We strive to be customer-focused, but we also need to be realistic. We want to make sure customers trust and value us as partners. Otherwise, we cannot guarantee that our relationship will last.
In this interview, Darren Hood, MSUXD, MSIM, UXC, Principal Product Designer at Omnicell, provides insights into how UX (user experience) affects business success and its importance in the design experience.
How did you get started in the UX (user experience) role?
I am currently a Principal Product Designer at Omnicell. But I am also the first generation of UX designers. I designed or practiced user experience before it was even known or called user experience.
I designed my first website in 1995. I have learned techniques and methodologies I attributed to my practice as a professional user experience designer during this time.
I began practicing full-time UX in 2005. Since then, I have worked at Fortune 100 organizations. I also worked for a large digital design agency. I’d venture to say that a large part of our population in the United States has worked on things I’ve designed.
I also teach the Master Program for User Experience Design (IAKM) at Kent State University. In the book 97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know, I wrote the chapter about the difference between experience maps and journey maps.
What is the difference between user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX)? Do you think there is an overlap between the two?
There is an overlap not just in how it works but the purpose it drives and achieves. The CX is the design experience itself, and it tells everything about the brand and what it does.
From the time a potential customer is exposed to the brand up to the point that they are on board as paying customers, CX is the driving force. But when a customer starts interacting or engaging with the product, the UX comes into play. It is because that is the time when they use the product or service.
It is one thing to be exposed or associated with the brand, but it is also another thing to become a brand user or partner. Even if the customer is through with the product/service, it does not remove the fact that they are still involved and exposed to the brand.
Therefore, CX and UX overlap in the middle ground. We can look at it from this framework: UX (user experience) + CX (customer experience) = BX (brand experience). BX is the entirety of CX and UX. That means we cannot only focus on UX and ignore the CX, or vice-versa. We cannot separate these two.
Organizations should look at it holistically. UX isn’t always included in the bookends (whereas CX is), but it must be part of the comprehensive design experience. Both CX and UX must deliver on their purpose and drive the success it promises to achieve.
Why do we need to integrate a user experience perspective to prove our commitment to achieving customer success?
There is an old classic Venn diagram that illustrates the importance of why we need to incorporate it. This diagram consists of three essential parts.
- User Needs
- Business Needs
Using this Venn diagram as a framework, we can put these three variables into the right perspectives. That means we cannot only focus on the user experience and business constraints to meet their sweet spot (or success). We also need to consider how their business needs or challenges evolve or converge.
Our goal is not only about enriching the customer experience, but also ensuring their success is feasible, achievable, and workable. That means we need to understand their needs, business constraints, and the barriers to their success.
When we try to get to know or recognize their sweet spot, we should know their preferences or how their prevailing challenges keep them up late at night. Otherwise, we will fail to deliver the success they want.
Great companies today are not only focused on eliminating business constraints. They think of better ways of improving how business value gets delivered or provided. Consider Netflix and Amazon. Not only are they focused on the business side of things, but they also analyze business trends and market gaps. Also, how the business model changes and how customers adapt to it.
When a business understands how it will provide value, it can react assertively and courteously to the competitors. They know where the opportunities are, and they capitalize on them.
Consider what Snapchat missed and failed to deliver in terms of value advantage (on their sweet spot). When their UX team had data based on the things they recommended, they ignored it. They veered away from solving their sweet spot. What happened? Tiktok becomes a household name and poses a real threat. The next big question is, ‘has Tiktok become the new Netflix?’
A proactive and holistic view of product management is essential in developing new services and advancing innovation. Being proactive drives change, innovation, and competitiveness. They can also design a user or customer experience that is sustainable and receptive to their challenges.
Why should businesses ensure that the UX is well aligned with the evolving needs of customers and their long-term goals? What are the benefits?
When businesses are well aligned with customers’ evolving or growing needs, not only does this help them examine or assess their goals, but how they want to achieve them.
If they have a UX practice in place that serves as guiding principles for improving customer relationships or product roadmaps, here are the benefits they can gain:
- Reduce development time between 30% to 50%
- Identify 80% of unforeseen fixes
- Lower cost for customer acquisition
- Lower support cost
- Increase retention and loyalty
- Increase market share
- Outperform the competition
The problem with most organizations is that they go through the motions without understanding the definite benefit of UX. They must understand that UX is not UI (user interface). UX embeds information architecture principles to optimize product serviceability. It includes researching and data gathering that would help UX practitioners do the right things.
A UX designer is like a scientist. When we prescribe something, we know what we are doing up front. We know how to conduct and lead the research procedure to optimize our potential for success. That is the difference between scientific and wild guessing.
Can you share one or two tenets around UX that enhance or improve the user experience or product sustainability?
UX has four pillars or tenets. It guides how the business aligns with its core values and its capability of delivering differentiated user or product experience.
- Heuristics and usability
- Information architecture
- UX research
- Interface and Interaction design
Heuristics and usability are critical pieces. It is grounded and imbued on traditional conventions, proven principles, and best practices. It is not about assuming things but understanding what has worked in the past.
You can compare and decide what has worked in the past for you to put in place new solutions or new designs. When heuristics are in place properly, you can find up to 90% of what is wrong in the design direction. Usability is part of the heuristic.
The second tenet is information architecture. It is the most prevalent discipline in the field before UX. The reason I call it one of the tenets is because of its product or design purpose. Its product or output is findability. Every successful experience must have a built-in value or ability to find significance in what the product offers or what others seek to take advantage of.
If a person does not find what they are looking for, the experience will fail. It includes how you label things (taxonomy) or how you group things (nomenclature) — this is how people find what they are looking to find. When you have these four tenets, the business can fine-tune its product innovation leading to competitive advantage and staying at the forefront of innovation.
Any final thoughts you would like to share on how to understand the UX principle?
Every ecosystem we designed or built to achieve the brand or solution’s value is the working environment customers will interact or engage with that may affect their realities or decision making. Be it from the support portal, website design, in apps, or the application itself.
Investing in UX is not just the long-term vision of the company. It must be the purpose and the reason why they exist. It ensures the long-term growth and sustainability of the organization through a diverse range of services, core competencies, and product offerings.
Making decisive efforts to understand how UX affects your customer’s perception and personal engagement is critical to building long-term loyalty, driving success, and staying ahead of the competition.