Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Your Web Developer Can't Define The User Experience

As a web developer for many years before moving into consulting I have a lot of experience with the concept of having web developers (or IT people, or business people for that matter) be the ones responsible for making sure the user will adopt a system or website experience. For many years I was called on by both internal and external clients to "build it in a way that the customer will love it". I worked with the designers on the interface. I architected out the navigation and sections of the site. I worked with the IT staff on the backend that would be required to deliver the application. All of us, together, were the proverbial blind-leading-the-blind when it came to what the end-user was going to both enjoy using and adopt.

One of the things that happens is a technology person will try to get a committee of (normally) internal stakeholders together to ask them what they want to site to look and act like. If things don't slow to a stand-still soon thereafter it's at least almost always the case that the requirements are so scattered, in an attempt to please everyone, that everything being asked for can't all fit into the design and feature-set. Happens all the time....

What's wrong with this? Developers are not only NOT the user of the system in most instances but they also don't have the breadth of experience or the bandwidth to perform the research, architecture, design and taxonomy that will be required to have an engaging, enjoyable, positive experience. "That guy that does the website work" isn't the answer to creating/crafting the optimal experience that the users will either get from you or from your competition.

Why does this happen? It happens a lot when brands count on their limited technology department to look out for the company's interests. Well-meaning technology people hate to say that they don't have the skills or experience because they are counted on so often to shoulder the responsibility of not only the stability of their products but also carry the burden of adoption. It's often the case where, when a system fails to be adopted, the company blames it on the technology group as not having built a system that pleased everybody.

What is the solution? Smart companies value actually taking the user insights into consideration. Knowing who the target audience is important. It's not "everybody on the Internet". Come on. Knowing what those users are on the site to accomplish is vital. Knowing how the users think and what predispositions they have are key, as well. Research has to be done. The system has to be designed with the user in mind and the 80/20 Rule has to be put in place. By this I mean that the majority of the users' interests have to be held a higher weight than the minority peanut gallery.

Quick asterisks: By "experience" we can refer to not only experiencing a website but also software, offline experiences such as in retail, mobile applications, verbal communications and an assortment of other ways that a company engages their customers and employees. Also, by "users" I mean anyone that engages with a brand, not just customers.

And here is the paid endorsement: : ) Those of you that know me know I work for a great consulting company that has a unique methodology for incorporating user insights into system and software design and architecture. Macquarium has 20 years of experience in working with some of the top brands in the country to ensure that the users both delight in the engagement they have with our clients brands as well as adopt the system that is being deployed to them. Love to talk to you about how Macquarium can impact your engagements with your users. Just ping me anytime: scott.burkey@macquarium.com

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