Last week, myself and my colleague Ginny headed across the Pennines to speak at RealUX, an informal UX meet up in Manchester aimed at bringing UX designers and CRO professionals together to knowledge share and network.

The theme of this month’s event was collaboration in UX. Myself and Ginny discussed the importance of collaboration with acquisition teams, followed by Llara, Head of UX at Userconversion who covered collaboration in the ideation and design process.

For those of you who didn’t brave storm Gareth to make it to the event, this post will summarise our key takeaways.

CRO meetup

Following a range of algorithm updates over the last few years, Google is taking a more human approach and is becoming focused on serving the websites that users want to use. As such, UX is more important from an organic perspective than ever before. So how can we, as UX designers and CRO practitioners, work with SEO teams to ensure we create great experiences that also help increase visibility?

Take a mobile first approach

The ‘year of mobile’ has well and truly been and gone and taking a mobile-first approach from a UX design perspective is nothing new. However, it’s worth highlighting that being mobile first is not just beneficial from a pure UX perspective.

In line with the rising mobile traffic levels over the last decade, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in March last year, meaning Google is now using the mobile experience to assess the quality and relevance of websites.

Gone are the days of stripped back content, we now need to ensure mobile offers a consistent experience and quality content to stand a chance of ranking against competitors. So what can we do to help?

  • Consistency is key. Where possible, look for opportunities to create a consistent experience across all devices. This aids learnability and facilitates cross-device usage, as well as ensuring users are not missing out by using your site on mobile. This example from PANDORA shows a mobile-first approach to checkout design, where the use of a single column form means that the experience hardly changes from desktop to mobile.
Desktop Pandora 610px Mobile Pandora 610px
  • Really get to know your mobile users. We are massive advocates of moderated user research, however, we’d encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to mobile user research. True mobile usage doesn’t occur in one place and to truly optimise for mobile, you need to gather an understanding of outside factors that could influence the way your users behave, e.g. by conducting in-store research.

Site speed

Although intrinsically linked to mobile first indexing due to the impact of poor network connections, site speed is arguably even more important as it has the potential to impact all users, regardless of device or connection.

Google data shows that a one second delay in mobile load times can impact mobile conversion by up to 20%. From an organic perspective, the main thing to consider here is the impact on bounce rate.

This data shows that the slower the load time, the higher the chance of bounce. It’s widely agreed that a bounce sends a signal to Google that the content on the page was irrelevant and didn’t meet with the users’ expectations and as such can have a detrimental impact on the likelihood that the page will continue to rank.

This is a real shame, especially if you’ve invested time and resource into your user experience and creating great content. So, what can we do to help?

  1. There are some useful free tools available that can be a good starting point in identifying opportunities for optimising your site’s performance such as www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/testmysite as well as the audits available within Chrome. Alternatively, if you’d like to speak to our development team about our bespoke performance audit which reviews sites against 24 factors which could impact site performance, then get in touch.
  2. Consider the impact of insight tools. We primarily use 3 tools; VWO, Hotjar and Google Analytics. Without these tools we couldn’t do our jobs effectively, however, it’s important that we consider the impact that any new on-site tools could have on site performance. We always recommend using as few tools as possible, as well as having a clear out every so often to remove any legacy tools that could be unnecessarily clogging up your code base.
  3. Get developers involved in concept design. Your developers know your site best and as such, should be involved in the ideation stage to ensure solutions are a) possible and b) efficient.

EAT

Last year Google rolled out a new core algorithm update which resulted in many websites losing organic visibility. While Google Liaison officers initially claimed that it was a global update and there was no particular group or type of sites affected, after monitoring the performance and rankings for a couple of weeks following the update, to SEOs it became clear that the majority of sites affected were YMYL (‘Your Money Your Life’) sites.

According to Google Search Quality Guidelines, YMYL ‘are the pages which could potentially impact the future happiness, health or wealth of users’. The majority of those pages had a clear lack of EAT signals (Expertise, Authority, Trust).

Essentially, these pages are of the highest importance and standard to Google due to their potential to directly impact users’ lives. So, what should you do in order to comply with this algorithm update?

  • Always look for opportunities to implement expertise, authority and trust signals across your website. Whether its creating author profiles for your blog posts to showcase the expertise and authority or adding the trust signals across the checkout process, ensure that EAT is consistent across your website.

  • Seek for quality and relevance at a site level. Remember that quality can mean a number of things such as content quality, user experience, deceptive advertising, technical SEO etc.

  • Finally, align your SEO strategy with UX and CRO - it’s important to develop a ‘culture of collaboration’ between these teams. Google has made it quite clear that now they care about user experience alongside technical SEO, therefore to achieve the best results always aim to pair the two together.

UX Playbook

Late last year Google’s UX playbook was leaked. These documents provided a set of UX guidelines, categorised by sector, for creating a seamless user experience. Not only do these documents provide some useful examples of these guidelines in action, but from an organic view, they also provide us with insight into the things Google see as important from a UX perspective.

Google is ambiguous about ranking factors and, as such, we don’t know for sure which of Google’s elements really impact your site’s likelihood of ranking, but we do know that Google is taking a more human approach which means UX is more likely than ever to be a ranking factor.

We’ve already written an article about Google’s UX playbook and how we’d always recommend AB testing, even recommendations endorsed by Google, which you can read here.

Relevancy

Collaboration isn’t just important from an organic perspective. There’s also an opportunity to better integrate with PPC campaigns through increased relevancy. Jeremy Smith from Conversion Rate Experts comments that “Every aspect of marketing is entirely useless unless it produces conversions.”

Essentially what he means is you can drive as much traffic to a website as you want, however, if the user experience is not conducive to driving conversions, it’s wasted investment. Any business running PPC campaigns should be concerned with increasing conversion rates, as this will reduce cost per acquisition, allowing for further investment in their digital marketing strategy and driving a stronger ROI.

This part isn’t rocket science, we’d recommend;

  • Ensuring you’re putting effort into reviewing and creating well optimised, relevant PPC landing pages. Treat them as you would other pages, conduct heuristic reviews, heat map analysis and user research to gather an understanding of the key barriers.
  • Solutions should be validated through AB testing. Something as simple as replicating PPC ad copy on key landing pages has driven a 9% increase in conversion rate for one of our clients.

Effective Ideation

Llara’s talk focused on the ideation stage and how to encourage collaboration at this integral point in the process. Here are our key three takeaways from Llara’s discussion;

  1. I like to use the phrase ‘never wireframe alone’ and Llara reiterated this sentiment when she discussed the importance of group sketching sessions, rather than individual practitioners developing solutions alone.
  2. Don’t be afraid of asking ‘silly’ questions, we’re all learning and if you don’t know how to do something, someone else probably will! Llara discussed the benefits of weekly surgery style sessions with analytics and development teams to help build relationships and encourage questions.
  3. Involving everyone in ideation sessions might not always be the answer. Although there’s clearly value in ensuring different teams have the chance to input into concept designs, it’s not always necessary to invite everyone to every session. This can sometimes be unnecessarily time consuming and as such a drain on resource. Llara suggested 2-3 people is just enough people to bounce ideas off while other teams can be kept in the loop afterwards.

Overall, a great evening of learning and collaboration. If you’d like to watch the talks in full, you can find them via RealUX’s Twitter page.