We all like to think we are creating our online experiences for the user, right? We hear ‘user-focused design’ and ‘customer-centric’ this-and-that. But is it really?
If you are not talking to the customer, how do you know?
How do you know?
I have a sign up in my office that says “Know Your Users for They are Not You”. I have had it for…I don’t know how long….years, definitely. And it is a great reminder to me that the way WE behave is not necessarily how our CUSTOMERS behave. How WE want to be treated might actually turn off someone else! Someone we are trying to engage with. We just really don’t know everything about everything. We can’t read everyones’ minds. Shocking, I know.
So what we can do about it is this: Go to the source. Drill down into the details. Ask questions.
At Highdive, we follow a process with all clients. Over the years we have added and removed steps, but largely the process remains the same:
1. Define your goals.
What do YOU want to accomplish through your online presence: whether it be a website, a mobile application, an automated internal process (yes, your employees are ALSO your customers), or an integrated social media campaign. What will be success to YOU? Is it more sales? More traffic? More referrals? A better review? The perfect applicant? To be clear about what YOU want will allow for us to see if we were successful.
2. Define the customer.
Who is your ideal client or customer? Really think about this one. Is it male? Female? Educated? Religious? A U.S. citizen? It is not likely that your ideal customer is ‘EVERYONE’. So get down to the details. The more clear you are on who you want to reach — who would be ideal for you to work with –the more effective your message will be. Try this on for size: “my ideal customer is a 35-50 year old women who is married, with children, who lives in San Francisco, holds a C-Level management position, making at least $200K, with an advanced degree, who wants someone to purchase modern art for her.” Can you visualize her better than if we said “my ideal customer is a women?”
3. Understand the customer.
Once you have defined your customer, TALK to your customer. Find out what an engagement with you looks like. What are their expectations? What are their frustrations? What would be awesome to solve? How do they interact with companies online? What words do they use?
4. Design toward the customer’s goals.
A good designer will learn about the customer and then design to that customer. A male engineer in his 60s will appreciate different things than will a 20-year-old male college student, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom, or a 70-year-old grandmother of 3. A great designer will understand what Steve Jobs clearly did: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” The best thing you can do is to go directly to the user, ask questions, take suggestions, and then watch how they REALLY engage with you online. And create the ultimate user experience.
5. Implement the online experience.
Put it out there, error free, respecting the user’s time and needs. Make it available for all platforms.
Once you are online, watch how users interact with you. It could be by looking at web usage statistics. It could be by testing out improvements to the experience through A/B testing. It could be through post-launch usability studies and focus groups. It could be through a survey or by inviting feedback. Pay attention.
7. Make Adjustments.
We as humans constantly strive to improve ourselves, right? Think of your website or mobile application (or whatever you are using to engage with your customers online) as an employee of your business. Continue to develop and improve that ’employee’. After all, you only want the best employees working for you, right?