Many people get confused about this topic, and to be fair it is easy to see why. UX design (User experience design) is not the same thing as UI design (user interface design). The experience of users happens beyond the screen and in the gaps.
As mobile designers our job is to build elegant interfaces. Interfaces that are key components in the user’s experience, and interfaces that look good generally. The main goal is to build interfaces that allow them to get answers to questions or complete critical tasks. Our job is to help them achieve their goal.
But don’t mistake these interactions as the entirety of the users experience. That is far from the case. Great user experiences happen beyond the screen and in the gaps. Gaps between channels, devices and business silos. They happen when organisations pay attention to the nuances of their interaction with customers.
Because UX design touches so many areas it is often hard to describe. So instead let me give you some examples of interactions that help create a better user experience.
Using good UX design to remove telephone support.
The Barclays Mobile App is a great example of good UX design. The app itself has an excellent user interface, but that is not the extent of its user experience.
If you need to call Barclays you can do so on the app. This allows you to skip the authentication over the phone because you did that when you logged into the app. You will notice the number when you call from the app is much longer than normal, this is because it is identifying you without you having to go through the hassle of answering security questions.
This is a great example of outstanding UX design. I am sure getting the telephone system and mobile application to talk to one another was not easy, in fact I know so as a developer. Yet no doubt it saves hundreds of users hassle everyday.
Make returns pain free.
This one will resonate with a lot of people. If you have ever had to return a product you have purchased online you know it’s not always the easiest thing to do. You have to print a return label, go to the post office and wait days for the funds to appear in your account. On top of which there is always the concern that they won’t refund your money anyways.
Some companies do however make things much more easy. Mr. Porter have a system in place where they will arrange for your item to be picked up for you. No trip out to the post office, and much less hassle. It is tracked of course, so nobody can say they didn’t receive the item. You are getting that refund!
That is an outstanding user experience.
This is where Uber gets it right. If you are not familiar, Uber is essentially a taxi service that you can call right from your phone. You will see an image of your driver and can track where your taxi is in real time. No more asking yourself ‘how long is that taxi going to be?’.
Showing your driver is a very good addition. It makes you familiar with the driver before they have already arrived, making you feel that little bit more safe.
It goes without saying, but these features (which is ultimately due to their UX design) have made Uber a huge success.
Time is precious.
Have you ever had anything delivered by the courier company, DPD?
I hate having things delivered. Often you have no idea when your package is going to arrive and when you do it is either morning or afternoon. Sometimes you get the dreaded timeframe of 8am to 8pm. What good is that to anybody?
That means you have to be available and on the look out for the delivery man. All day and most of the night. Nothing is worse than finding that card on your door mat because you made the mistake of going into the garden at the wrong moment.
DPD have done a good job with this. On the day of the delivery they text and email you a one hour slot of when your order will arrive. They also allow you to track your delivery in real time. That means you can see where the driver is and judge whether you have 10 minutes to pop to the shops for some milk. No more worry!
Because of that user experience and their UX design, I now always feel safer when I see that DPD are delivering my packages.
Inspiration is key!
Finally, it would be wrong not to mention Etsy. You have heard of them right? They are a site that allow aspiring artists and manufacturers to see their products online. They are EXTREMELY popular.
Etsy realise there is more to social media than just being a marketing channel though. They know many of their customers are looking for a gift but don’t know what to buy. That is why they built an app that connects to the users Facebook account
By analysing the interests of the users friends, it makes suggestions about what they should buy. They used digital to take the pain out of the buying experience. This is incredible UX design!
Hold up! Isn’t this just customer service?
You might be thinking this sounds more like customer service design than user experience design. You might be right.
The truth is we have so segmented our job descriptions that they often overlap. I believe user experience design sits at the cross roads of several disciplines. Disciplines including both user interface design and customer service.
Whatever you call it, there is an important lesson to learn. The experience of users isn’t limited to a single channel, device or part of your business. Simple.