Your marketing team has developed a great web page to support a new product. Content and design have worked together on a cohesive layout; you’ve made sure all buttons are clickable; the messaging is excellent; all teams are briefed; you’re ready and launch!
And nothing happens.
This situation has played out across countless companies and industries - disappointing for the team behind the new web page and for their customers alike. After all, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. Regardless of how impressive your web page is -- product launch related or otherwise -- it doesn’t count if no one comes to visit. So, what’s the moral of the story?
User experience (UX) matters.
But somewhere in the process of building better user experiences and products, the industry missed the fundamental understanding of what “user experience” entails. Enter: confusion, over-complication, and projects that are sort-of-related, but-not-really-UX.
What UX Is — and Isn’t
Years ago, a friend from graduate school called me to ask how to design a t-shirt. This would have been fine if her role was graphic designer, but she was the UX lead at a small fin-tech company. My friend had no understanding or interest in visual design: she wanted to understand the user, and work on platform improvements. Instead of solving these problems, however, she found herself searching for Christmas icons to decorate the company’s logo for their holiday t-shirts.
Experience design is not visual design
Yes, visual elements are important in facilitating an optimal experience (and who doesn’t love a holiday logo?), but understanding the entire breadth of a user’s interactions, goals, and roadblocks goes beyond what they see. It lives in unlocking what they understand - and analytics are the first clue in getting there.
Introducing UX To your company
Implementing UX is as simple and as complicated as you make it out to be. At its core, a UX discipline is understanding who is coming to your website, how they are interacting with your site, identifying their pain points- and then solving for them.
Understanding user behavior unlocks a superpower to help you both cater to and anticipate your users’ needs.
How great UX can payoff
We started with the scary metrics, but there’s plenty of proof points for doing UX well. Simplifying tasks and reducing time spent to complete them will lead to both profitable outcomes for the business and a better experience for the user.
According to a Forrester report, better user experience could raise your website’s conversion rate by 200%, and better UX design could yield conversion rates of up to 400%. ESPN.com revenues jumped 35% after truly listening to their community and incorporating suggestions into their homepage redesign.
If you can't afford to have someone full time dedicated to UX, all hope is not lost. You can begin to measure how your web pages are performing to help indicate the path forward.
Step 1: Start measuring to move
The adage, “You can't manage what you're not measuring” can apply to how you grow your website and improve metrics. But when you start the process, keep in mind that you shouldn’t measure what you can’t manage. Focus on the right information you need to pull by asking the right questions.
Let’s go back to that product page launch, for example. The page is launched, but you’re not seeing any traction - so now you're tasked with “optimizing site layout.” The idea of “optimizing” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it requires another step back to define what data you'll be managing.
The Manual Labor team loves to start brainstorming with Miro, a tool that helps you collaborate and visualize ideas in real-time.
By creating a board on Miro, you and your team can create a thorough list of questions to answer through research. Here’s an example of how you can start to outline your research:
Use this session as a brainstorming game and get any question - big or small - on a sticky note. Start by building on each other's ideas, and edit down notes at the end.
3 Buckets for website analysis
1. What is the ultimate objective of the page?
As a group, come to a consensus on the web page's goal, and determine how that will help achieve the larger objective of the website. Whether you are redesigning a product or relaunching a marketing campaign page, keeping focus on a unified target will help the team stay on track.
The website goals can be high-level, like “gain leads through free trial completions and demos,” but make sure to address the following areas:
- What are the evolving needs of your customers?
- Who are your competitors? What kind of messaging are they using?
- What similarities and differences are you noticing in competitor layout, navigation, CTA strategy?
Keep in mind that the goal for the page/flow you are redesigning should fit into the larger objective.
2. Who is your user?
Once you have determined your larger goal, move to understanding who is coming to your website. This will allow you to update designs and focus on what’s important to your audience. The ideal user experience is when you help address the users job-to-be-done.
A few questions to help your understanding of your page visitors:
- What are their roles and day-to-day responsibilities?
- What are their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
- What are they motivated by?
- What pain points do they have?
Begin to create a picture of the types of users coming to your site, and use analytics and surveys to guide your redesign efforts.
