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The Secret to a Great UX

Susan Thayer
Mar 19, 2024

Many years ago, I was part of a team that designed a very powerful solution to simplify the call center reps’ lives. Because I make an effort to shadow users before I build a solution and work closely with business leaders, I was confident we had thought of everything and knew what questions or issues the user might have. The pilot went great and had rave reviews, so I was super excited to hand it over to additional users.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked to contact a rep who was struggling with the new call center tool. I go to meet with her, but before we can even dive into what the team has built, she first has to log in. It was a typical two-factor authentication. I explained nonchalantly to her that you just grab the code from the email and enter it into the screen. What I did multiple times a day without a second thought was completely brand new and overwhelming to her.

She was really stressing out about entering the verification code and asked me what happened if she did not get the code entered in time. I was speechless. It never once occurred to me that what I thought everyone knew how to do would cause stress and anxiety for the very people I was trying to help.

However, she was a bit older and less familiar with technology. She actually reminded me a lot of my sweet Grandmother. In fact, as I looked around the call center, I could see the whole room looked a lot like her. They looked nothing at all like the hotshot young rep who constantly exceeded goals and won multiple ’employee of the month’ awards that we had spent hours shadowing.

I learned some valuable lessons that day on user experience. As a result, here are four key things I keep in mind today when designing a solution.

Shadow The Right People – I realized that a big part of the problem was the reps that the team shadowed during discovery were the top performers. They were selected because they had been doing the job for years. But that also meant they were comfortable with technology and working at a fast pace. In other words, they were the exception. In reality, the average call center user had not been on the job that long, and the whole job and process are new to them. For true insight on the user and their pains, we should also have shadowed new hires.

Empathy – Once you have shadowed the right people, then you can begin to put yourself in their shoes and meet your users where they are. Get to know them, shadow them until their pain becomes your pain.

Assume nothing. There is a concept called Beginner’s Mindset that I try to adopt. By coming into a situation with an open mind and no assumptions, you end up questioning everything. This helps change your perspective and identify potential issues early on.

Keep it Simple – I ask myself; is it easy enough for my septuagenarian Mom to understand? Would a new hire off the street know what to do? If the answer is no, then I try to streamline the experience or add hover over help text or other on-screen guidance wherever possible.

We see it everywhere, overcomplicated forms that are unclear and too confusing. Just yesterday, I had to fill out an online form for a large corporation. After entering my phone number, I got an error saying I had to include dashes. This is obviously frustrating to the user. Had the designer shadowed users and had a beginner’s mindset, they would realize that many people enter phones without dashes and would have known to allow either format or to guide the user on what data would be acceptable.

In other words, the secret to great user experience is to understand your users so you can build applications that are frictionless.

About the author

Digital Transformations Practice Manager | United States
Susan is an experienced CRM and digital marketing consultant with nearly 15 years of managing discovery, implementation and strategic use of CRM solutions and related programs.

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