The Evolution of UX
In my more than 15 years as a designer I have seen many trends come and go. Years ago the internet was all singing and dancing; a place of moving gifs, background music, 3D buttons and animations.
This iteration of the internet gave way to the evolution of the Flash based website. These were more visually pleasing but resource heavy and not particularly browser friendly in terms of SEO and accurate indexing.
The arrival of and subsequent popularity of the iPhone brought about the demise of Flash and ushered in the birth of flat design and websites. This trend has been echoed in Google Material design, which had just enough depth to bring a little more life to the flat world of design.
But what does all this have to do with UX, you might ask? Well UX has been a factor lurking in the background throughout, but it was brought to the forefront by the slick user-friendly interface of Apple products. For those who aren’t familiar with the abbreviation, UX stands for User Experience and it’s a critical skill for today’s web, app, and product designers.
User Experience is essentially a design methodology which focuses on the end user first and foremost. It places the user at the heart of every design decision. Where should that button be placed? Can it be reached easily on mobile? What if the user is left-handed? What buttons should you have on your website? Are those buttons clear, obvious and welcoming? What colours should you use? Will people with sight issues be able to see them? The list of questions could go on and on. There are a million and one considerations which must be taken into account and justified when considering the User Experience.
User Experience became exponentially more important as mobile devices and everything we want to be able to do with and on them became an omnipresent aspect of our daily lives.
A UX Designer’s most valuable asset and skill is, therefore, their ability to consider all aspects of the User Experience. Failing to employ these skills, or simply misjudging the User Experience can have staggering ramifications.
One such instance comes immediately to mind: M&S famously spent £150 million on a website in 2014 that was so astoundingly poor in terms of its User Experience that it led to an over 8% drop in online sales within three months of its initial launch. This prompted M&S to embark on a whole second round of design and development at considerable additional cost and time.
Perhaps an even more infamous example is the legend of the “$300 million button”. In 2004, Jared Spool of UIE, a usability testing and research company for e-commerce sites, was asked to investigate a large retailer’s online offering (the rumour was it was for the U.S. retailer Best Buy but this has never officially been confirmed).
The online form was innocuous, there was nothing glaringly wrong with it. The initial designers had an idea that in between the checkout and payment pages there should be a simple form that made users register their details. The thought being that for return customers this would make checking out quicker and easier and that new customers wouldn’t mind sharing a few simple details.
In the course of UIE’s research, however, they discovered that this new process had led to 45% of all users having multiple duplicate accounts (some up to 10 each!) and had led to 160,000 reset password requests DAILY. But UIE discovered that the worst outcome of all was the fact that that this process had resulted in 75% of those users who were requesting new passwords simply abandoning their online shopping carts.
After much research, analysis and testing UIE simply removed this step and replaced it with a ‘continue’ button and a simple message informing customer that they did not need to register to complete their purchase. In the first month alone this led to a 45% increase of online sales equivalent to $15 million and over the course of a year saw an additional increase of over $300 million in annual revenue from online sales!
(I think I remember seeing a handsome chap talk about something similar on YouTube once: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sJwNYEP_sg)
As one can see from just these two examples, little changes to the User Experience can make HUGE differences to a company’s baseline. In part two of my blog, “CX vs UX: The New Battleground” I’ll discuss in detail the new kid on the block: CX or Customer Experience. I’ll cover the differences between CX and UX and explain why CX is now the essential battleground for all medium to enterprise level businesses and why this is one of the most desirable skill sets to have in the industry. Thanks for reading!