The Full Package – User Experience Explained

As our business vocabulary evolves and changes to reflect new technology and processes, it can be hard to keep up.  Over a million people have watched the recent YouTube parody, ‘Stuff Business People Say’ which gently mocks some of the phrases and buzzwords used today (anybody who has ever had to ‘think outside of the box’ or ‘put a pin in it’ will no doubt have a chuckle at some of these.  Amongst the popular business terms in use, one of the most frequently heard is the phrase ‘User Experience’ – sounds impressive, but what does it actually mean?
Breaking it down
Once referred to as the customer or the client, these days, the ‘user’ or ‘end user’ is, essentially, the person who will be buying and using your product or service.  Needless to say, for any business, the user is the motivation for the existence of the business (as well as, of course, making as much profit as possible). As our world becomes more and more competitive – with startups and new SMEs being launched every day, most businesses are under pressure to win the hearts (and wallets) of the user before their competitors do.  This is achieved in a number of ways including price, quality and customer service. User Experience (or UX) is not just a combination of these factors but, something a little harder to quantify – the overall emotional and practical reaction that a user takes away from your product or service. This is broken down into different factors as follows: 
Meeting needs
At the risk of stating the obvious, a product or service needs to be fit for purpose or, in other words, meet the needs of the customer or end user.  This means that the reality of the product needs to match the promises made in the marketing materials and that the performance of the product or service is of value to the end user either in their personal or professional life.  If a product doesn’t meet the needs of the user, it is deemed not fit for purpose and, essentially, useless. 
Ease of use / simplicity
In a busy world, your end user doesn’t want to have to wade through pages and pages of complicated instructions in order to figure out how to use your product.  We’ve all seen the jokes about products such as self-assembly furniture and super high-tech gadgets which need a couple of degrees to figure out. Users want your product to be clever and reactive – but they also want it to be easy to use.  Creating products which meet needs and are also straightforward to use is more than half the battle when trying to get ahead of the competition.   
So your fantastic new product meets the needs of the customer and is super-simple to use; that’s great – but it’s not quite enough. In an increasingly materialistic world, we all like to show off the belongings that we’re proud of – and that means that they have to look good too.  As great as BMW’s technology is, the company wouldn’t sell 2.49 million cars a year if they didn’t look the part.
Accessibility of information
You now have your great looking, easy to use product which meets the needs of the user – which means that, if done right, that product will become an essential part of the user’s life.  To this end, the user needs to be able to access information about the product quickly and easily. Information such as trouble-shooting, updates and new features need to be available to the user at all times via the internet, apps and updates by email and text.  
Customer service
A product like yours which is great looking, easy to use, meets the needs of the user and has easily accessible information should run without a hitch…..but, just in case it doesn’t, you also need a great customer service team who can quickly and efficiently deal with any problems including payment, error messages and malfunctions.  Despite technology moving at breakneck speed, when things go wrong, many customers still want to be able to get a hold of an actual, real live person and, providing great customer service is the lynchpin of any successful business.   
The product of all of these factors is the overall user experience – essentially, the way the service made the user feel; i.e. satisfied with the performance, enjoyed using the product, enjoys owning the product due to it’s look, feel or performance.  These are all the things that a user will talk about when reviewing your product or service – as well as comparing them to similar products on the market. 
Despite the fancy name, a good user experience is simply the objective that every business should be aiming for – providing a great product or service and an overall experience which makes customers feel valued – and keeps them coming back!

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