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navigation and user experience


Here’s How Navigation May Make or Break Your UX and Conversion


How frustrating is it when you go to your usual supermarket and they have moved things around? The toilet rolls are where the bleach was and the dog food is where the coffee used to be. Having to traipse around looking for what you want is annoying and time wasting.

How much effort do you put in before giving up?

In an actual supermarket, you may be inclined to ask an assistant for help or keep wandering until you find what you need, as it would probably take more time to physically go elsewhere, but online, if visitors can’t find what they want on your website they will simply leave, and often head straight to your competitor instead.

Here are some facts in numbers to think about:

What defines a good user experience?

User experience is a discipline which is concerned with all aspects of the user’s interaction with a company, its services, and its products.

Good UX design means focusing on the user, no matter where they are.

user experience anywhere

The goal of good UX design is to help users do what they want when interacting with your business. By providing an experience that is easy, without confusion or frustration, you are helping users achieve their goals and therefore increasing the chances of conversion.

Remember though, a ‘conversion’ is often considered different things to different organizations, it might be a new lead, a sale, a donation, a whitepaper download or a piece of data captured. If you are using an in-house admin portal or platform, a conversion might even be considered to be a completed data record or successful admin process completed.

Effective UX design will optimize the ‘user journeys’ and encourage the conversions that are relevant to your business.

What are user journeys?

User journeys are the paths that users take on your site to achieve their goals. They will undertake a number of tasks in a particular scenario (or context) and what they think, feel and do during this journey can make or break their experience.

user experience user journey

Effective user experience design isn’t based on subjective opinions or assumptions but founded on research with real users and other sources of objective data.

“UX (user experience) research is the systematic investigation of users and their requirements, in order to add context and insight into the process of designing the user experience. … The focus is on the systematic approach to gathering and interpreting collected data. Due to this, UX research demands the structured and methodical selection and application of the most appropriate tools for information gathering. …” – Interaction Design Foundation

The sources of this research would usually incorporate the following:

  • Competitor analysis – understanding how competitors are fulfilling user journeys can give indications on what works well (and what to avoid).
  • Raw data – web analytics provides insight into ‘what’ the users are doing currently, while it doesn’t provide the whole picture, it can give direction to the questions regarding ‘why’ users take certain actions.
  • Stakeholders – Speaking with frontline staff who have regular interactions with consumers will provide valuable insight. Understanding the common questions and concerns can help deliver an experience which adds value.
  • Expert insight – best practice isn’t a list of features and functionality to be blindly applied to a site to achieve a great user experience. A UX expert understands when and where best practice should apply based on the goals of the user and the business.
  • User research – this might include interviews, focus groups, and observations. This insight is used to create User Personas.

Creating Personas for User Journeys

User Personas are fictional representations of key user types. They are useful tools to document the wants, needs, expectations of important audience groups which provides informed insight when making web design decisions. In a nutshell, they define the actual characteristics of your users. When creating personas, your goal is to get as close as possible to understanding what motives and fears drive the actions of your users. After a persona is born, you have to imagine what would you do if you were that person, who is expected to pay for a product or service.

ux personas

Important characteristics:

  • gender
  • age-range
  • income-range
  • geographical location
  • motives and fears
  • favorite restaurant
  • hobbies
  • favorite website, newspaper
  • preferred shopping style

How can user journeys improve site navigation?

The personas are used in conjunction with User Journeys, which identify a particular goal e.g. purchasing a product, and the various tasks that are undertaken to achieve that goal, for example; price comparison, looking at customer reviews, watching product demonstration videos or reading case studies. Scenarios are applied to the user journeys, this is the context in which the journey is taking place, this might include the reason for purchase, the location of the user and the device(s) used.

This understanding of what the web visitor wants to do, why and how, means that you can make informed decisions when designing the navigation 

Here’s an example:

A travel company might attract different types of users:

  • potential customers who have a certain destination in mind but are flexible on dates
  • those who have fixed dates but are flexible on location
  • those who know where and when they want to travel

Identifying these different consumer types will define how information is presented on key pages and how you can optimize their experience.

multi channel user journey ux

If the architecture or layout of the site doesn’t consider the different types of users, the tasks they want to undertake, the context in which they are viewing or the goals they want to achieve, then they will be left staring at the metaphorical dog food.

The bond between navigation and conversion rate:

navigation and user experience

If your website’s navigation is confusing it creates frustration. Making it easy for visitors to find the right information at the right time will reduce barriers and drive more conversion by keeping them engaged with your site for a longer period of time. The longer dwell time is a positive indication that your site offers a good experience and value. Driving more organic traffic to your site will boost your conversion rate and so the cycle continues. 

Ways to ensure good web navigation design:

  1. Understand what your users want to achieve

Document the most common and valuable goals that need to be achieved on your site

  1. Map the user journeys

By identifying and mapping out the tasks users it forces you to consider the different circumstances in which visitors will be interacting with your site. Ask yourself ‘is this simple?’, ‘what would the user think, feel and do?’ at each step.

  1. Consider the different interaction scenarios

Will users be on their desktop in the office, their mobile on the train or the tablet at home? How will that affect their journey?

  1. Test your navigation

Once you have defined key user journeys and “you feel optimized”, don’t forget to test them! Whether you use paper prototypes or interactive wireframes, talk to your users and see if the navigation makes sense to them. Ask yourself the questions:

  • Does it meet their expectations?
  • Is there something they would expect to see, maybe a breadcrumb trail or a search box?

Getting this feedback at the early stages of the design process rather than waiting until the site goes live saves a lot of time and money.

Wrapping up

Good navigation is absolutely vital to delivering a good user experience, which in turn directly affects the conversion rate. Performing UX research, using analysis tools, creating personas, task mapping and user journeys based on primary research, will directly inform how to best approach your site including everything from navigation and content strategy to UI design and creative.

Finally, remember that consumers expectations and demands continue to evolve, so it is important to never consider the user experience of your site as complete. It is an ongoing process to research and test to ensure it continues to meet the needs of your users.

Don't forget, sharing is caring! :)


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