What is the one thing you could do now — before you launch — to save your company time and money in the future? Invest in user experience (UX).
User experience can make or break a brand.
Four years from now, customer experience is predicted to be the one key brand differentiator — overtaking both price and product.* This means UX research has never been a more vital component of your process since its entire objective is to craft an experience that feels uniquely tailored to meet your customers’ needs, while eliminating any bugs or pitfalls and proving or disproving any gut assumptions.
Beyond eliminating issues, UX research can also identify your target audience, then track their journey through your digital environment — analyzing everything from behavior flows and completion rates to social, bounce rates and session timing. Essentially, UX is the one upfront investment you can make now that’s guaranteed to have a healthy return.
Unsure how UX plays into your process? Let’s explore 3 of the many tactics available.
Idea #1: Interviews
What’s the best way to understand your audience and their behaviors, values or goals? Ask them! By obtaining early user feedback or answers from real people and analyzing that data to create insights, you can uncover key information to grow any aspect of your business or create meaningful experiences for your customers. This helps you avoid any superfluous decisions, while being guided by the very user base you are trying to connect with. Now, you can’t just take what they say verbatim, (in the words of Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”), but it’s a good start to understanding a variety of things with real people.
One way to better define users and their needs is through the creation of personas. Personas are archetypes built specifically for your product to identify real users’ profiles, needs, wants and expectations in order to design best possible experiences for them. Without identifying the various characteristics of the user groups visiting your site, you cannot hope to design an experience that includes the key elements that each type of user needs. Instead, you will end up creating a website that doesn’t perform well for anyone. One easy step to understanding key characteristics is to ask users questions via a survey. It’s simple, cheap and an effective research method.
But, you never use one method of research in isolation…
Idea #2: Testing
Companies who test their sites early on can help uncover experience and functionality problems. This eliminates any interaction assumptions and helps dive deeper into satisfaction ratings and positive net promoter scores. For you, this means getting one step further toward a smooth, bug-free user experience that both the web (as a whole) and your customer base love. It also helps expose real-time user problems, while ensuring your current navigation is getting the job done right.
For example, we were in the development stages of redesigning a healthcare website with over 2,000 pages of content and multiple user personas to design an experience around. Multiple rounds of user testing was built into the design process to ensure what we were creating was useful, meaningful and aligned to user needs before the site was even launched. If you think user testing is expensive, it’s not. What’s expensive is designing a site that no one uses.
Idea #3: Contextual Studies
Contextual studies conducted in natural environments make it easy to observe and track natural user behaviors and patterns as opposed to conducting studies in labs, isolated from when, where and how the user interacts with your site. One study method we use effectively is the “diary study,” which provides detailed insight into the expectations, mindsets, moods and environments of your users, written by your users.
Picture this: a company that provides products for new mothers is looking to understand how their website could better help mothers in need to care for their baby or themselves. By performing a diary study where mothers would track when they needed help, how they sought help and what types of devices they used during that time in need, the company learned mobile was huge and mothers usually only have one arm to use their device because the other arm was holding their baby. Understanding the context behind their experience, UX was able to create a unique mobile experience that allowed mothers to seamlessly navigate a website and find the information they were seeking with just one hand. Performing this study in a lab would never yield the same results from the diary study. So if you know who your users are, you can pick the right research method to gain the correct data, which will help you better align your site, experience or service with user expectations, and avoid costly navigation or experience issues in the future.
The one goal of UX design and research is to better captivate, engage and emotionally connect with users when they are trying to achieve a goal — no matter the time, place or circumstances. By uncovering these otherwise invisible or unproven theories you are able to improve the performance of your site and the satisfaction of your customer base. And when your customer base feels supported and heard, and avoids any negative encounters (think: website crashes, loading issues, payment problems), they not only help you avoid any future costly repairs or tweaks, they become loyal fans and consumers.
*Walker: “Customers 2020: The Future of B-To-B Customer Experience” (2013 Report)
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