Customer Traction

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Make your product human-centric to increase conversion & brand loyalty

Carly Dryhurst-Smith

UX Lead @ Forward Partners

User-experience often gets confused with the function of a product’s interface. Common questions, when evaluating a digital experience, tend to centre around how the website or app ‘works’ or what particular buttons do. The word ‘user’ sadly takes the heart and humanity out of it. We prefer the terms ‘human-experience’ and ‘human-centred design’, because it means that the output, that is to say the experience you’ve designed, correlates with the purpose - to serve people.

Key takeaways

  • People are different and are driven by individual motivations and fears;
  • Ask customers about their values before deep-diving into building functions;
  • Deliver quality that creates value for people and you’ll fit seamlessly into their lives.

The members of your audience have unique and busy lives, and your product is going to be one small drop in their ocean of applications and digital encounters. It’s not just similar products you have got to compete with: it’s their push notifications, their crying baby, their low battery and the person who just bumped into them on the bus. You need to be aware that these distractions exist, and familiarise yourself with subsequent behaviours.

Managing to delight your customers despite all the external noise: that’s the experience you need to provide.


The first thing to do is make sure you understand your audience. If you’ve conducted interviews, then you’re already on the right path to knowing what people actually want. Being a user-experience practitioner is more than wireframing and making prototypes. Knowing about the latest technological capabilities and slickest CSS animations certainly helps to make things smooth, but they won’t go far to helping us assess and satisfy human need.

As we are intrinsically empathetic, we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes. However, we are also naturally biased so we are inclined to interpret qualitative data that we collect in the way we want to. The best way to stay neutral is to create personas. These are external archetypes that eliminate the ‘I think’ and start impartially focussing on ‘others want’.

It’s really important to name these personas and make them feel real. Get to know them: their fears, what makes them happy, how tech-savvy they are, whether they have a family and so on. Creating the personas merely as an exercise, but not referring back to them, disconnects people from the product and wastes your time. Unfortunately, this is fairly commonplace. To help remind you, stick them on the wall so your team can see them. Add a photograph of someone real to each persona. Introducing faces plays to our natural instinct to connect with one another, and you’ll inherently have more empathy for this character.

Journey maps

It’s essential that you work out the start, end and in-journey touch points for each persona’s interaction with your product. It is also paramount you understand their drivers. For example, why did they come to your product over anywhere else? Their intended outcome might be the same, in this case, they might purchase something. Up until the point of purchase, the motivations propelling different people forward can vary an enormous amount. Think carefully about what they care about and what they want to achieve.


You don’t have to dilute your brand or product with a one-size-fits-all solution, nor must you create every edge-case imaginable. You can find a balance by identifying the main trends in interaction and behaviour to maximise the satisfaction of groups of people.

Your product should make each person who uses it feel like it was made for them. Every customer thinks they’re the only one: they don’t want to queue, or be de-prioritised. This is especially true when they’re having digital experiences on their personal hand-held devices. They only care about how they are interacting and completing tasks rather than thinking about how others might do the same.

Knowing what drives people will help you determine which path they wander down. This will, in turn, help you plan ahead to encourage them to towards their final target. Treat interface design like having a conversation and pay attention to what your customers are saying. Never make people feel like your focus is elsewhere. Endeavour to cater to their needs as they occur.

Here’s an example: I worked on a project which introduced a line of celebrity-endorsed sportswear to a high-street fashion brand. Our task was to get people to understand this new brand, demonstrate its unique-selling points and encourage them to buy the range online. We started with thinking about people’s stories - their corresponding drivers.

Here’s a few:

  • I just love the celebrity and will buy anything to do with her

  • I want sportswear I can wear on and off the field

  • I want sportswear that is technically good but still affordable

  • I want sportswear that is recognisable as new and on-trend

  • I want to buy my daughter sportswear she will wear and not moan about

  • I want to wear something that will make me feel confident and inspire me to work out more


The list illustrates the disparate desires of different people. Some want to start exercising, some are thinking about purchases as gifts and others care about style. Notice the diversity in what drives them. Each of these ‘wants’ has reasons that are deeply connected to each person’s emotions. Take the parent persona, for instance: their fears revolve around a dissatisfied daughter and wasted money. Their happiness, in this case, hinges on purchasing something which pleases their child.

None of the ‘wants’ exist in isolation, and they live in delicate balance with that person’s other thoughts. Your customers are emotional which makes them somewhat inflexible because they will be motivated by how they feel. If there’s friction, your product needs to do the hard work to ease it.

How to start your journey maps

Begin each journey map with one persona’s story to help identify frictions and touch points along their individual journey.

For example, if someone wants to purchase sportswear that makes them feel confident and get into an exercise routine, then they’ll want to know a few things up-front. They need to see that it fits well, flatters their shape and that their size is in-stock. They might like to read reviews to make them feel more settled that this is the right choice. They might want to see the product on real people, who are moving and stretching, so they can feel assured that it is resilient.

If we know that customers want or need these things, we can start making a list of things we need to tackle in the wireframing stage. It also helps our team to plan content and collaborate with copywriters and photographers.

Prioritising functions

Now you have ideas based on what you’ve discovered people need in order to get them to convert. The next step is to prioritise them. You can’t build everything, and getting something in front of people quickly is absolutely your most effective method of proving the need for your product.

We like to use a ‘card sort’ for this. This is an exercise where you put words on cards and get people to order them. You can do the exercise at two stages in the project. First to recognise values. Second to recognise functions in order to meet their needs (to create value).


Write values individually on cards. They might include things like:

  • ‘Speed of delivery and returns’

  • ‘Style’

  • ‘Fit’

  • ‘Longevity’

Give these to people. Ask them to put them in order of what matters to them. With regard to function, you can have more specific cards such as:

  • ‘Customer reviews’

  • ‘Size guide’

  • ‘Stock levels’

Ask them to put them in order. Be very clear that this is not the order that they would see them on the screen, but what they care about seeing, from most cared to least cared about. You will now have a priority list of things to design, build and test, based entirely on what your customer is asking for.

How can this help your conversion rates?

Your product can never, nor should it try to, be all things to all people. This will dilute your proposition and it will become messy with a litter of edge-cases. Knowing that a real-life human being is on the other end of your interface helps you accommodate their thoughts, hopes and distractions into the experience. This helps your team avoid pot-holes that might not be factored in when using automated tests and bots alone.

Drill down into qualitative data and make sure your product is answering questions and easing fears. If you do that, people will trust in your product and use it.

How can this help your brand loyalty?

If people can trust your product, they will be inclined to trust your brand and vise-versa: it will be synonymous with reliability to them. If you deliver people value that meets their needs, not only will they stay with you but they’ll tell others about it too. Find out what makes people happy and stress-free, and you can go beyond customer satisfaction and make them your brand evangelists.


Carly Dryhurst-Smith

UX Lead @ Forward Partners

Carly’s focus has been in digital, interface and print design at start-ups and agencies. She endeavours to craft beautiful, simple and intuitive experiences which prioritise the consumer’s needs. Most recently, Carly worked as the UX Designer at Topshop, with a team at Arcadia and on the reviews and ratings platform Reevoo. She has a strong passion for building fair, stable and delightful solutions, which create measurable value for users. She believes genuine brand advocacy and repeat custom grow from developing human-centric products.

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