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First impressions count. Here’s how to create a truly satisfying user experience

July 16, 2019 | By Jon Shalowitz, CEO—LiftIgniter @jonshalowitz

It’s no secret that a great user experience is the key to attracting and retaining customers.

There are plenty of articles out there highlighting the obvious UX design must-haves: “offer real-time support,”  “create a good 404 page,” “have a working search function,” “make sure you have a quick load time,” etc. However, a good user experience goes way beyond visual cues and basic functionality (though these are certainly important). In 2019, good UX is all about how quickly you can deliver the most relevant experience to the user in the moment. 

With that in mind, here are a few things  you should consider if you want to create a truly satisfying user experience: 

Today’s users expect to see content that’s relevant to them right now

Consumers today expect immediate results—from their devices to their workout routine and everything in between. 

In 2019, almost every digital space is saturated and hyper-competitive. And that means an “okay” user experience—in this case, surfacing somewhat relevant content— probably isn’t good enough to grow your business. So you have to make sure the articles, products, recommendations, etc. that you serve people are relevant to what they need right at that second. 

Personalization is key—but don’t make it creepy.

With machine learning giving us greater ability to collect vast amounts of user data, we can now provide more accurate recommendations than ever before. 

In theory, this is great. But at some point, we need to take a step back and make sure that we don’t veer into creepy, potentially unethical territory. It’s fair to feel your privacy has been invaded when you see an Instagram ad for smartwatches immediately after viewing them on an unrelated site.

In other words, there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach personalization. 

“We saw you searched for yoga mats on Amazon, so here’s a bunch of yoga content” doesn’t cut it. That’s not great user experience. And it makes people feel uneasy, which could result in scaring users and customers away. 

In creating great user experience, the Japanese “omotenashi” approach to hospitality can teach us a lot. Omotenashi is a term that essentially equates to understanding your guest’s needs even before they say anything. Omotenashi is more than merely going the extra mile when servicing customers, clients, guests—or, more accurately in this case, users. It means picking up on users’ subtle clues to give them something they didn’t even know they wanted—yet. 

Don’t rely solely on what’s trending. 

Every company online today wants clicks. 

But just because an article or product is trending doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to repeat customers or subscribers. And while surfacing trending content should be part of your strategy—if something is trending, that’s certainly a good indicator of value—it shouldn’t be your only focus. 

It’s better to determine what’s really going to resonate with users. Personally, I don’t want to be told, “Hey, you should like or be interested in this because everyone else is.” When brands take this approach, I lose interest. And I’m sure I’m not alone. It is so much better to be able to say, “Hey, you will be uniquely interested in this”—and to be right about it. 

Make sure you bring in longtail content and products. 

When longtail content resonates, it adds immense value to the user experience. 

Longtail content is often niche content. For example, it might be the exact brand and color shoes someone is looking for, or an article that answers the precise answer to a question someone needs answered. It also has high engagement/conversion potential.  

If you’re providing recommendations through filtering and rules, you obviously don’t have the brainpower or time to figure out rules and connections to a million items. That’s going to limit both you and your customers. It will also make it incredibly difficult to show users everything you have to offer. 

Utilizing technology like machine learning, which can intelligently and systematically surface longtail items, can be effective in optimizing user experience. With machine learning, you can pull from your entire universe of content rather than just a small top percentage. 

Remember: Discovery takes many forms. 

Companies should keep in mind that users discover and browse content—articles, products, etc.—in many different ways. 

That means your user experience should cater to many different user behaviors. Some people  are visual and want pictures to guide them. Others are auditory and will value a listening experience or one prompted by verbal cues. 

In the digital world, users will find content, products, etc. via different pathways. Some websites use a tree structure to help users find what they’re looking for; others rely on search. If your website features a one-track discovery experience—for example, they offer no navigation route other than the search bar—you’ll frustrate users who are more attuned to other types of navigation tools. 

At the end of the day, customers want a lot of options. But they don’t want to have to sift through them all. The ideal user experience offers an expansive universe of relevant options but is also easy to navigate for when the user knows exactly what they want. 

What makes or breaks the success of your website is that all-important moment in which someone decides whether to stick around, read an article, or make a purchase. And that decision is typically made pretty quickly, usually based on a first impression. 

So when that golden moment arrives, make sure your site is optimized to provide users with a super-relevant user experience that delivers exactly what they were looking for (or maybe what they didn’t even know they wanted yet).

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