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You Need to Incorporate This Overlooked Concept to Supercharge Your Business When putting this one thing into your business strategy, it can be a competitive advantage to help redefine your brand's positioning. Here's how to do it.

By Rajeev Subramanian Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When someone mentions the term user experience (UX) design to you, do you immediately think of screens and interfaces? Well, that's part of it, but the subject matter goes way deeper than that. Implemented in the right way, it can even be mission-critical for your business.

In this potentially shaky economy, growth shouldn't be your only mission. Consumer-driven value and the underlying goal to solve deep-rooted and complex user problems are what will stick. It will become necessary to identify the users' needs before stepping into the market — which is where UX design comes in.

Whether you are selling digital products, physical products, services, platforms or anything else, ruthlessly focusing on your users (customers and potential customers) is not optional — it's a necessity. It is the ultimate de-risker of failure and ensures you thrive even in tough times.

Related: How Much Should Entrepreneurs Care About User Experience?

Getting real about the term UX

Before understanding how UX design can supercharge your business, let's set the stage on terminology. The term UX design refers to the practice of designing products, services, websites, apps and systems that are easy and enjoyable to use, but also bring measurable value to users and businesses.

Prior to actually pushing pixels or getting down to brass tacks, there's an incredibly important research and analysis stage that should never be missed. Often referred to as UX research, this discipline involves studying and understanding the needs, behaviors and motivations of the people who will use the product, in order to inform and improve the design process.

Similar to the interplay between strategy and execution, UX research and its big brother UX design are becoming increasingly important for small businesses, as they can help you create products that better meet the needs of customers, leading to increased satisfaction, loyalty, retention and even bottom-line revenue growth.

Below are four ways how you can include UX in your business.

Related: User Experience Is the Most Important Metric You Aren't Measuring

1. Shun the survey and try this instead

By now, you should know that the demographics of your customers are surface-level characterizations. Surveys also can be misleading, biased and shallow. It's like a multiple-choice test, but you're not including three extra choices which actually contain the right answer.

Instead, you want to use psychographics to help gain a deeper understanding of customers' needs, preferences, motivations and pain points. This can predictably inform what you're building and whether it will be successfully adopted.

Some of the most commonly used methods are interviews, contextual inquiries and diary studies. A decade ago, these may have been foreign in the world of entrepreneurship, but with the ubiquitous nature of tools available today, the effort to run these has significantly decreased, while still being extremely valuable.

If the creation of your entire business is based on anecdotes or personal plights you dealt with, rest assured you have not done enough homework on your users to be confident enough that you are solving the right problem in the first place.

2. Run user tests, but not the A/B kind

A/B testing has its place when you want to test one variable across hundreds or thousands of users. It will give some great directional guidance — but you still won't know why someone was stuck on a particular page and/or what they were expecting.

Instead, try running user tests (sometimes called usability tests). This will better inform possible edits and changes you should make on your website because it is qualitative in nature and focuses on user goals and task success.

If you've never run a user test before, here's what it can do for you:

  • Records users' interaction with your website, product or app to identify problems or areas for improvement through spoken feedback.
  • Gains key insights into your customers' expectations, comprehension and issues they face to make improvements before launching the final product.

Ideally, you would want to continuously run user tests from the earliest concept all the way to your finished product, as well as anytime you are going to have major changes or updates.

Related: Why User Experience Is Vital for Quality SEO

3. Measure user success, not NPS

If you're using the net promoter score (NPS), don't fret. They are a decent directional barometer, but don't make it the only thing you measure. Just like the survey, it lacks context and remains at a surface level of true customer intentions. Some even consider it a vanity metric that only serves to give you a false sense of confidence, when in reality the needs of your users are barely being met.

It is better to pair NPS with other metrics such as the customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and customer effort score (CES). With CSAT, you want to ask questions about how satisfied the customer was with the product/service or how they would rate their experience with a certain tool, person or department. With CES, you measure a product or service's ease of use to customers. It reflects the amount of effort a customer had to exert to use a product or service, find the information they needed or get an issue resolved.

When used all together, these metrics provide a 360-degree view of your customer's experience so you can have a better gauge of the health of your business.

4. Create a user-centered journey map

At a high level, a journey map is the sequential steps that a user takes before, during and after their interactions with your brand. Unfortunately, most journey maps today are too focused on the interactions of someone solely with your business. This is important to include, but it's only a subset of a user's full experience when solving a problem.

  • Are you including stages that led up to the point of them having their first interaction with your brand?
  • What activities are they doing to solve their problem that has nothing to do with clicking your ad or visiting your landing page?
  • What is the trigger that prompts them to start their journey of resolving a concern they have?

By looking at the superset of their experience, you can better understand what their underlying motivations are. This arms you with better language to use when attracting them into your funnel, website or ad. You will also get a clearer understanding of your exact positioning in the market and how you can create a niche space with untapped potential.

Related: The 5 Critical Components of a Great Customer Journey Map

Good UX means good business

The foundations of user experience and business strategy are tied at the hip, and for good reason. They can help businesses create products that are more intuitive, engaging and profitable. By using these practices, entrepreneurs can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, which can ultimately lead to greater success. Incorporating these best practices into your workflow will help meet your customers' expectations so well that the design is virtually invisible — and highly effective.

Rajeev Subramanian

Founder at Shift UX

Rajeev Subramanian is a founder, educator, consultant and speaker. He teaches UX design at Georgetown University in their DMC masters program and has his own company Shift UX that helps career-changers break into the growing field of UX/Product Design.

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