Back in the thick of 2020, when we were all stuck inside learning to bake bread (and some among us may or may not have been screaming into pillows just to feel alive…), our fearless leader D’nelle took a stab at cutting the professional boredom and amping up our collective expertise by attending a two-week course on User Experience (UX, for short) from the Nielsen Norman Group.
Since then, in addition to gaining a new perspective on web development and consulting, we’ve been noticing UX-related issues not only on the internet, but also in the real world. It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost an ongoing game for the BIPi team to consider or critique the UX of any given situation we’re in… to the point that we want others, especially our clients, to play along, too.
What is User Experience (UX)?
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, “User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
While the focus around our offices often starts with the online experience, we’re often just as preoccupied with the physical/real-world experience. We consider things like “How long does it take this website to load?” and “Is the website easy to use on a mobile device?” as well as “Do event attendees clearly know where to check-in for their pre-show experience?” and “How quickly does the merch line move?”
When considering your customers’ experience, you’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. It doesn’t have to be a complex process (although, oh my goodness, it can be complex!), which is part of what we like about it. Just the simple act of taking the time to consider what your customer feels about their interaction with your brand can result in small changes that eventually become something big. At the very least, evaluating and working to improve the UX of your website or your studio will result in happier customers who find it pleasant to interact with your brand – which is key to both customer retention and word-of-mouth referrals.
Who Cares About UX?
Whether each individual is themselves fully aware of their user experience or not, the answer is everyone. Poor signage in a brick-and-mortar business can result in lower sales and frustrated customers; complex and highly-nested navigation on a website can do the same.
The most interesting (to us, at least) aspect to this is that there’s no one-stop, magic solution to making sure that your website, or your show-day venue, has UX that’s going to work for your customers, users, or fans. Your customer base is unique to you and your business, and it requires your attention.
Recommended Reading from the BIPi Blog
When Is It Time To Revamp My Website?
UX is just one factor in considering if your website needs a redesign. Take a deep dive into BIPi’s recommendations for determining if your site is ready for a refresh.
A big player prioritizing UX: DoorDash®
WeDash (and its corollary WeSupport) asks all DoorDash® employees, regardless of their job description or placement in the organizational hierarchy, to use their Dasher app to complete deliveries and support merchants who offer goods via the DoorDash® platform, once a month.
At the end of last year, the delivery app DoorDash® made headlines when they reinstated their WeDash program (which they’d had in place conceptually since their founding in 2013) According to MarketWatch MarketWatch, “DoorDash said it was reinstating the program because it wants employees to understand the challenges and problems in its business and help solve them.”
And DoorDash® itself, via a 2022 post to its blog categorized under culture, notes that
“…[DoorDash] expanded the program to include WeSupport, in which employees shadow Customer Experience agents as they solve customer support cases in real time. WeSupport offers our employees an ongoing opportunity to peek behind the curtain and shadow our customer support teammates as they work to resolve issues and hear directly from our customers.
Participating in our WeDash program allows employees to look deeper into how the products we build empower local economies, which in turn helps us build a better platform.”
An NYC dasher wrote a piece on Medium about the program, saying: “Is it a good idea to have the office staff suffer like the slaves for 15 minutes every month? F**king A, my homey! Every swell needs to be knocked down a peg if you ask me.” But the reinstatement of the program post-covid made some internal folks – like developers in the corporate office – pretty grumpy, with comments such as “I didn’t sign up for this”, hence the headlines.
That grumpiness got us thinking. There’s certainly merit to workers setting a “this is not my job” boundary in a lot of situations! However – setting aside the issue of whether or not employees were properly informed that this would be a part of their job duties – the concept is one that really appeals to us both as digital and real-world strategists! Gaining insight into how the work we do impacts the experiences of others makes us better at our jobs.
Consider Real-World UX to Better Understand its Importance in the Digital Realm
Have you ever been into a brick-and-mortar retail store where the signage is so bad that it noticeably impacts your shopping experience? If you can’t find the item you need, or even an employee you can ask for help, it can result in wasted time and lots of frustration! For some retailers, this is strategically and intentionally in place (like rearranging the locations of certain products so that shoppers must wander the store looking for the right aisle and, as a result, are exposed to other items they might otherwise not have seen); and, while it’s proven that that approach can result in higher sales for the business, it’s definitely something that can result in a more frustrating experience for the shopper.
