Keeping Score – Why & How You Should Benchmark Your UX

Each experience is subjective and finding exactly the right UX path to success requires you to be as objective as possible.

After reading a few things about why UX design matters, you’ve decided to give it a try.

You’ve got a team working on your next big digital product and eliminating even the tiniest bumps on the road, AKA, sign-up buttons in the wrong places. And you’ve finally learned to distinguish between sky blue and baby blue – which is a pretty big relief to your graphic designer.

You know the UX process involves plenty of testing – or prototyping, as them UX designers like to call it – but how do you know which version does the job you’re paying to get done?

*hint: it’s the one that helps your business grow the most*

You could ask your customers – but each experience is subjective, and finding exactly the right UX path to success requires you to be as objective as possible.

The UX process involves more trial and error than what you think – though some mistakes are more expensive than others – and if you want to succeed, you need the cold facts, right here and right now.

Which is where benchmarking comes to save the day – or in simpler words, think of it as your college mid-term paper. Only, in this case, you’re checking your own paper. And putting your own grades. And failing yourself if you’ve done poorly.

Daunting, we know – but at least you can brag you know a fancy word as benchmarking. Keep reading on to find out more about why you should bother to become your own biggest critic and why learning one more fancy word related to UX design might help your business more than you think!

How many new words you’ve got for me here?

Well, probably quite a lot but at least you won’t have to download another word-per-day app AND you’ll start converting more effectively. Though you might want to skip randomly telling words like that on dates so you don’t end up on #tindernightmares.

But out of all words creating havoc in your head, clear some memory space the all-mighty benchmarking.

Benchmarking is a way to measure the success of your user experience.

By using the power of metrics, it’s here to clearly show you how you’re making progress by giving you numbers, charts, and statistics to look at – the same way your mid-term papers tracks your progress throughout the school year.

*well, sort of – but you see our point*

If done properly, benchmarking could easily become your most reliable advisor because of two reasons: it’s done over time and it’s not as subjective as asking your users directly about their experience.

On top of that, the same way you could do a paper on basically every subject at school, you can use benchmarking to test the progress of pretty much everything– websites, apps, and even the most random things like how a better video presentation of your product makes your sales go up.

And yes, competitors included. *wink, wink*

Are you saying I can benchmark my competitors?

We’re not only saying you can – we’re suggesting you should.

Benchmarking is a way to measure the success of your user experience.

And besides, it’s always a good idea to bring in a massive colorful chart to your next business meeting – everyone loves seeing progress, especially when winning over the competition.

On top of that, by benchmarking, you’d be able to discover the potential flaws and weakness not only in your user experience but in your competitors’ UX as well. Why repeat their mistakes when you could save yourself a headache?

*basically, this is like snooping in the mid-term paper of the guy sitting next to you and realizing that copy-pasting the whole Wiki page in your paper is a bad idea*

But in order to do it properly, you need a reliable system in place – the same as teachers have a grading system. Though this one isn’t supposed to ruin your self-confidence from an early age but instead help you actually learn.

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So, I’m basically back to high school right now, am I?

Well, not really – and at least bad mid-term papers didn’t cost you a fortune as poor UX might do over time.

By benchmarking, you’d be able to discover the potential flaws and weakness not only in your user experience but in your competitors’ UX as well.

Competitors aside, you need to benchmark for your own sake.

When creating the user experience for your clients – or customers, or users, or visitors, depending on your company – they expect to get the same experience when communicating with you and your business, no matter the channel they do it through.

That means they expect to get the same positive experience no matter whether they’re trying to buy a new ski-jacket from your spotless desktop website or your sloppy mobile app.

The thing is, they don’t really care how you do it, they just want to buy their ski-jacket and go skiing in Aspen. It’s your job to take care of the hows and work on maximizing the positive experience through all channels.

*hint: take care of the sloppy mobile app!*

Benchmarking is one great way not only to measure business growth & progress but to get an insight into your weakest links – and since a chain is strong as its weakest link… you’ll know where to put in more work so the positive experience is consistent at all times.

