User experience is the tech world’s equivalent of offensive linemen: a thankless job of immense complexity and precision whose ultimate goal is to go unnoticed. In UX, like blocking, people only really notice when things go wrong. When things go right, a sleek, intuitive user experience can mean the difference between mainstream consumer acceptance or the short path to the large heap of has been (BetaMax, MS DOS) and never were (think: Sharper Image) technologies.
We spoke with Andrea Facini, Monster’s Vice President of Global User Experience, to get a glimpse into this critical element of the way we experience technology – and, by extension, life – every day. In case you haven’t noticed.
MonsterThinking: Talk to me a little bit about user experience. For those of us without technical backgrounds, what exactly is it and why is it an important consideration?
Andrea Facini: To put it simply, User Experience (UX) is the lens, or perspective, through which products are built. It’s the practice of developing an application or service that puts the user’s experience and need(s) first. Too often, companies develop products by starting with their existing capabilities to build a product without taking the time to really investigate what the need is first and what steps users must take to fulfill that need.
By taking a step back – which UX design dictates – considering the user experience needs first before thinking about features and functionality prevents products from coming to life that won’t quite meet user needs. In other words, just because a particular company possesses certain capabilities, doesn’t mean that using those existing capabilities to develop a new product will be enough for users.
In cases like this, when products aren’t developed with user need/experience in mind upfront, it’s much harder to get the consumer to say “I need this. I can’t live without it.” This is why designing and developing a product with user experience at the forefront is incredibly important to the overall product development lifecycle.
MonsterThinking: What are some of the most important considerations from an end user perspective when creating UX?
Andrea Facini: Good UX practices are those that drive the development of a product that will not only fulfill a need but will become highly desirable to the user. It’s the “desirability factor” that can become a huge opportunity driver (i.e. new products, new solutions, new revenue streams) for companies, if done well.
Take the Apple iPod for example. They approached the marketplace from an experience standpoint. Even though there were other portable music players already on the market, Apple thought there was a better way to approach the market. Apple’s approach involved introducing the iPod – a product that was twice as expensive as competitor products and had half the functionality. Yet, iPod killed the market, grabbing upwards of 80% market-share at one point – despite being two years late to the market.
How did they do this? Quite simply – Apple looked at the problem from an experience standpoint. They realized that the portable music player wasn’t just about developing a device with all sorts of crazy features, but it was also about how to manage and purchase music for that device (i.e. via iTunes). This is something their competitors didn’t take into consideration – the rest of the portable music experience.
Because Apple looked at the whole user experience upfront before introducing the iPod to consumers, they were wildly successful. It pushed consumers to say “I can’t live without it.” It wasn’t just a product they needed to use, it was a product they loved to use.
It was a product they socialized around – sharing song lists and showing off their newest accessory purchase to their friends – socializing around what essentially is just another consumer gadget. But a consumer gadget that was designed with the user experience in mind, first and foremost.
That is the ultimate goal for any UX practitioner – to create a product that consumers simply cannot live without and in return drives revenue several folds up.
MonsterThinking: What is so innovative about BeKnown from a UX perspective?
Andrea Facini: When you think about it, people really have just one network which is the sum of all the possible relationships you can have with another human being. It’s how we manage those relationships within our network that verticalizes them – colleagues are separate from friends, and friends might be separate from your workout buddies or your family.
But at the end of the day, we have just one network. In looking at the market, we knew that from a technology and social standpoint that there has always been a clear winner when it comes to maintaining and managing people connections, which is Facebook.
All we needed was to develop an application built on the Facebook platform that separates your professional connections from all of your other friends, enhancing those connections with unique tools and functionality which you would expect from the global leader in the recruitment space.
That’s how BeKnown was born. It’s the only way to truly manage your singular network the best – to allow for overlaps in your network, as needed, and to do so from a trusted and familiar platform like Facebook.
From a UX perspective, creating a ‘walled garden’ within Facebook for people to maintain their professional network makes a ton of sense. It’s a platform that so many are already comfortable with – a platform and user experience/interface they already love to use for managing their friendships. So being able to manage their professional contacts in much the same format appeases the UX practice of creating/developing in a way that will drive user adoption, and ultimately, will drive users to realize that this is a product/application/solution that they can no longer live without (much like the iPod).
Andrea Facini: As UX practitioners, the role we’re playing as architects and designers of an experience is becoming more and more relevant as a leadership role within organizations. We’re seeing more and more C-level UX practitioners popping up – chief designers, chief experience officers, too.
To convey the value of a new type of technology to consumers is really hard. It’s hard to grasp the benefits right out of the gate sometimes. But by leveraging user experience to tell the story, it becomes a much easier “sell.” As a result of that, businesses are recognizing that user experience is a value-driver for customers, a value that ultimately breeds revenue. And this is something we view as a turning point for UX practitioners both today and in the next couple of years.
The article was originally published by Monster Thinking Blog.