User experience vs user journeys

Scot McKee, MD of Birddog, examines the difference between user experience and user journeys

I always know I’m in trouble on a digital marketing project when the first thing a client asks for is a workshop. The workshop is undoubtedly necessary, but only when Birddog recommends it. That’s because we’re following a complex process of digital exploration, specification, development and delivery, finely tuned with years of hard drinking. When the client asks for a workshop, it’s usually accompanied with the waving of arms and the random inclusion of words like ‘experience’ and ‘journey’ picked up from a half-day seminar on how to become a ‘digital guru’.

Client: “I think what we need here, is a website workshop.”

Scot: “Oh oh.”

Client: “Excuse me?”

Scot: “I said, ‘Oh oh’. I’m girding my loins for the inevitable bollocks that’s about to follow your request for a website workshop.”

Client: “Oh. Haha. Right, anyway… For the workshop, I think the current interaction of personas means we need to unify the inbound marketing experiences of users so the integration of the journey can be, like, you know, converted. Do you think that will help our thought leadership…?”

Well, actually, I think we all need to learn to distinguish between user journeys, user experience and complete bollocks.

By way of example, I'm going to use nigelohara.com. No, I’d never heard of him either. But I needed some new headphones. I searched for the model I was looking for and bingo – Nigel O’Hara. I clicked a single link to a purchase page, noted that the price was £10 cheaper than anywhere else and I could hardly miss the big green, ‘AVAILABLE TO ORDER’, button right in the middle of the page. I do so love a big green button.

You should never underestimate the power of the big green button. Ever. I pressed it, parted with my credit card details and moved on with my legendary life of hedonistic self-entitlement.

That was my user journey. Streamlined. Quick. Easy. Get in, find the thing, exchange data and/or cash for the thing. Get out. That is a good user journey. You don’t need to spout bollocks for hours, you just need to make the buyer/seller transaction painless. Ask yourself if your B2B website would pass Birddog’s Big Green Button test.

After a few days, the headphones hadn’t arrived so I went back to the site and, along with the big, ‘GET UP TO 70% OFF’, banner, ‘THE GREAT PRICE PLUMMET’, heading, the PREMIUM PRODUCTS AND CLEARANCE PRICES’, and the aforementioned ‘AVAILABLE TO ORDER’ button, I saw an itsy, bitsy, teeny weeny link that said:

“>>Why is this?”

Why indeed. I clicked it and a popup revealed that I’d effectively ‘forward purchased’ the headphones. I’d paid for them in advance, but the goods weren’t going to be dispatched until a supplier had been sourced, the price beaten down and the goods shipped by mule train to Nigel O’Hara. It would take a month before I actually received the headphones. In fairness, the website did say that the delivery could take up to a month, but that didn’t make the user experience any less sucky.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the B2B brand marketing profession, is the difference between user journey and user experience. The journey can be made easy. The experience can still suck. You need both to work in harmony for digital marketing campaigns or other initiatives to be successful.

Figuring that out is what the workshop’s for.

Not for spouting bollocks.

Just saying.