Four Big UX Optimization Steps

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The 4 Big UX Optimization Steps

4 big ux optimization steps usefulusabilityThe four big UX Optimization steps to improve websites and increase conversion. How to use behavioral and UX data for better websites.

The four big UX steps for improving websites and increasing conversion rely on the user-centered process of evaluating, testing and optimizing websites using behavioral and UX data. Here’s a brief overview of the four steps necessary to improve your website.

The four Big UX Optimization Steps are:

Step 1 – Define Personas
Step 2 – Conduct Behavioral UX Data Analysis
Step 3 – Conduct UX and Usability Testing
Step 4 – Analyze Results and Make Optimization Recommendations

Let’s cover each of these in a bit more detail.

Step 1 – Define Personas

Define Personas is the first step in any UX optimization process. That’s because it is critical for us to know who we are trying to improve the website for. Let’s face it, it is hard to admit, but not everyone in the world will find your website useful or helpful. No, not at all.

So who out there MAY be interested in your website and the products or services you offer?

More than likely it’s someone with a NEED your firm helps address. It’s probably someone who is SEARCHING for a solution you provide. And it’s probably someone who has this need at a time that causes them to be searching for this product or service NOW.

And unless you’re selling a $300 Million luxury island the odds are our someone is not alone. There are (or at least so your firm hopes) others who all share that NEED, are SEARCHING for the solution, and are doing it NOW.

Guess what? All those someones share several things in common and because of that we can group them all together into a single, fictional representation called a Persona.

Personas are fictional representations of typical users, based on shared critical tasks.

We need to use that Persona to help us focus on who we are optimizing the website for.  We will use their needs, their searching behaviors, and their mental map for how they typically research and find a solution. We will also use other behavioral elements they share to help us understand how our site is performing in helping them with their critical tasks.

We analyze the Persona’s common critical tasks that must be accomplished for them to be successful on our website.

So clearly, starting with the Persona definition is a mission critical Step one for UX optimization. I cover how to create a Persona in a separate article.  But for purposes of the 4 Big UX Optimization steps we’ll move on to the next step.

Step 2 – Conduct Behavioral UX Data Analysis

Next, conduct behavioral UX data analysis to evaluate the quantitative data associated with Persona activity on your website.

Now that we know the Persona and what behaviors they have, we can evaluate those behaviors on our website. This data is quantitative because it is the WHAT IS HAPPENING data. We need to analyze the existing user experience of the website based on this quantitative behavioral data.

Our goal is to find and evaluate the quantitative data in the context of understanding how our Personas are, or are not, accomplishing their critical tasks.

Where does this behavioral UX data come from?

Typically it’s found in your web log file analysis systems such as;

  • Google Analytics (often called just GA)
  • CoreMetrics
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Or related types of website analysis tools

What types of behavioral data do we look at?

These will vary depending on the Personas, the type of website you have (i.e., eCommerce, B2C, B2B, etc.) and what critical tasks and activities your website visitors are conducting on your site.

Common Types of Behavioral UX Data

In general, the most common types of behavioral data we should evaluate in our audit align with the basic user experience of the site including:

  • Conversion data from ERP & GA systems
  • PPC Keyword Data
  • Website data including:
    • Website Conversion Data
    • Website Bounce rate
    • Visits by Browser
    • And many others, depending on the website and Persona critical tasks

Because you have a life and don’t want to read an entire novel right now, we won’t cover the details in this article as to how to evaluate each of these UX behavioral data points.  We’ll leave all that for a bit later. So go ahead and get that Grande Soy Mocha Frappuccino with Skim Milk and enjoy your life!

So now that we know the types of behavioral UX data we need to audit, we use that data to have a better sense of WHAT IS HAPPENING on your website.

But that’s not enough. So what’s missing?

Well, although we know WHAT is happening, the behavioral data does not tell us WHY it is happening.

To get the WHY data we need to switch gears and use qualitative data analysis, i.e., Usability and UX testing.

Step 3 – Conduct UX and Usability Testing

We conduct UX and usability testing to help us uncover the WHY of the behaviors we analyzed in the previous step. We do this by observing real people who match our Personas as they try to accomplish their critical tasks on our website.

