As customer engagement with your brand becomes increasingly or entirely digital, the experience of connecting with your company has become the most important marketing investment you can make. Known as User Experience (UX), this goes far beyond visuals, following brand guidelines, or responsive design across device formats. In fact, high-performing companies know that UX should be approached like the science it truly is, and put significant effort into constantly iterating their UX, using brand affinity and revenue as measures of efficacy and performance.
A number of powerful tools and techniques are available to ideate and measure UX, and expertise in UX is on the rise although there is still a shortage of highly talented, proven UX thought leaders. In fact, over 900K+ people claim to have UX expertise based on LinkedIn® profiles, but multiple creative services industry experts believe the number of highly skilled UX professionals is closer to 10K, which is a significant deficit compared to market demand. As is the case with so many evolving facets of an increasingly digital world, there is an abundance of “conventional wisdom” and generally accepted “rules” that are often overly generic and a poor match for many businesses. So there remains a big challenge for companies to balance wanting to make rapid progress in UX while also being careful about expensive revisions or trying things that could negatively affect their business.
At Solace Digital, a pioneer and leader in UX for emerging brands, addressing this challenge head-on is a primary inspiration behind the formation of our agency. We have proudly hired the top 1% of design talent in the UK, who have helped our clients deliver breakthrough UX to more than 25M users globally through applications, products, websites, and innovative content that we’ve developed. In addition to our talented team, we have created an incredibly rigorous discovery and research process on UX projects to find the right balance of creativity, performance, simplicity, and fit for our clients. Beyond the discovery phase, the Solace Digital team also works with clients to actively measure deployed UX to continuously iterate and improve performance. Our team also invests heavily in continuing optimization of our processes and tools, along with continuing education. Solace Digital’s ambition is nothing short of being recognized as among the top 1% of agencies with a speciality in UX.
A “hot” topic for Solace Digital clients and prospects is UI/UX Maturity and how to benchmark progress to ensure continuous progress, efficiency, and ultimately measurable growth and gains in brand value. So, when we recently came across a UX Maturity Model from NN/g® Group, we were excited to endorse their approach and share the NN/g® framework, shown below:
For example, here are two hypothetical clients and how their UX situations and needs can be very different. For the Solace Digital Team, equal rigor, time, and up-front planning are required in both scenarios.
|Pre-Series A FinTech Starting with a Trading Application||Publicly-traded retailer with an e-commerce website|
|Primary application performance objective||Users make at least 3 trades per week||Affinity customers spend at least 100 GBP monthly|
|Primary UX objective||3 clicks to make a trade||Spend at 5:00+ per session at least 1*weekly|
|UX usage context||Smart mobile phone||Smart mobile phone, tablet, and laptop have equal usage|
|UX potential extensions||Adding additional markets for trading||Creating sub-branded micro-sites for popup brands, special sales|
|NN/g® Maturity Model Designation||Limited||Integrated|
For the Solace Digital team, the UX up-front investment in planning, research, ideation, and simulated use cases ultimately makes the biggest difference in the development of high-performing UX for each of these hypothetical clients. The “maturity stage” is helpful to understand the progress the client has made so far, but neither status allows for less rigor. Ultimately, the NN/g framework reinforces a core conviction for the Solace Digital Team – creating high-performing UX is a sophisticated, complex, multi-step process that requires expertise, rigor, real user feedback, and vision.
We also agree with the NN/g framework maturity approach, emphasizing that achieving breakthrough UX is a continuous journey. In fact, one of the scenarios we often see from new clients is a poorly performing “first UX” that was crafted with all of the right intentions and significant effort. In these cases, we reinforce that the client has gained valuable insight so starting over is not entirely inefficient, and that future iterations will always be necessary to keep the UX at a “breakthrough” level. Even for our clients who are at the NN/g “User-Driven” level of maturity, we are clear that they should still invest in research and discovery on UX to maintain the advantage they’ve created.
Whatever the stage of UX maturity and on any time horizon, few marketing investments will have a higher ROI than breakthrough UX. Once a proven, high-performing UX is in place, other marketing investments are likely to have a much higher return.