9 Important UX Terms You Need To Know as a Solopreneur
When people ask me what I do, I tend to say something like, "I'm kinda like a web designer." That's because my actual title, "UX designer", leaves people tilting their heads, scrunching up their noses, and nodding, "huh". Most people don't get it. And I totally understand. My job description is inherently filled with jargon.
Unless you've been in the tech / startup space, you probably haven't heard of UX and, if you had, you may just have a vague idea of what that means. People in our world of online entrepreneurship tend to think that user experience only matters to techie people and that it's not important to the rest of us. This makes me throw my hands up in frustration and yell at the internet gods!
You need to establish the headquarters of your online empire.
The truth is, your Facebook Business page with 207 likes isn't going to cut it. You need to establish the headquarters of your online empire. More than that, you need to establish yourself as a credible business.
As an online creative entrepreneur, your website is your biggest asset. It's your digital store front and it needs to welcome your visitors and encourage them to buy.
So, if your website is unclear, unfocused, and not user-friendly, then you've got a problem.⠀
When your website is an afterthought, it shows.
- When your website is frustrating to navigate and isn't user-friendly, you're losing potential clients.
- When your website fails to showcase you as a thought-leader in your industry and doesn't immediately tell me who you are and how you can help me, you're losing leads.
- When your website looks like shit on my phone – you guessed it – bye, bye.
You need to invest real time and effort into the function and messaging of your website if you want clients to invest in your business. And that means taking some time to understand user experience.
In this post, I want to give you a jargon-free overview of what user experience is and why it's so gosh darn important for you as a solopreneur.
1. User Experience (UX)
Now this is a term that I've seen defined in countless ways depending on the publication. But, for me, user experience is the cumulative impact that all your touchpoints (in-person or digital) have on your audience and the impression that they form based on that experience.
For online, service-based businesses that means that your website is a primary component in user experience. And before your visitors even read a line of copy, they're forming an impression of your website and your business credibility.
Now that you've got a better understanding of what UX is and why it's so fucking important, here are a few UX tools that will help boost your business to the next level of success:
2. User Research
Before you start selling something you need to know what your audience needs. You don't start with what you want to make and then go out and try to find people to buy it. You start with your people and research their pains and problems and then offer them a solution.
That's where User Research comes in. User Research is the gathering of information and data as it pertains to your end user and her pains and aspirations. As an online entrepreneur, I like to conduct preliminary user research in Facebook groups.
No, I'm not talking about creating polls or asking for feedback. In the user research phase, we're just listening. That's why I call this "listen-only mode".
First, go into a few FB groups that you think your target market is hanging out in. Then, search those groups for phrases like:
- "how do you"
- "how to do"
- "I can't figure out"
- "I keep getting stuck"
- "I hate it when"
- "all I want is"
- "I wish someone would"
- "please help"
Take screenshots or copy the comments into a spreadsheet. This is your user research and it will form the basis of any product or service offerings you come up with. This research is also a treasure trove of customer language to use in your sales copy.
3. Customer Discovery Interviews
Now that you've got an idea of what people want, I encourage you to have actual conversations with some of those people. By talking to your ideal customer, you can go much deeper than a social media post or even a survey. People will say things in conversation that they may not think of when filling out a survey. And, you can ask them to go in-depth or clarify any answers.
The point of customer discovery interviews is not to pitch your offering but to listen, to develop a complete understanding of how this problem is affecting this person's life, and the note the language they use when talking about it.
When it comes to Customer Discovery Interviews, you can stick to the standard interview questions or format your own. But, if you're making your own questions, check that they're not asking for a yes/no response and that they're not leading the interviewee into a particular answer.
Here are the seven questions I use when conducting interviews:
- What is your biggest frustration, in terms of your business, right now?
- What, specifically, is difficult about that?
- Have you tried anything in order to solve the problem?
- Why didn’t that work?
- In an ideal world, what would be different?
- How would things change for you if this problem were solved?
