User experience (UX) is the collective feelings and impressions people get when they interact digitally with your company and its products and services. These feelings can be positive, negative, or neutral. UX is growing in importance to businesses, with 29% seeing it as their No. 1 brand differentiator, and 1 in 3 planning to improve UX in 2020.
Some things that influence UX are:
- How people discover your company, product, or service
- What steps they need to take to interact with your company or offerings
- How long it takes them to locate what they need
- How useful and valuable their interaction is
- The thoughts and feelings they have while they’re interacting
- Their feelings about the experience overall
The best reason to understand your customers’ UX is to make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you. If they have a good experience with your brand, they’re more likely to become repeat customers and spread the word about your business to others. A bad experience can drive them to do business elsewhere.
User interface (UI) is a collective name for the pages, buttons, icons, sounds, and more that help people interact digitally with your company. Since people use a variety of channels to find your company—from websites and mobile apps to smart watches and home devices—the experience someone has, regardless of how they connect with you, must also be good.
A good UI works for everyone, regardless of age, technical experience, or background. This includes people who have limitations on how they can process information. For example, someone with hearing loss or impaired vision should be able to get the information they need. This is why UI designers think about accessibility when they do their work. For example, they might use both a red border and icon to flag incomplete fields on a form. That way, someone who is color blind can use the icon to locate the error. An added benefit of designing with accessibility in mind is that it often results in creating something that’s more compelling to everyone.
UI has grown in importance as we’ve become more reliant on technology in our everyday lives. When it’s done well, users aren’t even aware that it’s there. When it’s done poorly, they notice and may decide to avoid your business in the future.
Differences between UX and UI
It’s common for people to confuse UX and UI. To clear things up, let’s talk about many people’s favorite topic: food.
Imagine you’ve just been served a plate of cold spaghetti with no sauce. Even worse, it was served without a fork. Bad UX, right? A big part of the reason is a bad UI. No one paid attention to your meal’s flavor, smell, temperature, or how easy it would be for you to eat it. All those things are controlled by the UI. But UX is also affected by things that have nothing to do with UI. For example, if you hate pasta, you’re going to have a poor UX with this meal no matter how it tastes and smells.
The takeaway? It’s nearly impossible to deliver a great UX if you have a weak UI. This is why UX and UI designers work closely with each other to make sure end users have a great experience. To make it easy for people to get to know your company, simple UI decisions like the color of your website’s CTA buttons and where they go on the page can have a big impact on your customers’ UX.
The people who create great user interfaces think about things like:
- Making everything easy to access
- Making it clear which information is most important for users to see
- Applying things like navigation, colors, fonts, and other design elements consistently
- Making sure everything appears correctly across different devices and operating systems
- Showing users that their actions are recognized through signals like changing the color of a button when someone clicks on it
The people who create great user experiences care about all these things too, but their focus is broader. Their priority is defining the experiences they want users to have and ensuring that the final product delivers them. To accomplish this, they might create a wireframe or sitemap for the UI designer to follow when making decisions about colors, fonts, and other design elements.
UX designers pay attention to things like:
- Clarifying what users should be able to do
- Defining processes from start to finish
- Deciding what needs to be included in the UI
- Ensuring that everything follows a logical flow
- Studying the user experience through hands-on research
- Solving specific user problems
- Confirming that the final product reflects the brand accurately and positively
How to test UX and UI
There’s really no better way to learn more about people’s experience with your company than by putting your UX and UI to the test with actual users. This will help you understand what their expectations are and if you’re meeting them. It will also reveal if the design and functionality decisions you’ve made are working in the real world. To get started, follow these steps:
- Set the goal for the UX and UI you’re testing. Are you trying to attract subscribers to your e-newsletter? Working to reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts on your site? Know your benchmark when you get started so you can pinpoint and prioritize improvements.
- Recruit a team of testers. Pay special attention to the word “team.” Look for people with different levels of familiarity with what you’re testing so you get a range of perspectives. Ideally, you’ll collect folks who are within your target market, but unfamiliar with the features or pages you want to test.
- Run A/B tests using the existing design and a revision that you think is better (or against two original designs, if you’re rolling out a new feature).
- Collect as many types of insights and data points as you can during the test. For example, observe, use a timer to measure how long each action takes, and interview or survey participants afterwards.
- Analyze the information you gather, and repeat these steps until you have a clear sense of which UI helps you deliver the best UX.
When you make your plans for testing, keep in mind that most people today access information with multiple devices. For example, they might research your business from their desktop computer at work, and then look up your location on their mobile phone. It can be helpful to know what people use to get to your site so you can figure out how much and what kind of testing you need to do. If you get 75% of your visits from mobile devices, it makes sense to do more testing of the mobile version of your site than your desktop version.
Also, you don’t need to wait until you have a final product to begin testing. Getting feedback on basic prototypes along the way can help you arrive at an even-better design.
How to tell if you have good UX/UI
Signs of success from user testing include:
- Participants completed actions as you expected they would, in the time you expected it would take them.
- They noticed the information you wanted them to see—most likely your benefit statements and CTAs.
- They felt the information was valuable.
- They liked the look and feel of your design.
- They understood what they needed to do to take next steps.
- All your links worked and delivered the right information.
- Your pages appeared as expected on both desktop and mobile devices.
- Pages loaded quickly and were error-free.
Outside of user testing, you can gain additional insight into UX and UI with data from services like Mailchimp and Google Analytics. Knowing the CTR on your email newsletters and the amount of time visitors spend on your webpages can help you see which efforts are delivering the best results.
You can also learn more about your UX and UI by paying attention to client feedback. If your site or app is missing a feature they want or need, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about it. Tracking questions that people ask about your business can also help. If the same one comes up time and again, you’ll want to make sure it’s addressed in your content, or if it’s already there, make it easier to find.
Take stock of your UX and UI today
It’s clear that UX and UI are about more than choosing the right words and colors. Meeting—or even better, exceeding—people’s UX and UI expectations can boost customer loyalty and your bottom line.