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What Can User Experience Designers Contribute to Conversion Optimization?


user experience increases conversions

Several years ago, there weren’t too many companies talking about A/B testing. The techno-media buzz was around Web 2.0, iPhones and iPads, great apps, and the explosion of social media. While this frenzy was developing, user experience (UX) designers were staying very busy doing what they do best: designing and developing rich and smart interfaces that make this world a better place.

In the new age of big data, more and more companies are either embracing or starting to pay attention to the undeniable benefits of A/B testing. With recent reports stating that companies that allocate 25% or more of their marketing budget towards optimization see notably higher website conversion rates, it’s hard for companies to ignore.

The New Heroes

Without a doubt, data and analytics is seeing green right now, and these professionals are currently our business champions. Rightfully so: As more companies get on board with optimization, we are going to need more and more analysts, analytics engineers and data scientists to read the numbers and help us to see and understand what’s going on and where the data should lead us.

Indeed, analysts are the new heroes of the web but as a user experience designer, I can’t help but see the glass as being half full. Now more than ever, the field of UX design has an opportunity to contribute to an organization’s bottom line in measurable and recognizable ways. While it’s always been nice for folks to pat designers on the back and tell us how great things look, it’s even better when monthly business reviews showing great numbers and trends can point back to a successful testing and optimization campaign in which UX designers played a key role.

The 5 Competencies of User Experience Design

The success that UX design brings to A/B testing can be attributed to the depth of the field and the inherent skills of each designer. I’ve kept a printout at my desk for several years now titled “The 5 Competencies of User Experience Design”. It’s a great overview of all that’s involved with UX design authored by Steve Psomas and published back in 2007. I’ve kept it close by as both a reminder and a resource when discussing UX design with others.

As the article states, the 5 competencies of UX design are:

  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Usability Engineering
  • Visual Design
  • Prototype Engineering

While some UX designers demonstrate expertise in all of these areas, others are stronger in several.  A strong UX design team should consist of talent that covers all 5 of these competencies.

Let’s break down these 5 competencies to help us identify their value with A/B testing.

Information Architecture

What is it?

Structure and navigation scheme

What is involved?

Contextual analysis, business process, business rules, product branding, product roadmap, UI roadmap, corporate & product strategy, re-findability

How and why is this good for A/B testing?

Experts in IA help us navigate our sites in the best way possible. In addition, they can quickly identify problem areas with the information flow and help optimize the path towards increased conversions. For complex sites, they are equipped with tools and methodologies (such as card sorting) to develop optimal navigational patterns.

Interaction Design

What is it?

Layout, task completion, and component flow

What is involved?

Visual framework, user feedback, error placement, labels and content, user assistance, form design and flow, animation, button groups and placement, page-element hierarchy, product branding, page-level information hierarchy, user motivation, task context, use of UI library components

How and why is this good for A/B testing?

Experts in interaction design are well versed in the principles of great usability and interactive design components. Their job is to bring together the layers of an interface (code, design and content) to form a successful, final product.

Usability Engineering

What is it?

The study and testing of expected user behavior versus actual user behavior with the goal of creating a user-friendly interface.

What is involved?

Test goals, tasks, navigation, content, presentation, interaction, participant recruitment, personas, summative testing, formative testing, recommendations, working prototype environment

How and why is this good for A/B testing?

Usability testing will help identify trouble spots, validate test ideas before implementing, and help identify better solutions.

Visual Design

What is it?

The visual treatment of interface pages, elements and components.

What is involved?

Visual hierarchy, similarity, location, color, texture, shape, direction, size, typeface, context, motion, contrast, saturation, emotional appeal, visual perception, pre-attentive processing, persuasion design

How and why is this good for A/B testing?

Visual designers understand the fundamental principles related to design, emotion and perception. Their use of color, contrast, location, emotion, and size are key to quality conversion optimization efforts.

Prototype Engineering

What is it?

Prototype and code development of the functional concepts

What is involved?

Interactive states, designer’s intentions, page templates, technical approach, UI patterns, UI framework, UI components

How and why is this good for A/B testing?

Prototype engineers (commonly designers, developers or both) take great concepts and turn them into functional products. In addition to these contributions, well-trained developers focused on A/B testing also contribute greatly to campaign setups, testing tool integration, and scripting.

UX Designers FTW!

When we take a good look at the broad skillsets of user experience designers, it’s not hard to see how vital their role is in conversion optimization. Embrace the depth and knowledge UX designers can bring to your A/B testing campaigns as you continue to harness the power of your data!