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A 10-step guide to designing seamless customer experiences
Creating a fantastic and effortless customer experience is not an easy thing to do. It's subjective after all, contextual and dependent upon the capability of the business that you’re working for. And because of your customer, you cannot take anything for granted and necessarily fall back on the same application of process or design that you have on previous projects because their needs are different and every person is unique.
As a user experience designer, there are however various sure-fire ways to improve an experience. And if you’re creating a completely new experience, you can do so with a foundation of CX principles. These are often called heuristics and are used as a measuring stick for the quality and fit for purpose state of a service, product or website.
Heuristics are categorical and do not necessarily help a user experience designer get started, as they attribute their total value to many different variables.
With this in mind, here are ten things to think about when you’re at the start of a project and are looking to create a frictionless and seamless customer experience for a product that you’re designing.
1) Identify customer tasks
However mundane and small they are, think about what a customer is doing at any specific point in their journey, both online and offline. Whether they're looking for their credit card number or calling a member of your team, try to create a service for whatever they are doing, so they no longer have to. Whether this is a smart setting default or creating a new service or process for calling that's faster and more efficient, you’ll be amazed at how much more favourably a customer will treat you if you can save them time.
2) Increase convenience
Make things available in the time and place that best suits your customer. You can do this by journey mapping what they’re doing at any specific point, figuring out what tasks they’re trying to complete and considering how they currently feel about doing them. Make sure that your customers can start on one channel and complete their tasks on another, such as on mobile or through voice-activated technology. Create a connected experience.
Put time and effort into the research stage; put pen to paper (or pixel to screen) to sketch out what it is you're trying to achieve.
3) Help the user make easy choices
Simplify your content and limit the amount of choices a user has to make on a page. This will help to limit the amount of time they have for decision-making and will reduce feelings of cognitive overload.
4) Follow conventions of design
If you are looking to design an iPad app - follow Apple's graphical user interface and design pattern guidelines. If you are looking to design a form, think of the best-in-class experiences relevant to your customer and sector. Copying in design has become an art form - and for good reason - the more familiar your user becomes with a design pattern, the easier it will be for them to complete the task, meaning that they will need to think less when using your product.
As Hermann Ebbinghaus recognised in his experiments with nonsense syllables in 1885, it’s easier for people to recognise things they have previously experienced than recalling them from memory
Not everything you do has to be original. Keep your customer in the back of your mind.
5) Eliminate duplication
Without knowing it, there will be plenty of repetitions across projects and services. When constructing an experience, think of all the actions, tasks and pieces of content that will be required of you.
Then think whether each component within the experience helps the user make a decision or complete the task. If the answer is no, get rid of it - it’s just creating noise.
6) Sniff out errors
Mistakes create re-work for you and for your user. Preventing them helps to save both time and energy - something we're all short of.
Be prepared to test drive your work; the earlier in the process you do this, the better it will be. The more often you can check, the more likely you are to prevent errors from occurring or at least nip them in the bud early on. These might be in the design aspect, the flow of the content or in the way you are presenting it. Make sure that whenever you design anything, you prototype it. Ask users to complete tasks and question them about the content as they do it; what do they think of it?
You are not just researching how your users behave, you’re also checking that your design functions work as expected.
7) Use simple language
Apps are supposed to be easy-to-use so they should speak to users in a way that is understandable and relatable. Use human language; it will be less complicated for users to digest your information and will reduce the prospect of a customer doing something unexpected.
Simple language is essential for building in certainty around decision-making, which eventually leads to users taking action.
8) Reduce wait times
How quickly an experience operates is crucial. Some 53% of users will close a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Expectation inflation and an influx of options will only ever increase this rate. If your website doesn’t work at pace, users will be frustrated and move onto another website that does.
Speed and responsiveness is also important for the services that we create - whether that's same day delivery to booking holiday accommodation on your phone. When working on a service or experience, try and connect the technologies or existing services to make your service faster and function more seamlessly.
9) Make it look good
A lot of people say that a user's experience and the standardisation of patterns across devices has taken the creativity out of digital and product design.
People who say that are either bad designers, or don’t understand the benefits of creating consistent web and product experiences.
The emphasis on making something look fantastic and beautiful has never gone away from digital product design. It’s as important now as it has ever been; it's key for designers - and products - to differentiate themselves from competitors.
The benefits are huge for doing this as seen in The Halo Effect concept, which recognises that if a person see’s something that's aesthetically pleasing, they are likely to think that its usability is higher and draw more satisfaction from it.
10) Look for negatives
Throughout the design process of a new product, check your work. Try and get into your user's mind and look for negatives in the experience that either lengthen the process or create a displeasing effect. Get rid of them. A single negative - as theorised in the Horn Effect (the opposite to the Halo Effect) - can completely change a customer’s perception of your product and brand.
Being able to find and understand the negatives within your product or brand is very important.
PwC surveyed 15,000 consumers and found that one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions. Mapping those failures is critical. According to Esteban Kolsky, the upside of doing so is that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people within their network.
Consider these rules as a foundation for your methodology to creating a new design when producing products and services that your customers love and your competitors are in awe of.
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