Developing the user experience

Nathan Walters is digital marketing manager at Parker Software. What follows is an interview with Nathan for our book, The Conversation Engine.

The user experience isn’t just a product, or a feature, or an interface. The user experience is an immersive, end to end value chain. It starts before the user even hits your brand, and covers everything from searching for your products, to navigating your website, to downloading and using your app.

The user increasingly expects a smooth and easy process — which is where I come in. With a background in search engine optimisation (SEO) and development, I’m always looking for gaps in usability and accessibility which could negatively impact our customers.

Content matters

“Content is king” is a phrase so commonly quoted that it’s become tired. There is, however, a reason for its prevalence. The content on your website, whether this is general page copy or meticulously written blog posts, has a huge impact on the accessibility of your website and its success in ranking on popular search engines.

The last time you searched for something on Google, did you even look at the second page of results? Would you trust the businesses scrabbling on the second page?

Times have changed

As technology has evolved, so too have customer expectations. Those customers that were formerly accustomed to waiting now expect real-time gratification, immediate support and instant access to what they’re looking for. If there are hurdles in their way, many will give up and go elsewhere.

Obviously, this isn’t what you want for your business. You need to make the time it takes for a customer to get from point A to point B as quick as possible, from any device.

Here at Parker Software, for example, the tech expectations from users are high. If we don’t streamline the onboarding journey and allow our customers to trial a product smoothly and swiftly, potential buyers may start looking elsewhere.

For us, our customers can sign up and use the product in a matter of minutes. For you and your services, you need to assess whether your customers are through the gate as quickly as possible, or have opportunity to look elsewhere.

The real-time revolution

Customers will probably have questions, and they’ll expect answers immediately. Previously, customers would find an FAQ section or search through hefty help files. Today, many are no longer willing to put in this graft —and new technology means they don’t have to.

While some businesses still rely on telephones to attend to customer enquiries and sales, millions of companies have reacted to the real-time revolution.

The rise of live chat, of instant messaging, of automated support, and of AI-driven personalisation has seen customers expect immediate attentiveness from brands. At home, these consumers can talk to their conversational assistants – Siri, Alexa, Google Home – and get precisely what they want on the spot.

When they’re used to this kind of slick user experience with their own devices, they also expect it from your services.

Incorporating change

This change in customer expectations, and the push towards immediacy, means you need to improve accessibility to your services with ongoing assessments.

Using analytics, you should set goals, trial small changes and continuously review these changes in terms of engagement and conversion rates. Changes could be something simple, such as a colour tweak, or something more sophisticated such as altering landing pages based on the visitor’s geolocation.

Mapping the user experience provides opportunity to collect and analyse data from multiple sources and multiple journey stages. Usage statistics on a new feature — from a slim-lined contact form to a new onboarding video — can show how successful your change has been.

Analysing data from UX mapping allows you to see how customers are navigating your website or product, the paths they prefer to take and what kind of changes drive conversions.

General data protection regulations

Speaking of data, don’t get caught out. As you develop your website or app to improve the user experience, customer data will inform your decision.  However, you will need to make sure this aligns with general data protection regulations (GDPR).

Businesses need to be vigilant and take responsibility when collecting customer data and obtaining valid usage consent, or risk facing severe fines. Your privacy policy needs to include key points such as:

  • Who you are and how, why, and what kind of data you collect
  • Where and how you store data and how the consumer can access or remove their data
  • Your data processing procedures, which should be placed somewhere visible and accessible.

Keeping it in one place

You should practice what you preach. Among many of my UX-optimising missions at Parker Software, I have recently implemented in-app purchasing to the website. How does this help the user experience? It’s all about trust.

Being redirected to another site during the payment journey can be disconcerting for customers. So, by integrating an embedded checkout such as Stripe, the entire journey takes place on home turf. You should consider the same for your own website.

I have also helped to develop a designated customer portal, allowing self-service and autonomy when using Parker Software’s products. While having open channels of communication is vital for a company’s success, many customers like to be able to solve problems themselves. By empowering the customer within an overarching brand structure, this solo experience still builds rapport between the user and brand.

NB: This interview is only an extract from The Conversation Engine. To read the full book, download a free copy here: