You’re building a startup plan and you’re immersing into this intricate, thrilling venture – all the details need to be nailed, all the directions aligned and drawn clearly, all ideas inspected thoroughly. This is the full-on cruise mode you enjoy and signed up for, am I right?
Sounds great so far.
But being so caught up in the ins-and-outs of launching the best product, you shaped yourself to be a very specific kind of user. You know a certain user flow you yourself came up with. You understand the value the product offers because it’s you who’s identified the needs it helps fulfil.
This is one mental model which is different from your future visitors’. So after you immerse into the world of your product, it’s time to immerse into the world of your product’s user. The attention you put into the latter is going to help you create something closer to what people need (and would pay for).
Working at a web and mobile development agency, I get to see how dozens of platforms are built, rolled out on the market, then interact with their target audiences. What I noticed is that one aspect shaping a product’s lifecycle is the amount of UX know-how entrepreneurs have. Or at least how much they’re aware of it. So in this article I hope to bring more clarity on why it’s important to think of UX before mapping out a growth strategy.
0. What Is UX and Why Is It so Tied up to Business Outcome?
UX (user experience) is where psychology marries technology and business strategy. It may sound complex, a bit intimidating and quite hard to get right from the first try (or even tries).
But beyond this analogy, UX is rooted in a hard truth – we live in an age of immediacy and figures show it: there’s a 0 to 8-second window where you have to pique a visitor’s interest and shape their buying intent into a sales outcome. Every extra second beyond this window? Statistically, it’s going to cost you approximately 7% less in conversion numbers.
This is mainly why a UX designer’s job has grown in importance over the last years and these professionals need to have much more business acumen than before (check this recent piece by Adobe on the topic).
Essentially, a UX strategy aims to:
- Determine user pathways (the steps people are likely to take within the platform, according to their needs).
- Abide Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) principles.
- Sketch the look and feel of the design (so that it’s as device-agnostic as possible).
Once these boxes are checked, you can say your product has an intent behind it.
But why is user experience such a big deal when it comes to your business’s outcome? Simply put, because of the sheer range of options the user has.
They feel your onboarding process is too sluggish? They’ll leave, no regrets.
A salesy popup while they’re browsing for what they need? Plenty of other fish in the digital sea.
These seemingly small issues will pile up and bring conversion rates down, thus affecting the performance of your business.
1. UX Know-How Helps You Set the Right Goals
Where there’s well-defined intent, there’s proper goal-setting. Where there are goals, there are properly informed business decisions.
If I were to put it a bit differently, I’d say goals set during the UX building phase are the pillars of your brand’s narrative. And if you manage to get a straightforward narrative told in a simple manner and in a few steps, visitors will feel that.
For instance, one of your main goals could be delivering the feel of a real store across your e-commerce platform so as to increase trust.
This means a bunch of features you have to highlight accordingly: return policy, money-back guarantee, staff assistance at all times (maybe implementing a conversational interface like a chatbot). If you don’t guide visitors along the right path, they may get lost before noticing the whole range of benefits you offer.
I’ve got another example: when we built a platform for high-end artisanal items, the UX goal was aimed at conveying a stylish, clean vibe. We featured large product pictures alongside carefully-crafted product descriptions. Artist profiles, expert suggestions and a weekly curated item were placed on the homepage to offer a similar experience to what you’d get in an antiquities store tour.
The more you refine and document the look and feel you want to offer, the more intuitive your platform can become. If you also throw some in-depth market analysis and competitor research in the mix, you can access another level in terms of brand positioning.
2. UX Helps Your Product Align with Your Prospects
The success of an online product is no longer about (just) its technical prowess or investment rounds.
It’s also about the time you spend trying to understand how your audience uses their brains to make purchase decisions, how they form opinions and how can you tweak a product’s interface to be a step ahead of their reactions.
If you go to great lengths to do this, test hypotheses, use A/B testing or usability testing tools (which allow you to see real users interacting with your platform in real time), you can say you’re starting to have a better grasp on how exactly your product will fare in the real world.
Yes, at this point, UX is tied to behavioral design, which is tied to cognitive psychology, which sounds ‘intellectual’ but stays at the root of notions like consumer behavior, use cases or experience maps.
In the era of immediacy and customization, understanding your prospects – especially before launching the product – will be the real differentiator between close competitors (more than product and price, according to this study by Walker).
3. UX Know-How = Avoiding High User Exit Rates
It’s easy to get carried away while mapping out all the features you want to add to a new product. I totally get it – after all, we’re on the entrepreneurial stage because we’re enticed by challenges and the prospect of building something that’s ours. Solving the puzzle of what users need and how we can meet this need.
Now, not to curb your enthusiasm, but: stuffing a platform with features might just get a little complicated and overwhelming for a first-time visitor.
And what do users do when it gets complicated? They flee. Because they don’t get the ease of use and intuitive factor they expect. You essentially have to marry the complexity of your platform to simplicity of flow. Big shoes to fill, but as long as you put enough effort into UX design, you’ll be able to:
- Diminish early drop-offs caused by faulty platform elements.
- Create better ways of delivering customer satisfaction.
Which leads us to the next reason good user experience is mandatory for your product’s sustainability.
4. UX Is an Entrepreneur’s Passport to Good ROI
We’ve been developing web and mobile products for over 12 years. What didn’t change in all this time is the fact that our clients always expect us to create a highly functional app or website able to drive revenue and showcase all the functionalities they wish to offer.
And while we do manage to deliver (as per their say) excellent web and mobile development solutions, we’re also striving to bring forward the impact UX can have on said revenue.
Sometimes this means we have to challenge their initial design options and insist upon alternatives that are more likely to increase conversions and fit right in with the interface.
Because once you start implementing the design and then complete the deployment phase, it’s much harder, time-consuming and not to mention costly to operate changes. And costly UX changes when the product is rolling on the market is not something your business needs in terms of return on investment.
5. Keep It Short and Simple
If, as an entrepreneur, you’re worried about having to compete with the big sharks, think about investigating their UX.
Do their platforms feel too overwhelming, too sales-oriented, or maybe have a confusing/uninspiring user flow? You can capitalize on these weaknesses by putting extra resources into the UX department and build a 100% customer-centric product. The good news is you have the figures to back this investment – in 2018, visitors highly appreciate apps and websites that are personalized, lightweight, and innovative.
So as long as you settle for a few UX differentiators and find the software partners to implement them, you already have a competitive advantage done with minimum cost.
Author's bio; At Around25, a team of full-stack developers, UX&UI designers and project managers are eager to help you succeed with your product