The user’s product experience has a very significant impact on user productivity, software usage, and ultimately a product’s profitability.
In this article, we will explore the product experience inside and out, including:
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- What the product experience is
- How users’ experiences with a product affects usage, user productivity, user churn, and other key user metrics
- The ingredients of a great product experience
- How to create usable, user-friendly products
Among many other topics.
We will start with the fundamentals – what the product experience is and why it matters.
Here are some commonly asked questions about the product experience, starting with its definition.
What does the product experience mean?
As with many modern-day business terms, there are different definitions depending on who you ask.
The best way, therefore, to understand what this term means is to take a look at some of those definitions and look for shared traits.
Here are a few readily available definitions:
- The product experience is “the awareness of the psychological effects elicited by the interaction with a product, including the degree to which our senses are stimulated, the meanings and values we attach to the product, and the feelings and emotions that are elicited” –IGI Global, citing Dr. Paul Hekkert
- Or it is also “the entire set of effects that is elicited by the interaction between a user and a product, including: (1) the degree to which all our senses are gratified (aesthetic experience); (2) the meanings we attach to the product (experience of meaning); (3) the feelings and emotions that are elicited (emotional experience)” –IGI Global, citing Dr. Paul Hekkert’s framework of product expereince
- “Your product is actually the complete experience and relationship you and your customers share.” –Brian de Haaff
De Haaff is the founder of multiple technology companies and author of Lovability, a book on products and product design.
In that book, he says that there are 7 main components of the product experience.
- Marketing – How customers initially become aware of a product
- Sales – How customers learn more about products, through trials or from sales representatives, for instance
- Technology – The core feature set of a product
- Supporting systems – Internal support systems such as billing, provisioning, and analytics
- Third-party integrations – How a product fits in with the existing ecosystem of other products
- Support – Training, customer support, and other activities that help customers achieve something meaningful with the product
- Policies – Rules that govern how a company operates and does business
De Haaff calls this “the Complete Product Experience” and explains that these correspond roughly with the order of the adoption process.
Because people are unpredictable they tend to adopt things “according to their own tastes and priorities.”
Organizations should be flexible enough to handle multiple adoption pathways while still delivering great, “lovable” experiences.
From these definitions, it is clear that the product experience refers to the journeys that users have with products.
It should also be clear that businesses should be immediately concerned with the product experience, since it affects their customers, clients, and end users.
Product experience vs. user experience: what’s the difference and why does it matter?
User experience (UX) is a well-known field of design within the software industry.
Like product experience, it is of immediate concern to businesses, because it involves end users and customers.
And, like product experience, definitions and models differ depending on who you ask:
- “User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function.” –The Interaction Design Foundation
- UX “is a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service.” –Wikipedia
- “UX best practices promote improving the quality of the user’s interaction with and perceptions of your product and any related services.” –Usability.gov
Usability.gov is a US government website dedicated to providing information on various UX-related disciplines, among other things.
They cite Peter Morville, who claims that user experiences should be:
Although we can see a clear relationship between UX and the product experience, they are slightly different.
In fact, product experience is just one of several design areas that affect the end user’s experience.
- The customer experience
- Interaction design
- Product design
As we will see, all of these areas impact user design and
Why should I care about product experience?
The short answer: because product experiences affects ROI.
A longer, more detailed, useful answer:
- The product experience affects how users interact with products
- Products that are useful, usable, and lovable deliver better experiences
- Better product experiences and user experiences translate into better bottom-line ROI for a business
However, product experiences aren’t just the concern of software developers and other product developers.
Any business that adopts a new product internally, such as a new software platform, should be concerned with the product experience.
In this case, the employees’ experience with that product will affect:
- How they feel about and interact with that new tool or product
- How long it takes them to learn to use the new platform
- Their overall proficiency and productivity with the product
- How fully and effectively that software platform gets used
Among other things.
In today’s workplace, digital software adoption has become the norm.
Because employees and customers are both continually learning and adopting new products, their experiences impact how well, how often, and even whether they use tools or not.
The User’s Product Experience Is a Strategic Differentiator
Today’s economy is driven by customers.
In an era where people have more choice than ever, the user experience itself has become a strategic differentiator.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Customers are more fickle than ever. In fact, a single bad experience can drive a customer away.
- All else being equal, experience is the only difference between products. If two products deliver the same functionality, then the product experience becomes the major differentiator between the two.
- The value is in the experience. Businesses should think beyond functionality, and begin redefining a product’s value to include the end user’s experience.
In short, businesses should pay close attention to customers, their needs, and their experiences.
After all, the experience itself is part of the product.
The Costs of Neglecting the User Experience
Poor product experiences and user experiences can have dramatic impacts in a number of ways.
For instance, for a software development company, bad experiences can mean:
- Higher user acquisition costs. Poor onboarding, for example, can increase new user frustration to the point where they give up entirely and abandon a product.
- Slower learning curves for new users. Inefficient training or product design can increase learning timelines, cognitive load, and user frustration. This, in turn, can cause user proficiency levels to plateau early on.
- Greater user churn (abandonment). As mentioned, poor product experiences – regardless of the underlying cause – can drive users away from a product.
- Slower business growth. Ultimately, poor product experiences can harm that product and the business as a whole. These can result in increased customer acquisition costs, slower customer adoption rates, and even product failure.
Or, in the case of a business that adopts new software for its employees, bad experiences can result in:
- Higher training costs. Poor employee training solutions or bad product design can result in higher training costs and technical support costs.
- Slower time-to-competency and time-to-productivity. Another consequence of poor product experiences is extended time-to-competency … that is, it will take employees longer to become skilled and productive with a platform.
- Lower overall proficiency and productivity. Bad experiences can also cause employee skill levels to hit ceilings early on, decreasing their lifetime contributions and productivity.
- More employee frustration, friction, and resistance. Users who have bad experiences will have lower levels of motivation, engagement, and satisfaction.
All of which have a negative impact on the software’s ROI and utilization in the workplace.
The Benefits of Good Product Experiences: A Deeper Dive
Effective adoption and experiences, however, offer a number of benefits, including:
- Greater user engagement. More engaged users – whether they are customers or employees – will be more productive and valuable.
- Decreased frustration and friction. As mentioned, poor experiences can increase frustration and friction. Positive experiences, however, have the opposite effect: more motivation, less frustration, and less friction.
- Lower abandonment and burnout. Ultimately, better product experiences increase user retention, loyalty, and satisfaction. Users will stay with a product longer, add more value to an organization, and be more loyal.
- Better bottom-line growth potential. The product experience directly affects the performance of that product – how many users use it, how engaged and productive they are, and the bottom-line returns of the product.
Clearly there are reasons to improve the end user’s experience with a product, but what is the best way to do that?