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User Experience is the new Customer Service

Remember those brick and mortar stores; where as soon as you walked in the door you were greeted with great customer service, made to feel warm and wanted the whole time and then walked away with a feeling of satisfaction?

Unfortunately that experience is really hard to create in an online environment. While a customer may need to phone or email a ‘customer service representative’ during one part of the process, and be happy with the service provided, we can no longer rely on staff alone to hold the users hand.

This is why user experience is so important. Over the last 12 months we’ve been working hard to improve the user experience in the system and are quite excited about unveiling the improvements in the system. Now we’d like to share some of the helpful ideas we have used, with you.

Tip #1 Test early, test often
You have probably heard of testing your emails and websites – most of the time this refers to testing to make sure everything looks ok and works as it should. In this case I am talking about testing to make sure you meet the user’s needs, and guide the user through your system rather making the user work around the system. Testing needs to not only happen at the end of a project but at the start. To find out about a range of testing tools for every stage of the process here is a an interesting article by Smashing Magazine.

Tip #2 ‘Users’ are people, treat them as such
It’s all about the user, not the technology or medium. When you are communicating to your clients or customers try to use easy to understand language. Talk to your audience like they are people; not like one of the nameless masses.

Vision6 SketchboardTip #3 Sketchboards
Hate it when you get into development and you constantly have to change things? Sketchboards are a great way to explore and evaluate various interaction concepts, ideas and sequences while involving a range of stakeholders in the process. To learn more about sketchboards visit the Adaptive Path blog.

Tip #4 Personas
Personas are a great way to ensure that your team stays focused on the user. Think about who your clients are and write a 1-2 page description that includes behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment. A few fictional personal details such as appearance and hobbies help to make the persona a realistic character. Every time a feature or idea is presented you can reference your persona and consider “What would Mark think about this?” or “How would Mark use this?”. Learn more about Personas.

Tip #5 Talk to your users / clients
So many of us live in a ‘development bubble’ and forget to actually speak to our audience.  Intuition is great for some things but in truth intuition is based on your experience, knowledge and talking to users to help grow our understanding.  You don’t necessarily need a fixed survey or a range of questions to find out if person A likes X about your service, just talk to them… The more you talk the more your knowledge of your users will increase and the better your intuition will become.

Warwick Kay Posted by:
Warwick Kay
UX Architect 
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