Six questions with Kurt Gannon, Associate Director, User Experience at Primacy, on the vital role UX plays and how valuable it has become to shaping brands.
- Tell us a bit about your background in User Experience. What brought you to where you are now?Kurt Gannon: It started with a box of crayons. As a kid, I was either drawing, or snapping Lego’s together. And I always crafted some crazy story around whatever I’d just spent hours carefully creating. Every character had a plot and purpose — the stories went on and on and on and. I feel like I’m still doing that today — sketching and snapping together the right pieces. Professionally, my path to UX has left me with a collection of hats I’ve worn over the years. I’ve dabbled in print, animation, illustration, UI, IA, front-end development — an eclectic background comes in handy. You come to appreciate the process, understand how things are built, and how to harness and shape the experience from different angles. I think that my background helps me understand how to get an experience to feel the way we need it to.
- How do you describe great UX and why is the role so important for success in the types of projects you work on?KG: At a minimum, UX should be invisible — the interface should stay out of the user’s way. It should be easy and painless enough to go unnoticed. At its best, an experience should be enjoyable — it might entertain you with quirky copy. Or hook you with a menu you can’t stop opening and closing. Or pave a path to completing a task so enjoyable — that you shared it on Twitter. From a process perspective — great UX can facilitate collaborative discovery, creation and testing processes. Putting teams face-to-face with users, fostering a unified vision, team buy-in, and an appreciation and empathy for the user. The UX role at Primacy is important to the success of our projects — because we’re in the business of creating great experiences. Whether it’s a marketing program, a website, a customer portal, an app or an intranet — UX is what we do. Every department, every job has an impact on the how a specific touch point will be perceived by the end-user/customer. UX sits right at the center — always trying to find new ways to add value.
- Finish this sentence: The most common misconception about User Experience is ____________. Now finish this sentence: The value of great User Experience most commonly overlooked is __________________.KG: The most common misconception about UX is that it is just usability - throw a usability test in at the end of the process, and we’re done right? (Not even close.) How “usable" an experience is — is a big part of the puzzle. But it’s only a piece of how a user perceives their experience. UX is an outcome — and it will be different for everyone. So it’s important to understand your users and their motivations — so you can make it useful and desirable. Understand their perspective on what you are offering — so you can make things findable. Was it enjoyable? Was it worth their effort? There are many angles to measure an experience. The value of great User Experience that's most commonly overlooked? How central it is to building a brand. Customers don’t keep their interaction with a site or an app in a box and they don’t compartmentalize their experiences based on channel or touch point. Their perception of a brand is shaped holistically. And it’s held to the same standard as not just the competition, but every other brand they engage with. So if the user’s experience is not on par with how a business wants to be perceived — we need to make it better.
- What common challenges and themes are you hearing from your clients?KG: They want to create meaningful impact — I know, that’s Primacy's tagline. But it’s true. Everyone needs their widget to do the right thing, at the right time, across an ever-expanding device landscape. And everyone needs to simplify complex processes and messaging — into a more compelling storyline. They probably also need it cheaper and yesterday. It’s all part of the puzzle. You need to know how to operate within the boundaries of an initiative — that’s where experience, and creative-problem-solving factor in. When to utilize best practices, when to break them. How to bend and adapt the process to get to a solution.
- What’s having the most impact on User Experience right now and in 2015? New technologies, tools, thinking, etc.?KG: Wearables, and the Internet of Things are here — and have a long way to go. It will be exciting to see innovation on that front. But I think the data that wearables, combined with more traditional touch points gives us, will be even more exciting. Data will shape story lines around individual users — not just user groups. What can we start doing with that context? How can we learn and proactively meet a user’s needs? That’s exciting. Factor that with what we can learn from customers — build upon emotional intelligence — it’s exciting. I’m also obsessed with micro-interactions. The little details that make the broader experience more enjoyable.
- What’s a must-read publication or news source for UX?KG: uxmag.com, uxmatters.com — those are great. But I have some other agency sites I love to visit — their content, seems to come from a more relatable angle. You can find great UX anywhere.