User Experience Is The New Differentiator

Overview

The nature of the internet is changing as businesses demand better experiences for their users/customers. This has been fueled by changes in the location of the people who drive business. Almost all businesses today across all industries have an online presence i.e. websites, social media accounts, forums, blogs e.t.c.

The most important business issue in the future will therefore be centered on how businesses treat new users/customers once they get them. The businesses that will be able to offer the best user experience on a global scale will win the online business race which is expected to change the internet for good.

Customer experience improvements come in very many forms i.e. new mobile apps, data driven cross-platform messaging, proactive outreach & troubleshooting e.t.c. Whatever tactic you consider to improve user experience, the stakes will be very high in terms of expectations. Online business owners need to consider a number of key issues. Some of the most important concerns will be;

1. How does the current multi-device environment complicate the process of delivering web content?

2. How do website owners assimilate multiple browsers and devices while maintaining a consistent user experience?

3. How do webmasters balance between delivering the best online user experiences for certain devices without increasing overhead costs?

4. How will innovative multi-device strategies disrupt status quo?

5. How will the multiple mobile experiences incorporate native and mobile web apps?

6. How will website owners maintain customer relationships through mobile strategies?

Below is a more in-depth discussion on how and why user experience is the new differentiator.

How will user experience change the internet?

Improved customer experiences rapidly turn negative when internet is slow or unavailable. The internet was made with reliability in mind. Performance and speed were 2nd class citizens to availability. The negative business impact of slow is however more real than most website owners would want to imagine.

According to a recent study by Google, half-second decreases in speed translate to a 20% drop in site traffic. This simply means that slow is the new downtime from a website visitor’s perspective. Website owners can’t afford to have slow sites if they plan on maintaining competitive advantage. It is important to note that information must travel through the infrastructure. If the distance travelled by information via infrastructure is longer, the experience will definitely be slower.

This latency has as much (if not more) impact on the speed and responsiveness of a customer’s experience than the type of bandwidth connection a user uses to access the web. There have been attempts by the internet community to address this through the deployment of CDNs (Content Delivery Networks). CDNs are simply dense infrastructure pockets in common internet exchange locations responsible for caching static content.

The CDN strategy has worked perfectly for the past decade focusing on the permanent reliability of the internet’s architecture. This strategy isn't expected to work for the next ten years considering technologists are shifting their focus outwards to the internet edges. In a nutshell, it’s time for an outward strategy that doesn't rely on the inherent reliability of the internet’s architecture.

It’s getting crowded

As businesses search for competitive advantages, the demand for faster user experiences is skyrocketing. There are however many macro trends which are causing slow web experiences as the internet continues to expand. One such notable macro trend is manifested in some of the most densely populated areas of Europe and North America where urbanisation has started straining internet infrastructure.

The search for new users has forced operators to deploy many backhaul networks. Investing in many new backhaul networks can be defined as a duct-tape solution to acquiring new users. Such a strategy can only work in the short-term. Regions like Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East have lead changes in internet growth. The unique economic, geographic and public infrastructure attributes of these areas are expected to challenge operators as well as CDNs in many aspects the most notable being delivering the same kind of performance enjoyed by internet users in America, Europe and North America.

Most of the users in these areas are mobile first because of sheer economics as well as their initial encounter with the internet i.e. through wireless as opposed to wired broadband connections. This attracts a set of internet problems based on performance. Horizontal architectures will have to be used to deliver exceptional, reliable and responsive user experiences to new ’mobile first’’ users without attracting unmanageable costs. Horizontal architectures will also come in handy when connecting users in congested urban areas. There will also be a need for infrastructure to be deployed near global users.

Instead of deploying applications in a single location i.e. in one major metropolitan area, technologists are not only deploying applications to every major city but leveraging on multiple deployments in every city in an effort to deliver exceptional experiences on a large-scale. Today, cloud vendors are offering multi-regional infrastructure deployment options as well as cloud-agnostic management frameworks which enable proper management of global multiple vendor solutions. As a result, horizontal scale barriers continue to lower. More technologists are expected to take advantage of this today more than before.

How will all the above developments affect the internet? The answer to this question is simple. There will be a shift (which has already started) focused on user experience. The race to connect the whole world has left a gaping hole in terms of user experience. As new internet users enjoy their first internet experiences through mobile devices, webmasters have no choice but to focus on improving mobile experiences through apps as well as making websites that are more mobile-compatible.

On a more complex perspective, we should expect to see less city-to-city growth in backhaul traffic and investment and more growth in investments which are closer to users (user experience design). We should expect to see more intra-location as opposed to inter-location investments in internet infrastructure and architecture. The focus will be on efficiency as opposed to expansion. Also, architectures are expected to become disaster proof and cost efficient. All this will be aimed at improving user experiences. This clearly shows that user experience design efforts are the new differentiator. Webmasters and network developers among other stakeholders have no option but to conform.