May 09, 2017
The user experience (UX) is the most important part of any project. Forget about the design, project management, engineering, or the technology itself for a moment. Yes, these things are important and vital to a successful project and experience, however the UX is more than that. There is no one solution to ensure a great experience. It is not only a “user-friendly” touch panel or GUI. It is not just the ability to walk into a room that allows you to “plug and play.” The user experience is all encompassing and different for everyone. How does a technology solution fulfill our client’s needs and enhance their experience? As you know, each and every client is vastly different from one another.
The user experience is about how a person feels when they use a technology system that we the integrators have installed. The UX is related to the usability of a system but it is not the same thing. For so many years the audiovisual industry has focused on the technology itself. How does this piece of gear make things easier for our customers? How can we simplify our customers experience? These questions are great but they relate only to the usability. A great user experience keeps our customers loyal and coming back for more. To define this, we must first and foremost talk with our customers, the day to day operators of the systems in question and discover the problems are they experiencing. What can we bring to the table to help solve these problems? Do not assume you know better than your customer. Each customer has a unique profile so take the time and listen! We must then take these profiles and build a solution that is accommodating to most users at the organization in order to deliver a consistent UX. This is especially vital when discussing the UX on an enterprise level. Once we know the problems and get inside our customer’s heads only then can we begin to build technology and systems that offer complete solutions.
The user experience is commonly confused with the user interface, or touch panel/control pad, the parts of the room that control the equipment. The most common mistake made is when integrators attempt to simplify their touch panels or add new cool technology to enhance the user experience. While these things will help deliver on the generally accepted belief that all systems should be easy to use, they will not always make an experience great. The overall experience is about standardization, ease of use, uptime, training, and the belief by the user that the systems will always work. We achieve this through understanding the client and utilizing the technology at our disposal. Great systems and a great experience will also have a ROI for our customers. They will see reduced costs and increased productivity when the all too common fear of the technology is alleviated. The clients must be able to navigate the technology solutions or the resulting disconnection of the user can be disastrous.
Let’s talk about the business case for a great user experience. We all know that many of our clients are price driven. Does this mean they cannot have a great UX because they can’t afford it? No, but it can affect it. Does it meant that by spending huge amounts of money on a design the experience will be great? Absolutely not. Focusing on the price may be the most unintentional of errors by our clients. We must stress that a quality system is about a quality experience. It’s about minimizing the time it takes to get a meeting up and running, and maximizing productivity. In some respect, you do get what you pay for but everyone must realize it is not all about the money. The clients need to be shown that saying yes to the latest bells and whistles or even to the cheapest option is not going to solve their problem. It is not going to allow for the delivery of a consistent UX or technology solution that is both reliable and repeated throughout the organization.
One way I have found to ensure a happy client is through a proof of concept, test or pilot room. By mocking up a system both the end user and integrator (even the manufacturers in some cases) have a vested interest in outcome. Why do I consider this a best practice? We can discover which features and technologies fit the goals of the end user. We can see how the various users will utilize the space and what challenges they will have which we did not predict. We can ensure adaptability with training prior to deployment on large or small scales. These are just some of the benefits seen that will add to the overall user experience. Taking that extra time in the early stages with the clients’ leadership and end users will be your most valuable asset. There is an inherent value to the sense of involvement a client will have by involving them earlier in the process. It will ultimately lead to the integrator solving a problem and contributing to the client’s end goal and vision.
As the AV integrator, we are the unsung heroes when there is a great user experience. However, as we all know, a meager experience is more than noticeable. It feels like the end of the world for both the user and the integrator. We must all do our part to help our clients keep their end users happy, set our clients expectations about price, and the importance of the experience. It is about adoptability, productivity, increased revenue, and decreased support costs. This will always lead to customer loyalty allowing you to make solutions that are reliable, repeatable, and scalable across the enterprise, large or small.
Now that you will be designing systems around the user experience first, you can turn your focus to quality management, process, and standards. But those are topics for another day…