What is UX?
Have you ever thought about how user experience can be applied in a grocery store? First, let’s start with explaining what user experience is. User experience, also known as UX, is how a user feels and interacts with a system. The system is generally a website, a mobile/tablet application or a software. UX designers study user behaviors and design interfaces based on how the users perceive and interact with the system. In the design industry, decisions are made based on only what the designer thought was effective and a good design, however, the goal of user experience is to create a system that is centered around the users’ wants, needs, and motivation.
Now you might be wondering how grocery shopping comes in the picture. User experience does not only apply to digital applications, but it can also be seen in simple everyday activities. Venturing into the grocery store is actually user experience itself. To demonstrate this, we will use Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb model. (http://semanticstudios.com/user_experience_design/) There are multiple categories that are used to evaluate the quality of the user experience.
One of the elements of having a good user experience according to Peter Morville is usefulness. On the web, the content and mission of the website need to deliver specific value to the target users. For example, the purpose of a Wikipedia page for Boston is to inform visitors on the history, statistics, and anything the city is known for. Looking at a grocery store, it needs to have all the essential products in stock. From simple grocery items to cleaning supplies, the store needs to have what the shoppers expect. Without the useful factor, both the grocery store and digital applications would be pointless for the user and thus a decrease in practicality.
Not everyone is a techie. Some people, like my parents for example, have no luck with technology. A good UX will take the majority of the population into account and design a site or application that is easy-to-navigate. Back to the supermarket example, every item in the store is strategically placed so that it makes the shopping experience enjoyable and efficient for everyone. The shopping carts, for example, are placed at the entrance and exit of almost every supermarket. This speeds up the shopping process, as the customers will not waste time walking around looking for a shopping cart. The generic placement of the shopping carts also reinforces a consistency between supermarkets, which satisfies the usable factor in the UX honeycomb model.
Not only does UX include efficiency, but it also needs to have desirability. Just having usability and usefulness isn’t enough in a design. We will use the toothpaste aisle at a grocery store as an example. Acquiring different varieties of toothpaste brands and type will make the store more desirable to different kinds of customers. From whitening and fluoride toothpastes to desensitizing and anti-plaque ones, there are all kinds of options for consumers. The more diverse the options, the more the store will be desirable for customers.
4. Easy to find
Users get frustrated easily when a system is confusing and that irritation is what decreases customer loyalty. There is a reason why most grocery stores have a generic layout. The fruits and vegetables section is usually on the side; seafood and meat in the back and all the other items are on placed on vertical aisles in the middle. Having way-finding signage also increases the usability of the grocery store. It allows customers to efficiently navigate around the store and quickly find what they are looking for.
More than 10% of the population in the U.S. has a disability. Nowadays, the majority of websites are accessible to everyone. For example, people with a low vision may use screen magnification that enlarges fonts or people with dyslexia may use audio outputs in order to process the content faster. Just as how websites need to be accessible to everyone, the same goes for grocery stores. Whether the customer is young or old, the store needs to be well accommodated for everyone, especially people with disabilities. A ramp and motorized shopping carts are needed as well. Items on the rack need to also be reachable for the average consumer. Thus, Accessibility is an important feature of a good UX as it is both good business and ethical.
Another factor to a good user experience is credibility. On the web, there are certain web elements that influence the users trust of the information given. The same factor applies to a supermarket. The credibility of the grocery store depends on not only what the grocery store brand is, but also what sort of products the store imports.
A good user experience design includes all these parts. These factors individually are necessary but only a design that contains all these parts is considered effective. Many people assume UX is only related to computers or digital applications. However, UX is needed everywhere, so the next time you go to a supermarket to look for your favorite toothpaste, think of this as an user experience.