UX: What is it and why should you care?

UX and Marketing are in a way two sides of the same coin. Marketing, whether a social media campaign or newspaper adverts, is about reaching new users. UX, on the other hand, is about creating a good user experience that will make the user come back. In other words, Marketing grows user acquisition. UX improves user retention, by making the product a joy to use - efficient, out of your way, and enjoyable.


UX is short for User Experience. It is not exclusive to digital products such as websites and apps, but that is the context in which you most often hear about it. UX is often seen as a design activity, but that doesn't mean that it's purely a creative and subjective effort. Rather, a great user experience is best created by being acutely aware of the users, knowing who they are, what they want to accomplish and how. It is at best a data driven process. (Though there are also a number of rules of thumb that help in general cases) 


When creating something new, say a mobile app, it is tempting to jump straight in and start coding and putting things together. This may be great for keeping the initial passion and creating some quick first tests, but it is also much like building a house without a blueprint or a plan. If you don't know who you are building it for, how many floors it's going to be and so on, chances are you will run into trouble sooner or later.


Here are a few examples of how the user experience can suffered, and of how it could have been done better.



How many of you have at some point gotten an error like the one above? Looking at the email address it is pretty clear what is wrong, but the error message is needlessly confusing and aggressive. Compare this to the password prompt below.



This password screen on the other hand is probably one of the friendliest and most clear I have seen.



Now this one is a bit more complex and subtle. This shows a feature of gmail that detects that you meant to have attached a file, but didn't. This is great error prevention, so what is wrong? Well, there are two questions in the error message. "Did you mean to attach files?" and "Send anyway?". Most users will only skim the message and click OK, expecting to then attach their files. What instead happens is the exact opposite, and a frustrating experience.


I hope that this article has shed some light on what UX is and why it's important to keep in mind. There's no magic involved - at it's core UX is very much about common sense. How to get to a great user experience is far from obvious however, and not well done in isolation. Keep the users in mind and remember: getting users to your website or product is of no use unless they like it enough to return.