What is Ux, aka User Experience, to me…

In response to Rohan Thomas’ questions on User Experience in his blog post here

My answers to all 3 questions(what does it mean to you, is it important to your customers/you and does it add to ROI) are crucial element, yes and yes respectively.

I see Ux as one of those intangibles that goes into making a good software product. There is no direct output for the resources spent on this- things might look the same with a re-jigging of how feature flow happens, no new features are added, some usability interview notes are generated from usability testing!

But I don’t think any organization with a mandate to make money in the marketplace can even choose to ignore Ux. And my reasoning is simple –

  • Competition has exploded. Every segment and its niche seems taken
  • Technology evolves at a pace that does not leave enough time for people to mature on it. You are always learning and there is always someone better than you.
  • Semantic web…a many headed beast that seems to crop up at the weirdest place
  • An informed customer who is not at the mercy of a single vendor or platform
  • Add outsourcing, off-shoring and its ilk to the mix..

The result of all this is that there is

  • A flattening of competitive advantage, even absolute monopoly cannot guarantee that you will not bleed by a thousand cuts
  • Using a certain technology is not reason enough for a customer to part with his money.
  • Using a feature comparison matrix to measure against competition is not enough, they have their own chart where they come out better!
  • Crossover at every level of every categorization available!

In such a volatile environment better Ux can significantly add to the chances of a product being viewed favorably by the customer. Because once you cover the base set of features, what distinguishes a product is how easily the user is enabled to use the features.

Consider the crop of Web 2.0 type applications coming out, the emphasis is on Ux and that is what immediately stands out. Consider most of the products from 37 Signals, the emphasis is on doing a handful but doing them well. Or consider iPhone, for all its features is not very unique, competing products exist that do all of it and more. But what can’t be touched is the Ux that seeps through even in videos of the product.

Ux will be the critical differentiation in a crowded marketplace.

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