Conversion Optimization: Measuring Usability In The User Experience (UX)

I recently read a noteworthy article examining conversion optimization and measuring the user experience. This article, written by Sheri Thurow, outlined the results of field tests and new usability tests, which indicated that UX experts don’t always take into consideration their users particular needs to complete essential tasks. It also outlined the various ways in which users are challenged by roadblocks that UX professionals simply hadn’t identified as particularly critical.

Particularly interesting was the writer’s focus on how significant UX is in task completion itself. As she states in her article “Website usability is not about a “coolness” or “wow” factor. It’s about not forcing your personal beliefs or design preferences onto users. It’s about task completion.”

After she outlines the many times she witnessed users struggle with, and then give up on, various tasks out of frustration, she recognized that too many UX experts were simply not identifying critical roadblocks for their customers. Oftentimes she felt UX pros were far too wrapped up in providing a phenomenal design that didn’t necessarily focus on function. Her article was a nod to the importance of usability studies and consistent feedback from users about their experiences. If you do not already employ a variety of user experience testing, it is time to do so. Without it, you simply cannot be sure that they are completing their tasks efficiently.

Articles like this help to focus the changes required by UX professionals away from personal opinions on website usability and onto user task completion. The article’s author recognizes the elements of website usability as effectiveness, efficiency, learn-ability, memorability, error handling and user satisfaction. With a focus on these elements, as drivers in task completion for the user, efficient task completion becomes key. In helping to evaluate this, the author identifies that UX professionals can focus on the number of steps it took for a user to complete a task, the total amount of time it took to complete a task and the number of elements on their site that prevented users from reaching their specific goals.

Gartner reports that a common usability/UI misconception is as follows:

Adding animation and other kinds of client-side technology improves the UX. The “prettier” the UI, the  easier it is to use. It is better to have a UI with lots of dynamic menus, animation, multimedia, rich graphics and other visual effects, even if it slows down the page-load time and decreases the responsiveness of the interface.

In reality, obsessing over a visual experience can result in unnecessary development work that negatively impacts usability, UX, brand experience and overall business value.

If it sounds like a lot of work, the author does identify that yes, it is, but that the better UX pros get at their jobs the easier these items are to identify and work to fix. The writer of the article identified usability studies as key to her work, and her recommendations. This article was a solid outline of the various steps involved in boosting user experience and task efficiency.


Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.