User Experience Is Never a “Size Fits All”
I have been having a very arduous discussion with my art directors colleagues about how we MUST never think that one experience applies to different products or apps or websites.
We have a client that had asked our agency to redesign three different websites with three very distinct audiences and users. However, the art director in conjunction with the account executive sold the client on a singular experience across all sites. Yikes! Off course this was done without consulting UX because this is not an acceptable idea. Would a good user interface designer or art director ever sell a client on an identical look and feel for three different websites with three different audiences?
Why This Approach is All Wrong
This is bound to fail. Applying a single navigational structure without considering who the users are or their needs and motivation is disastrous. Thinking that a hamburger menu on a desktop design will solve navigation for older generations is filled with false assumptions. All this comes from a lacking of understanding about who the user is really. You need perspective and most importantly, you must know: YOU ARE NOT THE USER. No matter what you may think — you are not the user. We designers (including UX) and product managers are too close to the product to have clear and fresh perspective.
How to Avoid this Mistake
We must understand the user first and have empathy with her. We can accomplish this by conducting user research and deriving personas from those findings. Personas are so, so, so, so important because they help us identify the user motivation, needs, and desires. Personas will contextualize the user as a real person for all of your team. The user is then no longer a stranger and a myth, she becomes identifiable and relatable and therefore we now empathize with her needs.
Finding the Right Solutions
Having real understanding and empathy for the user allows the whole product team to come up with really creative solutions. Thinking about the real needs of those sets of users can bring clarity and purpose to the design process. Designers can create better experiences and overall products when the solutions are guided by research.
Always Validate Your Assumptions
So now you have a solution that seems to fit the personas created. Although guided by research, it is still important to validate those solutions. That can be achieved through user testing. User testing can be done by identifying a handful of potential users that have no bias for the product or feature, and that can give guidance for the remainder of the design cycle. This will validate the assumptions made through design, and allow for any necessary modifications before it goes live to the rest of the public.
Great user experience happens when the user needs and motivations are explicitly identified through research. Great UX happens when personas have aided in creating empathy with the product team. From this, great solutions are derived and conducting user testing will validate the assumptions made about the user.
Therefore, no one in the product team should assume that one user experience can be translated across products. Just because a team member may think that a new trend is cool, does not mean that it will fit the needs of the user. Always remember: you are not the user.