A good user experience (UX) can build your brand reputation, make your customers happy, and improve your bottom line. According to a report by Forrester, each dollar spent on user experience yields $100 in return. Customers are more likely to return to websites and products that have a good user experience, and to spread the word about those that aren’t. However, finding the funds for improving user experience can be a challenge. These strategies can help you improve user experience on a budget.
How to Improve User Experience on a Budget
If your company is small, then chances are it doesn’t make sense to have an entire team, or even one employee, dedicated to the user experience of your product. To improve user experience on a budget, you’ll want to choose an existing team member (maybe you, reading this!) to spearhead your efforts. If you have a marketing or design team member, these responsibilities would likely be a great fit for them as well. Usability and user experience sits at an intersection between marketing and design, incorporating principles and knowledge from both sectors.
UX Strategies for Small Businesses
You can go far in UX with just a small team or individual by focusing on some key strategies which provide large opportunities for insight, while being relatively low in resources and time cost. These free tools, strategies and evaluations can help you improve your user experience on a budget.
Tools for User Research
User research allows you to better understand who your customers are. This will help you know what they’re looking for, so you can provide it. Ideally, you would speak directly with your users through phone calls or usability testing (see below), but that isn’t always feasible. Luckily, there are other, more hands-off options as well.
The earlier you set up analytics or any other website / app tracking, the longer it’ll be able to run and the more data you’ll have. Some recommendations:
- Google Analytics: Google Analytics will provide you with tons of basic but extremely valuable information. From demographics to device and browser breakdowns to page views and more, Analytics has a lot to offer. While it doesn’t show detailed user behavior, it provides useful baseline information that can form a foundation for understanding your audience.
- Hotjar, Crazy Egg, Clarity: these types of web apps can give you more in-depth insight to your users’ actions. From heatmaps to screen recordings and more, they offer valuable insight without any hands-on usability testing.
Who is using your website and what are their needs? This is the core of user experience design. Without knowing your audience, you cannot adequately design an experience for them.
Using your existing knowledge and some of your user data from the previous section, craft user personas for the types of people using your product. You may only have one persona or you may have several, depending on your business and how broad or niche it is.
Come back to these personas often. Walk through every change or new feature from their point of view. Would this update help them reach their goals? Is it easing a pain point? Does this fit with their values? When the answer is yes, you know that you are improving the user experience.
User Surveys and Feedback
User surveys are a free and easy way to improve your user experience on a budget. Surveys are a simple tool but also immensely effective in gathering information on what your users really think. They can be conducted in a variety of ways and situations, from a “was this helpful” question at the bottom of a help article to custom surveys sent out monthly to your client base.
If you have the time, reach out to your clients to ask for volunteers to have a conversation with about their goals, why they use your product, what their pain points are, etc. Although these conversations will take a lot more time and energy than compiling results from an automated survey, the more you can talk to people in person or on the phone, the more valuable insight you will get.
Heuristics refer to problem-solving methods that may not be perfect, but are sufficient for a person or group. Heuristic evaluation describes an assessment system for websites’ and computers’ user experience; the user experience doesn’t have to be perfect, but should be sufficient.
One effective heuristic evaluation technique is Jakob Nielson’s ten usability principles. These rules-of-thumb were first published in 1994 and still hold up today. Walk through your product and test for each of these items, keeping your personas in mind. Thoughtfully applying these principles is an easy way to improve your user experience on a budget.
- Visibility of system status: when something is loading, is there a progress bar? Once an action is taken, is a confirmation shown?
- Match between system and the real world: use familiar imagery and language
- User control and freedom: allow users to exit, undo, and redo actions
- Consistency and standards: follow internal and external standards
- Error prevention: find common errors and ways to prevent them
- Recognition rather than recall: reduce what users need to remember and offer help in the context of your service
- Flexibility and efficiency of use: allow different methods for different people (personas) and learning/working styles
- Aesthetic and minimalist design: prioritize information and remove the unnecessary
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors: create helpful error messages
- Help and documentation: create an easy way to ask for help and find answers to questions
Intuitive information architecture is imperative for a user-friendly experience. Information architecture relates to how the content on your website (or app or product) is organized and structured. How are pages grouped together in the navigation menu? On any given page, how is the content ordered? In a call to action, is the most important information the most prominent? When done well information architecture usually goes unnoticed, but it is immensely important for ease of use and being able to find information quickly.
User testing is the best way to test your information architecture. Have someone who is unfamiliar with your website or product try to complete a task or find a piece of information. If they are unable to complete the task efficiently, you may need to re-organize, edit, or delete some information.
UX is a large and diverse field which can be overwhelming to dip your toes into. These strategies will help you get started. Whether you only employ one of the strategies or all of them, you will be moving toward creating a great user experience.