The internet is built on a unique language. We interact daily with folks from all over the world on the internet. Sometimes, the words we use are simple and onomatopoeic. Haha. Lol. Other times, the words we use sound dense and feel foreign. File transfer protocol. Search engine optimization. User experience.
For this latter set of words, the definitions are often found in the words themselves. Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website for search engines. File transfer protocol is a protocol used to transfer files. Likewise, user experience is an impenetrable-sounding tech term with a baked-in meaning: the experience of the user.
The first half of this definition feels obvious. The user is the person visiting (or using) your website. True, but it’s more than that. For a website to be an effective tool, it needs to be easy to use, helpful, and accessible to everyone who uses it — internally and externally. This means that the user is not just the client, customer, or outside visitor. It is also the sales team that relies on the website to accomplish their business goals, the HR staff looking to recruit talent, and the developer tasked with keeping the site up-to-date. It is the marketing team using the website to represent the brand and the senior leadership team telling the company’s story.
The goals of each person involved — from developer to marketer to customer — should be considered.
It follows, then, that what qualifies as a good experience will vary from site to site. But, every good experience shares a common goal: to remove friction. Whether the purpose of the site is to drive an online purchase, distribute information, or simply entertain, friction creates barriers.
There are countless ways to reduce friction on the web, and some are better than others. A good experience distills everything down to serve the needs of its users.
User experience is exactly that. It considers all the users of a site and the best way to enhance their experience. Websites serve a variety of audiences, needs, and goals. They are built by humans with a wide range of talents.
As your website passes from person to person in development, it becomes increasingly important to place someone in charge of user experience. Someone to manage all of the needs of the site as it moves from an idea to product, while keeping the goals and experience of its users at the forefront.
When this happens, your website becomes a valuable business tool. It helps to improve sales and to raise morale. And, it allows users to get more work done.