I love it when there’s wisdom in advertising. Take those old Head & Shoulders commercials about how “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The idea behind these ads was that positive (and dandruff-free) encounters with new people could pave the way for great relationships moving forward.

It’s a concept that translates into the business world pretty well.

In the business world, of course, the “first impression” is pegged to the New User Experience (we’ll call it the NUX). Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other big companies have entire teams dedicated to making sure the NUX is executed well. In fact, when you look back through recent history, most of today’s successful technology companies have had a great NUX, and founders who focused on it from the very beginning.

Despite this history, many entrepreneurs continue to overlook the NUX. Why? For starters, with the product management team focused on satisfying paying customers and the marketing team focused on driving new signups to the site, often nobody is directly responsible for the NUX.

Second, mastering the NUX is hard. How do you know what a good user experience really is? What should you focus on? Which types of new users should you target? (Answers to these questions will be different for every company.)

Finally, a great NUX requires cross-discipline skills; designers, engineers, marketers, and product managers need to be involved, and need to be committed to promoting a comprehensive experience, not just one single page. That means senior management all the way up to the CEO has to think NUX is important. Often this buy-in is difficult to achieve.

For these reasons, Cro Metrics offers services that specifically spotlight improving the NUX. Here are some of our strategies:

  • Research. To see what kind of user experience a company currently offers, we usually assess a site with special diagnostics from tools such as UserTesting.com. These evaluations often find easy-to-fix problems such as dead links, slow confirmation times and other pitfalls that can result in customer frustration.
  • Establish goals. Once quick-fix problems are identified, Cro Metrics attempts to understand how company executives think about the NUX. Demonstrating the company’s must-have experience on the first run is critical. One good way to understand what the must-have user experience is by using a behavior-insight service such as Qualaroo. Surveying and interviewing existing engaged users are great sources of data.
  • Build a prototype. Unless a NUX can be built and deployed easily, we like to create a clickable prototype. Axure is our favorite tool for this, since it allows marketers to build a “site” that looks and acts real but is actually just a controlled simulation. Formal engineering is not required to build or change mockups of this nature; the goal is to build something quickly and cheaply to facilitate a test. The above-mentioned prototype is nothing without proper testing, which Cro Metrics usually does next, and constantly updating the NUX based on observing users attempting to navigate the prototype. We’ve established a process where we can iterate as quickly as twice per day. Many other companies iterate on the order of months. This accelerated learning process is particularly valuable for startups burning cash because it reduces the time to cash flow positive.
  • Implement. Once Cro Metrics builds a NUX that passes user testing, we implement it on the company’s actual site. Then we apply A/B-testing to quantify improvements. Generally speaking, success is measured by the percent of people who actually use the product; if that number doesn’t increase significantly in the first few days, it might be time for another approach.

In our experience, following this process leads to better NUX and generally facilitates faster new customer acquisition. This leads to dramatically lower customer acquisition costs, increased revenue, and a massive competitive advantage. It also keeps customers happy, and reminds them that your organization never needs a second chance to make a first impression.

 

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