep understanding of users, their needs and perceptions, values and beliefs, abilities and also limitations, is exactly what UX emphasizes on. Business goals and objectives of the team conducting the project are also taken into consideration while building a unique user experience. The quality of the user’s interaction with the product or any related service as well as perceptions of users towards it, can be improved if UX is best executed.

Meeting the user’s needs is the most fundamental aspect of what a good product or service should have. A good product or service should be visually appealing, engaging and simple, while navigating its features should feel effortless.

Therefore, let’s have a deeper look at some significant aspects of UX and how they affect the overall outcome.

  • Usability
    Usability is about enabling users to effectively and efficiently achieve their end objective with a product or service. UX is often confused with usability. It is true that usability is an essential component of UX, but recently UX has grown to accommodate more than just usability. Usability focuses on things at surface level, while UX digs deeper into whether an individual page or piece of content will satisfy users’ needs.

However it is important to remember that without great usability, users aren’t able to reach their intended goals, or at least not within an appropriate period of time. The lack of basic usability elements may leave the user confused, or even frustrated, which leads to users having a negative experience.

  • Consistency
    Customer loyalty is all about getting recognition and identification from users, and receiving consistent positive feedbacks. As long as we are happy with one brand, there is no need to take on the challenge of switching to another one. Maintaining consistency allows users to become familiar with the product or service and this in return, promotes loyalty. Users like to rely on the sense that they know what to expect. It makes them feel comfortable with navigating around the website. Ignoring this key aspect may result in losing customer loyalty.

Here are 4 areas to focus on in order to achieve better consistency:
– Elements
– Design
– Content
– Interaction

  • Aesthetics
    UX people who don’t take aesthetics seriously are doing it wrong. There is a strong argument to be made that aesthetics are becoming essential to the survival of any product or service. Since most products now have a baseline quality that is good enough, users come to expect products to be beautiful, not just functional.

Good aesthetic helps a design to fit the brand promise and elicit appropriate emotional responses from users. Emotions affect how we perceive something and, more importantly, how we remember it. In order to build a positive experience for users, emotional design aims to establish products that evoke appropriate emotions. In fact, psychology indicates that people usually make purchases based on how they feel about the product or service, not by serious critical thinking.

In addition, before any reading or other cognitive processes take place, preconscious judgments occurs based on just artistic looking of the product. Aesthetic design affects users’ perceptions and trust, this may eventually influence the online sales. The first credibility cues are perceived very quickly. Credibility of a website content and the information provided are important aspect to take note on especially for those selling products or services online. If a website is not perceived as credible, users will not continue their visits.

UX is the key to Branding
Branding and UX are often assumed as two distinct principles that only coordinate occasionally. The following situation might change your thought:

“A freshly graduated secondary school student found it difficult in choosing suitable universities in order to pursue a higher qualification. University by factory was newly built up so the facilities and equipment are completely new. However, university by pond has greater fame and their campus is bigger, although both share the same teaching quality standard. Hence, the student successively visited both universities during their “open day”. The first stop is university by factory. The student received a warm welcome from the university and the counselor patiently explained to the student about the details of the course that she is interested in. Then, the student helpers brought her to have a school tour so that she can familiarize and adapt easily to the surrounding. Their facilities and equipment are up-to-date since they have just moved from the previous campus not long ago. After all, the student had pretty good impression on this university because she felt that she was valued as one of their important assets.

On the same day, she went to university by pond as well. Their name is far more recognizable than university by factory, and their campus size is also larger. Right from the first time when the student stepped in, she knew that something was off. She could tell that this university is more impersonal. The following incident proved her intuition. The counselor from university by pond started to flaunt that they will award two certificates, including one verified by the United Kingdom, to all graduates, which other smaller universities are not able to do so. The counselor also tried to criticize university by factory with sarcastic words after knowing that the student had visited that university before coming to them. While having school tour, the student helper introduced the facilities with a sloppy and arrogant attitude. The student then went back with disappointment. On the following days, without further thinking, the student decided to join university by factory as one of their students.”

Based on both universities’ vision and mission statement, university by factory portrays themselves as someone who seeks to enhance the society into a better-educated population, while university by pond focuses on improving their reputation to become a world recognized brand. Despite both universities have more than 30 years of experience in the industry, university by pond has won more academic achievements compared to university by factory. Meanwhile, university by factory is always recognized as environment lover, as they were granted the “Low Carbon Building Award”. Therefore, both universities did a great job on building their brand as they both use approaching methods that suit with their brands’ vision and mission.

The technique used by university by factory to attract customers is by displaying themselves as someone who cares about the society and the environment, so that those who emphasize on sincerity will get attracted. While university by pond uses reputation and achievements as their advantages, in order to attract those who value fame and certificates. From the situation above, we can clearly see that the student is someone who seeks for sincerity, therefore she had a more positive association towards university by factory. However, we can’t put into conclusion that university by factory is better than university by pond. Perhaps the approaching techniques used by university by pond will work, but only to another group of customers with different characteristics. If the student is someone who thinks that fame and dual-award certificate are more important, then she would most probably choose university by pond. Ways of approaching method and how to make use of user experience completely depend on your brand and how do you want people to perceive your brand. Based on this scenario, do you still think that user experience is not associated with branding?

In a nutshell, the only way to stand out from today’s competitive economy is through user experience. By incorporating the key elements, you can create a user experience that far exceeds the norm. However, it is important to note that user experience may also lead to people choosing competitor brands, if didn’t do it correctly. Although more effort of time, money and resources will be allocated in, nevertheless the upfront cost will almost certainly pay off in return as the benefits you reap down the road.

Bryan Chen

Bryan Chen is a brand strategist, brand manager and consultant. He helps his client discover the reason for their brand existence through brand strategy and prioritise their branding efforts to achieve their business goal. His clients are like Giant B Melaka, Funwater France, TTW Los Angeles and many more. He believes that no successful brand can be imitated or copied and have the same outcome simply because of our differences be it our agenda, culture, worldview or goals. Just like businesses, branding is an infinite game with lots of intentional failing, learning and growing. Before he makes stuff, he would like to find out why. Cause... The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain. The same goes for your business.

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