UX Demystified!

By signal

It seems like everybody’s talking about User Experience. You’ve probably heard about some sophisticated software package you should be buying right now to monitor or improve UX. Or maybe you’ve seen “UX” getting tacked onto job titles: UX Designer, Mobile UX Analyst, UX Strategist, UX Manager. What does it all mean? And what should you be doing about it?

Here’s the good news: UX doesn’t have to be confusing, expensive or difficult. UX is really about common sense steps that you can easily implement with a little pre-planning. A little effort and attention will pay off in solid ROI. Read on to learn more.

Smart technology is now commonplace, in the hands of discerning consumers with high expectations about functionality. Just having a great presence won’t get the job done. Brands also need to provide a great experience. A positive user experience (UX) is critical to capturing attention and loyalty – to ultimately increase engagement and revenue.

UX describes the quality of a person’s interaction with a system, product or service. We naturally think of UX in terms of technology – iPhones, tablets, websites and software. But it’s not only about our frequent interactions with beloved tech tools and toys. We have tons of daily “user experiences” – things like driving our cars, checking out at the store or microwaving a meal.1

These days, the satisfaction and ease of use with your company’s website and other online channels are most critical to attracting and engaging your customers. In an environment where most visitors will decide within seconds2 whether to stay on a page, you get a fleeting chance to make a strongfirst impression. UX matters.

In this paper, our team demystifies UX, giving you easy steps to positively impact your business.

Getting to know UX

“[The] primary function of UX is the development of an architecture that creates a delightful, emotional, and sensory experience. This is why it’s vital to customer experiences and engagement. UX is, among many things, designed to be experiential, affective, useful, productive, and entertaining.”3

– Fast Company

What about usability and user interface? Are those the same as UX?

Not quite. There are a number of terms that seem synonymous with user experience, when they are actually components.

What we now know as “user experience” grew out of the disciplines of human factors / ergonomics and user-centered design. Human factors / ergonomics looks at understanding “the interactions among humans and other elements of a system… to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”4 In his book The Design of Everyday Things5,Donald Norman describes user-centered design as designing products for people, instead of teaching people how to use products. This approach requires time on initial research on users’ needs and wants – which is a central focus for UX.

The Difference between User Interface, Usability, and User Experience

UX Increases ROI

Wow…UX Increases ROI

Did you know that good UX could help you increase your ROI? The oft-cited “300 million button” case is one drastic example.6
Amazon found that the prospect of having to register before purchasing an item was chasing users away. Changing a button from “register” to “continue” – along with a message saying that registration was not required to check out but might be helpful if you returned – increased sales by 45%. This brought the online retailer an extra $300 million in the year after the change was made.

User experience research company The Nielsen Norman Group says that paying attention to website architecture and design will help to increase ROI for a number of categories:7

Key performance indicator Average improvement across web projects
Sales/Conversion rate 87%
Traffic/visitor count 91%
User performance/productivity 112%
Use for specific (desired) features 174%

Top Tip

Making UX an inherent part of your design and development process is a best practice that pays. Read on to find out how to do it.

Test Always and Often

Keepin’ it Real – UX Tactics

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. We said that UX doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. It can be easy and scalable, with these basic steps.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR USERS – Who are they? What do they want and need?

Conduct ethnographic research.

It’s helpful to understand users in their natural environment. The best way to do this is to observe users “in the wild.” Here’s an example. A marketing team visited five different retailers who sell the company’s crop protection products. They saw how the product was presented on the shelf, sold – and eventually, used. The team asked the retailers what was working and how they liked to learn about new products or features. From those on-site visits, the marketers learned invaluable information such as:

  • Growers speak English but many of the people actually applying the products do not. Bilingual instructions would be helpful.
  • There are certain times of the year when growers don’t use a laptop for weeks, because they are so involved with their crops in the field. Mobile only communications are a must for those times of the year. Conducting on-site research allowed the team to observe behaviors as they happened – and it provided an opportunity for follow-up questions on the spot.

