CRO & UX: How to Design Your Website for Higher Conversions

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Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and User Experience (UX) are two terms you can often hear in discussions concerning website performance. Each of these terms encompasses a set of practices whose ultimate aim is to keep visitors engaged with a given website. Both of them utilize data, analytics and user feedback in order to accomplish their goals effectively.

While there is a lot of overlap between the two, they are ultimately not the same thing. CRO is the practice of getting people to act in a certain way once they arrive on a website. UX represents how visitors feel while actively engaging with a website, but in a broader sense, UX encompasses design practices for evoking positive feelings in a website’s audience. CRO and UX can work in tandem in order to make a website more effective at achieving its business-related goals.

To gain a better understanding of how CRO and UX complement each other in the process of web design, try reading our short guide on the topic in the post below.

Controlled Experimentation

The basic CRO workflow involves testing and tweaking website elements in order to find a design that provides the best possible performance, expressed in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs). What is important here is that these tests should be based on sound theoretical knowledge, and not merely conjunctions. This is where UX comes into play – by basing your CRO-related tests on hypotheses derived from UX research, you can remove a lot of baseless guesswork from the equation. While CRO can be performed effectively by applying certain best practices, this kind of approach doesn’t take the unique nature of your website into account in comparison to an experiment-driven approach based on UX. In other words, UX can help you get a sense where you need to start with your CRO efforts.

For example, if you are running an e-commerce website, chances are you ran across the problem of having high cart abandonment rate. While a CRO practitioner would be able to tell you what needs to be fixed, a UX designer would know it is about your store interface is causing the problem. A common problem that many e-commerce websites suffer from is that they ask the customer to create an account once they press the checkout button, which is something most people want to avoid, hence the abandoned carts. Giving the customer the option to checkout as a guest, or notifying them beforehand that they will need an account to use your website are two UX-based CRO solutions to this problem.

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Multi-Platform CRO

While CRO is platform agnostic, greater care is often given to the version of the website that is going to be displayed on desktop devices. While this holds true for UX as well, at least in theory, in practice UX designers are frequently tasked with ensuring that a website runs well on all kinds of devices, especially portable ones. A UX designer will tend to have a better understanding of how a given interface change will impact the performance of the website on each particular platform.

For instance, while the color of a given website element might not be that significant to a user that browses the web on a computer in a room with consistent lighting, for a mobile user the color in question might mean that the website is practically unusable in bright daylight, or during the night. While this kind of oversight wasn’t that big of a deal while desktop computers were the norm for browsing the web, in today’s mobile-first environment, it can prove disastrous. As a result, CRO should always be performed with the knowledge that given design can engender different kinds of UX, depending on the device.

Deriving UX Insights From CRO Practice

So far we have talked about how taking a UX perspective when doing CRO can improve the effectiveness of the later. However, the reverse holds as well – the widespread use of CRO has given rise to a number of tools and concepts that UX designers can use to enhance their work. For instance, doing CRO for an e-commerce website involves optimizing the buyer’s journey through the conversion funnel. This journey from lead to customer forms a particular kind of experience which UX designers can study in order to understand what makes someone click a button, provide an email address, or act upon some other call to action (CTA).

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By using a design feature such as the conversion funnel, CRO experts are giving UX designers a more narrow context for doing their work. As for the tools, the field of CRO has given rise to many, and UX design has benefited from this as well. Software for measure response times, heatmaps, time spent on page, etc. gives UX teams the ability to accurately measure the impact of their designs, which allows them to create better ones.

Learning From the History of CRO

CRO has existed ever since the internet became available for commercial use, giving it an advantage in terms data collected over UX design, which is a relatively new discipline. Fortunately, UX designers can also benefit from this cache of data. By examining the history of CRO practices, as well as working with experienced software developers in the field, UX designers can see which designs tended to stick around, and which had a short lifespan.

Seeing what used to work in the past in terms of design reduces the need to re-conduct experiments, thus saving time. A winning experiment can provide a straightforward answer to whether a particular interface change has enhanced the user experience or degraded it. Additionally, these past CRO experiments often contain a plethora of insights that UX designers might have missed, giving them more data to work with than what they would be able to acquire on their own.

CRO and UX are a Match Made in Heaven

A successful website is one that is both optimized for conversions, in addition to being a pleasure to use. Creating such a website can only be done on the basis of both UX design, as well as CRO. These two professional disciplines should therefore always go hand in hand to ensure that both website owners, as well as the audience, get the most out of a given site.


Also published on Medium.


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