Building a product from the ground up is a hard thing to do. It is much more difficult when you are trying to make your customers love your product. Product experience is all about users. They should be the sole focus.
A product is not only a service or a technology that your customers use, but it is also the entire experience. Product managers think that only technology and the final product is everything, but they forget about the fact that it is all about users. If your product is perfect as it is but makes the users go through a sloppy process, then you have a failed product. This is why you need to create and optimize every aspect of the customer experience. Because customers judge your product based on each interaction they have at different steps.
Why is product experience important?
If you give your customers a terrible product experience, then they will never become your customer again. It chases away new users as well as makes them hate your product. They are known to increase the churn rate, reduce loyalty and decrease the Customer Lifetime Value. But if you provide them with great product experience, then it increases CLV, builds credibility, improves the scores of all customer experience metrics like CES, CSAT, NPS, etc.
A lot of products lack that punch because there has never been a lot of importance attached to giving the users a great experience while using the product. Having a great customer onboarding process is the start towards having a fantastic product experience. A customer should be able to use the entire gamut of functionalities without feeling exhausted and confused at any point of time.
With subscription models gaining mainstream, it is all the more easy for your customers to leave you for a competitor. Even a free product should be able to deliver on the product experience front.
Who is part of the product experience?
Product managers are the ones who are solely responsible to enhance the product experience. The UI/UX and design employees form a part of it. They are the ones who need to create an interface which is optimized from the perspective of a customer. In fact, anyone who is a part of the product building phase is responsible for giving a smooth product experience.
If your company works in silos, then destroy that setup and work together as a team. There should be information exchange among different departments in your company so that everyone is in the know. There are departments like sales and customer care which are not part of the product team but are more likely to interact with the customers on a more personal level. Why not include them in the product experience as well because they would have a lot to offer since they would have spoken to thousands of customers over time.
Marketing teams are also resources that can give great perspectives because they know the kind of content and messaging that works and how a new feature will be welcomed or taken advantage of by a user.
Here’s another thing that a lot of businesses miss. Customers. Ask your customers too. Bring them in for Focus Group Discussions, interview them, get on a phone call with them, send them a survey using SurveySparrow, and so on. to pick their brains. Their insights will hold a lot of weight as they are the ones who will be using the product for real.
Elements of creating a terrific Product Experience:
Getting an opinion from customers when launching a product should be the first thing that comes to a business’ mind. You can use various channels to collect feedback from customers. If you have an email list of customers, then using an online survey tool like SurveySparrow is the easiest thing to do. It could be in the form of surveys, interviews, emails, etc. Not only should you get feedback from prospective customers, but also from the ones who are not part of your buyer persona. You will never know the kind of unique perspective that you can get from someone.
Collecting feedback should be a regular affair. You should have a plan when it comes to using the feedback that you got from your customers. Close the feedback loop by checking back with your customers as to why they gave a particular rating. When you do this exercise, you will not end up making the product experience better, you will also create a better relationship with the customer.
2. Product Vision
Before you start building a product, you need to understand what is its relevance in the world. This is how you create a product vision when you can look at it objectively as a third person. You need to get your goal clear. Without it, anything you build will be the final product. A design project needs a vision that clearly outlines the direction and guidelines so that it does not go out of order. It will also help you understand the essence of the product so that you can have a clear roadmap as to what is necessary. It helps you define what is necessary for the project and what is not. When you have a clear vision, you will be able to outline the exact elements that will make up the perfect product experience for your customers.
3. Product Value
Understanding the benefits that your product brings into the game will be extremely useful when there is discussion as to which way to head the product. Here are the key aspects of the product that you should think from all angles: What is the product? Who is it for? What benefits do they get from it? When will it be useful? Where will it be used?
To sharpen the vision of your product, we advise you to look at your product from a 360 degree viewpoint. Even before you start working on the product, can you imagine giving an interview to a top publication about the benefits associated with your product? That’s how having a clear vision will help you to ideate and build. You can use this interview also as a reference when you start working on the product.
Once your vision is clear as to what you want to build, the next thing is to work on the research for the product. The time that you spend researching will always be useful at some point or the other. When you do the heavy lifting with respect to research, your product will come up extremely refined. With proper research, you will be able to save a lot of time and resources instead of working on something that never materialised.
When there is proper research involved, it becomes easy to convince the other stakeholders about the efficacy of the product. With every extra minute spent on research, you will be making your product’s foundation stronger. When you are researching your product, invest a lot of time in creating a great user experience. With user research, you will be able to find out what exactly they want, why they want a particular feature and how you can improve upon the existing solution.
