Man prototyping a web app
Factor in user experience as a key element in developing your products. PHOTO: William Iven

We live in a reality in which people are engaged 24/7. 

What differentiates the best products and services from the rest are the superior experiences they bring to their users.

User experience (UX) has taken a pivotal role in product development.

Just take a look at the big tech leaders and how they are able to get their millions of users to do what they want done so easily.

It doesn’t take much skill or effort to post things on Facebook or find and buy products on Amazon. 

At these companies, the design teams are always looking for new and better ways to provide intuitive and easy ways to engage their audiences.

So if you are looking to get ahead, then it's high time to consider doing what they do and start factoring in user experience as a key element in developing your products.

Effortless Experience Wins Users Over

Much has already been written on UX and most of them still remain true to Nielsen’s usability heuristics, written some two decades ago. UX is all about ease-of-use.

While that’s putting it plainly, UX design has evolved into a field where learning from various disciplines like psychology, graphic design, and sociology (among others) are factored in to guide design teams in creating intuitive interfaces.

A CEB Insight’s study on customer loyalty emphasizes what is referred to effortless experience as the key to winning loyalty.

The study found out that it isn’t exactly exceeding expectations that win loyalty. Rather, it’s minimizing the effort exerted by customers to resolve issues. While the study focused mainly on customer service, the idea of reducing the amount of effort in customer interactions can be a guiding principle in your product’s design.

Follow a Multidisciplinary Design Process

Design teams are now multidisciplinary. If your approach to product development is still heavily siloed, it’s high time to reconsider structuring for small cross-functional teams to work on prototypes.

What’s also critical is for them to reach out to actual users, test out their designs, get feedback, and make refinements. Product managers should always keep the end users in mind, and the team should have a high-level executive champion. Some organizations are even appointing experience officers to champion UX in the corporate leadership.

One tendency to be avoided with executives is what’s referred to as “featuritis” or the pitfall of trying to jam a product with all the features that an initial market study or survey says tests well with the audience.

Leaders must also temper themselves in what needs done and collaborate with the team and the market. Sometimes, it also makes sense to stripping down features. So, in a sense, even before thinking about bells and whistles, make sure your product does what it essentially means to do, and that it does so superbly.

Give Users What They Want Now

So, what do users want these days? Well, that depends on what they want done and that’s where your business comes in. However, regardless of what that is, they all want it done quickly.

As internet use shifts to mobile, the “third screen” and the paradox of bandwidth costs declining leads to less consideration of speed of delivery in development, the demand for efficiency and speed intensifies. Google says that more than half of users will abandon websites that load in more than three seconds.

You should optimize your design and infrastructure for speed. On the design end, this means optimizing images and minifying front-end code.

On the development end, this means making sure code efficiently uses computing resources such as CPU, memory, and bandwidth. Consider shifting to a distributed infrastructure, using load balancing and by deploying a content delivery network (CDN), in order to trim down latency with end users, reduce load times and speed up responsiveness.

Design is Iterative

As Mike Tyson once said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

There is no better test for your product design than users actually using it. It is quite rare for products to get it right the first time.

But what can separate a product design team is its ability to pivot and respond to what could make the experience better. Improvements can be and should be made.

Even Amazon tries out new things and then revises or even reverts back if needed. Once it tried to apply endless scrolling on its mobile interface only to find out that users can get overwhelmed with the infinite amount of products that are loaded, leading to fewer sales.

Iteration is core to the philosophies behind development frameworks like agile and lean, which popularly guide many design processes today.

Create prototypes, test and revise. Also, don’t be afraid of continuously delivering.

These days, you can’t really rest after a product has launched. No one can take a foot off the pedal innovating. Facebook releases to production twice a day and Amazon pushes code every 11.6 seconds.

The Bottom Line 

Don’t lose sight of your market and its needs.

While factoring UX will surely improve any product, it is also important not to lose sight of what’s essential to product development — that you are solving your customer’s needs.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of just trying to clone the leader with what they’re doing, but keep in mind that your business should strive to carve out a niche audience that you could turn into a solid customer base. Listen to your customers and provide them with the easiest experience that they want and deserve.