In this article, we’ll explain:
It’s wrong to assume digital user experience is limited to web design. Building a website with a usable user interface is just a part of the equation.
Instead, every interaction with your company affects the user experience. Here’s an example of a journey someone might take to sign up for a SaaS application:
And so on… Assuming user experience only touches step number two would be extremely dangerous. UX is often a selling point for web design agencies but they usually work on it in a silo. What they actually mean by UX is usability.
You can deduce the impact of most of these steps already. Hell, you definitely know other scenarios with steps that we haven’t covered yet. But we’d like to explain a few of these steps in more detail before diving deeper into tips on the process of improving the UX at your company.
Most advertisements have conversion rates in single digits. And that’s where the user experience starts. A lot of people will have a negative experience the first time they encounter your product!
This isn’t a rule of thumb, though. There are many reasons for running ads. When someone doesn’t interact with a brand awareness campaign, this isn’t necessarily a bad experience. But with other ads, you can encounter issues like bad placement, or perhaps the user doesn’t “vibe” with the design or your brand.
The website affects several layers of your user experience. It’s a marketing tool, meaning your brand and message can still be off-putting here.
People use it unsupervised, meaning technical issues and usability problems affect their experience as well.
It’s often a purchase engine, which involves third-party payment processors. As such, website UX can be partially out of your control if the user encounters errors while paying!
Last but not least, the website affects one of the six user experience specialities that we’ll cover in the next section – the findability. Your search engine rankings rely on various website qualities.
Believe it or not, many businesses get this one wrong. When working with clients, we often start by becoming their customer! This is eye-opening.
Often, websites will leave visitors without anything after checking out. It’s like… “hey, here’s a confirmation. That’ll do!”
But that’s not good enough. People can be easily irritated when they don’t know what happens next. In fact, they often want to know it before it happens. We frequently set post-order expectations in the copy on our clients’ websites.
It can be as simple as this example from the Stitch Fix website:
Considering that UX encompasses every single interaction people have with your business, optimising it individually can lead to blind spots.
If you create digital ads without communication with the website team to design applicable landing pages, you may struggle to figure out why they’re not working.
Likewise, having a great process up to the purchase isn’t enough. If there are issues with the shipment or setting expectations for the post-order experience, people might ask for more refunds. This will be more obvious, but it’s still a common issue.
There’s also a more abstract problem with UX and that’s inconsistency. If everything is smooth sailing until you add a product to the cart, and then it’s still good but a tad worse, people will pick it up.
A common example of this is making the website UX great while neglecting everything else. And of course, we’re not saying to make the website UX worse to match the rest. Just keep in mind how the experience flows with each step.
This will be the most relevant type for websites, but it doesn’t stop there. Usability is what it says on the tin – how easy is it to use your product? How easy is it to use the website? A big concept over the last few years was the mobile-first design approach. Responsive websites are an absolute must these days, but you have to cover other aspects as well.
It’s not sufficient for the website to be usable, though… Which brings us to the second type.
Did you know how many inventors were motivated by the needs of a disabled person? Just imagine a where we would be if we haven’t invented a phone or a typewriter. Both of these were solving an accessibility issue at first.
While it might seem similar to usability, it’s entirely possible to have an easy-to-use are of a website that people can’t reach if they don’t use a mouse. It might also be that a crucial link is a poorly implemented image, which won’t be obvious to a person using a screen reader.
Now that’s a soft one. Building the best product, the best website and running solid marketing is a waste of resources if people don’t need what you’re selling. Startups usually pivot several times before finding the right product. And let’s face it, the vast majority never succeeds. That’s why user research is extremely important.
But there’s also another layer to that. Psychology impacts whether people desire your product or not. You can improve this part of UX by using digital psychology methods. Don’t worry, they’re not shady tricks. If you’re genuinely trying to help people, why wouldn’t you go all the way to achieve that?
Designers and writers, you’ll love this one. UX doesn’t exist without trust and building it spans these two disciplines. It also goes back to digital psychology, which influences how people act.
People often shy away from linking to external sources, but it’s a great way to build credibility – both for users and search engines.
