User Experience or UX prioritizes and facilitates the user’s experience with a product or service. It strives to make a user have an experience that easily allows him/her to achieve a goal in relation to a product or service. The need for good UX has been heightened with the growing popularity of mobile devices as a primary means of using the internet because it has spurred the growth of apps and the software industry of app development.
But how do designers of any product or service know what users actually want? Most designers have a good idea of what makes for great UX design. But, designers would be hard-pressed to factually prove that a certain feature would work better than another and that it would be better received by users.
This is where big data comes into play. If we have vast amounts of data, we can substantiate claims about what will offer the best UX to the greatest number of people and we can see multiple design iterations to see what features enhance products and services the most; we’re not limited to simple A/B comparisons.
What is big data, exactly? Big data is data that is so large, fast or complex that it’s difficult to process using traditional methods. Big data inherently has 3 key components known as the 3 Vs. It is data with greater variety that arrives in increasingly large volumes at an ever-higher velocity.
While the sheer size of the data is overwhelming, it can be sorted and parsed and patterns found.
It’s pretty obvious that this kind of information could help designers develop more personalized and engaging user experiences around products and services than ever before. The end goal of using big data is to understand people and their behaviors— and then create an experience that feels like second nature. Once designers know what users are drawn to or which patterns they display most frequently, they’re in a good position to strategically design and provide the right content, interactions and solutions at the perfect time. If designers do their jobs well, they improve clients’ effectiveness and help them meet their goals.
Let’s look at three different examples of ways in which big data is informing UX.
Big Data and App Design
We can now use data science to look deeply at what people do online. Patterns within the data can relay all kinds of information such as screen interaction vantage points, i.e. does a user scan rather than read; do they look to the top right for a website menu or to the left for a home button page; what is the average time spent on a single page, and more. Patterns discoverable in big data show us what users actually do with their screen time. The next question, is: are they using the site in the way it was designed to be used? Could it be improved to meet their behaviors or expectations? After analyzing data companies can make data-driven decisions.
The at-home streaming service has exploded in the past several years with popular content and millions of users. Netflix is using its data reserves and analytics to learn about international viewing habits, which it analyzes to decide what programming to create and purchase. Chief content officer Ted Sarandos explained to Fast Company, “We are creating a product that really does appeal to the local tastes in each of the more than 50 countries we operate in. And it turns out that the local taste is pretty global.” Netflix users will see more of the films they like, and Netflix can also use big data and machine learning algorithms for predictive technology to recommend films based on previously viewed programming.
But user experience isn’t happening just online, it’s happening in the real-world, too, and it’s being informed by big data.
In a paper titled: Big Data and Analytics for Infectious Disease Research, Operations, and Policy: Proceedings of a Workshop (2016) from The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine it was predicted that the growing amount of big data will be able to provide a general picture of the overall health of a populous. This would allow health care services to predict and discover problems early-on, and prepare solutions in advance. Such preparations could prevent something that starts small from growing into a large scale disaster. Data could provide a user (or patient) experience that recommends specific, personalized treatments to individuals. Big data could help predict how a patient will respond to a given treatment. Or even prepare for global health risks such as a pandemic.
User experience isn’t just limited to designing good-looking applications, it affects all spheres of life from something such as creating sought-after content to saving lives through better health care. And big data is a powerful technological tool that provides better and greater insights into how to create ideal user experiences.
Curious about what big data can do for your company? Get in touch!