Customers may never have heard of the term “UX”, but they know a good user experience from a bad one. The difference can make them loyal customers or drive them away. It’s part of the larger concept of customer experience, or CX.
At a basic level, what makes a satisfactory customer UX doesn’t change much. They want clarity and ease of use. How designers have achieved it has changed, though, in response to changing technology. The biggest change has been increased use of mobile devices. Advances in smartphone tech have made better mobile experiences possible. Users expect their mobile interactions to be as convenient as their desktop user experience.
User Experience Trends in 2018 and Beyond
A mobile-friendly design has been important for several years, but now the push is for mobile-first design. It’s the leading concern, not just an afterthought to desktop design. This means avoiding reliance on features that are hard to use on mobile platforms and more use of techniques that are distinctive to touchscreens. This has led to some changes in priorities, as well as increased emphasis on features that were already desirable.
- Saving time. Mobile users are especially eager to accomplish tasks quickly. Usually, they’re going somewhere. Besides, even with the latest improvements, entering data isn’t as easy on a phone. They want to do what they’re doing in a few steps as possible. This means remembering information they’ve entered before and offering sensible defaults.
- Linear flow. Presenting users with too many options at once clutters the screen and confuses them. The trend is toward presenting a clear, simple sequence of actions which will get them from the beginning to the end.
- Progressive disclosure. A good way to make linear flow clear is to have successive items become visible only after the first ones are complete. Users can go back and change their entries if they have to, but the appearance of one new item at a time makes it more obvious where they are.
- Gestures. A major strength of touchscreens is the ability to use gestures. Implemented properly, they can save a lot of time. However, they work only if the user knows they’re available and can use them reliably.
- Biometric authentication. This is a user experience issue as well as a security issue. It’s painful to enter long, complicated passwords on a smartphone. Customers can’t carry their notebook of long, difficult passwords around with them, or at least they shouldn’t. Mobile users are especially likely to use short, easily guessed passwords. Two-factor authentication with a biometric factor helps to make up for weak passwords. Some businesses are even going to biometric-only authentication, though that carries its own risks.
Thinking Like the Customer
UX designers need to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. A common mistake is thinking that what works well in a demo will work well in real life. Most customers are trying to understand the interface as they use it. What looks flashy in skilled hands may be just bewildering to the typical user. It should always be obvious what to do.
Simplicity and clarity are more important than power. Clever shortcuts are less important than a clear path for finding a product or making a purchase. Office workers use software every day and have incentives to learn all its features. Customers use it occasionally and want it to be easy from the start. Those are two different kinds of UX.
The point of customer-facing software is to sell things, but pushing too hard is counterproductive. Customers should feel that the software is on their side, helping them to make decisions. If it does that, it will help to make sales.