Think Like Your Customer: how to integrate effective UX design

User experience (UX) design is all about understanding how your customers interact with your business, both in person and digitally. High-impact improvements will result in a more positive experience with your company.

Think like your customer
Source: Getty Images.

Ever been stuck when making a decision for your business because you can’t tell how it would impact customer experience? 

Business owners grapple with making choices that are vital to business survival. Trusting your gut can only get you so far, especially when customers experience your company in a variety of ways: physically, digitally, over the phone. 

The pandemic caused massive disruptions to the traditional customer experience, and the expectations that came with it. Digital transformation of governments, restaurants and other small businesses accelerated dramatically.

Love it or hate it, many businesses have pivoted and today may even deliver their value to customers in new ways. Now, not only do you have to craft the in-person experience (in the ever-changing landscape of COVID-related rules and regulations), but you need to wrangle a cohesive experience across the digital sphere, whether that’s websites or apps. 

Given that the scope of the experience for many businesses play out in-person and online, it’s difficult to keep track of what customers might be going through.

If you could really understand the entire user experience, you could flag the weak points, inflate the good points and amplify customer delight and loyalty over time.

User Experience (UX) Design

User experience (UX) designers employ a tool called user journey mapping. 

Digital experiences on apps, websites and software pose similarly complex flows, so this common practice helps you understand what’s happening at each step.

Think like your customer
Source: Getty Images.

Digital experiences on apps, websites and software can veer off in all sorts of directions, as things get complicated. Take a “forgot your password” workflow — it can take 10 seconds on one site and three months on another. User journey mapping ensures that clients can see different potential scenarios that affect their business play themselves out.  

Let’s use an example. Say I’m a restaurant owner, and I’ve introduced an online ordering system. My guests can either dine in or order and pick their food up. This new element means the flow of the restaurant needs to change (where people walk, wait, etc.). 

This process normally begins by mapping out all the steps we think guests need to take to order their meal and then we conduct interviews with customers. At this stage, it might be appropriate to do a test where the guest shows how they use their phone to actually order their meal.

During this process, people are asked to “think out loud” saying how they feel. We then will screen record to see precisely which moments and situations caught people off guard (or worked really well). 

Contextual research would also be key in this scenario. This is where people are observed in real life as they complete their goals and navigate their physical space itself. Taking into account the physical environment is really important to understanding an experience that takes place digitally as well as physically.

Finally, it would be crucial to interview guests to understand how their experience was after the fact. It’s important to understand how the high points or low points translated to their overall expectations.  

Once the testing has reached a key number of participants, findings can be aggregated and mapped out. This high-impact process quickly unlocks opportunities for businesses to improve while acknowledging what is working well already. 

User journey mapping can give you a great basis on which to improve and applies to any and all types of businesses in different ways. 

The journey of ordering food from a restaurant for the first time 

  • Decides to Order Consider having a browser-based option, if possible. Removing a barrier to entry is almost always a positive thing.
  • Starts Ordering Process  In this case, the in-house experience is quite different from the digital one. With in-person, the guest can ask the server questions and discuss with their dining companion. When the experience is entirely digital, assistance from the server isn’t available. If the person has to put in a lot of work, there may be significant trade-off with using fancy terminology.
  • Orders & Pays Payment cards can be difficult and complicated to add in. In many cases a browser (like Chrome) may securely save this information making payment easier. If guests encounter a problem, a “pay in-person” option might mean no lost business.
  • Picks Up FoodAny order app should give good logistical feedback. Providing signage and space for guests waiting for their food can make people still feel welcome and taken care of, even if they are in the restaurant only for a fleeting moment.
  • Arrives & EatsThe at-home eating experience is also important. Some of the experience is rooted in the food itself, some in the packaging and presentation and some in the order accuracy. Even a takeout experience can create a lifetime customer.

The restaurant example shows a few touchpoints that people could experience throughout the process of ordering, picking up and eating their meal. By following a guest through possible trajectories in their experience, we identify points of friction and points of success. 

This map paints a picture of all possible experiences. If you’ve been troubled with negative indicators in your business, this mapping process might help you connect more meaningfully with your customers and give you the insight you need to make your business thrive.

Ceara Crawshaw is the CEO of Pencil & Paper, an enterprise UX studio that specializes in complex domains to improve life at work through good UX design, education and innovative products.