Of all the KPIs marketers care about, ROI is king.
You’ve heard stats about the unbeatable ROI of email marketing, or the power of personalization.
What if we told you there was something that had a ROI of 9,900%?
Those extra zeros are not a typo. According to Forrester, every $1 invested in user experience (UX) delivers a return of $100.
It’s no wonder today’s market leaders are investing heavily in user experience. If you’re in the process of migrating DXP platforms or building a new website, you’re reading this at the perfect time.
We break down everything you need to know about user experience design (UXD), what it is, and why it matters.
What is UX design?
Let’s start by reviewing what UX design isn’t. It’s not graphic design. A graphic designer designs your brand, print materials, color, and logo. A user experience designer takes those elements from the graphic designer and creates a digital experience.
Some well-meaning marketers think they can get away without a UX designer. They already had someone design their logo and define the brand. Isn’t that enough?
In short, no. If you’re developing a new site, you need a UX designer, not a graphic designer. User experience design is about designing interactions that make sense to your user. It’s about architecting content in a way that makes it easy to navigate and find. It’s about using responsive layouts to display content so that it’s easily digestible for your users, increasing their understanding and likelihood of conversion.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Below, we review four key aspects of UX design in more detail.
1. Information Architecture
Information architecture is a really large part of UX design. It’s all about organizing your content so that it makes sense to your users. A UX designer will determine:
The best order to place menu items in your website navigation
How to develop a content tree or hierarchy
The optimal URL structure to support that hierarchy
Lots of people don’t think of organizing information as a design concern, but it absolutely is — because it’s all about the user! By placing content in a hierarchy, you make your website easier for your users (and search engines) to navigate and explore. A core best practice of UX design is to start with broader ideas and then dig deeper into more complex ideas.
Let’s take an ecommerce website as an example. These websites are typically organized with a homepage at the top, followed by category pages, then sub-category pages, and finally product pages at the bottom of the hierarchy.
How important is navigation to your customers and users? The most important, according to a 2021 report by Clutch. 94% of people say an “easy navigation” is a website’s most useful feature.
What’s the secret to an easy navigation? Keeping it simple. Data shows that menus with more than seven to nine items are less usable because they overwhelm the user. Our working memory can only hold so many things at a time. Keep it simple, and your users will thank you.
2. User Discovery and Research
Don’t let the design in the name fool you; UX design decisions are based on data more than aesthetics. UX discovery consists of interviewing users, performing user testing, and browsing the websites of your competitors to find common trends and best practices.
User research is a core principle of UX design. If, for instance, you run an online shoe store, and the research shows that people are looking for black boots, then an UX designer is not going to group all of your shoes together by the size of the heel.
That’s an example of a decision based on user research. UX designers also rely on industry best practices. For example, decades of research show that buttons with contrasting colors get clicked more often, so you’ll often see CTA buttons in a brighter shade than the rest of the website.
Take a look at Amazon. Their website features shades of black, dark teal, and white. Their Add to Cart buttons, on the other hand, are a bold yellow. Even with all that other text on the page, you can’t miss them:
UX designers don’t guess as to what your users want. They use data, statistics, and real-world research to find out what they need.
3. User Analytics
In addition to interviewing your users, UX designers review their click and behavior data to make decisions. They can review your Google Analytics to see your customer’s journey through your website, observing what pages they’re clicking on, and how they got there.
Then, on an individual page level, they can use mouse-tracking software to see where your users click and hover on a page. This reveals key insights about their behavior, and it also helps you find mistakes in your design.
For example, your click behavior may show that everyone is trying to click on an icon, even though it’s not clickable. That can signal to your UX designers that they either need to make that icon clickable, or swap it with something that makes it clear it’s not clickable. Catching these kinds of mistakes is one of the major cost- and time-savings UX designers can offer organizations.
Here’s an example of the heatmap data for a pricing page, from popular mouse-tracking software Mouseflow:
4. Search Experience
When it comes to UX, one of the first things you learn is this:
Don’t put a search box on your page without first thinking through how people will be searching, and designing your search results accordingly.
If your users are not going to be able to find what they need with your search box, there’s no point in putting it there. You first need to define your search functionality and how you’ll map the results to your content. Working together with your UX designer, you’ll answer questions like:
How do you want your search box to look, and where will it appear on your site?
How will the search results page function? Will you incorporate visuals or sponsored content?
What content is eligible for search? Everything? Blogs or product pages?
What types of search features will you use (e.g. faceted, type-ahead, natural language)?
How will the results be weighted for relevance? (e.g. if you’re an ecommerce site and people search for a specific product by name, the results should take them directly to the product page, not a random blog article that happens to mention that product)
Planning a successful search experience goes beyond the scope of this blog, but don’t worry: we wrote an entire whitepaper on it.
Refining your search experience is an often overlooked but extremely important aspect of UX design, as many people navigate solely using search. In fact, one study found that 21% of websites are navigated exclusively using the search feature. We can probably thank Google for that one.
Thoughtful UX design is mandatory, not optional
Nearly nine in ten users say they’re unlikely to revisit a website that had a poor user experience. Today’s Internet users simply have a higher standard of websites. They expect them to work, to have what they need, and to help them get where they want to go quickly.
That’s why you need strong UX design. You need to have an effective website the first time around. It’s not the 90s anymore, when people were happy to wait around for a page to load, pixel by painstaking pixel. They expect your website to load fast, to feel intuitive, and maybe be even a little bit fun.
Not sure your site fits that description? Let’s talk about it.