Icons of positive customer experience including heart thumbs up and five stars

Why improving your user experience is money well spent.

For many people “user experience” seems like a vague, indefinite sort of thing to invest a lot of money in. There’s no hard deliverable other than the data you collect to back up certain decisions you’ve made for your design. So it’s tempting to look at it and say: if my site functions well and looks nice, isn’t that good enough?

The truth is, building a good user experience goes far beyond that. When you invest in user experience, your dollars go toward creating an excellent brand experience for your visitors. That means a lot of testing of various site components and monitoring of user behavior to try to come up with the most optimal design. It means keeping an open and fluid attitude about your site, and making sure your own assumptions or preferences don’t get in the way of what your users truly want. And while it may seem like a lot to put into something so nebulous, here’s why it’s worth your investment.

Spend your budget wisely.

By doing your UX research up front, you can save your developers tons of time later on. When you invest in user experience, you’re not just creating a beautiful, functional, usable website—you’re also eliminating guess work and delivering something your visitors want and can use. You’re cutting down on assumptions and moving forward with evidence.

When you don’t do this, you risk wasting your developers’ time by having them go back and make costly revisions. And if those revisions are significant, that could cost you far more money than your up-front UX investment. Not only in developer time, but in lost sales opportunities and a damaged brand reputation.

Yes, some aspects of UX testing involve experimentation and changes. But when these are planned for and implemented from the beginning, your developers can handle the overall site work with more data and less guesswork. Manufactures beta test their products and restaurants launch soft openings for exactly these reasons: to work out the kinks and improve their products and services so that they don’t risk delivering an inferior experience. You should do the same for your website.

Improve your conversion rate.

How much money do you pour into advertising to get visitors to come to your website? Think about your cost-per-click on AdWords, or Facebook, or that carefully-chosen placement ad. Or consider all the work you do building up your SEO with content marketing to improve your organic traffic and provide fodder for your email campaigns. All this work to bring people to your website, only for them to walk away because of a poor user experience.

Getting users onto your site is hard work. Typically, it’s much easier to convert them once they land on your page than it is to get them there in the first place. So it makes way more sense for you to focus on improving your conversion rate than on boosting your web traffic. And what’s the best way to improve your conversion rate? You got it: UX testing.

Don’t waste a good impression.

I’ve been in this position, and I’m sure you have as well. You see an advertisement which intrigues or excites you. You click through to the website, totally prepared to make a purchase. And then somewhere along the way, the experience frustrates you. You go from a delighted and engaged customer to a disappointed one who may very well share their bad experience with others, and will certainly be much harder to draw back into your store.

When someone walks away from your site because of user experience issues, they’re not just a lost lead—they’re someone whose taken away a bad experience of your brand. This is especially toxic given how valuable these potential customers are: it takes 6x the effort to attract a new customer than it does to keep an old one. By keeping user experience at the top of your priority list, you retain brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

User Experience is more than usability.

We talk a lot about the importance of functionality: how it’s more important for your site to work well than look nice. This doesn’t mean a beautiful design isn’t important. On the contrary: good design is often a critical component of user experience, because cluttered, confusing designs are usually ugly and unwelcoming. But it does mean that while all sites that provide a good user experience should be appealing, it does not mean that all appealing websites are usable.

Usability is that thing that allows your users to navigate your site and accomplish their goals quickly and efficiently. If that’s all you’re after, then a bare-bones, utilitarian aesthetic may be just right for you. But if you’re looking to provide a great user experience, you’ll need to go a step farther.

User experience includes how your users feel when they interact with your site, what they like and what will keep them coming back. It’s your product descriptions and site copy. It’s the customer support when they have a problem and accessible FAQs that answer questions and address their biggest hesitations. And it’s the value you provide through your blog content, your social media posts, and your email newsletter when you share funny, inspirational, or helpful posts. It’s the speed with which your site loads, and the functionality of its mobile design. In short: user experience is everywhere, which is why it needs to be a fundamental concern.

User experience is the investment that keeps on giving.

When you succeed in building a good user experience, your visitors repay you buy sharing their enthusiasm for your product with others. One of my favorite apps on my phone is a budgeting app. Why? Because it finally helped me make budgeting work in an easy and intuitive manner. Budgeting is boring, but I think I’ve sold a half dozen friends and family members on that app by now. And not just because the app works well, but because they frequently deliver content that encourages and reminds me to stick to my budgeting goals.

Another favorite app? Audible. My favorite feature? Dem badges. Oh man, I get obsessed with those badges. And my absolute favorite part about the badges? The short couplets used to describe each one. These aren’t a key part of the functionality of the app, and they serve an obvious purpose to Audible—to provide motivation for users to interact with the app. But the care and creativity that went into designing them makes me feel valued.

And at the end of the day, that’s what a good user experience communicates to your website visitors: that they are valued, and you want them to feel comfortable and happy on your site. Take a moment to think about the sites that have provided the best user experience for you, and how that made you feel. Don’t you want to give that to your customers?

Published 03/07/17 by Laura Lynch