The following blog post was a joint contribution by Kaeli O'Connell, Interactive Web Marketing Associate and Alicia Lazzaro, Interactive Web Marketing Specialist at Continuum Managed IT Services.
User Experience. It’s one of those phrases that seems to be everywhere these days, but what does it really mean? Though these two words are very familiar, the concept of user experience design is fairly new. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, user experience (UX) “encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” The group also asserts that “the first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.”
How can UX be implemented in your own business? One great way is through your company website. Do you know what prospects are looking for when they come to your site? Are you readily delivering the information they are looking for in an easily-digestible way? That’s the essence of UX. Make the information you seek to deliver as easy as possible for your audience to find and understand.
UX Best Practices
Do your research and know your user.
An important starting point when designing anything, or completing most projects, is to do comprehensive research. Whether you are a designer or not, it’s important to know the audience for which you are creating an experience. The type of research that UX calls for will be an asset for all aspects of business; not only when designing. Various research techniques include interviews, shadowing, surveys (very careful surveys that don’t seek a specific type of answer) and user testing.
The Complete Guide to MSP Marketing linked below outlines how to build an effective buyer persona, listing sample questions you can ask to develop a market strategy.
Creating value includes qualitative and quantitative data. Empathy is key.
Value in business is very data-driven, but when speaking in terms of UX, value also includes qualitative data. At ConveyUX 2016, an annual UX conference, Nathan Shedroff spoke about the types of value and what each can bring to the table. There are shallower and deeper kinds of value: function and price are very surface-level, quantitative representations of something. Then we get deeper: what is the emotional value? How does it make you feel? Does it fit your identity? Emotions are fleeting, but identity is forever. What is the meaning? Does it fit into my world? The deeper you search for the value of a product or service, the deeper you can connect to your end user. For the small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) you serve, the emotional relief you provide is peace of mind. They don't have to stress that they'll suffer from sudden, unpredictable downtime and the costs associated with it.
The perfect example of value is Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. By the books, Instagram was worth $86 million, but Facebook purchased the company for $1.1 billion. Why the steep increase? The qualitative value and the emotions tied to this value of Instagram skyrocketed the price. The pictures, videos and more importantly, memories, that Instagram allows users to catalogue creates substantial value in the form of meaning and identity.
Remember the necessary components of design.
When designing, whether it be a website, a product, etc., it’s important to understand what these things conventionally look like. Users get comfortable with certain things being in specific places. Designers like change, but users thrive on familiarity. Consistency and predictability aren’t bad things in design, especially when creating a good user experience. Creativity is also very important, of course, but creativity shouldn’t hinder a user's ability to interact with your design.
Take a website, for example. It’s the norm to have a navigation on the top of a webpage. We all know to look for it and expect it at the top. Burying it after some content in the middle of the page might seem like a unique idea but it will not perform well. It’ll get lost on the page, users will get frustrated that they can’t find what they are looking for where they expect it and they will leave your website.
Design for all devices and platforms.
Beyond designing with predictability, it’s also crucial to remember that people are viewing apps and websites on different devices and platforms. This is where responsive design comes into play, which means the elements on the screen need to shrink and stretch proportionate to screen size. This can be as simple as stacking elements on top of each other in mobile view, or as dynamic as having different elements on mobile than desktop. Also, keep in mind that Google is placing greater weight on the mobile experience, increasingly modeling desktop search results formatting after that of mobile search results. If your site isn't mobile friendly, it could hurt your visibility in online search!
However, just because you can do something different on varying devices doesn’t mean you should. Remember that predictability isn’t boring. The idea of “earned differences” comes into play here: assume that two screens will be the same unless you have justified why they should be different.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the platform your end user is on can impact design. An app on an Android phone will look different than on an iPhone. There are limitations in sizing, functionality and the look and feel of the end product.
UX Design Example
Let’s look at the Continuum BDR page on the Continuum website for an example of how to implement UX design best practices:
As mentioned, the navigation of your website should always remain at the top of your site pages. It is also important to note that if your website features subnavigations or drop-down menus, make sure the page groupings are intuitive for your visitors (ie. finding eBooks under Resources). It also is advised to stick to convention when it comes to naming navigation items as it will make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.
Design with User Goals Top of Mind
When designing a page, you should try to anticipate what visitors will be looking for when they land on that page. This is where user testing and research can be essential. In the case of a product page, visitors are likely looking for more detailed information on the product and are trying to assess the value of the product and/or service. You should be thinking about how to showcase the value of your product quickly and clearly. As seen on this page, a good way to do this is by adding video pieces and calls to action which link to educational content. Since this is a software product, it is also essential to incorporate calls to action for trials or demos. You should be making information about your service/ product offerings as accessible as possible.
What’s the point of good design if it does not convert? Learn how to use video marketing to increase conversion and lead generation on your own website with our helpful post!
When you are placing content on a webpage, you should be thinking about which information is most and least important to your user. In the case of a product page, make sure your value proposition, the unique value your product offers, is clearly stated at the top of page. Although the prioritization will change depending on the purpose of the page and the audience, a general rule of thumb for information hierarchy is to prioritize content from broad to specific.
In the screenshots, you can see this general flow being following. The value proposition is stated above the fold, making Continuum’s unique service offering very clear from the moment the visitor starts reading the page. As you move further down the page, more specific information is given, and finally a customer testimonial is shared. A customer testimonial is social proof of the value of your product and is a great way to legitimize your claims and assure prospects of your product and/or service value. We explain the value of client case studies and walk you through the process, even offering a template for you to download in our two-part blog post series.
Are you looking for more help with website marketing? Keep checking back here on the blog for useful, data-driven strategies!
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Gretchen Hoffman