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A common misconception we face with our website design and development process is assuming we are the user. Because we live and breathe the business day in and day out, we think that we know all the pains and wishes of our users. But this is often not true.
A good user experience depends on understanding our users’ attitudes, goals, and expectations, which is why passing on conducting user research and testing with real users can negatively affect the process and outcome.
If we take a look at what a good user experience depends on, we can start to see how complex it really is and why both upfront research and ongoing testing are so important. According to UX expert Fabricio Teixeira, positive user experience can depend on:
This might feel slightly overwhelming, but rest assured that there are steps you can take to get ahead of your users and, ideally, create a product that delights them. Below, we will review key research and testing exercises in order to better understand them.
At the beginning of every digital project—before we move into site structure, content strategy, and wireframes—we need to first know who we are speaking to. When we start to think about our users, we often try to put them into buckets that make sense to us—age, gender, income, education.
This can be a helpful start. But when we do a deeper dive into our users, we start to see that these buckets are not telling us how those individuals feel about our brand or how they act on our website. Demographics do not help us understand needs. This is where attitudinal research comes into play. By seeking to understand our users’ behaviors based on their thoughts, feelings, needs, attitudes, and motivations, we can better align our website to specifically target and speak to these user groups.
Surveys can be a great tool to conduct this research because focus groups can result in some users being influenced by the opinion of others. Surveys also can allow us to capture data on a wider net of users. This research should be completed at the start of a website project to inform the basis of the strategy.
A few examples of survey questions would be:
Behavioral research is important to provide insight into what our users are doing on our website. For example, we can look at Google Analytics to see what users click on when they land on the homepage of our site. This information can help us identify trends based on a large number of website users.
Other research techniques include user testing, A/B testing, heat maps, and eye tracking. Be careful, though, because focusing just on the data can leave it open to individual interpretation. We need to follow up any of these studies with asking the users “why.” The data can show us that a user left our website, but it is not able to tell us why they left and whether they left satisfied or frustrated.
This type of research should happen throughout the website process, and it should result in an iterative design and development process: design, test, tweak, test, and so forth. A website should never be considered finished, and testing can continue past the launch to fine-tune the messaging, design, and functionality so as to increase conversions.
Going through a website rebuild can feel overwhelming, but taking the time to conduct the necessary upfront research and implementing ongoing testing at key points in the process can save headaches (and money) in the long run.