There are a variety of UX and usability testing tools and data we can use to help us uncover the WHY. The list of what is actually used will vary depending on the Personas, the type of website you have (i.e., eCommerce, B2C, B2B, etc.) and what critical tasks and activities your website visitors are conducting on your site.

Our goal in conducting the UX and usability testing research is to identify:

  • What parts of the critical tasks work well for our website visitors?
  • What parts do not work well for them?
  • What confuses or causes them concerns?
  • Are their expectations for the experience being met? Why or why not?

Common Types of UX and Usability Testing Data

In general, the most common types of UX and usability data we should evaluate in our audit align with the critical tasks the Personas are trying to accomplish and may include:

  • Moderated Usability Test
  • Un-moderated Usability Test
  • 5 Second Test
  • Click Test
  • Others, depending on the Personas and critical tasks being evaluated

In-person or remote moderated usability testing is generally the richest and most robust way to capture the WHY data. However the other methods including Unmoderated usability testing, 5 second test, and more are all important for gathering qualitative data too.

Being respectful of your time, and knowing that at some point you will probably want to watch a cute kitten video or two, we won’t cover the details of how to conduct the above tests and use that data. Frankly, that’s a whole series of books all to its own.

Suffice it to say that the UX and usability testing methods above will provide us with the all-important qualitative WHY data of the quantitative WHAT behavioral data we already documented.

Knowing the WHAT is happening data, and combining that with the WHY it’s happening data, we now have a clear picture of the behavior on the site and why that behavior is happening.  All that’s left now is to analyze that data and use it to suggest optimizations to the website.

Step 4 – Analyze Results and Make Recommendations

Next, we combine the analysis of behavioral data with the UX research and usability testing data to determine the WHAT and WHY for our website interaction.

Our goal is to look for patterns that align with undesirable behaviors. Based on this data, we need to determine where optimization opportunities exist and what changes we believe will improve those behaviors.

The quantitative behavioral data is our sign-post, we use it to identify where critical tasks are not performing as expected. We will focus in on those pages or on those parts of the flow that need attention.

The qualitative data is our tour-guide, we use it to identify why those critical tasks are not performing as expected. We will focus on the WHY for the poor performance. Often those WHY issues may resolve around one of several common usability issues such as some of those indicated below.

Common Types of Behavioral UX Issues:

  • Taxonomy not in alignment with users
  • Navigation errors or confusion
  • Process flow not in alignment with user’s mental map
  • Other heuristic issues depending on the site

Finally, just because the behavioral and UX research data seem to provide us with optimization recommendations, we should never assume our analysis is correct.

My recommendation is that any analysis and set of recommendations always include vetting using A/B testing. A/B testing is the only way to be sure that the optimizations we are recommending did in fact actually improve things.

Read my article if you would like more information on why A/B testing needs usability testing (and vice versa).

Conclusion: 4 Big UX Optimization Steps

In conclusion, the 4 Big UX Optimization steps are:

Step 1 is to clearly define who we are optimizing the website for by creating a Persona or Personas. A Persona is a fictional representation of our most common website visitors who all share the same critical tasks.

Step 2 is to conduct the Behavioral UX Data analysis to identify the quantitative WHAT behavioral data coming from log file analysis tools such as Google Analytics. We can identify potential areas of the website that may be causing poor critical task performance for our Persona or Personas.

Step 3 is conducting qualitative WHY UX and usability testing to uncover potential reasons for the poor critical task performance. These may align with some of the more common heuristic usability problems that cause website visitors to have difficulty in accomplishing their critical tasks.

Step 4 is where we combine the WHAT behavioral data with the WHY UX and usability testing data. This gives us a much clearer picture of the user experience on the website. With this information, we can now look for patterns and make recommendations for potential optimizations. A/B testing should be conducted on any optimization recommendations to ensure that the recommendations actually did improve the user experience of the website.

READ THE NEXT ARTICLE IN THE SERIES:

Step 1– Define Personas

Resources:

How to create a Persona

UX and usability testing tools

Remote moderated usability testing tools

5 Second Test

Why A/B testing needs usability testing