Recently Google changed its SEO parameters to focus more on search intent. Google is asking what the person using google is really looking for when they type in search words. This intent will determine the results that Google displays.
This SEO shift has companies re-thinking their content. Content in this case is not just the written text that a product leverages to engage users, but it’s the whole package of a product, including the design. How does the intent influence the design and vice-versa? Or in an even broader scope, how does the intent influence the entire user experience (UX)?
As a result, now businesses and developers are asking the question: what is the intention behind the use? A product, be it a website, an app or a voice-activated device must take into consideration the user’s intention when engaging with the product if it is to stay relevant.
What is user intent? User intent is the “why” behind an action, as Simon Sinek explained in his now uber-famous Ted Talk. And if we can understand the why, the reason a user goes to a website, the reason a product or service is used, we can meet that need.
Usually, the user's intention is to solve a problem. For example, I want my dinner table to look nice for my dinner party. Flowers will be perfect, but I don’t have time to go to the florists. To solve this problem, I go online and order flowers to be delivered the afternoon of the party. My “why” is that I want my table to look nice AND I don’t have time to solve the problem myself, I need someone to bring the product (flowers) to me. So it’s a bit of a double “why” or a two in one solution.
Often the user’s purpose, “why” or intention can be divided into three categories, particularly when discussing software products such as websites or apps.
Informational: An informational user is one seeking general information or a basic understanding of a product or subject.
Educational: An educational user is engaging to learn something specific or detailed about a product or service.
Transactional: A transactional user knows exactly what he/she wants. These users are ready to buy. They may have lingering questions or price comparisons to make, but overall they are ready to take action.
What is UX? Briefly, UX is described as a design method of user-centric problem-solving. It’s also defined as a human-first way of designing products for use online or in real life.
The end goal of UX is to create an intuitive, user-friendly experience to enable a user’s intentions. To ensure a user-centric experience, the users’ preferences and desires for functionality contribute to the design of the experience or product. The ability to provide a positive experience directly translates into revenues. According to a report from Forrester, every $1 invested in UX results in a return of $100.
User Intent and UX
How do user intent and UX work together? Just as the user is trying to problem solve through his/her use of a product, UX is problem-solving to make it as easy as possible for users to use a product. In essence, both the user intent and the user experience design are working toward the same end goal: solving the user’s problem or to put it another way, fulfilling his/her intention.
Going back to the floral example earlier, the floral shop’s online website that I visit should make it as easy as possible for me to accomplish my intention of buying flowers and having them delivered on time to make my dinner party a success. When I go on the florist’s website, a good user experience will help guide me toward available bouquets, cost, an easy plan to time their delivery, and a quick payment method. If I have to work too hard to find what kind of flowers are available, how much they cost, etc. I will probably give up and try to find an easier route through another florist’s website. Remember, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on purchasing the flowers— I want a quick, easy, and pleasant experience. If I don’t get what I want straight away, the odds are I’m going to look elsewhere.
The bottom line is that good UX has an easy-to-follow customer journey map, an intuitive layout, color palette, font, photos and payment system, which all align to help users fulfill their intentions easily and pleasurably.
This means that software product creation should, in theory, work backward. Their design should begin not with the product itself but with the client using the product, and his or her intentions with the product. Why would anyone want to use this product or interface? From there, the user experience of the product could be designed in the most useful way. If designers and UX can help solve users’ problems by enabling them with easy and quick access to the tools they need, then they’re part of the solution and this engenders loyalty and returns on investments.
As the internet and search engines continually evolve the way information is accessed, making it easier to give users what they want, the user experience of products must follow suit. The recent focus on user intent is creating an opening for software developers and designers to also address user intention through their products and through the UX they provide.