User Experience Optimization : 14 Ways to Measure, Quantify & Optimize For UX Success

Janice Yau
October 6, 2020
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User experience optimization isn’t just about what your product can do for users — it’s also about how your product makes people feel when they’re using it.

But from a business perspective, optimizing the user experience (UX) does much more than simply delight your users. Developing a better UX strategy today can save you time and money in the long run.

The purpose of a UX strategy is to align business goals with product design and development to ensure every customer interaction is optimized for a specific outcome. By pinpointing user needs and building a product that caters to your customers (rather than the other way around), you can create products that better match your customer needs with less trial and error (and expenses!).

Keep reading to learn how — and why — to build or beef up a UX strategy that is effective for your users and efficient for your business.

Why UX strategy is good for business

In order to balance business goals with usability, you need to develop a UX strategy built on real-world data. That is, your UX decisions should be based on research (including metrics, user interviews, feedback, and competitive analysis) as well as business goals and constraints (like budget, project scope, and how the product fits into the company’s greater mission).

The more you can reduce risk and replace assumptions with hard facts and quantifiable data, the less time and money you’ll waste on developing features or products that users don’t actually want. So, today, we’re going to look at how you can measure, quantify, and optimize digital product UX with a combination of strategy, metrics, user feedback, and best practices.

How to measure UX: Core KPIs for tracking success

When first deciding which key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on, it helps to work backward from your end goals. Your metrics should be defined by your objectives. So, if you’re looking at the question of user experience optimization, start by observing user interaction with your product and identify any bottlenecks or roadblocks.

Then, once you know what the problem is, you can take a step back to see what can be done to streamline UX at that step. Some of the most common behavioral metrics you might look at to measure UX success include time on task, completion rates, error rates, adoption, and retention.

1. Average time on task

This KPI tells you how long a user spends completing a specific task. Generally speaking, the more quickly users can complete a task successfully, the better the overall UX.

If you want to get more specific data on how customers use your product, consider breaking this metric down into two segments: Average length of task completion on first attempt and average length of task completion on repeat attempts.

Note that this breakdown is particularly valuable for repetitive tasks that the user must complete frequently. So, you wouldn’t look at first attempt vs. repeat attempts when measuring onboarding or registration, since each user should only go through each of those processes once. However, you could certainly measure how long it takes the average user to complete onboarding and make adjustments to streamline the process as much as possible.

2. Task completion rate

Also known as “task success rate,” this metric reveals what percentage of users complete each step in a user flow.

It’s easiest to measure completion rate for defined tasks that have a clear start and end. For instance, if you’re measuring the success rate for registration, it’s obvious when users fail to complete it because they simply exit the app before creating their account.

While this metric doesn’t actually diagnose a problem, it does allow product designers to see where users are having trouble. It could be that users drop off at confusing junctions, when too much effort is required, or when the next step isn’t clear. A low task completion rate signals that you need to redesign that aspect of your user flow.

3. Error occurrence rate

Human error occurrence rate tracks how often users make a mistake during a specific task. Measuring error rate can help you understand where users are struggling with your product, which can be used to help guide future product updates and design decisions.

Tracking error rate helps you answer questions like:

  • Is there a need for greater education or training?
  • Is the interface too complicated?
  • Are there ways to simplify the task to minimize or even prevent common errors from occurring?

By highlighting common mistakes users make, this metric allows you to see how the software or platform could be redesigned to minimize the error. For instance, if users frequently make mistakes filling out a form, it could be that the fields don’t clearly indicate how to format the required information. Or maybe the form is too long, causing users to skip over certain fields.

Illustration of two windows with a person's name and date of birth

4. Adoption rate

Your general adoption rate looks at the number of new users gained over a specified time period. However, you should also consider measuring adoption of new features as you roll them out. This provides insight into how quickly your product is growing or how many customers are trying out a new feature.

For example, if no one uses a new feature when it’s launched, there might be an issue with your navigation system or a need for greater user education. On the other hand, it could be that users don’t see the feature as valuable and there might not be a need for it.

5. Retention rate

Retention rate measures what percentage of users continue using your product long-term. You can calculate retention by comparing your daily active users against daily new users. Depending on the lifecycle of your product, you might want to measure retention in cohorts — that is, track how many users are retained over a period of one week, one month, three months, six months, and so on.

Looking at retention rates helps identify which features to prioritize and clarify the best next steps on your product road map. For instance, if people access a new feature as soon as it’s live but then never use it again, it’s obvious that they are aware of the feature but either don’t find it useful or enjoyable to use.

How to quantify UX: Collecting user feedback

To get the full picture of the user experience, you need to go straight to the source. Collecting user feedback helps quantify aspects of the user experience that can’t be tracked automatically — like what users think of your product as a whole as well as specific interactions and features.

