On the web, user experience (commonly abbreviated as UX or UE) is a term used to describe the overall perception, experience, and satisfaction that people have as a result of their interactions with a website.
Unlike traditional SEO, which tends to focus more on meeting the needs of technology (search engines) than meeting the needs of Web searchers, user experience design puts special emphasis on the human side of human-computer interaction.
In other words: users first, technology second. Not: technology first, users second. Always architect, design, and program your website for users first. But also make sure your website accommodates common technologies your target audience uses.
Web professionals commonly mistake user experience for personal opinion. For example, if a customer mentions that he thinks an ecommerce website is cool, does that automatically mean that he had a positive user experience? Did the customer Add to Cart? Did the customer return to the website to make more purchases? Did he tell his friends and colleagues about how cool the website is?
The “coolness” factor should not be mistaken for a positive user experience. Similarly, with SEO, just because a website has thousands of links pointing to it does not mean that all site visitors had a positive user experience.
All facets of the user experience can be measured…and can be measured in the right context. What follows are the 7 facets of a positive user experience and how search engine optimizers and other web professionals can measure them.
UX Facet 1: Usability
Usability professionals typically analyze, test and measure the following items on a website:
· Effectiveness: Can users achieve their objectives on your website?
· Efficiency: How quickly can users achieve their objectivzs on your website?
· Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish simple tasks the first time they encounter your website?
· Memorability: How quickly and easily can repeat visitors remember how to use your website in order to accomplish their goals?
· Error handling: How does the website help users recover from errors?
· User satisfaction: Do users like using your website and recommend it to others (word-of-mouth, social media recommendations, etc.)?
Website usability’s main focus is not on user satisfaction. Its main focus is on task completion. Can people who fit your target audience complete their desired goals on your website?
And if site visitors are unable to reach their goals or have and difficult time reaching their goals, what roadblocks prevented them from reaching their goals?
User satisfaction is dependent on task completion. If site visitors are able to reach their goals easily, they generally report high satisfaction. If they do not or cannot reach their goals, they generally report low satisfaction.
For example, I have observed users on the 1800flowers.com website since the 90s. The site has outstanding usability and user satisfaction. Year after year, especially around Mother’s Day, I observe the same users order flowers or gifts. Users find it easy to locate special gifts for special occasions, even if they need a gift delivered the next day.
The high satisfaction rate has nothing to do with the flavor-of-the-month design obsession. Site visitors get exactly what they want: the specific type of flower arrangement (that they see on the website) or gift delivered at the right time.
Usability is measured via usability tests and supporting data gathering methods (A/B and multivariate tests, web analytics data, diary studies, etc.) One main benefit of usability testing is that it puts all of that Big Data in the proper context.
UX Facet 2: Findability
As information architecture guru Peter Morville
stated years ago, people can’t use what they can’t find. In fact, many usability professionals, academics, and information architects continue to dismiss SEO professionals as “snake-oil salesmen” when, they would benefit by learning the importance of keywords and labels.
Keywords (or keyphrases or keyword phrases) are not dead. They are critical for communicating aboutness, a sense of place, and information scent to both humans and technology. They are essential for findability – for searching, browsing, and asking.
Here is an example from the health website, Mayo Clinic:
This is a page about allergy symptoms. How can users tell?
1. Navigation labels are highlighted to indicate what section of the site that humans and technology are viewing.
2. Content labels (headings and subheadings) also indicate what page content is about.
3. Document labels (titles and URLs) also communicate aboutness and sense of place to humans and technology.
This page’s title is: Allergies Symptoms – Diseases and Conditions – Mayo Clinic.
The page’s URL is: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/basics/symptoms/con-20034030
Does your website communicate aboutness, sense of place, and information scent to both humans and technology? Here’s one way to find out.
In Google search box, type in your domain name. Let’s use the 1800flowers.com website as an example. Then type some important keywords after that. In this example, I will just use the word daisies. Here is the result:
Google found the right section of the site both in the advertising section and the organic (unpaid) section.
A more advanced search is:
[keyword phrase] site:www.domain.com
If the right pages are not showing up in search results, then your website probably was not constructed using the proper terminology.
Finally, how do UX professionals measure findability after users arrive at a website? Qualified UX professionals do what information architects do: they use two usability tests — card sort tests and tree tests.
Now, imagine a website that can be easily found via searching, browsing, and asking. And the content on the same website can be easily located after users arrive. THAT is a website that delivers a positive user experience.
UX Facet 3 – Usefulness
Remember, I am talking about the user experience, not the website owner’s experience. Site visitors should find the products, services, and information that you offer on your website to be useful.
In fact, a website with useful content encourages link development and social media mentions. As a search engine optimizer, I call this useful content a linkable asset. Does your website have linkable assets that: (a) help people reach their goals, and (b) encourage people to return to your site.
For example, a location finder is a tool that helps prospects and customers determine where they can purchase and pick up a product. Walgreen’s has a store locator section that helps their site visitors locate where they can pick up a product or prescription filled after other pharmacies are typically closed.
This site did a particularly good job because it also accommodates all three aspects of findability: search, browse, and ask.
1. Users can type in their address and zip code and use the search functionality (FIND A STORE).
2. Users can also browse by state.
3. This page is easy to bookmark and share.
Granted, not all websites need to have a store locator, but all websites can have multiple link assets that their target audience might find useful.
· Fact sheets
· How-to articles
Usefulness can be measured in multiple ways. The first way is to review your web analytics data. Are site visitors actually using your tool or printing out your checklist?
Another way to see if site visitors find your content useful is if they link to it and/or cite it via social media. Usefulness is not a flash-in-the-pan concept. Over time, actual usage and citations should increase.
For Part 2 of this article, I will review the four other facets of a positive user experience: Value, Credibility and Trust, Desirability, and Accessibility.