#FridayFive: Experience Design


User experience expert Dan Jacobs discusses trending topics in experience design, and shares a few tips on how to transform a website into a satisfying experience.

1. How does content shape user experiences?

You can’t have a user experience without content, and every piece of content is communicated via a user experience. They absolutely go hand in hand. When developing a user experience, you need to have a sense of what it is you want to communicate– a strategy around what you need to present and what you would like the user to walk away with. Once that is developed, the details and nuances of the content can start to take form, an equally important part of the overall immersion. Content Strategists are your friends- make sure to utilize them on your team.


2. How have you tailored experiences to leverage personalization concepts?

I’m really sensitive of the very fine line between creating a personal experience and being invasive. Especially with the issues and awareness around data privacy these days, you often need to step back and look at the experience from the perspective of the user to see what types of reactions various personal components might elicit. For example, you would rather think: “Wow! They really made that process convenient for me” versus, “Do they really need my cell phone number for me to be able to see this page? Why?” when interacting with a product. There are many ways to make an experience feel personal without leveraging excessive (or any) actual personal information, i.e. by utilizing a unique voice in the copy, in allowing the user to self select a predetermined path through the site, etc. Use these moments as opportunities to be creative!


3. In your opinion, what are some examples of great e-commerce user experiences? What would you do to improve them?

If you think of how a real world transaction takes place, it’s a very physical experience, but it’s also very hands off. Think about going to the grocery store. At least traditionally, you bring your goods, and all you have to do is had over some cash or swipe a card and you’re good to go. E-commerce today places the burden on the customer– which doesn’t make any sense. Why make buying something more difficult? A customer expects you, especially a repeat customer, to know them. A few companies are finally coming to the front to streamline this – when paying for internet on the plane, instead of elbowing the guy next to me and pulling out my card, I can just log into my Amazon account and use the info I already have in there. Paypal has always done well in the virtual space; and even now in-store at HomeDepot, I can click the PayPal button, type in my phone number, a PIN, and I’m done. And Square is supposedly doing some cool things with location awareness. Anything you can do to make the experience as simple and personal as possible is a good thing.


4. How does experience design play a role in Big Data?

“Big Data” as it is popularly known, presents a number of challenges – but even more exciting opportunities to deliver concepts that improve the value a company can bring to the marketplace through intelligence and transparency. The struggle is that Big Data only really matters if it can be made relevant to a target group- which is where smart information design and UX comes in. I’m personally impressed by disruptive products that turn over the control of complex information that has been traditionally “professionals only” to the user. Usually these examples provide the user the ability to slice and dice the information to make it as relevant to them as possible. It’s about creating a fine balance of presenting something really smart and beautiful while providing just enough control to allow the user to be dangerous.


5. Does good design minimize or increase time on site through user engagement?

For me, this exact question is why I put such a strong emphasis on defining objectives for a site upfront. No one should need to spend more time on a site than they have to, but we’d like to keep them engaged if they are looking to continue to build that relationship (whether they know they want to do that or not, but that’s a topic for another time). First and foremost, it’s all about tasks. What are the critical things a user might need to get done? When you think of tasks, you often think of tactical things like adding an item to a cart and checking out, or requesting a quote or any other very functional type of transaction. But tasks can also be very soft components of an experience, like general information gathering, getting a sense of a brand to see if it is an entity they identify with, or even just the thoughts, feelings, and emotions involved.  These latter “tasks” are often deprioritized or neglected as part of the process of defining a site’s objectives, when often they should be leading the direction of the site.

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