Does Your Online Experience Meet Your Customers’ Expectations? Maybe Not.
October 6, 2017
Not that long ago, it was common to hear people proclaim that they’re not ‘good at computers’ so they expect to struggle to do things online. Thanks to the changing nature of the workplace and the rapid proliferation of smartphones, this really isn’t the case anymore. Your customers expect your online interfaces to mirror the best sites and apps they’ve used. It doesn’t matter how complex or simple your business, or how large or small.
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Interfaces are easier for people to use nowadays, but it’s not just interfaces. Businesses are looking for ways to simplify cumbersome processes and interactions. Mint.com may not have been the first business to try to do this, but they were the first that entered the zeitgeist in 2007.
For a while after that, many interactive project kick-off meetings included the phrase, “We want to create the Mint.com for <insert product/service>.” Mint is still referenced as inspiration when we conduct co-creation sessions with our client teams as an interface that has made something complicated much more simple and inherently more valuable.
First Steps Forward
So, how do you start the process of making your experience align with your customer’s best online experiences?
First, find out what’s working and what’s not. The best way to do this is to conduct a usability study. Watching just five people use your site or application on various screen sizes can shed light on a variety of ways that you can improve your customers’ experience.
Most of our clients leave a usability study with a list of several quick fixes, like adding text to an icon for clarity. These improvements instantly make their site or application easier to use. Usability studies can also show the degree of difficulty that people have with various parts of your interface, to help you prioritize which areas of the experience you want to focus on first.
Finding Inspiration in New Areas
Look for inspiration outside of your business. When we conduct sketching sessions with our clients, we ask them to come to the session armed with screen shots of a variety of sites or applications that they find inspiring. Naturally, clients are keenly aware and interested in looking at their competition. But we encourage clients to look outside of their own business for some of this inspiration because it encourages us to consider interface possibilities from a fresh perspective. While we wouldn’t recommend using a single search field for the home page of a health insurance member portal, considering something like the Google home page can encourage us to consider ways to radically simplify the details we need to display.
Strong UX Feels ‘Simple’
One thing we hear from participants in usability studies is that they want things to be simple, even when they know it can’t be simple. What they really want is something that makes sense, leaves them feeling confident that they understand what they’re looking at, and they know what to do next.
What Mint did brilliantly 10 years ago, beyond convincing people to provide that level of personal information online, was to consolidate a variety of data sources in a clean visual display that allowed people to truly understand their overall financial picture in a way they hadn’t previously been able to. The data Mint gathers is far from simple, but the well-crafted experience makes it feel that way to users.
We’ve experienced shifts in the way we conduct our day-to-day lives thanks to the power of that computer in our pockets or the tablet at our bedside or on the counter.
Many people expect to be able to do everything from ordering a pizza to evaluating and selecting a car insurance provider from their phone. There are still things that many of us prefer to do on larger screens, like evaluating school photos. But, ultimately, we just want to complete a task on the device that is closest and easiest for us to use. Your interface needs to support that because your customers have come to expect it.
Want to make sure your site or application is the best it can be to meet your customers’ changing expectations? Contact us and let’s figure it out together.
By Rebecca Grazzini
Senior User Experience Specialist
Rebecca has worked on user experiences in a variety of industries including online education, health care, financial services, tourism, energy, and agriculture. She has spent much of her career developing complex transactional experiences under strict regulatory constraints.View Rebecca's Bio