- Have you spent money on this before?
A persona is a profile of your one ideal customer. It is usually a fictional character created based on your user research and interview data.
Personas include a picture of the customer, their name, occupation, goals, motivations, frustrations, and a brief bio. You can also include adjectives that describe their personality, their level of technology savvy, and other demographics.
This is an example of a template I made for creating personas in Sketch (my preferred web design app).
5. Empathy Map
Personas are all well and good. And I'm sure you've seen these around the internet in some incarnation. But, what I find to be much more helpful is to create an empathy map.
An empathy map is like a persona in that you're creating it based on your user research and basing it on a single ideal client. But, rather than creating fictional demographic details, empathy maps focus solely on 7 things:
- What is she thinking / feeling?: What matters to her? What does she spend her time thinking about? How does she feel about her current situation and how does she want to feel?
- What is she hearing?: What are her friends and families telling her? What is she hearing from influencers or media channels?
- What is she seeing?: What's she seeing in her environment? In the media? From competitors?
- What is she saying?: What is she saying in public forums? How is this different from what she says to herself?
- What is she doing?: What's she doing about it? How is she acting in public? Do her actions align with what she's saying?
- Pain: What are her pains? What is she struggling with right now?
- Gain: What are her desires? What does success look like?
6. User Flow
A user flow is a chart that shows how a user moves through your website going from a specific entry point (a Facebook ad, a landing page, your home page) with a specific end-goal in mind.
For example, I want to hire a copywriter to revise my sales page copy for under $300 and someone in a FB group directs me to a copywriter's homepage. So, my user flow would be all the steps between that homepage and my objective. I'd go to her Services page, click on the sales page copywriting service, check that the price was in my range, click the button to apply, and fill out the inquiry form.
7. Customer Journey Map
Not to be confused with a user flow, a customer journey map is a chart or roadmap that defines a user's objectives, thoughts/feelings, and potential barriers as she travels through each phase or touchpoint along the customer journey. These phases can be whatever you decide, but the most standard ones would be:
- Awareness - the user is aware of a problem and she is searching for a solution
- Research - based on her research, she will evaluate the various solutions available
- Choice - she may experiment with a couple of options before choosing one solution to go with
- Purchase - she buys the solution that she chose
- Use - after purchasing the solution does she use it?
Customer journey maps are great for crafting an excellent customer experience. At each phase of progression, ask yourself, "how can I support my customer at this phase in her journey?".
Wireframes are my favorite design secret. They are like your website blueprints. You take your copy and lay it out exactly as it will be on your website, using placeholders where specific images or graphics will go, and keeping everything in grayscale (no color at this point).
By taking out the stress of defining a color palette, choosing the perfect fonts, and getting professional photos, you can focus on designing the best experience for your audience based on your business goals and their needs.
I always start a website project with a content-first design approach using wireframes to craft the blueprint.
9. User Testing
Sometimes I'll start user testing after the wireframes are finished to make sure that I've laid out everything in the most user-friendly way. Other times, I'll use it to determine the best colors to use for buttons or headers in the design phase.
User testing is when you ask a tester to do one or more tasks on your website. Then you watch what they do and how they do it, and you listen to what they say while they're completing the task. This provides valuable information about how your website is being perceived, how user-friendly it is, and where any improvements or adjustments need to be made.
The idea here is to reduce friction.
You want it to be as effortless as possible for your website visitors to fulfill their objectives (and end up in your customer pipeline).
My go-to tool for user testing is Usability Hub (a paid, but affordable, service that allows you to test specific aspects of your website from a chosen demographic).
Now, there are many more strategies that make up User Experience, but these are my favorite and most used tools.
I realize I just hit you with A LOT of new information. The key is to realize that UX is sort of like a toolbox and the strategies within it are tools. When you go to start a project, you don't usually need all the tools, sometimes a hammer is enough.
So don't get overwhelmed. Just keep these strategies in your toolbox and use them as needed.