How do I benchmark, then? *feeling smart*

Benchmarking is one of those rare things where overthinking and over-planning are actually helpful. The more precise you are with your study, the better your results are going to come and the more use you’ll be able to get out of them.

Benchmarking is one great way not only to measure business growth & progress but to get an insight into your weakest links.

Here are some tips to get you properly started.

1. Determine what you want to track

You can’t track things if you don’t know what it is that you’re tracking, right?

So start off by deciding what exactly you’ll be looking closely into – it could be the ease of use for your website users or maybe you’d want to measure the time needed to perform a random task from your app.

No matter what you choose to track, most often, it’ll be something related to improving the KPIs – which is kind of the ultimate goal of every UX design.

Once you decide what it is that you’re tracking, don’t change it – even the slightest change can cause your final results not to be reliable and cause you plenty of wrong spent $$$!

2. Set your budget

Benchmarking doesn’t only take time – it takes money and commitment as well.

If you’d like your benchmarking study to be successful, make sure you’ve got down the budget for it – there’s no point in running only a couple of studies and then giving up.

Before moving further ahead, plan how often you’d like to carry out your study. Some companies do it quarterly, while others do it monthly – the ultimate decision is yours.

3. Find your target demographics

Your target demographics is another fancy term but basically, those are the people from your target market that you want to hear from. *people using or caring to use whatever you’re offering to them*

Your target demographics should be very closely related to the goal you’ve decided to focus on. For instance, you can’t measure the time existing users need to sign in to your page if you’re looking to measure how easy & fast your sign-up process is, can you?

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*they already know the process so they’ll do it faster than first-time users*

Most of the time, 5-7 people are enough for you to get some solid results. But if you have the capacity – ahem, time & money – to benchmark more participants, by all means, go for it!

In order for your study to be reliable, you’ll need to keep the same number of people all over again – though it’s okay not to run the tests with the same participants all the time if you decide to benchmark with 15 participants, stick to that number all the time.

Oh, and don’t forget to take basic criteria into account – age, gender, income, and online experience (with yours or another similar product) are just one of the many things you should think about when picking the users judging your UX.

4. Create your script

Hollywood, make some noise!

Joking – this isn’t your movie script.

This is the script for the scenario you want your test subjects to follow. In simpler words, this is telling them what you want them to do in a way that’s clear, easy to understand and very importantly, non-leading even in the slightest.

Strive to give your users some basic tasks that come with a final goal in mind – a good example would be “buy a ski-jacket for $70”.

However, don’t be tempted to tell them how they’re supposed to do that on your – or your competitor’s website – since that would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

And since we’re talking about measuring, you need to include simple evaluative questions for each task. For instance, you could ask them to rank how simple their experience was by asking them to grade it from 1-10 or offering them multiple choice answers, such as easy, fairly easy, average, difficult, very difficult, etc.

Again, once you come up with a script, don’t change it and re-use it every time you’re benchmarking.

5. Go for a dry run first

Yes, we’re actually suggesting you test out the test study first – but then again, would we be UX designers if we didn’t test everything all over again?

The thing why you might want to do this is because it’ll enable you to detect any faults in your script. And by faults in the script we mean tasks or questions your participants fail to understand.

6. Get ready for long-term commitment

So here’s hoping that you didn’t end up on #tindernightmares with your brand-new vocabulary but we’re actually talking about another type of commitment here.

Successful benchmark studies require you to be fully committed to them – if you want to win over your target market, you’ve got to improve your UX all the time.

As the case might be, sticking to your benchmarking routine is key. Remember, one of the big reasons why benchmarking works so well is because it’s done over time, in a slow and steady manner – and slow and steady wins the race in the end, doesn’t it?

I’m ready – let’s bench it off!

Ah, we always appreciate a healthy dose of enthusiasm – job well done!

However, before you go and benchmark every possible thing on your website or mobile app, do think carefully about what your clients would like to see improved the most – and focus your time, money & energy there instead of spreading it all around.

Remember – knowing how to give your users exactly the thing they’re looking for in a manner that’s easy and simple for them to follow is always a winning combination, no matter the niche your business is in.