Online, your audience isn’t as “captive” as they are in, say, a grocery store. The sunk cost of driving to the grocery and already having items getting warmer in your cart creates a sort of “stickiness” that keeps the shopper in the store, even when they’re frustrated that they can’t find the new location of the boxed almond milk. On your website, though… it’s pretty easy for a shopper to just close their browser and think “I’ll pop back on this when i have the attention span”… only to forget and ultimately not make a purchase (all of the effort that is put into abandoned ecommerce carts is a testament to just how easy it is for someone to not complete an online purchase).
Our recent work adding an online sales element to LeAnn Rimes’ holiday tour merch stand sales was an object lesson in considering the convergence of digital and real-world UX. The goal was to increase online sales while allowing the in-person sales to run on lower inventory and selection. But it wasn’t as simple as setting up an iPad at the merch stand and hoping for the best. We needed signage that would educate would-be customers, incentives to buy online, and even low-level tech support to help the less-savvy folks… none of which worked in an out-of-the-box fashion. We ran some beta tests at shows ahead of the holiday tour to observe how our ideas played out practically and adjusted our process accordingly, and during the holiday tour, we took detailed notes on how to adapt for the future. We even ran some analysis post-tour to make sure that the time, effort, and money we were putting into the online sales component was actually worth it.
But key to the entire undertaking was that we were there, in person, to observe how customers used the infrastructure we’d created. It wouldn’t have mattered how many hours we logged in front of our screens, planning and strategizing, without also getting the real-world feedback of how people interacted with our plans and strategies.
Okay, UX is Important. Now What?
So, what if you – unlike D’nelle – spent lockdown somewhere other than glued to a virtual learning course? The biggest takeaway we’ve had from the course – and from the ensuing fixation on UX in the real world – is that it all starts with being mindful. You don’t need any specialized training to take a beat, look around, and start to observe how others (or even you, yourself) are behaving in any given situation.
Example: it’s an ongoing frustration for your on-site managers that students leave used towels on the floor of your shower facilities instead of the basket for dirty towels. Taking a few moments after class to observe the towel-dropping in action can get you brainstorming on how to change this behavior. Perhaps the location of the basket could be moved… perhaps you need more than one basket… perhaps you need (better) signage… or perhaps you even need a “towel deposit” situation that effectively establishes a fee for not returning a towel.
A fun example of this in action comes from a research paper on cooperative behavior out of the UK. The researchers discovered that, simply by putting an image of a pair of eyes on a “pay what you can” sign by the office coffee station, users contributed three times as much to the office coffee fund. In this case, the problem (not enough contributions to fund a group resource), was solved just by adding a simple graphic to a sign.
While most of us are not – realistically – running rigorous scientific experiments on our own coffee bar, we are frequently running experiments that we may not even see as experiments – changing up the copy of our marketing materials to generate more or better leads, optimizing the times that we publish on socials to increase reach and engagement, running paid ads to increase conversions – the takeaway is that it’s possible to change behaviors with what are often very simple modifications… so long as we’re paying mindful attention to our goals.
It’s worth noting that UX specialists run experiments like this all the time. Especially in enterprise-level situations, where optimizing the UX of a site can result in drastic increases in revenue, it makes sense to pour time and resources into really in-depth UX audits. For the average small business owner, it’s not realistic to spend thousands of dollars, but it might be realistic to run simple UX experiments on your website or even your brick-and-mortar space to see if there’s any low-hanging fruit that can easily be harvested to result in higher conversion or engagement rates.
If you’re curious about how Berry Interesting Productions can help your team optimize your website’s UX, we’re always happy to help! Drop us a line or book a consultation directly with our fearless leader, D’nelle. You can also sign up to get emails from Berry Interesting, and we’ll keep you in the loop.
Many thanks to Rowan Freeman for the photo used in this post.