Every website exists for a purpose, and unless you are here to change the world with nothing in return, that purpose is growing revenue. Jakob Nielsen observed that the amount of business you do is a multiple of three factors.
B = V x C x L
V = Unique Visitors (think SEO and content usability)
C = Conversion Rate
L= Loyalty Rate (think Life Time Value)
For better business you should improve your SEO, conversion rate and user loyalty (retention). Both conversion rate and Loyalty rate are a direct consequence of your website’s User Experience (UX). UX influences even SEO, although indirectly, as you’ll see later on in this post.
It takes less than a pea brain to see why solving for UX is solving for business. The bad news is, the challenge of optimizing UX right is akin to being the nicest person at the party.
The good news is, it is possible and today, it’s easier than ever with handy online tools.
In this post, I’ll show you how to proceed with optimizing your UX – and, thereby, conversions and revenue.
Before we get on the road, let me establish some common grounds, so that we are on the same page all along to the very end of this post.
- Many distinct elements form the whole that we call User Experience. At its simplest, UX depends on Information Design — User Interface (Interaction Design by extension) and Navigation Design (Information Architecture by extension). Improving UX requires tinkering with either or both these factors. No short cuts there. The trouble is finding which, and where on your website.
- UX is what happens when a user interacts with a website. It is a function of both pragmatic (does the site do what it’s supposed to help a user do?) and hedonistic (what emotional responses does it trigger?) factors.
- Umpteen frameworks exist to help decode and analyze User Experience. For the purpose of this post, and a common frame of reference, we’ll be referring to Peter Morville’s UX Honeycomb that lists 7 facets of UX including but not limited to findability, usefulness and usability.
Making UX Awesome and Increasing Revenues
Your website is like you. It has a form and a skeleton — the interface and the information architecture that lies underneath. It meets people, makes friends and it thrives. It’s just like you.
And it makes you money.
Pop quiz: Your UX is sick. What do you do?
#1 Look For Symptoms: What Page is Causing Problems?
Dig into your data analytics dashboard. What pages on your website are showing symptoms of a disease. Travel along the routes that your users travel. See where they are stopping, for how long, do they tend to leave certain pages more often than others?
- If it’s the checkout page that is suffering from poor conversions, check if you have trust signals on the page. It could simply be an issue of credibility.
- If the homepage is suffering from high bounce rate it is possible that users are not able to navigate the website or they are not able to locate what they are looking for.
Analytics can show you what pages are ruining the User Experience on your website.
#2 Light A Torch On It: Where On The Page Do Issues Lie?
Get into a relationship with visual analytics. While data analytics tell you what pages are having UX issues, visual analytics reveal where on the page issues lie. Visual analytics help you answer questions like:
- How do users browse your website?
- What elements go unnoticed and what elements command the most attention?
- Which elements are avoided?
Here are some sample scenarios:
- Run scroll maps to know exactly where the fold lies on the page and how far users scroll. Do you have important elements like related links below the fold?
- Look into click maps to see what elements users are clicking most on. Are they missing the primary conversion goal? You might have on your hands a findability/discoverability issue.
- Use user session recordings and see a first hand account of exactly how your users browse your pages. If users are hovering over particular elements more than some others, they may be unsure whether to click or not. A plain usability issue.
What do all these visual data point towards? Put on those UX glasses. With visual analytics you should be able to clearly understand what aspect of the UX honeycomb needs to be improved upon.
At this stage you know what element needs improvement.
But is it a superficial (interface) issue or is it a deeper (Navigation design and Information Architecture) issue?
For instance, let’s say, your ‘related links’ section is not getting any clicks. Is it because the element’s design doesn’t command attention or because users don’t feel that the ‘related’ links are related?
With isolated elements like CTAs, it is easier to tell if you should test the UI (User Interface) or the Navigation. But if visual analytics reveal an issue over a cluster or system of elements, it is wiser to delve into further research. Why? Because guessing design is a costly game.
#3 Find The Culprit: Is it Information Architecture or Interface Design?
Once you know what page you need to optimize the UX of, and what quality of it to improve, it’s simply a matter of ascertaining if the change required is in IA. Both the methods explained below help you answer questions like:
- Are users able to understand content titles – categories and link text?
- Are users able to sufficiently understand the relationship and hierarchy among different content titles?
Tree Testing (Web Testing)
In Tree testing, users are presented a skeletal form of the website showing the hierarchy between different page elements. They are then asked to perform a certain action, like, ‘find the exact cost of enrolling for college admission on this page’. Depending on how many users are able to accomplish the task, the website’s information architecture can be validated.
At the end of the test, users are asked how easy they found the task to be. This tells you the users’ perceived ease of completion of a task.
Participants of card sorting are asked to match each functionality on the page to different categories on the page; sans any interface design.
Card sorting tells you a couple of things.
It tells you which functionality are most associated with each category by users. If there’s a considerable deviation in the way your navigation design looks and the way users expect it to be, it is wise to invest in changing it.
By the time you reach this stage, you know four things:
- What page needs attention
- Which element of the page needs attention
- What quality of the element needs attention
- the graphic design or,
- the navigation design
The next step is the most fun.
#4 Hypothesize: A/B, Split or Multivariate Test It
Based on the insights gathered, construct strong hypotheses. Here’s one example.
Data Analytics: High bounce rate on the information page
Visual Analytics: User session recordings show that few users ever locate ‘related links’. Even when they locate it, users seem apprehensive about clicking.
Card Sorting: When asked to sort links on the page, users were confused what category to put the related links into.
Hypothesis: There seems to be both an interface and a navigation design issue. If the design is modified to have higher prominence, and the content title changed to ‘Essential Reading’, bounce rate on the page could decrease.
Never Stop Improving The User Experience
User experience, as I mentioned before, comprises of many factors. Depending on what factors are most important to your site, you can give direction to the UX optimization program. For instance, if yours is a shop like The Art of Shaving, improving the desirability facet should be super important to you. But for most websites, findability and usability would be the most important.