Looks Aren’t Everything When It Comes to Your Website
In a digital-focused business climate, an out-of-date website constitutes a glaring oversight, and a harsh realization for any marketing leader. But for all the concern that comes with a need to update an unappealing site, the secret to your success can’t necessarily be found with the coolest visual presentation.
The fact is, if not approached thoughtfully, a beautiful, bleeding-edge website can be just as useless as the outdated one you’re working to replace. From the beginning, you have to consider the needs of your users before following the latest design trends. If you don’t consider your site’s user experience from the beginning, even an award-winning look won’t help your business meet its goals.
When marketing chiefs face an underperforming website, their first solution is often to update its appearance. But in most cases, the shortcomings of your website are a result of a strategy issue lurking behind the scenes. For your website to satisfy your business needs, its first priority must be to reinforce your brand and drive customer engagement. Otherwise, even the best-looking homepage may as well be art on the wall.
How to Evaluate Your Website’s Functionality
Before you can begin rethinking your website’s appearance, you must form a clear picture of how well it’s functioning. Rather than solely focusing on resolving your site’s visual shortcomings, these basic tools effectively illustrate its true performance issues.
A free, easy-to-install method to generate information about your website, Google Analytics is a useful tool that measures your site’s performance. Plus, it reveals valuable trends in user behavior by tracking visit lengths. If users are spending a long time on your home page rather than exploring further, that may point to a flaw in the way your information is organized. On article pages, long visit times indicate users find your content useful and engaging; low numbers or a high bounce rate show areas that need improvement.
Recognizing how well your site is acquiring new customers through tracking sales or conversions is another effective way to measure your site’s effectiveness. Are people landing on your contact forms but not filling them out? Monitoring where users complete a CTA and where they fall off is another telling indicator of a poor user experience. However, areas where users convert at a high rate offer clues about the parts of your site that are structured in a way that’s engaging the audience effectively.
User testing provides another way to analyze your site, but it should be approached with caution. You have to be careful about how you structure your tests so your answers are as true-to-life as possible. Rather than asking broad, subjective questions, you should test around the specific ways your site is being used. For example, if you are testing an e-commerce site, ask testers to find a specific type of product, add it to their cart and go through the checkout process. Observing users as close to real life as possible can help you find where your visitors might get stuck or confused. Asking whether someone likes your design encourages users to respond with the answers you want rather than the critical results you need.
How to Use UX to Meet Business Goals
In UX design, the primary goal isn’t to ensure your site has an eye-catching look. You have to ask whether its design is delivering the results your organization needs.
Define Your Organization’s Goals
Before you can determine the goals of your website, you should first consider the goals of your organization. What does your business need to achieve in the next six months? What steps have you taken to this point to meet those goals? Once these details are in place, you can apply a strategic framework to the conversations around your corresponding design needs.
Brand identity is probably the easiest focal point when considering options for your website’s visual presentation. No matter which cutting-edge design technique may have caught your eye elsewhere – brutalism, anyone? – your website’s overall look must primarily reflect and reinforce the identity of your brand.
Naturally, every business sees a good-looking website as a key priority. But the ultimate goal for a redesign isn’t just making your site look better. It’s about fitting your website into your organization’s larger ecosystem, recognizing that it’s part of a much broader digital strategy, and understanding that it serves a critical business purpose. From there, visual flair tends to take care of itself.
Define Your User’s Needs
Any business is built on the goals of attracting customers and satisfying their needs. By tracking the user journeys for your website’s prospective customers, you can better understand how to meet their needs.
Through audience research, you can learn about your customer’s experience with your brand and how it intersects with a problem they need to solve. By observing how users then look for solutions, you gain a clear picture of where and how to target your website’s content and functionality.
Customer expectations are also established by current design norms. Major websites like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are diving deeply into UX, and they’re altering consumer habits. With a wealth of resources and data driving their decisions, these companies are setting expectations for how every site functions. By conforming to these tactics as they apply to your services, you can ensure your users have a more positive experience.
Combine Org Goals + User Needs for Effective UX Design
The primary purpose of your website and any marketing plan is to serve what your business wants to achieve, what your audience needs, and where those two ideas overlap.
There are a number of tools in a designer’s toolbox that reinforce the conversion points important to your business. For example, the proper button placement guides your prospect through the conversion funnel or facilitates their completion of a form. For e-commerce sites, the main focus typically falls on the point of purchase. But effective visuals also impact micro-conversion points they encounter along the way, such as engaging with a case study after visiting your services page, or reading a related article at the end of a blog. At each step, your website’s effective use of visuals encourages interaction and guides customers through their journey.
UX best practices and design best practices are very similar in that both are informed by strategic decisions. A website that takes a thoughtful approach to the user experience performs better at satisfying their needs – and your needs as well. And, inevitably, it will look better too.