Is Poor User Experience Slowing Your Conversion Rates?


User expe­ri­ence (UX) is short­hand for how a per­son feels when vis­it­ing and nav­i­gat­ing your web­site or appli­ca­tion, as well as how the indi­vid­ual per­ceives its value, use­ful­ness, and usabil­ity. Whether you acknowl­edge it or not, your site has its own dis­tinct UX. The ques­tion is whether it’s work­ing for or against you.

Today’s vis­i­tors expect a high level of UX that com­bines pleas­ing design with per­son­al­ized fea­tures and an easy-to-navigate inter­face. Increas­ingly, brands are com­pared by the online expe­ri­ences they offer, with the most com­pelling and desir­able inter­ac­tions win­ning out.

The Psy­chol­ogy of UX Meets the Psy­chol­ogy of CRO

Suc­cess­ful UX design­ers must have inti­mate knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of users’ per­cep­tions of and reac­tions to var­i­ous site struc­ture and design ele­ments. The psy­chol­ogy of UX con­sid­ers users’ emo­tions and cog­ni­tive lim­i­ta­tions (i.e., how much atten­tion and mem­ory they can use before becom­ing over­loaded). Each design deci­sion is dri­ven by a core ques­tion: What moti­vates human behaviors?

A deep under­stand­ing of moti­va­tors can help you influ­ence vis­i­tors to remain engaged with your con­tent, return to your site, and choose your prod­ucts or ser­vices over the com­peti­tors. Among the most pow­er­ful human moti­va­tors are:

  • Accom­plish­ment
  • Free­dom
  • Con­nect­ed­ness
  • Growth

When UX taps into one of these inter­nal incen­tives or desires, it draws users into a more mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ship with the brand, lead­ing to a sus­tain­able increase in con­ver­sion rates. What form of moti­va­tion do you weave into your brand mes­sage? How does your prod­uct or ser­vice moti­vate peo­ple to engage and stay engaged?

Drive CRO with In-Demand Experiences

What’s the one thing about your site or app that users love most? Is there a defin­ing fea­ture that would send users into an uproar if it went away? The UX imper­a­tive is to cre­ate an in-demand expe­ri­ence. The con­ver­sion rate opti­mizer (CRO) imper­a­tive is to con­tin­u­ally ensure that the right peo­ple eas­ily reach this expe­ri­ence. The two work together to reduce fric­tion, enhance per­son­al­iza­tion, and drive engage­ment from every angle.

Begin tak­ing an experience-centric approach to con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion with these three prin­ci­ples of pow­er­ful UX design.

1. Think Like Your Users

Think­ing like your users helps you dis­cover what is unique about var­i­ous seg­ments, and treat them accord­ingly. The point is to avoid mak­ing assump­tions about UX based on your own behav­iors and pref­er­ences. As a mar­keter, devel­oper, designer, or ana­lyst, you prob­a­bly use the Web much dif­fer­ently than the aver­age vis­i­tor. You’re not the every­day user, so you need to stretch and chal­lenge your think­ing to get inside the every­day user’s head.

One way to think more like your users is to observe and mea­sure their behav­ior. Study their paths like an anthro­pol­o­gist in the field, objec­tively not­ing every detail. Even­tu­ally you’ll amass por­traits of your most com­mon user types—or vis­i­tor personas—that will help you pre­dict future behav­ior and pref­er­ences. Are you using ana­lyt­ics to bet­ter under­stand your vis­i­tors? Are you able to seg­ment based on their behav­iors on your site?

2. Ask Your Users

Another way to learn what users are think­ing and feel­ing is to sim­ply ask them. Con­duct in-person and online sur­veys, cre­ate sim­ple exit ques­tions for users leav­ing your site, have cus­tomer ser­vice reps note indi­vid­u­als’ ques­tions and con­cerns, read reviews—any method you can find to hear from users in their own words.

First-hand sto­ries from the user expe­ri­ence can become your most valu­able asset. A sin­gle story can give you a whole new per­spec­tive on your web­site or app, and help you com­mu­ni­cate your goals to your cowork­ers and exec­u­tives. Andrew Mot­taz of Pro­to­Share, a Web-based col­lab­o­ra­tive wire­fram­ing tool, explains:

By focus­ing on a user story, which can be writ­ten quickly and under­stood at a high level, you can make a pretty good rough-cut at what you should build and what the busi­ness value should be.

Sur­veys and sto­ries aren’t the only way to hear from users. UX research and usabil­ity stud­ies give you direct input on how actual peo­ple inter­act with your site. This can reveal points of fric­tion, user habits and per­cep­tions, and whether or not peo­ple can actu­ally ful­fill their intended pur­pose for vis­it­ing your site.

3. Reduce “Cog­ni­tive Overhead”

Cog­ni­tive over­head is a type of site fric­tion that hap­pens in the user’s head. It’s the doubt, con­fu­sion, inde­ci­sion, and brow-furrowing that users feel when faced with poor design and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. High cog­ni­tive over­head is often the result of a shal­low under­stand­ing of your users’ objec­tives and level of knowl­edge or famil­iar­ity with your brand before enter­ing the site. A Quala­roo user expe­ri­ence guide describes the gap that often exists between mar­keters’ and users’ goals:

Projects usu­ally begin with design briefs, brand­ing stan­dards, high-level project goals, as well as fea­ture and func­tion­al­ity require­ments. While cer­tainly impor­tant, these doc­u­ments amount to lit­tle more than the tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, leav­ing exactly how the web­site will ful­fill the mul­ti­ple user objec­tives (UX) wide open.

Opti­miz­ing user expe­ri­ence begins with look­ing at the objec­tives of the vis­i­tor, and imag­in­ing the poten­tial flows that need to be designed in order for them achieve their goals. What’s the first log­i­cal or intu­itive step for some­one look­ing to com­pare a prod­uct, down­load a report, con­sume and share con­tent, sub­scribe to a ser­vice, or find more infor­ma­tion about their account? What’s the sec­ond step? And where will they ide­ally end up?

User-Centric Design Builds Loyalty

Some com­pa­nies chase spikes in con­ver­sion, doing what­ever it takes to see imme­di­ate results. Then, when the num­bers dip, they’re left scram­bling to find the next quick fix. Sus­tain­able CRO tends to hap­pen grad­u­ally and steadily, with long-term strate­gies cen­tered on get­ting the right peo­ple to form a bond with your brand through engag­ing experiences.

UX is inte­gral to CRO. When prop­erly attended to, it has the power to reduce aban­don­ment and increase con­ver­sion rates. UX is all about ele­vat­ing the users’ goals above your own pre­con­ceived ideas of usabil­ity and design. When you elim­i­nate hur­dles and empower vis­i­tors to achieve their objec­tives, they will view you as a trusted ally and come back for more.


Jeff Fuhriman is Senior Manager of Conversion Optimization at Adobe, responsible for personalization, testing, and targeting for SEM and digital marketing properties on Over the past four years, Jeff has increased conversion rates by more than 400 percent and has established a strong culture of optimization across Adobe.

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