The corporate mantra, “the customer is king,” needs an update when it comes to digital marketing. In this world, “the user is king” (or queen). Studies show brands that invest in user experience (UX) reap increases in engagement, conversions, and customer loyalty.
Whether you’re launching a new website, redesigning a current site, or developing an interactive tool or application, here are five UX best practices to keep in mind throughout the project lifecycle.
1. Keep user goals front and center
Too often, user goals are defined at the beginning of a project, only to be forgotten after the planning stage. Be proactive so this doesn’t happen on your project. The goals should serve as an invaluable roadmap for everyone involved in creating a website or app, including any third-party creatives or digital agency team members.
Here are some examples of how user goals affect the work of different disciplines:
- Writers: Tone, emphasis, word choice
- UX and visual designers: Information hierarchy, image selection, “call to action” styling
- Developers: Prioritization and feasibility of technical solutions
- Project owners: Review and approval of final content and images.
Find ways to keep user goals front and center throughout the life of the project. Consider starting each meeting with a quick review of the goals, paste them into emails and meeting agendas or highlight them in PowerPoint presentations. Make them part of ongoing project communication, and you’ll see the results.
2. Use analytics to your advantage
Don’t just rely on what your gut tells you about how users will interact with an interface; get the data.Make sure users are enjoying the best possible experience by using Google Analytics or other tracking software to monitor key performance indicators such as:
- Conversion rates
- Time on page
- Bounce rates
- Most popular content
- Common search terms
This data can help you make informed decisions about potential changes in content or functionality that will increase conversions or directly affect how well you’re performing against other user goals.
Unfortunately, analytics tracking sometimes gets cut from projects that have tight timelines or budgets. Reserve the time and budget you need by allocating for analytics up front.
If you’re new to analytics software, either set aside time to learn it yourself, or ask your agency to set up tracking tags, click events, and dashboards that make sense for your specific site and user goals.
3. Develop a user testing plan that’s right for you
Another way to improve UX is to go straight to the source—test your site or app design with real users early in the project. The right kind of user testing can help you refine and improve design concepts and avoid expensive do-overs in the development stage.User testing comes in a variety of forms, both qualitative and quantitative—from surveys to in-person exercises, and from click testing to A/B testing.
The most effective user testing plans are tailored specifically for your digital initiative’s goals, budget, and timeline. While there are many online user-testing tools—Optimal Workshop, Optimizely, and Usabilia, to name a few—it’s typically best practice to work with a UX professional to create a plan that’s customized for your exact needs.
4. Make consistency a priority
When it comes to user experience, consistency is crucial. By providing users with consistency in digital design, you show them that your brand is both trustworthy and professional.Users learn how to interact with your site or app through repetitive use. For example, primary “call-to-action” buttons should be consistent in color, style, and shape so users quickly get accustomed to them on your interface. With each use, people subconsciously identify what is an important clickable or tappable element on each screen they visit.
Consistency is also essential when it comes to navigational elements, layouts, animations, instructional text, copy structure, icon styles, illustration, and photography styles.
For complex or long-term digital initiatives, consider creating a pattern library or style guide to establish common language and offer concrete guidelines that support consistency. These reference materials are especially useful for projects involving multiple design and development teams and people who manage multiple sites and stakeholders.
5. Develop an editorial calendar
You already know that up-to-date, engaging content not only keeps users on your site longer but also puts you closer to the top of Google search results. And you probably have a lot of ideas for great content, like microsites, digital sales aids, videos, apps, and interactive features. But have you focused on how they all fit together?The best bet for making sure you execute on all those great ideas—and do it in a thoughtful way—is to create an editorial calendar. While it may sound ironic when we’re talking about digital marketing, consider getting an old-fashioned paper calendar and “penciling in” the timing for your great content ideas over the next six to 12 months. By creating an overview of all your digital marketing initiatives, you can better understand the themes, messages, and UX you’re promoting to your intended audience.
If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate user experience best practices into your next digital initiative, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch a video on The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk
Learn how to use Google Analytics with their free classes
Read an article about When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods
Discover How and Why to Create a Pattern Library
Get inspired by new creative website designs at Site Inspire