How can I design a better user experience?

As product managers, our lives are centered on creating a great user experience that makes our products a success. But how well do you know what that experience really looks like?

At this year’s Mind the Product workshop on Analytics and Testing, Craig Sullivan (@optimiseordie) recommended experiencing your own user journey as an important reality check. Only when you put yourselves in your customers’ shoes – at every step of that journey – can you understand whether you’re delivering the experience think you are.

Here are just some of the ways in which you can start to get a better insight into your products from the customer’s perspective.

Search for a solution to your problem

Your users’ experience of your brand starts way before they subscribe. What are you communicating when they first start looking for a solution to their problem? Your market messaging, search placement and advertising is generally the first touch point for prospective customers. Doing a Google search and reviewing these materials in the exact same way your customers would discover them can help you to discover whether that information is clear, informative and easy to discover.

Register for your product or service

The steps that allow prospective customers to become real customers – whether that’s creating an account, signing up to your service or getting in touch with a member of your term – are the most crucial. So try becoming your own user; your goal is to check that there are no unexpected barriers to that process. Is the button easy to find no matter when you decide to register? Do online forms seem clear and concise? What emails do you receive immediately after registration, and beyond? Does your site or platform prompt new users on what to do next? You know your product far too well to see what a real new user sees, but it’s important to be confident that everything works as planned.

Order something or complete a task

No matter what kind of product or service you have, try really using it. If you have an ecommerce product, add something to the checkout, process your card details and wait for your order to actually arrive. If you have an application, make sure it’s integrated into your daily life in every way possible. Look out for things that might frustrate or fail to make sense. Your own usage is not a replacement for good usability testing, but knowing your product in and out is important for achieving a smooth and consistent experience.

Try to find answers to a problem

Of course, a little roleplaying is necessary here because you know the answers (I hope) to your product’s inner workings. But if you take a look at your FAQs, is it easy to find an answer if you’re not the product manager? Do realistic search terms bring up clear results in your help section, or does a Google search index any useful articles? Understanding your user journey and helping your customers to stay on it is about preparing not just for when things go as planned, but when they start to derail.

Speak to your brand

You should be as aware of your product’s communication skills as you are its code. Tuning into your brand’s communication in real-time is very different to reviewing copy for proposed emails. Subscribe to your mailing list and follow social accounts. Does the information seem useful and interesting, or is something missing? Does the flow feel right, or does it clash across channels? And try reaching out to your sales or support team anonymously. When do you get a response? What does it feel like to be on the end of your support line? All of this is key to a good user experience that will keep your customers coming back.

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