The Art and Science of User Experience (UX) Optimization
Every day, every interaction we have with the external elements, generates feelings inside of us and adds to our life’s experiences. When you are interacting with computers and technology, using products and services, the feelings that are induced is what makes up the User Experience (UX).
In this article, we define 1) what is UX (User Experience), and continue with 2) why do we need UX optimization, 3) things to optimize with UX, and 4) conclusion.
WHAT IS UX?
User experience is the accumulation of the feelings and emotions you generate within yourself while consuming a product, a service or while using a system. This includes your perceptions of how delighted, satisfied, or unsatisfied you feel while using that particular system, product, and/or service.
According to ISO, user experience is all about what you feel and believe, how you perceive and accomplish, how you behave and how your body responds (physically as well as psychologically) before, during and after using a product, service or a system.
This brings into play individuals and the subjectivity related to individuals. Not everyone thinks, feels, perceives, behaves, and responds the same; therefore, you can expect variation in user experience from individual to the individual.
All in all, user experience is influenced by three main things:
- the user’s state of mind and previous experience they have had regarding usage of a particular product, service and/or system,
- the system’s properties and
- the context within which this usage is taking place.
Sometimes when we are in a hurry or stressed out, we will have different perceptions and emotions during consumption; our UX will vary according to the state of the mind and the context within which we are consuming the product/service/system.
WHY DO WE NEED USER EXPERIENCE OPTIMIZATION
For your website, if you want to achieve success in your business then you must work towards UX optimization, that is, optimization of user experience. The reason for this is quite simple indeed – you will only win customers and business if you provide a positive UX to customers – otherwise they will simply they will simply move elsewhere.
From a website’s point of view, below are a few specific reasons as to how your website can benefit from UX optimization.
Higher Conversion Rate
Conversion rate refers to the rate of the readers or visitors of your website into buyers. The better UX your website provides, the more are the chances that people are visiting your website get motivated to purchase from you.
When your visitors do not undergo positive emotions and experiences while browsing your website, they are more likely to close the webpage and move on to a different webpage. However, if you provide a good user experience to your visitors, chances are they will spend more time exploring your website, find what they are looking for, and do business with you! Thus, improving or providing optimized UX will lead to an increase in your website’s conversion rates.
Better User Experience
When you work towards improving the UX for your customers, you are ensuring that your website viewers benefit from having better experiences with your business. Every interaction they have with your website will then start adding positive associations with your business, start accumulating positive memories in the mind of your website’s visitors and create a positive reference in their minds regarding your website.
Providing good UX consistently by ensuring UX optimization will gain your business a strong and positive reputation in the market. Visitors that become your customers will spread a positive word of mouth regarding your website and your business, which will in-turn encourage more visitors to visit your website and motivate customers to do business with you. This solid reputation can lower your costs of attracting and retaining customers and also win you a following of loyal customers, getting you an assured amount of repeat business.
Manage Bounce Rates
Optimized UX has the ability to reduce bounce rates by captivating your audience and encouraging them to explore your website. Bounce rates are determined by calculating the number of people navigating away from your website after having visited one page of it only. If you do not provide an optimized UX, your audience will lose interest and not bother viewing other pages of your website. But if you give them a positive and optimized UX, they will certainly be willing to view other pages as well and since they would like to do business with you, they will visit linked pages that will enable them to make a purchase.
Competitive Advantage, More Sales
Your product may have the same features as that of your competitors, so how to differentiate? This is where an optimized UX comes into play. An optimized UX may very well become a competitive advantage of your business and become the reason your business wins more sales as compared to your competitor. This is because a customer’s decision to buy a product or service or to use a system depends upon the UX, and an optimized UX is a sure shot way to stand out amongst your competitors.
THINGS TO DO TO OPTIMIZE UX
Now that we know the importance and benefits of optimizing UX, we need to learn how we can achieve this feat. Here are a few dimensions to be kept in mind while trying to create an optimized UX scenario.
Amongst the usability goals of a website, learnability is probably at the top of the list. Learnability is the effectiveness of your website and is a measure of how quickly first time visitors of your website complete a task on it. Now you cannot guarantee that all visitors on your website share the same acumen relating to web surfing and use of the internet.
So how to ensure learnability of your website in a situation where you will have experts as well as novices visiting your website?
What you need to do is manage the learning curve. This entails creating a flow of events on your website in such a way that users experience simple tasks in the beginning and the task complexity increases as your viewer continues to execute more and more tasks on your website.
What happens when you design your website like this is that novice users execute simple tasks that help them in achieving their purpose and leave the website satisfied? More experienced users continue exploring your website and discover more complex features that excite them. This way you cater to the interests of all kinds of visitors to your website and increase the overall functionality of your website.
An optimized UX experience can be created by ensuring the effectiveness of your website. A site is high in effectiveness if users or viewers of your website are able to complete a task that they desired from your website. Low website-effectiveness leads to users navigating away from your website without executing the task – thus having an overall low UX regarding your website.
You can increase the effectiveness of your website through two actions: by giving importance to the functionality of your website over the form of your website and by making accessibility a priority.
The main functionality of your website is to generate sales for your business and anything that creates a barrier to an execution of this final step should be discouraged. For example, the mandatory requirement for registration before checking out discourages users from completing their transaction therefore you can make this optional and also provide users an option to execute transaction without registering, i.e. as a guest user.
