The User Experience Blog

April 13, 2009

Benjamin Floyd, The User Experience. User Experience vs Usage

The “user experience” versus the “user usage”. Is there a difference? If so, what is it?

The user experience and the user usage are so very closely related that they cross over lines. Both can create new customers, anger customers, create customers for life or throw them off of the pursuit of a product/service/company (PSC). The user experience and the user usage each have the ability to create “non-paid champions” of the PSC. The other side of this sword is that with the social media phenomenon, the user experience/usage has the ability to create havoc creating “non-paid anti-champions” of the same PSC.

So what is the difference?

The user experience can be any PSC…online, in passing, an observation as to how an employee acts, a review in a magazine (they still exist right?) or more critically, the usage of a PSC.  Here are a few examples:

  1. A microwave at home is purchased because of the sale price, size, and brand name. Yet after years of use, the experience is negative and become more entrenched because of the poor placement and design of the most basic, heavily used buttons. Poor design has created a lifelong lost customer, all due to the user experience.
  2. Calling a corporate office of a national office supply. Have you ever tried to contact a district/area/state manager for a national chain? I have. I’ve even called the contact information for the home office. I have two choices: Have the local store manager pass my information along to their district manager and hope that they call (which they never did). The other option is to call the posted phone number for the national office which is an automated directory without a choice to get to the operator.
    The user experience is terrible because of the effort and lack of response from the corporation. Why is it that they don’t want to hear from their customers?
  3. An employee at a grocery store takes 3 seconds to read my name from my loyalty card and then thank me, by name, for my business. No cost. But a great user experience.

The user usage varies in that it is even a shorter duration to impress the customer or leave the company standing in the dust. And most likely this happens online. Win them over FAST or lose them forever. Here are some examples:

  1. A websites/program only uses acronyms that only certain users would understand. The uninformed or newly interested customer feels that the PSC is seeking only a qualified audience. Ever try using a user support forum for a major photo editing software company? The other support forum users are generally “elitist” in their communications to one another and the “newbie” is talked down to.  Why isn’t the company moderating the usage of the forums by their customers and swoop in with an experienced customer service oriented response for these customers?
  2. A product is rolled out for the world to come and use. The title of the product is stated in a couple of words. Yet the words do not match up to the actual outcome of the product/service. The usage doesn’t match the predicted/hoped for outcome of the PSC. The company was unaware of the different context that people were expecting and what was delivered.

The user experience and the user usage are closely related. Yet they are distinct. They provide the company with the opportunity to make a Word-of-Mouth- marketing champion or to create a lifelong antagonist. Either way, these are two very powerful individuals with a voice unheard of before this modern age of communications.

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