Walt Disney said the famous phrase of “Details matter.”
To Disney, there was no such thing as an insignificant detail in regards to experiencing Disney’s brand from movies to the theme parks. Have you noticed in Disneyland the small details such as the Mickey Mouse heads throughout the park? Whenever I go see a Disney movie, Studio Disney seems to always push technical and artistic bounds to create beautiful stories on film (did anyone see Finding Dory recently?).
When a customer interacts with a brand, the entire experience matters. If there is a weak chain or a broken link in the chain, the experience suffers and you most likely lose a customer (and get a bad reputation word of mouth). Disney knew that experience mattered.
Nowadays, the need for details and experience has crossed into the digital realm. It is known as UX (user experience).
What the heck is UX/UI?
We are in an age of information overload. It is constantly being shoved in our faces on websites, whether we want to see it or not. As information consumers, we skip sites that do not connect with us, that are confusing. We want to browse websites that add meaning to our lives, that truly connect to us by being easy to use and through the integrity of their content, services, and product solutions.
Have you heard of UX and UI and wondered what those terms meant?
User experience design is about improving a person’s interaction with a brand. This can be through accessibility, how a product or service works, and the results of the experience itself. Some great examples of companies that accomplish this well are Disney, Nintendo, Amazon, and Apple. UI, or User Interface, is the visuals of the experience. What is the customer interacting with and what does that look like? This term is usually applied to just digital interfaces. Amazon is a great example for shopping user interface and they are always making tweaks to the user interface based on shopping preferences and moving elements.
UX is different from beta testing a web page because you can iron out a lot of issues with how a website functions early on, before the coding process. Coding a website takes way longer than designing web pages in Photoshop (sorry Designers, but it’s the truth), so we need to nail this before the website gets into the development phase.
UX has direct, measurable results
When a designer is finally finished with their new website or app, the results of successful UX can be directly measurable through increased site traffic, conversions (sales) and impressions (views). Companies can set clear goals at the beginning of a project to know what the key goals are in order for the designer to test for those goals and keep those goals in mind. For example, Sierra Instruments had an increase in online sales by 20% after the launch of the new website I lead a team on. During the project’s lifecycle, I
Sample Project Where UX was Key: Redesigning Sierra’s Website
Live website at http://www.sierrainstruments.com
Sierra Instruments desperately needed a new website. Customers were generally overwhelmed when first going to the website and had no idea how to find information. Most people would go default to the search bar to search for what they needed to find, which is an inefficient way to navigate a website for content. Many people outside of the flow industry had no idea what Sierra did as a company.
As a part of the internal team, I lead this project with a kickoff meeting, starting in April of 2014, with the key stakeholders. At that meeting the needs of their customers were stated:
- Finding information in less than two clicks via dynamic, smart filtering
- Two company divisions that needed equal representation
- Scalability across all devices
From there, I inspired and orchestrated the team of seven people on the project into conducting research on the current Sierra website and the sites we liked based on our customers and their needs. The research was presented to key stakeholders. From those meetings, I lead the team to develop sketches, revise sketches, refine sketches into digital design comps for over 50 different page types. Other team members were assigned SEO research and analysis, gathering and rewriting content, gathering and editing images, UX testing, and implementing test results into refinement of the project throughout the project lifecycle. Testing was conducted on a sandbox server, then the site was moved to beta and finally launched in October of 2015.
From analyzing the data since launching the new site, Sierra has been successful in fulfilling the original project goals. Since launch, overall conversions are up and bounce rates have decreased. For example, from Sierra’s homepage, the Request For Quote conversion rate is up 20% from before launching the new site and has been at that steady 20% since launch.
Currently, the site is in a refinement stage with improvements implemented weekly to improve customer needs based on feedback. Future features are being worked on continuously to continue to grow and evolve Sierra’s digital brand through this new tool for their customers.
What I found while doing testing was that things that seemed obvious actually turned out not to be. One of the early digital sketches of the design had a black bar at the very top of the webpage with the log in information. When I conducted my testing and asked the subjects where they would go to log into their account, no one could find the link (even though it was sitting on the black bar, in white type). I revised my sketch and retested subjects at a later date, and they were able to find it instantly.
Ok, so I understand that UX/UI is important. What next?
What you need to do is conduct research and do testing in order to have solid data before you create your designs. Yes, this needs to take place before the design process and throughout the whole project lifecycle, including during the design process.