Even when it’s not Halloween, something that scares UX professionals is when people make big decisions about customers’ online experiences without any data or supporting evidence. It happens a lot and, in this case, what you don’t know can hurt you. When you don’t know how people are engaging with your website, accomplishing their goals, or making purchases, it can negatively affect your business and brand. Lacking good information makes it hard to make good decisions.
At Acumium, we advocate constant refinement of user experiences via behavioral analysis, regular review and a healthy mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Let’s explore how investing in leveraging data can benefit your business and user experience.
The Importance of the Qualitative/Quantitative Balance
The term “data” might initially make you think of analytics and monitoring. These are important to help us understand your users’ behavior on-site and how they accomplish key goals like purchasing products. To pull this information, we use tools that run quietly in the background to track website traffic, page views, user demographics, popular content, scrolling activity on-page, and click-thru patterns. Our design and user experience teams then use this quantitative data to understand what’s happening on your website and how users are engaging with you.
But analytics and monitoring only show part of the picture. Quantitative data is good at telling us what is happening. But it can’t tell us why something’s happening, or whether that’s what customers even want to happen in the first place. That’s where qualitative research comes in.
Qualitative user research includes key techniques like customer interviews, field studies, and usability tests. This is where we interact directly with site users and customers, tapping into their needs and motivations as people. It requires keen observation skills, advanced empathy, and the ability to navigate nuanced lines of questioning. Qualitative research validates what we’re seeing in the analytics and, more importantly, clues us in to missing or poorly implemented features and functionality.
Ideally, what we look for is a quantitative/qualitative balance, with the right mix of techniques for your business and your goals.
Three Basics to Get You Started
Set up Google Analytics and begin capturing information.
If you’re not currently collecting any website data, start by setting up Google Analytics. Google Analytics immediately begins collecting information from your website like who your visitors are, where they’re located, what pages they’re visiting and on what device and browser they’re viewing your site. Google Analytics lets us build a rough profile of your customer base and establish a data baseline that we can reference moving forward.
In addition to Google Analytics, there are other conversion rate optimization (CRO) and monitoring tools that can increase our understanding of user behavior. Things like heatmapping, scroll mapping, session recording, and A/B testing can all take your monitoring and data collection to the next level with the right strategic reviewer, determining what is an outlier and what’s a trend. These patterns of how your users are using your site and where they are running into problems are great triggers for evaluating potential changes.
“Interviews” sound formal, but a great first step is to start asking some core questions to current customers and then analyzing trends or patterns you begin to hear. Surveys can work for this, but conversations are better to gain more in-depth responses and nuanced insights. Open-ended questions that tie into your data points can help you get a better understanding for what you’re seeing on-site. The primary goal of an interview is to deepen your understanding of the problems your customers are having so you can make a plan to address them.
Here are some good sample interview questions:
- What are the top three things you need to be able to easily do on our site?
- What could we add or change on our site that would make it better for you? (and then be sure to follow up with, “And what about that would make such a difference for you?” to better understand the root problem)
- What causes you the most frustration with our site right now?
Exercise your site with a usability test.
A usability test allows you to observe how easily people can accomplish goals on your website. It’s a powerful tool for identifying problems and validating solutions. We’ve done usability tests for numerous clients, most recently for a client in the education space. Our tests revealed that a primary resource the client considers part of their value proposition isn’t really valuable to users in its current form. Being able to understand the users’ feedback can improve their on-site experience and even boost brand loyalty or future sales.
Want to try a basic usability test? You’ll need to:
- Identify a few things customers should be able to do on your current website that are important to you as a business, or that you’re curious about. These are your testing tasks. Maybe “How would you find and download our latest resource kit?” or “How would you add 3 units of this product to your cart and start checkout?”
- Find some testers. Three to five is a good start. While representative users are great, testing basic usability shouldn’t require domain knowledge. You can use family, friends, people you meet in a coffee shop – the only requirement is they not have significant familiarity with your current website.
- Put each tester in front of your website and ask them to, one by one, complete the tasks you’ve identified. Watch them closely. Take notes of where they succeed, fail, or do unexpected things. Ask them to talk through their thought process as they go. Don’t offer help if they get blocked – the struggle offers valuable information (but do let them off the hook after a reasonable time).
- After tasks are complete, consider asking follow-up questions, especially about areas that caused a problem. “What made you try to do it that way?” or “How would you have expected that to work?”
- Document your findings, look for patterns, think about root causes for bigger issues, and see if there are any small, easy changes that could potentially increase success rates for those key tasks.
Moving Beyond the Basics
Great user experience is constantly informed by both quantitative data and qualitative insights. The most important thing is to keep measuring and experimenting, unveiling what works and what doesn’t, and watching for trends. Start with the basics but know that building and maintaining an intuitive user experience that differentiates your brand, drives growth, and boosts customer loyalty eventually requires leveling up to a more strategic, data-informed and nuanced approach.
Our team can help get you on the path to actionable performance insights that will make a real difference. Are you interested in talking about the right user research, monitoring, and analytics mix for you? Drop us a line, we’d love to talk.