It’s a common experience; you find a site that has just the product or service you need and you roam around it trying to find out more and possibly even order or sign up for the product. It takes you about 20 seconds to realise that nothing really makes sense, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find the product’s details, and filling in the order form takes two or three tries – it’s annoying, to say the least. But you persevere. Eventually though, you move on to another site or you may even decide you don’t really need the product anyway. And that’s where user experience and metrics come in.
What are metrics anyway?
Metrics are those things, those signals that reveal just how well your site’s UX, or user experience, is panning out. The trouble is most organisations have metrics that measure only end results. They’re used for tracking things like how often a site visitor turns into a paying customer – the conversion rate. And while that’s important, metrics aren’t really being used to evaluate previous design decisions or prompt new ones. In other words, metrics are marketing orientated and not user experience orientated.
What differences are there?
The marketing team will be looking for data on clicks, bounce rates, page views, the site’s NP (net promoter) score, visits to purchase, conversion rates and the cost of conversion. All of which are very important, but the information the metrics provide could lead a company to reason that they’re not selling the right products, when in fact it’s not the products that are the problem. The problem is the site is just too difficult, or annoying, to navigate. What the metrics need to measure are, in no particular order:
- Use of search or navigation
- Data entry
- Error rate
- Back button usage
- Time on task
- Ease of use rating
- Perceived success
- Task success rate
The other problem is the fact that most companies are very random in the way they capture metrics. They usually dip in and out, making their sampling just that – a sample rather than a broad and detailed understanding, the big picture, of how their site is working.
What goes into a user experience?
Customers behave the same in all shopping environments, whether it is a department store or an online shop. Shopping, or retail therapy, isn’t just about fulfilling a list. It’s about the whole experience. If they’re not happy they’ll leave, and probably won’t come back. If they like being in your store and find the experience entertaining, stimulating and easy to navigate, you’ll gain not just good conversion rates, but brand-loyal customers as well. You need to grasp and then if possible, manipulate your customers’ attitudes, behavioural patterns, constraints, expectations and motivations.
What are the most important metrics for User Experience?
Big picture UX metrics are usability, engagement, and conversion or put another way:
- Descriptive metrics – these tell us what happened
- Perception metrics – which highlight the customers’ perception of what happened and
- Outcome metrics – in other words, what did the customer expect to do as a result of their perceptions, or what the customer actually did do.
No matter what you call them, or how you categorise them, UX metrics go beyond what analytics can provide. Big picture metrics work with complex signals. UX can’t really be determined by numbers. Combining the information from analytics and perceptions will give you meaningful data you can work with. Analytics will tell you what customers do – clicking, scrolling, completing a form. And perceptions will tell you what they thought and felt about the experience. As we said, it’s how they feel about it that will determine if they’ll come back or not. That’s why you need to collect data from multiple signals and event streams.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Usability metrics determine how easily people accomplish the task at hand. This can include the time spent on a task, the task success rate, an ease-of-use rating, and icon recognition or searching versus navigating. Usability metrics can also trace interaction patterns to reveal confusion, frustration or even hesitation on the part of the user.
Engagement is the one metric that can be a little ambiguous. But when the qualitative metrics such as ‘time’ are combined with others like ‘page views’ or ‘determined interval scrolling’, then your UX designers could uncover just how people are interacting with your site and their feelings about the interaction.
Conversion, or Likelihood to Convert
Converting a visit into a sale is the action, and metric, everyone is most focused on, often to the detriment of the data from other metrics. After all, actual paying customers are only a very small percentage of those who are just visiting your site. The good thing about these metrics is that they enable you to spot trends, discover markets you hadn’t thought of and keep your site, and your company, on track by designing ways to keep potential customers engaged and connected to your site and your brand.
Having usability, engagement, and conversion as UX metrics means we can now interpret data in a perceptive way. For example if a customer finds it easy to use the site then they are likely to achieve ‘Task success’. Their pleasure at having done so will give you a ‘Happiness rating’ and that will translate into what they perceive as a ‘Brand attribute’. In other words, they will associate that ‘ease of use’ with approachability by your company, that ‘task success’ as you being on their side, and the ‘happiness rating’ makes them feel good about themselves and about your brand. All of which will, in their minds, be interpreted as attributes they link to your brand. And that’s very good news for you.
The bottom line in any company, real world or digital, is undeniably important. But if you lose touch with your customers the bottom line will suffer. UX metrics are a way of keeping in touch with your customers, anticipating their needs and then meeting them.