Providing something that is difficult to reach or not available when required makes it useless. Therefore, you must prioritize accessibility so that critical features of your website are accessible at the right time and the right place. You can increase the accessibility of your website by making critical features big and close – as outlined in Fitts’s Law. The most important feature of your website should be big in appearance and close, that is, available quickly and easily.
An optimized UX requires your website to perform efficiently. The efficiency of your website is determined by the speed and ease with which users are able to execute tasks. You can make your website efficient by following the model ‘CONVERTS’ suggested by Beth Morgan, a marketing consultant.
The CONVERTS model states that your website must have the following elements:
- It should have a ‘Clear Call to Action’ using words such as ‘Sign Up’, ‘Place Your Order Here’, ‘Contact Us’, etc. and all distractions from CTA should be minimized (such as images and videos that distract users and delay CTA)
- Your website should ‘Offer’ something enticing in return for their action, for example, a free trial.
- Your website should have a ‘Narrow Focus’. The more choices you give, the longer or harder it will be for users to make a decision.
- Your website should showcase the ‘Very Important Attributes’ on your main page or at least as near to the main page as possible.
- Your website should have ‘Effective Headlines’ to gain users’ attention.
- Adjust your display and see how your website appears in different resolutions. This will allow you to make a ‘Resolution-Savvy Layout’, so people with different resolutions get to clearly view the important elements of your website with ease.
- Do not include so many visuals, that makes navigating on your website confusing for the viewer; use ‘Tidy Visuals’ by having enough white space, relevant images, readable font size, bullets, and videos.
The ease of remembering how to accomplish tasks on your website determines the memorability of your website – which is another element for creating an optimized UX. If your website has good memorability, users will keep coming back to execute their tasks.
A complicated website design is hard to remember; the simpler the design, the easier it is to remember. You can enhance the memorability of your website by creating logical steps for users to navigate on your website. Having lesser steps for accomplishing a certain job also increases the memorability of your website. Another method of enhancing memorability is by keeping a consistent design of your website.
e. Error Prevention/Handling
Errors interfere with UX and therefore in order to optimize the UX of your website it must have a mechanism to help users recover from website errors. There are two ways to tackle the errors – prevent them from occurring or have a way to recover from them once they have occurred. The first one is highly preferred but for instances when errors do occur here is what you can do:
There are seven responses to an error you can place on your website and then guide users towards recovery or win time during which you can try to resolve the error:
1. Gag: The gag response stops users from proceeding and encourages the users to take some action regarding the error that has occurred. Once the error has occurred, the gag response will, for example, ask the users to send an email to the admin to report the error. This sort of response however is viewed as a ‘cold’ response by users and may be considered as a rude response because it only informs users of the error without any guidance on how it can be rectified.
2. Warn: This response sends an alert to the users regarding the error and then gives an option to the user so they can decide what to do next. This is similar to the alert users receive when they are about to delete files, and the systems alert them to the action they are about to undertake and lets them know of the consequences; then asks from them if they want to proceed or not. This response serves as a welcome alert by beginners, but expert users may just view this as a hindrance and an additional step that slows them down.
3. Do Nothing: The ‘do nothing’ response does not respond in any way to the error user may experience. This is an effective solution if you do not want to annoy users with error alerts. However, the system does communicate to the user about the error by dimming out the options that become unavailable to the user due to the error.
4. Self-Correct: In this response, the system alerts the user about errors and then also suggests corrections, such as with the spell check option that can help users with typo errors. This is a good way to correct users’ input errors especially where the system can guess users’ input.
5. Let’s Talk About It: Where the system cannot be sure of the users’ intentions, upon generation of an error a suggestion can be initiated by the system in the shape of a dialog that can allow the user to change that dialog and write down their exact requirement. Google explains this perfectly when it displays the results user has entered and also makes its suggestion of what the user may be requiring.
6. Teach Me: This response entails the system creating an alert and also asking the user to identify whether the alert was correct or not. If the user’s input was incorrectly identified as an error, the system could ask the user to save their preferences so that in the future, the same entry will not be identified as an error.
7. User Satisfaction: How satisfied users are with using your website is an important element of creating optimized UX. Users are satisfied with the experience on your website when it meets their expectations and also with a website that has minimal of those factors that annoy them. Factors that turn off users include:
- Asking users to click excessively even where action could have taken place without the requirement for them to click;
- Excessive redirection of users to manage traffic;
- Taking them to the wrong page;
- Taking too much time to load a page;
- False start on a page.
Minimize these, and you will give your users a satisfied experience on your website, adding to elements that creates an optimized UX.
With the increased usage of internet, its availability, and convenience of use, it has become important to provide optimized user experience to the visitors of your website in order to turn them from visitors to customers. With so many options available at a click, you must not leave any stone unturned to create the ultimate UX for the users of your website.
The basic requirement for creating the ultimate and optimized UX is to strengthen your website so much that it is able to meet the needs of your visitors. Therefore, the process of achieving optimized UX begins by having a deep understanding of the visitors, their needs, their values, their IT acumen, their context and also what limitations they might have and then creating a website that tackles all of these in the best way possible.
UX is all about improving the quality of users’ interactions on your website. This is done by making your website desirable, accessible, user-friendly, functional, and reliable. Optimized UX encourages your visitors to re-visit your website, do more business with it and also refer it to other customers through word of mouth promotion.
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