What is User Experience (UX)?
User experience (UX) is the study of shaping the way customers interact with your company, creating a user experience that is intuitive and enjoyable. Says Jakob Nielsen, the legendary UX expert,
The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”
Good UX begins with the customer in mind, and uses human-centric design principles to facilitate interaction between the customer and a product or service. While UX can technically apply to any kind of product or service - the way a cold can of Cola-Cola begs to be held and pulled open is an excellent example of a user experience triumph - UX is most often used to describe digital interactions with websites and applications.
In the context of an ecommerce site, for instance, building a good UX helps customers navigate the site easily to find what they want. Clicking the button ‘Add to Cart’ works the way customers expect it to; products are listed in sensible and clear categories; customer reviews and testimonials are displayed to guide purchasing decisions.
While UX sets out the scaffolding of a customer’s interactions, User Interface (UI) is the paint and carpeting that makes a place visually appealing. To achieve the ultimate goals of creating positive brand experiences and increasing conversion rates, UI and UX must work together. The close synergy between UI and UX is perhaps a reason many confuse the two. However, they are different disciplines - good UI without UX is like a lavishly designed mansion that has no furniture, while good UX without UI is the equivalent of living in a drab prison that is functional but uninspiring.
Despite the allure of flashy designs, an impressive UI is pointless without close attention paid to UX. At the end of the day, you must keep in mind the value proposition of your product or service, and seek first to deliver that. Form must follow function.
Why is UX important?
It is hard to overstate the importance of UX in attracting, converting, and retaining customers. To provide a better picture of exactly why and how UX matters, we have curated 10 statistics below:
- 88% of online customers do not return to websites that are not usable or user friendly (Source: Uxeria)
- Investing in usability optimisation generates up to 100 times the return on investment (Source: Uxeria)
- Over the last 10 years design-led companies have outperformed the S&P by 211% (Source: DMI)
- A 1 second delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7% (Source: Akamai)
- 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load (Source: Akamai)
- Users judge a website’s credibility based on its aesthetic appeal, coming to a conclusion within 3.42 seconds (Source: BCS)
- 59% of users find technical support information lacking on B2B vendor websites (Source: KoMarketing)
- 46% of B2B customers were annoyed or left a website because they could not understand what the company does (Source: KoMarketing)
- 70% of people look at lists with bullet points. 55% look at lists without bullet points Source: Ironpaper)
- After consulting their customers and incorporating suggestions into their homepage redesign, ESPN’s revenues increased by 35% (Source: Mindtouch)
How you can upgrade your UX
Given the importance of UX, what can you do to ensure the best UX for your customers? While there are many design principles and overarching considerations, we provide below 5 quick tips for the practitioner that you can implement and see results for:
1) User tests
Because good UX involves designing for the customer, user tests form a crucial feedback loop to ensure your design is suited for your target audience.
While you need to provide some context and set the scene so that participants have a rough idea of what they are testing, avoid providing excessive directions for how the product should be used. The whole idea of a user test is to let participants explore the interface to see if they can figure how to use the functions as intended.
When conducting user tests, pay attention to how participants are interacting with your product. Can they find the buttons on your site? Are they constantly switching between pages to compare information? Do they take a long time to figure out how to do simple things like search for products? Sometimes, seeing how users actually use your prototype is more illuminating than directly asking them for feedback.
Design your products based on how customers actually interact with them, not based on what they say they want. Under the scrutiny of a user test, participants may say they understand how a feature works, but they could be spending much more time and effort to understand your product than they would in real life.
2) Optimise for mobile and tablets
Mobile is fast supplanting desktop as the medium of choice for accessing the internet and online shopping. In Nov 2016, internet usage by mobile and tablets exceeded desktop worldwide (source), and in the US, people spend more than 2.5x time on mobile compared to desktop (source).
If your site is not optimised for mobile, half - or more - of your customers are going to be very frustrated and may leave your site. Another consideration is that sites which are not mobile-ready will be ranked lower on Google search results, making it harder for your customers to find you.
Some sites implement a mobile version of their sites (which are prefixed by ‘m.’); avoid this practice as users may share the mobile version of your site to a desktop user, who will then see a narrowed version of your site. Instead, use responsive web design to ensure your site can be viewed from any screen size. There are a variety of tools to test if your site is optimised for mobile, including Google’s own tool (Mobile-Friendly Test).
3) Load speed
In the previous segment we shared about the impact of page load speeds on page abandonment. Generally, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less (source), and every second longer that your site takes to load cuts conversion rate by 7%. Load speeds are even more important in a mobile-first world; people tend to have shorter attention spans on mobile span, and they are likely to be using a data connection which increases load times.
Information-on-demand and instant gratification are increasingly being taken for granted, and you risk being left behind if your site takes too long to load. Many sites provide free assessments of your website load speed, including this tool provided by Google (Pagespeed Insights).
Most people turn to search to find what they want online. In the field of ecommerce, up to 30% of visitors use the site search function, and those visitors have a 70% higher conversion rate than the site average, as they tend to be more serious customers who are looking for a specific product (source). Hence, building a intuitive search function is key to boosting conversion rates and matching your products with customers.
There are 2 aspects to consider when implementing a site search feature. First, the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), which is the list of search results presented to users. You need to decide how much product information on your SERP - do you want to include product ratings or just the product name and price? To find the optimal middle-ground, you can conduct A/B testing to see which arrangement maximises click rates.
Second, implementing an autocomplete feature on your search bar can aid customers in finding products, and can also prompt product discovery by suggesting related products.
5) Calls to action
A call to action seizes the user’s attention, and drives conversion rates. When used in emails, they were found to increase clicks by 371% and sales by 1617% (source).
While there are many case studies on how changing a word or font colour in calls to action increased clicks, each site attracts their own customers who may be drawn by different things. Hence, you can consider trying out a few variants of a call to action, and testing out what works best for your specific customers. Your findings can then be used in future marketing campaigns. Alternatively, you can take advantage of products like Metisa (askmetisa.com) that use data science to analyse your customer base and find out what kinds of keywords and products are most appealing to each of your customer segments.
Over to you
The image customers have of your brand and your products will be defined by their UX with your website and applications. Thus, building a intuitive and enjoyable UX is instrumental in encouraging users to make their first purchase, and drawing them back to make repeat purchases. We hope this article has allowed you to understand more about UX and its applications!
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