A Beginner’s Guide to User Experience: UX Made Easy (Part I)

If you’re working in the digital space, you’ll have no doubt come across the term UX (shorthand for user experience). But what exactly is UX – and why is it so important? In the first of a two-part series, Everydayhero’s lead Product Designer and Developer, Luke Brooker, gives us a lesson in User Experience 101 and explains how not-for-profits can benefit from embracing this part of the design process. 

So what is UX anyway?

In a nutshell, UX is the experience someone has when trying to achieve an outcome with your product or service. For charities, it might be the experience of making an online donation to your cause or learning about and signing up to participate in an event. It’s not just the interface someone interacts with on a screen – although that’s certainly a part of it –  but the entire journey they take in order to accomplish their goal. Another way of putting it is that UX isn’t just concerned with functionality and usability – it’s about how your experience makes your customer feel. Great UX will result in customers feeling delighted and sharing their positive experiences with their friends. Poor UX leads to feelings of frustration and may cause customers to abandon their goal entirely. For charities, who are almost always looking to inspire positive, feel-good emotions in donors,  it’s easy to see how a badly-designed experience could have a knock-on effect on fundraising and lead to you missing out on valuable donor contributions.

Five telltale signs that your UX needs to be improved

So how do you know if your UX needs work? It’s pretty simple really. If the experience runs smoothly, with little need for extra explanations or support, and you’re hitting your conversion KPIs (whatever they may be) then your UX is probably on point. On the other hand, if any of the following are occurring, you might want to take a closer look at what’s really going on:
  1. You find it necessary to provide a lot of basic FAQs to explain how the experience works. Visitors don’t just intuitively ‘get it’.
  2. You need to explain every step of a flow your user must take.
  3. You’re receiving a high volume of support calls to help people complete their goal.
  4. Parts of your experience are never used.
  5. Your conversion rate is low.
It’s important to realise that great user experiences don’t just happen – they’re planned. This, of course, requires an investment in time, budget, and resources. However, the repercussions of not investing in this part of the design process are significant: people rarely return to an experience they found unsatisfying. If you don’t take the time to plan a great experience from the outset, it will ultimately cost you more in the long run.

So your UX needs work. What should you do next?

A range of tools exists which can help you identify some of the problems with your UX. Analytics packages like Hotjar, Full Story and Crazy Egg can provide the tracking you need to understand what your users want, care about and interact with on your site, as well as providing recordings of users’ experiences so you can see for yourself every click of your customer’s mouse. However, there is a limit to what these packages can do as they can’t always get to the root of the problem by themselves. For an in-depth understanding of how visitors are interacting with your experience and to understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’, the most effective methods are in person testing and user interviews. This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking: sites like usertesting.com offer quick user testing of real people with recordings. Armed with this more qualitative intel, you should be able to start solving some of your UX issues.

Three key takeaways to improve your UX

If you’re serious about improving your user experience, here are a few simple rules of thumb to help get you started:

Talk to your users.

One of the hallmarks of great UX is that it is audience-centric, which is why listening to your users and understanding their motivations is absolutely key – even if you think you know already. Even in fundraising, people’s reasons for taking part can vary, so it’s important to take the time to talk to your audience and find out what’s important to them. It’ll provide you with the inspiration and insights required to plan a truly great user experience.

Test, test and test again.

Once you have a plan, allow time to test it with real users to establish if your experience is working as you intended. 5-6 people will be enough to reveal any major flaws.

Seek out broader insights.

There’s plenty of great intel already out there to help you improve your user experience – which is great news for smaller charities with limited research budgets. Here at Everydayhero, where we use these processes every day, we have a wide range of readily available research and insights to help you understand what fundraisers and donors want from their experience, what works and what doesn’t – so it’s not always necessary to completely reinvent the wheel.     UX doesn’t always have to be rigorous and complex, but it should be an iterative process in which you refine, improve and adapt to reach your end goal.  If you’d like to understand more about the various approaches and tools you can employ to help you plan a great experience, keep an eye out for the next article in this series in which we’ll delve a little deeper.