“User-Centric” is not a buzzword. Its really important. It should seem obvious that making your digital experience as empathetic to your user’s needs as possible will result in the greatest business goal conversions, be that sales, signups, awareness or something else…but mostly sales 😉
If you get it right you’ll leave your competitors in the dust. Of course if your competitors get it right they’ll leave you in the dust. However there are a lot digital experiences out there that still don’t take a user-centric approach, so a significant window of opportunity remains.
Naturally you should employ UX best practices to deliver this, but good UX is not to be confused with a good user-centric solution.
Good UX ensures you deliver your solution in an intuitive and simple manner, removing inconvenience and inefficiency from the experience, distilling it to it’s essence and rationalising it’s capabilities.
Good user centricity means understanding and delivering what the user needs via an experience that not only focusses in on their needs but also communicates this to them in the language of those needs.
Many companies still take a product-centric approach, but making something product-centric is about you: your profit, your success. It reinforces the sense that your first priority in business is to help your company make money. You’re trying to sell products, not address customer needs – not exactly an empathetic user experience.
You could argue that you’re selling products and services that do solve user’s needs. So is there a good reason to spend time and money trying to think as the user thinks and implementing top flight UX as well? I mean what’s the difference? They have a problem, you have a number of products that could solve it. Do you really have to baby them into putting the two together? You haven’t got time for this, you’ve got targets to hit. Sell, sell, sell.
Well, if you’re not convinced that spending time and money on great, empathetic, user-centric UX makes any important difference to brand loyalty, market share, profitability or just plain old customer satisfaction, I recommend you ask Uber, Apple, Virgin or Tesla – these brands are not only highly profitable, but highly aspirational. And you could read this post on measurable RoI of good UX.
A user-centric approach is simple: it’s not about being better than your competitors, it’s about being best for your customer. Being better than your competitors is just a consequence.
Why is a product-centric approach less successful? You have lots of products, they do amazing things, you can sell them at competitive prices.
Well, you could describe all of the functions and nuances of all of your products and services to all of your site visitors and hope that they will have the patience and the knowledge to sift through your products and connect the dots between their need(s) and the right products and services in your portfolio. I’m exhausted just saying it. Of course, once they’ve carried out this labor on your site they will have every reason to diligently ensure that your offerings are better (and hopefully cheaper) than your competitors offerings, so now they’ll have to carry out this connecting the dots task all over again. If the sites are all product-centric they’ll likely run out of time or patience at some point and go with what seemed the best (invariably the one that seemed the closest to their needs). If only someone had just spoken to them directly about their problem/need, they could have acted already.
The truth is that user don’t care that you have products and services. They don’t care that you’re having a crazy sale here at Crazy Larry’s SaaS. They care that they have problems that need to be solved and you have about 5 seconds to convince them that you empathise, recognise and can fix their problem or fulfil their need. They don’t want to have to join the dots. They don’t have time to join the dots. Often they don’t even have the expertise to join the dots, they just have the cash and a problem in their head. They have neither the time nor the patience and sometimes not the ability, to assimilate all the capabilities of your products and services and transpose them on to their problems/needs and see if there’s a sufficient match. Do it for them! Close the sale there and then, because if your competitors design their UX in exactly such a user-centric way then you can kiss those customers goodbye.
Can your products and services do many, many things? Yes, yes I’m sure they can, but you didn’t build your products and services to simply do many, many things, you built them to try to solve inefficiencies and inconveniences that you recognised in the marketplace. That’s how everyone builds successful products and services. They see something that people want, that needs simplification and they build a profitable solution to do it.
So don’t talk about products. Don’t talk about services. Don’t list endless capabilities. Don’t tell them how cheap your solutions are or how special an offer you’re running. Put yourself in your user’s shoes, just like you did when you came up with the idea for the product or service in the first case. Talk about the problems that your products and services solve, not about the products and services. Be user-centric. Not only will users buy something that promises to solve their problems, they will happily pay more, tell everyone how great it is and quickly become advocates (Just ask Apple).
A user-centric solution is more successful, more profitable and builds greater brand awareness and loyalty, because it’s about them: the customer. In its simplest terms: it makes your customer happy. The narrative of your story, your interactions, your user touch points, is that you are in business to solve their problems and deliver an easier life for them. You empathise, you understand their needs, you speak their language, you’ve experienced these problems yourself and you have built a business based on addressing them.
I believe strongly in taking a user centric approach, diligently carrying out the Discovery and Definition phases of a project before delivering the solution. Business analysis and information architecture are critical in delivering not only the right solution but the best solution, however, they are only half the user experience. The key is to view your marketing through the eyes of your prospective clients.
Don’t just rationalise; Empathise.
- Remember what your products and services do for your customers. You knew their needs when you created your products and services. That’s what allowed you to build a successful business.
- Engage with your customers on a regular basis. Understand their perceptions of what they need – social is invaluable in this respect and their needs can evolve too, so listen. Don’t just preach what you sell.
- Tell your story in the language of empathy, don’t just list your products.