You don’t need to be a philosopher or semanticist to get it: without the user, there is no experience.
If we distill it, users are essentially customers. Thereby, the user is always right. But often the systems that face them are, well, wrong. Why are many physical and digital environments built for this audience exceedingly difficult to navigate? Think of labyrinthine airport security lines. The cumbersome banking website you dread using. An instructional manual that buries essential features on the last page. The inhospitable bus terminal.
The user experience (UX) industry is striving to elevate virtual and physical experiences by designing systems crafted around user needs. Better UX is proven to improve guest satisfaction, inspire repeat customers, and build community and brand loyalty. Because of this, many industries are being disrupted by companies that focus their energy on UX, a trend exemplified by the displacement of traditional taxis by mobile-driven rideshares. What’s more, a UX strategy that incorporates rich data can help organizations stay relevant as culture changes. If you can learn, on a granular level, what your users want from services and products, you will be better positioned to deliver it.
Thoughtful design and UX are focal points for Grace Danico, an illustrator, designer, and archivist based in Los Angeles, California. Danico’s clients include some of the world’s most exciting and notable brands, such as The New York Times, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Warby Parker, and WeWork. In graduate school, Danico studied library and information science, immersing herself in technology, UX, and content management system (CMS) classes. She has also worked for Virgin America, where quality assurance (QA), UX, and user interface (UI) principles helped her understand the user's perspective. “[We asked] what would make a really great experience?”
Danico explained that solid UX hinges on supporting users, helping them effortlessly connect with the resources they need. “Whether it is a library, a shopping site, or an airline booking site — the quicker information is accessible to users, the better the experience. If a user is on a website looking for something, and it takes forever, they will probably get frustrated and leave. That's a bad user experience.”
Instant Access & Logical Flow
Good UX helps users move through steps with an intuitive flow. The goal is for any user, of any skill level, to do whatever they need to do in as few steps as possible. Designing for multiple generations, the “same principles would apply,” said Danico. “If you're talking about the Baby Boomer versus the Millennial or Gen Z, it should still be a seamless experience throughout.”
To apply UX best practices to other fields and industries, such as IT and AV, “I think you have to be empathetic,” Danico said, “and understand that you will have a lot of different types of users. Not every user will be the same, but everyone should have quick and easy access to the information they seek.”
If you don't approach UX with empathy, it can be difficult to connect with users on a deep level, which impacts the quality of their experience. You could create an empathetic approach by thinking about the background of the user, assessing common goals, and eliminating frustrating or redundant parts of the process. It’s also helpful to consider: “How can I emotionally connect with the user?” This can be achieved through carefully selected copy and images, personalization, gamification, or another avenue.
Creating user-centered environments and leading with empathy can translate into audiovisual design when usability is grounded in thoughtfulness. Whether it's a one-button touch panel or a sensor-equipped room, the most advanced technology will only be effective if it connects users to what they need in an intuitive way. Good UX starts with understanding users and their myriad behaviors. Ask, listen, and learn each step of the user’s journey.