User experience -- the overall impression, interaction and satisfaction a consumer has when using a product or system -- is important to any website; yet it is often overlooked by product development and marketing teams. User experience is a subjective topic; yet a number of tips, tricks and basic strategies can be followed loosely to enable as positive an experience as possible. In ad:tech's User Experience session, the panelists voiced a number of different perspectives for achieving this.
Kathy Beymer, experience planning director at Arc Worldwide, explained the usage of experimental designs to promote a brand experience. She emphasized finding the value exchange for your audience by determining (1) why someone is coming to your site and (2) what you are offering in return. Kathy advocated balancing usability and innovation, which will require adequate budget and innovation to create a compelling site for a user. She noted that it may also require taking some calculated risks. Finally, Kathy emphasized the importance of tackling measurement from the full story: from web stats to the impact on brand perception.
Simon Smith, creative director of Adobe Systems, introduced the term "Adplications," advertisement that enable much higher levels of interactivity. Adplications know the person that is using them and ultimately can lead to a purchase or other activity. Simon pointed to the MINI Cooper website as one of the trailblazers in this space, as the site acts not only as a great source of content and a rich media experience but also engages users, resulting in leads. He quotes that, "…50 percent of the total leads generated come from MiniUSA.com." Simon went on to point to other automakers like Ford, which has followed the trend in providing users with a rich media experience that helps to sell its products.
Dan Evans, president of Critical Mass, pointed out that the average person is currently managing three digital devices, thus a user's experience is spreading out to multiple devices and platforms. He explained three tips for a better user experience which included the following tips: (1) Get inside your customers, (2) immerse yourself and (3) experiment/learn. Dan stressed the importance of lifetime learning as a crucial factor in the technology space. He also pitched embracing new technology as action items to the room full of marketers and advertisers, to better understand and embrace the current state of the online landscape. His "To Do List" read:
- Get an iPod to better understand media that includes podcasts and other user generated transferable content.
- Write a blog to better understand the tools that are being used to spread viral messages like wildfire.
- Subscribe to real simple syndication, or RSS, to be in tune with how it works.
- Set up a Flickr account to understand photo sharing and the social networking aspects of photos.
- Create a profile on MySpace, TagWorld or some other social networking site to see how it works and better understand how it could be leveraged.
- Expand your network from just instant messaging to other avenues through LinkedIn, Skype and other networks.
He said, "If you don't have the time to embrace it…hire someone that does."
Yosi Heber, founder and president of Oxford Hill Partners, rounded up the session by discussing revenue drivers that can be leveraged while constructing an excellent users' experience. Yosi broke down the user experience into eight milestones, which starts with the first interaction with a website and ends with developing lasting relationships with users.
The bottom-line: advertisers and marketers need to know their users so that they can provide them with what they want-- which should help equate to a solid user experience.
Frank Gruber began his career as a consultant for Technology Services Group, where he developed custom content management solutions for several Fortune 500 companies. In 2002, Frank moved to Tribune Interactive, and during his time with Tribune Company he contributed to several product development efforts for Tribune's 50+ websites. While with the Tribune, Frank received a master's degree in computer information systems from Northwestern University in the spring of 2005. Frank currently is the product manager for Classified Ventures' Apartments.com, where he focuses on product development and strategy for the consumer website. Additionally, Frank lends his somewhat frank perspective to businesses as a consultant focusing on weblog and web 2.0 development and strategy.