Last week I was dragged into a new grocery store, and I am never going back. Now you’re probably thinking the produce must be awful, or they didn’t have my brand of organic tofu, or maybe they just had terrible service. And I think it could be construed as a sort of bad service. I love all those new self-checkout machines – they just feel so much faster. Maybe they don’t actually go faster, but they do give you that illusion – until you have a bad machine. I felt like my grandparents trying to forward a chain email to the rest of the family. I couldn’t find any of the right icons to press, and the machine kept yelling at me, and there was a line of people building up behind me, and…

Ok, it was mostly my own user error. How hard can it be to scan something? (No offense former/present cashiers.) But if the system isn’t designed well, it doesn’t matter how easy the process is. Poor design might make you delete a mobile app, halt your online shopping binge, or even make you never shop at that grocery store again.

The week before, I went to a lunch and learn on User Experience (UX). Prior to this I had no knowledge of what UX was (it’s funny how once you learn about something you can see it everywhere). For those who don’t know, UX is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the experience that an end user has when using something like a piece of software or an application.

Our speaker, Susan Shapiro, PhD, has 20+ years of research experience in the UX field and is a wealth of knowledge on the subject. So consider this blog a brief overview of her presentation and a bit of a public service announcement.

When was the last time you used a computer that didn’t have a graphical user interface? For most people, it’s probably been awhile, if ever. A graphical user interface just has a better UX. A bad UX will make customers complain and a good UX will keep a customer from even thinking about their experience.

But now that you’re thinking about UX, consider this: if it’s difficult for a user to find what they’re looking for, wouldn’t they leave your site? A website that makes you pay for one product at a time is much more frustrating than a website that piles everything into a shopping cart before asking “will that be PayPal or Credit Card?”

Here are some more examples: think of a news site – how often have you tried reading the news online only to have some sort of video start playing as soon as you open the page? And if you’re sitting at a keyboard, look down at the organization of the letters. Sure they make sense to you now, but did they make sense when you first learned to type? Or maybe you remember seeing the image below from when the iPhone 6 and 6+ first came out. There are great examples of bad
UX all around us.


Consider using market research as a way to optimize your user experience. In the 1930’s, marketing research was developed to identify why people respond to, act on, or believe so deeply in particular ads or products over others. Nowadays we can see excellent proof of brand loyalty on the web – you probably ditched AltaVista for Google a few years back, right? Your website is just as much a part of what you sell as your actual product line. You’ve got to make people believe in who you are in order to make them buy whatever it is you’re selling. So mock up some surveys and pull together some research sessions to find out what you’re doing well and what you could improve.

After all, who better to ask about user experience than the users themselves? Let’s say you wanted to open an online sports apparel store. You might want to organize the products on your website by category – click here for t-shirts, there for sweatshirts, and over here for hats. But this organization would probably leave your users shaking their fists at their screens. If you had asked your potential customers how they would like to see the website organized they would have told you to organize it by teams instead, because team loyalty is more important than what type of apparel they’re buying.

Great UX is built on a great understanding of your target market.

And now for your public service announcement. If we keep throwing trash all over the place and we never clean up after ourselves, the whole environment will fall apart. So please, save the tech environment, and help us – the users – help you.