When you're a business owner, you need to pay attention to every user's experience with your brand. Every time your brand interacts with a customer, whether in a virtual or face-to-face exchange, that encounter should be positive and healthy.

If it's not, you're damaging your brand and losing an opportunity to grow. So let's talk about that a little.

Understanding User Experience

At the dawn of the Internet age, simply having a website or application was considered sufficiently progressive for that era. But as technology developed and websites, apps, and digital marketing initiatives became less an option and more a priority, users have come to demand rich, immersive, two-way encounters that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. This shift gave rise to a new term: user experience (UX).

In brief, UX involves how the individual user feels when he or she interacts with systems -- e.g., websites, applications, or software -- you've developed. Generally speaking, a user evolves an opinion based on usability, visual appeal, utility, accessibility, design, performance, usefulness, speed, fluidity, marketing, and similar elements.

Three Ways UX Affects Your Brand

Clearly, UX can have a positive or negative impact on a brand. But where exactly does UX converge with brand equity? Here are three specific ways:

1. UX and Brand Perception

The first thing you should study is the relationship between UX and the general perception of your brand, because that's central. Whether you're developing a website or application, UX directly impacts your target market's thoughts about your product. In fact, it's virtually impossible to separate these two.

UX isn't just about graphics and layouts, though. The visual appeal of your website/application/etc. matters, but what's beneath the surface has the truest and most lasting impact on users. I'm talking about functionality.

Take Facebook, for example. Did you notice the company recently changed its logo? Unless you read an article about it or saw a news release, you might not have caught on. It involved a subtle change to the lettering, so it had no obvious effect on most users.

By contrast, whenever Facebook changes the way the messenger app works or how the newsfeed scrolls, most people notice immediately. In fact, many users threaten to leave the popular social networking site after simple changes like these.

This perfectly illustrates how UX -- though it may appear to be about aesthetics only -- is fundamentally rooted in functionality. In addition, how your various digital extensions work has a direct impact on perception of your brand in the marketplace.

2. UX and SEO

The relationship between UX and brand perception may be the most significant, but we can't ignore the fact that UX directly impacts SEO. Why is that, you may ask? Well, Google has always placed an emphasis on its own UX. As a result, the search giant cares about which websites and URLs it serves users.

If the search engine consistently directs people to low-quality sites, Internet users will gravitate away from Google. On the other hand, if Google becomes known for delivering high-quality and relevant search results, then people will be more prone to use its search engine. This means Google emphasizes UX as a priority in its ranking algorithms. And that ultimately means brands have to pay close attention to web design and content creation.

3. UX and Word of Mouth

Finally, UX directly affects your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. If a customer has a positive interaction with your brand and feels like the experience was above and beyond expectations, he or she is more likely to endorse your brand in discussions with friends.

The opposite side of this equation is true as well. Internet users frequently tell friends about bad experiences they have with brands. Worse, they're more likely to share a bad experience than a positive one.

4 Top UX Tools for Enhancing your Brand

Now that you understand the importance of UX and how it directly impacts your brand in three specific ways, here are some of the top UX tools on the market and how they can help enhance your brand in the eyes of customers.

1. InVision

InVision is one of the leading prototyping, collaboration, and workflow platforms on the market today. Perhaps the most useful feature here is the ability to create functional and clickable app prototypes within a matter of minutes. These prototypes can then be used for market research before fully investing in coding and the other intricacies that go along with creating a full-fledged app.

2. UserTesting

UserTesting is an amazing tool that allows brands to obtain audio and video of customers as they interact with your site or app. UserTesting boasts over one million users, which means virtually any brand can identify and leverage a target market fairly quickly. This is definitely a cost-effective approach to an activity that has traditionally been very expensive.

3. Optimizely

As you may know, A/B split testing has been one of the biggest marketing trends in recent years. Optimizely is an ideal solution for brands that don't have the time or resources to constantly monitor results and make manual tweaks. This intuitive platform allows brands to improve experiences across all web and mobile apps and is completely secure and scalable.

4. Storyboard That

One of the more unique UX tools in the marketplace is Storyboard That. This tool allows you to brainstorm and communicate ideas through the use of online storyboards. The tool comes with a massive library of scenes, characters, and images to help even the most inartistic person bring their ideas to life.

The UX-Brand Equity Relationship

Your brand's user experience influences your company's health in more ways than one. Although it's easy to forget or ignore UX in lieu of other facets that appear more significant, you need to recognize the tangible connection between UX and customer satisfaction. The failure to do so can negatively affect your image for years to come, while a dedication to the relationship can stimulate positive results.