Good web design is about more than portraying a brand, marketing, or good impressions. When design is centered around helping your customer meet their needs and reducing confusion & frustration, using a deep understanding of technology users’ psychology (a field called User Experience or UX), it can make a difference to your bottom line to the tune of millions of dollars. This is how employing UX methods helped four different organizations.
Expedia ($12 million dollars in increased revenue in 1 year). Expedia, a travel booking website, found that they were losing millions due to visitors abandoning transactions during the checkout process – at a point where the visitors were already convinced to spend their money. Analytics of the failed transactions showed a pattern – these particular visitors appeared confused with one single field on the ‘address’ form, which asked for the visitor’s “Company”. Since this prompt came during the payment process, they entered their bank’s name instead, and then filled the rest of the address form with the bank’s address instead of their own. The website’s automated payment software would then reject the transaction because the address did not match the billing address on their credit card. These visitors abandoned Expedia, likely buying their tickets elsewhere. Just removing the text field for “Company” saw an immediate increase in revenue of $12 million over the next year.
The $300 million dollar button. Founder of User Interface Engineering, Jared M. Spool, describes a case study where his team was asked to improve the design of an e-commerce website. This online retailer was experiencing a common e-commerce phenomenon called shopping cart abandonment; visitors abandon the transaction after already adding items to their shopping cart. Usability tests, including web analytics of visitor behaviour, and in-person observations of shoppers, showed that the problem lay with a single button during the checkout process. After clicking on Checkout, they were given two options: Register or Login – the website required visitors to have an account in order to complete the purchase. First-time visitors were very resistant to creating an account, expressing that they did not want to “have a relationship” with the online retailer. Even when they were not first-time visitors, they often could not remember their password and username combination, thus necessitating creating a new account. Even having a ‘retrieve password’ option did not help – over 150,000 visitors requested a password retrieval every single day, and only 25% of those completed the transaction. The redesign team performed a simple change – remove the Register button, and allow visitors to Checkout and complete the transaction without requiring registration. This lead to a $15 million increase in the very first month, and $300 million in the first year after the change.
thetrainline.com ($2.8 million per year in increased sales). UK rail ticketing & journey planning website thetrainline.com receives 20 million visits every month, and its mobile app is the #1 travel app in the UK. Still, the company analyzed user behaviour on the site to see where improvements could be made. One of the design changes highlighted to visitors when availability for a certain train or ticket type was running low, and prompted visitors to buy the tickets before they were sold out. This change led to a 4.5% increase in conversion (sale) rates, translating into $2.8 million increase in revenue. Additionally, like the online retailer above, analysis of the user journey through the transaction showed a sharp 30% drop-off in conversions during the checkout process. Removing the requirement to register or login led to another $1.4 million increase in gross profit per year.
Mozilla Firefox (70% decrease in support requests). Mozilla, creator of the Firefox browser, was fielding up to 11,000 support requests a month with less than 45% of the requests being addressed within 24 hours. One major reason for the high number of support requests was that users simply found it very difficult to find information in the extensive FAQ and support sections of the website. UX professionals at the Nielsen Norman Group conducted deep analysis of site visitor’s behaviours on the site, their pain points and most-desired information, and reconstructed the landing page and internal structure (called information architecture) of the support section. Rapid testing using paper prototypes of the redesigns meant that they could test up to 7 new designs over just 2 weeks, which saved not just on time but expenditure on functional, coded, actual websites. Over the 3-month period of the UX redesign effort, the number of support requests dropped to only about 2,000 support requests a month (because people could actually find the information they were looking for), and 90% of all support requests were being answered within 24 hours.
What helped each of these organizations was a dedication to understanding user behaviour and needs. This is done through the use of both quantitative UX methods (e.g., web analytics) as well as qualitative UX methods (e.g., usability testing, observation, interviews). Today, UX efforts are a huge part of how tech giants like Google and Microsoft design to capture the consumers’ hearts (and wallets). Yet, despite the demonstrable benefits of UX, many UX practitioners say that a lot of their time is spent advocating even for the need for UX efforts, especially early in the planning and design process when change is cheapest and fastest. In the end, user satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) can make a big impact on your business, and UX has time and time again shown that it is worth the investment.
Dr. Cameron Teoh