A February 2011 Forrester survey found that 76% of respondents believe that improving the online customer experience is the most important objective in the coming year.

According to UserZoom UK Country Manager, Arthur Moan,“Whether it’s finding product information, pricing or ordering the latest gadget, providing a reliable and engaging user experience lies at the heart of online success.”

Online experience plays a vital role in brand perception. As competition increases, online channels are expected to be the main market battleground. Traditional elements of differentiation, such as quality, product features, price and brand equity are becoming decreasingly important –the overall customer experience is becoming the key differentiator. Today, customers interact with companies more often and in more meaningful ways than they ever have.

Here are 5 key UX and design tips that can convert browsers into buyers:

1. Users experience each business with an immediacy which has transformed expectation. Whether it’s finding product information, pricing or ordering the latest gadget, customers have more choice than ever before. Whether a site is a direct revenue generator or a means of communication, how users experience a site affects both reputation and the long term relationship with the user.

2. Having clear copy can make a huge difference to a visitor’s journey. A critical challenge is that the traditional way of understanding customer experience, customer satisfaction research, can’t provide the necessary insights into what exactly makes the difference to the customer online. Making clear what the site is for, ensuring that users are given the necessary help to choose or buy products – this all seems obvious. But if it’s not done right (i.e. if users find it hard to navigate the site or complete a task), or if the site somehow fails to meet user expectations, that can result in loss of business, and reflect badly on the brand.

3. Increasing the ease of use of any website will increase sales and conversion rates. Improved user experience can also lead to an increase in brand loyalty and return site visitors. More importantly, it could lead to an improvement in the perception of your brand and whether or not they become brand advocates, recommending your site to their friends and family. The most successful companies take advantage of the medium, using well-designed identity and navigation systems that showcase a site’s purpose and provide a solid infrastructure underlying an intuitive user interface.

4. Adopt the H.E.A.R.T. Framework (or at least something similar). The importance of User Experience has yet to translate into the everyday use of user experience methodologies and tools, although companies like Google are leading the way. They recently created a public framework to measure the user experience on a large scale (both attitudinal and behavioral) which they have applied to more than 20 products. The framework is called HEART: Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task success. View the PDF here

5. Everything on your site is designed to help your visitors. Users visit a site for different reasons, whether with direct focus on an e-commerce proposition, or to explore and wander around an entertainment site. The important thing is that everything, from the content you post to the navigation to the information architecture, should be designed with your customer in mind.

User experience tools are about enabling actionable and meaningful insights, refining your product, and serving your customer. What each business needs will be different, but without knowledge of user experience there can be no action. Tools range from something as simple as a true intent site survey also referred to as ‘Voice of Customer’, all the way to something as complex as quantitative task based unmoderated usability testing, which can deliver metrics such as effectiveness (task success), efficiency (time taken, clicks and page views) and satisfaction . What your site needs may depend on complexity and budget, but there is always a way to ensure that you’re staying on top of what people want.

 

In order to improve the site, information is essential and user experience tools can provide the necessary data. That data can help you understand the challenges that your site provides, and provide evidence of the changes users need to see. And that’s the first step towards improving brand and business relationships online.