By David Washburn
At its basic level, the idea of “user experience” is old as humanity – the first time a cave man picked up a club so he could defend himself and hunt for food, he had an experience with a tool that he needed for survival.
But it wasn’t until the 1990s that companies started focusing on user experience (UX) with their products and services as fundamental to their success. It should come as no surprise that Apple was the first company to establish a department dedicated user experience. It was run by Dr. Don Norman who now heads the UC San Diego Design Lab and is considered the founding father of the concept in modern business.
Three decades later, UX is a central focus of countless industries -- from coffee shops to internet streaming services to aircraft makers. And with the big data revolution upon us, companies now have the ability to create metrics that measure the experiences of their customers in ways that Norman could have only dreamed of in the 90's.
Yet only a small minority of firms are taking full advantage of all the UX insights available to them, says Sean Van Tyne, author, lecturer at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management and a self-described “customer experience architect.”
“The interesting thing is that only about 5 percent of companies are employing the highest level of UX design,” said Van Tyne, who for decades has worked on the bleeding edge of the field for local firms like FICO and Mitchell International.
The best way for businesses to discover important insights is to establish user experience metrics. UX metrics reveal the ways people shop for and purchase products, as well as improve customer's complete transactions on a website, leading to an increase in revenue and happier customers.
How to implement using UX metrics isn't just for large corporations either. Small business owners can take advantage of them too, with a little imagination.
“The larger companies have in-house labs and bring people in to work with their products and report their experience. Another option for companies that can’t afford an in-house lab is field testing. Let’s say you are testing a phone app, you can go to Starbucks and ask people to work with it,” said Van Tyne.
And this type of customer insight is vital because it helps to improve a product throughout its life cycle.
“A classic example of UX prompting significant changes to a product is the iPhone. If you remember, the first iPhone was rounded on the sides and hard for people to hold. So, the very next version was squared on the sides.”
As for when companies should begin to measure UX metrics to improve their products and services, Van Tyne noted, “Industry studies have shown time and time again that every dollar you spend on formative testing prior to development saves you hundreds of dollars in fixing the issues after it is released.”
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