Think you don’t have time for a deep dive into this step? When designing a sales app for a client, Signal team members sat down with the head of sales and watched as he walked through the standard presentation. Total time? One hour.

Gather user preferences/requirements.

There are multiple ways to find out more about your users. Use surveys for specific questions and easily quantifiable results (“Which of these six channels do you use most often to learn about our products?”). Consider one-on-one interviews to gather candid information and dig deeper (“Tell me what attracts you to our website.”). And don’t forget the focus group, when you have more general questions (“What kind of experiences have you had with our product?”) and want to stimulate an open discussion with a number of users.

“As an end user…I really may not even know what I need…if you could please,
please read my mind, anticipate my needs, and (above all else) just make it EASY for me to get what I’m looking for, without making me jump through hoops or wade through ‘junk’ I
don’t care about, I will be your loyal follower for life.”
– Usabilitygeek.com8

Use personas

Personas are representations of ideal customers based on your market research and data about existing customers. They provide insight into where to focus your marketing time – and they can help guide your UX efforts. Elements that help craft a persona include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Personas are valuable because they give you the ability to hone in on the needs of specific users rather than “everyone.”

2. ESTABLISH BENCHMARKS – How are you doing?

Conduct ethnographic research.

Once you understand your users, gather existing data to flesh out your benchmarks for UX. Consider mining the following types of sources: customer support call data, expert feedback and analytics. Think about gathering information for the following categories:


Competitive website analysis

Now that you have an understanding of your users, you will want to understand the market as well by taking a look at the websites of companies that are competing with your company’s products or services.

This may consist of anything from a basic scan to an in-depth exploration – and it will help you to understand best practices and how you can stand out from the crowd.

No matter what level of analysis you choose to do, it should measure these types of things:9

  • Efficient navigation
  • Organizational clarity
  • Clear labeling
  • Consistent design
  • Matching user expectations
  • Effective visual design
  • Supporting readability & scanability
  • Facilitating user tasks
  • Providing help

Analytics, the right way

You can use analytics to see WHAT is happening (“People are leaving our website without signing up”). To understand WHY, however, you need to gather user feedback. Avoid making assumptions based on your analytics by pairing data with simple usability testing.

3. DESIGN, TEST, REPEAT – How is the design working? How can we improve it?

Once you’ve moved into the design phase, it’s helpful to identify issues as early as possible to make implementation smooth. Below, learn about the different ways to test that your users will have the best experience possible. As UX experts like to say, test early and test often.

Wireframing goes beyond the site map

The site map is a familiar bare-bones diagram of a website’s architecture. It’s a great way to show how information and functionality can be structured. However, it won’t explain how that information will be presented. Most importantly, it won’t show you how users can interact with the information.

To get an accurate blueprint, take a step up from the site map to the wireframe. A wireframe presents an interactive rough draft of a website’s interface that focuses on space allocation, content prioritization and functionality. It typically doesn’t include color, styling or graphics.

  • Wireframes connect the site’s information architecture to its visual design by showing paths between pages
  • Wireframes clarify consistent ways for displaying particular types of information on the user interface
  • Wireframes determine intended functionality in the interface
  • Wireframes prioritize content through the determination of how much space to allocate to a given item and where that item is located10

Why use wireframes? They save time and money. They’re a great tool for getting everyone on the same page and understanding how your site works – before a designer invests effort in refined layout and design. And, wireframes can show you where your site map is incomplete or faulty, so you can test it and fix it.

Usability testing

If you do nothing else to improve your UX, conduct usability testing to gather first-hand data from real users. Here are two methods to consider.

