Conversion and UX: don’t be afraid to invest in good design

design ux

“Every dollar invested in ease of use pays for between $10 and $100,” says the often-quoted report by IBM. And this is beyond doubt: the successful redesign of Walmart’s online store by the largest American retailer led to an increase the number of visitors by 214%. Because of this, we believe that User eXperience (UX) is something you shouldn’t cut back on when designing software for end users. The sophisticated design of digital platforms always has a measurable impact on the return on investment.

Only rarely users of websites, shops or mobile applications have a particular goal in mind when they start looking for information, digital content. Typically, it is only during the search itself that they become aware of what they are looking for and where they will benefit from it. One can say that the search shapes their final choice to a large extent. Conversion, this holy grail of the e-commerce industry, is the result of user experience.

Having this in mind, anyone who wants to run an e-business should set out on such a journey and see what his future customers will experience. Without that, he will be unable to understand the users and their needs. Making this trip distinguishes successful business interactive projects from unsuccessful ones. The former was created in the user-centered process, the latter is usually the product of an imagination of a designer-artist.

Of course, the digital industry is constantly changing. There are frequent innovations that change the expectations of customers. Who could have thought ten years ago that people would buy products through a digital assistant embedded in a smart speaker? But we are here and now, developing software that customers use today. An optimal design process must focus on the user as he is. Our goal is to create experiences that will be accepted by the user. Therefore, when we prepare for Sprint 0 before the project, we always tell our customers – it’s not just about the interface mock-up. Working on the User eXperience is much more than just the shape of the icon or the color of the pop-up window.

Good design standard for UX

User Experience (UX) is more than just a simple interaction with the system. It’s a whole journey through the system, including the moments before and after it is used. And surprisingly, the design of such journey has more to do with engineering than with art. The usefulness and convenience of using information systems have been included in the ISO 9241-210:2010 standard.

This standard describes ergonomics of human interaction with software, especially the human-oriented design of information systems. It provides guidelines, explains the relevant design methods, helps to measure how the user performs in the system.

ActivitiesResults of human-centered design process according to ISO 9241-210:2010
Understanding and specifying the context of useDescription of the context of use
Definition of user requirementsSpecification of the context of use
Description of user needs
Specification of user requirements
Creation of project solutions in accordance with the established
Specification of user interaction
Specification of the user interface
Implemented user interface
Conformity assessment of projectsResults of the evaluation
Results of compliance tests
Results of long-term monitoring

By applying this ISO standard to the design of user experience, we can already at this initial stage start talking about the consequences of the undertaken choices. From our point of view, the design and optimization of the UX are closely linked to the achievement of business objectives – such as, for example, reaching the online checkout with a cart. By measuring the efficiency with which users travel through pages or applications, we discover the weaknesses of a given UX. When testing different UX variants for their conversion, we select the best ones. Interestingly, it’s not the case that the best converting versions of the interface are the ones that our designers would find the most beautiful.

Conversion: The human being at the center

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is an approach where the designer focuses on people and their habits, observes and interviews them to ultimately tailor the user experience to their needs. The systems designed in this way, as the authors of the ISO standard explain, achieve higher quality through:

  • increase in user productivity and operational efficiency of the organization,
  • easiness of understanding and use, and consequently lower cost of training and support,
  • increasing usability for people with different skills and thus accessibility,
  • improvement of the user experience
  • reducing discomfort and stress,
  • providing a competitive advantage, e.g. by improving the brand image,
  • contributing to the objectives of sustainable development.

But there is more to it that: the benefits of human-centered design can only be fully realized if the life cycle of the system is taken into account. It goes from conception to design, implementation, use, support – and ultimately replacement – of the system. As the authors of the ISO standard observe, the adoption of this approach also affects other aspects of design, e.g. supporting the recognition and definition of functional requirements. Developing the user experience with HCD approach increases the chances of timely implementation of the project in the budget and reduces the risk of rejection by investors and users.

This approach also includes Design Thinking and agile project management. We use fast iteration loops, small steps to adapt to changing processes, regular feedback from users. Everything is fully controlled with the real-life testing.

Everyone benefits from a good UX

Designing in this manner is more demanding, but in the long run, it reduces costs and increases conversion – helping you achieve your business goals. That’s why at Matsuu we try to apply the HCD approach at every stage, not just during the Sprint 0 of software development. We see its value in applying it to existing solutions that we have been able to optimize. It has repeatedly turned out that small changes in UX bring a significant increase in conversion.

However, it is important to know when to say ‘stop’ to this. Not everything that optimizes conversion is worth applying from the user’s point of view. Designers must be responsible, bearing in mind that what they build should enrich life and not enslave it with a string of addictions. This responsibility is as important to us as knowledge of the market and technology. This year’s World Usability Day’s slogan is “Design for Good or Evil” – let designers focus on what can be done to create good projects and at the same time stop the creation of bad projects.

And how does such responsible, human-centered design work in practice? In the next entry in this series, we will describe in more detail the process we use to create UX – thinking about both human needs and business goals.

Also published on Medium.

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