User experience, also known as UX, is how a person feels or “experiences” their interaction with a system. That system could be a website, a mobile app, or software in general, and, in modern contexts, is generally defined by some form of human-computer interaction. When approaching UX it’s important to study and evaluate how the end user feels about the system, taking a look at things like ease of use, perception of value, utility, efficiency and more.

Why is UX this important?

In today’s world, we interact with experiences like websites and apps on a daily basis. Before the days of user-centered design, designers and developers made decisions based on just two things: what they thought worked and what the client wanted to see. In short, most systems were built to work, not work with the end-user in mind.

Fast forward to 2017 and the interconnected systems we interact with everyday. Not only has it become more ubiquitous—the Internet has over 3.4 billion users globally —and it’s become so complex and feature-rich that, to be effective, you must have a great user experience. This includes optimizing this experience across the vast landscape of browsers, operating systems, mobile devices and even Internet connections.

With all of these sweeping changes and seemingly vast array of applications, the experiences that truly stand out are the ones that are most pleasant to use. And now more than ever the impetus of how we build and design these experiences is critical to our brands and our businesses.

How does UX impact business?

When you give your users a positive experience they will reward you with their trust and their business. In fact, brands with that invest in UX have increased their revenue by 37%, and top 10 UX leaders in America outperform the S&P with close to triple the returns. This clearly shows a positive return on a well thought out UX. No wonder we often refer to UX as a “brand’s secret weapon.”

However, when your user experience leaves little to be desired, the user can quickly and conveniently take their business elsewhere. In fact, 90% of users reported they stopped using an app due to poor performance, and 86% deleted or uninstalled an app as a result of encountering problems with it’s functionality or design (have your read our article “The Bot Is In“?). Meanwhile, studies also show that 86% of users believe an exceptional customer experience is worth paying extra for and Forrester Research reports that a positive customer experience “increases customers’ willingness to pay by 14.4%, reduces their likeliness to switch brands by 15.8%, and increases their likelihood to recommend a product by 16.6%.”

This is why investing in UX can be a game-changer, a pleasant user experience has been proven to earn the users interest, business, and most importantly, their loyalty. Bottom line: bad user experiences cost you money and customers.

How can I improve my users’ experience?

Start by observing
Before you jump in head first, take a moment to assess where you’re at currently and how customers are currently interacting with your website or app. You can start by conducting a usability assessment of your site. This will help you uncover some of the most common problems. Often times, usage analytics can be indicative of UX issues, but usability testing explains them. A common theme for underperforming websites is they are designed without the end user in mind. For example, executives who think they know their users typically sign off on these projects. As a result, the site is designed for the company’s executives and not for its customers.

Know who you’re designing for
If the primary visitors consist of Millennials, then chances are they understand social media icons and will be interested in the latest trends in technology. You can take more risks with them because they will want to be surprised and entertained. But if your visitors consist of retirees, you might want to stick to larger fonts and a simplified layout. The better you know your audience, the more informed and personalized design decisions you can make. And if you’re unsure exactly who your customers are, be sure to identify them before starting.

Design with empathy
The very foundation of UX design is empathy. It requires that we try to understand and identify with the needs and challenges of the people (or users), the experience or the system. Once we’re able to understand and identify the users needs and challenges, then and only then are we able to design solutions to solve their problems and bring more value to the user.

Use story and emotion
For starters, don’t underestimate the power of aesthetics and emotion in your users online experience. In his book “Emotional Design,” Donald Norman states “users perceive objects that are aesthetically pleasing as being more effective.” You can use story to design an emotional experience. Effective UX will make your users feel something, and ultimately become emotionally invested. You want to draw them in, use high quality visuals, relatable copy and impactful video to lead users along the page in a way that tells a story.

Create goal-oriented design
When it comes to practical application, don’t make it complicated. Reduce the number of clicks and steps needed to browse and complete the process. If we ask the user to do too much, they will quickly become overwhelmed and leave. You should strive to provide a streamlined process with little opportunity for the user to get discouraged, lost, frustrated, or give up.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
Make sure to use established design patterns to avoid confusion and increase intuitive ease of use. In other words, “don’t reinvent the wheel.” Established design patterns are pieces of UI (User Interface) or other visual elements that we’re accustomed to seeing and interacting with, and already know what they mean. For example, we’re used to seeing a logo placed in the top left-hand corner, and navigation running across the top. We’re familiar with the concept of a website footer and what types of information they contain.

Don’t forget typography
No matter how much we’d like to believe that our users are reading every last word on our pages, the overwhelming truth is: people skim on the web. Optimize all your text to be skimmable. Use brief headlines with a larger font size, bullets notes, and a well-defined hierarchy. When you do have to include a large amount of text, make the reading experience as optimal as possible. We can borrow from editorial design and reference the type-size-to-column-width ratio, common practice: 45-75 characters long for font sizes 14px-16px in size.

Remember, UX is a tool

Not only is UX important to your users, it’s also one of the most essential tools your brand has for increasing ROI. If your digital experience fails to compel users to take action, complete the process, and convert then the success of your campaigns will be wasted. Good UX helps improve revenue, reduce costs and create loyalty. User experience design may not be the silver bullet to achieving your brands online success, but on many levels, you’re far more likely to success with it than without it.

Don’t forget the customer journey doesn’t end at the point of sale. In fact, it’s the start of an entirely new stage of their journey and leveraging the reach of your online presence is key. Is your post-purchase user experience optimized? Not sure where to start? Contact us today to see how we’re committed to changing the post-purchase game.