• Venkat Srinivasan

This Is How Great and Thoughtful UX Made a Difference for a Business and How!

I’m just out of a session using Outlook.com – possibly among the worst user experiences (UX) ever from a major brand and now I’m totally charged to write this piece.


My typical response to what I think is bad UX, is like Jay Leno to Hugh Grant in the Tonight Show back in 1995 – ‘What the hell were you thinking?’. Look it up!


Here’s a (very) little about me


I was part of one of the first-ever user testing centers, back in the early 2000s when most businesses (majors) were clueless about the internet. Deep-pocketed, clueless about what it takes to make someone interact with them. What makes the call-to-action interesting, what message makes them interact, and more important – transact. We’re talking about the likes of J.Crew, GAP, Neiman Marcus, and Old Navy.


Back in the day, a naïve thought CNN.com and Rediff.com were decent for UX. Then they got too smart for themselves with excessive pop-ups, and make users not find what they wanted. Right now, both sites are a mess, as is always badly designed Times of India.


About how seemingly good UX can be made stellar


Now, enough about that – we’re here to talk about how UX can transform a business with an example or two. For visibility, business revenue, and ultimately profit. Why do all the fancy when less can be more? How can the time to get to the CTA be reduced?

  • Let the user find what s/he wants easily

  • Don’t hide customer service, customer service shouldn’t run away and be hard to find

  • Cut bots until they actually get smart one day, and solve your problem

  • Put mobile-first, start with mobile – there are some fabulous websites – many from India

Let’s talk about a brand that many of us use – professionally and personally, that changed its user experience completely in the past two years. Mailchimp.


First off, it wasn’t awful to begin with

The old Mailchimp wasn’t bad. It wasn’t unusable. It worked. They clearly said what they could do for you, and how to get to it. But they reworked the way customers could use it in a better way, starting with (you may not think it important) getting rid of the squiggly logo. Want to see how many followed their way here?

But Freddie still keeps that wink. ‘C’ suddenly in lower case, to say we ain’t just about email.


What they decided to do


They then got rid of the fluff. The messaging wasn’t ‘fluffy’ to begin with, but they found a way to improve it. Just look at the current website, and find a cached version from years ago.


Everything is clear – there is a 101, clearly defined offering, an ‘inspiration’ section that shows what they have done for customers like us, and no-nonsense pricing plans, including a decent free version. Upfront. Very.


Colors – that ‘60s VW Beetle Style!

Oh, and that striking yellow all over! I recall being told by my design professor at Syracuse, ‘when in doubt, go yellow, yellow ochre even’. I had to look up ‘ochre/ocher’.


Minimal text and that sunny background make you want to wait and see.


‘You’ Look at the number of times the word ‘you’ is used all over the website. Mailchimp is like ‘we with you’, ‘we wanna help’, ‘I’m on your side’, ‘don’t wanna pay, you get us for free’ than saying here’s how great they are. The message for what’s in it for you is clear, in your face.


See how often they request feedback on the website – without seeming intrusive. They want, they so want to know how they’re doing for you.


Mailchimp has proven to many users, that they can focus on other important items. They’ll take care of the communication, the legal possibilities, quick responses to questions, and building trust.


All with this (did they need it?) new user experience. Look up their numbers online.


You may wonder, why fix something that wasn’t broken. Why not try and see? Go back if it doesn’t work. For Mailchimp, they took a shot and succeeded. Salute!


(And what the heck is ‘Cooper Light’ for a font? No fashionable san serif. No, they decided ‘let’s see’.)


Opinions are solely of the author, based on long-time user experience (no pun intended) over the years.


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