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What is User Experience?
Rob Potter

At Finalsite we pride ourselves on collaborating with our clients to create amazing user experiences and user journeys. This week UX/UI designer Rob Potter delves into the differences between UX, UI and CX and why they matter.

The term 'user experience' was coined by Dr. Donald Norman in the mid-1990's, a cognitive science researcher who was also the first to describe the importance of user-centred design – the notion that design decisions should be based on the needs and wants of users. User experience is still a hot topic in web design.

What is User Experience (UX)

When we talk about the User Experience (UX) we try to take a look at the people that use a website, and their motivations for doing so, then we use this information to tailor an 'experience' for those users. That's the basis of UX design and by taking our focus back to the people that use the site we can create something truly unique and eye-catching.

Lots of schools have an objective for a new website when it comes to the design phase of a project. Here are a few examples:

  • To encourage current parents to use the site, increasing visibility of dynamic content such as events.

  • To grow the school's community and engagement through the use of portals.

  • To increase admissions by appealing to prospective families.

These are just a few common examples, but usually, there is a blend of key objectives that we try to identify at the start of the design process.  

By identifying our key objectives and using these to identify the audiences our site will appeal to, we can start to create an experience tailored to those objectives. Instead of just applying commonly used features or just taking elements from other existing sites, we can instead get to the root of a problem and create bespoke solutions for those problems.

UX design becomes a process of problem-solving as well as designing something that looks good. Our solutions then develop into experiences as we expand upon our solutions to think about how a particular set of users are likely to use a site, we put ourselves in the shoes of a prospective parent, of a student or of a member of staff, and think about how they would use the site, what are those users trying to achieve, what are we trying to tell those users.


What is the Relationship Between User Experience and User Interface?

It's very close! Unlike UX designers who are concerned with the overall feel of the product, user interface designers are particular about how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out.


Examples of School Website Designs Led by User Experience

Dubai College

The goal of Dubai College's redesign was to modernise the promotion of school through the use of cutting-edge dynamic techniques that would engage prospective families on a more personal and emotional level.

Dubai College took a traditional approach on their former website. With a very large menu structure and lots of links on the homepage, it became a site that wasn't easy for any of their users to use. It quickly became overwhelming and particularly difficult for prospective families considering the wide range of competition and a large number of competitor websites.

Old Site Homepage:

screenshot of dubai college's old homepage

Throughout the creative design process of the new website project Dubai College worked with their designer to create a site that provides an experience for prospective families, appealing to a child's interests underpinned by four pillars of academic, creative, philanthropic and sporting endeavour.

The site allows a user to select levels of interest in the four pillars, once selected the homepage content becomes tailored based on their level of interest in each area. This not only creates a tailored homepage based on a child's interests, but creates a memorable experience that sets the site apart from its competitors. 

New Site Homepage:

screenshot of dubai college's new homepage

The Oakham School website

Oakham School wanted a bold new promotional website that improved the reflection of its unique value proposition. Innovative design was required to truly capture the modern identity of the school, whilst still showing respect for its progressive history.

The user journey is at the forefront of the immersive design of the Oakham School Website. The website leaves an emotional impact on its visitors after only a short visit. The website's irresistible design is filled with persuasive calls to action. It moves prospective parents to view a digital prospectus and alumni to attend events and donate funds.

image showing the before and after homepages of the oakham school

The school also offers venue hire, and the website menu ensures this audience are promptly guided to the relevant pages. Prospective families are offered an experience that not just informs but entertains and delights with photography, videography and unique features including an animated arrow that playfully guides the audience to scroll down the page while serving them with a range of multimedia experiences.

So, Where does CX Fit in?

Now, that you know about UI and UX you have one more abbreviation to add to your digital vernacular - CX! Best In Class Companies optimize customer journeys - not just touch-points. Part of focussing on customer experience (CX) is to identify and understand the customer's journey. It means paying attention to the complete, end-to-end experience customers have with a company from their perspective. Too many companies focus on individual interaction touch-points. In contrast, a customer journey spans a progression of touchpoints and has a clearly defined beginning and end.

User experience deals with customers' interaction with a product, website, or app. It is measured in things like abandonment rate, error rate, and clicks to completion. Essentially, if a product or technology is difficult to use or navigate, it has a poor user experience.

Customer experience on the other hand focuses on the general experience a customer has with a company and can involve a number of interactions. It is measured by net promoter score, customer loyalty, and customer satisfaction.

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