Everyone knows that the first step in any business venture is research on the path to creating a strategy. This strategy determines how you’ll function and guide the decision-making process.
A website project – whether it is for a business or not – should follow the same concept. Without a solid user experience strategy, the design is likely to lack the features, elements and overall usability that make the website popular among visitors.
While the idea of creating a UX strategy might not sound like a lot of fun, it’s a valuable exercise. And when done well, and with purpose, can definitely be enjoyable!
1. Start with What UX Strategy Is
Before you can plan a UX strategy, you really need to know what it entails.
Jamie Levy, a UX strategist, defines UX strategy this way:
UX strategy is the process that should be started first, before the design or development of a digital product begins. It’s the vision of a solution that needs to be validated with real potential customers to prove that it’s desired in the marketplace. Although UX design encompasses numerous details such as visual design, content messaging, and how easy it is for a user to accomplish a task, UX strategy is the ‘Big Picture.’ It is the high-level plan to achieve one or more business goals under conditions of uncertainty.
UX Planet has one of the most comprehensive guides to defining UX strategy available. (You should definitely read it.)
To differentiate between UX strategy and UX design, we can say that UX design is concerned with usability, content, interaction design while UX strategy is concerned with the big picture, the direction of the product and achieving business goals.
All of the components of creating a strong UX strategy correlate to the elements for creating a business strategy. So the good news is that if you are creating a website for your business, you already understand the process and probably have a lot of the information – and research – you need in hand.
Exactly how you proceed with your UX strategy should fall in line with business goals and common user experience trends.
2. Do Some Research
Creating a solid UX strategy requires plenty of research. You need to communicate with several different groups to gain a full understanding of what people connected to your website want and expect.
- Primary stakeholders: The decision makers and people in charge of the company or product will have a lot to say about how the website works. Involve them from the beginning. Ask what they want to see and what is or is not working well with the current website (if there is one). What metrics will they track?
- Secondary stakeholders: These are people related to the company but aren’t part of the project or management team, such as financial partners or other employees. Find out how they plan to use the website or app. What do they see as important? What features would enhance the experience?
- Users: Survey current or prospective users about what they want to see in the website design. Ask a handful of direct questions and keep the conversation short. Observe how users interact with the current website (if applicable).
The other research component is to look at the competition and what else is available for users. How can you create a website experience that is on par with what users want and expect but isn’t a duplication of something already available? Your website must be unique enough to draw users, whether it is because of the content (if should be) or product featured.
The research phase concludes when you have outline the goals for the project including what the company or business wants to achieve with the website and what metrics will determine that success.
3. Outline the Design
One you’ve done your homework and have a good idea of what users want and need from your website, you can start sketching out the design.
The design team will do a lot of brainstorming before developing a “final” set of wireframes or prototypes for feedback. Map the path of the user experience through the design. How and what should each user do as they engage with the website? Set metrics to measure those outcomes.
While it sounds simple, this process can be exhaustive with multiple versions going out for feedback before the first complete design is ready for testing.
4. Test the UX
Usability testing and beta launches can be some of the most nerve-wracking days in the professional life of a website design team. Will users do what you expect? Will people visit the website at all? What happens if it fails?
The testing phase is why so many website launches include a beta version that’s labeled as such. Knowing the website is in a test phase can temper the expectations of users.
But don’t just put a beta version out there and forget it. Plan for a specific timeline and collect data through A/B testing, use log, feature requests or support issues and analytics.
5. Evaluate Test Results
Then take a hard look at all that data. Collecting user information means nothing if you don’t do something with it.
Look for elements of the design that are working – users stay on those pages for longer times, move to the next step in the user path or convert on a desired action. What makes these things different from pages that aren’t working? Can you take those principles and apply them more universally across the design?
Examine elements that aren’t working as well. (There will always be pages or content that users just don’t gravitate toward.) Try to identify what about that content isn’t working for users and make adjustments.
6. Revise and Release a New Version
Now take all that research and testing and make revisions to improve the user experience. Changes could be small or large.
Release and test again.
You don’t have to make a big deal about it. Most of the time the changes that occur here – particularly if your research is on target – are small in the eyes of the user. Things might work better, but they might not even “see” the changes that improve their experience.
7. Stay Current and Evolve
Once you are satisfied with how users are connecting with the design, you’re all set, right?
The best website user experiences never stop evolving. Technology and design trends change all the time. You have to stay on top of these elements and keep evolving the design as well.
While this might sound a little overwhelming, it does have some major benefits:
- Users will continue to engage with the website because of the positive UX.
- Your website won’t degrade as quickly because of tweaks that keep it current.
A solid UX strategy will help you design a digital product that users want. And that’s the trick to getting visitors to interact with the design.
Just throwing a website on the internet with no thought process is a dangerous proposition and is not recommended. You wouldn’t open a business without a plan; don’t showcase your business online without one either.