  • Single-user testing involves a design, a user and a facilitator. Jakob Nielsen, UX consultant, recommends the “thinking aloud” method of
    usability testing, where a user continuously verbalizes their thoughts as
    they use a system or product.12 This cheap, flexible method is a great way to gather useful qualitative information. Here’s a video example of the thinking aloud method.13
  • Group testing is usually more formal. Participants individually, but
    simultaneously, perform tasks with one or more moderators assisting. In
    one example, Signal partnered with a client to conduct group usability
    testing of two different options for a landing page – measuring success,
    errors and subjective satisfaction with the page.
85% of UX problems can be solved by testing with 5 users.11

Heat mapping

Information about how visitors interact with your website can help you improve your UX – and increase the chances that they will complete actions like signing up for a newsletter or clicking on critical links. Heat mapping software is one way to give you actionable insight into where people are clicking. With heat mapping, you can test the design of your site, see how readable your content is and improve conversions.14

The brighter the color, the more clicks (and attention) a specific area is receiving from users.

A/B testing

A/B testing is a technique that allows you to test one design / element against another to see which offers the better experience – and better results.
Many things can be A/B tested15 – it just has to be something that affects visitor behavior, such as:

  • Headlines
  • Links
  • Sub-heads
  • Images
  • Paragraph text
  • Content near the fold
  • Testimonials
  • Social proof
  • Call to action text
  • Media mentions
  • Call to action button design
  • Awards and badges

Many of you have heard about how A/B testing helped Obama’s 2008 campaign raise an extra $60 million16 – simply by testing the media (videos or images) and the call to action text (“Join us now,” “Learn more,” “Sign up,” or “Sign up now”) to find the most effective combination.

You don’t have to be a presidential candidate to get great results from A/B testing. And, it pays to test because sometimes the findings are surprising. When launching SimCity 5, Electronic Arts included a promotional offer banner on its digital pre-order page. EA didn’t see a large increase in pre-orders and decided to conduct A/B testing. Surprisingly, removing the offer banner drove 43.3% more purchases – people just wanted to get to the game!17

Don’t forget the emotionEmotions are a critical element in effective marketing – positive emotions even more so. In pleasant situations, people are more likely to want to interact with a product, even if the UX could be improved.18
Think about ways to evoke positive emotions with media, design and copy

Final thoughts

UX demystified: first, start by understanding your users’ needs and desires. Then, set and measure benchmarks – the WHAT that is happening which will drive the WHY you will test later. (You should know where you’re going before you decide how to get there!) Finally, design, test and repeat.

The tools and techniques outlined above are all part of Signal’s everyday toolbox – and we’re delighted to share them with you. Remember, everyone has a little UX expertise in them!

You already appreciate the value of UX if you…19

  • Love good design but not poorly designed instructions, menus, signage,
    maps and so on
  • Like to organize things
  • Like to streamline the workflow to make your workplace more efficient
  • Are the one who spots the typos on the restaurant menu
  • Want to design a better solution for problems you see around you

Thank you for reading. Our team hopes this paper has helped to demystify UX and give you some easy steps to positively impact your business. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

1. http://usabilitygeek.com/user-experience/
2. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/
3. http://www.fastcompany.com/1815756/why-user-experience-critical-
4. http://www.iea.cc/whats/index.html
5. http://www.amazon.com/Design-Everyday-Things-Revised-Expanded/dp/0465050654/
6. http://www.uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button
7. NN/g Report: Usability Return on Investment (ROI)
8. http://usabilitygeek.com/user-experience/
9. http://boxesandarrows.com/competitive-analysis-understanding-the-market-context/
10. http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/wireframing.html
11. http://blog.dashburst.com/infographic/ux-101-what-is-user-experience/
12. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/thinking-aloud-the-1-usability-tool/
13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ2udLjdsx4
14. http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/archive/2011/03/16/heatmaps-
15. https://vwo.com/ab-testing/
16. http://blog.optimizely.com/2010/11/29/how-obama-raised-60-million-by-running-
17. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/a-b-testing-experiments-examples
18. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/07/18/the-personality-layer/
19. http://www.nngroup.com/reports/user-experience-careers/
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