This is almost too simple.
USER EXPERIENCE means the experience of the user.
Joe arrives on your website. Sometime later, Joe leaves.
What happens in between is HIS user experience.
Of course everyone’s user experience is different.
Does it matter? Is user experience something to concern yourself with? Or is it enough to make your website pretty? READ ON and FIND OUT!
DOES USER EXPERIENCE MATTER?
Is “user experience” unimportant? Reading some marketing gurus, you might think so because they never talk about the user experience.
That is like, in baseball, never talking about getting on base. See, getting on base is unimportant. Never mind you can’t score if you can’t get on base.
There is factually only one thing in marketing more important than the user experience. And that is getting your message in front of prospects at all. Of course, if no one sees your marketing, there is no user experience.
I guess at least then you could say it isn’t a BAD user experience.
Time for a true story. In the early days of online stores, about 2005, a client of ours occasionally had visitors who couldn’t figure out how to use the website. This was upsetting to our client. Understandably, he wanted his website to service EVERYONE.
But THESE were the people you would advise to turn off their computer, unplug it, pack it up, and take it back to the store.
We could have made the site so idiot proof, that even those types could use it. To do so would have degraded the user experience of the 99% who didn’t have a problem. So to Hell with them.
Always, there is no absolute of user experience. It is a spectrum, from AMAZINGLY BAD to THIS SURE IS WONDERFUL.
With online stores, there is a minimum bar you have to meet. Or you get NO sales. A bad enough user experience is WORSE than having no website at all (we’ve actually measured this).
WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME
People are different and experience websites in different ways. A good user experience takes this into account. We provide alternate ways of navigating the site.
So, for example, your website may have a main services page. It would be, of course, a main menu item. But a link to it would also be featured in some way on the home page. AND it would be listed in a “quick links” section in the footer of every page. And there’ll be a search button you can use to search for a particular service.
That’s good user experience. No matter how someone is accustomed to navigating a website, they will have no problem finding the services they are interested in.
Another example. You discuss on the home page, what makes your company special. What about the people who don’t scroll down but immediately click on a main menu button? That same information – probably further fleshed out – had better be easy to find, using the main menu navigation.
YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SHOES
This shouldn’t need to be said (things that shouldn’t need to be said, always need to be said, am I right?): Your website experience isn’t about you. It is about them.
Too often I see websites where the focus is on what the site owner wants. Like getting people to sign up for their newsletter, or call and make an appointment. So that’s the first thing you see when you arrive on your website, often in the form of an intrusive popup.
Now put yourself in the site visitor’s shoes. When you go to a website for the first time, are you immediately ready to sign up for a newsletter, or to book an appointment?
I don’t think so.
In their rush to get to the end of the sale, they skip everything leading up to it. It would be like walking into a car dealership, glancing at a car, the salesman walks up to you and says “$18,924 and its yours. Sign here and I’ll take you to Finance.”
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that “salesman” is going to get a lot of sales.
WORKING OUT A GREAT USER EXPERIENCE
A lot of this stuff is obvious, once you look at it from the right angle.
But if you really want to be thorough, you have to start with the purpose of the site. Different purposes will require quite different user experiences. The ideal online store experience is quite different from the ideal informational site experience.
You have to think in terms of sub-products. We’ve talked about this before. What are the small steps you have to walk someone through to get them to where you want them to go – to make a purchase, fill out a form, or whatever.
The easiest thing to do is underestimate the number of small steps required to get them there. If you are going to walk from Maine to Alaska, you’d better pack more than a sandwich and a pair of socks.
As I said, once you put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, a lot of this becomes obvious. It does mean knowing who your prospective customers are. Are they ready to buy and just looking for the right price? Never heard of what you sell and need a lot of education? Or been burned many times and will need lots of trust building.
TEST TEST TEST
Testing and measuring are an invaluable assist. Because, no matter how smart or experienced you are, some of this is going to be guesswork. But you can test, using tools like Google Analytics, “Heat Maps” and “A/B Testing” to FIND OUT what delivers a better user experience.
What a concept, right? Why guess when you can find out.
It doesn’t happen overnight, and smart businesses NEVER stop testing and tweaking. There is never a point where a website can’t be improved. So why not keep working at it?
You just might be shocked at how good it can get.