According to the definition by Nielsen Norman Group (a leading voice in user experience field), user experience is all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. The total user experience encompasses more than just a user interface, thus having a team of UX professionals working at different stages of a project (requirement gathering, design, usability testing etc.) might not suffice in providing pleasant overall user experience. The emphatic mindset of understanding the users, their needs and striving to create a product that meets them should be shared by everyone at all stages of product development (and afterwards).
It is not only the user interface that matters
Though it is extremely important to pay enough attention to creating user friendly interfaces and getting the information architecture right, user experience goes beyond that. Users interact with your brand in various ways: website, newsletters, social media, call centres, enquiry emails – the traditional UX teams have very little impact on many of these, but they all are part of user experience. Unhelpful support messages that use terminology not familiar to a typical user or irrelevant marketing emails frustrate users, but these issues could hardly be spotted by doing traditional user testing. It is important to mind the Halo effect – a negative (or positive) impression of one aspect of your company can affect the overall judgement of it, thus it is important to make sure that everyone involved develops a mindset of understanding users and their needs.
Everyone’s contribution is important
Even if we don’t look broadly and focus solely on a website’s or app’s user interface, nobody in the team should feel that user experience is not their responsibility. Copywriters need to understand the users, their interests and preferences in order to tailor the content, as well as to make sure they use an appropriate tone and terminology. Blog posts need to be meaningful and useful to a particular audience. Developers need to keep users in mind when choosing the ways of implementing ideas – things such as slow page loads significantly affect user experience and in some contexts fast internet is not available. The quality assurance team needs to understand user preferences. Product managers need to have a full understanding of the target audience and their needs when making decisions on which new features to implement and focusing on continuously improving the quality of the product. Even though product managers and UX team members often manage the process of creating a good user experience, they often do not have the relevant knowledge the other team members have.
One of the best ways of developing an emphatic mindset and focus on users within a team is creating user personas and user scenarios – written descriptions of typical users, their aims, needs and the ways to achieve them. All team members should ideally familiarise themselves with these and try to keep them in mind when making decisions throughout the entire product development process, not, as it often happens, only at the beginning. There is a difference between just working on a website that e.g. helps users to manage their purchases and working on a website that helps busy users to manage their purchases on the go. Having everybody focused on the same goal of meeting users’ needs is a key to creating a truly great product.
It is the end result that matters
There is a tendency to quantify UX work to a set of deliverables (wireframes, design concepts) and focus on them, neglecting the challenging work of understanding the users and their needs. Also, there is a tendency to follow some predefined processes and checklists (e.g. the UX team gathers the requirement and makes a wireframe, then designers create a design, which is then evaluated by the UX team, then developed and tested for usability problems), however, there is no recipe for creating a good user experience. Each project is different and requires a collaboration of different teams at different stages, it is the end result (something that meets users needs) what matters, not the ways of achieving it.