5. Analyzing the users
Once the research is done, the next step is to use the research that has been collated and collected. At this phase, you need to derive insights from the data collected during the previous phase. Based on the user research, you will be able to find what users want, why they think a particular way, the benefits that they want, features that they are looking for in a product, and so on.
It is worth creating buyer personas so that your research and the final outcome is more refined. Personas help product teams understand the various ways in which their expectations are moulded. Spend time on understanding the ‘why’ for the customer, what motivates them, etc.
6. Idea Generation Process
At this stage, the different team members sit and discuss the various ideas that have been fielded. At this stage, not only do you work on things that address product goals but also find out if the generated ideas are in alignment with the design.
Here’s a powerful process that can be useful at this stage. Create a customer journey map. It is basically a visual representation of the different things that a customer does before he/she accomplishes the goal. It should be understandable for everyone involved so that they can take inspiration from it or offer suggestions that would improve the present scenario.
A user journey will have only one user, one goal and just one scenario. So you need to be creating multiple user journeys or a complex user journey so that you can take different scenarios into account.
7. Information Architecture
It is the structure of a website or an app. It helps the viewers understand where they are and how they can manipulate to go to their desired destination based on their incumbent position. Without information architecture, it would be impossible to know how to categorize or navigate on the website. You can either sketch it or wireframe it using software.
Ensure that the wireframes you build are simple in nature. Annotate them so anyone who sees it for the first time would be able to understand without much of an explanation. Remember that wireframes are not useful for product testing, but they help during the design process.
8. Design Sprint
Once we have a bunch of ideas to present, the next step is to validate them. If we keep them for long, it will end up being a waste of time and energy. How do you validate design ideas as soon as possible? An idea that is well executed is a blessing but a bad idea no matter how good the execution is not useful.
If you want to distinguish a good idea from a bad one, then you should use a technique called design sprint. It is a framework for validating ideas and breaking down challenges. Design sprints help you quickly create a product’s future state and helps you validate it with a group of stakeholders, users, developers and designers. With this, you will have a team that is working rapidly to design a product.
A prototype or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is the basic barebones prototype of your idea that you can show to stakeholders before building the entire solution that will be available to the public. You will only be creating a few parts of the product that is most essential. It will go through a lot of iterations and the final product is taken over by the development team. There is a process called Rapid Prototyping which is an efficient prototyping process and has three stages to it: 1. Prototyping, 2. Reviewing, and 3. Refining.
In the first stage, the initial prototype is created. They are then sent to review for various stakeholders and feedback is collected immediately. Based on this feedback, the existing prototype is worked on to make it better.
10. Ready for production
Once the prototyping stage is over, the design is handed over to the developers for coding. During this stage, the designer should clearly communicate how each portion of the design looks and works. In fact, this is a major part of the process for which you need to spend a sizeable amount of time so that there is no mismatch in expectations at all.
Provide developers with a design specification document which will outline everything about the product, user interface design details, workflow, behaviours, etc. Developers use this document to take the design into the final production.
11. Testing and validating the product
At this stage, it is all about ensuring that the product works in alignment with the expectations of the business. There are high chances that the product might not come out the way you intended it to. That is all right and it always happens because information sharing isn’t perfect across all levels. You can use this as a learning phase too. If there is any flaw with the final product, then you need to go back to the backburner where you will work on improving the product.
The testing of the product should be done with the product team, real users, stakeholders, employees from different departments, etc.
Once the product is being used by customers around the world, you need to know what they are doing with it. Using an analytics tool helps you understand how people are using your product. Metrics like clicks, time spent, bounce rate, navigation time, searches, etc, will help you understand the user more. It will also help you unearth information that you would never have realized until now. Use analytics to track customer satisfaction as well. For example, if you see a customer visiting the app every day but happens to close it at a particular page, then there might be a problem that they are undergoing.
When it comes to product experience, there are so many things that form a part of it. It is based on what your customers want, the amount of time you have (deadlines can be a problem), budget of the customer and your capabilities. Product experience should be customized to the ones who will eventually use it. If there is a time constraint, then you should work on the best possible outcome with the belief that you can work on the design constraints as time passes.
The design process for the online world is completely different from print design. There are a lot of differences not only in terms of implementation but also in terms of the processes followed. You can never get everything right from the word go! You need to have an attitude of continual improvement. Ensure that you keep your ears to the ground by collecting feedback regularly from your customers using online survey tools like SurveySparrow. Use the results from the survey to improve upon the product so that it is extremely valuable to the users.
The most important thing that you need to remember is that the product is not designed to satisfy the ego of a designer. It is solely for the end-users. If you want to build great products, you need to ensure that you are providing the best experience for your users.