What is the User Experience Journey?
The user experience journey is a five-step model used to outline how a user experiences a product or service.
Introduction to the brand, associations, how to find the site.
- Drive – To
What is getting the user there? For example, ads versus searching, web versus print.
- Core Experience
What kind of experience does the user have while interacting with your site? Are they able to find what they need? Can they find your services, prices, and contact you easily? Or are they going to be met with a confusing and unpleasant experience?
When the user looks back on their Core Experience, how does it make them feel? If they can complete a task easily and efficiently, that will probably lead to a more pleasant association with your brand than if they became frustrated and confused.
How the user feels upon reflection is what retention depends on. It is imperative for retention that the user has a pleasant and positive experience when interacting with your brand.
Let’s Take a Closer Look
How is the user introduced to your company or brand?
The user can find you in multiple ways. The most common are recommendations and word of mouth, social media, and organic searching. How a potential customer is introduced to you and your services is very important. This is how they develop their first impression of you. This first impression is very important because it leads into the next step, The Drive-To.
What drives a user to your site?
How a product or service is introduced to someone can greatly affect their Drive-To. Positive reviews or recommendations in a time of immediate need or an ad campaign can drive a user to your site. This gives you the opportunity to convince them to invest in you and your company.
- The Core Experience
By this point your user has a first impression of you. If this is positive, they will be driven to your site. Their Core Experience on your site is just as important as the Introduction, if not more so. You must establish yourself as an expert in your industry and a source of quality services or products to hold their attention. The user should be able to find and explore information easily and efficiently. If they are unable to find what they need, complete a task, or contact you, they will drop off. If your site is poorly structured and designed, the odds are your user will become frustrated and leave your site for a competitor.
When you look at your site, you should ask yourself a few questions:
What is my goal?
- Do I want people to buy products online, schedule appointments, or come into my office or storefront?
- Am I looking to increase sales/leads or is this a place for potential customers to understand the company background?
What is the customer’s goal?
- Think about your potential customers, what their needs are, and what are they looking for in a service or product provider.
- Why do customers come to your site? Are they looking to schedule appointments, or to = view products or service listings?
How easily can the customer achieve their goal?
- Can the customer see a path to goal completion?
- How many steps does the user must go through to complete their goal on your site?
Once a user has completed their goal they should feel confident that your company is the best solution to their needs. This leads us into Step 4, Reflection.
By this point, the user has completed the Core Experience. For a poorly structured and designed site, this will end before they have completed their goal. If this happens, the user will have a negative reflection on not only their experience with your site but also their experience with your brand. It should come as no surprise that the goal is for the user to have a positive experience and a positive reflection. A positive reflection leads to the ultimate goal, Retention.
Retention and Referral is the goal of any service provider. It is self-explanatory that if you provide a positive and quality experience, users will refer and return to you for similar or other services you provide.
Let’s think about taking a family vacation. You know that you will need to stay in a hotel but you haven’t decided which one. With many options to choose from, how do you find the best one for you? You want a hotel that has great reviews, is family friendly, within your budget and proximity to the attractions of the area. You will probably find a hotel either through an online search, a vacation planning agency, or recommendations. This is your introduction phase. A negative rating, poor image quality or a positive recommendation can drastically change your opinion of a hotel. Once you’ve narrowed your options down, what ends up driving you to one hotel over another? This can come organically, such as the types of services that the hotel offers, or if the hotels are relatively comparable, it could be a monetary incentive such as a discount or special.
Flash forward to your vacation. You’ve booked a hotel, bought tickets for any attractions, and made plans with your family for the trip. This leads you to your Core Experience with the hotel. Over the course of your vacation, anything from the front desk to room quality can alter or enhance your opinions and experience. Did they offer anything above and beyond your expectation, such as a list of reputable sitters so that you and your spouse could enjoy a meal by yourselves? Once your vacation is over, these are the things that will stand out in your Reflection phase. These will affect whether the hotel has retained you as a future customer and secured a referral to your peers or not.
As you can see, the user experience doesn’t start once the user crosses your threshold of service. The user experience starts when they are seeking the service you offer. That is why it is very important to consider every step of a potential user’s experience to find you AND to ensure that their core experience is something that will retain the customer and result in a referral for future work.
The user experience journey operates on multiple scales. Your company’s website is most customer’s first experience with you. However, it is the first part of a potential customer’s overall user experience journey with you as a company and the services you provide. It is imperative that this first impression is a positive experience for the user to convert and for you to retain these users as customers.
Keeping in mind the customer’s needs help you understand how to objectively critique your site. For a successful, positive customer experience the user should be able to achieve their goals in an efficient, pleasant way and understand who you are as a company. The content and the way it is designed on your site should establish a feeling of security and trust. A customer should be left feeling confident that your company is the best solution to their needs and ultimately refer you to others with similar needs.