If you can get it right in real life, you can probably get it right in the digital world. Right? Maybe. Many industries have mastered real-life UX but are still working out some issues with their digital UX. Have no fear. Here are some pointers on what people can learn from these real-life UX triumphs to make their online version a success.
Ignoring what that one guy on Yelp said, eating out at restaurants is mostly an enjoyable experience. Restaurants are, in fact, in the business of providing top-class real-life user experiences. You arrive and are greeted by a polite, friendly hostess, seated at an immaculately set table, presented with menus and specials for the night and left in peace to enjoy a scrumptious meal. Every detail is perfect, or at least you hope so.
On the flip side, restaurant websites often miss this detail-oriented emphasis on what the customer wants. It’s not unusual for important details to be hard to find, which can make for a less than palatable user experience online.
The UX lesson: Attention to detail. Whether you are designing websites or dining experiences, you must always asking yourself “what does my customer need right now?” Ask yourself the same question in each stage of design and use information architecture (the process of organizing a website for usability and findability) so that users get exactly what they need (whether that be menu, hours, directions or dietary information) exactly when they need it. And no more Flash videos, please (a lot of operating systems don't support these types of videos).
2. Doctor’s offices
Let’s give all our great doctors and nurses due credit for their incredible careers. They’ve done more schooling than a herring and administered more shots than a Cancun bartender. They literally save lives every day. No matter how much we fear going to them, medical professionals are working to make us healthier.
And yet, just a few years ago, there was really no digital UX experience to speak of, other than checking a static website to get a phone number and hours. When ZocDoc showed up, they turned the industry on its head by figuring out exactly what users wanted to see. (Now ZocDoc is worth at least $1.6 billion.) And, of course, there’s healthcare.gov, which had plenty of issues of its own and became the poster child for what not to do for UX. It’s much better now (thank goodness), but it certainly created a lot of havoc for its users on the first go round.
The UX Lesson: Test for success! Any medical professional knows the value of effective testing, and so should any UX designer. Doctor’s offices are able to care for you even though you might not know what ails you. Similarly, quality UX answers user questions they didn’t know they had and, in doing so, delights them. In both cases, we can take a scientific approach and use testing to figure out what patients (users) need before they even know they need it, and thus provide a thoroughly delightful user experience.
3. Movie theaters
There are many who would say that movie theaters are destined to go the way of the dodo, but for now, they are here to stay and still a major entertainment touch point for millions. Theaters are currently duking it out with Netflix and the like, but going to the movies remains one of the great American experiences: popcorn, soda, sugary snacks and superheroes. What could be better?
Funny you asked. The reality is that movie theaters can improve the online experience to be more in sync with how well they entertain. Newer theaters offer reclining seats, huge screens, awesome surround sound and in-movie snacks and beer. For all the great tools available to consumers to enjoy seeing an on-screen narrative, you’d expect that designers for theaters would have a better idea of the consumer’s story along their online path to purchase. Many would-be moviegoers are frustrated often with a convoluted ticket-buying processes. Oh and surprise , $5 surcharge! Two thumbs down.
The UX Lesson: Know your user’s story. Designers must make sure their UX focus on the consumer’s path to purchase doesn’t get lost as a side plot. Users come to the theater and the theater’s site to be entertained and titillated with previews but also need information about schedules, pricing and all those wonderful movie snacks.
4. Spas and salonsRelaxation. Tranquility. Peace. People like these things. They make you feel good. And by definition, spas and salons are good at them. There’s a well practiced system of white towels, scented oils, and Enya -- and it works. This is perhaps the most pleasant example of real-life UX.
But what hours are you open? What is this pop-up asking me to sign up for? Why are you trying to sell me skincare products now, as opposed to after my seaweed wrap and shiatsu when I’d be much more relaxed and open to purchasing anyway? Spas and salons tend to use the “more is more” approach to UX on their websites -- and that is the opposite of relaxing.
The UX Lesson: Flow. Salons and spas are wonderful at creating a relaxing environment and taking the customer smoothly from sauna to massage table to mud bath. UX design should endeavor to create a similarly seamless user flow. All decisions should make sense and never cause the user to think “What am I doing?” or wondering “Where am I?” The user completes their journey without resistance and sometimes without even realizing it. This the flow designers should be trying to achieve.
Real life UX is the original UX. There are online UX lessons to be learned, regardless of what industry you’re in, from these industries that do real life UX so well.