Your core mission, organizational pillars, and promises to customers and employees have been thoughtfully designed to capture the character of your organization and reinforce the types of practice, culture, and relationships your leadership team seeks to cultivate. But does your website reflect all of that work?
A great user interface isn't just code and pixels: it's one end of a long thread that reaches deep into the way your organization works. A poorly constructed site with bad user experiences can drive customers away, while a thoughtfully-designed experience can build loyalty and credibility.
For example, your homepage is where the all-important first impression oftentimes happens. Ideally, it is the digital version of an amazing bespoke business suit, with design, photography, layout and value proposition working in harmony to present the appearance of capable expertise. But if your copywriting fails to communicate your value proposition, or the navigational experience is overly complicated, or even a host server is underperforming, it’s similar to the wearer of a fine business suit being incapable of speaking knowledgeably to their product... or even performing a decent handshake.
Understanding the disconnects
Let's assume for a moment that your brand guidelines have been correctly implemented and copywriting has set the right tone on your website. How then might corporate pillars come to life in your user experience (UX)? To answer that, we can learn a lot from companies like Zappos, Amazon, and Airbnb where their UX is both the product and differentiator.
At the top of Zappos' list of core values is: “Deliver WOW Through Service”. This means that the digital gives high priority to connecting users to live agents, but also includes helpful suggestions contextually on the site. An example of this is the "fit survey" for shoppers in a hurry (and who isn’t these days). It's a great way to succinctly repurpose aggregated survey data and provide utility to visitors without asking those site visitors to do anything outside of their normal workflow. It's thoughtfully designed and anticipates user needs, which allows Zappos to deliver that WOW factor through service.
It's also important to remember that translating a mission statement into a digital experience often means saying no to a lot of things that might seem cheaper and more convenient at first glance. Ultimately, quick-fixes or overly-complicated tools can detract from the sum of parts that align a mission with an audience's expectation. When trying to determine whether a feature on your platform will help you or hurt you, it's important to look at who your real users are and what they're actually trying to accomplish. Remember: a well-defined UX and content strategy is your friend!
Poor experiences undermine your credibility
Anticipating user needs doesn't just mean offering slick experiences: it means keeping a finger on the pulse of your site to understand what isn't working so that you can proactively address problems.
One valuable (but expensive) tool is user complaints. Unfortunately, by the time a complaint has been documented through a website or call centre, no small amount damage has often been done. A list of complaints is a small representation of what's actually going wrong, since many people don't take the time to submit their grievances to your organization. That's why we recommend every complaint be seriously evaluated and, when possible, promptly addressed.
Although the reasons for complaints are more nuanced than we can possibly cover here, it does underscore the reputational damage that an ill-conceived UX can create. It is a lot easier to turn complaints into bug fix tickets than ask the larger and more uncomfortable question of what purpose the website should serve, and for whom the website is built. Though it's a time-consuming process, it's always valuable to really study your users and their behaviour-- not just what's working in terms of conversions, but also what isn't working and is causing complaints to come in.
Get your website in shape
Just as preparing for an important business meeting does not always necessitate a trip to the store for a new wardrobe, revitalizing a subpar user experience on your site might be as simple as revisiting your organization's mission and looking in the mirror. Just as a choice of shoes, a blouse, earrings or a tie work to complete a look, getting back to the basics for your organization may be as simple as asking, "why?"
For help examining your website, the experiences it offers, and how it aligns (or doesn't) with your values, contact us. Our digital consultants are here to help you evaluate your UX and map a better path forward.