Confusing website navigation. Missing product information. Excruciating checkout screens. As an online shopper, you’ve experienced all of these frustrations. And as a marketer, you know how hard they can hit your bottom line.

Poor website design can cost millions in lost sales and permanently damage your brand credibility. That’s why it’s critical to focus on the user experience (UX) early on in your development process, and remedy any pain points with your existing site.

Less pain = big gains

You don’t need to read all the research to know that better website usability (fast, useful content + easy, intuitive flow) increases retention, conversions (signups, sales) and repeat business — or that something as simple as a good FAQ will reduce your help desk calls and other customer service expenses.

More than a short-term fix, developing a better UX is a strategic investment that pays off over time in metrics like these:

  • Lower customer acquisition cost
  • Higher revenue per sale and per customer
  • Lower customer service costs

Diagnosing UX problems

Whether it’s high bounce rates, low engagement, abandoned shopping carts or a combination of symptoms, you know something’s not right with your site. So how do you pinpoint the root cause?

Data Analysis: Using Google Analytics or similar tools, you can examine your user demographics, devices, on-site behavior and more. You might find, for example, that most of the drop-offs on your checkout page are younger users on mobile devices. Or that “support” is the top term used in your internal searches. These types of data points can show you where to fix your sales funnel or add new functionality.

Customer Feedback: Of course, the best way to diagnose pain points is to listen to your customers. Every comment, question or complaint should be logged and reviewed. You can also conduct on-site surveys to zero in on specific issues. Some companies also conduct user testing in focus groups, with narrow A/B comparisons, heatmaps and other methods.

Developing a cure

Even without exhaustive analysis, UX professionals can often spot problem areas that are ripe for improvement. By mapping out each step in your customer’s journey, they can identify ways to improve the visual design, flow and functionality of your site.

Next, they’ll formulate solutions, creating wireframes, mockups and prototypes to ensure the effectiveness of your new UX implementation.

Finally, they’ll deploy your new site (or upgrades) into production, where users will experience blissfully pain-free sessions — and you can begin to see healthy returns.

10 tips for better UX

From your landing page to your product filters to your thank-you screens, every step in your user experience should be effortless:

  • Fast load time — Your site should render quickly, without bloated image files, sluggish animations or annoying pop-ups.
  • Clean visual design — An uncluttered layout helps users quickly grok the format, focus on important elements and choose the path they want.
  • Responsive design — Your site should look awesome and function well on every kind of device, from desktops to tablets to mobile phones.
  • Familiar navigation — Conventional actions (e.g., clicking logo goes to home page) help users navigate more intuitively. Nav elements should also be visually consistent across the site (color, style, placement) so users know what to look for.
  • Relevant, useful content — Users want complete but concise information. Lead with your biggest benefits and make it easy to discover additional facts and features as needed. Remember that a short video can be worth 10,000 words.
  • Clear, compelling calls to action — Your prompts, links and buttons should do more than direct traffic — they should inspire action. Instead of “Click here” try something like ”Get started” or “Book it now!”
  • Short and simple forms — Don’t blockade users with long forms demanding fields upon fields of data. Ask only for what you need at any stage, and earn trust along the way.
  • Positive reinforcement — Acknowledge user actions with check marks, progress bars, confirmation screens and other assurances. Make them feel engaged.
  • Personalized experience — Understanding your user’s persona, preferences and history helps you build a mutually satisfying relationship … and makes it oh-so-easy to re-sell, cross-sell and up-sell.
  • Integrated brand experience — Ensure that each touchpoint flows seamlessly into the next. Link each social media post straight to its corresponding product page. Link your email promotions to a related landing page.