How do UX & conversion rate optimisation fit together? [#uxchat roundup]

Combining UX CRO

Photo credit: Salvatore Gerace via flickr

The very premise of our last #uxchat baffled Jackie (a regular), at first. You’re not alone, Jackie, that’s why we thought it was time to tackle the topic of CRO (conversion rate optimisation).

Modern design and commerce are orbited by a slew of disorientating acronyms. How do they all fit together? *Can* they all fit together?

Our guest host, Chris Callaghan, is certain UX and CRO can be combined to create the kind of powerful tag team not seen since the days of Kane and The Undertaker.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the act of systematically and continuously making changes to your site, and measuring the impact of each change, so as to persuade visitors to take commercially meaningful actions.

Armed with a definition, I’m sure you can see how a good user experience might be useful during the process of CRO.

During our last #uxchat, professionals quizzed Chris about multiple topics. I’ve summarised here the 3 which enjoyed the most in-depth discussions:

  1. What’s the role of UX when it comes to transactional sites?
  2. How does UX fit into the ongoing optimisation of a transactional platform?
  3. Is UX measurable? If so, is CRO simply a measurement of UX?

If you’d like to join our next #uxchat – a 1-hour session, every Thursday, where pros discuss a problematic or interesting UX topic on Twitter – follow the WhatUsersDo page. You can follow the rabbit hole for each tweet by clicking on it and reading the entire thread.

1. What’s the role of UX when it comes to transactional sites?

nerdlogic, an instructional designer and ninja, suggests one tells us what to change and the other tells us whether what we’ve changed worked.

There are classic tactics, such as using UX testing to improve the quality of AB tests. But beyond this, an initial focus on UX helps you understand which areas of your site users find most off-putting. These are also the areas where you’re likely to get big returns from CRO.

nerdlogic further explains that UX research can help build more detailed pictures of customers.

For CRO practitioners, this can be invaluable – persuading people is easier when we understand their preferences.

2. How does UX fit into the ongoing optimisation of a transactional platform?

Jackie Mellor Brownlee, a parent and UX pro, reckons it’s as simple as making sure you do the “learning” before the “acting”.

Research. Implement. Measure… Repeat.

Chris Callaghan thinks it’s important to remember that optimisation isn’t just about revenue.

Retention (holding onto existing customers) is just as important as acquisition (getting new customers) is just as important as branding (making the right impression on all customers).

3. Is UX measurable? If so, is CRO simply a measurement of UX?

Tom Kerwin, a UX designer and strategist (and swing DJ), believes elements of UX may not be measurable but their effects are.

That makes sense – wind can’t be measured but wind force certainly can (based on its effects on our environment). This reminds me of a popular UX-related aphorism:

“Good design may be invisible but its absence certainly isn’t.”


And just like the invisible wind, the impact of bad design on human behaviour is measurable. So-called UX metrics help us understand the impact of our changes on user behaviour.

Chris Callaghan, our host on the day, chimed in with the fact that the measurement of UX can be retrospective (did it work) as well as prospective (did it work).

UX testing can help you validate (or invalidate) decisions you’ve already taken, as much as it can help you make the right decision (in situations where there are multiple opinions).

Enjoyed reading this article? Follow us on Twitter and join in during our next #uxchat – maybe we’ll feature your gorgeous mug and cutting commentary in the roundup.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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