These days we hear a lot about “UX” (user experience). We see job boards listing positions for “UX Designs” and friends saying they are “user experience designers.” What is the user experience and what does in mean to you?
Most people tend to think about user experience in relation to a website or software product. But user experience design isn’t limited to digital websites, apps, products, or services. It can be applied to anything, including your church.
A user experience occurs in touch points. Every time a user interacts with (or touches) your organization, an emotional or information-based transaction is taking place that can positively or negatively impact the user (the person you’re trying to reach).
I’ll illustrate my point by telling a story. A person, let’s call him John, is browsing his Facebook news feed. He sees a friend post a link to an upcoming event at a church. He’s never heard of this church, but the first thing he noticed is the picture and text Facebook pulls from the church’s website. This is the first touch point. Because the church was taking extra steps to create a better user experience, they added Facebook’s Open Graph Meta Tags to make sure a relevant photo and text is being pulled from the site.
John is intrigued and clicks on the link. As he’s taken to the site, another touch point develops. The site’s load time, general design aesthetic, and clear messaging all help create this second touch point. John isn’t really interested in the event at this time. But he is interested in learning about what kind of church this is. A third touch point develops as John tries to get an idea about this church. How easy is it to find what he’s looking for? Is each “subpage” the same, or are they designed around the content that they communicate? Ideally, a combination of easy-to-read “infosnacks”, blurbs, graphics, and video give John a great first impression of the church in only a few seconds. He can quickly scan the site and find what he’s looking for.
Sunday morning rolls around. John is thinking about going to the church, but he doesn’t know what time it starts or where it’s located. He doesn’t remember the URL of the church, so he does a quick Google search for what he remembers about the church’s name. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see anything on the first or second page of search results. John begins to wonder if his initial “good impression” was correct. If they were really as good as they looked, why aren’t they the first link?
This is where most user experience design thinking falls short: failing to consider how a user externally accesses information. What happens when the potential visitor approaches the site from a different angle?
At this point, John has to login to Facebook, search his friend, and find the link back to the site. While it’s a simple task, it’s also an annoying obstacle. And though John doesn’t realize it, his brain is keeping score. This touch point turned out to be negative, but John decided to go to church anyway.
As John pulls in to the parking lot, another touch point develops. Is the signage easy to follow? Does he understand where to go? This is all part of the user experience.
It’s a good idea to sit down and think about how a user or visitor might interact or touch your church. Figure out each point of contact and make an effort to improve the user experience at each of these points.
It’s important to not make assumptions about what the user may know about your organization or what you’re trying to communicate.
User experience, in a sense, is communication. It’s communicating excellence to those with whom you interact. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (AMP) reminds us to do everything with excellence: “So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God.” We can improve our overall excellence by creating and monitoring the user experience while simultaneously bringing glory to God!
How is the user experience at your church? Are visitors and congregants having good experiences at each touch point? What changes to your church’s user experience do you need to make?