With digital transformation enveloping every aspect of our lives, or rather, the entire human civilization adapting to the digital way of life, user experience has evolved as a characteristic worth investing in with world’s best technologies and technical minds. At the center of this transformation, resides the customer– the ever maturing and evolving customer. User appeasement is at the center of how user experience is ideated upon, planned, and finally implemented. In recent years, websites and web applications have undergone significant changes and have experienced a fundamental shift in their assessment of user-product interactions. Emotional aspects are becoming more important than traditional aspects, such as mere usability and functionality.
How and what is the user experiencing with the product? A once one-way static medium has evolved and advanced into a very rich and interactive experience. Design professionals use the phrase “user experience design” to describe certain usercentered design methods, design mentality, standard tools, and techniques used to produce desired effects in a person or persona. The advent of user-centric designs, web accessibility, and usability transformed the way websites were created. Gone are the days when a website had the looks of a simpleton with the products elementarily listed. Today’s websites and applications are glossy, user-centric, multiple-view abled, and a result of psycho-analytical study and research on human buying behavior.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WEB
Traditionally, only two factors influenced design– what would look good, and would the client like it. The last decade witnessed a transformation of the web. The number of web users has increased globally to roughly 3.4 billion users. The increase in access to the internet via various devices, like mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktops along with more browser options, and various internet connection types, has resulted in the surge of accessibility. Your favorite product is no longer just available only behind the glass showcase of the brand’s outlet, or on the shelf of your daily grocery store; rather it could be in your pocket or on your desk, accessible with the touch of a few buttons. It is because of this factor that user experience is of such criticality.
This multidimensional concept goes beyond the tried and tested task-oriented approach of traditional humancomputer interaction (HCI) and brings out facets of fun, pleasure, beauty and personal growth. Apart from basic usability, enjoyability is a vital part of user experience. This paramount shift from usability to experiential factors has forced researchers to consider what user experience is, and how to evaluate and improve upon it. User experience (UX) outlines the individual expectation, evaluation, cognition, and communication of a product interaction by the user. Not paying attention to user experience during the development of technically mature products can result in absolute failure. However, by focusing on positive experience design during product development, the potential to create exciting products and customer loyalty increases manifold.
A study conducted by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers gives a better understanding of the criticality of user experience design and on why software fails. The result shows that organizations spend almost US$1 trillion on Information Technology (IT). 15% of these IT projects are estimated to be abandoned or failed because of poor user experience. Failure of these projects is avoidable. Some of the reasons why a software fails are: unrealistic project goals, inaccurate assessment of needed resources, poor reporting tools, unmanaged risks, commercial pressures, and use of immature technology. Focusing on user experience by way of stakeholder interviews, user research, user-centered design, and experience design can help resolve some of these issues.
Building a great user experience requires research and planning to determine what the customer needs, where each element should go, and what the design should convey. Here are the most important aspects of an efficient user experience design: Discovery Discovery is a huge part of user experience. It includes seamless and unique interactions with the key stakeholders, learning every aspect of the customer’s business. Often, stakeholders might have different goals, which, might overlap. Based on the research, the UX designer needs to prepare feedback and plan the design accordingly. The product structure, content and audience are a direct reflection of these discovered goals.
Building personas After goal setting, the next step is to identify the customer base and create personas. Personas are the personification of users who will use the product. A product can have multiple personas, and each persona can have different backgrounds, personalities, needs, and end goals. Segregating the personas and identifying the course of action helps provide the best possible experience.
Content is key Understanding the goal and audience helps develop the right content. Creating engaging and relevant content is key. Considering the shorter attention span of users, engaging them quickly is critical. Providing users the right kind of content plays a major role in customer branding.
Business benefits Cost saving is one of the primary benefits of user experience. A survey conducted by Econsultancy, reveals that almost three-quarters of companies consider the role of user experience relevant for escalated sales and conversions. The study was carried out in association with WhatUsersDo, and involved more than 1,400 digital and e-commerce professionals.
USER EXPERIENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East is no exception to the global digital transformation, nor is the importance of an effective and efficient user experience. With world’s top brands rushing towards the Middle East to cater to the shopping friendly region, the existence of a customer friendly yet result-oriented user experience is nothing less than dire necessity. Over the last decade, data flow connecting the Middle East with the rest of the world has witnessed a substantial increase, almost more than 150-fold. The Middle East is at the center of a digital transformation. Several Middle Eastern nations, including the UAE and Bahrain, are at the forefront of this digital transformation.
According to Digital McKinsey reports, there are 128 million active smartphone users, and as this represents only 53% penetration, significant headroom remains. The MENA region recorded the highest mobile data traffic growth in the last few years. The most interesting forecast is an increase in 3G/4G users from 170 million to 330 million by 2020. Considering these developments, digital-first organizations are leveraging the structural shift in how industries treat customers. In its Q1 forecast, eMarketer predicts the UAE and Saudi Arabia will witness an 80% increase in internet users by 2020.
The standard procedure for designing a good user experience is consistent across the globe. There is no independent “Middle East user experience.” It is a design where the experience revolves around the user. What it requires is a better understanding of the user’s needs, motivations, and goals. After all, the Middle Eastern user experience may incorporate unique trends from the region, but the usercentered experience remains the same.