One of my favorite views… as a user… in a use case.

Optimizing for Experience vs Conversion

Goals for the target ROI right?

Let’s assume a business needs a website or a new technology for an identified business purpose. So, they decide to invest the capital required for that project. Now, of course, since we are in a technical and mostly measurable space when tech is deployed online, the business will want to know that the money was spent wisely.

The most obvious way to complete that story is to determine what actions users need to take that return the investment as revenue, which in turn makes the spend valuable. Easy right?

Let’s flag all of the user’s actions that create revenue for us as conversions and measure those. The most basic actions to measure on a B2B oriented website that is focused on both branding and lead generation for our sales teams are:

1. Lead form completion
2. Email signup
3. Interactive tool engagement
4. Key content visit

For the purpose of measuring our advertising spend and effectiveness, we will also want attribution measurements for lead and customer referral sources. A few key metrics here are:

1. Referral sources (sites, social, ad networks, etc)
2. Conversion rates per referral source
3. Landing pages and their conversions
4. Demographic patterns per referrer

The few items listed above for actions and referrers will easily multiply into a hefty set of data to report and analyze in realtime, per month, or per quarter. Structuring that report and analysis is different per project and should be done in a way that leads to actionable insights for the sales, marketing and agency teams.

UX Learnings from ROI Oriented Goals

What do these conversion funnel oriented metrics tell us about the experience for the users that may have intersected with our funnel for long enough to be flagged as a funnel drop, but that would never have converted anyway due to their active need state? Very little. They are only part of the picture. How many users travel across our funnel or never intersect with our funnel because their need state is not on our radar or unrelated to direct revenue? The real question is, what unrealized potential lies within that group of users.

Maybe we didn’t start the conversation right. At the beginning we asked ourselves what we needed the users to do for us to positively impact our ROI. But a good indication that the UX part of the equation was missing is if we didn’t ask ourselves from the start what the users needed from us to find value in the relationship.

Measuring UX is not just about the UI

There are many methods to observe user experience. Some of the most valuable have been session recorders and observed test users. The only problem with these is that they are really good at analyzing a single user at a time, but prove difficult to turn those sessions into data for greater analysis.

There are a few tools that move the needle away from one-off reviews of sessions and closer to data, but a balance here is important. There are gems discovered in the nuance of user actions when observed, that data sheets of user actions may not be able to reveal. One tool will not be the answer. My favorite reminder for analytics review and data analysis is that these exercises are as much about the new questions they cause us to ask ourselves as they are about the pattern revelations.

User Experience is about their lens.

Why is the user here?
What is the user solving in their real world life or workflow?
What is the user expecting to find?
How is the user going to get the most value out of this interaction?
Are they expecting the path we are leading them down?

Every question above can be asked for each type of user, and for each possible need state that user could show up with. Where your answers reveal a lack of initial alignment, the UX strategist has some work to do to smooth the experience for that user, by changing the UI path that accommodates their need, or uses UI visual and language communications to ease expectations into alignment.

Blend these questions and their respective answers into a mash of clicks through our interface and we’ll have a semblance of the complexity of our UX analysis task at hand. It begins to reveal how many user stories we may have missed in our first attempt at scoping the project.

The goal here is to nurture each potential experience and arrive at the desired outcome for every valuable need state across your known user types. If you’re lucky this is a simple list. If you’re most of us, it gets complex and you end up having to pick your battles by prioritizing. But at least now you are making these decisions in an informed state while looking at the big picture.

Micro Measurement in a Macro View

Now that we’re able to measure a variety of user journeys and evaluate their effectiveness based on the need states of the various personas, we are in a better position to optimize based on the satisfaction and value proposition for our users. We can pick which user types support our business goals, what need states for those users that we want to cater to, and how we will value successful UX engagements with those users, whether or not there is an immediate conversion.

Your desired brand and service connection to your users may be clear to you, but now you are able to take a step back and, through a broader ROI lens, clarify what the long term value to your company is of delivering a successful user experience to each need state for each user type.

Indirect ROI Growth from Optimal UX

Successful UX for some need states deepen your brand value, while others immediately create revenue through sales. Knowing the life cycle of a user type across need states can reveal an evolution of a customer from lead to referral. A conversion-only focus will never offer the same long-term value as this elevated perspective.

In a healthy cycle of analysis and reporting the format of the reports and optimization recommendations consistently evolve so don’t stress too much about format. Just make sure the story isn’t lost in the numbers. I’ve seen analytics reports grow to 75 pages of data dumps, but this isn’t realistic for a marketing team to digest this volume of information in a timely or useful way.

Reporting Our Interpretations

Since we know there is a tendency for quality metrics to generate as many questions they deliver answers, we need to constantly ask ourselves what the core KPIs are for our goals, and what mined insights should be brought to light as part of a periodic report. As an analyst, let your reports illustrate your data interpretation expertise, not your aggregation expertise. If you’ve brought a learning to the table that is worth acting upon then it is critical enough to warrant proof of accuracy. Proof and source information can be a followup detail as a pre-action exercise, rather than turning a report into a data dump.

But where is my new magic solution?

No magic. But, turning the concepts discussed here into key steps in your application or campaign planning process can make sure that your measurement is focused on the most valuable user interactions. Going through a formal exercise that takes these concepts into consideration will serve as a guide as you prioritize which specific user flows get your focus for optimization time and development budget. And more importantly, these views will help you gain an understanding of exactly where your long term impacts to ROI exist across the interfaces that make up the multi-platform user experience of your customer.

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