Digital Experience Solutions
The Art of User Experience
With Eden Brownell and Ryan Decker

Originally from MN Tech Mag

For better or for worse, we’re all living in a digital world. With a growing number of new devices, platforms, and opportunities to reach customers, organizations are increasingly looking for ways to get a leg up in their user experience.

We connected with two experts in the field to share their perspective on digital trends and best practices.

What are the top issues you’re seeing companies face in user experience across industries?

Brownell: I would say disjointed and siloed customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) within companies. Gartner states that through 2025, 50% of large organizations will fail to unify engagement channels. Siloed UX has become a point of friction within many organizations. Composable UX provides UX for the right customer persona, for the right task, and at the right stage of the customer’s relationship with the organization. 

Decker: On a related note, companies have difficulty establishing a process where user feedback appropriately influences product decisions. There is a lack of UX-centric input in the agile delivery process and lack of clear insights or product definition at project initiation, too.

How can non-FAANG companies make personalization meaningful for their customers?  

Brownell:  Personalizing UX is a trend that’s not going away any time soon. Sometimes it can be as simple as providing personalized suggestions or meeting accessibility guidelines. UX designers want to create a design and product that closes the gap between user expectations and experience. I think self-determination theory can be helpful here. The three main psychological motivators are relatedness, competence, and autonomy. How can we work to include these concepts in designs to meet the motivations of consumers? One final warning: no personalization is always better than bad personalization.  

Decker: I believe personalization is a progression. One-to-one personalization is not necessary to make meaningful progress in customizing experiences for your key personas or user types. Think about where you can move from one-to-all to one-to-many to one-to-few, and see how users respond. You’ll naturally move closer to one-to-one personalization over time, but with a much better understanding of the types of personalization that add real value for the user and business outcomes, rather than feeling like you need to boil the ocean.

What role does user experience play in inclusive design?   

Decker: UX practitioners generally have a strong ability to empathize with a variety of users and understand how to articulate the unique needs of users to larger product development teams. But it’s not fair to expect a UX team or an individual designer to be the lone voice or champion for inclusive design. It needs to be an organizational priority for a product to truly hit the mark as an inclusive experience. If inclusive design is not held as an organizational standard, it is far too easy to treat it as an enhancement rather than a requirement.

Brownell:  Everyone in this field should use inclusive design. It helps us create products that serve as many people as possible. While accessibility is a core objective, inclusion means much more. It enables people with diverse characteristics to use your product in a variety of environments. It’s important, especially when you’re designing for millions of people, to create different ways for people to participate in an experience.

Are there any roles within a digital team that you believe are underappreciated or missing?

Brownell:  From my perspective, I would say Behavioral Data Scientists. Increasingly, much of the big data being collected is about human behavior. Human behavior is complex, and while we might be able to accurately predict behavior, it is more important to understand why a behavior occurs and how to change it. UX design can take advantage of those insights.

Decker: Hands down, Quality Assurance (QA) is underappreciated. A great QA team understands users and crafts test cases based on practical use cases, not just functional requirements. This makes a huge difference in the fluidity of the experience for users. The value of QA automation tends to be seen in reducing manual testing efforts, but it might be more valuable in enabling faster speed-to-market of additional features. This is because automation allows higher confidence in releases and shortens the release cycle when implemented in a meaningful way.

What advice do you have to user experience practitioners to best partner with others in the company?      

Brownell:  First, remember you deserve a seat at the table. One of the top challenges that UX faces in business is executive buy-in. In October 2018, McKinsey analyzed the business impact of the design efforts of 300 publicly listed companies over five years, across various industries and countries. Their report found that design-forward organizations performed at twice the rate of their industry competitors when it came to generating revenue.

Decker: Invite feedback as frequently as possible during your design process. The more we, as UX practitioners, invite feedback (both formally and informally) at each stage, the more we can learn from our cross-functional teammates and users. It’s our best opportunity to be catalysts as it gives us the chance to share not just what we designed but why. Through this collaborative process, we can influence greater empathy and user-centric thinking as a norm for the broader product team.

Brownell:  Design flourishes best in environments that encourage learning, testing, and iterating with users - practices that boost the odds of creating breakthrough products and services while simultaneously reducing the risk of big, costly misses.

What resources do you rely on to stay up-to-date in user experience best practices?  

Decker: I love to observe similarities and differences in UX across my different devices. Whether I am using my iPhone, Xbox, FireTV, or Alexa voice UI, I love seeing how applications adapt for simplicity within their form factor. It’s a great reminder that context is critical when it comes to UX, whether that’s based on the type of interface, the place and time a user may be most likely to engage, or even their likely frame of mind when using a specific application or tool.

Brownell:  I rely on a combination of resources and newsletters. I find great things on LinkedIn, UX Mag, and UX Planet. I also like using Medium to find different UX information.

What changes do you anticipate will impact user experience over the next 1 – 2 years?    

Brownell:  AI and machine learning will continue to impact UX. Software has become exponentially better than humans at recognizing patterns based on past data in real time. Some of the most innovative organizations are acting on the insights that predictive analytics provides them. It will be interesting to see how UX will utilize these patterns in design.

Decker: I think our attention spans will continue to shorten, which will cause users to be less forgiving of a rough initial interaction. Because of this, the importance of the first impression is only going to increase. I also think we will see shifts in how content is consumed. With social media heavily shifting to short-form video, brands that find meaningful ways to deliver messages that have traditionally been text format will have an easier time keeping their user’s attention.

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