Beyond Navigation: Get the Most from Website Usability Research

The role of brand websites has evolved well beyond serving mainly as information sources.  They’ve become interactive communication tools that can either enhance or diminish your brand relationships. That’s why it is so critical to collect usability feedback from visitors to ensure you have the right content, an appealing design, and intuitive site navigation from the start.  Here are some considerations to help you get the most out of your website user experience (UX) research. 

Clarify Your Objectives

As with any marketing research initiative, focusing in on your core objectives is an important success factor for your UX studies.  These will vary depending on your website’s stage of development.  For instance, if you’re launching a new site, you’ll want to gather feedback on overall appeal and ease of use including details such as the amount of time required to complete key tasks or the number of clicks needed to find key pieces of information.  If you’re planning a website upgrade or redesign, you’ll want to clearly identify your visitors’ pain points to uncover opportunities for improvement, both functionally and aesthetically.

Qualitative Data Collection

UX research is often conducted in a qualitative manner, with a moderator guiding users through a series of exercises.  Users are asked to access the website and complete specific tasks such as finding information on the site, completing various forms, or interacting with chat bots (if available).  It’s important to include reactions to website usage across multiple devices including mobile phones, PCs, laptops, and tablets as the experience can be impacted depending upon how well the site is optimized for different devices. In addition to observing and recording the specific paths users take as they navigate the site, moderators gather open-ended feedback on user’s reactions and opinions throughout the process.  Some of the most common topics covered in qualitative UX research include:

  • How do users interact overall with your website?
  • How easy is it to accomplish key tasks successfully and efficiently?
  • Where are potential frustration points?
  • What happens when users don’t take the ‘optimal path’ to complete their intended tasks?
  • How do users perceive the length of time it takes to get the information they seek?
  • How does their experience with your website compare to that of direct competitors?

Gather Insights Regarding Brand Engagement

Understanding users’ expectations for their website experience helps put the data collected into context. What do they want to accomplish using your website? What features and content are they interested in? What are the underlying motivations behind their likes and dislikes of the website?  Gathering feedback on their brand experience gives greater depth to the research findings.  Does the tone and language used throughout the site meet their expectations?  How well does their UX fit with their perceptions of your brand promise?  Is it clearly differentiated from your competitors’ websites; does it offer any advantages over others?  The research findings can help you ensure your website is delivering the desired brand experience, above and beyond the necessary transactional requirements. 

Quantitative Data Collection

Conducting quantitative UX research can also provide valuable insight into your website visitors’ experience. Users can be recruited to test a new site before launching, evaluate site upgrades, or track website effectiveness on an ongoing basis. There are also a number of online services featuring software that invites visitors to participate in a brief survey before leaving your site. When conducting quantitative UX research, you’ll want to customize your survey to monitor the reasons your visitors are accessing your website and specific aspects of their experience.  Some common topic areas might include measuring the ease of completing tasks like finding information on products or services, making purchases, accessing account information, or interacting with customer service support.

Ensure Results are Actionable

When it comes to UX testing, one size does not fit all. However, using a mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques can be an effective way to uncover strategic insights and move beyond a purely tactical assessment of your site’s navigation.  To get the most out of your UX research, you should be able to identify meaningful ways to optimize your website’s technical performance while reinforcing your brand promise.

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