Even though you may not be a tech company, in today’s world software has become a daily means by which your customers engage with your business. With mobile devices, your brand is now wherever your customers are. They need not be physically in your store, at your branch, or in your office to buy your product or receive your services. Interacting with your brand is as quick as the tap of a screen, anywhere.
This software that ties in with your products and services has become a major way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Having innovative features and a compelling design actually gets you new business in today’s fast-paced, mobile world. That’s because no one has time today to tolerate anything less than the convenience that good software brings. For example, a bank that provides a mobile app with the ability to deposit checks while on-the-go, or an auto insurer with an easy-to-use mobile app for documenting a collision at the scene will both get new business because customers are making decisions with their money based on the ease and accessibility that a company’s software innovation provides. Therefore, software must now be considered an integral part of a company’s brand regardless of what their underlying product or service actually is.
In effect, because of this new reality, software now is your brand.
Forrester’s John McCarthy and Charles Green have coined the phrase “software-is-the-brand” to describe such non-tech companies who are finding that their reputation increasingly relies upon the quality of the software they put forth to engage and service their customers:
It is the software that operates at key mobile customer touchpoints, defines the interaction with the consumer, and, ultimately, acts as the main product differentiator.
(Forrester Research, Inc., Non-Tech Companies Become The New Market For Software Product Development Services, August 2013).
Because software is now your brand, you must invest in it as a competitive differentiator for your business. This means much more than just another project for your IT department. You must consider software like one of your products and put the same innovation and design into it as you do your underlying offerings. A great place to start is by examining the user experience (UX) your software provides. Companies like Disney, Apple, and Starbucks are known for valuing customer experience above all else, realizing that creating a positive experience for their customer in turn creates a lasting relationship with their brand.
Indeed, because of the way Apple revolutionized UX with the iPhone several years ago by introducing a clean, simple, attractive, and ─ most importantly ─ intuitive UI, there’s now an expectation for today’s technology to provide a similar experience. An older, clunky UI that’s not user-friendly or innovative can actually drive users to reject your brand. It’s 2013 and mobile users no longer have the patience to struggle through inadequately designed apps and interfaces. If your software is frustrating, they can easily turn to another brand that gets it right.
Consider the following when deciding if it’s time to redesign your UI to optimize UX:
1. Does my UI appeal to my user’s persona and needs?
Conduct surveys and interviews to assemble information on your users, and use it to evaluate whether your UI connects with this audience. It must feel natural and intuitive to your customer base and it must delight them with unexpected features and clever design.
2. Does my UI help accomplish my business objectives?
What do you want your users to get out of their experience with your software? Your UI should guide them through the steps you’d like them to take in interacting with your brand.
3. Does my UI embrace the concept of less is more?
Designing a UI that’s attractive but simple is often more complex, but it will allow users to easily engage with your brand without having to stop and think, “How does this work?” Their time can instead be focused on your brand, your products, and your services, rather than spent in frustration that they’ll forever associate with your name.
4. Does my UI reflect the results of usability testing?
Consult the results of usability testing on your software to see how your users actually interact with what you’ve built, and then use your findings to direct your improvements.
Make software your ally in differentiating your brand from your competition. Investing in a well-designed, intuitive UI for software that provides a desired convenience will allow your users to have a positive UX when engaging with your software, reflecting positively on your brand.