Online Student Again, Part 7: UX and Marketing–It’s an Experience, Man. 

It's all about the experience, man. Trippy.

It’s all about the experience, man.
Trippy.

This week’s online module for my digital marketing class was about user experience (UX) and marketing. I realized after taking this module that I know a lot more about UX that I thought I did, as it’s something I do every day either at work or even with presenting this blog. I had studied UX in grad school, and I remember doing the heuristic evaluations and discussions in visual design classes, but to realize that much of this is now second nature is a little bit of a relief!

The instructor for this module was Ronnie Battista, an experience design strategist for Slalom Consulting. He explained that UX is still evolving, as there doesn’t seem to be an agreed upon definition of what UX really is.

Battista explained that people, ultimately, are the most complex interfacing systems in the world! Within all those interfacing systems, there are three general types, namely

  1. Human, such as HCI (Human to Computer Interface), such as kiosks, devices, advertisements, and websites
  2. Industrial, as in industrial design, which are physical objects. Best example I could relate to items that include ergonomic design.
  3. Service, which comprises of both online and offline parts of a service experience, such as the end-to-end experience visit to a theme park to make the experience as easy flowing and enjoyable as possible.

User experience drive behavior and action, so Battista said that UX needs to address who your audience is, what does your audience need to do, and your efforts to help the audience to that. The end product needs to be user-centric.  There needs to be a user design lifecycle to complete this, meaning a series of steps done in order to get from start to finish whereby management is consulted, but the client is consulted again and again until it’s done right.

Battista explained that there are many ways to create these steps, but the basic plan that is taught in the Rutgers program is this:

  1. Contextual Inquiry , meaning “professional people watching” – seeing how people use or will use the product in action
  2. Set design goals
  3. Design User Interface
  4. Evaluate design models
  5. Build prototypes
  6. Test Prototypes
  7. Evaluate test results.  If the test results are negative, start back at step 4 and repeat until you get it right!

This is something I’m fairly familiar with as a content strategist and web publisher–I do this with my internal clients often, and sometimes it’s a nonstop tweaking that never seems to end!  Sometimes the design goals are limited by the content management system (CMS) that is used, so I have to be creative and work within those system parameters.

Battista continued to say that we have things that can work, and some challenges, but there are some things to keep in mind. Things are changing fast because business is about being fast. Big companies are having a hard time with this because it forces cultural changes. However, UX is seen as the innovation driver, and it’s becoming integral to many business/IT roles. Tool-time UX software is getting very good, as software options for UX research, design, and evaluation are exploding to the point that most of the UX work being done is commoditized. Big Data is a “Big Brother” that knows big things about you, so analytics come into play giving deeper insight almost to the creepy factor, but it can be seen as better than some qualitative insights.

In the end, it’s all about customer satisfaction and providing the customer with what he/she needs! It promotes brand loyalty. Battista gave a great example of a friend who was a diehard loyal fan of a particular car brand. When the brand wouldn’t reimburse the friend for a recalled part after two years, the friend said that they lost a customer. Coincidentally, the friend ended up in another car brand’s commercial praising his customer experience with the other brand after visiting a “confessional” booth at a dealer.

Journey mapping is needed to figure out how to create the experience. Many companies start with a system or software and work backwards, when it should be figuring out the experience and then deciding on which software or system meets that need. Battista quoted Forrester Research saying, “In order to break from their tunnel vision, complex companies need to understand their customer experience ecosystem.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Journey mapping is taking the idea of customer personas and walking through what their journey/experience is with your brand, from start to finish, whether they are happy with the product or  you need to make up for disappointing the customer.

Battista said that good customer journey maps rely on these seven factors:

  1. Establish goals and outcomes
  2. Do not limit mapping to actions
  3. Represent the customer perspective
  4. Treat it as a research project
  5. Combine qualitative and quantitative
  6. Build to communicate
  7. Executive ownership & governance

Going through these steps and paying attention to the details of the customer journey help with a more positive UX outcome.

So how does UX fit into marketing? Battista said it depends on how well it’s done, and it’s not always well. UX and Marketing generally are basing their evaluations on similar requirements, but perhaps from different approaches. Most importantly, though, UX should be included in the inception of the process, not at the end. He added that when dealing with agencies, you must ask what they are creating and why (understand the ROI), own the cross-channel experience (any breakdown in the total experience spoils the entire experience), REALLY understand your audience, make sure that the customer has a real voice that people will listen to, get educated (learn to understand buzzwords and trends), take control of measurement and evaluation, and exhibit self-awareness and appropriate selfless-ness. Most importantly, never forget PEOPLE.

Lastly, as part of understanding personas, he pointed out that digital natives are used to not having privacy issues the same way “old timers” do, meaning that they are more willing to share and provide information that could be seen as compromising privacy. As a result when looking at the bigger picture, there is a question of how people are digitally connected and the information they are willing to share now.

Battista concluded with the statement, “Digital strategy should be an imperative!” I couldn’t agree more!

Overall, while there were some of the deeper marketing elements that I needed to pay more attention to, as a content strategist, the basics were easy for me, as much of this, as I mentioned, is what I do on a daily basis. While I knew I had the ability, I hadn’t thought of UX strategy as being one of my strengths in my skill set. After this module, I’m thinking it is now!

I’ve got three more modules to go, a final exam, and a capstone project, so the end is getting closer! Stay tuned for the next module, which will be online customer acquisition. Since I’m starting to feel that starting my own consulting business is in the cards later this year, this will be a unit I’ll pay very close attention to.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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One Response to Online Student Again, Part 7: UX and Marketing–It’s an Experience, Man. 

  1. Larry Kunz says:

    Interesting. UX is still evolving, but I don’t know if it’s because people haven’t agreed on a definition. I suspect it’s because every user is unique, and ever user’s experience is colored by their own prior experiences, emotions, biases, and so forth.

    In short, UX is messy. I expect that for the foreseeable future we’ll be repeating steps 4 to 7 (in the first of your 7-step lists) ad infinitum. Even when we’re lucky enough to get something right, a new generation of users will come along and force us to recalibrate all over again.

    Even though UX is messy, and even though UX is difficult, I agree with you that a digital strategy is a must. Without a digital strategy, the difficult becomes the impossible.

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