Make the most of opportunity

Whatever type of business or organisation you are running, you most likely have a website and no doubt do everything you can to get the right people to visit your site. When they get there, then what? Is your website working for against your overall marketing efforts? How likely is it that somebody will buy from you or engage with your brand once they get to your site? This article is all about the user experience (UX) once they get to your site, and it has a major influence on how the site should be designed.

The best way of thinking about how to improve the user experience is to break down the whole process into steps and stages in a journey. These steps are as follows:

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  • Who is your ideal visitor?
  • What is their goal?
  • What’s the context of the goal?
  • How does their experience on your site fit in with the reason they visited?
  • What do they do when they leave your site?

Let’s take a closer look at these stages.

Who is visiting your site? User personas

The most important part of understanding user experience is understanding the user. You need a vivid feel for the people you want to attract to your site. It needs to be detailed enough to predict reactions, emotional responses, likely behaviours and expectations.

Persona DO’s and DON’T’s

DO give the persona a real face. This should really be a photograph that you take from a stock image source.
DON’T use a cartoon image or illustration, if you can avoid it.

DO give the persona a real name. You are dealing with real people. Try to create something that reflects real people.
DON’T use a nickname or highly unlikely fictional name.

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Sometimes you don’t even need to spend money. I got this image from a free site.

DO use various analytical tools to establish the behaviour of your current users by measuring relevant data. How long do they stay on a page before moving? Where do they go? Do they bounce off some pages more than others?
DON’T overdo it. Try to focus on relevant data. Your persona summary is only going to be as detailed as is useful for the task in hand.

DO speak to users if you can to try to establish why they behaved as they did. This will give more insight into who is coming to your site.
DON’T assume. Where possible, try to establish patterns of behaviour and traits as accurately as possible.

Remember that this persona is going to act as a reference in many aspects of your marketing process. At the forefront of many decisions you make will be the question of what “Persona name” would do here or how “Persona name” would react to that, for example, and to ensure that the experience you deliver will be the one that will appeal to that persona the most.

Therefore we need to define useful and relevant qualities about the person. Starting with age, socioeconomic status and other simple demographics, you also want some insight into their personality traits. Are they adventurous or conservative (with a small “c”), sporty or sedentary, educated etc?

Don’t forget to consider:

  • How technically savvy are they? Your site needs to make sense to them.
  • What device are they most likely to use? Understand how they are experiencing your site.
  • What are their goals? What drives them to take an interest in your products and services?

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What does “John Smith” want to do on your site? User stories

People will do lots of things when they go to your site. Some of them may simply be looking for a number to call you on. Others may be interested in sourcing a service you offer. Each one of these is a user story and it is a good idea to list as many as you can.

A user story starts with the type of user such as a house hunter, a finance director or a plumber for example. Then we include the feature they may ask for. Finally, we define the goal they want to achieve.

Here are some examples:

As a house seller (type of user), I want to be able to find my nearest estate agent easily (feature) so I can contact them for a valuation (goal).
As a sales manager (user type), I want to be able to source candidates by area (feature) so I can check out the CVs of candidates locally (goal).

So what we have, here, is:

As a <usertype> I want to <feature/function> so I can <goal>.

User stories are not only applicable to design. They also come in handy for other marketing efforts.

Why are user stories useful?

Generating user stories allows you to identify and focus on the elements of user experience that count. They keep your attention fixed on what counts – the real motivations and goals of your users, your customers and potential customers.

Make your user stories as simple as possible, avoiding jargon so that anybody can understand them. List them in a spreadsheet, using columns for “user type”, “feature” and “goal”.

If you don’t pin these down, it is very easy to get carried away adding extra, unessential features to your site – a phenomena known as feature creep. Centre your user stories on what is important. Let these essential features and goals guide you.
What’s the context of the goal? User scenarios

This is what it sounds like. Somebody has visited your site. They are trying to achieve a simple objective – getting a quote, downloading a free eBook, getting in touch. You need to understand the whole scenario; what has led to them getting to the site and the process they go through to get what they need.

Defining the various user scenarios allows you to really emphasise with your users. You are putting context on the visit to your site, understanding the specific set of circumstances that led them to take that action.

By empathising you are trying to understand the user’s need and emotions and this allows you to cater for them better by providing a better UX that matches their needs and state of mind.

How is the user scenario constructed?

The user scenario could be outlined in a very matter of fact way, outlining measurable facts and statistics – how long the user stays on the page, what buttons they are most likely to click on or it could give much more a rich description of the scenario with much more emotional insight. There are some essential ingredients to consider, however, and these are:

  • Behaviour: known user behaviour and current habits
  • Motivation: why is the goal important to them and what other questions will it give rise to
  • Environment: what device are they using, where are they, what sort of distractions are there
  • Unknown variables: you don’t know how busy they are, how fast their internet connection is or what other factors may be affecting them
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“What device are they using when they visit your site?”

Remember that there will be many reasons why somebody may be wanting a quote or to get in touch or to find a piece of information. It is a good idea to document the most likely scenarios with as much detail as is useful to give design insight.

The story so far

You have identified the persona of your typical site visitors and you have spelt out the various goals that you believe are important – these are the ones you are going to cater for. You have also uncovered and documented the kind of scenarios that have led to these goals being required, as well as the actual process involved in achieving those goals on your site.

We have not yet outlined the whole story yet. The whole story is better described as…

The user journey

Your customer journey has a wider scope than just the experience on your site. You need to give some thought to what has taken place before they have landed on your website. Understanding the full context means understanding their expectations and that will depend on a whole range of factors from what they see on competitor websites to understanding the circumstances and experiences that lead to a user thinking of your service.

You know when you have really hit the sweet spot in design when a user arrives at your site and is wondering how you knew exactly what they were wanting to do and made it so easy for them to do it.

Leaving them happy

The full user journey also includes what goes on while they are on your site and, more importantly how they leave it and what happens next. Did they bounce? Did they buy? Did they enjoy the experience? What will happen next?
Analysing the user journey
For each step of the journey from when they first arrive at your site, take and action, take another action, until they finally leave, consider the following:

  • Goal:what they want to achieve with the step
  • Expectations: What are they expecting? Can you meet or exceed their expectation?
  • Process: How do they think they will reach their goal? Is that necessarily the best process?
  • Satisfaction: how happy do you think the user would be at this stage. Use a rating system and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Strengths: Areas where you think the user would be highly satisfied
  • Weaknesses: areas where you think the user would be less satisfied or dissatisfied
  • Opportunities: What opportunities have you uncovered to improve the user experience

It’s all about empathy and consideration

At a time when competition has never been so fierce and when everybody is looking for the convenience that digital can and often does deliver, their expectations are high. They have come to your site, presenting you with an opportunity, and that is already a great start. You have to make the most of it.

The bottom line when it comes to UX is a mix of using all the tools you can to understand what is going through their mind, what they want and why they want it – plus how they think you will deliver – and trying to empathise with them however they come to you. By matching the experience with their expectation along with some pleasant surprises that make them think you have read their mind, you make their experience much more useful for them and significantly improve the chances of taking bookings and creating brand advocates.

Understand them. Consider them. Empathise with them. Let it come through in your design.