Consider your internet habits. If a website is slow to load, how do you react? If you have a hard time finding what you’re looking for on the website, does that influence how you feel about the brand behind it?
We’ve all become accustomed to a certain amount of convenience when it comes to our interactions online. We don’t have a lot of patience for websites that don’t provide a seamless, intuitive experience. 68% of users are quick to leave a website altogether if they don’t get the easy experience they now expect.
That’s why even small businesses have to think about UX.
UX (which is short for user experience, for those unfamiliar with the term) is the practice of taking a user-centered approach to design. The goal of UX is to create a website, product, or app so well designed that users can enjoy all the features and functionality it provides without having to do any work to figure them out.
If your website doesn’t make it easy for visitors to do what they want on the site, then you’re very likely losing business regularly – even if you’re doing everything else right.
If you don’t know much about UX and don’t have the slightest idea where to begin, here are ten of the most important things every business owner should know about how UX works.
1. Always practice empathy.
The most important tenet of UX is that you have to put the user first. That requires understanding who they are and what they want. That’s not easy.
Getting inside the heads of your visitors isn’t as simple or intuitive as you might think. It’s natural to assume other people think and behave like you do, but any UX designer or marketer can tell you that other people have a tendency to surprise you.
For this reason, empathy needs to be a part of every single step you take in designing the UX for your website or product. A good start is creating user personas to get you in the habit of trying to think from the perspective of your main audience, but many of the other steps on this list will help you go further in better understanding the people using your site.#UX Rule Number One: Put the user first! Click To Tweet
2. Don’t trust your own impressions.
For most entrepreneurs, your business is your baby. Your investment in your brand makes it impossible for you to look at your website with the fresh eyes required to see it the way your visitors do.
The aspects of it you prioritize aren’t likely to be the ones that matter the most to the experience your customers have. Practicing empathy and trying to get out of your own head (and into theirs) can help, but you need to get your website in front of some other people to really get a clear picture of its UX.
3. Perform interviews.
Your user personas can’t simply come from you guessing at how your visitors behave. You need to actually talk to them. Reach out to people you know that fit into your target audience, whether they’re current customers, friends, or acquaintances.
Have a conversation with them about how they shop online. Work up a list of questions that relate to both your website in particular and how they shop in general.
For example, you can ask if there are things some e-commerce websites do that annoy them? Or ask them if they remember a time they were interested in purchasing something online, but stopped before completing the purchase and why? Do they usually browse for products or go looking for something specific when they visit an e-commerce website? What device do they do most of their shopping from?
Try to have 5-10 questions prepared that will help you better understand how people are likely to use and interact with your website.
Sometimes people will have a hard time pulling examples and specifics from their memory. We make a lot of our online shopping decisions without really thinking about what we’re doing. Don’t worry, that’s where some of the other types of UX testing come in.
4. Perform surveys.
In addition to one-on-one interviews, sending surveys to your customers after a purchase gives you the chance to gain insights right when their experience with your website is top of mind.
Survey software like InstantSurvey or Survey Gizmo allow you to collect the answers to any quick questions you have, which customers often won’t mind answering since the time commitment for them is so minimal.
5. Do usability testing.
The logical next step is to go beyond asking your customers general questions, and sit them in front of a computer to go through the process of searching, browsing, and buying something on your website. Usability testing gives you the chance to watch them in action so you can see when anything about their experience doesn’t go as smoothly as possible.
Look for issues like moments when it takes them longer to complete an action than it should, when they have trouble finding something they’re looking for, or fail to notice a key CTA or offer you want visitors to see.
Ask questions as they go and take comprehensive notes so you know what changes to make to improve the UX for future customers.
6. Do A/B testing.
You’re probably sensing a theme here. Much of UX is about testing. Even if you learn a lot from your interviews, surveys, and usability testing, you won’t have one clear path to take to the best design.
A/B testing lets you see how people respond to different versions of the design you’re considering. Like usability testing, it gets beyond how people think they behave, and tracks data on how they actually behave.
A/B testing can lead to some surprising results, as with this CopyHackers test that saw a simple change in button text lead to almost 124% more clicks. Even if you think a change is minimal or you’re pretty sure which of two options will get the best results, test your assumptions to see for sure.
7. Remember to test on different devices and browsers.
Nearly a third of all online shopping happens on mobile devices. If you do most of your testing on a desktop, then you’re not seeing what a lot of your customers see.
You should not only test out your website on different devices, but also use different popular browsers on each device. During usability testing, make sure to bring different devices into the process. For things like A/B testing, your analytics should be able to shine some light on how results vary on different types of devices.
Businesses no longer have the luxury of thinking in terms of one type of experience – different visitors are approaching your website in very different ways, and all of them need to be considered in your UX design.
8. Speed matters.
The longer your page takes to load, the more visitors will click away. 40% of consumers say they’ll click away from a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. The stakes are high here.
You can do a website speed test here to get a feel for whether or not your website is working at the speeds it needs to now and what issues are contributing to the problem if it’s not.
Design plays a role in load times, but so does your web hosting platform. If you’re not happy with the results you got on that speed test, you might consider if it’s time to switch to a more reliable web hosting solution.40% of visitors will click away from a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Click To Tweet
9. Don’t hesitate to hire.
If UX isn’t your specialty, you probably won’t do it as well as a skilled professional. UX firms can be expensive, but small business websites will usually be a simpler project for them some of the other types they take on, so get some quotes and see if you can find someone who can work with the budget you have.
Someone with specific experience in UX design will likely produce more effective results that lead to higher sales and profits, and they’ll take a lot of the work off your hands. All of which means that what you spend to improve your website’s UX is much more likely to pay off.
10. Don’t get complacent.
Investing in a UX design project now doesn’t mean you’re set for life. People’s habits change and your business will probably change over time as well. You need to check in every so often and treat much of the testing described as ongoing work.
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of checking in with your users and trying to think from their perspective, it will become more natural to continue doing so. And the results of improved UX are likely to make you want to make it a priority for the long term.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.