Using usability studies to maximise on reported UK internet business growth

October 28, 2010 4:26 pm

Using usability studies to maximise on reported UK internet business growth

It’s not all about the bricks and mortar.

On the morning of the 28th October, the BBC reported that the UK’s internet economy is now larger than the transport, construction or the utilities industries, according to research commissioned by Google. Internet contribution to the economy is set to grow by 10% annually.

This is positive news for online businesses coupled by other evidence showing that online sales have not slowed down in the recession.

“Some 60% of the £100bn a year figure is made up from internet consumption – the amount that users spend on online shopping and on the cost of their connections and devices to access the web.”

Source: BBC article 28 Oct 2010

Industries being transformed by the internet and small businesses that actively use the internet experience sales growth of four times more than those that don’t.

The trick is to maximise on this growth. It’s not just about being the company within your sector that uses the internet to achieve growth. Now it’s about being the company that responds best to the customers, services them better and creates new opportunities for growth.

A key way to go about this is by involving users in your research. There are many tools and techniques out there to help you with this but which one do you choose? At SimpleUsability we understand the realities of budget and timescales, and know that business has to keep moving, not stopping for research. We can advise on the best methods for achieving this depending on what you want to find out.

Get to know your customer

This is less about gathering together your top customers for a chat or canvassing existing customers with surveys, but establishing some user centred design approaches to documenting the online experience.

Mapping key user journeys allows you note the touch points of when, where and how users might engage with your business and what their needs, concerns and goals might be. For the business to move forward, having documentation about your audience gives the business a solid base and allows the business to communicate with users across the website.

Creating personas can help the team identify with their audience when developing functionality, design or copy but you need be careful with the method in which they are created. Online personas are a summary representation and description of the intended users and are often portrayed as real people. There are generally multiple personas and can also be called user profiles or audience profiles. These personas are based on what the business actually knows about the audience segments. At SimpleUsability we have found that persona creation is more useful when based on behavioural traits rather than demographic data such as age, sex or income.

Conversion optimisation

Embarking on a complete re-design may be daunting and sometimes improving your existing online presence can significantly provide uplift and growth. Conversion optimisation methods identify and remove barriers stopping users engaging with the business online. These methods don’t operate exclusively on their own but feed off each other and include:

Session reviews – Tools such as ClickTale allow you to watch web users click through pages on your website and see where they exit. Resource is needed to analyse this information and interpret it in order to ultimately solve the issue.

Usability testing – There’s no substitute for sitting with real users and observing them interact with the website. The best thing about usability testing is the possibility to find out why users do what they do. At SimpleUsability we adopt eye tracking as a tool to find about what users were thinking at the time of completing a task on the website. Usability has to create an environment where users can interact in a natural manner.

Multi-variable testing – Working in tandem with other user experience techniques are tools such Google Optimiser. These allow you to try variations of your website on actual users until a winning combination is discovered. This can lead to dramatic increase in conversion rates and can be achieved by simplification, changing layouts, copy, calls to action and images.