At Disney, they have Imagineers: people whose entire job is to make incredibly well-thought-out, unforgettable, immersive experiences for Disneyland guests. While some of it is overt, much of what they do is behind-the-scenes or so subtle you may only notice if you are told to look for it. All of this is done to facilitate seamless pleasure for the sole purpose of the user’s delight, thus embedding an impeccable brand image within the psyche of every park visitor.
Your organization, be it a business, college, or nonprofit, should follow suit. There is tremendous value in investing in the little things that create a sense of ease and fun in interacting with your brand. The key to building that rapport with your community is putting their needs first. At STAUFFER (and other creative agencies), we call this “user-centric design.” The details we dive into with our clients may seem overkill initially; however, they are proven to improve user retention, develop brand loyalty, and foster a degree of word-of-mouth marketing that no other tactic can provide.
In this article, we will detail the importance of user-centric design, what it is at its core, and a few simple focal points we at STAUFFER start with to improve a brand‘s user experience. Let’s dive in.
The Significance of Memorable Online Experiences
The impact of memorable experiences on user engagement spreads far beyond your messaging. It permeates throughout everything associated with your brand. Putting your users first eases your brand into their real life, making them much more inclined to be open to future communication from your organization and share your content with family and friends. Any marketing or business consultant can tell you that those two items are priceless and essential to sustained success..
The Essence of User-Centered Design
User-centered design principles can be boiled down to these three principles:
- User Focus: Always prioritize the needs and preferences of users.
- Continuous Improvement: Keep refining your design based on user feedback.
- Inclusivity and Clarity: Ensure your design is accessible, straightforward, and easy to use.
By always emphasizing the user as the focal point of your marketing and user experience, you take the impetus off the sales portion of what you are trying to accomplish and put it on the services you can provide. A “customer-first” approach is nothing new, but it is often overlooked when it comes to communication strategies, and now that you know it’s important, let’s not do that anymore.
Building Trust and Credibility
User-centered design begins by enhancing trust through intuitive interfaces. Incorporating transparency and giving the users what they are looking for and where they want to see it is a simple way to build trust with your end-users.
Example: Airbnb’s Transparent and User-Friendly Booking Process.
Airbnb does a tremendous job at showing customers exactly what they need to know in a no-nonsense, well-designed format that simplifies the checkout process and gives them an edge against their hotelier competitors known for hidden fees and surcharges that often creep up on their customers.
Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusivity
A user-centric design always improves accessibility for all users. This often overlooked step in UX not only opens up your product to people of all levels of accessibility but lends a particular level of benevolence to the optics of your brand. Prioritizing inclusivity shows the world you care about providing exceptional service to everyone, regardless of their level of cognitive function and motor ability.
Example: Apple’s Commitment To Accessible Features In Its Products.
Apple creates products for the whole world, each providing a superior level of usability catered to every person’s needs. While most companies do not have the deep pockets to go as deep as Apple goes regarding accessibility, there are simple applications and plugins available to enhance useability for people with many of the most common special needs, including test-to-speech for the hearing impaired and text-enhancement for the visually impaired.
Personalization for User Delight
User-centric design and tailored user experiences may sound like the same thing, but these tailored moments are a function of a larger goal of putting the user first. Machine learning and AI are the core technologies at the heart of personalization. These intuitive algorithms match similar preferences of other users and apply them to other individuals using your services.
Example: Recommendation Engine
Amazon’s recommendation tool is the best in the biz regarding personalization and boosting sales. Their gold-standard algorithm is at the heart of what people love about Amazon: suggesting new products to enhance the product they are already considering buying.
Simplifying Navigation and Reducing Friction
The importance of intuitive navigation in user-centric design lies in its ease for the end-user. Intuitive design is a trial-and-error exercise that often involves a bit of A/B testing. Still, once you balance ease of use and facilitating the desired user action, a brand will see an improvement in both its conversions and customer sentiment. Find out what your user wants, then simply give it to them. Finding that out, however, can be a bit harder than it sounds, but once you do, everything will fall into place.
Example: Google’s Minimalist Search Interface
Because of its overwhelming user adoption and simple focus (search), one does not often think about how Google simplifies its website for its users, but when you look for it, you realize it’s everywhere. From its one-option homepage to dark mode to autofill, to an entire marketplace of widgets for its browser, Google considers all the ways it can reduce the time it takes for users to get exactly what it needs, tests multiple ways they can accomplish those goals, and then deploy the best possible solution.
Continuous Improvement Through Feedback
User feedback is how we know that our user-centric design is working. Iterative feedback is a process that lets you see what’s working and what isn’t and tells you exactly what your audience wants in your online product. The iterative process works as follows:
- Understand and Define: In the initial stage, the design team identifies the problem, defines goals, and gathers as much information as possible about the users and their needs. This may involve market research, user interviews, and analysis of existing solutions.
- Ideate and Create: With a clear understanding of the problem, the team generates various design ideas and concepts. These can range from sketches and wireframes to more detailed prototypes. The emphasis is on creativity and innovation.
- Prototype and Test: Prototypes are created to visualize the design concepts. These prototypes can be low-fidelity (simple) or high-fidelity (detailed), depending on the stage of development. Users are then involved in testing these prototypes, providing feedback and insights.
- Collect Feedback: User feedback is collected and analyzed. This feedback can reveal issues and opportunities for improvement. It’s essential to identify what works and what doesn’t and to understand the user experience.
- Iterate and Refine: Based on the feedback, the design is refined, and necessary changes are made. This may involve going back to the ideation or prototyping stage. The goal is to address issues and enhance the design.
- Repeat: The entire process is repeated, often multiple times, until the design meets the desired usability and user satisfaction level. Each iteration builds upon the insights gained from the previous one.
For more on iterative testing, check out our article: UX AND WEB DESIGN: THE IMPORTANCE OF A/B TESTING.
Example: Spotify’s “Your Library” Feature Updates Based On User Suggestions
Spotify’s “Your Library” feature exemplifies the power of user-centered design. It actively gathers user suggestions and feedback, allowing the platform to make continuous improvements and cater to the evolving needs of its users. This iterative approach ensures that the “Your Library” feature remains a valuable and user-friendly component of the music streaming experience.
Measuring Success: Metrics and KPIs
How do you know if your user-centered design is working? Why through metrics, of course. Google Analytics gauges the effectiveness of your plans through a series of in-depth analytics and metrics that will break down all the KPIs essential for UX success. We have recently published two articles on Google Analytics, which we recommend everyone read and fully digest.
For those new to analytics, start with Enhancing User Experience: STAUFFER’s Essential Guide to Key Google Analytics Metrics
For those looking better to understand Google’s new-look interface, Google Analytics 4, read our primer: Google Analytics 4: Get to Know the New Features and Their Impact
User-centered design is critically important to all teams trying to create memorable online experiences. STAUFFER and its seasoned UX specialists can help you turn your plan into reality. We’ll be ready when you’re ready to take the next step. Set up a time for a consultation today.