Key benefits of a positive user experience
If a customer describes their experience of interacting with a digital product or service as “good,” it typically means:
The product or user interface (UI) always works as it should.
The navigation is well-organized and intuitive.
Its design is visually appealing and clean, with lots of white space.
The content on the page is helpful and easy to understand.
It has accessibility features that make it easy for anyone with a disability to use.
Positive user experiences increase brand credibility and trust, customer retention, and recommendations.
User experience versus user interface (or usability)
Usability is a function of a product user’s experience but is mainly focused on the user interface's navigability and ease of use. In other words, the way users interact and communicate with a device or piece of software on screens and via hardware.
User experience is broader, covering the target customer's journey, including product and content needs, usability and accessibility requirements, and purchase goals and desires.
Two types of research to understand needs and behaviors
Businesses can use qualitative research studies that include usability, one-on-one client or stakeholder interviews, field studies, and observations to understand the “why” behind a customer's behavior while interacting with the product.
Also, “how” they expect products to work to meet their personal goals and needs. The insights from these studies can also reveal a user’s attitudes toward the product’s design and functionality.
Additionally, quantitative research studies provide numerical data to validate theories around how a user might interact with a product. Researchers will start with questions like, “How many people are likely to click the ‘Download’ button?”
They’ll then use metrics from web analytics, A/B testing, and customer surveys to measure that behavior and understand whether their design or UI is working well or if they need to optimize it for better results. Some of these tests will be described in greater detail shortly.
Improve the user experience over time
User experience research is iterative, and businesses should conduct studies before, during, and after product launch. Insights from research can help improve existing product UX and launch new features, functionality, and upgrades.
Some software tools that businesses use to frequently test their UX include:
Hotjar: A conversion rate optimization tool that also offers heatmapping, visual session recording, and usability testing
UserTesting: An on-demand customer insight platform that helps businesses deliver optimal customer experiences
Optimizely Web Experimentation: An A/B multivariate testing platform that offers dynamic website optimization and variation testing on live traffic, helping to gather immediate results
SmartLook: Helps its users understand how and why customers interact with their website or app by watching recordings, creating heatmaps, and using automatic tracking
Designing a user interface
Below are UI design priorities according to Usability.gov.
Keep it simple: The best user experience design is almost invisible because the UI uses clean and clear messaging, language, and input controls (e.g., buttons, links, text fields, and drop-down lists).
Use consistent and common UI design elements: Make the user experience an intuitive process so customers quickly learn how to interact with the product, website, or app and can easily navigate to the next step in their purchase or experiential process.
Designing the layout
UI and UX researchers often use mockups, focus groups, and customer interviews to confirm the mapping and navigation of their website or app design.
To create an effective UX layout, categorize the placement of products based on consumer research insights that align with the overall structure and prioritize scannability and readability to draw a user's eye to the most important information. Emphasize colors, white space, and contrast to direct attention, and use typography to establish a clear hierarchy that enhances page scannability and readability for a better end-user experience.
Designing the user journey
The final design step incorporates the user’s buying process and journey when using a product, website, or app to ensure that the overall UX meets the customer's goals.
UX designers must clearly communicate what users must:
What users must do and inform users of their location in the app or website and reduce friction when completing a purchase and general user frustration.
Anticipate the end-user goals that brought them to the website or app and create defaults to minimize disruptions.
These strategies are used when designing forms to fill out, or completing a signup or checkout process.
Benefits of user experience testing
User experience testing during the development stage and even after launching a site or app corrects any challenges customers face and reduces their frustration.
Businesses can also optimize a customer's likelihood of buying or completing a specific action using testing.
Different types of user testing
Here's a detailed description of qualitative and quantitative tests UX researchers can use to improve the overall experience.
Usability testing: In this scenario, researchers observe a target user while trying to complete specific tasks using a website or app. The insights they learn from test users help improve the UI while the product is still in development, and when it is live for quality assurance (QA) purposes.
A/B testing: Once a site or app is launched, researchers use A/B testing to measure the effectiveness of a web page’s design, including headlines, copy, and images. The results help designers improve the overall design to drive the highest number of leads or conversion rates possible. Researchers typically create two versions of the same page or app screen and use conversion rate optimization (CRO) software to measure which one has a more significant impact.
- Web analytics: This software monitors the real-time use of a website or app. The data collected can help UX researchers identify where users are having issues and troubleshoot them for a better experience. For example, they might find pages with a high bounce rate and revisit the page to try and understand why it is turning customers away. Or, they might see users abandoning their shopping carts at a certain point in the checkout process and investigate why that happens.
- Eye tracking studies: These tests use technology that tracks a user’s eye movements on the page and help researchers determine whether a target customer behaves the way they expected while using a website or app. If not, they can quickly identify areas of the site’s design or architecture that need improvement. The methodology works well because it records a user’s journey without interfering with their behavior or experience on the site or app.
1. Prioritize usability
As discussed, an app or website’s usability plays a big part in the overall user experience. Use the research and design best practices outlined in this post to optimize the product’s UI before, during, and after it is launched. Doing so will make sure it stands out from the competition and causes less friction and frustration for the end user.
2. Keep a clean and intuitive visual design
The overall design experience should be consistent with all product branding across all apps, web pages, and landing pages. This strategy makes customers feel comfortable that they are getting the same experience, no matter where they interact with a brand’s digital products. Additionally, make sure the design is clean, intuitive, and user-friendly.
3. Incorporate accessibility strategies
Finally, consider all end users when mapping the user experience, including those with disabilities.
Invest the time to research what challenges they might face when using the app or website, and incorporate relevant accessibility strategies, including:
Use of strong color contrast in the UI and overall design for easy readability and scannability (e.g., black and white versus lighter colors like pink or yellow).
Don't rely on color alone, however, to communicate navigation or information to account for those who are color blind.
Enable using keyboard shortcuts to navigate the website without a mouse.
Make the required mobile and tablet gestures on an app simple and intuitive.
Revisit HTML code that was originally designed for websites to account for app screen readers without altering the page layout.
Provide transcripts and captions with videos on the site to help those with visual impairments – they can use screen reader software with the transcripts to understand the content.
Provide ALT text for images to enable screen readers to read those, as well.
Factor font scaling into the overall screen design to help help visually impaired people.
Use accessible form input design elements.
To learn about website and app accessibility best practices, refer to the Website Compliance Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
User experience success is an iterative process which requires businesses to regularly test to ensure customers are happy with the product or service.
Some ways to measure whether a product’s user experience is positive include:
Net promoter score (NPS) surveys that measure how likely (on a scale of one to ten) a customer would be to recommend the product or service to a friend.
Positive mentions and word of mouth recommendations on social media.
Positive reviews on product pages or review websites.
Open-ended customer satisfaction survey questions to learn where there is need for improvement.
Even negative reviews or survey results are opportunities to learn and continuously improve a product's user experience.