Just when you thought you’ve nailed down your brand’s product development and marketing — from using lean methods to SEO to content marketing, you came across another article stressing the significance of UX, UI, design thinking, information architecture, and the list goes on.
How in the world can you keep up with all these jargon, buzzwords, and concepts when your to-do list is getting longer every day? Who has the time to sit down and learn all these things?
This is what this quick introduction to user experience is all about!
This article will help you bid farewell to looking clueless the next time someone starts talking about user experience on your next solopreneur meetup. Plus, you will eventually learn how you can incorporate the basics of user experience to scale business growth.
What’s UX Anyway?
UX is short for user experience. You’ll find hundreds of definitions out there but Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen (founders of the Nielsen Norman Group, a computer user interface and user experience consulting firm and one of the leading organizations in the field) came up with this succinct definition:
User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
It is important to note that Norman and Nielsen’s backgrounds cover applied psychology, industrial design, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Many UX practitioners consider HCI as a field that UX evolved from.
The main concern of UX folks is to gain a deep understanding of your users (aka clients, customers, audiences or prospects). UX aims to find out what your users truly need, what they value, their abilities, and their limitations while taking organizational goals into account at the same time.
Think of it as a broad, multidisciplinary field that focuses on bringing humanity back to technology and business. It acts a bridge between users and your product, brand, and stakeholders. In short, it makes the IoT more human.
For more on the history of user experience as a discipline, check out this article from the InVision app team.
Disciplines of User Experience You Should Know About
The field of user experience is broad, encompassing the following disciplines:
- Project Management
- User Research
- Usability Evaluation
- Information Architecture (IA)
- User Interface Design
- Interaction Design (IxD)
- Visual Design
- Content Strategy
- Web Analytics
As an entrepreneur, expertise in one or two of these disciplines and familiarity with the basics of the rest will undoubtedly come in handy. Usability.gov is a great source to learn these disciplines for free.
UX or UI?
Here’s a sad truth: there’s a lot of folks who intentionally or inadvertently use the word UX when what they really mean is UI or user interface design.
UX is the process of designing the experience itself through research, iteration, and evaluation. Meanwhile UI is more concerned about the aesthetics and appearance. Often, UI is done by web and graphic designers.
Think of UI as the output while UX describes a whole range of processes and tools that will lead you to UI. These processes include but are not limited to usability testing, A/B testing, persona development, content strategy, and surveys. Wireframes, story maps, and user flow charts are examples of tools used in the UX process.
Emil Lamprecht explains in an excellent analogy:
If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which give it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions. And UI design represents the cosmetics of the body–its presentation, its senses and reactions.
In most cases, both UX and UI people will work together. It’s not also uncommon for someone from UI to have some UX skills and vice versa.
As an entrepreneur, if you’re hiring someone who claims to be both proficient in UX and UI, inquire about the processes and tools they use for both disciplines. This will help assess if the person in question is just putting UX or UI on the resume because it’s one of the hottest buzzwords these days.
In hindsight, great products and businesses are a result of building UI based on your user research findings.
Wait, is UX design and research just another word for market research then?
At first glance, both appears to employ the same qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. On closer inspection, it becomes obvious that they take different routes to reach the goal: business growth.
User experience is dedicated to improving the experience itself and how users interact with the product (and eventually lead to business growth because users are delighted with your brand). On the other other hand, market research is more focused on marketing messaging, pricing strategies, and studying product viability to expand your business.
Market researchers have a product to start with before evaluating consumer behaviour while UX researchers and designers study user behaviour first before coming up with a product.
The word product here is not just limited to a physical product but can also extend to your company website, app, landing page, and even your client onboarding process.
The Principles of User Experience Applied to Entrepreneurship
Now that we’ve defined UX and its goals, the next question would be: How can you use UX as an entrepreneur?
Many UX practitioners agree that it boils down to the principles we outline below. These principles are illustrated by information architecture guru Peter Morville in his honeycomb model for UX.
- Useful – Is there a specific problem or pain point that your idea or product can solve? Is there a market need?
- Usable – Is your product or service easy to use? Is usability a priority of yours or merely secondary to your goal of gaining profit?
- Desirable – Does your product or service resonates with customers? Do they really want it?
- Findable – Can users find what they need in your website, app, or physical store?
- Accessible – Can people with disabilities find your website, app, or physical store?
- Credible – Do you offer information that is trustworthy and factually correct?
- Valuable – Do you offer something of value to your users?
Why Entrepreneurs Should Care About UX
We’ve discussed the what and how of UX for entrepreneurs. The next question is why.
Good UX is essential for every entrepreneur looking to keep prospects and customers engaged, delighted, and satisfied with what you have to offer. After all, happy clients and delighted customers are the meat and potatoes of a thriving business.
Although UX professionals are often sought by organizations with large teams and sizeable budgets, it doesn’t necessarily mean that solopreneurs, startups, or small businesses should forego UX practices altogether. Nor you should hire a UX professional asap even though it’s way out of your organization’s budget.
What’s more important is to understand how the UX process can make you a better entrepreneur and consequently help your business grow. Take it one UX best practice at a time!
In summary, practicing UX means adopting it as a philosophy within your organization rather than merely finding someone to do the “UX stuff”.
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