"UX" stands for User Experience. Essentially, what the person behind the screen goes through when they interact with your website or app.
Think about the last time you felt frustrated, mad, confused (or all of the above) while you were doing something on your phone or computer. Maybe you were trying to transfer money from one account to another on your banking app. Or buying something online. The person who built that thing that made you feel that way probably wasn't thinking about UX. They didn't consider the person behind the screen and what it'd be like for you.
There are so many considerations when building a website or app. The two that most people focus on are:
Make it work.
Make it look good.
Both of these considerations affect how you feel interacting with it. If it's broken, you get frustrated. If it's ugly and looks cobbled together, you might wonder if you can trust it. I really want to buy this sweater, but I'm not sure I should put my credit card number into this website....
Making it work and making it look good is a part of UX. Once you've achieved those two things, you are well on your way to a good experience for the person behind the screen. But not quite…
Make it easy.
Understand the people using your website or app and the tasks they need to accomplish. Transferring money from one bank account to another is a task. Searching for a product you want to buy on a website is also a task. If it takes me five minutes to figure out how to do one of those tasks (even if it works, even if it looks good) - yikes, we have a problem!
Often folks jump to the conclusion that making it easy involves "reducing the number of clicks." Nah, you'd be surprised how much clicking people will do as long as they feel like they are getting somewhere. And clicking is pretty easy - I just push down with my finger. Reduce confusion, not clicks.
How do we make it easy? Less confusing? Conventions, for starters. Things like using a vibrant color on our "call to action" buttons (like "add to cart" or "submit"), but nowhere else on the page. Making things we need obvious and easy to find...well, obvious and easy to find. But this is where it gets tricky - what’s easy for one person might be challenging for another…
Make it tailored to real people.
The #1 thing is understanding the type of people who will use the app or website: their background, experience, needs, behaviors, and goals. Research, research, research. We start by tailoring the experience for them based on what we know and then gain feedback from real people to flush out any pain points. That’s why taking an iterative approach to development is important: we can do our research, hypothesize, follow conventions and create what we think is the best experience, but feedback from real people is where it’s at!
Bonus: Make it fun.
Can it be fun to use an app? Heck yeah! You can build excitement for placing an order with digital fireworks or confetti. Gusto, a payroll and HR company sends out a celebratory email to employees when they get paid, titled "Hurray! You're getting paid today." Along with the details like check amount and links to your pay stub, they include "Happy Payday!" and a fun, celebratory graphic. From “meh” to “yay!” A black and white paystub is “meh.” A paystub that reminds you that payday is a nice day is “yay.”
It really boils down to empathy. Which isn't something we immediately think of when we hire someone to build a website for us. You're likely looking for tech skills - or graphic designs skills. But one of the most important ingredients to a successful website or app is UX - and ultimately empathy. Don't launch your website or app without it!