The importance of the user-experience
In the world of technology, there are so many start-ups out there chasing innovation. Whether it be innovation in the way technology is utilised in a new and disruptive way, or perhaps in how technology can innovatively solve complex business problems. All this innovation is great for the world, as it allows companies to come up with new advancements that can change the way the world works.
However, the tech start-up space is highly competitive and very few amazing and incredible ideas end up lasting for a long time. So, what separates those successful startups from those that fail? While there may be a variety of reasons from poor concepts, bad software design or simply just not enough money for an idea to realise its full potential, the biggest issue I have found is that too few companies focus on the user experience of their software. And while a great idea and good software design can get you far, software that does not cater to the experience of its users is often bound to fail – regardless of the ingenuity or innovation involved.
So, what do I mean by user experience?
User experience consists of many different aspects of businesses but at its core, it is about shaping your idea, design and company around the needs of your customers. Now, this might sound obvious when I say it, but you will be amazed at how many companies I have worked with or experienced, struggle with this aspect. And then often end up failing as they put their own interests ahead of the needs of their customers – or future customers.
Know your users
This is where it's important to be specific. For big companies with millions of customers, perhaps it might be something a little more difficult to do, but by the time you’ve scaled to that size, you would normally have multiple strategies and enough data to be able to work with different types of customers. This is more than just marketing though but also in product design. You need to understand the way people like to use their applications, their UI preferences, how they would prefer service etc.?
For small companies, though it's important to understand this target market. And not be too broad about it, you can’t just target specific age groups, genders or generation types – people are far more diverse than that and as a start-up, you are likely only going to attract a very small user base from any particular group, to begin with anyway. This is a group that you need to understand. You do this through solid research when researching your idea or design approach, but also in quickly interacting with users when they do start to use it, to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. Not every feedback is useful, but the more you listen, the better you understand and will be able to shape a product that meets their needs and works the way they would like it to.
This is also where customisation comes in and designing software that caters to multiple different approaches based on how people want to use their software. It also comes in how you communicate with your users. For instance, with an app that is trying to be trendy and provide automation to an everyday personal task, it’s okay to be a little causal in your grammar and offer product support over WhatsApp or the web. If your product is going to be used by different types of companies or professional people, a different approach is required, and you will need to ensure you can communicate and engage with that target market effectively and consider that they may require far more urgent support needs and need you to be on the other side of a phone call far more regularly.
Focus on customer success
With a lot of disruptive technology, a heavy emphasis can be placed on the technology that drives the disruptive success while this makes a lot of sense given the technical nature of the people often developing these solutions, it’s not something that many users will care about at the end of the day. What they care about is success and how your software will aid them in that success. Whether it's helping them fulfil some task that aids in improving their self-esteem, improving efficiency or could eventually make money one day – you need to not just sell this success in your marketing but design your User Experience with this success in mind, making it intuitive for them to move from one point to the next to achieve whatever the success of that interaction is.
This also comes into information and metrics and how you use them. All software companies end up collecting massive volumes of data, but not many know what to do with it. Yes, you could see it for some form of advertising or revenue purposes, but the bigger focus should be how you can use the data you are collecting to helping the end-user see how the software is working for them. And if your software is intended for a big corporate – even more so, as they will want you to be as invested in their success as you are about yours. In the corporate space, it's important to understand the core needs f your clients, what their business growth is about and then try and tie in how your solution can match and achieve that purpose practically - without using any sales pitches or marketing jargon.
And this should make sense, as, at the end of the day, the software serves the purpose of meeting needs and customers need to know that it is not just meeting that need, but perhaps ties into a great image or end-goal. And capturing and presenting data that showcases this both feeds your users ego and helps them see the value of your software.
It may sound like a cheap marketing trick to full people into using your software, but this is not the intention behind this. Most applications solve a real, complex need and you’re not cheapening the experience of your user experience but simply making your results more personal and relevant. And that relevancy is key. It makes the user see the value and feel important at the same time – and that connection with the core intrinsic values of users, is vital to their long-term engagement.
Don’t compromise on quality.
Many start-ups want to be quick to get out of the gates with their innovative software products and so rush their software to market. This might get initial attention, but users won’t stick around if the experience is problematic or buggy and so it’s important to prioritise you’re testing and quality efforts in this regard. This includes the way you think about privacy and security, performance, and most of all, ensuring that your applications work as intended. Yes, you do not need to get perfect quality, but if lots of small errors keep on popping up or – even worse – big things go wrong, people aren’t likely to trust your software too much more and you’ve lost a key component of your user-base trust. Respect your users – and that means giving them software that works.
This goes beyond just your own application though and includes your infrastructure as a whole, which is why it is also important to invest in the right delivery network, load balancers, ADCs, cloud pro ides and the likes, to ensure that you scale as needed to a changing user base. Do not underestimate the power of word of mouth. One bad user experience can prevent many people from choosing to download and try out an app, so get this right.
Attention to detail
Having a powerful app that solves a big problem and works well does not mean much if you get a person’s name wrong. This might sound like a silly mistake, but in all forms of communication, make sure you get certain aspects of your communication or product right. It is not just your communication though, though this will play an important part in interacting with your user base. However, it’s also things like the usability of your software, detail in the instructions and crispness of the user experience.
To a developer, these might seem like small things compared to the core code, but the truth is that these are the things people notice when they first use your software, and you want to get that right. While it’s great to be disruptive and offer something fresh to the market, people take notice of these small details and it makes them feel like it's software they can trust, rather than just another gimmick in a long g line of developers trying to make it in the market. Sure, there may be exceptions to the rule, but the majority of successful start-ups, have used a user experience as the driver for the growth of their software.
Just a small thing, but one that makes a big difference. Being honest and delivering on your promises is a rare thing and if you can show this, users and investors will definitely want to work with you. With everything from making promises to customers, investors or even just arriving at meetings punctually or getting back to customers when you said it would – they all represent a value in a brand that nothing else can provide and if you build a business that has this integrity, you will go far.
These things mentioned might sound like they are obvious. Yet I’ve encountered few companies that get it right, especially early on. And they end up not surviving for very long or take far longer than they should have to find growth and profitability. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a tech company that innovates but be a tech company that is built around the experience of your users and put that first over your own internal needs. That is the recipe to making software that will grow and resonate with people.