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UX therapy: let’s talk to each other and listen to our users

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How can we fix problems with best practice and competitor trends if we don’t know what the problems are?

Most marketers will agree that User Experience (UX) is important if you want your business to succeed online, yet many still fail to realise just how important it is. Countless studies have shown that poor UX will push most users (several studies have shared figures of 90% or more) to abandon a site, resulting in billions of pounds worth of lost revenue for businesses across all verticals.

Why are businesses still getting it wrong?

Businesses’ increased focus on UX represents a step in the right direction – but (bet you didn’t see that one coming) most businesses are still not getting it quite right.

This becomes increasingly clear when it’s time to allocate budget for a new website launch – which must happen by a specific date – meaning UX is quickly sacrificed due to the highest paid person’s opinion (aka HiPPO) and is replaced with a minimum viable product (MVP) version of the site with the promise to ‘optimise later on’. This often results in the even greater challenge of re-working a broken foundation within the limitations of the templates.

The quick fix then often becomes: ‘what are others doing?’ and ‘do some best practice – we want a best in class solution’. This is then swiftly followed by: ‘we’d like to see some initial wireframes next week’.

‘Best practice’ with care

There’s definitely something to be said for ‘best practices’ – they are, after all, considered the ‘best’ for a reason. I’m also a strong advocate of seeing what competitors are doing as well as researching new trends and inspiration across the web. All of this will help you develop the UX masterpiece that is your website and is an important part of the discovery phase – but it shouldn’t be the only part. This is key because:

• What works for your competitors may not work for your business;

• Your audience may be different (which means different needs);

• You may decide to scrap an entire site and start from scratch, when the issue could have been addressed by tweaking your current solution;

• You risk eliminating some aspects of your current UX that your users really like.

And the big one: why limit yourself to only be as good as your competitors – why not be better?

What is the solution?

A bit of UX therapy! Let’s not just cover up the problems and make them look pretty. Let’s discover the underlying issues and explore solutions that offer users the experience they deserve. After all, how can we fix problems with best practice and competitor trends if we don’t know what the problems are?

And to do this, we have to turn to the most important piece of the entire online business puzzle: the user.

Without the user, your online business is doomed. They’re there, and they want to be heard, so let’s listen to them. Let’s engage in some UX group therapy - also known as qualitative and quantitative UX research (although that admittedly doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Study your users

There’s a vast range of tools out there that’ll help you gather all kinds of insights into user engagement. But first you need to take a deep dive into your Google Analytics data to discover which areas of your site are struggling. It could be certain page templates, the funnel, device, or formatting issues – the list is endless.

Once you have an idea of where things are going wrong, you can begin to explore the ‘why’. Tools such as SessionCam, Hotjar, LuckyOrange, Crazy Egg, FullStory, etc. can all help to you gather a range of user engagement data:

• Mouse tracking (scroll maps, move maps, click maps);

• Funnel analytics;

• Form analytics;

• User playback recordings.

These insights will shed light on UX challenges your site or app may be suffering from and may reveal the parts of your site users appear to enjoy engaging with, which you may not have previously realised.

Ask your users

When in doubt: ask. With relatively easy access to all kinds of data and insights, and best practice, it’s easy to forget to actually ask people what they want. There are many ways to gather qualitative feedback, some of which are more time and cost efficient than others.

Polls and surveys are quick, cheap, and effective - and should be part of any UX or conversion optimisation strategy. When doing these, however, make sure you limit the number of questions, or users won’t bother to complete them (unless you offer some serious incentive) – keep them short and sweet, and do another poll as and when needed.

Usability testing (whether lab-based or conducted remotely) may require more resource, but when done right, the learnings are invaluable. This approach offers you the chance to really talk to your users about their experience, challenges, needs, and wishes. Advances are being made in this field every day, and biometric usability testing is becoming more common - this involves participants being set up with an EEG headset, eye tracking and heart rate monitor in order to understand their ‘true’ reactions to a website, even the subconscious ones.

Make room for UX research

It’s this mix of qualitative and quantitative insights that’ll help you win the UX race. They’ll allow you to make informed decisions when it comes to your website, be it optimising an existing site or developing a brand new one. Most will agree that UX research is important, so why do so many seem to forget this when it’s time to budget or roadmap a site? Put on your lab coats, do your research, learn, implement... and watch your revenue soar!

Sarah Faber Petersen is head of CRO and UX at Greenlight Digital

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