With over eight years of experience in the technology industry, Cassandra Michael is a passionate world traveler and seasoned communications professional who loves to help start-ups create awesome marketing campaigns.
She currently works as the Head of Marketing at Usabilla, which offers customer feedback solutions to businesses.
We recently checked in with Cassandra to get her advice on how brands can improve customer experience on their sites. Here's what she had to say:
What's your approach to improving user experience on websites?
If you are looking to improve the UX of your website, your first priority should be to understand your users' challenges and needs. Here at Usabilla we recommend that you first outline potential areas of friction. Friction can be defined as "the resistance that your visitors experience when trying to complete an action". Friction is a conversion killer usually caused by unclear messaging, lack of information or poor layout.
We can categorize friction into two key categories: Length and difficulty. Length friction is associated with fatigue, irritation or aggravation caused by processes that ask for more time or information than feels reasonable. Difficulty friction on the other hand is associated with poor usability, asking questions people don't know the answers to, insufficient information, etc.
Start by looking into your analytics. What are the numbers saying? Do you have a high bounce rate? What is the average time on page? Are your customers abandoning their carts or forms?
Then ask yourself and brainstorm with your team what your website's main problem areas are. Is the website navigation too complicated? Do you have a feeling the forms you are using are too long? Is your Q&A section detailed enough?
Once you have outlined these elements, you then have to validate your hypotheses. The most effective way to do this is by directly asking your customers. Implement a user feedback solution like Usabilla and let your customers tell you exactly what they think of your website.
What types of data or information should organizations be watching in order to gain insight on user experience?
It's very important to combine both qualitative and quantitative data, for maximum results. Keep in mind that analytics shows you the "what," whereas user feedback the "why." Some of the quantitative data you can look at is: form/event completion rates, conversions, time on page, bounce rates and number of error messages. This will give you a good indication of problem areas. Then as I explain previously, you need user feedback to get further context on what exactly is happening and what your customers actually want. This can be done by utilizing slide out/exit surveys. Finally, another great way to gauge user experience is through usability tests and user interviews.
What advice can you offer on improving user experience to boost conversions?
The more positive a user's experience is on your website, the more likely they will complete their purchase and return. By default, when you offer a good overall user experience, your conversions will increase.
With regards to reducing shopping cart abandonment and improving the online check-out flow here are some best practices ecommerce sites can keep in mind:
- Display a progress bar during checkout
- Provide a clear cart summary
- Make sure your security verification icons are visible
- Allow for cart changes and cart saving
- Allow for guest checkout
- Keep your forms as short as possible
We recently put together an ebook titled "Designing a checkout flow that converts". You can download it for free here.
As you can see, many of the above points are strongly associated with customer experience. Take both UX and CX into consideration when optimizing your site for conversions.
What's the difference between UX and CX?
At the end though, I would like to highlight that conversion rate optimization is not a list of best practices to follow, but something each company has to discover individually. There isn't a one-size-fits-all formula. By combining qualitative and quantitative, start A/B testing key elements to see what works for you.
What are the biggest killers of conversions on websites today?
Poor images, bad copy, lack of information, confusing navigation/layout, long forms, unclear error messages.
How important is design to user experience?
The following elements are the key components of a great user experience:
As you can see, design is only a small piece of the puzzle. The true focus of UX is not about how your site looks, but more about understanding your user's journey and how they feel when using and interacting with it. Erik Flowers hit the nail on the head with his quote - "UX is the intangible design of a strategy that brings us to a solution." A UX designer designs the experience a user has, rather than the interface that is used.
This is precisely why good UI design does not automatically equal good UX. There are so many factors that influence the experience a user has with a product, be it loading times, performance, layout, personalization or visual appeal. Read more on a blog post we just published: "UX is not design".
When should sites ask for user feedback?
At Usabilla we believe that there should be an ongoing dialogue between a company and its customers. Nowadays most sites have an agile approach and are updated iteratively. So always keeping in touch with your users and allowing them to tell you exactly what they want, is the key to staying ahead of the curve.
What are the best methods for getting this feedback?
The two main methods, which are both very effective, are solicited and unsolicited feedback. For example, with Usabilla, you can install a custom feedback button on your site and give your users the opportunity to report bugs, errors, give recommendations and compliments at any time. This is unsolicited feedback. Our solution also incorporates screenshot functionality, which is extremely useful in giving context to the feedback received. Basically the user can take a screenshot of the website element he/she wants on give feedback on.
Solicited feedback on the other hand is normally in the form of user surveys. It's always best to outline a clear plan when rolling out user surveys. Here are the five W's you can use to create your user survey strategy:
1. Why you ask - Define your objectives
2. Who you ask - Target very specific segments
3. What to ask - Decide on friction areas and survey questions
4. When to ask - Decide on behaviors that trigger the survey
5. Where to ask - Target certain urls and pages of the website
Need some inspiration on what questions to ask your users? Check out our post "Making Feedback Actionable: The Best Questions to Ask Your Users."
What doesn't seem to work as well?
Avoid very long surveys. They are definitely conversion killers! Limit your surveys to three-four questions.
Avoid Yes/No questions as stand-alone. Use them as a hook but then add a conditional follow up with a free text field. (For example, if you ask "Did you find what you were looking for?" and the customer responds "No," have a conditional free text field appear with the questions "What couldn't you find?" or "How can we improve?")