The first time I worked with a user experience designer was as a product marketer at a small business software company a few years ago. It was a fascinating experience, not just because I learned a whole lot. I came to realize that, while I’d never collaborated with someone in a dedicated UX role before, I had myself been spearheading user experience initiatives in previous jobs—without even realizing that’s what I was doing.
In the marketing world, we tend to think of UX as something that only applies to product development. After all, the majority of UX designers are part of a product team, and digital products can be incredibly complex. Optimizing your product’s experience for end users is definitely a full time job.
When digital marketing was still just banner ads and emails, there wasn’t much of an “experience” to optimize. Today, however, the marketing landscape is extremely complex. Beyond a company website, marketers are creating tons of other digital experiences and workflows to guide prospects down the funnel. This raises the question: Should user experience be a part of marketing “products” as well? The answer is 100% yes.
If you’re new to the user experience world, it may be unclear exactly how it applies to the marketing role and how a UX designer would fit into your marketing efforts. Let’s explore the answers to these questions together.
Defining User Experience (UX) and UX Design
The term user experience (UX) encompasses all aspects of a prospect or customer’s interaction with your company and its products and services. A UX designer’s job is to improve the quality of a user’s experience with your brand’s offerings.
Traditionally, UX best practices are applied to digital products, but the same approach can be applied to other digital properties as well. A corporate website, company blog, landing page, or marketing microsite can each be optimized to improve a user’s interactions with your brand.
Likewise, your online content—videos, articles, eBooks, whitepapers, social posts, case studies, infographics, and more—can be refined in a similar fashion to provide a higher quality experience for your audience.
Principles of Good User Experience in Marketing
Now that we know what user experience is, the next logical question to ask would be: What makes for a good user experience in a marketing context? The majority of UX designers agree that it comes down to creating content that is:
- Useful: It should be original and fulfill a real market need.
- Usable: It’s got to be easy to use.
- Desirable: It has to be sexy enough to keep your audience’s attention.
- Findable: It needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite.
- Accessible: It should be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Credible: It has to be trustworthy, factually correct, and reliable.
Discovering What Works
All 6 attributes above are important, but they’re not always easy to quantify and act upon. UX designers have to get creative in order to find out which experiences work well for their audience and which ones don’t.
A few of the methods UX experts use to assess their products, services, and content are:
User Surveys & Interviews
There are a variety of different ways to gather data from your existing user base. A few include:
- Informal one-question surveys that pop up on your blog, website, or product pages.
- Short quizzes on highly targeted questions about challenges, needs, or specific features.
- Formal surveys, often fielded in partnership with a research firm with access to a large database of people using competing products.
- In-person or phone interviews with individual customers or prospects.
In order to assess how a page, feature, or workflow is performing, UX designers will dig into analytics to get a better picture of how visitors behave when they interact with specific content. Basic web analytics platforms like Google Analytics provide a lot of insight, but you can also use tools like heatmapping, click tracking, and eye tracking software to learn more about the microinteractions that happen within a given page.
In order to test the effectiveness of specific elements of information architecture, interface setup, or design, a UX person will often run an A/B test to figure out which option is most effective. A/B testing allows you to collect more data than a user test control group with just a few people in it.
Tools to Organize the UX Process
Everyone has a different set of tools they use to organize their work. For marketers and UX designers, there’s actually a lot of overlap. Here are a few of the most common tools used by user experience experts.
Developing a clear set of personas that span both prospects and current users can help you gain clarity around who your audience is and what they care about from a user experience perspective. The most effective personas include:
- Background: What type of person are they? What is their role?
- Goals: What does the person want to achieve?
- Pain points: Where do they struggle in their day-to-day life?
- Value proposition: How does your brand address those pain points?
- Objections: What things do they dislike or object to when it comes to your brand?
- Triggers: What are the things that endear them to your brand?
User Flow Charts
A user flow chart maps out two key things:
- Information architecture, which outlines how information will be organized, structured, and presented to your end users.
- Information flow, which shows how users will interact with your information and what messaging they’ll get at every step of their journey.
Wireframes are created before a visual design comp to show the basic framework of a web page, the components on the page, and how each component will function.
The Bottom Line
UX is a broad discipline that focuses on providing a better experience for your visitors, prospects, and customers. This discipline has a variety of applications in the business world. While UX design has traditionally been focused on the product world, there’s a growing need for UX on the marketing side as digital initiatives become more sophisticated and personalized.
Stay tuned for our next installment, where we’ll dig into how UX best practices can be applied specifically to marketing content.
Before you go: Tell me in the comments what role UX has in your marketing program, if any. I’d love to hear how other people are approaching user experience optimization within their marketing teams!