Recently, the first-ever director of user experience in a U.S. Presidential campaign, Chicago-based UX expert Jason Kunesh, presented a talk to the Bay Area chapter of ACM SIGCHI titled, “Politicos, Geeks and Kool-Aid Drinkers: Tall Tales of Design Chicanery from Inside Obama for America HQ.” During his prepared remarks and Q&A session with the audience, Kunesh shared personal stories, photos, and practical advice.
But first, what exactly is user experience design? Simply put, it’s a relatively new field that combines best practices from several other fields, including ergonomics, visual design, and human-computer interaction. Websites that have great UX are appealing, intuitive, and easy to use. Great UX also helps the user efficiently achieve their goals, e.g. making a donation or completing a purchase. Brick and mortar stores can have a great user experience too.
As the UX expert for Obama’s re-election campaign, Kunesh’s job involved some extremely high stakes. “It’s a $1 Billion dollar effort that lasts 18 months with only 1 success metric,” said Kunesh.
So what can we learn from these highest levels of practice for our own businesses and our own company websites?
Think about personas
Kunesh spoke about the different types of roles that existed in each field office using the campaign software. From the “foot soldier” volunteers who were knocking on doors to field captains who were charged with organizing shifts to higher-level leaders who were overseeing an entire state, each person had different information needs that the system had to address.
What are the personas who use your website or product? Do you serve both parents and students, beginners and experts, residential and commercial customers? Take time to create clear profiles of each major type of user to improve everyone’s user experience.
Build your ladder of engagement
For Kunesh’s work, the ladder of engagement was:
- Turnout (early)
For your business, it might look more like:
- Initial awareness
- Request quote
- First purchase
- Monthly subscription
- Refer friends
What information do your customers need at each rung of the ladder and are you providing the right information to help each customer advance one step forward?
Optimize for context
“What brought someone there? How can we connect people to a greater purpose?” asked Kunesh.
For a political campaign, it’s easier to point to the values at the heart of user action, but for any business, you can optimize for both the user’s immediate reason and their larger reason for coming to your website or to your business.
For example, you may have site visitors from wildly different searches such as “How do I fix my broken garage door,” versus “How do I turn my garage into a man cave?” Those two visitors are not only looking for different information (pricing, etc.), they are also looking for different values in a service provider, so optimize your user experience accordingly.
UX design best practices such as these are becoming more widely known, accepted, and used by organizations of all types and sizes in no small part because of the results they yield. Kunesh revealed that a single change on one Obama’s pages increased its conversion by 11%. Now imagine what that could do for your business.
Follow Jason Kunesh on Twitter @jdkunesh.