The importance of user experience can’t be underestimated in terms of attracting new visitors or customers to your website, and keeping established ones coming back. A lot has been written about the user experience, and how to measure it. So what is the user experience, and how do you know if your website design, content and SEO is providing a positive one?
User experience explained
User experience at its simplest can be said to be how accessible, valuable, useful, credible and usable your website is. Let’s break down a few of the key elements:
- Findability – this is how easy it is for users to find what they are looking for on your site, using keywords and search terms. For instance, does their search take them directly to what they were looking for, or lead them to directions on where to find it, or does it just all dissolve into frustration?
- Usability – usability can be broken down into a number of elements such as effectiveness, efficiency, learnability, memorability, and user satisfaction. In essence it refers to how good the site is in enabling users to achieve objectives, learn how to do tasks, repeat what they did, and how satisfying their experience was.
- Credibility – naturally a site needs to be credible and provide a quality product. This entails not only producing content that is well-written but also relevant, valuable, useful, truthful and in context. Site credibility is likely to have a strong influence on the experience of site visitors and users.
Which brings us to the next point – user experience is based on how people using your site feel about it. So how can you objectively measure something that is so subjective?
Measuring the user experience
Measuring user experience has to involve interacting with users. It’s not enough to simply implement the theories of what “should” work best, such as having the right keywords for example. This is because you need to be targeting your online marketing at the right audience for a start (the ones who are actually genuinely interested in your product or service and are likely to buy from you), and not just at the general public.
You also need to understand what motivates users – why they do what they do. This involves doing research that is as objective and unbiased as possible from your own perspective – that is, it needs to avoid leading questions that might lean towards giving you the answers you want.
In essence your research must have both quantitative and qualitative data. An example of quantitative data might be how long users took to complete a task, while qualitative might be how satisfying their experience was.
How can I do the research?
One way to do this is to conduct usability tests that involve testing participants, observing them, asking questions about their experience, and taking notes.
Questions to ask might include:
- What is the first impression you have of this site?
- What is the main purpose of this site?
- What benefits would you expect to get from the page / site?
- What do you like (or don’t like) about this page / site?
While tasks might include:
- Finding their way back to the Home page from another page.
- Browsing and selecting items.
- Adding an item to the shopping cart.
- Paying for an item.
- Subscribing to the newsletter.
- Finding blog posts or articles.
Generally speaking it is a good idea to do these sorts of tests at regular intervals rather than as a once-off, as your site may need continual updating and refining to remain relevant.
To conclude, user-centred design is vital for website success. After all, websites are designed for human beings – along with all their preconceptions, desires, and emotions. How your users perceive your site can make all the difference to whether they are willing to engage with your business. Taking the time and making the effort to test how users perceive your site should always be an important element in your site design, content and SEO.