Using the user experience

Comms Consultant

Running a web persona developing workshop for a client recently, I was struck again by how the principles of user-centric design and the user experience really apply to every kind of interaction we have in the world certainly, those between an organisation and its audience.

Understanding users (audiences, customers), what they need and the touch points of their interactions with you can have a huge impact on the success of an organisation.

And it's when an organisation doesn't think about the user experience that breakdowns in customer loyalty and service user confidence arise.

For an example very far away from web design: in hospitals, it's often the case that patients newly diagnosed with serious illnesses must attend heavily over-subscribed clinics to see their consultants and often spend hours waiting for their appointment. Whereas further down the line, when they're better and attending a periodic check-up the waiting room is empty and they breeze straight through.

From the point of view of the doctors, this is merely unfortunate: it's a scheduling issue, they're only able to hold clinics once a week and if lots people are sick and need their attention, they will just have to wait their turn. From the patient's point of view, however, this is a time when they're often severely unwell and distressed. Spending hours in a waiting room only adds to their misery.

Obviously there are other issues to consider resources being the primary one. And I suppose you could argue that it doesn't matter to the "business" (the hospital) if patients are unhappy because "happiness" isn't what they're in the business of delivering.

But a focus on the user experience (seeing the same doctor rather than different ones each time shorter waiting times, information displays telling you how long you need to wait for, enough seats to accommodate everyone, etc.) helps patients to feel well looked after, which boosts their confidence in the service, so they're easier to treat, and they say good things about it to their network which of course does wonders for the hospital's reputation. Which is invaluable.

Politics and the type of democracy we have is another example but that's a subject for another time.

The point is, user experience is key to any successful "product". It's where content and design connect the "what" and the "how"of any interaction we have or object we use. It's also key to every fruitful relationship between an organisation and those it serves whether it's a hospital, a supermarket or a website.

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