User Experience or UX has been a hot topic for more than a few years now. Even if you are just slightly connected to the digital business world, you're often bombarded with articles, case studies and tips & tricks about UX.
One of my main frustrations with this UX craze, is the fact that this word seems to be consistently misused in most of the cases and narrowed down to one aspect of it: design. I admit that this is a bit of a personal frustration from getting the same reaction over and over again when I tell people I'm in UX: "Oh, so you're a designer?” Which then leads to a conversation where I'm explaining terminology like "Conversion Optimization", after which I just give up in a lot of cases.
I've also worked together with a number of companies that make the same mistake of thinking that UX is covered by their design department, thus missing an actual UX strategy.
Just try searching "What is UX" and see what Google returns in the results:
I don't know where or when this happened, but we seem to have completely forgotten the fact that User Experience is so much more than a nicely designed banner image on your website.
NN/G (Nielsen Norman Group, a leader in the user experience field) managed to compose a definition that perfectly covers the whole meaning of User Experience. "The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company's offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design."
Meeting your audience needs and expectations is one of the most important criteria of a great user experience. Like Jan Lemmens mentioned in his blog about web performance UX consists of a number of important elements to reach this goal of user satisfaction.
While design clearly plays an important role in the total UX package and is covered in the "aesthetics" sphere, it most certainly isn't the main focus. Each of these spheres are all important but can change in priority, depending on the nature of the project and the target audience.
This is essential to keep in mind: UX is not one or another. To ensure an optimal user experience, it’s necessary to stimulate a constant collaboration between all these expert disciplines. Instead of working in a waterfall methodology where designers provide the aesthetics, then the (software) engineers do the technical implementation, after which marketing provides the clarity and relevance, we always recommend an agile approach where all the teams work together in a permanent interaction.
A way to ensure a better collaboration between all the stakeholders in a web project is by including a UX Strategist in the project. UX strategists are able to close the gap between Business, Design, IT & Marketing while keeping the focus on the end-user experience, all along the different stages of a project. This requires a holistic vision over the process and sufficient knowledge of the aforementioned fields of expertise.
Too often UX is reduced to its visual or aesthetic sphere and kept in the sole domain of UX designers. However, as shown above, there’s much more about user experience, and it’s crucial to encompass all these cross functional areas to ensure a successful project.
Sam Vanhemelryck is Business Consultant Web Projects at AMPLEXOR, based in Belgium. Sam is Google & Hubspot Certified and specializes in SEO, SEA, Google Analytics, and user experience and conversion optimization.