When I started my career in usability 14 years ago, the term “User Experience” wasn’t very widely used. Instead, people were more obsessed with the idea of “Usability” and the focus of most usability engagement was to make sure that website user interfaces were intuitive and easy to use.
Nowadays however, I find that the focus is moving away from ensuring sites are usable and more towards making sure that the overall website user experience is engaging and that is compliments our clients’ intended brand experience positioning.
The evolution of what User Experience means in the Brand Experience Economy probably has to do with two drivers:
- Users themselves have evolved. When we first started in the field, we encountered many “novice” users, who required substantial support when navigating around a site and when using functional elements. The modern user is far more confident to work their way around site though and are far more willing to experiment than users of old.
- The relationship between Usability and User Experience can be compared to the relationship between Customer Satisfaction and Brand Experience. In days gone by, it was sufficient for companies to focus on ensuring they delivered a satisfactory service experience to customers. Nowadays however, customer service has become a commodity and long term loyalty is determined by how deeply companies are able to engage with their customers on an emotional level.
I’m not implying that ensuring usability is built into websites has become unimportant. It’s still just as important to ensure appropriate information architecture exists and that page flow and functional elements are intuitive, but when spending money on optimising users experience, companies should be questioning where to place the strategic emphasis.