Flashback! With today’s shifting internet landscape, this post from May of 2013 is more relevant than ever. User experience is a buzzword you may have heard if you’ve been creating a website for your business or if you follow the digital marketing industry. On the other hand, even if you’re familiar with the term, you may not know what better user experience refers to, why it’s important, or what to do about it.

In a nutshell, user experience — often but not necessarily a web design term — describes those aspects of your site, products, services, or anything else that a person will interact with in some way. It can be as mundane as the texture of a product or as convoluted and contentious as the skeuomorphic design elements which animate buttons on a screen to appear as though they’ve been pressed when, in reality, they’ve been clicked by a mouse. It includes your choice of menu layout, how your site scales on mobile devices, and so on, but it can equally well describe the sensation of haptic feedback when your cell phone vibrates.

This post will explain:

  • User experience
  • Why user experience is important and
  • Provide a sample process for creating a better user experience

Let’s get started.

Better user experience

What is User Experience?

According to user experience expert Jesse James Garrett:

User experience is not about the inner workings of a product or service. User experience is about how it works on the outside, where a person comes into contact with it. When someone asks you what it’s like to use a product or service, they’re asking about the user experience. Is it hard to do simple things? Is it easy to figure out? How does it feel to interact with the product?

Why is User Experience Important?

Let’s take a minute to figure out why you would care about user experience.

  • Human decency. Despite all the good technology has brought us, it can also be quite frustrating — for you and for your customers. Better user experience reduces frustration and makes your website, products, and services more appealing.
  • Return on Investment. If you are going to invest time and money into creating a website, it might as well be a good one (and by “good,” I mean that your business or personal goals are being met).
  • Conversion. One realistic way to measure the success of your website is whether the people who come to your site end up being customers. This process is called “conversion,” and it’s a metric you’ll encounter frequently in digital marketing and site analytics.
  • Professionalism. A good website with a better user experience makes people trust your business and gives you a good reputation online and off.

In other words, user experience is an expression of care for your customers and a fundamental way to increase your profits.

How to Create a Better User Experience

This might go without saying, but your first task when creating a better user experience is figuring out your goals (which should be accomplished long before you set out to create a website) and the goals of your users.

You can more easily define the goals of your users if you have conducted market research and created a persona.

Your goals probably include, in one way or another, making money. The goals of your users likely include:

  • Understanding what you are offering in terms of products and services and
  • Making a decision about whether to take the next step toward a purchase

This is the conversion process we referenced above (see above).

Here are 5 steps you can take to create a better user experience and convert leads to customers:

Step 1

Figure out your goals and those of your users. Be as specific as you can be.

Let’s pretend you run an e-commerce site. E-commerce sites are a great example because you can measure everything from how many people came to your site to how many people made a purchase, which brings us to Step 2.

Step 2

Make your business and user/customer goals measurable. What this means, in practice, is that you will not only set measurable goals, such as the number of website visitors.

The next thing you need to do is develop systems to help your users meet their goals. A digital “shopping cart” is a great example of an intuitive system that performs an implicit function to facilitate the conversion process. To buy something, people need processes and functions.

While the above example may seem obvious, there are other, more subtle forms of this you may want to pay attention to. If your goal is to share information, for example, you may want to place a prominent link in an easy-to-see location, or you may redesign your menu or site architecture to deliver information more quickly

Step 3

Make your goals actionable. In other words, use design and functionality to make it possible and pleasant to take actions that will meet your business and user/customer goals.

As it turns out, it’s not enough to make your goals actionable. They also need to be relevant. Here’s an example:

Suppose you want people to sign up for your email list, but you have a large button on your site that says, “Click Here to Schedule a Free Website Review.” It might be easy for your users to take action, but it’s not really what you wanted them to do!

Step 4

Make your actions relevant. In other words, make sure that the actions you are encouraging are relevant to your business goals.

This brings us directly to our final step, which is to have a way of tracking success. Creating a process (which usually involves setting up a spreadsheet or creating a dashboard) for keeping track of what you measure and analyzing it will help ensure your success.

Step 5

Analytics and iteration. Over time you will want to analyze the results of your work.

At the end of the day, creating a better user experience is about knowing what you and your customers want and then creating strategies, designs, processes, and functions that will make your customers happy while you meet your business goals.

Your Turn

What do you think is important when considering user experience? Find us on Facebook and let us know!

Further Reading:

Curry, Jenna. 5 Elements of a Successful Home Page That Will Convert Users to Customers. A Better User Experience. May 23, 2013.

Fong, Dixon. The S.M.A.R.T. User Experience Strategy. Smashing Magazine. September 13, 2011.

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