3. How are users interacting with your web page?
This is an opportunity to understand micro-interactions that speak to the larger goal. For your page goal of gaining 20 new leads, for example, consider each step of the journey that a user goes through.
There are many pages in that journey that reveal when a user isn’t performing the action pushing them down the funnel. The steps of a user’s journey to becoming a customer isn’t singular. Some stages include learning about your product through supporting pages, reading thought leadership to understand the company’s trajectory, and eventually filling out forms to get a demo.
So, where to start? Begin by writing multiple potential journeys through your existing pages and list each page. Think about every interaction a user could potentially take on these pages and make a list of questions. For example:
- Are users scrolling to the right button leading to the next step in the flow?
- Are users clicking on the “download whitepaper” CTA to understand the benefits of your product?
- Are users clicking on a demo, but not completing any personal information?
Set-up tests once this page is designed, and consider what teams you will need to work with to implement findings. In a later piece, we’ll talk about testing and how to report on key learnings to your teammates and stakeholders.
Step 2: Get acquainted with hard metrics
Google Analytics is a fantastic tool that helps you collect data from your website. While there’s several dimensions and metrics you can look at - ranging from user behavior to traffic sources - it’s crucial to start with basic metrics to understand your audience.
The list below is by no means all-encompassing, but it’s an excellent place to start. Understanding the terms below will help you decide what information you’ll need to answer the questions you’ve laid out for yourself. And, please remember: it’s important to note that not one single metric will provide all the answers you need. The metrics pieced together, however, will give you a clear understanding of user behavior.
Starting with looking at bounce rate, page views, and audiences will answer some of these questions.
Google Analytics for UX
Step 3: Understanding page engagement
Hotjar is an analytics tool that visualizes how users are engaging with your page - be it the distance they scroll, what the click was, or where the user hovered with the cursor. As Hotjar’s data will augment discoveries you find from Google Analytics, use this as a tool to tell a story. Google Analytics will provide you with large-scale metrics but heatmaps will give you insight into how users engage with the page.
The following terms will help to clarify some of the fundamentals of measuring user interaction.
A heatmap is a data visualization of how users are interacting with an individual website page. Hotjar in particular tracks clicks, scrolls and moves on a page. The more frequent a user engages with a particular section of the page the more hot that area will display.
2. Click maps
Click maps provide an opportunity to understand how often users are interacting with call-to-action buttons and links. Observe whether users are ignoring any content that they should be clicking on. Take stock of what is working and what isn’t.
3. Scroll maps
Scroll maps will show you what percentage of users scrolled down to a particular point on the page. Observe where users are dropping off. Consider surfacing important content or redesigning the section to draw the user further along the page.
Take note of these metrics to measure against your findings after you make changes to the page.
Google Analytics + Hotjar for UX
Step 4: Answer the “why”
You’ve collected metrics, attached them with heatmaps, and have an informed data set. Great! If you have the opportunity to reach out to existing users, and engage with them through surveys. You have an opportunity to answer the “why”.
What is involved?
Create open surveys
Ask questions that validate or challenge design decisions. Here are some tips:
- Avoid leading questions. Ask broad questions that open the user to a conversation rather than appeasing your own ideas through specific questions. (eg. if they liked an icon because it was pretty or if they thought the user experience would have been better if the button was blue.) This is an opportunity for the user to give feedback.
- Avoid questions with information that overlaps with previous questions. Given our collective short attention span, be concise. Less will yield more information.
- 7-10 questions maximum → group questions if you absolutely feel that you need to ask more questions. End with asking for general feedback and if you have the bandwidth asking for an opportunity to speak.
- Some open-ended questions you may want to consider asking:
- What information were you able to find efficiently?
- What prevented you from finding information you needed in order to continue engaging with our company?
- What problem did you consistently encounter while looking through the website? Why?
It’s difficult to be specific when prescribing how often your team should be redesigning your website, as every website, company, and team has it’s own goals and set of challenges. Consider moments that you company and product evolve as an indicator that you will need to understand your users (eg. rebranding, product launch, events). From there, you’ll need to reevaluate whether or not your website is meeting its intended goals.
In further posts, we’ll explore how to include testing into this process and ultimately how to implement this information into design changes.