Automation

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We live in a time of great advances in science and engineering, but our brains have set capacities. We can get smarter and advance how we understand the world, but we can’t get all that much faster at working or handling complex problems. (At least, not until someone invents workable neural enhancements, but we’ll leave that in the science fiction realm for now.)

We turn to automation to handle what we lack the time or processing power to accomplish. Automation is a profoundly powerful option in the era of the internet. There’s so much data collected that it’s possible to establish extremely sophisticated automation routines (including ingenious chatbots).

But automation isn’t a magic bullet. It can be astonishingly useful in areas that can be reached through digital technology (essentially all areas to some extent). However, there’s no self-automation option, no “do everything for me” button. It’s only as good as the person running it, and truly great automation work starts with great UX design. Here’s why.

Strong UX work identifies likely points of failure

To build a solid user experience, you must fully understand everything that goes into each step along the way. This includes how the user is likely to feel, what they’re likely to think, and what they might be looking to achieve. It’s all information you need to make the process as robust and pain-free as possible. It also highlights the points at which things are most likely to go wrong.

This has a strong secondary effect on automation because automated routines are very useful for bypassing anticipated stumbling blocks. With some great UX design behind you, you’ll know two things when implementing further automation:

  • What issues need to be addressed through automation.
  • That you won’t need to automate anything that could be fixed at a UX level.

It isn’t cost-effective to find a complex automation solution to an issue that could be resolved through minor interface tweaks. Hence, this is very important, allowing you to fully focus on the issues most deserving of your attention.

Automation that users don’t understand can be damaging

Particularly in a post-GDPR world, the design world is rife with concerns over the storage and use of personal data. This affects automation in a major way. Think about automated notifications, for instance. If you use a site that keeps sending you automated notifications but you can’t find any way to turn them off, it will probably make you quite frustrated even if you find the notifications useful.

Through taking into account how the user feels while engaging with the system, great UX ensures the following:

  • The user knows what information is being used and why.
  • The user consents to the use of their data.
  • They know how to change their privacy settings to enable, disable or alter certain automation elements.

As a result of this, when you look to automate your prospecting workflow or simply start an email marketing campaign using automation triggers, you’ll know that you can get on with the task at hand and not have to worry about a backlash regarding your data storage.

You can’t use features that you can’t find

This points applies both to end users and those who build automation systems to begin with. Automation systems need strong internal UX. This applies just as much as they need it from any programmes to which they are applied. If you’re using an automation system currently, do you know what it is technically capable of? If you’ve never been clear on its potential, that suggests that the UX design wasn’t particularly good.

In ideal circumstances, you’ll find it straightforward to pick up the basics of using your automation systems. Including how to configure them to operate with various standard systems to queue up intended procedures. At no point should you feel lost about what to do or where you go.

Think about the importance of legacy accessibility (as you would for standard operating procedures). Imagine that you configure and retain an automation system indefinitely but ultimately leave your position for whatever reason. What will your replacement make of it? Will they be able to learn it rapidly? If you think someone unfamiliar with the software would struggle to get to grips with it, you should think about learning more about UX and then finding or creating some better-designed software.

Automation can achieve so many things in today’s world. However, it doesn’t touch the vital importance of human interaction. In fact, it relies on it. The smartest automated system ever devised is unfit for purpose if it’s intended for human use but not optimised for how people think. Polish your UX first, get everything running as smoothly as you can, and then think about what automation could add to your setup.

About the author

Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who hates any software that hasn’t been designed for ease of use. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce. You can also follow Victoria on Twitter @vickyecommerce