Metrics based on user feedback are often referred to as attitudinal KPIs, because they quantify how a user feels about the product experience (rather than just how the interactions play out).

1. Net promoter score

Illustration of a Net Promoter Score (NPS) example)

Net promoter score (NPS) seeks to quantify UX with one basic question: “How likely are you to recommend this product to someone else?” Answers are provided on a scale of one to ten ranging from not likely at all to extremely likely. Whether or not a user would recommend your product or service tells you not only whether they plan to continue using it, but whether they’re happy enough to go out of their way to promote your product on their own.

2. Customer satisfaction

Similar to NPS, calculating your customer satisfaction (CSAT) score is a quick way to quantify the user experience. Simply ask users how satisfied they are with the product and have them select one of five options, ranging from very unsatisfied to very satisfied. Replies are typically assigned a value out of 100 and your average CSAT score is displayed as a percentage.

You can collect data for your CSAT score during user interviews or through online surveys. If you’d rather reach out to users while they’re actively using the product, schedule a popup to appear after two or three successful tasks or interaction that asks “How likely would you be to recommend this to a friend?”

To get more nuanced results, consider measuring CSAT at various points of the user experience to gain a wider understanding of how users feel while using the product. For instance, new users might answer differently when they first sign up or complete onboarding than users who’ve been using the product for several months.

3. System usability scale

The system usability scale (SUS) involves a questionnaire that helps product designers quantify how easy their product is to use and how successfully it serves its functions. The original SUS questionnaire, created by John Brooke in 1986, asks users to rate a series of statements on a scale of one to ten.

Illustration of a System Usability Scale (SUS) example

With statements ranging from “I found this product unnecessarily complex” to “I imagine that most people would learn to use this software quickly,” the SUS is designed to uncover users’ feelings about a product’s user experience, features, and interface. You can hold user interviews and talk to them live on the phone or send out the questionnaire via email.

How to optimize UX: Best practices for modern digital products

When it comes to optimizing the user experience, there are several best practices to keep in mind when designing the interface, developing features, and planning your future product roadmap. Following these best practices will help you elevate the user experience and hopefully nudge your behavioral and attitudinal KPIs in the right direction.

1. Intuitive interface

The user experience is more than just how customers use your product and what benefits it offers. UX is also about the ease with which they can get the most value from your product or service. For digital solutions, the user interface and information architecture play a large role in how easy or difficult a product is to learn and master.

An easy way to simplify user interactions and reduce error margins is designing products to pre-populate documents and forms whenever possible with user data that's previously been entered and stored (features like this are what helped Instacart onboard contractors 270% faster!).

2. Appropriate onboarding flow

A steep learning curve or difficult onboarding process can cost you users before they’ve even experienced the full potential of your product. In many cases, the initial learning curve can be reduced by simplifying registration and implementation. For more complex products that can’t be reasonably simplified without stripping away core features, creating a more detailed onboarding process allows you to educate users from the get-go.

3. Single Sign-On capabilities

The convenience of single sign-on reduces friction by enabling users to access multiple tools or features from one account. Not only does this create a less cumbersome cross-platform user experience, but it also prevents unnecessary frustration, makes password management a breeze, and results in fewer password reset requests.

4. Premium branding integrations

Premium branding offers a user-friendly alternative to offsite portals and third-party logins. Redirecting users to a third-party login page disrupts the UX, complicates the user flow, and makes the entire process of using your product feel like it requires more effort.

Plus, sending users away from your platform or website takes away from your brand. By offering premium branding experiences to your users, you’re creating a seamless UX and benefiting your brand image by keeping users within your ecosystem.

See for yourself how slick premium branding can be with this example of Dropbox Sign’s signer page in action.

Screenshot of the Dropbox Sign signer page in action

5. Mobile-friendly design

In this day and age, the importance of creating mobile-friendly (if not mobile-first) products is a given. Your users have come to expect modern digital products that work seamlessly across multiple devices and screen sizes. From a UX perspective, the ability to access your platform anytime, anywhere creates one less point of friction that could interrupt a positive experience.

6. Scalable systems

Not only are the best digital products easy to get started with, but they’re also built to handle increasing demand as user needs scale.

When designing or updating your software or product, consider the value of offering collaborative capabilities and cross-platform synchronization that would allow multiple users to access shared information. This is especially relevant when designing for remote teams and B2B audiences.

Is your customer experience competition-ready?

In a world where the majority of companies are competing on customer experience yet the minority of customers say that companies are actually delivering worthwhile experiences; we hope these 14 strategies, metrics, and best practices help you build a UX strategy that’s highly effective for users and employees alike.

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