Gemini Systems' Point of View: Exceptional User Experiences
By Slava Frid, Managing Director and Leader: Exceptional User Experience practice, Gemini Systems
There will be a lot of talk this week at the IBM Exceptional Web Experience Conference in Austin about omni-channel customer experience, responsive design, and other exceptional experience concepts. What we have seen in the marketplace confirms all of these trends, but there is something even more basic and urgent that makes up an exceptional experience for the end users.
IBM tools provide a great foundation for delivery of an exceptional user experience. What IBM business partners, such my company, Gemini Systems, can bring to the table is the vision and skills of creating experiences that are optimized for specific customer use cases. An exceptional experience is "simply" just the right information presented in a way that creates the least amount of friction in completing a task. There is no way that presentation will remain the same across multiple users, use cases, and time. What we need is that process of continuously approximating the next best interface based on actual user actions.
It's important to remember that the process of coming up with the exceptional user experience has changed over the years. People used to come up with one information architecture, one design, and hope its utility did not decrease over the lifetime of the solution. That cannot pass for an exceptional user experience anymore. We accept that requirements, and therefore solutions, exist in a continuous state of flux. Simply put, one design, no matter how gorgeous and well thought out, cannot serve the needs of all of your users for prolonged periods of time. In order to continuously provide an exceptional user experience, we need to have the following:
a technical foundation for rapid iteration and customization of the user experience
a way of determining what changes need to be made, and whether previous changes are working
a process to support the continued evolution of the system
Why do we need a rich foundation that is 80% of what our finished solution should be? You can certainly build everything from scratch, but that is simply not practical and cost effective for most organizations. What we want is to have a good-enough experience at all times, with exceptional experience for high-value use cases. An IBM-powered solution stack can give us that flexibility at a competitive price point. Partners and internal teams provide the remaining 20%, which provide the most exceptional experience and therefore the most value.
Knowing that we can create exceptional experiences isn't enough. We need to be able to determine what use cases need further work, what kind of work, and whether the enhancements are delivering enough value. The answer is analytics. Deep, introspective, A/B testing, covariant analytics are the lifeblood of the new development process. At Gemini Systems, we work with customers who are starting to schedule application improvements based on their actual usage. No need to improve a feature no one is even trying to use, and much urgency in fixing up a particular scenario implementation which sees lots of usage attempts but poor completion rates.
Putting together a metrics program is a highly recommended, necessary really, step for an organization committed to exceptional experience. Gathering and sharing analytics across applications and corporate groups will paint a true picture of what your users are doing, or not doing.
The third key component of being able to deliver exceptional user experiences is an act of will, more than technology. It doesn't matter what process methodology you use, but your process needs to support rapid iteration and deployment of changes to production and use of analytics to determine priorities and test out versions of solutions. Additional changes to how your organization does DevOps might be necessary to support an analytics and testing-driven Exceptional User Experience program.
Why should we go through all the trouble? Even if you do not care about your users, the economic case can be compelling. In one of the sessions here at the IBM Exceptional Web Experience Conference, a Forrester Research team showed their Total Economic Impact model which demonstrated multi-million dollar savings for organizations adopting IBM Web Experience solutions. Take a look at the following study to see if the TEI model can be used within your organization to build a case for an Exceptional User Experience:
Forrester Study: The Total Economic Impact of IBM Exceptional Web Experience