From Google to startups, there’s a burgeoning belief that the competitive advantage lies in User Experience (UX). In a highly competitive world where brands fight for user attention, loyalty, and money, the usability and enjoyment of a product play a fundamental role in its success.
Startup founders hope their products become essential for users—integrated into their lives like Instagram, Uber, and others have become. Such deep integration isn’t accidental: it’s a process of careful design and iterative learning, especially for technology companies. It is a process of incorporating behavioural science into product design and development.
What is UX?
User Experience design is the discipline of creating a useful and usable web site or application that’s easily navigated and meets the needs of the site owner and its users. There’s a lot more to successful UX design than knowing the latest web technologies or design trends. User experience doesn’t happen on a screen; it happens in the mind, and the experience is multidimensional and multi-sensory. A badly designed experience can not only be frustrating to the user, but can also highly impact a business, especially when we talk about online businesses.
You cannot avoid UX—you may do it well or do it poorly, but either way, you are doing it. UX results from using any product or service. If you accept this premise, you will soon recognize the benefits of doing UX intentionally. Intentional user experience, or more precisely, user experience research and design , illuminates the needs of your audiences and creates compelling products and services. Conversely, unintentional user experience, or to put it more succinctly, an accident, foreshadows why audiences abandon and why products fail.
A good design like great advertisements is not about winning awards. It’s about performance. Amazon is a very good example. They have never done more than one re-design in their entire history of operation. Instead, they are investing so much in the iterative design process where they keep learning and improving because they want to know about their user. It is a continuous process.
Start with the goal
Let’s start at the end: There’s a person that loves you. They use your product constantly, almost religiously. They tell anyone who will listen how awesome it is at making one particular part of their life better. If you charge for it, they pay — and happily. If you don’t, they unquestionably would if you did. They are the least likely to churn out, and the most likely to pull others in. They’re one of the best friends your company could have: a thriving, successful user.
How did they get there? It’s not like they were born that way. After all, there was a point not too long ago where everyone on Earth was a complete stranger to your product, that thriving user included. How did they navigate their transformation from completely unfamiliar with your offering to intrigued, to exploring, committing, investing, and, ultimately, finding satisfaction on the other side? That, in a nutshell, is what user onboarding is all about: guiding the uninitiated all the way to their own personal promised lands.
A quick framework for evaluating feature designs that might spark better conversations than “Design X looks better than Y”:
- Feature Discovery by target user: Easy?
- Feature Learnability on first use: Intuitive? (human?)
- Feature Usage over multiple uses: Will grow Product’s value for user exponentially over time?
“The design is not just what it looks like and feels like. The design is how it works”— Steve Jobs
While onboarding can’t control how amazing your product is, it can sure as hell try to get as many people amazed with it as possible. Thoughtfully designed user experience helps your customers make that jump from stranger to thriving user, and set each moment of it up for outstanding levels of success.