If you have a website, mobile app, or social media presence, you have users for those digital points of contact. And if you have users, then those users come with certain expectations. Whether those expectations are met determines whether they interact with you, become leads, or eventually become customers.
This means that, regardless of the type of product or service you’re selling, if you have a web presence, you need to think about user experience (or UX).
What a UX Toolkit Is and Why You Need One
Let’s start with what UX is, as that is a common question we get from clients. One of our favorite definitions is from the folks over at Foolproof, a UX consulting company:
Experience Design* is a design practice focused on human outcomes, particularly the level of engagement and satisfaction that the user derives from a product or service and the relevance of the experience to their needs and context.
*Note: Experience Design, User Experience Design, and User Experience are typically synonymous terms.
So, UX is the practice of making sure that people can use any digital components of your business (i.e. websites, landing pages, graphics, social media profiles, social media posts, etc.), that they find these components engaging, and that they are satisfied with their experience with these components. You also want to make sure that you’re designing your web presence for the actual users you’re trying to reach.
If there’s one key term to remember from the above definition, it’s relevance. If a user from a target demographic you’re trying to reach searches online for your product or service and finds your website, but doesn’t find the content or design of your website relevant to what they are looking for, they will most likely abandon it in favor of another search result.
Of course, engagement and satisfaction are also key things to think about. Users evaluate relevance and engagement at roughly the same time. Engagement is a highly subjective measure of how excited someone gets when they first encounter a website. It involves everything from the typography of your fonts to the emotional impact of your logo to how intuitive your site is to navigate.
Satisfaction is typically a measure of how users feel when they come away from your website. Do they feel their needs have been met? Do they feel let down? Did they find what they were expecting to find? Did all the interactions with your site work like they expected them to?
So, the UX of your website can be thought of as the subjective experience your actual users have with your website.
Now that you have a better understanding of what UX is, it’s time to think about how you can improve it for your business.
Components of a UX Toolkit
In order to improve the subjective experiences users have when they encounter your business’s website, you need to learn to think like your users. You may be very proud of your website. You may like everything about it. But do your users? And more importantly: does the subjective experience your users have with your website convince them to become customers?
To help you answer this question, you need to be thinking about the following components of your website’s UX:
- Usability: You need to test your site with core user types for tasks you want these user types to perform. Essentially: you need to interact with real people who are like the people you want them to attract, need to give them tasks these types of people should be able to accomplish, and need to measure the results for the above criteria (relevance, engagement, and satisfaction). We really like this 1-page usability test plan from Userfocus to help with planing and implementing usability tests.
- User Research: Like market research, in addition to knowing how your website functions when users attempt particular tasks on your website, you also want to know their subjective impressions. What do they think about when they first see your website? What do they think after they have spent a few minutes on your site? What do they expect from your site and were those expectations unmet, met, or exceeded? What would they change about your website if they could?
- Personas: Personas are customer profiles for your website. They turn market research into targeted, archetypal users that represent the people who come to your website, their needs, and what they want to get out of your site. Knowing your personas tells you who you are optimizing your site for.
- Conversion optimization: You need to optimize your website for your target personas. It’s a classic mistake to try to design a website that appeals to everyone. Again: UX is at least partially subjective. Not everyone is going to like your website, just like not everyone is going to buy from you. Rather, you need to tailor your website to the needs of people you are trying to attract without sacrificing the needs of a more general audience.
- Technologies: There are a lot of great UX software programs out there to make your job easier if you’re just getting into UX. We’ll be doing a post about this soon, but some of the technologies we use ourselves are TryMyUI (usability testing), Silverback (usability testing on a Mac), UXPin (prototyping new designs and creating personas), Crazy Egg (visualizing where users click), and Optimal Workshop (a whole host of tools from testing your website’s navigational structure to first-click analysis).
Just Remember: You Have a Specific User Experience in Mind Whether You’re Conscious of It or Not
A lot of clients we have individually worked with over the years have come to us with the impression that they don’t have to worry about UX. UX kind of sounds like an esoteric term if you’re not familiar with it. It sounds like something only big technology companies designing customized software need to think about.
We often start conversations with clients by explaining that if you have a website, then you have a specific user experience in mind. You want users to click on certain buttons, to read certain information, and to come away from your site with particular notions. If you didn’t design your website, then the user experience of your site was probably determined by whoever did. Your web designer made certain decisions regarding what users would expect when they arrived at your site, and these decisions influenced the final design.
Paying attention to UX means making these decisions consciously. If you’re working with a web designer, you need to make them aware of the people your website is targeting. The more specific you can be, the better. Also: if they don’t have plans to test a prototype of your website with actual users before launching it, you should ask them why.
UX is all about making data-driven decisions in order to appeal to a specific audience. If you don’t know what the specific people you’re trying to attract want from your website, it’s next to impossible to design a relevant, engaging, and satisfying experience for them.