Updated: Oct 4, 2022
Design, in its most basic form, is making something look good. A brand is designed and built with the purpose to create a message driving the values of a company. UX design takes the brand design and introduces a behavioral aspect, guiding and fulfilling the users’ needs in combination with the business goals.
What exactly are we talking about?
Creating a user experience is about understanding behavior and empathizing with the user. The business wants to create a tool that helps the business. We all understand that If we neglect that the business relies on users to succeed, we are just creating a good-looking brand. Who is the user anyway? The user is anyone that interacts with your business. Anyone. Users can be customers, clients, or employees. Each one will need its own stories and paths for success.
To understand a user and create a path we need to take some things into consideration.
1. What does the business need/want the user to do?
2. Who are the users?
a. Demographically (age/gender break-down/geo-location/education/etc)
c. What are their pain points/struggles/challenges
3. What does the user want to do?
4. What is keeping success from happening? What problems are we solving for?
Building personas from this information can be beneficial and leveraged to make decisions.
Capturing the ideal path is the easy part. Working within the problem is a challenge. As human beings, we find it uncomfortable to “sit in the problem”. It’s messy, awkward, and sometimes depressing. It is in our nature to pick an obvious red flag and start to create solutions for it. We have been told from very early on to be part of the solution, not the problem. And well… that’s a problem. A lot of times we are creating solutions for a symptom, something that was easily recognizable, almost tangible. But how do we clearly identify the problems?
1. Ask the why questions
a. Why is this a problem?
b. Why are we being flooded with calls?
c. Why is there a drop-off after 5 seconds on site?
2. Understand everything that leads up to the problem
a. Every step leading up to the problem is a possible problem.
b. Are there forks being missed?
c. Has the journey been mapped out and validated?
Once we understand the problems, we can map out journeys. Journeys that help to solve business and user issues – aka the problems. Asking for a ServiceNow portal with an incident widget tells us only that their problem is they don’t have a portal with a widget. If they tell us they have 500 calls a day to their help desk, and it is causing a backlog, unhappy users, and overworked technicians — Houston… we have the problem.
“A problem is an unmet need that, if met, can satisfy the user’s purpose”
UX Jones and Map of Destiny
This is now where we start the design process. Mapping the journeys and stories to the layout utilizing wireframes and mockups. Brainstorming with the team, coming up with multiple paths, solutions and alternatives brings together all the potential pieces and then seeing which ones fit the best.
When designing with the end user in mind (human-centric design), there are a few things that need to be brought to light.
1. Juicy Feedback
a. Is the tool responding to the users input/actions acknowledging their journey?
2. 10 Seconds of Understanding
a. Do they have access immediately or do they need to register/login?
b. Can they easily identify their path of success?
3. Brand Resonation
a. Is the brand story correct for the user's journey?
b. What is the brand's story – does the user engage with it?
a. How quickly will the user find joy in their interactions?
i. Yes… joy is strange to use here, but that should be the goal.
a. Were they set?
b. Were they met?
c. Were they exceeded?
a. Does the user feel like they accomplished what they intended?
b. Do they feel they were in control through the process?
7. Watch Out
a. Cognitive Overload/decision paralysis/analysis paralysis
i. Be wary of the “make everything accessible all the time” or “kitchen-sinking”
ii. Provide the right choices at the right time
Some good behavioral techniques can be applied using game theory or gamification. No, we aren’t trying to get the users to shoot aliens out of the sky. But we are trying to alleviate the suffering and mundanity of the corporate process. Games are funny; they aren’t something you have to do.
There is no real reward or meaning or even anything tangible. You can even play games about working in a mini-mart or having a family. If people voluntarily choose to play these, why not utilize the underlying theories to help make any experience more enjoyable?
Why do people choose to sit at a table and move a plastic thing around a board? Why do people enjoy hitting a small ball across an open field? Richard Bartle came up with a taxonomy for the way people “game”.
Killers are those who like to compete against others, achievers are looking for rewards or achievements, socializers enjoy the connection with others, and explorers are looking to discover something new or hidden.
Golf, for example, can pull in three categories: (1) killers, out to win, (2) achievers, trying to get better and feel good about it, and (3) socializers, those who think golf is a great way to spend the day with friends.
While certain board games can easily pull all four categories, it isn’t required to always make sure all four are catered to. Why? Because people are complex, meaning there is no purity in the player type. You may be a killer at heart, always wanting to win, but that means you need to beat somebody. This also drops them in the socializer bucket, but hey, isn’t achieving also kind of winning? Yup… The best way this works is to think about it in percentages. You may be 45% killer, 30% socializer, 20% achiever with a smidge 5% explorer; people are complex this way. We aren’t exactly making a game here so how does this even apply? Once we understand that player types are motivational cues we can overlay them with a framework, I personally prefer to use Ocatalysis.
Breaking out gamification techniques into how they trigger behavior is a great way to develop a plan and flow for how to guide users through a site and discover nuggets that can be dropped, leading them down a path of success and potentially joy! You know that feeling of standing before a little white ball and swinging wildly at it while cursing at the sky as your friends mock and ridicule you… joy.
“Games are unnecessary problems we volunteer to tackle”
One of the biggest challenges in UX design is working with clients. Clients have opinions, ideas, and preferences, but all of that should be thrown aside. Clients are not users. Yes, they may use the product or service, but they have been influenced by being a part of the process/brand/product which gives them knowledgeable insight that a user would not have, tainting the experience. The challenge isn’t really working with clients but communicating with them in a way that helps them to understand how to remove personal bias and attempt to think like a user.
To counter “design bias”, it can be helpful to come up with a scenario that is relatable. For example, if you are creating a website that is for customer support we need to take several things into consideration.
The user is frustrated
They have probably been dealing with the issue for a while hoping it would resolve itself.
The user has asked others for help.
They have probably done a google search looking for a resolution.
The user feels desperate
They got the product/service because it solved a problem they had, but it doesn't work anymore.
Now they have two problems – the original problem and the new problem.
They feel they made a mistake in their decision to buy this product/service.
They may have to buy something different - wasting time and money.
They have been misled - promises of solutions not kept.
The last thing we want to do is overload a user. Most of today’s companies, brands like to talk about simplicity but then throw everything at the user. This comes down to not understanding the user or not being confident that creating a more singular path will work.
UX is about faith. Faith that the designer understands the user, the business, the goals, and the brand. Faith that the designer truly empathizes with the user and is consciously working to alleviate their pain points. Faith that the designer is creating a solution that benefits the business.
User Experience design came about when someone realized that not every solution/site/flow/design works for every person in every circumstance. You can even go as far as saying that the day-to-day preference of a single user on the same instance varies. Huh? Take for instance french fries. We have a user that loves french fries; they get them whenever they get the chance because it’s their comfort food. One day, they meet a survey person in the street, and they ask them about their favorite food. For some reason, and there can be multiple reasons, they say onion rings. Maybe they just ate french fries, maybe they saw an ad for onion rings, maybe they had cognitive resonance overseeing the Olympic rings behind the surveyor. The thing is, users are fluid, fickle, and funny.
Is your ServiceNow portal filled with fickler users? Probably. They are everywhere. They are you and I. But we can solve that. Tackling the biggest user experience problems comes from working together, assessing the situation, asking questions, and sitting on the problem. When we work together embracing our knowledge, empathy, and collaboration a beautiful thing happens. You start to see purpose, delight, and simplicity. Pros and cons start to have a weight. You get excited when you introduce users to your designed experience. And that is the intention, a designed experience. Purposefully built, unique to your users, your business, and your brand.
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