Leaving your users hanging with questions unanswered will have a negative impact on your conversion rate —this is a story on how to enhance your user experience and conversion rate, by providing your users with the right answers on the right time.
You know how it feels like when you’re asking somebody out on a date, and they never reply? I bet you do (if not, then you’re a lucky bastard). Questions unanswered tend to always make us feel insecure, anxious, and frustrated. And it’s usually the same when it comes to conversion — whether we’re talking about the shopping conversion on an e-commerce product page, or the signup rate of a service/product signup form.
I would argue for that in a majority of the cases where a user (who is qualified to convert) does not convert, it is due to one or more critical questions that is left without an answer. We don’t like to make decisions based on too little — or lacking — information.
When questions are left unanswered, there will be a negative effect on the conversion rate.
Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, you may argue. But then, why are so many product pages or signup forms out there lacking such vital, yet easy provided information?
A Typical Example From The E-commerce World
Let’s take a quick example where we assume that I would like to buy myself, say, a new color-changing shower head. Because — well hey, why not, they’re cool, right? So I head over to alibaba.com, search for ”shower head color” and end up with some hits that seem perfectly right. So I decide to check out one of them called ”Fyeer 3” (trust me, this is not a sponsored ad for shower heads, I honestly don’t know where that came from).
Ok, so the product page starts out with some product pics and pricing info — pretty standard. And right after some specifications, technical data, jada jada jada… I couldn’t care less since I’m a very lazy and sloppy shopper with practically no mental effort at the moment.
Wait — here’s something interesting. Some kind of “How to choose” guide that seems fairly simple (let’s hope that the orange Comic Sans headline actually was intended to imply that this will be REALLY easy).
Hmm OK. Point 1–3 all seems fairly reasonable but they still leave me with some basic questions that instantly pops up in my head;
- How do I know if this shower head fits into my shower? After all, it’s me as a shopper and my preconditions that are important here. Does all shower heads have some kind of ”standard” socket/mounting, or are there different ones?
- How does the “color light thing” work? Is there some kind of battery required to provide the light, or is there a super-smart technology that just makes it happen automagically? I hope this wont involve me connecting my shower to the electrical grid, because that seems kinda hazardous.
Maybe there will be some answers to this further down…
…ok, maybe not. As an ignorant Swede, it’s tricky enough for me to try and translate feet into a recognizable number in the metric system. When forced to choose from such a wide range of sizes with no clear distinction, it just puts too much pressure on me. I don’t even know how I would proceed to measure my current shower head — what part of it would you measure? And I certainly don’t want to order the wrong one all the way from China.
Ok. I hope you’re getting the picture, as I don’t want to waste your whole day looking into shower heads on Alibaba. I bet you can do that on your own, if it feels tickling. So let’s proceed to the issue here — how do you actually answer questions in a good way on, for example, a product page? Can you divide questions into certain categories? And maybe more importantly, how do you even find out in the first place which questions may remain around your product or service, hidden & unanswered?
Mapping Out Questions From a User Perspective
So how could the previous product page, but generally any product page out there, be improved by answering the right questions?
You should of course test everything, anytime, as much as you can afford and within reasonable time.
The obvious answer from a UX Designer like myself would be research such as usability testing and observations. You should of course test everything, anytime, as much as you can afford and within reasonable time. Observe the world around your product, and the touch points of when your users interact. To specifically seek out what kind of questions that your signup form, product page, checkout page or similar isn’t answering, you could do with any of the common methods;
- Interviews (Usability Testing) — gather a few (some 4–6) typical customers/targeted personas and have them test your solution. Observe without interfering too much. Try not to ask leading questions. And so on— it’s a science of it’s own to do great user interviews (or even enhance them with eye tracking). Andrew Burmistrov has written a great article on the subject here.
- Online Polls & Insight Tools — a tool like Hotjar works great for both sampling recordings and heatmaps of your visitors, as well as providing integrated polls where you can work with simple questions like ”What information is missing on this page?” or ”What stopped you from signing up?”. A tricky part here though, is that it’s hard to ensure how many of your visitors actually represent your desired target group.
- Field (Guerilla) Research & Observation —get out there in the real world and just observe the circumstances around your users. What and where are their pains? Try and see it from their perspective, and set out to follow your own conversion funnel, whether it’s IRL or online. (This is typically the most difficult method to use if you are on the inside of the company that sells the service or the product, as it will be hard, if not impossible, to exclude yourself from your pre-defined opinions & bias).
Though in the real world, I know lots of us doesn’t always have the time or the resources to do constant user testing. Surrounded by bustling project managers & other fast-paced stakeholders, it would be nice with just some basic best practices to start with, right?
