In today’s world where people are finding businesses through the internet, it goes without saying that interactive marketing and user experience design are increasingly important. When designing user experiences for people (users), you must respect the fact they are human beings and come in all shapes and sizes, and have all kinds of preferences, emotions, motivations, and values. In today’s world these human factors are typically less physical and more psychological. Almost everyone can use a desktop computer or a smart phone, but is the website they’re on pleasant, engaging, and simple? Is it frustrating or confusing? Is it appropriate for your targeted demographic? These are some of the most important questions in interactive marketing and user experience design. It’s not just about getting customers to your website, but engaging them with a positive experience that is memorable and keeps them coming back.
But how do you make sure that it is a positive experience? Beyond just the visual appeal, you have to understand your customers through research.
Doing Your Research
Research is very important in a human-centered approach, because it all begins with empathy. Empathy is stepping in someone else’s shoes and feeling how they feel, and experiencing what they experience – Even if it’s just a shade of it. This approach shows respect for your customers as something more than just “consumers”, and is the most genuine way to gain insight about them. Staring at data and graphs can only give you so much information. Many companies cannot afford to arrange in-depth research methods like focus groups, one-on-one interviews, etc. There is, however, some very powerful methods that are free, simple, and effective – Personas are one of them.
Personas are a very powerful tool for finding who your customers are and how to reach out to them. The idea is to create a fictional person that encompasses the demographic, attitude, goals, motivations, values, etc. of your target customer and then to build your design or marketing approach around them. They can range from an idealistic “best customer” to more of an “average customer”. The more detailed and realistic they are, the more valuable they are. You can’t target every single one of your customers individually, but by at least creating a persona, rather than just blindly marketing, you are showing empathy for them.
You may want to create a series of personas if you are targeting a very diverse group of people. It can give you insight in to why certain groups of people (like age groups) are not responding, and how you can improve your relationship with them. How do you create these personas though? Why not use another simple research method – The survey.
The Under-Utilized Power of Surveys
One of the easiest and most effective ways to gather both qualitative and quantitative information from customers is the survey. Especially when combined with social media, surveys can reach thousands of your fans or followers and give you very valuable insight on your brand, user experience, customer service, or anything you wish to know more about. Leveraging the viral nature of social media is going to be the big game-changer in the world of marketing. For example, even if only 1% of your 10,000 fans on Facebook fill out the survey, that’s 100 people – And that can give you plenty of information to work with. And what if 10% of your fans filled out the survey? That’s 1000 people, which could give you TONS of valuable information.
Some basic guidelines:
Keep it short – No more than 10 questions. Anymore and people will be overwhelmed and fail to complete the survey. Simple, straightforward questions work the best. People are impatient, and if they don’t understand the question they may lie or skip it all together. Respect their time and make a survey that takes no more than a few minutes to complete.
Incentivize – Entice your fans or prospective fans with a discount or coupon upon completion of the survey. This creates a stronger relationship between you and your customers. You are giving them a savings opportunity, and then fulfilling that promise, and they are helping you gain insight in to your brand. Win-win!
Mix in Qualitative and Quantitative – Having a healthy mix of qualitative and quantitative data is the best way to gain insight. They can build off each other, and having just one or the other can weaken the results. Combine True/False, Likert Scales, and Option Sets with a Short Response or two.
Have some Empathy, will ya?
Personas and surveys are just a couple of research methods in a sea of possibilities for understanding your customers. Social media is democratizing knowledge. People’s voices are being heard more than ever, and the companies that listen in on those conversations and respect their customer’s opinions are going to forge the best relationships with them. We are moving from an age of passive consumers to active consumers in which we can all co-create brands with our voices being heard. We are moving from a product-based economy to a service-based economy. Even if your business sells a product, what you really want to be offering is a service – Something that fosters a relationship with your customer and fulfills their needs continually. This shows empathy. This is the human-centered approach.