I recently went through a thought provoking article on “Why user experience always comes first“, written in the Harvard Business Review, by Michael Schrage… While all of the points are very well made, there are some aspects that are real eye-openers that I felt were noteworthy enough to share. Specifically, policies that are followed by Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc… in their quest to provide better user experience to their users.

Now, I just want to make a small distinction between User experience (or exploitation) and User Interface before I get any further. User interface relates to the over all look (layout) and other graphical elements of your site/app/interface (notice I didn’t say feel) and is ancillary to User experience. User experience is what you want your user to do on your site/app…. (this is where the feel comes in), based on your marketing goals.

In a nutshell, Form always follows Function (UI always follows UX).

A lot of times we use these terms interchangeably, which is why I thought I’ll set this right at the beginning of the article.

While the article is written very well, I had to read it a couple of times, before it started making sense to me. So, if like me, you are looking at a simpler way to understand the impact of UX (with all it’s connotations) in our current context of digital marketing … then, read on.

Top 3 reasons when User eXperience becomes User eXpoitation and how to fix it!

Reasons number 1: Technical inefficiencies (combination of site loading speed, mandatory CTAs (call to actions) – making the site a pain to use or an article not worth waiting for.

(Facebook reports close to 40% of their users abandoning advertisers sites and then Facebook itself if the site takes more than 3 secs to load – you can imagine how FB started cracking the whip when it got to hear of this!)

The FIX: Ensure a site (mobile/web) loads under 3 seconds. At least pre-load your important information immediately!

The user just might wait for the extra 7.39 secs for your lovely images to load (if you are lucky). And do ensure that it works (no breakages, whatsoever)!

Else, here a radical thought – give a user what he wants. No bells and Whistles. Just that. (let me know how that works for you … Given that craigslist is still in action for close to 2 decades, am guessing it works :-)…)

Reason number 2: Nickel and Dime approach to clicks: This is a one of the most painful experiences, almost all of us had experienced, at sometime or the other.

While today’s digital tracking platforms give amazing insights into user behavior and the exact journey a user takes through your website/app; it’s very easy to lose track of the actual user’s feeling in this graphical journey (when seen through a marketing mavens’ eyes).

Case in point: full page, transparent pop over / creep over/ pop ups; just as you open an interesting article that appeared in your news feed. The magnitude of frustration rises exponentially, when you realize there is no close button and only clicking on a like (or worse, a sign up) will let you access the underlying article.

If like me, you also don’t like being so blatantly manipulated into doing something you don’t really want to do, I’m sure you close the window or go back and try to find a more open minded provider of the same information.

From the company’s perspective, after spending so much money and time and effort in getting a user to your site/app – to have them leave because of annoying User eXperience – surely must not make very good business sense!

Incidentally, Google is also trying its best to improve User eXperience by levying penalties to curtail mobile interstitial adverts and have adapted their algorithm for the same. Hopefully, over a period of time digital marketing will evolve to do away with this (helped along by Google, no doubt)!

The FIX: Fairly straight forward. Don’t directly manipulate your user by forcing him to do something. Ever!

We all know how forcing someone to do something ends up – history is replete with revolutions that have been occurred because of this precise reason (apart from other mundane reasons like commerce, coveting thy neighbors land, etc…but those are secondary).

Reason number 3: Increasing a users “IQ”: And no, in this context it does not mean “Intelligence Quotient” but rather, his or her “Irritation Quotient”.

While there is a fine line between gently (being the operative word) nudging a user to do certain tasks on your site/app, it is completely another thing to forcefully intrude upon their activities and force them to do certain (usually mandatory) tasks.

The line definitely exists and the granddaddy of all ecommerce companies – Amazon – certainly takes it extremely seriously and constantly tries to find the balance between “guiding” a user vs “herding” a user!

The FIX: So there is no hard and fast rule other than to try various options based on the overall experience you want the user to have on your site/app and – LISTEN to your users – and make changes accordingly! Rinse and repeat, till you are able to synchronize your marketing goals with a users’ goals.

Hopefully, your User will truly appreciate your experiences and not feel exploited by you after implementing these 3 simple fixes!

What do you think? Let me know “IQ” aspects that you have faced in your browsing experience and what you thought could have been done differently! Would love to hear your thought.


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