Proof UX works is staring you in the face

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Introduction

Convincing colleagues of the need to adopt UX isn’t always easy. UX is like migraines or the wind, difficult to see but you know that it’s there. It can be hard to nail down exactly what UX is. Bad UX they will know instinctively, on an intrinsic, gut level, but good UX?

UX is undoubtedly a solid ROI – not only does it save money in the long run, but also increases revenue, conversion rates and customer retention. There is a misconception that UX values great design over revenue concerns. Business objectives and strategies must already be in place before setting out UX goals. As UX blogger Whitney Hess notes, writing in Mashable, “[UX designers] have to find the sweet spot between the user’s needs and the business goals, and furthermore ensure that the design is on brand.”[1] Business strategies are present every step of the way, informing each decision of the UX process.

 

Emphasis on the Customer

With the Age of Information and the rise of the new sharing economy, the customer/user has become the focal point, wresting the spotlight away from businesses and brands.[2] Traditional barometers of a business’s strength over its competitors, such as manufacturing and distribution power, have been outstripped by the new customer-centred approach, seen in companies like Amazon. Increasingly businesses set out to court customers – rather than the other way round – through social media platforms and personalised marketing. With the proliferation of social media and user review sites, the position of power has shifted from that of the distributor to that of the user. Considerations in UX are the best way to ensure that the customer is satisfied.

With that, there is hard evidence to support that improved UX results in increased market performance. A graph from Forrester Solutions demonstrates that leaders in Customer Experience Index (CXi) experienced a 43% gain in their stock portfolio, while those who neglected UX – described here as Customer Experience (CXi) Laggards – experienced a drop by 33.9% in their stock portfolio (ibid). This metric roundly shows that early adoption of UX principles leads to increased profitability for businesses.

 

Customer Loyalty

Not only does UX drive an increase in profitability, but it also results in the growth of customer loyalty. There is a direct correlation – found in the previous diagram – between positive UX and a willingness on the customer’s part to stick to that particular brand or firm.

Customer loyalty is tied to user satisfaction. A reputation for being frustrating or confusing to operate is not going to endear a site to users. The aim should be always to meet the customer’s requirements and satisfy their needs. If a program is a pleasure to use, it’s only natural that users will then return. Proud users will naturally rave about a site to friends, promoting it through word of mouth and reaching a wider audience. Great UX design is one clear way of ensuring an optimum user experience and increased loyalty.

 

Greater User Adoption

Before customer loyalty must come user adoption. UX is one of the most reliable ways of increasing rates of user acceptance and adoption. Maintaining a clear view of the intended user, together with sufficient testing and research, all play roles in greater user acceptance. Proof of UX in action can be seen in users embracing a new site or piece of kit. A well-known example of this is the Apple iPhone, so simply and intuitively designed that it was easy to use right from release. If shortcuts had been taken with the iPhone’s UX, the user uptake wouldn’t have been so impressive. According to a recent figure, 70% of projects fail from a lack of user acceptance.

 

Reduced Inefficiencies

UX is shown to reduce inefficiencies in IT and web development, such as decreased development time, and perfecting the all-important User Interface (UI). One established practice in UX is anticipating problems or errors at the development stage. Spotlighting these ahead of time allows developers to circumvent problems that could later prove obstructive and stall the entire process.

Carrying this exercise out in the earlier stages proves much more financially feasible than later on, when the price of patches or fixes will have increased exponentially.

 

Reduced Change Requests

This is related to a reduced number of change requests. This includes features that users find arbitrary or annoying, or impede their navigation of the site. These features that put users off result in an increase in bounce rate and a decrease in conversion rate. While not strictly bugs from a web developer’s point of view, from a UX standpoint any feature that users register dissatisfaction with is an error. The fault for this error, rather than lying with the user and their inability to grasp how it functions, lies with the development team for executing poor UX.

By successfully implementing UX at the creative and execution stages, there will be fewer change requests by users to the end product. Executing changes at the initial stages is far less costly and more effective than after the product has already been completed. This is why it’s so important to always practice rigorous testing methodologies and wire-framing in the early stages.

