Ever wonder what pages should be in your top navigation? Data in your website analytics tool can point you in the right direction. Confused why users aren’t filling out your contact form? Run heatmap testing and user testing to find out why.
All good websites are built on a foundation of applied data. UX research should always be the first step before you make changes to your website. Let’s walk through what’s involved in UX research to understand why and how it can guide website improvements.
What Is UX Research?
At its core, UX (User Experience) research is the process of gathering data about your website and other digital properties. You can then analyze that data and use it to improve the experience of site visitors.
UX research data can come from many sources.
Data pulled directly from a website can show whether users interact with your website as you hope they do. You (or an expert vendor) can set up free tools, such as Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, to track:
- Traffic patterns
- Areas of website interaction
- Devices used to access the site,
- and much more.
Setting up and using website analytics is a great starting point for understanding your site’s overall user experience.
Heatmapping tools provide data and context that standard website analytics cannot. Heatmaps display hot and cold zones of interaction on a website. This typically includes:
- Where users are clicking on the page
- How far down the page they are scrolling, and
- Where the mouse moves as they browse pages.
SEO Research Tools
Understanding how users come to your website provides context for understanding why users visit the website in the first place and what type of information they expect to find. SEO research and analysis tools, such as SEMRush and AHREFs, give you this SEO information.
In addition to quantitative, numbers-based data, talk to users, human to human. They’re great sources of information. (Read more on the benefits of user research.)
General Website Analysis
Pretend you’re a visitor and just browse your site. See it from the user’s point of view.
The Benefits of UX Research
We recommend UX research to our clients. The results of such research are not entirely predictable, but they do fall into three broad categories.
Develop a Better Understanding of How Users Interact with Your Site
Even if you closely attend to your analytics, it’s hard to know exactly how users interact with your website. Each source of website data provides just one perspective on your site’s overall user experience. Take the time to evaluate each source, and combine that data into a cohesive plan, to ensure a full understanding of the ways users engage with your website.
(Learn more about how these different pieces work together to paint a picture of how users navigate your website.)
We digital marketers tend to assume a lot about what works and what doesn’t work on our websites. But we don’t always expend the effort to back those assumptions with data.
It’s important to expend the effort. Website function and dysfunction are not always visible on the surface. Data tells you for sure what works and what doesn’t. Even if the research confirms your assumptions, it’s worth doing. A validated assumption rises to the status of knowledge, and knowledge can save you time and money. In a way, so does an invalidated assumption.
For example: You believe something has gone wrong with your site, and you’re sure you know the reason behind the failure. When you run some UX research, you find that the problem stems from something else entirely. You’ve just avoided the costly fix of a problem that doesn’t exist.
Gather data that supports or refutes your assumptions as a first step before you change your website. Move forward knowing – not assuming, not guessing – that you’re putting time and effort into the right place.
Uncover Unexpected Website Needs
Just as UX research can confirm assumptions, it can also deny them. That’s a good thing.
Many times, UX research will uncover problems with your website that you didn’t even know existed. Maybe you knew that users struggle to access certain resources on your website. You assume that the navigation is poor, but deeper analysis reveals that the navigation is fine; the real issue is that large images on the page make it load so slowly that users give up and call customer support. Tinkering with the navigation won’t solve the problem; reducing image size will.
UX research is detective work. As in mystery novels, the culprit isn’t always the obvious one. UX research yields evidence that leads to apprehension of the real perpetrator.
UX Research Improves Your Website with Data
Conducting UX research will provide the data necessary to make the right improvements to your website in the future. Rather than guessing at the concerns that users have, you’ll have concrete data that says, “This is what is wrong, and this is how to fix it.”
Before making major changes to your site, conduct UX research to validate the concerns of your users and ensure that you spend your time and money in ways that enhance your users’ experience.
If you need assistance with UX research or aren’t sure where to start, reach out. Our expert UX team will guide you down the right path!