What problem does your organization seek to solve? What solution can you offer your consumers?
Too often, companies focus on the product or service itself and not on how it translates with the humans that interact with it, or the user experience (UX). A great user experience allows you to better serve your users and provide not just function, but an emotional experience.
It goes beyond creating an innovative product and seeks to build a personal connection with each individual that interacts with your brand.
UX affects every aspect of your organization:
- How your employees use internal products
- How your organization operates
- How your internal and external users engage with digital methods
At Agency 39A, we believe user experience matters more than anything else. To provide the best UX, all departments need to be unified in their vision — from technology to content, design, management, and more.
Our creative method is built on collaboration. A co-designed approach ensures all contributing voices are heard throughout the entire design process and ultimately creates a superior brand experience for everyone involved.
Here’s our five-phase methodology to creating an inclusive, innovative user experience with impact.
Setting the Stage: The Elements of User Experience
To get started, you need to first understand the elements of user experience. The way we approach UX at Agency 39A is from a whole-company perspective: we think about the way a brand impacts everyone who comes into contact with it.
This includes those users who interact with the product or service at each stage — not just the final end user.
- Administrative users
- Technical users
- Leadership team
- Brand team
- Product designers
- End users (ex. patients, customers, scientists)
The process always begins with a collaboration workshop, or design sprint. Our proprietary framework includes unique brainstorming sessions on everything from content strategy to brand strategy, product design and beyond.
Every stakeholder is present to establish alignment from day one, and also ensures that all requirements are accounted for from the beginning. We work together to whiteboard and co-create the user flow from beginning to end, as well as establish the final set of deliverables. During the sprint, we seek to uncover the internal values, motivations, and purposes that drive each member of the team.
We also make sure that each department’s goal makes sense. Are the business objectives outweighing the user experience? Are the user requirements impacting the current tech stack? We take all of these factors into consideration and push back where needed to ensure alignment is found in all areas.
Finally, this phase is where we establish what success looks like. What metrics will be used to determine the product or service’s performance? These metrics might be financial, emotional, or analytical. The team works together to establish key performance indicators and objectives to measure moving forward.
Phase 1: User Experience Research
After establishing alignment and a shared vision, the project moves into the research phase. There are various UX research methods available ranging from qualitative to quantitative. Qualitative research is commonly used to glean understanding and meaningful insights about a user’s thought process and emotions, while quantitative research is used to learn measurable insights such as how often a customer will use a specific product.
At this phase in the UX process our research team uses qualitative methods such as contextual inquiry and direct observation to better understand our target users. The research team seeks to uncover any gaps in the project plan and get clarity around any problem areas.
The research team holds interviews, design-thinking workshops and design sprints to understand the brand’s users and key problem areas. Those recurring themes and concepts will then be used to draft a way forward, including recommendations for the design and product teams.
Phase 2: User Experience Map
Once users have weighed in and shared their opinions, it’s time to create an experience map. An experience map outlines the individual needs and differing journeys the product should solve for.
It allows you to analyze the experience from start to finish and account for any unexpected items uncovered during the research phase. This includes customer needs and behaviors, software requirements, as well as any organizational changes that might be needed to fulfill the new digital strategy.
You might also hear the terms “service blueprint” or “customer journey map.” Each of these exercises all refer to the same method of defining the end-to-end journeys for individuals who interact with the brand.
Phase 3: User Experience Design
The UX design team then takes the research findings and experience map into their visual design process to establish the brand or product using UX best practices. This is where everything begins to come together! The design phase typically ends with a prototype or high-fidelity wireframe of the digital experience. By incorporating research findings and the experience maps, the team ensures user-centered design is prioritized and target needs are met.
It’s important to note that the design team is involved in every phase of the project from day one to the final delivery. This ensures that full context is awarded throughout the process, and nothing gets lost in translation or missed along the way.
Phase 4: User Experience Testing
Usability testing is the next step in the process and allows for live feedback of how easy, confusing, appealing, or disruptive your UX design is. There are several usability testing methods to choose from. One such example is a walk-through and observation with test participants as they navigate through the end-to-end experience. This is also known as human-computer interaction, or observing how people engage with digital components.
The design research team will observe users, probe with questions, and report their findings back to the larger team. Oftentimes, testing uncovers a range of feedback. It’s important to be prepared to pivot where needed and trust the research findings in order to create the best experience for your users.
After testing has concluded, there is a period of digestion and revision. If designs are altered, more testing occurs until the team has established a quality product with positive feedback and alignment.
Phase 5: Measuring the User Experience
Now it’s time to brace for impact. Think back to the design sprint you held on day one: what measurements were established as a sign of success? This is where you can gauge your product or service’s ability to solve the problem you initially set out to answer.
Measuring the user experience can be done against a multitude of metrics. If you’re looking for an uptick in brand loyalty, you’ll focus on Net Promoter Score. If you’re looking for an increase in product sales, you’ll want to focus on financials. Or maybe you want more employees to utilize the company intranet — take a look at the engagement numbers.
Whatever metric you choose to measure against, take a look and see where you stand. If the numbers don’t line up with your expectations, we dig deeper to uncover the gaps and innovate further to improve user experience.
From start to finish, the user experience is an integral part of your brand’s identity. Brand experiences must go further than ever before to properly serve today’s audiences.
A co-designed approach emphasizes inclusivity and allows for stronger innovation than a siloed method. When your core mission, vision, and values are shared across each digital touchpoint, everyone has a better experience — and every industry can benefit.