Balancing UX Design and Conversion-Rate Optimization

August 2, 2021

Whether you are designing a Web site or a mobile app, both UX design and conversion-rate optimization (CRO) play important roles in lead generation, conversion, and retention. To achieve optimal results, you need to establish a symbiotic relationship between UX design and CRO, in which they supplement one another’s efforts and work together to achieve common goals.

Focusing too much on either UX design or CRO is often to the detriment of the other, so it’s important to strike the right balance between them. Before I provide some tips on how to balance UX design and CRO, let’s look at these two terms in context.

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The Importance of Good UX Design

The aim of good UX design is to provide your customers with a digital-product experience that is efficient, easy to use, navigable, free of bugs, and able to fulfill its intended function.

The easiest way to explain this is through an example. Let’s consider the pop-up message shown in Figure 1. At first sight, it might seem to be pretty good. It’s text is brief and straightforward. However, it’s likely to cause some people to click the wrong button because some users associate the word cancel with closing a window. As a result, people are likely to click Cancel when they want to leave the meeting.

Figure 1—A pop-up message
A pop-up message

Image source:Invespcro

To eliminate any chance for misunderstanding and improve the user experience, you could simplify the message text and change the buttons’ labels to Leave Meeting and Don’t Leave, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2—A revised pop-up message
A revised pop-up message

Good UX design helps users to do what they actually want to do when interacting with your app or Web site. A good user experience enhances users’ engagement with your product and lets them seamlessly complete their interactions—which might include conversion actions such as subscribing or purchasing a product.

Thus, a good user experience actually improves CRO by ensuring that people continue engaging with your brand until they are ready to convert.

The Importance of Conversion-Rate Optimization

Good CRO entails discovering how to move leads through your site or app and help these users take the desired actions. In essence, the role of CRO is to increase the number of people who interact with your calls to action (CTAs).

You can improve your site or app’s conversion-rate optimization greatly by using specialized tools, applying best practices, and doing a lot of A/B testing. Tools that can help you to improve your research, gather feedback, and provide useful analytics include the following:

  • search-engine optimization (SEO) tools
  • tools for creating landing pages and pop-up messages
  • tools for collecting customer feedback
  • heatmapping tools

UX design can elevate a mundane, perhaps boring CRO solution to produce a memorable experience. But UX design and CRO should have one common goal: creating a large number of loyal customers.

How to Balance UX Design and Conversion-Rate Optimization

As I explained earlier, UX design plays a big role in CRO. UX research can reveal areas of opportunity and validate the design solutions you’ve formulated. Both UX design and CRO benefit from iterative design and testing.

To boost organizational efficiency, UX design and CRO teams need to work together to attain the desired business goals. How can you balance the two?

1. Understand the needs of the people who use your platform.

Anything you design should start with the user in mind. Software development teams have quickly learned that users often do not behave in a predictable manner. This is especially true for less technology-savvy users who do not have a lot of experience interacting with digital products.

This is the reason we build demos, perform beta-tests with potential users, and provide early access to potential users. These are all opportunities to gather valuable feedback. Understanding how people are using your product and what they are trying to accomplish with it makes it much easier to deliver something that fulfills their expectations.

2. Conduct expert reviews or usability testing to design a better user interface.

Jacob Nielsen’s research indicates that, when a company uses UX design to improve the customer experience, this boosts both its key performance indicators (KPIs) and the organization’s return on investment (ROI). Thus, a 10% investment in User Experience results in approximately an 83% conversion lift.

Amazon has built its incredible success and ROI by focusing intensely on the customer experience throughout the buyer’s journey. Plus, the company continually measures the user experience. Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, reckons that a long-term focus on customer experience is preferable to a short-term focus on profit. Therefore, Amazon

  • regularly conducts A/B tests on all its customer-facing user interfaces
  • continually updates and redesigns its tools and services based on analytics data

3. Use data analytics to gain useful insights about how people interact with your platform and improve CRO.

Focusing on analytics, including ways of easily getting feedback straight from your prospects, can help boost your platform’s bottom line. You’ll get useful data that helps you understand what you should focus on and what to cut out completely. You can also use analytics to do the following:

  • Track and measure your content’s performance.
  • Better analyze jumps, dips, or fluctuations in your conversions.
  • Track your site visitors, including their sources, or referrers, and the time spent on particular pages.
  • Check how users interact with your content using heatmapping tools.
  • A/B test your product pages to determine which images, CTAs, colors, button labels, pricing, and copy convert best.

Organizations can also use chat, surveys, and other CX software to gather additional insights. For example, HubSpot asks site visitors multiple-choice questions to understand what they want to achieve, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3—HubSpot’s multi-choice questions
HubSpot's multi-choice questions

Image source: Backlinko

4. Avoid focusing too much on CRO and harming the user experience.

If you focus solely on conversions, you’ll fail to pay enough attention to the user’s needs. This can be detrimental to the user experience in the long term, leading to the following issues:

  • a high churn rate
  • lower brand equity
  • lower customer retention and customer lifetime value

For example, let’s say you want to generate more leads. To do that, you might decide to increase the numbers of CTAs, pop-up windows, or push notifications throughout your Web site or app. After three months or so, you might discover that you’ve actually generated fewer leads than before your whole experiment began.

In other words, by focusing too much on CRO, you’ve diminished the quality of the user experience. Since the user experience impacts conversion rates, you’ve ended up in a worse position than where you started. In the end, you might figure out that the number and quality of your CTAs were fine, but that necessary UX improvements such as improving your Web site or app’s navigation or optimizing your checkout experience have actually resulted in higher conversions.

There is nothing wrong with doing heavy CRO experimentation, but you first need to ensure that you’ve got the user experience right.

Why You Need to Focus on Both UX Design and Conversion-Rate Optimization

UX design and CRO should complement one another. UX design ensures that your Web site’s entire user flow matches users’ expectations and that you’ve identified and fixed potential areas of friction to ensure a smooth user experience. In contrast, CRO studies your visitors’ behaviors, enabling you to develop hypotheses, conduct A/B testing, and iteratively make whatever design modifications would have the greatest impact on getting users to take a desired action.

CRO experiments that are informed by UX research are more likely to deliver useful results because they help CRO teams to focus on areas that would have a profound impact on Web-site conversions.

When your UX design solutions integrate CRO, you’ll end up with a compelling customer experience that doesn’t compromise on conversion rates. 

Head of Marketing at Infinum

Zagreb, Croatia

Bojan BajićBojan graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology and has had his head wrapped around digital ever since. With experience in the automotive, scientific publishing, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), and information technology (IT) industries, Bojan enjoys discovering new ways to reinvent products and services through technology.  Read More

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