User Experience has been a bit of a ubiquitous term that people tend to throw around. Most people are onboard with the idea of good user experience (UX), but often times people don’t really stop to think about what that means.They think it is something reserved for software, websites or some other digital media. The truth is really somewhere in the middle. User experience is really about human interaction. It’s about how people connect with a product and their daily life.
To create a good user experience we have to understand people. And let’s face it, people are inherently lazy. You know it, I know it and everyone else knows it too. You can argue all day long that you are the exception to the rule, but given the opportunity between tackling a simple task or a complicated one, most of us will pick the simple task every time (unless, of course, you are one of those obnoxious, overachievers who run ultra-marathons just for the fun of it — although, those people aren’t really human anyway so you can't count them).
This isn’t some mind blowing news flash — it’s just part of the human experience. People inherently look for the path of least resistance. We might be lazy, but we aren’t stupid. After all, who doesn’t want to make their life easier? If I could find a way to spend the rest of my days on a beach in Tahiti with a slow IV drip of some fruity alcoholic concoction, I would book my tickets tomorrow (Don’t judge, you know you would be sitting in the seat next to me fighting over who gets the window seat, be honest).
What does this have to do with software you say? Absolutely everything. When I was an independent contractor one of the activities I hated the most was bookkeeping. I avoided it at all costs. I found every excuse to put off invoicing clients. I would rather scrub my toilets than have to go through the painful process of invoicing. Eventually though, as my pantry would get bare, I realized I had to invoice or I would starve.
Why was such a simple task so painful? It was ugly, rudimentary and I didn’t really know what I was doing. All of my manual systems were entirely antiquated and time consuming and they made invoicing a chore. I missed sending invoices, didn’t have a great way to track invoices, and I didn't even have a good system of getting money from my clients' accounts into my own account. That is, until I discovered an amazing piece of software called Freshbooks.
Freshbooks actually made it fun to invoice my clients. It wasn’t just using the software that I liked, it was that the entire experience from simply signing up to getting it configured and actually using it. They lowered the entry bar so it wasn’t overwhelming. They broke everything down into simple digestible tasks that I felt confident handling. What they really did was remove the extra noise from the process so that I could focus on the primary task at hand — invoicing.
The design of the site was clean, simple, intuitive and easy to use. I instinctively knew what to do and why I was supposed to do it. I was excited, empowered and more importantly I was engaged.
A user’s experience starts even before he or she touches the software. The interaction really begins with getting access to the software. So often we see our customers kill the user with process before they even allow them access to the site. This can be a huge deterrent right off the bat. If our very first interaction with a piece of software is an extensive registration process with a ton of steps just to gain access, then we tend to assume that the rest of the software is going to be just as tedious to use. In fact, here at Allbound our clients who make the entry bar the lowest for their users see the highest level of registrations and engagement from their partners.
Getting your users into your software to start with can be a major hurdle to overcome, but once they have signed in, the most difficult part is to keep them engaged. The good news is that all users want the same thing. They want their software to be clean, simple, intuitive and easy to use. They want to know exactly what to do and how to do it. With some sexy designs and thoughtful attention to detail we can make sure that each task we expect the user to perform in the software is not only easy to complete but delightful to do so.
Software should remove the noise associated with the task it was designed for, not add to it.
To craft a great user experience you need to make sure you have a clear vision of the problems or pain points you are trying solve with the software. You don’t need to solve every pain point for every user, but you need to solve the largest pain points that occur with the highest frequency for the largest number of users.
The key to identifying those pain points is communication, lots and lots of communication. It’s human nature to make assumptions about user behavior and what they hope to get out of software, but you might be surprised to find out that what you had previously thought of as an asset or bonus feature might be creating more friction for the user than not having it all.
The software is certainly a great place to start focusing on crafting an engaging user experience. It is the first point of contact with a user and sets the tone for what they can expect moving forward. Hopefully it make it easy for your users to find what they are looking for and adds extra value in delightful and meaningful ways. But no matter how engaged your uses are, if the content the software provides is only marginal at best, they won’t be coming back.
When creating digital media it’s important to ask yourself what you want the person consuming that content to walk away with. Certainly having a clear message in your content with valuable information is key. Delivering that information in a visually appealing manner which makes the content easily digestible and simple to understand is also paramount.
Not everyone will be in a position to drop their current channel marketing software for something that delivers a great user experience. Sometimes we are stuck with what we have. If that is the boat your currently find yourself in there are still things you can do to improve your user experience.
Use the software as it was intended. This rule applies to just about any software you are using. Each piece of software, no matter how bad or how great, was designed to work in a specific way. If you try to customize it too much to fit your own processes then you are bound to run into unforeseen consequences. It’s like customizing an entrée on a menu and then complaining to the chef that you don’t like the dish. If the software really doesn’t do what you want it to do, find a different software application.
Simplify your processes. This especially holds true in channel software. If you make the barrier to entry too high for your users, then you risk losing users before they even get started. At Allbound we are focused on Partner Sales Acceleration. As we create every process we ask ourselves the question, “Is this going to accelerate partner sales?” If the answer is no, we go back to the drawing board until we have another solution. Remember that the channel is about partnering and helping those partners increase their sales, which in turn increases your own sales. It’s not about control.
Create great content. The best software in the world won’t be successful if the content its delivering is poor. If you aren’t in a position to switch to channel software that delivers a great user experience then you can at least focus on delivering that great user experience within the content itself following the these principles of UX design.