User experience (UX) is a buzzword that has been growing in popularity over the past ten years. In the web design and development industry, it encompasses all aspects of the end user's interaction with a website. Today, UX has taken center stage in the web design and development process. When developing a website, the navigation, information architecture and user task flow have to be taken into consideration.
The question is, where do you start? Follow along to learn about the user experience research process we used to evaluate and improve our own website.
Before beginning any user experience research, we clearly established what we hoped to achieve. We set a goal to enhance the website’s functionality and usability. We needed a measurable metric, so we decided a lower bounce rate on the homepage would be our parameter of success. While this metric worked for our goals, every website is different, and there are various metrics that you can use:
Returning vs. new visitors
We hoped to discover users’ pain points and reduce these areas of friction. We asked ourselves, where are users getting stuck? Which tasks frustrate them?
We launched our new website at the beginning of 2016, conducting user experience at every stage along the way. We wanted to understand how people are using the site after the redesign. User experience needs to be monitored and thought of as an ongoing commitment; similar to everything else in digital, websites should be optimized. By continuously learning what users are doing on your site, you can continue to adapt the experience to fit their needs.
We not only wanted to remove pain points, but we also wanted the site to be enjoyable to use. Our goal was also to find fun, creative ways to display information. The user experience needed to be straightforward and transparent with a distinct flow so visitors could accomplish their goals as quickly as possible. We believe this is the difference between creating a good experience and a great one.
The UX Research Process
We used the following tools to learn about the user behavior on our site:
Mouse Tracking: This tool records user sessions on your website, revealing mouse movement, clicks and user paths.
Google Analytics: Google Analytics reveals the most popular user paths, bounce rates, average time on page, demographics such as geography, age, gender and more valuable data. This information gives us a better idea of who our users are and their intentions on our site.
Heatmaps: Heatmaps show us where users are (and aren’t) clicking on the page. With this tool, we can discover areas for improvement, such as if users are clicking elements that aren’t clickable.
Scrollmaps: A scrollmap shows us how far users are scrolling on the page before leaving the page or clicking. This tells us if we have relevant content placed too far down on the page and few visitors see it.
These UX research techniques helped us quickly gain insights into the needs of our users and gave us an accurate understanding of the user workflows. Data was used to support design decisions and to help us make choices based on our users’ actual needs, not what we wanted.
When studying how users are interacting with a website, it’s important to put yourself in their mindset. To do this, we utilized a tool called an empathy map to visualize what the user feels when they arrive at our site and use the site. This allowed us to internalize potential pain points, understand where users felt frustrated and find where we needed to focus our attention.
Empathy map layouts can vary. The map we used consisted of four sections:
As a team, we sat down and considered what our typical user would be seeing, thinking, feeling and doing before, during and after using our product (our website).
While we worked on our empathy map, we were able to come up with a new perspective as we brainstormed UX design improvements. Mapping out the users’ emotions was key to setting expectations about the audience for whom we were designing.
Extracting UX Design Recommendations
After several weeks of conducting user experience research, it was time to recommend updates to our development team. Combing through our research and brainstorming the different ways people interacted with our site allowed us to develop ideas to improve the website. We presented the UX data to our web designers, developers and stakeholders and discussed our next steps.
What Did We Change?
Next, once changes were approved, designers created mockups of the updated layouts and our developers implemented the updates. Our research revealed several opportunities to improve the user experience on the website:
Optimize the functionality of the Contact Us form to make it easier for users to complete it.
Improve placement of content that is most relevant to our users by moving it above the fold.
Replace elements that users did not find useful or helpful in completing their task.
At the end of the day, we wanted the website to be simple and convenient. We hoped to provide users a clear, enjoyable experience as they navigated through our website.
One month after our updates, the homepage bounce rate had decreased 45 percent. By learning how users interacted with our website, we decided how to design it so tasks were easier, guiding them to explore our site.
Improve User Experience on Your Website
Whether you’re planning on redesigning your website or developing a new one, understanding how real people use your site can be the difference between a conversion for your business or one for your competitor.
Our team can help you discover user behavior patterns on your site so you can truly understand what they need. If you’re ready to learn more about your users, contact us today!