March 20, 2017

Why the difference between success and failure is called UX (part 1)

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Malin Bergqvist

User Experience Designer, Tieto

The world is changing fast. Today's consumers have endless opportunities in regards to where to take their business. In this increasingly consumer-oriented environment, being at the forefront of the customer's mind is crucial for survival. But what can you do to get there?

This is the first part, out of two, guiding you on how to attract and engage consumers by 1) digging into user experience, and 2) broadening the scope to explore the evolution of user Experience, namely customer experience. 

It starts with UX

User experience (UX) has been around for quite some time, but there is still some mystique around the term. So what does it really mean?

UX is defined as "a person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service" (ISO). Let’s simplify it to “the experience the user has when performing a specific task”. Experience is often reflected upon as something vague and immeasurable. But how could a customer have a good experience if the service isn’t useful? It is not possible. This is where it starts to become clear that UX includes many disciplines and principles to create good experiences. Not the least of which is usability - creating a good experience by making it useful.

Let’s sort out some typical misunderstandings, by busting some UX myths:

  • UX is limited to digital channels. In fact, UX covers any touchpoint the user has with a brand when trying to complete a desired task. This includes mail, phone, physical products, etc. It's basically anything that adds to the user's experience of the service/product.
  • UX = User interface. UX is a complex interdisciplinary field that encompasses more than graphic design. I view the essence of UX as a combination of these three core competencies: user needs, technology and business value. The insight that's gained from this mix ensures that every decision taken has a clear goal, both for the user, business and technology.
  • UX is opinion based. As a “UXer”, I'm passionate about understanding users and making their experience the best possible. To do this I iterate the experience based on observations of human behavior in the context of the service/product and test solutions on users. Nothing comes from my personal preferences or opinions; conclusions are formed through verifiable research into what creates the best experience for users.

Why you should bother

With so many offers on the market, distinguishing your brand by providing extraordinary experiences is essential to gaining a leading position in customers' mindsets. But in order to do so, you need to truly understand whom you are trying to attract. Know your customer and their journey in depth. A powerful method commonly used by UXers is the “customer journey”. This compelling narrative tool maps every interaction between the user and your service/product by putting the users’ context in the center. The power of customer journeys lies in the deeper understanding of how and why your customers interact with your business. Using customer journeys as an evaluation of the current state of a service/product makes it easy to pinpoint opportunities for improvement and to create even smoother experiences in the future. 


A simplified version of a customer journey, portraying the user’s task, thoughts and feelings. Also included are opportunities for improvements to the journey.

UX, and its strategic methods such as customer journeys, provides a deeper understanding of how to align your business with the customers’ context. This equates to happier customers - and also attracts more of them. Some more quick wins for your business when involving UX are:

  • Pinpointing weaknesses to grow stronger. By mapping the customer journey related to a specific task/service/product, you get an overview of the customer’s journey to reach the goal. In this way it becomes simple to pinpoint gaps and problems that the customers might be facing in the current state. It might be truly low-hanging fruits that are easily fixed.
  • Performing with efficiency and satisfaction. Whether it is about internal (within your business) or external (facing your customers) services/products, efficiency and satisfaction are highly prioritized. By involving the UX-perspective, users will (if stated as a business/user goal) perform their desired task more efficiently and with higher satisfaction.
  • Getting customers engaged in your business. Customer journeys and the UX-perspective shape a deeper understanding of the customers' context. By understanding them, you are more likely to form pleasant experiences with higher customer value. By showing customers that you care, you receive respect and possibly even engagement as happy customers share their extraordinary experiences on social media. 

The greatest opportunity for your business might be in small and strategic improvements, but sometimes the customer journey reveals that change is needed in the bigger picture. This is where customer experience (CX) enters the picture...

This was part 1 out of 2 of “Why the difference between success and failure is called UX”. Part 2 will widen the scope of UX by putting it in perspective and discovering its relation to its evolution, the discipline of CX.

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