by Debra Harrsch
In today’s world, your digital presence is even more important than ever before. Looking into the future, your website and other digital channels will remain critical to your ability to win business – even as in-person events come back online. In fact, in-person events and meetings now play a supporting role instead of a leading role as 57–70% of prospects research their purchase decisions online before engaging with your sales team.
Now that you see how vital your website is to your business’s success, take a look at it and see whether it’s time for a refresh or redo. In the past, we’ve talked about how to build a B2B website: Who Owns Your Website?, Should You Build a Website in Phases? and How to Redo Your B2B Website. This article will help you understand why user experience (UX) is critical to a website that converts, and how to begin the process.
What is User Experience?
User experience, at its core, is how someone feels about your website – at the time they’re using it. As they move through your website they encounter your words, your images and the functionality of the site. All of those things are either going to relate to the site visitor’s needs…or they won’t. Website elements can be easy or be hard to use – or they may be frustrating for the visitor.
What you want as a website owner is to make it easy to do whatever it is you want a prospect to do. This is what creates a satisfying user experience.
User experience is not a discipline, like coding a website. UX is an all-encompassing understanding of what a customer needs, what they want, and how they think. It includes:
- Findability – by search engines, and search within the site itself
- Usability – how easy and intuitive it is to use
- Usefulness – how relevant the content is
Why You Should Prioritize UX
Think about the last time you visited a website. You were there for a reason, weren’t you? You were focused on a task, and you wanted answers as quickly as possible, didn’t you?
Well, your prospect is visiting your website for the same reason. From the user’s perspective, they’re very task-focused. They want to get in and out and not have to think about process. So, as you can imagine, if there’s any kind of hesitation in flow or even a broken link, then that is going to degrade the user’s experience.
Why does it matter?
People are very loyal to a good user experience. In fact, after a bad user experience, 88% of visitors are not likely to return to a website. Further, 75% of a website’s credibility is judged on aesthetics alone!
The point is, while you could be the absolute best at what you do, if your website serves up a terrible user experience, people aren’t going to stick around to find out how wonderful your product is – and their experience will translate to your brand.
For example, you could make the best widget on the planet, but because of a negative experience on your website prospects will think your widgets are substandard. I’m not making this up: 67% of users say that a poor website experience negatively affects their opinion of a brand.
While it’s not often that your website’s UX alone will win new business, it can definitely cause you to lose business. If you’re in a competitive situation (and who isn’t?), a bad user experience will knock you off somebody’s shortlist.
It may not seem fair, but this is why website UX matters so much.
When Do You Start the UX Process?
Very simply, you start the UX process right after you think, “Oh, I need to redo my website.”
As I’ve mentioned, your website is for your customers – not your sales department or your marketing department or your product departments. UX is a practice that starts with research about your user, and it fits in perfectly with the messaging process.
It’s all about digging into what is unique about the users for your products or services. You want to make sure that the content and the functionality that you’re providing on your website aligns with your users, with how they specifically want to interact with you, and with their decision-making process.
Crafting an effective UX starts with doing customer research upfront. It’s necessary to talk directly to your audience (really – they don’t mind and are frequently happy someone asked!). It’s also important to talk with stakeholders in your organization – particularly those who are on the front lines, like your customer support people or salespeople. The people that are answering the phone are your front-line workers – they’re getting all the questions and the complaints.
At Brandwidth Solutions, we start with customer personas. From there we dive more deeply into UX research using a unique framework called an empathy map, and then we create a customer journey map.
How to Do User Experience Research
An empathy map is a little bit different from the customer personas that everyone is used to because it focuses more on how your customers and prospects are behaving and feeling at the time they realize a problem. It lays out their motivations, their expectations and what influences their decisions, as opposed to their demographics such as how old they are, what their salary is and whether they have 2.6 kids.
You might think about the empathy map as a set of life stages. For example, if I tell you that the target audience is a new mom, you automatically apply all the experiences that go with that, right? Sleepless nights, doing everything with only one arm because there’s a child in the other, not being able to wash their hair for a week, and so forth.
BUT…what if I were to tell you that the new mom is 14? Or if I told you that the new mom is 50?
You immediately have very different thoughts about that person. Your bias kicks in and you assign things that don’t matter to the situation. What is important is that they still need sleep and they still need to shower. The basic issues a new mother has don’t change.
We focus the empathy map on the point in time when the prospect realizes they have a need or an issue that your company can solve.
Once we have completed our empathy map, the second framework that we apply is a customer journey map.
We explore every stage of the customer journey. We typically talk about the customer journey in the
abbreviated terms of awareness, consider and buy. But, a customer’s journey is more complex than these 3 steps.
The decision-making journey map starts at the point where the prospect has awareness of an issue. Then they decide to take action and begin researching solutions. In their information gathering stage they might find 20 different solutions. After that, they enter an evaluation stage in which they edit those 20 options down to three or two.
Once they’ve streamlined their possible solutions, they are in the decision phase. This is the time where they make the decision to do business with your organization. After that, there’s a review or validation phase where they review what they think about the product they purchased and what the experience was like. They examine if they have issues and how they can follow-up with your company.
For every stage in this customer journey, we work to identify all of the questions that your prospect has during the process.
Keep in mind that at every stage this prospect is likely sharing their user experience with colleagues and their external network. They may be sharing whether their experience is good or bad, and how that colors their view of your product or solution.
With this clearer understanding of UX, next month we’ll talk through how to implement what we’ve discovered through our research – and the keys to a good user experience. Stay tuned!
If you’ve got a website refresh in your future plans and want to explore UX further, give us a call!
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.Read More