It has a huge impact on user experience. How often have you went “gee, that’s too expensive for me?” When the value isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how nice something is!
Findability is even more impactful than value. For us, the obvious reference here is SEO. Your website is what drives organic traffic. If it fails at that, your findability is suffering.
But reaching your website isn’t all. Finding the right information while browsing it is key as well. That’s where information architecture chips in. There are many ways to improve that part of user experience, including internal linking.
Discover the value of optimising your conversions compared to building more landing pages or designing a new website.
At this stage, it’s obvious that user experience needs to be at the core of your organisation. You can’t just pick and choose some of the areas we’ve listed above. It’s all in or nothing. Here’s why these areas impact user experience.
Optimising for your audience is an area where you have much more impact. It’s definitely the harder of the two, but you can get involved at multiple stages of the project.
User research and creating user personas is the foundation of the research and strategy phase. Your input here will be invaluable for your web agency. No two audiences are alike and there’s nobody that knows them better than you or your marketing team.
For most budgets of small businesses and even medium enterprises, user research will cover on-site analysis and most importantly, your input. Your knowledge will lay the groundwork for making educated choices in the next phases of the project. It’s crucial to avoid decisions based on intuition. Your business needs a digital experience tailor-made for your customers.
Optimising funnels is easier from your point of view in the sense that it’s mostly in the hands of a web agency. You will base various user journeys on your website on the existing user personas and on the range of your products and features.
Almost every feature on your website will add one or more funnels that need to be optimised. A simple newsletter means that you can convert a client through countless funnels. Here are two examples:
It’s crucial that you’re aware of that when planning a new website. Implementing features such as a newsletter, podcast directory or a blog won’t be a tremendous strain on the initial budget. However, it might become exponentially more expensive to sustain the additional sales funnels – and neglecting them post-launch will be a waste of money.
Let’s take the newsletter examples we’ve listed above and isolate the subscription part. Just like with any other contact form, it’s crucial to make it easy and intuitive to fill for the visitors. If you’re asking for too much personal information, you’ll lose the prospect at the early stage of converting.
Many small business websites lack a dedicated feedback form. To show you just how much value it can have, let’s bring up an example from our latest project for one of our clients. We’ve asked the visitors of an ecommerce website to pinpoint the weakest point of the product page they were viewing.
After implementing the most requested features and layout tweaks based on the responses, we’ve seen an immediate increase in sales. Even though it’s an exercise isolated from a bigger project, it shows how a minor investment can go a long way.
We need to acknowledge that user experience doesn’t work for everyone the same way. The two most important things that you need to consider on your website are:
Even two websites from the same industry, offering the same services, won’t be identical. That’s because of different user personas and sales funnels. It’s important to keep it in mind, as “best practices” and mirroring the efforts of successful brands can have a negative effect on your digital sales.
To further illustrate the point, let’s take a previous sales funnel and apply a single “mistake” at one step. The user journey would be as follows:
Let’s focus on the last step – “getting in touch”. As many case studies prove, even a single additional field in a contact form can prove to be quite costly. For Expedia, removing one input field earned them an additional $12 million in a year. We won’t need specific numbers to showcase the issue. Let’s just put yourself in the shoes of the visitor to see how much it will affect you.
Assuming a needless contact form field, visitors that won’t convert have now gone through a significant part of a sales process just to have a seemingly small issue stop them from converting. In the above example, this one field has negatively affected your:
Naturally, the more steps in the funnel, the more impact it has.
“I don’t like my website” is a valid reason to get a fresh one, but it’s not the most profitable one. Obviously, it has to work for both you and your visitors. If you hate your website, it’s likely not making you enough money. But your visitors see it differently.
If you’re struggling to use your site or think it’s outdated, that’s an excellent indication that it needs to be looked into. But it’s not what should decide how you proceed. Working closely together with experts from a web agency will yield the best results.
Creating the ultimate user experience for your visitors should be your priority. Optimising a business website can lead to more than doubled sales because it affects all areas of your company. It’s your storefront and your most important digital marketing tool. If it’s underperforming, every single digital investment becomes less profitable.
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Originally published May 12, 2020 3:48:30 PM, updated August 25 2023.