Personalization, omnichannel, SEO and SEM. These are the things you hear people spend tons of money on in 2016, but only recently have you started to hear more about UX. Unfortunately the term UX is used as some form of collective phrase for all things related to design and conversion optimization, which it is not.
When discussing UX you will almost always have conversation drifting into topics of visual design, Interaction Design (IxD) and of course Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Now this is fine because UX certainly are closely connected to these fields, but the problem is that no one seem to explain that they are just that: connected. Instead everything is just "UX", which leads to problem with expectation and actual result.
Lets start by breaking down what UX is and is not by defining the different aspects of a design:
There are many types of visual design and the most common for enterprise companies is the creative visual designer. This is because enterprise companies use creative agencies, even if there is no creative aspect of the visual design to begin with. A creative visual designer is an artist. The creations are all master pieces to be admired and praised and the format of advertisement and commercials are where the creative artist truly will shine.
E-commerce for example have very little creative freedom because it is limited in function and expectations from the users. To put a creative artist on the task of designing an E-commerce site is like asking Michelangelo to select the color palette for window frames and door dressings for 15.000 apartments in Los Angeles instead of doing the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It's a waste of time for the artiste and the result will be to complex for the purpose.
Instead you use a GUI designer with an expertise in the system you are designing for. Unlike the creative visual designer that will spend endless discussions on what font to use with what pantone so the kerning will amplify the shades of the fall collection the GUI designer will focus on usable design, best suited for the platform and purpose of the site.
The GUI designer will live in the borderline between visual design and the front end developer and they have a decent understanding of IxD and UX based on previous experience. There are no visual masterpieces created by GUI designers, but they are the true masters of making usable design that generate sales and clients love to browse their balanced and well constructed designs.
The interaction designer is all about the interaction between the system and the user. The sole purpose of the work done by the IxD is to ensure the interaction is the best possible for the user so that person can get to where they want to go as fast and as easy as possible. In order to do this the IxD is armed to the teeth with tools to structure information and data, how to optimize search and navigation structures, if the target group prefer popups, slide ins or any other type of front end behavior to present information.
Unlike the visual designer colors, fonts and other visual aspects, are not an important aspect of the interaction process. So wireframes are the tools of the trade for an IxD, even if that is slowly making way for prototypes these days as it has many benefits beyond mere IxD.
The UX designer is all about feelings, but not just any feelings: the users feelings. This is when the visual design come together with the interaction design in a way that is most appealing to the users. The UX process is all about finding out what the users want, what they need (that they might not even know they want) and then to adjust the visual and interaction to best fit that need.
The UX designer spend lots of time identifying and understanding the users so they can form that emotional bond that make it possible to make the best possible experience for them. The tools for the UX designer are all about communication and psychology so interviews, think aloud testing, eye tracking and analytics are all part of the UX designers arsenal as well as a sound understanding of color psychology and the ways the human brain interact with the digital world.
Conversion Rate Optimization
The Conversion Rate Optimizer is all about psychology. The CRO expert build on top of the IxD and UX designers work and they dig deeply into the more advanced areas of visual design and of course the greatest tool of all CRO masters: the communication between the user and the site called tonality.
Things like the reciprocity, directional cues and copywriting are heavily mixed with psychology such as color psychology and the Gestalt Laws. Behavior patterns and content management become target for optimization where each funnel is examined and dissected to find the optimal flow with the optimal design and optimal tonality.
Conversion rate optimization in itself have many, many different flavors. Some CRO are experts in getting forms to convert, others are experts in structure and trust while others are experts in SEO/SEM returns or Email campaigns.
Get the right designer for 2017
So what kind of designer do you need for 2017, really? It all depend on where you are in your design cycle. Most sites already have a design, flawed as it might be, but instead of spending millions on a redesign, which will most likely just cost you money unless you do it right, I suggest you consider the three steps building blocks of a great design.
- Interaction Design - Ensures that the site CAN be used.
- User Experience Design - Ensures that that people WANT to use the site.
- Conversion Rate Optimization - Ensures that people WILL use the site.
I would say that 75% of all E-commerce are in dire need of an IxD. That is because so many sites still struggle with site structure and interaction. To many have fallen for the lure of using a creative designer and are stuck with a design that the user do not understand how to use or that is not actually usable at all.
20% of all E-commerce sites have a structure that the users can use, but the design lack pleasure and clarity and for that reason a UX designer is needed. This is where magic happens almost daily and it's a wonderful time for a site user to bond with the users to truly begin to understand them.
Only 5% are in the state where they have the structural stability and easy usage focused on the right user group and it's these 5% that are in the exciting phase of Conversion Rate Optimization. This is when a site truly enter a golden area and exceptionally few sites ever reach this state.
Regardless of where you are in your design you should seriously look at your site today and ask yourself this:
- Do you know who you are building your site for and have you confirmed this with actual data so you know that is actually true?
- Are your content such as images, texts and visuals communicating with those people in the way that is appropriate for that target group and have you verified that with data as well?
- Will your site win awards for ease of use if your visitors would vote for your site honestly every time they visited your site and have you confirmed that with the users?
- Is there anything about your site you are not 100% satisfied with and is it safe to say that your users will feel the same as you?
- Do you want to make more money and have happier clients in 2017 by taking care of questions 1-4 as well of hundreds others that affect your sales and customer satisfaction?
If the answer for #5 is yes, then I suggest you take a long look into your budget and consider not wasting money on SEO/SEM or redesign efforts before you have a serious look at your UX and CRO, because if you read all of this I assume you are dedicated enough to already have done your IxD work...
...am I correct?