Do you know who your customers are, where they live, their age group or spending patterns?
Do you know which of them are the most profitable, or the most active on your website – and do you know why? If you haven’t answered yes to all of these questions, read on – because understanding this information can be critical to ensuring you offer your customers the best possible user experience.
To understand your customer, you will need to do some research.
You can use this research to create customer profiles – in UX language, this is called a persona. Yahoo has a good template you can use for persona creation which records the key attributes of their customers (example below). Look to develop personae based on existing or target customers.
When we work with clients, we usually develop a set of 7 to 11 customer profiles depending on the website needs.
Look for information from existing primary and secondary sources that may have already been done – and if it hasn’t, you can initiate your own research or hire someone to do it for you. You can tap into your existing market research in order to gather all the information together – and then analyze it to help develop the personae.
Demographics & Analytics
In the UK, you can use Mosaic data, a geodemographic segmentation system, to help build up profile information. Below is just one example of the type of data you can get from Mosaic.
In addition to this research, use your existing site analytics information that has been gathered, particularly if you are doing a site redesign. This helps establish what customers are currently doing on the website, when they’re doing it and additional useful information such as country, language, devices and browsers used.
You can see from the visitor flow below what countries most of the users are coming from along with the path they took through the website and where they dropped off.
Why is this important? In order to understand your customer fully, you need as much information about them as possible. Gathering this information before a design is started will help you focus your efforts on catering only to the customers you have or want. This will save you time and money, as you shouldn’t try to be all things to all people.
The best way to demonstrate the importance customer understanding and how this impacts the User Experience, is through examples.
Here are four examples of customer data and analytics that can be used to create a stellar user experience.
Example 1 -Visual Design & Typography
You are designing a website that provides health information for senior males. Assume it has been learned that most of your new customers are in the 70-80 age bracket, all use a desktop, college education level, mainly married men.
How do you think they would respond if the website was designed with a bright pink background, flashing images, lots of touch interactions and a bright italicized orange font, of 9 or 10 pixel in size?
Frustration is the word they might use to describe this site. The touch interactions likely wouldn’t work on their desktop, the font would be hard to see and difficult to read and the bright pink is unlikely to be appreciated by a senior male audience.
Would it not be better to have a larger or flexible sized font, with darker, and more traditionally masculine colors – blues and greys fit well into that category. In addition, a website optimized for desktop usage with standard click interactions would also be a better fit for this audience.
I believe that getting the “look and feel” of the website right is probably the most important aspect of the site that is based on customer understanding.
Example 2 – Tone of Voice
How you say or get across the message to your audience is generally the next area we look to focus on.
Assume you’re designing an online library service for postgraduate students. It is established that 60% of your audience are in the 21-30 age group with 20% being in the 40-45 age group, multiple languages including UK English, Arabic and Hebrew. This means your site needs to cater to well-educated young and mature adults.
Do you think these users would welcome slang or “hip” terminology? Probably not. Rather, your tone of voice needs to be more serious, factual, interesting and informative.
Catering to the multi-lingual aspect of this audience is critical. Ensuring that the website is offered in the majority of the languages with easy access to changing languages. It would also need to work “right to left” and “left to right” for reading of content.
Without the initial research, you wouldn’t have known you needed to do this and your website would suffer dearly for it.
Example 3 – Interaction complexity
In this example, you’re designing a new eCommerce site for gadgets. You’ve established that at least 70% of your customers will be early adopters of technology, high net worth individuals, single, in the 25 – 40 age bracket, equally balanced male/female audience, USA only.
Your new website should work on all devices, with special attention to tablets and smartphones. An “out of the box” eCommerce website simply won’t satisfy the demands of this type of audience – they would get bored of paging through an online grid of products very quickly. They’re looking for easy ways of buying their gadgets that are also interesting, entertaining, stimulating and “cool.”
Early adopters are often willing to push things just to see what happens. The high use of tablets and smartphones would call for an eCommerce site that showcases its products in multiple ways, pandering to all the touch interfaces.
Given our USA customer base, how do you think these customers would feel if all your prices were in Euros and the default country in the delivery address was Germany? Better to make it easier for them and set your primary currency to US$ and delivery address defaults to the USA.
Example 4 – Timing
One of the best things about the web is that your site is up 24/7. There are times though when system maintenance may need to be done. There are also times – more frequent – when new content needs to be loaded, new information published, and new products released. Understanding when your customers actually use your site is critical to planning these timings, and this should still be considered as part of the overall customer experience.
If your audience is comprised primarily of stay at home mothers, with children attending primary school, with above average household income – when do you think it’s best that you add new products? When do you think its best the site is taken offline for maintenance?
If you look at your website analytics software, this will give you some of the answers. If you don’t have analytics software already running, add it as soon as possible. But even without looking at your analytics, you likely have a large part of the answer already.
It could very well be that the mothers shop online once they’ve dropped their children off at school – a week day – and usually on a full day or two after all the household bills are paid. This gives you the timing for releasing new or additional products and the time for when your customers are likely to be in a purchasing mind-set without interruptions.Needless to say it’s also the time to avoid doing system maintenance unless your customers have been warned well in advance.
Using website analytics and customer data will help drive many of the decisions you make about your website user experience.
What decisions do you make that are driven by your understanding of your customers needs?