User experience is an enigma. A scarcely understood yet ever present concept, user experience (UX) has recently been at the very pinnacle of the digital industry’s value system. As a concept, it is utilitarian in its approach, striving to construct digital products for the end user rather than products which simply showcase their creator’s ability to ‘wow’ us.
A crucial aspect of a user’s overall experience with a product is their emotional response when first engaging with our product. As UX practitioners we must successfully initiate a user to our product so that they may use our product again.
Individuals within the UX community have approached this conundrum in a variety of ways and the intention of today’s article is not to evaluate the pros and cons of each. Rather I wanted to share my approach with you and perhaps provide an insight into the inner workings of our user experience team here at Visual Jazz Isobar.
I believe the most important and fundamental rule of user experience is familiarity.
Far too often designers and information architects alike forego this fundamental rule in an attempt to create something original. This is not to say that originality and user experience design are mutually exclusive, even when designing something original known paradigms can still be employed.
Familiarity is actually a simple need which often drives a user’s emotional response to a site. While there are other similar concepts that may be employed, that is, ‘the wow factor’ or the ‘dazzle them with shiny stuff’ effect, to me familiarity remains the easiest to employ and implement in all projects. In my opinion it makes the user comfortable with the product they are about to engage with and that takes massive strides toward making something useable.
Personally, I spend a lot of time near the start of a project researching and developing a suitable paradigm to frame my thinking around. In the case of an ecommerce website the paradigm is a little more obvious, that is attempting to emulate the optimal customer experience (CX) when engaging with their preferred retail vendor.
There is in fact a long existing marketing discipline which has dedicated its self to research and providing the optimal experience for consumers. This paradigm however becomes harder when you look beyond retail sphere. The modelling of CX for industries such as education, insurance or home building require an intricate and detailed study of consumer habits, fears, hesitation and most importantly, needs, during the often lengthy purchase process.
Providing the user with instant familiarity allows them to better orientate to any site with the aim of ultimately uncovering the full suite of features on offer. For the user it requires less cognitive processing power and for the business it allows for a more passive transactional relationship between the consumer and themselves. It was this very mantra that we followed when redesigning Australian Health Management’s (AHM) health insurance quote tool
Prior to the redesign, the quote process was simply a form with a list of health insurance products to select from. From the very onset this demanded two things from the user:
1. It demanded their attention, a tall ask given the blandness of the delivery (see image below)
2. It expected that the user was familiar enough with the product to be able to choose what cover was most suitable for them.
After mapping the in store process of a new AHM customer, it became clear what the current shortcomings of the online process were:
- A lack of guidance for the user through products and the actual system itself
- A lack of information about the products and services
- No way to compare the cost and benefits of one product to the other
Once aligned with AHM’s core value of ‘customer care’, the aforementioned shortcomings became our guiding principles when redesigning the process.
When a customer usually walks into an AHM retail venue they are often presented with a brand representative who introduces them to the full suite of products and then helps them tailor a product to their specific needs. For example an expectant couple would be directed towards products that cover obstetrics. When designing our solution we researched the customer enquiry data provided to us form AHM’s retail outlets to derive the most common customer purchase motivators. These enquires were then modelled and replicated during several steps within the applications. We believed that by employing the Q&A style technique when informing the user of products and services we were emulating emulate the in store inquiry process a user would undertake.
Figure 1 - Customer Priority Questions
Figure 2 - Needs based service options
To maximise the user’s exposure to AHM’s full suite of products, when designing the application we were careful to ensure that they were always on display along with brief descriptions to compensate for the absence of a retail representative to guide them through the products.
To ensure that the user engaged with the application we tried to keep the content short, easily digestible and free of the clinical jargon health insurance is so often burdened with. The content employed a more conversational tone, a technique once again borrowed form the customer’s in-store experience.
When conducting preliminary research for the project it was clear that price was the primary influencer when deciding which provider a user would ultimately sign with. We also wanted to aid the user’s education about the products by clearly illustrating to them how adding and removing products and services would affect price. So we positioned the pricing panel at the top and the bottom of the quote tool to ensure that no matter what actions were preformed the user was always aware of how the price was scaled accordingly. While this is a departure from how such an operation is conducted in retail venues it did optimise the user’s experience and possibly exceed our chosen paradigm’s effectiveness when delivering the same information.
The tool attempted to emulate a familiar sales process known to the user, and while it was neither cutting edge or aesthetically innovative, it was at least familiar and hopefully easily orientated to by the user. The solution attempted to deliver an equivalent experience to that which the user receives in store by pre-empting the user’s knowledge gaps or problems before they occurred and passively guiding them to the solution through education.
Did we succeed? How about you let us know.