Three Types of Questions
Let’s start with mapping out some kind of “question categories” so that we know what we’re talking about here. In my own work, I have over the years come up with a model where I try to divide questions into one of three different types. This is just my own model & preference, but hopefully you can apply it to your own work.
Some questions are, or should be, obvious for a certain product. Like price, size, color, material, weight, taste, scent, origin and so on. Without knowing the answers to these primary questions, it’s unlikely anyone will be buying your product without strong recommendations or similar. Typically in cognitive science, this could be the same as “factual” or “closed” questions. You could also refer to these as primary questions, but I like to address these types of questions as obvious questions, because it tend to describe the circumstances and expectations of them. (If you want to learn more about questions from a cognitive perspective, I recommend starting with this post).
These obvious questions are specifically important in the awareness phase of discovering a new product or service — as well as in the comparison phasewhen you are comparing similar examples.
For an (online) service, obvious/primary questions could also be what kind of demands are made on me as a user. For example; do I have to provide personal information before I even know if I’m interested in the product — including my credit card information? (*Scary*)
Next up are the secondary or expected questions — not always that obvious, but still possible to expect in most situations, and they usually appear after the user has gained some knowledge or interest. They are often the expected extension of an obvious question — for example; “This cool color-changing shower head has a fair price, but what will the delivery cost be and how long will it take until I get it delivered?”
Finally, there’s the unexpected questions. These are the hardest one’s to imagine or assume, and they can often be linked to very unique and specific user needs. We’re usually talking ‘chaos’ here, as in a world of chaos, anything could happen. A user with reading disabilities may for example neglect product pages that doesn’t comply with the WAI-ARIA standards — i.e they are not properly set up for working with different Text To Speech services, so the product or service information isn’t even accessible in the first place. This could of course be very hard to predict in comparison to obvious questions.
As implied, unexpected questions are not really possible to expect, so they need to be gathered from insights. They could be arising in connection to anything from certain laws or regulations on a specific market, to comparison of services or products that are completely unknown to you and which you could not have foreseen.
A user’s unexpected or expected (secondary) questions doesn’t necessary appear after the obvious (primary) one’
An important note is that unexpected or expected (secondary) questions doesn’t necessary appear to the user after the obvious (primary) questions. Instead, they can appear in any specific order. A user may, for example, compare very similar products or services based on secondary values — such as delivery time, organic, ethical or local production, compliance and technical compatibility, and so on.
Conclusion —7 Ways To Provide Great Answers in The Right Time And on The Right Place
So to get you started, here’s a quick look at 7 different techniques with which you can improve your user experience, by answering the right questions in the right place. (I’m gonna assume that your overall product or service information is on a sufficient level, to avoid a too throughout explanation.)
1. Ask Your Users For Feedback
Except from what you can (should) do by conducting regular UX research, the ultimate way to find the right answers for the right questions, is of course by asking your users directly. The best place to ask for feedback is in close connection to important touch points/pain points.
A classic thank-you-page, following up a successful checkout/signup, is a great place to learn what is working well — by asking your users things like “What made you buy this product?” Triggering feedback with discounts and similar may also increase the amount of users leaving feedback.
And on the opposite, users dropping out from conversion is a perfect source of information for how to improve. A “What Went Wrong?” e-mail, following up on a half-way completed conversion, could collect valuable knowledge about what is missing in your presentation (like in the e-mail example above from Boldking).
Most important thing here — don’t get too greedy. It’s usually enough to ask one simple question. Throwing in a ten-questions-feedback-form isn’t gonna do much good for you.
2. Use Clear Text And Simple Language For Your Information
In a simplified way, you could put it like this — what we want as users is the whole goddam manual. What we need, however, are the important facts — because, no one reads a whole manual, right? Only after reaching a higher level of awareness and desire, is it interesting to find out the full specifications.
What we want as users is the whole goddam manual. What we need, however, are the important facts.
All industries and fields have their own, “internal” language. It’s the same with us UX:ers as with everyone else — no matter how ridiculously fascinated we are by conversion funnels, touch points, high fidelity prototypes or user journeys, it still makes no sense whatsoever to someone outside the bubble. If you are completely certain that you are communicating with a very well-informed audience, then it may make sense to use “cool” and internal terms & language. But in most cases, your best bet is to use a language that’s easy to read and understand for anyone, anywhere.
I like to compare this to a really good TED talk. The talks that I have enjoyed the most, are the ones where really talented and inspiring people manage to explain complex matters in a really simple and straightforward way. Being simple isn’t the opposite of being professional or competent. And just because your audience are intelligent people, it doesn’t mean that they’ll ever understand the subject matter as well as you do.
