10-18-2018, Web Development
by Antoni Zolciak
Viewer Experience. A new UX is here
Do you remember the early use of the internet for business? Everyone was curious about how this beeping new medium could help their businesses grow. Those which understood it early and got it right are now gigantic brands.
But how did the websites look back then? Well, ugly. By all standards. Even by those of the 90s. And if ugly was the only thing. They were also hard to use, illogical. Had some links, some huge banners, and buttons, and whatever seemed ‘cool’ in the web creator. Or worse – what just happened to show up in the browser after it was written in Notepad. After all, you just bought a software in which you could use predefined design blocks and templates (who remembers Macromedia Dreamweaver?), the coding magically happened underneath, and that was pretty much it.
It’s crazy that there is still a part of the web which still looks the same. But we’re not here to become Z players. We want to deliver the best experience, right?
What Brought the Change?
The web design changed fast and dramatically. Big brands saw that websites can’t be separated from the brand identity. If the brand is there to represent values and emotions, there are no exceptions – every asset created by the brand needs to follow the same guidelines.
That’s why businesses invested more and more into their online presence in mid-2000s. They were thinking carefully about the visuals. Up to the limitations of the HTML. More images appeared on the web. Those, who wanted to create more attractive, animated pages went for Flash. But the results still were to be improved. As the connection wasn’t fast enough, the experience wasn’t perfect.
Guess What? You Can Measure Things
So, it happens that the digital space has a major advantage over traditional channels like TV, newspaper or outdoor banners. You can measure almost any aspect of your digital efforts. Behind the statistics is the feedback from real people. They show you what is more attractive and what’s not. What might support the business goal and what might not.
And from this combination – the drive to create beautiful brand assets, the ability to measure their performance and get the feedback the UX has emerged. The web analytics guided designers and developers to not only create good-looking visuals, but to create the perfect user experience. With numbers in mind and design at heart, web designers can optimize the experience to guide visitors to complete their desired actions quickly.
UX is at the brink of art and science. It’s about making a scientific research and carrying out experiments to create art that is useful and helps drive business goals.
UX Is a Standard Now
Now, if you want your website to be found and deliver leads or sales, you simply can’t ignore the UX. It just has to be there.
To get the users to complete certain actions on the website, they have to find it first. That’s where Google comes in with its indexing algorithms and crawling bots. Apart from the query itself and the relevance of the content you provide, Google requires you to provide a proper user experience.
As their bots crawl your website, they check whether the loading time is short, the images are properly described, what’s the experience on mobile and so on. They are the requirements that your website needs to meet, but they all are coming deeply from the UX.
The performance is really important now. Users naturally link your brand with the experience they get in your app or on the website. If their experience is below the expectations, they’ll value your products and services less.
Video for the Results
Just as UX revolutionized the approach to building apps and websites, there is a new movement to change the way businesses produce videos. But before we jump into this, let’s understand why is it aimed at video.
Video has become a crucial part of the online experience. It is the preferred source of information. Have a complex product that requires a bunch of text to explain it? Put a video that summarizes its features and benefits and observe the results. It’s likely that the page will drive more conversions with the video.
Why? Video corresponds more to our human nature. We communicate with motion and voice. This is easier to comprehend than text. This can create an emotional connection which leads to being memorable.
There’s more. We don’t need any special device dedicated to watching videos. All that is necessary to watch video is in our pockets, on our desks, and on TV tables. Thanks to video digitalization, accessing such materials has never been easier.
Today, we are often overwhelmed by the number of content. That’s why we tend to skim through the texts in search for valuable information. We just don’t want to lose too much time in case the text doesn’t contain the answer to our problem. If we can just play a short video summary, we’ll go this way.
On the other side, there are marketers and business owners who see higher engagement with the video and more leads and conversions brought by it. The whole market is therefore convinced that they just have to use the video. No matter what it is and how it is made, it has to be there.
That’s true. But just as every business needs a website with proper UX, the same is happening with the videos. Everyone needs them, but also with proper VX.
And as video is often more expensive to produce than text, once it is made, it’s repurposed to any channel that it should be published on. It’s a common scenario. But it might not bring the best viewer experience.
It seems that what we know about using video in the digital space will change dramatically over the next few years.
UX emerged after the real character of websites was exposed. What were the early websites? Banners with some more content. Conference booths. Yellow Pages entries. After some time it turned out that they are an important part of brands.
And brands are products. Therefore, what was considered only as an ad, was the product itself. In this case, brands had no other option than to polish their online identity as much as they could.
This resulted in instead of creating separate assets, making them part of the customer journey. Every aspect of the design got a purpose now. Every button placement was the result of deep research and testing. All that to entertain, engage, amaze, and guide users across the webpage.
The same happens with video and animations. Until now, they were considered just as separate assets that flow out of the website’s or app’s functionality. Most often, they were used as ads that would bring users to the brand. The new move, has a different approach. Video is a part of the brand and of the journey. Viewer Experience (VX) is there to let brands tell their story in an even more compelling way.
But What VX Is, Really?
Glad you asked. From a strategic point of view, VX is about creating a complete brand experience for viewers. All the visuals are becoming part of a package.
Even though videos can have different purposes and are created for different channels and formats, they all should fit into the brand’s identity and positioning. No matter if is an animated infographic, explainer video, tutorial, social media video, pre-roll ad, or an onboarding video in the platform.
And just as in the UX, every move should be planned and executed well. You need to make assumptions, plans, prototypes, tests, and execute the production after the concept was proven.
The scientific aspect of VX
The new movement requires you to do your homework when it comes to the audience, goal, and many other aspects. Before you start creating this new beautiful video, you have to answer some questions:
- Who is the audience?
- What do they want to achieve?
- Where did they come from to the video?
- What was the previous step on their journey?
- What device are they using to watch it?
- What should they do after they view the video?
- How can you guide them towards there?
That’s a lot of questions and probably not even a half of them. Every aspect needs to be researched in order to form an assumption.
Then, you’ll create mockups and prototypes and test them to prove if the concept will bring you the desired outcome. It’s the place for good ol’ UX techniques to work – focus group tests, eye-tracking, A/B testing, using personas and many other. With repeatable results that support your goals, you can gain confidence to release the video. Or opposite – work more on it.
Aaand you’re right. That’s not all. After the release, there is still the need for some ongoing analytics. Only this way, you’ll know that the video is fulfilling its purpose and discover where it still can be improved.
Just look as how bigger brands that value UX operate. Would Google, Apple or Netflix release a feature without testing them before? Not a chance.
Is VX Killing the Art?
Such scientific approach to video creation might bring some alarming voices that would prophesy the fall of creativity. Don’t worry – are apps with good UX emotionless? Of course not. They are better.
Knowing that with the VX approach, you’d do a lot of testing before releasing the final production, let’s look at how video creation looks like without it.
The creative team knows what’s the goal of the video. Then, they come up with ideas. The coolest one is picked and produced. With the video in place, it is uploaded to the channels on which it will be used. After some time, you gather the statistics and create a report in which you’ll say whether it worked or not.
That’s ‘throw dirt and watch where it sticks’ game. It’s not doomed from day one. Some videos may become viral, some will die early on. There’s just a lot of uncertainty in such process.
Viewer Experience is more about taking your time to deliver great videos, rather than to dig into endless scientific experiments.
After the assumptions are formed, the creative work comes in heavily. There are stories, formats, styles, and messaging to be created. Video creation is therefore a process that involves and requires both science and art, the creative work and the research. This is how you create exceptional visuals that correspond to the brand and attract its audience.
Is It Already Happening?
All this sounds a little bit out of this world. This would require businesses to put even more work to create their video assets. Who does that?!
Even though VX didn’t have the name, it is applied by a bunch of companies. We just don’t see it, but that just proves that it’s done right.
Think about Snapchat or InstaStories. These new channels gained a massive amount of users. That attracted almost all brands, because – of course it did. From trying to squeeze a professional, horizontal video into vertically-oriented mobile screen, now we can observe the brands using vertical videos and creating new experiences on swipe up gestures.
Then, there’s Stripe Connect. It is a payment platform. Just take a look at how the videos look like on their website. They are blended in perfectly. They are part of the journey. They don’t have any ‘Learn more on our website’, because you’re already there.
Another example – Algo. It’s a platform that allows you to automate video creation. On the website, you’ll see live examples of the product and lots of animations that are lively, yet well-matched.
Let’s move to the apps. There is this great example of HQ Trivia. From one point of view, it is just a game. But actually, there are real contests held, with a real presenter and with real cash prizes to win. This is a completely new experience that is even more engaging than watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the TV. It blends a real, live video within a game and gives the opportunity to participate in a ‘TV Show’ straight from your home.
Another example shows, how you can enrich your story with an animation that accompanies the text. It brings more emotions to the article, but also makes it more entertaining – even though the topic is alarming and the article is long. It’s a “Millenials Are Screwed” story wrote by Michael Hobbs on Huffington Post.
And That’s About the Creation. What About the Journeys?
Just as the videos itself should be created and placed in a way that supports the brand, they should create a journey altogether. The AT&T chose to create an interactive set of videos that would answer searched terms. For example, if you type “how do I schedule payment”, you’ll be guided through a set of videos that should provide you with some answers.
This leads us to video personalization. We can provide dynamically generated content that will be better targeted for certain audience segments. That refers to the text but what about the video? How could it look like?
There are some aspects of the banking platforms that you want to know to use them safely and easily. But the target audience of such service is almost anyone – coming from different backgrounds and with different experience. Providing them the same onboarding video series would be okay for one segment, but extremely boring for the other.
In this case, a set of videos made with VX in mind, could use chapters. After the intro, the user would be able to pick his level of knowledge and then, all upcoming series would adjust to his needs.
You could think about VX in similar ways. Sometimes text is harder to comprehend and you would like someone to explain it to you. It could be a chaptered video that would explain all the aspects in a way to easily find the points you’d like to clarify.
And there’s more, but it’s all up to the designers, animators, and video creators to research how VX can deliver better experiences for moving visuals.
There Are Some Challenges
VX brings new challenges to the industry. Brands, agencies, and producers will need to take a new approach towards visuals. This move is accelerating and as it finally has a name, more and more companies will definitely join it.
The challenge is in creating a standardized VX. And it doesn’t mean the video only. All brand’s websites, apps, or social media profiles will need a new design system that will guide users to action and engage them.
Such approach will require some time to re-think the brand visuals, do the research, create the new systems, and create new assets. Is it really worth it?
And There Are Benefits
A standardized, well-researched visual style guide means for the brands additional work. But after they put the effort, there will be a lot less guesswork on the edge of static and animated visuals.
Thanks to that, brand experiences will become more consistent. And because of that, they will be able to attract and engage in a completely new way. A way that now seems beyond the reach.
The end result will be highly beneficial. With the VX approach, businesses will drive better performance in terms of conversions, lead gathering, nurturing, and ultimately sales. When it comes to gathering online audience and creating a more emotional connection with them, VX can also help with that. But not only.
While the research and goals towards visuals will be in place, brands will be able to target new segments with much higher confidence and probability of success. Good times are ahead.
Is It More Expensive?
It seems like all the extra work can increase the costs. After all, there’s more research to be done, as well as the production time will extend.
This situation might be like that, but only on the surface level. VX standardization requires efforts of the whole teams but once it will be done, the results will quickly exceed the costs. Without the guesswork, every visual will fulfill its purpose. It will be easier to budget the websites while the results will become more predictable.
All in all, it’s not about how much are you going to spend, it’s about how much are you going to get in return. VX movement can be more beneficial than the current solutions.
When Is It Going to Happen?
Well, it’s already there, but there are a lot of conceptions on how VX could work. It has a name now, so a lot of new content around that might emerge and therefore, more brands will get to know this approach.
We are definitely going to see wider and wider adoption of VX across all brands in the upcoming years, until it will explode. Just as UX did. It’s not wise to create websites of apps without at least one UX designer in place. This will become a standard for VX as well.
Should You Join the Movement?
As any new thing that requires some effort to implement, smaller businesses might be more hesitant to join VX. Their advantage is the ability to quickly adapt to the market, but on the other hand, they need to spend every dollar wisely to grow.
That’s why it will be easier for the bigger, established brands to lead the VX movement – and this is what is happening right now.
Early adopters will get great results. Those that will be too late when everyone will be using it, might end up just as any brand that was late for the worldwide change. Where are you, Blackberry?