May 31, 2013 | Lija Hogan

Using Data to Impact Usability Efforts


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Usability is an essential piece in the optimization of the customer experience puzzle.

The ForeSee Usability Services group defines Usability as:

The measure of how well an interface (web, mobile, app, etc.) supports visitors in the successful completion of the online goals with efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Efficiency = How quickly can visitors get to the information they want?
  • Effectiveness = How well are visitors able to complete intended tasks?

The usability team conducts Usability Audit Reviews (UARs), which are heuristic inspections of websites as well as mobile sites and apps that help identify design problems and provide recommendations to remediate the issues to help companies target areas of opportunity for improvement to everything from a specific task to entire sections of a site. When clients successfully implement recommendations there are often significant improvements in not only Satisfaction, but also other key performance indicators such as conversion, diversion of customer service calls, and site registration.

ForeSee Usability Audit ReviewLooking at survey data gives the usability team a sense of what visitors find to be the most important as well as problematic areas on a site so they can target the evaluation within areas that matter most.  Typical areas of focus include navigation within the context of a logged-in experience, navigation within a certain section of a site, product browsing, and site search.

UARs, however, are only a part of the analytics universe that companies draw from to optimize the customer experience.  There are several other ways company leaders leverage data to improve the usability of their sites.


Surveys themselves are a critical Usability method.  Ongoing measurement via surveys – as long as they are respectful, relevant, real, results-oriented, and random – helps business leaders gain insight into the customer’s experience as they rate and rank site features and share ideas for future improvements over time, reflecting their changing goals and needs.  While clickstream analytics provide information about the what, where, when, and how behind an interaction, customer experience analytics provide the why. And having an idea of why people do the things they do when they do them helps organizations understand how satisfied visitors are with their experience, what they like and dislike, what frustrations or issues they are having, and if they are able to find what they intended.  Interface designers can use specific questions to target design features and functions in order to get a better sense of what is a need-to-have versus a nice-to-have element.


Personas are fictional people who represent major user groups of a site.  They help organizations to better understand the motivations and needs of visitors so they can select the right mix of functionality, features, and content.  Though the usability team does not create Personas, many companies find they are a useful means to understand who is using the site and what they need. Having the right data derived from an accurate measuring system helps create pictures of visitors while survey questions can provide demographic information, visitor intentions, and comments that breathe life into Personas.  With a better picture of users, it’s much easier to identify critical tasks and content to optimize. For example, it is better to answer the question, “Would Joe use this?” before developing a costly functionality that is not core to the experience and best serves Joe’s needs—especially when Joe represents 70% of your site visitors.

Usability Observation

Finally, customer experience data in concert with sophisticated cxReplay technology can facilitate organic, on-demand usability observation.

Rather than having to find subjects and only being able to test a limited number of users, cxReplay lets you focus on a segment of users based on survey data—essentially, automating the task of recruiting users.  cxReplay technology can recreate a visitor’s experience as they attempt to complete a task, allowing you to target certain groups of users to see what they did (i.e. those who came to the site to purchase something but were unable to).

By seeing what actual visitors encountered and how they moved around the site while in their own environment — the search terms they entered but didn’t submit (not typically captured by clickstream analytics); the elements of the page they clicked on, thinking they were active links but were not; and technical problems they encounter that your IT team swears can never happen (haven’t we all tried to recreate a reported problem and been unable to?) — can better support the case for making site improvements.  The survey data both enables companies to target a segment of visitors to find replays that provides insight as well as helps round out the picture to understand what visitors’ intentions were, what they intended to do, and whether or not they believed to be successful or not in accomplishing their task.

Optimizing the Usability of a site is hard work, but is crucial because it can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line in many ways, including increased satisfaction, conversion, and other critical KPIs.  By gathering intelligent information from a reliable methodology, business leaders can decide on the best and right things to change in order to achieve their goals.

Categories: ForeSee Products

About the Author

Lija Hogan is Director of Usability Services at ForeSee. She has over 10 years of experience in the design, maintenance, and evaluation of websites, mobile sites, and software across a number of industries including Financial Services, Retail, Health Care, Technology, Telecommunications, Government, B2B, as well as News and Information with a primary focus on optimizing the user experience. She has Master’s degree in Information Science from the University of Michigan and is currently teaching a Usability Methods course there.

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