You will see UX banded about as a term and think that is something for super geeks who only ever talk to websites. While that may, in some cases, be true the harsh reality is that we all now need to take heed of the insight understanding UX gives us.
So what is it apart from yet another acronym in a market that is already full of the damn things, I can barely keep up and often only understand about 10% of what my fellow, much cleverer, colleagues are saying!
That is a really big point. I write this as someone who looks after our customers. If I get UX and can communicate it, it just shows how much we do all need to understand it – even just a bit.
What is it?
User Experience. (It should be UE – I know!) There are a number of definitions, but I like to think of it as how we make our customers feel from start to finish of a purchase or relationship with our company, products, services and people…. And website!
I recently made a purchase online for some bike kit. I did my Google Search, I clicked on a search result and landed on the website. From that very minute, my user experience started and it was fab! They made it easy for me to find what I was looking for, the e-commerce element was frankly faultless, and in no time at all, I was checked out with a friendly reassuring email telling me what was going to happen next. I continued to get these friendly emails until my cute little box rocked up at my front door. My experience didn’t end. I opened the box, my order was wrapped nicely in lovely paper with a lovely little button sticker and the order was correct. By the way – they were also the cheapest! I will use them again and again now.
As marketers we have to apply this thinking and feeling to our websites. We must consider what we want the user to do, what we want them to think and how we want them to interact with us again and again. When we do this, they convert. They fill our contact form, they download the whitepaper or they make the purchase. Ignoring UX means they won’t do these things.
If you don’t consider your user’s experience you are wasting an opportunity. Ignoring it kills conversion. Why? If your site is pushy and all about you and doesn’t consider how the user wants to be handled, they will leave and go somewhere else. We have a responsibility to make life easy for the user, show them ways of running their life or doing their jobs better. If you don’t do this they won’t convert. Simple.
So how do you embrace UX with your website?
I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about personas. Now is the time to get these locked down, challenged, sanity checked and tested – these are going to be the making and possibly breaking of the site if you don’t understand these. Take your time. It took us two weeks to nail ours.
If you understand your personas, then you will be able to walk in the shoes of your user and better understand what kind of experience they are looking for or need.
When we talk about design we are talking about designing the user journey. At this point you need to question why they are on the site, what they are likely to want to do and then design that journey.
Once you have figured out what route the user needs to be taking on your website, you can then begin to map out the structure of the main pages. This is wireframing, and it gives you the opportunity to think about all of the elements that you want to have included in the page. Doing this helps you think about organising your content and how you are going to label it.
While you are in this phase remember that Google likes and will reward you in SEO terms for having a site that is:
- Easy to navigate and understands
- Provides direct information that was relevant to the search query
- Contains high-quality relevant content
- Makes the use of schema to signpost what your content is
Organise design mock-ups
If you can find the budget to arrange this, it really is worth its weight in gold. It provides you with an opportunity to see if your vision for the site allows for your user journey. It also helps to break down the difference between the expectation/vision of the designer and yours. When I have been involved in website redesigns the most successful ones have been where we have produced some designs that have been signed off by the client ahead of the redesign.
At this stage too you should think about the functionality the user may find useful or need to convert. This might be interactive elements, calculators, video, e-commerce, etc.
Once this has happened the redesign of the website can begin. Once you have signed this off and all the go-live checks have been done you can then move into the final, recurring stage of UX.
Speak to any UX expert and they love a bit of testing. The recommendation is to do this as early as possible. Get the opinion of your customers. Listen to them, assess the achievement of your objectives and make amendments. One of the best way of testing is to A/B test. This enables you to retain your existing design and then make a minor amend to another version to see which one performs the best. And then keep doing it. Take the winner of the first A/B test and A/B test again and again. This is becoming increasingly important. It would be naïve to think that once you have a website it’s done. It is just the start. Some organisations even do real-life user testing and ask the users to talk through the reasons why they have taken certain actions on the website.
Measure & Analyse
If you test, you need to measure and analyse otherwise how do we know what is working and what isn’t? Having a selection of pre-defined metrics will help in producing an ongoing set of data that can be monitored. Using this data and making comparisons will help further refine the user experience.
There are so many tools that can help you do this, some are free and some are paid for but often well worth the investment.
The last thing to mention is that you don’t necessarily have to ‘UX’ your whole website in one go. You can pick specific user journeys and tackle them one at a time.