Measure and Optimize the User Experience for Successful Digital Experiences
According to a recent Gartner survey, the vast majority of marketers expect to be competing mainly on the customer experience within the next couple years. Customer expectations of user expectations are much higher than they used to be. This shouldn’t be a surprise—the platforms they use the most (for example, Google or Facebook), have carefully-crafted experiences that impact customers’ perception of any other digital experience they encounter. This includes B2B digital experiences.
Incorporating the user into the design and development process is the key to minimizing risk and maximizing the opportunities inherent in creating digital experiences. Even better, demonstrating a positive return on investment gets stakeholders on board and keeps them happy. Your team can do this by embracing the following process:
Align business goals with user goals.
Re-evaluate goals and repeat the process.
1. Align business goals with user goals
It's amazing to me how many digital projects still start off with someone saying, “a lot of people are building [insert new technology here]. We should do that.” When the end goal is to build something for the sake of building, the project is destined to fail. Successful projects start with clearly defined business goals.
But there’s more to the equation. Once you’ve established business goals, you must ensure these align with the goals of the people using the digital product—the users. Failure to do this jeopardizes the long-term viability of the product.
There's always a new feature that your competitors just released or a new me-too app. There's always something to chase. Involving users is a far more effective use of your time and resources than chasing features or the latest technology fad. You can have the fanciest website or an app that utilizes the latest cutting-edge technology, but they are a waste of time and money if they don’t align with user needs, preferences, and behaviors.
Your assumptions about what people want are just hypotheses until you validate them. Designers and developers sometimes fall into the trap of believing their “enlightened” design sense or knowledge of technology makes them experts in creating great user experiences. Yes, designers and developers are experts in solving problems but that doesn’t make them fortune tellers. User research is required to illuminate the problem(s) to be solved for a particular set of people.
Below are some of the most effective ways to validate your assumptions:
Start by reviewing analytics. What's currently being measured? How is the current product serving or not serving users?
Conduct online research. What are potential users saying “in the wild” (for example, on Reddit or online forums)?
Conduct competitive research. How are competitors serving users and how can your company differentiate itself? Consider conducting usability studies on your competitors products.
Observe and/or talk to current or potential users. This is the best way to understand users’ goals, motivations, preconceptions and behaviors. How do they currently use your/your competitor’s product? How is it serving or not serving them? What are their pain points and what roadblocks do they experience throughout their experience with your company/product?
Based on the research you’ve done, determine what assumptions have been validated or invalidated. Only move forward once you have validated your assumptions and are sure that your business goals align with user goals.
You can’t quantify the human experience and demonstrate a positive ROI unless you measure how well your business goals aligned with user goals and then hold teams accountable. By setting goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and establishing baselines, you can check the pulse of the digital product.
There are a variety of different, and equally effective, frameworks for measurement your team can use. It helps to start out with “goals, signals, metrics.” First, determine what you were trying to accomplish with features/changes to the product or what key tasks users should be able to accomplish for the redesign to be successful (goals). Then determine what would indicate that you met those goals (signals). Finally, refine those signals into metrics— what you are actually measuring.
If you’re purposeful about it, many of these metrics can be tracked throughout the design and development process. For example, your team can measure satisfaction using the product or task success metrics before, during, and after a redesign. Don’t forget about tracking and categorizing feedback received through customer service channels.
Ensure goals and events are set up in your analytics tool and set up a schedule to measure pre- and post-launch. The tools your team uses don’t matter as long as you actually use them, but here are some examples:
Datastudio by Google
Remember, without measuring, you can’t move to the next step: iteration.
Treat your designs as experiments—not as sacred works of art.
You’ll learn more and more about your target audience as you cycle through the process. Measure at regular intervals to see if you are meeting your goals. If you’re not, use what you’ve measured to get a snapshot so you can form a hypothesis as to why.
Remember, analytics are great at showing what, but not necessarily why or how to fix the problem. What they are good at is giving you a view of what’s happening in the wild so you can course correct quickly—and not waste resources going down a path that is going to negatively affect ROI. They demonstrate to stakeholders that the process is working and demonstrate ROI.
You may need to conduct additional user research (surveys, usability studies, interviews, etc) to better understand why your goals aren’t being met. Analytics plus user research pack a powerful punch for getting stakeholder buy-in.
4. Re-evaluate goals and repeat the process.
What is both fascinating and challenging about this process is that it’s never done. It’s fascinating because a digital product evolves and matures, much like the people who create it. It’s challenging because the low-hanging fruit of obvious usability problems turn into nuanced customer experience questions.
Inevitably, as the team repeats the process of measuring and iterating, business and user goals change. It’s important to periodically revisit business and user goals to ensure they are still in alignment.
What can you do today to improve the user experience?
First, gain consensus on your business goals and make some hypotheses on how these align with customer goals. You will then test these assumptions. Make sure the whole team knows and understands the bigger picture. Even if you can’t talk to current or potential customers immediately, set up goals and events in your analytics tool to start measuring.
As soon as possible, start incorporating real user feedback through:
Remember, your designs are experiments, so you’ll keeping measuring and refining throughout the lifetime of the digital product. There are many companies out there that continually try to go against users’ behaviors, motivations, and preconceptions. Some of them are even in the news. Don’t be like them.
When you make the mistake of relying on intuition alone, you lose the insights that are key to making great experiences. You also dramatically increase the chances of your product failing. A great user experience that is measured and optimized over time is the key to meeting your business goals. That way, you speak the language of your stakeholders while also creating happier customers and prospects who appreciate your brand, services, and products.
Measuring the user experience is one of the key topics in our user experience research workshops. Interested in measuring the user experience and demonstrating a return on investment in your digital properties? Send us a note.