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Last week saw the launch of the Econsultancy / WhatUsersDo User Experience Survey Report at an event held in London, with a panel of brands including Hobbs, PhotoBox and UBM.

Below, for the benefit of those who couldn't attend the event, the panellists answer some questions about the research and the approach to user experience within their organisations. 

The research showed that responding companies typically say they are committed to improving the user experience but are not necessarily doing the right things, such as UX testing. Why do you think this is?

Louise Vallender, Website Trading Manager, Hobbs

Resource, budget and prioritisation are the key factors. To successfully implement UX I also believe you need to have at least one champion within the business to get others on board and gain buy in.

Luca Vincenti, Product Marketing Manager, PhotoBox

It's probably a mix of lack of time and resources and lack of knowledge. It is of great importance in a company that a UX focus mindset is infused by key stakeholders. This will enable UX testing to be considered essential and not just among the 'nice to haves' which should result in it being completed both on existing products to improve them and, more importantly, to be included in the planning from the early stages of new product development.

Terry Rydzynski, Digital Manager, United Business Media  

I think it’s a combination of know-how, resources (including budget/time), politics and ego. It’s not always easy to put together a business case, especially if an organisation’s internal processes are overly complex. For me, the business case is fairly straightforward, the challenge is corralling disparate teams and baking UX testing into the right part of the web development lifecycle.

What is the best way of proving the business case for investing in user experience testing, and removing 'lack of budget' as an obstacle?

Louise Vallender 

If the people in your business haven't experienced UX testing before or seen the results of what it can bring, then quickly and cost-effectively you can start planting the seeds of change by showing how it can benefit them. You could start by testing colleagues or friends who aren't as familiar with your site and either filming them or doing a demonstration to highlight their experience. 

Another approach, which has worked for me, is when your in-house digital designers come to you with a beautiful website design. Ask them to walk you through how a user would navigate around the site and what they can expect to see when clicking on something. If your questions can't all be answered simply then this also can raise awareness of the need to consider the user up front.

Both methods can start building the case for investing in UX, after all, if internal people are having issues working your site how are external users going to manage?

Luca Vincenti

Trial it. Give it a go. It is rather inexpensive to do so nowadays with a number of tools which do not require technical knowledge. If you can demonstrate improved conversion after amends done as a result of the testing, you already have a quantified business case. In case you can't make changes to your website/product easily, then the almost-certainly painful results of the UX testing will help get the ball rolling for further investigation when shared with key stakeholders in the company.

Terry Rydzynski

Just do it! Quick and dirty testing with anyone you can find. Design some test scripts, find five people who might fit your customer profile (if possible, but anyone will do), record the results on your smartphone, and show it to anyone who will listen until you find a champion / sponsor internally.

And of course use a few of the excellent case studies now available online that show returns. Choose wisely here though – you need to manage expectations so you don’t get fired because changing the colour of a button on your homepage didn’t boost your revenue into the stratosphere.

Should marketing 'own' the user experience, as is the case within many organisations?

Louise Vallender 

It really has to do with who can take the learnings and apply the changes. I don't believe it necessarily has to be down to a certain department. For Hobbs, online UX sits with the ecommerce team, but that's only because we are championing it and, in most cases, we can make the physical adjustments to the site, or to our online ads. 

Luca Vincenti

I see user experience as a part of a wider concept of Customer Experience and whilst it is essential to have key User Experience champions in marketing, product management and technology, Customer Experience has got to be a key aspect which is reflected in the work of everyone in the company. At PhotoBox, Customer Centricity is a company value and we strive to abide by it in everything that we do.

Terry Rydzynski

It depends. If marketing already owns customer experience across all touch points (including sales, fulfilment, customer service etc.) then yes it should sit with marketing.

If not, I believe that there is a danger of a fragmented/siloed approach to user experience. I believe it’s about taking a different perspective and looking at customer experience as a whole, and we’re starting to see a shift towards this now in some organisations with the appointment of dedicated Customer Experience Directors etc.

I’m a huge advocate of user testing on websites, and I think all businesses can benefit from it, but sometimes there are other areas in which customers’ experience is not meeting their expectations and, without an overarching view, it’s much harder to identify and prioritise. What’s the point of trying to maximise your conversions if you’re already having fulfilment issues, for example?

How can organisations ensure that online user experience is part of a broader organisational commitment to customer experience?

Louise Vallender 

If a company is committed to great service they rarely focus on just one customer touch point. Hobbs is renowned for customer service and online is simply another channel to connect with our customers to deliver a positive customer experience.

Luca Vincenti

For ecommerce websites it's easy to explain. If I shop on the high street my 'customer experience' starts from the moment I look in the windows and step inside to browse the store. At this moment I am just a prospective customer, but a good sales assistant will make it pleasant to find and buy the perfect item, so that, from someone who browses the shop, I convert into a real customer.

Two things have been achieved: a sale and a pleasant experience. Focus on online user experience is essential for making it easy and pleasant for the user to buy from your store thus converting into a customer. In more concrete terms, a good online user experience would bring more money with improved conversion and re-purchase rate and reduce contacts to customer service, hence reducing costs, and, of course, make customers happier.

Terry Rydzynski

As above – someone, marketing or other, needs to be responsible for the whole customer experience. Online UX testing should be part of that. 

The results show there is an overwhelming preference for conducting mobile UX testing on iOS devices. Given the penetration of Android, are companies spending their efforts in the wrong places?

Louise Vallender 

It really depends on what devices your customers are using. You can get this information quickly through your on-site analytics. Over 90% of our mobile traffic comes via iOS devices, so it makes sense to focus on them first. However, the Androids aren't an insignificant number, so when testing we try and get a mix of both, with just more of a weighting on iOS.

Luca Vincenti

Android phones are on the rise we're told, but when establishing priorities a company needs to look at its traffic analytics and make a call. If they see that the majority of their mobile traffic is actually coming from iOS devices, then it makes sense for them to concentrate on those if they have to choose.

That does not mean that platforms other than iOS should be ignored when creating a brand new product. When launching PhotoBox mobile offers website last year, the team made sure that this was designed and tested to offer a pleasant cross-platform experience. 

Terry Rydzynski

Probably, but I think this reaches beyond just UX testing. I think there is still an overwhelming preference to develop iOS apps over Android.

How else should companies be optimising the experience for smartphones and tablets?

Louise Vallender 

In an attempt to create something original, or with quick fix approaches, some sites can be guilty of de-prioritising the fundamentals of web design, such as clean navigation. You need to ensure your website renders correctly on these devices and that users can still get what they came for. On smartphones in particular you should focus on what information is vital that needs to be provided (by you or the user), and if it's not necessary strip it out. Time is precious when shopping on the go and with poor internet connections. 

Terry Rydzynski

We need to ensure that we’re conscious of how our apps manage data/bandwidth when downloading content. 

Linus Gregoriadis

Published 14 February, 2013 by Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis is Research Director at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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