The past, present and future of great UX design

person-sketching-a-wireframe

The past, present and future of great UX design 

Great user experience (UX) design is a delight. It’s like unwrapping a thoughtful gift from a loved one over the holidays. It’s impressive, immersive and instantaneous. And it’s what today’s customers are actively searching for. In the digital age, delivering a rich customer experience across every touchpoint attracts shoppers more than price point or ad campaigns.

 

According to Oracle, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. 86% of shoppers are willing to pay more for a better CX, while 89% of customers switch brands because of a poor experience. In addition, 65% of shoppers say a positive brand experience influences their decisions more than advertising.

 

But while customer desire is evident, many companies are still failing to deliver. 87% of customers believe brands could provide more consistent experiences across channels.

 

The benefits of a consistently sharp customer experience are clear—more shoppers and more sales. To build a better process, you need to inspect each interaction a user has with your brand. These micro experiences are at the heart of UX design, and when viewed collectively, they tell the full story of your customers’ lifetime relationships with your brand. Let’s take a closer look at the UX process and how it continues to evolve in the digital age.

 

Chapter 1: UX in the Past

At the most granular level, traditional UX design can be boiled down to three stages: learn, think, build. You start by doing user research, then you develop a game plan and roll up your sleeves to get it over the finish line. Once your design is in place, keep testing and tweaking it to make sure it’s still on target and continuing to meet your customers’ needs. Let’s go over the six steps of the traditional UX process.

 

The first thing you need to do is understand your users’ requirements. Create user personas and define use cases to observe users in their real environments. To elicit feedback, conduct contextual and individual interviews.

 

Next is the research phase. Conduct UX analysis on industry competitors, review the latest UX design trends and align your strategy according to project guidelines. During this phase, you should start brainstorming layouts and design hierarchy.

 

After you’ve conducted your research, it’s time to sketch. With your ideas in mind, start drawing paper sketches, whiteboard flows and wireframes to share with project stakeholders. Based on their evaluation, you redraw and redraft until the mockups are approved.

 

Once you’ve finalized layouts and user flows, the next step is to design final graphics. During this phase, you convert mockups and wireframes into fully designed images with applied styles and themes. You prepare and share UX design principles, guidelines, colors, typography and iconography with developers.

 

When the developers have all the design elements they need, they can begin to implement them.  Typically, developers build back-end functionality first. Once they receive design artifacts, they sync it with the front-end user interface (UI). For a successful implementation phase, UX designers and developers need to be on the same page to work through minor design changes and functionality issues.

 

After implementation is complete, you’re ready to evaluate. This involves usability testing, A/B testing and UI audit reports. Throughout the entire UX design process, you need to keep your end goal in mind—to deliver a product that’s easy to understand and solves the user’s problems.

 

Chapter 2: UX in the Present

While the spirit of traditional UX design is still very much alive, the process is often tweaked to keep up with the demands of today’s users. To meet and exceed customers’ ever-increasing expectations, many designers adopt a lean UX process. Lean UX is less focused on deliverables and more focused on close collaboration between designers and developers.

 

At its core, lean UX seeks to obtain feedback as early as possible in the process to make quick decisions. Teams work in rapid, iterative cycles to engineer changes that improve the immediate product. Instead of following requirements, lean UX designers are guided by problem statements based on a set of assumptions that can be used to test hypotheses about the product. For example, you could test whether an auto-save feature will boost your sign-up completion rate for smartphone users. Once an assumption is proven to be correct, it is quickly implemented.

 

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a core concept of lean UX. You build a basic version of a concept, conduct testing and jettison it if nothing valuable is brought to light. MVPs that show promise are incorporated into further design and development rounds.

 

When it comes to user research and testing, lean UX focuses less on lengthy, meticulously documented outputs and more on raw data. Research responsibilities are spread across the whole team to reduce bottlenecks, and the lean UX process continues until the desired experience and customer satisfaction is achieved. Here are the five main things you should focus on during the evaluation phase.

 

Functionality

Today’s customers have no tolerance for functionality fails. From buttons to links to responsive design, there’s no room for errors of any kind. Test your website early and often to make sure it always operates the way you intended.

 

Reliability

There’s no excuse for a site that’s down—it cripples your credibility and snuffs out potential sales. Buffering and slow load times are a recipe for a high visitor bounce rate. To make sure your site loads quickly and performs consistently, keep it simple and stick to the elements your visitors expect.

 

Usability

Get rid of unnecessary bells and whistles. Fancy JavaScript might look cool, but if it doesn’t offer anything of value, it can do more harm than good. Great UX design should be intuitive. Your design should be firmly functional to help every user navigate your site with ease.

 

Convenience

Visitors to your site should be able to find what they’re looking for without having to do any digging. Whether they’re looking to learn something or make a purchase, your UX design should serve up precisely what your visitors want.

 

Enjoyment

When your UX is firing on all cylinders, every action is quick and seamless. Your visitors easily find everything they need, and when they decide to make a purchase, the ordering process is quick and simple—make sure they receive a confirmation email right away.

 

Immersive UX design in practice

Thorne is a health solutions company that sells supplements and at-home test kits. To educate their users about the human body, they created an immersive UX design that takes the web beyond the browser. This interactive visual and auditory experience take users on a two-minute journey beneath the surface to uncover the complex, beautiful world within. The site also does an outstanding job of collecting zero-party data by prompting users to pose for a selfie and input their first name and date of birth.

 

Chapter 3: UX in the Future

 

What will the future of UX design look like? Will it even be on a screen? To keep up with the evolving UX landscape, marketers are beginning to look beyond interfaces and adopt emerging technologies. According to Salesforce, 44% of marketers are using Internet of Things (IoT) devices, while 32% have implemented voice-activated personal assistants. In addition, 29% of marketers are using artificial intelligence (AI), while 24% are using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to reach their audience. 

 

 

As AI voice technology becomes more nuanced, the possibilities are endless. Google’s experimental AI voice system, Duplex, has already achieved success scheduling haircuts and booking dinner reservations. Using lingo and verbal ticks (“Ums,” “uh,” and “mm-hmm”), Duplex can carry out completely natural and human-sounding conversations with people undetected.

 

In today’s world, speed is paramount. The modern human has everything at their disposal—except for time. To this end, voice-activated personal assistants will likely begin taking over more of our daily tasks as their intelligence evolves.

 

When done right, UX bridges the gap between the physical and digital world. To retain your customers and attract new ones, every interaction must be spot on. There can’t be any chinks in the armor. Through carefully considered UX, storytelling and design approaches, Horizontal Digital creates experiences that drive the relationship between your brand and your customers forward.

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