According to this video from Dr Susan Weinschenk called “The ROI of User Experience”, the cost of fixing an error after the site has been developed can be up to 100 times more expensive than if resolved at the start.[3] The simplest and most efficient way to intercept these errors is to receive feedback in the planning stages or through dedicated user testing.

 

Competitor Insights

Optimising UX is a great way to secure the edge over competitors. In fact, user research can be used to “spy” on the competition. Data from user tests on other businesses and brands is readily available. Scrutiny of this data can reveal what the competition are doing well or poorly, whether customer loyalty comes into play, and to what degree. The ability to establish which companies users are returning to, and pinpoint why, provides a valuable industry insight.

 

Mobile UX

Transactions and ecommerce increasingly occur on mobile devices, which is why it is so important to develop dedicated mobile sites. 67% of users are more likely to purchase from a site using their mobile than another device. Also, rather unexpectedly, 86% of users favour apps over mobile sites.[4] This last metric proves interesting, because while there is little in terms of content or usability to separate a mobile site from its app equivalent, the application by-and-large boasts a better user experience. This hammers home the need for great mobile UX. One site, by optimizing its design for better mobile use, saw an increase of 30% in sales, and a 50% decrease in Bounce Rate, the rate of users who view just one webpage before navigating away.[5]

 

Increase Conversion Rates through Testing

The conversion rate is the number of visitors to a site who take a desired action. Improving the conversion rate is far more important than improving web traffic, as User Testing Blog notes: “It’s often easier, cheaper, and smarter to focus on doubling your conversion rate than doubling your traffic.”[6] The inverse of this is bounce rate, where users stay on a site just momentarily, before retreating back to where they came. Maintain a low bounce rate to secure higher conversion rates.

One of the simplest steps for improving conversion rates is usability testing. This has been shown in an article by Econsultancy which examines eight successful case studies where UX and testing increased conversion rate. The SEO site Moz took simple and achievable steps to increase its conversion rate, such as appealing to users for feedback, appealing to free-trial members and offering them discounted sign-up fees, as well as sending regular emails that offered tips on how to optimize their service.

Through changing wording, online clothes retailer ASOS were able to halve their abandonment rate at the checkout. Forced registration drives basket abandonment; through a simple change of words ASOS were able to reduce the negative effects that “Registering” as a new customer may have on conversion rates. Filling forms can be repetitious, especially online, so anything to make them appear lessened is positive psychologically for users.

A/B testing, or split testing, is a great way to maximise UX. Two variants of the same site are created, both are tested under similar conditions, and whichever rates higher for usability should prove the better site in UX terms. A case of this in action involved the website builder BaseKit. Following A/B testing to revise its plan and pricing page, the site saw a growth in conversion rate of 25%. The newer design boasted larger blocks of bright colours, testimonials, in addition to clearer pricing.

Lastly the importance of video in websites was tested. Sites like Spotify and AirBNB feature dynamic, animated backgrounds. Through testing, their worth has been backed up: the website Vidyard produced three versions of their site for testing, two with video and one without. The non-video site charted an average conversion rate of 6.5%, while the other sites using video registered 70-100% increase in conversion rate from that of the non-video site.

 

Conclusion

Time and again UX has acquitted itself of producing a positive return on investment. Not only do the separate factors and examples elicited earlier back up this claim, there’s also this metric courtesy of Experience Dynamics: every dollar invested in UX according to a recent survey will return $100 in investment.[7] As Andrew Kucheriavy in Forbes writes, commenting on the same impressive figure, “That’s an ROI of a whopping 9,900 percent.”[8]

[1] Source: http://mashable.com/2009/01/09/user-experience-design/#jckNT9Efvkqa

[2] Source: http://solutions.forrester.com/Global/FileLib/Forr_Perspective_/Forrester-Perspective-CX-2.pdf

[3] Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O94kYyzqvTc#t=11

[4] Source: http://www.experiencedynamics.com

[5] Source: http://www.experiencedynamics.com

[6] Source: https://www.usertesting.com/blog/2015/01/06/invest-in-ux/

[7] Source: http://www.experiencedynamics.com

[8] Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2015/11/19/good-ux-is-good-business-how-to-reap-its-benefits/#6c5af273c53e

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