User expe­ri­ence (UX) is short­hand for how a per­son feels when vis­it­ing and nav­i­gat­ing your web­site or appli­ca­tion, as well as how the indi­vid­ual per­ceives its value, use­ful­ness, and usabil­ity. Whether you acknowl­edge it or not, your site has its own dis­tinct UX. The ques­tion is whether it’s work­ing for or against you.

Today’s vis­i­tors expect a high level of UX that com­bines pleas­ing design with per­son­al­ized fea­tures and an easy-to-navigate inter­face. Increas­ingly, brands are com­pared by the online expe­ri­ences they offer, with the most com­pelling and desir­able inter­ac­tions win­ning out.

The Psy­chol­ogy of UX Meets the Psy­chol­ogy of CRO

Suc­cess­ful UX design­ers must have inti­mate knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of users’ per­cep­tions of and reac­tions to var­i­ous site struc­ture and design ele­ments. The psy­chol­ogy of UX con­sid­ers users’ emo­tions and cog­ni­tive lim­i­ta­tions (i.e., how much atten­tion and mem­ory they can use before becom­ing over­loaded). Each design deci­sion is dri­ven by a core ques­tion: What moti­vates human behaviors?

A deep under­stand­ing of moti­va­tors can help you influ­ence vis­i­tors to remain engaged with your con­tent, return to your site, and choose your prod­ucts or ser­vices over the com­peti­tors. Among the most pow­er­ful human moti­va­tors are:

  • Accom­plish­ment
  • Free­dom
  • Con­nect­ed­ness
  • Growth

When UX taps into one of these inter­nal incen­tives or desires, it draws users into a more mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ship with the brand, lead­ing to a sus­tain­able increase in con­ver­sion rates. What form of moti­va­tion do you weave into your brand mes­sage? How does your prod­uct or ser­vice moti­vate peo­ple to engage and stay engaged?

Drive CRO with In-Demand Experiences

What’s the one thing about your site or app that users love most? Is there a defin­ing fea­ture that would send users into an uproar if it went away? The UX imper­a­tive is to cre­ate an in-demand expe­ri­ence. The con­ver­sion rate opti­mizer (CRO) imper­a­tive is to con­tin­u­ally ensure that the right peo­ple eas­ily reach this expe­ri­ence. The two work together to reduce fric­tion, enhance per­son­al­iza­tion, and drive engage­ment from every angle.

Begin tak­ing an experience-centric approach to con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion with these three prin­ci­ples of pow­er­ful UX design.

1. Think Like Your Users

Think­ing like your users helps you dis­cover what is unique about var­i­ous seg­ments, and treat them accord­ingly. The point is to avoid mak­ing assump­tions about UX based on your own behav­iors and pref­er­ences. As a mar­keter, devel­oper, designer, or ana­lyst, you prob­a­bly use the Web much dif­fer­ently than the aver­age vis­i­tor. You’re not the every­day user, so you need to stretch and chal­lenge your think­ing to get inside the every­day user’s head.

One way to think more like your users is to observe and mea­sure their behav­ior. Study their paths like an anthro­pol­o­gist in the field, objec­tively not­ing every detail. Even­tu­ally you’ll amass por­traits of your most com­mon user types—or vis­i­tor personas—that will help you pre­dict future behav­ior and pref­er­ences. Are you using ana­lyt­ics to bet­ter under­stand your vis­i­tors? Are you able to seg­ment based on their behav­iors on your site?

2. Ask Your Users

Another way to learn what users are think­ing and feel­ing is to sim­ply ask them. Con­duct in-person and online sur­veys, cre­ate sim­ple exit ques­tions for users leav­ing your site, have cus­tomer ser­vice reps note indi­vid­u­als’ ques­tions and con­cerns, read reviews—any method you can find to hear from users in their own words.

First-hand sto­ries from the user expe­ri­ence can become your most valu­able asset. A sin­gle story can give you a whole new per­spec­tive on your web­site or app, and help you com­mu­ni­cate your goals to your cowork­ers and exec­u­tives. Andrew Mot­taz of Pro­to­Share, a Web-based col­lab­o­ra­tive wire­fram­ing tool, explains:

By focus­ing on a user story, which can be writ­ten quickly and under­stood at a high level, you can make a pretty good rough-cut at what you should build and what the busi­ness value should be.

Sur­veys and sto­ries aren’t the only way to hear from users. UX research and usabil­ity stud­ies give you direct input on how actual peo­ple inter­act with your site. This can reveal points of fric­tion, user habits and per­cep­tions, and whether or not peo­ple can actu­ally ful­fill their intended pur­pose for vis­it­ing your site.

3. Reduce “Cog­ni­tive Overhead”

Cog­ni­tive over­head is a type of site fric­tion that hap­pens in the user’s head. It’s the doubt, con­fu­sion, inde­ci­sion, and brow-furrowing that users feel when faced with poor design and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. High cog­ni­tive over­head is often the result of a shal­low under­stand­ing of your users’ objec­tives and level of knowl­edge or famil­iar­ity with your brand before enter­ing the site. A Quala­roo user expe­ri­ence guide describes the gap that often exists between mar­keters’ and users’ goals:

Projects usu­ally begin with design briefs, brand­ing stan­dards, high-level project goals, as well as fea­ture and func­tion­al­ity require­ments. While cer­tainly impor­tant, these doc­u­ments amount to lit­tle more than the tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, leav­ing exactly how the web­site will ful­fill the mul­ti­ple user objec­tives (UX) wide open.

Opti­miz­ing user expe­ri­ence begins with look­ing at the objec­tives of the vis­i­tor, and imag­in­ing the poten­tial flows that need to be designed in order for them achieve their goals. What’s the first log­i­cal or intu­itive step for some­one look­ing to com­pare a prod­uct, down­load a report, con­sume and share con­tent, sub­scribe to a ser­vice, or find more infor­ma­tion about their account? What’s the sec­ond step? And where will they ide­ally end up?

User-Centric Design Builds Loyalty

Some com­pa­nies chase spikes in con­ver­sion, doing what­ever it takes to see imme­di­ate results. Then, when the num­bers dip, they’re left scram­bling to find the next quick fix. Sus­tain­able CRO tends to hap­pen grad­u­ally and steadily, with long-term strate­gies cen­tered on get­ting the right peo­ple to form a bond with your brand through engag­ing experiences.

UX is inte­gral to CRO. When prop­erly attended to, it has the power to reduce aban­don­ment and increase con­ver­sion rates. UX is all about ele­vat­ing the users’ goals above your own pre­con­ceived ideas of usabil­ity and design. When you elim­i­nate hur­dles and empower vis­i­tors to achieve their objec­tives, they will view you as a trusted ally and come back for more.