The omni-presence of digital solutions is increasing their footprint in our daily lives impacting and influencing our daily routines and activities (e.g. Waze, Mobile Pay, Podcasts). Thus, the increased presence and usage of digital solutions heightens the requirement for businesses to deliver impactful digital solutions that are user-friendly, add value, and ultimately, address end-user requirements.
To that end, in offering an effective digital solution, it’s critical that businesses:
- know and understand the user;
- determine the specific use case(s) to be addressed/solved;
- identify and capture the data required; and
- develop an applicable, user-friendly, and effective solution.
The better businesses can address these critical needs in their solutions will improve their overall efficacy delivering digital solutions, increasing and improving engagement with their users, and positively impacting their bottom line.
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.
Know and understand the user
I realize this seems very obvious, but it is extremely important to know and understand your primary user, the primary audience that will be using your solution. So, the question is: Who is your primary user? What do you need to know about your user? What types of user information is required?:
- Age/Demographic: Know your user’s age and/or associated demographic. As you can imagine, there is a big difference in user needs between a millennial and a Baby Boomer. Ideally, you’ll have several groups to consider. This will improve your ability to address any other nuances (e.g. user interface design, durability) critical for usage.
- Persona: An understanding of the user’s persona (e.g. professional, weekend casual) will give you a better idea on how and when your solution will be used. A professional user will use the solution differently than a casual user and have different expected results.
- Context: Understand how, when, and where the solution will be used/employed. Context will help you prioritize information display, user interface design, and expected output/outcome.
- Form Factor: Determine the primary device (e.g. Mobile, Desktop, and Mobile) to be used in the context mentioned above. For example, when I was defining solutions for a mobile and desktop solution for an airline, we had different requirements given the screen real estate available and the use case (e.g. Purchasing a boarding pass vs. Checking in for a flight).
- Comfort Level with Technology: Assess your user’s comfort level with technology. This will help determine how simple to make the solution along with any other guidance or tools the solution should provide to ease usage.
The best way for a designer to understand a user’s desired experience is to live in their user’s shoes for a period. This can be accomplished via A/B testing and situational use. In the case of the airline application, product owners simply went to the local airport lounge with their solution and sought user feedback.
Just as important to understanding the user is a measurement of user activity. The AARRR (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue) framework is an extremely useful framework to track and measure the lifecycle activity of a customer and their interactions with our solution.
Acquisition (Where are is our user coming from?): Acquisition refers to the phase when a solution (site/application) acquires a new user. For example, when a user creates a new account/profile, the solution just acquired a new user
Activation (Is a user taking the desired actions we want?): It’s not enough for a user to sign-up, we need them to participate and/or take action using our solution. When a new user performs an action we desire, we call them activated users. For example, the user is “activated” when they subscribe to receive notifications.
Retention (Is our user continuing to engage with our application?): During the Retention phase, we want our user to continue to like and keep using our solution. For example, our user will spend a lot of time on our solution if they continue to see and like content of interest and find the solution useful.
Referral (Is our user willing to recommend/refer our solution to others?): Your best customer is your existing customer so, who better to recommend your solution to others?!? If they really like/love your solution, they’re likely to bring in more users. Think of how you react when you hear a great song or eat at a great restaurant…you want to tell the world (or keep the secret to yourself).
Revenue (Are users willing to pay for our solution?): This is the ultimate question…knowing how much money we can to make because of the user’s activity using our solution. For example, how many times does the user execute transactions using our solution?
Determine the use case or problem to be addressed/solved
Identify the primary use case your solution is intended to address/solve (e.g. check-in for a flight, play music, locate your car) and how the solution can seamlessly fit into your primary user’s routine. Critical to the success of an impactful digital solution is not only an understanding of the problem your user is looking to address/solve but an assurance that the solution addresses it. A failure to prioritize this crucial aspect will lead to a poorly designed solution, resulting in minimal use, and lowered customer satisfaction.
Additionally, it’s critical to understand the user’s problem in full totality. For example, in the case of a flight check-in, a user does not simply desire to just check into a flight, but rather they desire to know and understand the full context of boarding their flight as they evaluate boarding (e.g. time for boarding, restaurants/restrooms in close proximity to their boarding gate, the fullness of their flight). So, as you design your solution, think of the desired end state for the user and how your solution can best meet this objective.
Identify the data required in your solution
In most cases, your digital solution will rely on data to be most effective, so it’s important to identify up-front what will be required. The data requirements will likely impact your design, data model, services/APIs, and, potentially, data security requirements.
Critical data elements to consider:
- Inputs: Specify what information your solution will need to get started. If we use flight check-in as an example, the digital solution will expect to receive your name, date of birth (DOB), flight information, frequent flier number, seat, airline status, and transportation security administration (TSA) clearance status.
- Auxiliary: Identify any other external information required to complete your transaction. In the case of a flight check-in, this could include airport and gate information, airplane information, and potentially, weather details. This helps you identify what data systems are critical for integration.
- Output: Determine what data your primary user expects your solution to provide — its frequency, and format. Going back to our example, once you check in to your flight, a user expects the solution to provide a mobile boarding pass detailing airplane and seating details, flight, boarding and frequent flyer information.
- Data Security: Given the increased challenges regarding data security, it is increasingly imperative to be aware of the type of data you’ll require and ensure that you are aware, enforce, and manage appropriate security/privacy protocols. Users need to be assured their data will not be compromised.
Develop an applicable, user-friendly solution.
As you develop your solution, ensure that you factor in all of the earlier points — your targeted user profile, expected frequency of use, user needs or problem to be addressed/solved, and data required to ensure that your solution meets the user’s expected requirements. Your solution will ultimately be judged by its ease of use, resolution of the user’s problem, and the user’s satisfaction using your solution to meet their needs.
To evaluate user-friendliness, consider using A/B testing or other comparison testing, and monitor user activity and user interface focus. Use surveys and customer interviews to capture customer feedback and get a true barometer on user receptivity to the digital solution. Honest, candid feedback by your toughest critics can enable you to develop an optimal solution. Just as importantly, your toughest critics can also become your loudest, most ardent supporters particularly, if they know that you have enlisted and addressed specific points raised in their feedback. Lastly, just remember you cannot please everyone…so don’t attempt to do so.
As a reminder, the intended goal of your solution should be consumption, usability, and efficacy ensuring that the user’s use case is addressed as simply and as easily as possible.
The increased omni-presence and usage of digital solutions has heightened the critical requirement and expectation for businesses to deliver effective and impactful digital solutions that meet user needs. The better businesses can deliver on this requirement may increase and improve their engagement with users, and potentially positively impact their bottom line.
To be most effective in meeting this requirement, it comes down to:
- an understanding of the primary user and their needs and a measurement of user activity;
- clarity and focus on the specific use case to be addressed/solved;
- addressing data requirements including security and privacy protocols; and
- ease of use, user satisfaction, and solution efficacy.
Your ability to address these critical points will result in an effectively designed digital solution that is impactful, meets your user’s needs, will be used, and improves overall customer satisfaction.