To get you started with making your texts more accessible and easy to ready, WebAIM has a nice article about ”Writing Clearly and Simply” here.
3. Improve Your Layout And Display Answers In an Easy-To-Read Way
An easy way to start is usually just to visualize the most important primary (or, depending on your competitors, secondary) answers. As users, we are lazy and sloppy (so it’s not only me, after all). We hate long text blocks and complicated information. Instead, we prefer easy-to-read checklists, comparison of as few options as possible, pricing examples, describing illustrations or animations. And so on.
Verve Wine has a really delightful product page layout, where the most basic information is displayed in a fact=answer setup. The key is just to keep it clear and “airy” — bullet lists, icons and grids are your friends here. Be creative.
4. Promote Your Presentation With References
Maybe more than providing answers, this could be a way to avoid many questions in the first place. It’s hard to find anything more reliable or authentic than the shared impressions of another fellow customer.
For a product page, a comment & rating function is a typical way of collecting user references. This is of course a very transparent approach where you have to be prepared for the ”unvarnished truth”. However, companies often tend to be unreasonably scared of having any customer — including the unhappy ones — leaving comments on their products or services.
First of, it’s a good practice to approve any comments before publishing them, so that you can filter out any clear abuse of the function. Secondly, remember that your customers are not stupid. Having one negative comment in a range of many positive ones, won’t make people listen blindly to the negative feedback. Rather, the lack of facts or a respectful approach in a negative comment, will make it look very suspicious to others.
Except from comments and ratings, it’s great if you can spread out your customer feedback and provide it in correlation to specific selling points. In the example above, you can see how Invision utilizes this in an excellent way, when providing a customer reference (complete with the name and employer information) in connection to the product description.
5. Use an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Section in Connection to Where Questions Arise
An FAQ — maybe the most obvious suggestion, though it can actually be really tricky to get it right. Just having an FAQ on your site doesn’t guarantee you anything. For starters — where is it located? Is it hidden in some dusky footer or subpage where the light never reaches?
Placing your FAQ (or just the list of answers you want to provide) in close connection to the content that it relates to, is a great way to increase the usage. Like with the example above from Kraken.io, where the pricing page have it’s own dedicated FAQ section.
Make sure to keep the FAQ short and accurate. A rating function where the user can rate if the answer was helpful or not, may be a good way to evaluate the FAQ:s quality of delivery. Some FAQ:s uses expanding answers, which could help in tracing which questions & answers that are most read.
6. Use a Chatbot —The Next Step of The FAQ
While FAQ:s can be great, they also require more or less effort from the user, as in scanning different questions in order to find the right one. And like we talked about before in this article, users don’t like long text blocks and cluttered information too much.
So if you have a scenario where there are lots of potential questions (especially unexpected ones), a chatbot (read more) could be a great solution. A chatbot is essentially a chat interface where you, as a user, chat with a ”program”. This program could be anything from a more simple set of pre-defined rules & answers, to a more advanced artificial intelligence. By boiling down your whole FAQ into a one-line chat interface, some of many advantages could be;
- Save space and make the user experience more simple
- Track what different semantic approaches your users use. Maybe best exampled by Google, we know that people use completely different search terms based on their personal experiences — the words or terms you use to describe something, may be totally unknown to some users.
- Connect your product or service to other platforms or social medias such as Facebook, Twitter etc.
7. Provide a Live Chat Service on Your Website
Assuming you have the resources to provide live support to your users, a live chat tool is of course one of the best ways to provide instant feedback for everything from the most obvious to the most unexpected questions.
Except from the functional benefits, having a chat on your website could actually increase the trust and comfort of your users just by being there. Being able to easily get in touch in case of returns, errors of service or similar matters, are important factors when we compare different products or services with each other.
Just make sure to be clear of how and when the service is working. Provide information about your regular response times, and if the user is placed in a queue or not. And remember to ask any satisfied customers to rate your product, or leave a rating on your Facebook page or similar.
Answers are nothing but dead ends. Questions are what constantly pushes us forward.
Finally, remember that there are no such thing as “wrong questions” . Questions are what truly creates progress, pushing us forward, making us better. Try now and then to separate yourself from your own views and perspectives, try to ask yourself new questions and seek new perspectives. Before you decide to throw your whole website, app or whatever solution out the window — start by asking yourself how you could improve it yourself with just answering the right questions. It doesn’t take much to begin improving.
I hope you found this story helpful. If you liked it, sign up for my newsletter for more (hopefully) good UX/UI stuff 🙂
This article was originally posted on Medium.com Feb 9th 2017: