User experience, or UX, is a term that gets thrown around a lot when people talk about websites and website design. Obviously everyone wants a “good” user experience, but what does “good” really mean? Let’s take a look at what user experience means for a successful website, why it matters, and some important things to keep in mind during your next website redesign.
What is UX?
To begin to understand why user experience is an important piece of any new website design, we all need to be on the same page about what it is. According to usability.gov, “user experience focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations. It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project. UX best practices promote improving the quality of the user’s interaction with and perceptions of your product and any related services.” Sounds pretty simple right? Find out what your users want and need, take into account business goals, then deliver an experience that combines these elements. The relationship between all of the different factors that contribute to good UX is represented in Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb. It’s no surprise that “valuable” sits at the center of everything related to UX. If there is one thing to remember, it is that users need to find their experience with your website valuable.
Why it Matters
Now that we understand what user experience is, you’re probably asking why do I care? Why should you focus on this instead of the hundreds of other areas that you could be focusing on to improve your organization’s digital presence? The simple answer is that good user experience is going to make a lot of the pain points on your website go away. UX plays a role in almost everything visitors do on your website. From the design, to the content, to the way they navigate the site and convert, it all goes back to UX. It isn’t enough to just have a website anymore, the experience needs to be immediately valuable and relevant to visitors or they will leave to find one that is. So how do you make your website valuable, useful, usable, and relevant to the modern visitor?
Understand What Your Users Need
Before implementing any changes to your website user experience, it is important to determine what your users are looking for and what they find valuable. Take a look into your website analytics to get an understanding of how visitors are interacting and behaving on the current site, and find out where the pain points are. Another way to get this information is to survey your visitors to determine what their wants and needs are. Every site is going to be different, and it is important to focus on the areas that are going to be most useful to your business.
A Great Mobile Experience
While gaining information about what your users want and need will tell you specifically what is important, there are some areas of user experience that can be improved upon universally. It should come as a surprise to no one that having a website with a great mobile experience is important in 2015. Not only does a mobile friendly site help your site get found on Google, it also allows users to find, interact, and eventually convert at a much higher rate. This is especially important since the number of mobile users on the internet has surpassed the amount of desktop users. If your site isn’t optimized for these users, you are essentially ignoring the experience of over half the web using population!
The Right Content
One of the frequently ignored pieces of a good user experience is having the right content that a visitor will find valuable. Your website could have an award winning design or the best mobile experience on the web, but it won’t matter unless visitors are interested and engaged with the content that is on the page. Google has specifically said that the best way to improve SEO is to have content that is useful and relevant to searchers. Developing a content strategy and understanding the who, what, where, why, and how of deploying that content for end users is the first step to achieving this and is one of the cornerstones of good UX. If your website is lacking a strategic direction for content, it may be time to start evaluating how to improve.
Let’s say you have the right website design, a good mobile experience, and you even have an effective content strategy in place. Personalization is a great way to take your user experience to the next level and really start to drive conversions on a large scale. Think of it this way, would you rather be getting the same messaging, content, and experience as everyone else on the web? Or one that is tailor-made specifically to you and your interests? The visitors to your web are diverse individuals and not everyone will want or need the same thing. By providing personalized offers based on past behavior or educated assumptions, your website can start delivering a user experience that falls right into the “valuable” sweet spot that we mentioned above.