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What is UX?

Updated on March 22, 2015
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising and public relations.

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UX Fail

"Can you help me figure this out?" hubby asks. Took one look at the student interface for an online math class he was taking and I could see why he was having difficulty. He got frustrated with himself when, in actuality, he was frustrated with the website. The materials he needed were hidden under unlikely buttons, links and navigation. Wasted maybe 20 to 30 minutes trying to locate what was needed. What a mess! And this site was from a college no less.

This is a prime example of a user experience (UX) fail.

What is UX Exactly?

UX is a shorthand acronym that stands for "user experience." While it has been commonly associated with websites, the concept of user or customer experience has many applications for offline sales and marketing, too. UX looks at how a business or website interacts with visitors or customers at each point in sales and customer service functions.

When in comes to websites, UX problems are usually found with the user interface (UI), the page or screen on which a visitor interacts with the site. If the site is not user friendly in terms of navigation or methods of responding to calls to action, it is often due to faults in UI design.

Offline, UX problems can be associated with issues of how sales and service personnel interact with visitors and customers, the physical environment of the business, or even document readability and clarity.

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Why Google is a UX and UI Success

Google has become an iconic company of the Internet era. One of the reasons for their success is their minimalist ad-free homepage user interface which primarily features just a web search bar and login area. But aren't those exactly the things—and usually the only things—users want when they visit? That's what helps make a successful user experience!

Online UX and UI Problems

Here are some examples of other UX and UI fails to which many website visitors can relate:

  • Next step in the transaction process is not clear.
  • Too many options for the next step are offered, confusing visitors.
  • Webpages that are cluttered with too many places for the eye to land.
  • Button or link to click to take next step is too small, blends into the background or is in an illogical place.
  • Slow loading webpages.
  • Not a responsive design, meaning that the website cannot automatically adjust for viewing on a different screen such as a smartphone or tablet.
  • Navigation is unclear or illogical.

If the net result is website visitors abandoning the site or the ecommerce shopping cart, these UX problems will also result in a loss in net profits, too!

Surprisingly, some of the same principles that apply to billboards, also apply to UX and UI design for websites.

In addition to surveys and measuring clickthroughs and sales, the effectiveness of an online user interface and experience can now be tracked with advanced tools such as eye tracking to see how users interact with a site.

One Reason I Wish I Had Tire Problems More Often

What? Wishing for tire problems? Well, I really don't. But if I ever do need tire service, I make a beeline for a local independent tire sales and service facility that, in my mind, is a role model for all the rest: A friendly welcome upon arrival, data from last visit even though it was some years ago, comfortable chairs and work tables in the waiting area, complimentary drinks and snacks, easily accessible parking lot and location, clean tire showroom and restrooms. No plastic chairs, grunge and noise as experienced in other tire and auto service outlets. It's these seemingly small things that can make or break a user experience.

Offline UX Problems

Retail and events are two instances where UX problems can be quite prevalent. Some examples:

  • Poor or nonexistent signage to direct customers or visitors.
  • Messy or dirty facilities (restrooms can be an especially critical UX component).
  • Complicated or overly restrictive return policies.
  • Checkout counters and procedures that result in long lines.
  • Packaging that is difficult to open and, when appropriate, reclose.
  • Parking lots... nonexistent, insufficient, difficult to maneuver, difficult to access or just too far away from the ultimate destination.
  • Wait times that are too long, such as in healthcare, salons or auto service.
  • Waiting areas that are noisy or uncomfortable.
  • Difficult to understand user manuals.

And all of this is in addition to the experience of the actual product or service being sold! That can add even more layers of user experience frustration to the sales and customer service equation.

Using UX for Sales and Marketing

While UX is usually related to standard interactions and transactions with customers, it can also be used as a selling tool to gain customers. One of today's hot marketing techniques is experiential marketing which engages customers and prospects with unique and/or memorable experiences that may or may not directly relate to the product or service being sold. The hope is that customers will be so impressed with these special experiences that they'll want the organization's standard user experiences, too.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne

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  • heidithorne profile image
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    Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

    You're welcome, AliciaC! It's a shorthand slang term that tech-y types like to throw around these days. But the concept has been around forever! Thanks so much for stopping by and have a beautiful weekend ahead!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I had no idea what UX meant before I read your hub. Thanks for explaining it so well. As always, this is a useful article.

  • heidithorne profile image
    Author

    Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi FlourishAnyway! Another prime example of UX fail! And I just had one this AM for an investment account. Ugh! Thanks so much for adding your experience to the conversation. Hope your week is filled with much better UX experiences!

  • heidithorne profile image
    Author

    Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Well, billybuc, that was my intent all along. (*snickers*) Glad you found it informative. Got a speaking gig on book publishing this week which should be good. And it's snowing, yes snowing, this AM here in CHI. But 60 degrees is forecast for Wednesday. Typical CHI spring. Hope your week is wonderful!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Well, you finely did it, Heidi! You wrote something that was completely over my head. When faced with computer technology my mind just shuts down. Still, I'm sure this is helpful for many...Flourish confirms that. I hope you have a super week in Chi-Town.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

    Very timely for me personally. Just last night I was on a website that offered 529s for college savings. I already had an account there and simply needed to log in, but they had redesigned everything to focus so much on pushing the "why" that I gave up when I couldn't figure how to log on. I was going to add money, but I ended up using it elsewhere for investments that were much easier to get at quickly. Eventually I came back to the page but could only find the login via Googling for it. Your examples of waiting rooms and similar conveniences are right on target.