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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to Understand and Measure User Experience 04-11

User experience is the foundation on which customer journeys are built and, fundamentally, a huge factor in how customers perceive, understand and trust your company.

Endless (electronic) ink has been spilled on different UX designs, challenges, opportunities, opinions, and methods. There is no one perfect approach. People are emotional creatures, and part of their reaction to your online presence will depend purely on aesthetics. Good user experience fits both the emotional and the transactional needs of your users. In this ocean of choices, therefore, the real question becomes: How do companies measure or quantify the success of their user experience?

What Exactly Is Good User Experience?

There are many different approaches to user experience (UX). Some companies, like Apple, create a “walled garden” or immersive approach, tightly controlling the user experience and forcing people to follow a specific set of tasks, without room for flexibility. Others, like Amazon, use a reactive approach, offering different responses and unique calls to action based on a customer’s behavior. There is no ‘correct’ UX and a company’s UX should be tied directly to their business model, their customer expectations, and their long-term strategy.

The ideal user experience occurs when people are able to do exactly what they want when interacting with your company. You fulfill their needs in a way that meets and even exceeds their expectations. Fundamentally, when customers’ expectations are exceeded, they experience a positive emotion, and providing consistent positive interactions with your company is the highest goal of UX design.

Why Quantify User Experience?

Measuring or quantifying UX is necessary for a variety of reasons:
  • It allows you to generate a baseline cohesive strategy for customer interactions.
  • It helps establish a foundation for any new initiatives or customer-facing products you produce.
  • It lets you benchmark yourself against other companies.
  • Hard numbers make UX initiatives easier to communicate and integrate into an organization.
UX is the foundation on which customer journeys are built and, fundamentally, a huge factor in how customers perceive, understand and trust your company. If customers try to achieve something on one of your digital channels and fail, it will lower their opinion of your company and eventually deplete your profitability.

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity in Measuring UX:

The inherent challenge of UX is that it’s almost entirely subjective. As a result, many companies make the mistake of believing that user experience as a whole cannot be measured.

If a company assumes that UX is not quantifiable, then anytime it adds a new digital function, the outcome will be wildly dependent on the unique tastes and preferences of the creative team that designed it. Moreover, in the absence of benchmark information, any mistakes will be difficult to identify.

How to Quantify

UX will never be fully quantifiable. There is always subjectivity when dealing with the opinions of individuals. Furthermore, consumer tastes and general design trends change along larger social patterns and are not always easy to predict. User experience, however, is not totally design-oriented.
If a customer wants to provide payment information but finds no easy option for that action, this is bad UX design. If a customer has a question and there is no FAQ page, this is bad UX design. If a customer’s data is intercepted or otherwise insecure within your system, this is a VERY bad UX experience. UX builds on itself, from back-end fundamental elements to front-facing consumer visuals and this clear construction creates the potential for objectivity.

Simplify the Issues – Make them Granular

The failures listed above are simple yes-or-no switches. If there is no FAQ page, then you are not providing best-practice UX. This is a no. If you do have an FAQ page, this is a yes. If your customers can pay easily, this is a success. If they cannot, it is a failure. You can break down the payment process even further: do customers have to enter information twice? Is the form too long to fit on a mobile screen? By breaking down each touchpoint into a series of binary questions, you can assemble the structure for a meaningful analysis.

What Questions Do You Ask?

The hardest tactical challenge is defining the right set of questions. Centric Digital uses a set of precisely relevant questions when generating the benchmark for your business. We’ve developed a taxonomy of over 2,000 individual best-practice questions that are based on understanding a company’s outward-facing and internal digital user experience. These questions can be used to compare your company to its own previous states, to other companies in your industry and to trends across several industries. Here are just a few of our topic areas to give you an overview of how we construct our hierarchy of questions regarding a typical business website:

We begin with basic mechanics: Is your site easily accessible on mobile?

While you’ve probably achieved the standard of making your site compatible with the main online browsers, today’s crucial user experience challenge pertains to mobile access. Google’s “Mobile First” approach means that the search giant is switching its approach this year. It now crawls your site as a mobile user, rather than a desktop user. If it notices aspects of your site that aren’t effective in mobile (for example, links that don’t work or slow-loading pages), Google will downrank you in its search results. You can look at Google as an external force making quantified judgments about your UX, and evaluate your site along the same metrics.

This change in search ranking was driven by customer trends: Mobile users outnumbered desktop users back in 2014, and the mobile trend has only grown since then. Unfortunately, user experience hasn’t kept pace with this trend, and 45 to 47 percent of mobile users report disliking their experience with websites and apps. This percentage will undoubtedly improve as more websites catch up to the mobile online universe, but it proves that, for the moment, you can get out in front of the pack if you provide a pleasing experience.

Does your code avoid deprecated callouts or functions? Is your HTML optimized?

Although your site will be visited by growing numbers of mobile users, that doesn’t mean you can neglect to update your computer-based experience. Especially in the more developed nations, people expect omnichannel access to the digital marketplace. Even in the fourth quarter of 2016, conversion rates were higher on traditional websites than on mobile sites or apps. These statistics indicate that users may do some browsing on the phone that’s always in their hand, but they often switch to a computer to make the actual purchase.

Once you have evaluated these basic utilities, the hierarchy of questions moves to slightly higher levels: Are your site visitors using search effectively? Do they use the back arrow frequently? Excessive searching and backtracking without conversions are a good numerical indicator that there’s a UX problem with your website.

Does your company use Twitter for customer service?

Social media has become an important element in user experience, especially the use of Twitter as an alternative customer assistance channel. Twitter recently introduced special tools specifically for streamlining its customer support function because so many companies are using it for that purpose.

What does your customer journey look like?

The types of questions become more challenging to answer when you move into higher levels of evaluation because you’re discussing more of the subjective human response. As subjectivity increases, quantification is still possible, but it’s a bit less straightforward. At this level, understanding your customer is key. Your customers may be drawn from a different demographic than those of your competitors, so your user experience may need to be correspondingly different. Your granular and binary user metrics are drawn from a more holistic approach, one in which you map out your customer journeys to give a clear understanding of how, when and why a customer would need to interact with your company – both in the digital and real-world realms – and identifying points of potential success and failure.

Every Channel Should Provide Equally Easy Access

A unified customer service experience provides streamlined access across every channel. Do your customers have quick access to the answers they need? A thorough FAQ page on a website can serve this purpose, while a question menu may be more useful for a customer support line. Is the wording on your FAQ page similar to the wording your customer service representatives use? Consistency is part of your branding, and your company voice should be evident at every touchpoint.

Surveying Customer Responses

With a strong idea of your customer persona, deconstructing user experience becomes much easier and more effective. You are entering the realm of intuition, but intuitive navigation is a real thing and you know it when you experience it. To measure the emotional impact of your user experience, Centric structures questions regarding your customer touchpoints, evaluating interactions across all media. It’s also important to have a large enough sample of questions – having only 50 measures is not as helpful as having 200.

Emotions Are Measurable

As you move into evaluating the subtle levels of user experience and explore the question of whether your customers find your website appealing, you can also seek responses directly from users. Surveys, user testing and focus groups all have a place in evaluating the subjective experiences of users, and it’s possible to gauge responses on numerical scales.

Updating Must Become Routine

Your online presence is never static, and your digital strategy will never be “finished.” Robust testing and continuous development are ongoing processes; you must review, update and snapshot your questions repeatedly in order to maintain value. When building your digital strategy, regularly assess not only your user experience but also your UX measurements – standards and tastes change, and your company must remain agile to stay at the leading digital edge. 

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