Inarguably, in today’s day and age, a business’ ability to connect with its customers is critical to success. There’s a new standard when it comes to engaging the consumer, and it can be summed up in one word: emotion. Customers don’t just want to find solutions to their problems; they want to enjoy the process.
Consider this for a minute: you’re standing in a buffet line and you happen upon two large trays of food. Both contain chicken, and the pieces are all similar in size. However, one batch is baked and grayish and labeled “sodium free,” while the other smells of garlic and lemon, and appears to be fresh off the grill, judging by the steaming char lines on each piece. What kind of chicken would you choose?
I’D FIGHT YOU FOR SOME GRILLED GOODNESS.
If I was hungry (which, let’s be honest, I usually am), either option would meet my immediate need. Both offer the same amount of protein and I would feel equally satisfied after I finished. I can say with certainty, though, that I would much rather devour the flavorful one, because it would taste much better going down. In short, the meal would be more enjoyable.
The difference between a functional website and a user-focused web experience lies in the level of emotional delight its processes elicit from the user (or the lackthereof). Much like the chicken analogy, websites are, by design, functional. Basic, bland websites most certainly can get the job done. The question is, will they capture the attention and affection of the user?
TAKE A LOOK AT TURBOTAX.
Yes, TurboTax. Filing taxes is slightly less enjoyable than setting your hair on fire, but I must say that Intuit’s do-it-yourself software makes the whole process much less painful than it would be otherwise.
Not only is TurboTax easy to use and understand, it gives you a level of confidence handling complicated government forms that you wouldn’t normally have. Intuit succeeds in putting you, the user, in a position of knowledge and power, and gives you confidence that you’re finding every deduction (legally) possible. Every time you see your refund status increase as you prepare your taxes, you experience pleasure.
TurboTax could choose to manufacture a no-frills program for completing a tax return. They could build rudimentary software and it would definitely be less expensive to create and would get the job done.
The people behind TurboTax understand what they’re up against, and they’ve created a near-perfect marriage of function and feeling, which results in a consistently enjoyable user experience.
When a website lacks flavor and is content and function heavy, users will continually pass it by. It might offer life-changing information, but the world will never know because it simply doesn’t engage the consumer.
On the other hand, the world wide interweb is also full of spiced-up, visually-engaging sites that are severely dysfunctional. Sites like these might entice a user to engage once, but customer retention will be next to nothing simply due to the fact that the site doesn’t function well for the everyday user.
SO HOW DO COMPANIES LIKE INTUIT AND APPLE DETERMINE THE PERFECT FLAVORS FOR THEIR SITES?
1. THEY KNOW THEIR AUDIENCE.
They consider their user first and think through every step of the design process with the mindset of their target customer. Tax software should be, by definition, boring and hard to decipher. When I think of taxes I think of CPAs, and when I think of CPAs I think of excruciating mathematical equations, and when I think of mathematical equations I die inside. Intuit understands this to be true and they designed their software with you and me in mind. TurboTax is a program for the everyday, c-average mathematician. It’s simple, it’s easy to understand, and it’s (dare I say) fun to use. This is how they engage the everyday Sue to tackle her tax return, and it’s a brilliant branding strategy.
2. THEY DESIGN WITH EXCELLENCE.
Once the user has been considered, the design process must be met with excellence in idea execution. A great plan that’s poorly executed results in a shoddy end product, ultimately doomed to failure. Excellence in design matters as much as the user experience, and the two must work hand-in-hand to bring a great idea to life. TurboTax is built with the user in mind, and, beyond that, it functions nearly flawlessly. If you know from experience that you can trust TurboTax to be consistent and reliable, and because this is their brand reputation, they’ll most likely have your loyalty.
3. THEY NEVER STOP DEVELOPING THEIR FLAVOR.
Great design is never complete. We live in an evolving world, and designers have to continually evolve to stay relevant. Great design always has its finger on the pulse of what’s new and what’s to come, and it never stops moving forward. As user preferences change, so do great websites. As technologies improve, smart designers stay current and constantly adapt their software to reflect these advancements. Every year TurboTax surprises it’s users with some new-and-improved technologies that better the experience of users and bolster faith in their products, and every year it pays off (literally).
Bland design leads to a less-than-optimal user experience, and in today’s competitive marketplace, that simply won’t cut it.
As your company considers its online presence, ask yourself the defining questions:
- Have I taken the time to truly get to know my audience?
- Am I designing with excellence or am I taking shortcuts?
- Am I willing to be adaptable, constantly developing my company’s web and mobile sites to stay ahead of the curve?
If you can answer YES to each of these questions, you’re most definitely headed in the right direction. If you’re not sure, or if you answered NO, it’s not too late. The team at Nine Labs is here to help you strategize and execute these very things, and we’re really good at it.