It’s easy to overthink a term as widely thrown about as User Experience, or UX. But in fact, user experience is exactly what it sounds like: the complete, comprehensive experience of the people using your website or product, across every aspect and every facet.
It refers to how they use it – to what ends, by which paths, in what circumstances; which parts or components they take advantage of and which they avoid, neglect, or don’t understand.
It refers to the way they feel about the website – is it a chore to use, or a delight? Does it captivate them, does it confuse them, does it frustrate them? Do they feel confident using it?
It also includes usability – are users able to achieve their goals on the site? Does the design help or hinder them? Do people understand what they are doing, do they know where to find the things that matter to them and how to navigate the website? Do they know what the icons and labels mean?
The user experience does not belong to the product owner or designer or developer; it is created by the users themselves, and it can differ for every user. A well-designed website or product, though, enables a good user experience – one that makes using it effortless and fun.
Why is User Experience Important?
The average length of time people spend on any given website is 15 seconds – not a lot of time at all. What’s the difference between a website that loses its visitors in the first 15 seconds, and a website that keeps people there until they’ve finished with what they came for?
One of the most important differences is UX. A website that doesn’t help people reach their goals won’t retain users, and certainly won’t turn one-time visitors into paying customers or loyal return users.
Imagine someone visiting an online shoe store, for example, and discovering that they can’t filter for the qualities they’re looking for in a shoe. Maybe they eventually find the right kind of shoe, but then there aren’t images of the shoe from different angles, or the finer details are hidden in a tab that they don’t notice. By this point, the user has been frustrated, inconvenienced, and left in the dark, and the chances that they continue on to make a purchase are slim.
Every little bump like this detracts from the user experience, and each one will see more and more visitors leaving. Even worse, many will leave with a negative perception of the website, and they may spread that opinion among friends and colleagues. On the other hand, a great user experience will create converted customers and even brand ambassadors.