Don’t Throw Out the User Experience Baby with the Usability Bathwater

by Jeannie Walters

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Let me get one thing out of the way: I am not a user experience architect or designer. I can’t make a wireframe to save my life. BUT…I can break ’em pretty good. 🙂

One of my roles as a customer experience consultant is to explore the online experience. And by “explore” I mean evaluate it like a real, live customer. I do this by stepping in during the design process to review wireframes, help set up user tests, and also review live sites from a customer’s perspective.

Often, in these evaluations, the sites themselves work just fine. Clean, usable forms, good functionality, and sometimes even nice bells & whistles. So while USABILITY may be high, USER EXPERIENCE often is not.

What’s the difference?

Tasks can be accomplished I enjoy the tasks!
I can get help if needed. Help gets me.
Forms are clean. Forms use language matching the brand I know & trust.
I know when I’m finished. I feel rewarded when I finish!
Site works, but is different than my offline brand experience. Site matches my offline experience.
I can do things pretty quickly. I can do things with very little effort or learning curve.
When I’m done, there’s no reason to stick around. I like exploring the site.
I can find a human when I want human help. Sometimes I want to connect with humans because I love the brand.

Usability tests are incredibly important, but don’t forget about User Experience in the process. Usability tests often set out to verify specific sections, updates or tasks. While a user might complete the task just fine, the user might not be able to articulate what’s important about the user experience.

So every so often take a minute to review your entire site with a critical eye – not just specific tasks or user paths. Do some comparisons against competitors, both in and out of your industry. And pay attention to where users spend time on your site through your analytics.

Otherwise you may have a highly functional site, but not an engaging one.

What do you think? Is there a difference?

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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