Good user experience starts with strategy. How does your site need to function to best support your users? Once that is defined, then consider the aesthetics, and what tech stack you’ll need to accomplish both.
The Key Takeaway:Good user experience starts with strategy. How does your site need to function to best support your users? Once that is defined, then consider the aesthetics, and what tech stack you’ll need to accomplish both.
Reframing Our Default Thinking About UX
When someone hears the phrase “user experience,” (UX) they often fall prey to thinking simply in terms of whether or not their website is visually attractive. “Is it pretty?” is the question asked, rather than considering experience design strategy, where you first define what kind of digital user experience you want your customers to have, and what user experience optimization is necessary to enable that.
So, when we have discussions about improving user experience, a gut reaction may be to think of design firms and what a website looks like, rather than considering the bigger framework in which design must operate. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to design something effectively when you don’t know exactly for whom you’re trying to design, or how you want them to experience the information with which you need to present them.
A great way to consider this mindset is by imagining a house. If someone came to you and asked you to design a home, you likely wouldn’t just consider the aesthetics, like paint colors and flooring choices, but rather the functional aspects of the home, like the layout. Is it one story or two? How will it be used? Is it for a large family or a retired couple? Do they entertain a lot or love to cook?
This same line of thinking is necessary when approaching user experience design. In order to make aesthetic choices, we first must understand who our customers are, what they are like, and what they need. After all, it doesn’t matter how beautiful a bathroom is if a home only has one when a homeowner really needs three.
A Strategic Approach to UX
In order to develop a user experience that truly delivers, we have to pull back and consider the friction points for buyers and sellers, and determine how to remove those challenges with technology.
This actually has very little to do with what the experience will look like. For example, if the point of friction for your customers is that it takes them far too long to get in touch with a salesperson to get a quote for a potential order, that ultimately doesn’t pertain to how your site looks, but rather with how it functions and how it communicates to your sales team your customers’ needs.
One way to solve this via technology would be with a self-quoting feature. If your customers can self-service and create their own quotes, you’ve empowered your users, cut down on the workload for your sales team, and sped up the time-to-close. Armed with that strategy, you can now select what technology will help you provide this function.
So in this example, we’ve first identified a strategy for user experience and then considered what that experience will look like, before finally determining which technology will best enable this.
Per Forrester, better UX can yield conversion rates of up to 400%.
Amazon Web Services found that 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience.
According to Neil Patel, 44% of shoppers will tell their friends about a bad online experience. People don’t just hate bad UX, they’ll actively talk about how much they hate it!
Via Think with Google, if a website isn’t mobile-friendly, 50% of users will use it less even if they like the business.
Per ClickZ, 79% of users place the highest level of importance on the overall usability of a site or app.
This is just a sampling of statistics to demonstrate why the function of your site matters even more than its visual appeal, and there’s plenty more data to support this reality. Yet, all too often, strategy falls to the wayside and design is prioritized. Let’s dig into why that happens and how it can be avoided.
Roadblocks to UX Success
According to UX Matters: “Most technology companies and digital agencies don’t consider UX design roles to be part of strategic decision making. UX designers usually get hired to execute strategy decisions that others have already made.”
In a study that reviewed hundreds of LinkedIn job descriptions for both Product Management and UX jobs, at small (1–10 employees), medium (10–100 employees) and large (100+ employees) technology companies, startups, and agencies, UX Matters found that very rarely are UX professionals brought in at the strategy stage.
As they state quite powerfully: “This is not an issue of corporations’ putting roles into silos. It’s a systemic problem of companies’ underestimating the importance of developing a deep understanding of their customers on an ongoing basis.”
Indeed, rather than considering UX Designers, successful brands will think of them as UX Strategists, and bring them into the process much earlier on.
Beyond being intentional about who is part of strategy development - and when they are brought into the fold - it’s also critical to continually revisit who your users are and if your UX is delivering what they want and need. Often, businesses get complacent, and rather than continually reexamining their users' needs and preferences, they assume that nothing has changed. But if the past few years of rapidly-shifting consumer expectations has taught us anything, it’s that assumptions are incredibly costly.
No business can truly succeed without a deep and ongoing commitment to understanding its users. This means investing in gathering, monitoring, and implementing optimizations based upon user data and feedback.
Per Skyhook, just 55% of companies conduct UX tests, despite being well aware of the excellent ROI on usability testing.
In fact, MeasuringU found that 85% of issues related to UX can be detected by performing a usability test on a group of just five users.
With some ongoing testing, a commitment to continually examining who your users are and what they need, and a strategy for meeting those needs via both function and design, your company can tap into user desires that are currently going unfulfilled.
When properly leveraged, your UX team aren’t just designers, they are strategists. UX professionals can drive innovation and meet customer needs in ways that you may not have ever considered, thanks to their unique perspective and skill sets. Companies that limit UX teams to design roles only will fail to capitalize on this. Don’t focus on design before you focus on function, and be sure to select a team of professionals who will advocate for strategy as much as they do the design that supports it and the tech stack chosen to execute it.
When our Object Edge user experience team approaches a project, we focus as much on strategy as we do look and feel. Our first step is always to work with you to define what the user experience should be, and understand the potential ROI of those functions, and then get into the finer points of what it should look like and what technologies should be used.
Rohit is a forward-thinking eCommerce evangelist, especially focused on re-energizing the B2B sector and merging the old disciplines with new technology opportunities. He is passionate about delivering profitable growth through people-driven digital transformation. Watch his talk on digital transformation.