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Improve your online user experience

'There's no point rushing to market with an offering that nobody wants.'
Alan Holmes,

Top tips

  • User experience (UX) must be right if you want results
  • A site that serves two markets must provide a valuable offering for both of them - and that can mean twice the work
  • If your business has a unique offering in a broad market, you have to stay very focused on what you do well


After the pilot

When we first spoke to Alan Holmes, the financial product auction site was live on the internet and entering a pilot phase. Months of careful planning had already gone into defining the minimum they could launch with while still meeting user needs (minimum viable product) and taking it to market.

Challenges for Alan and his business partners were around:

  • finding the time to build a business between working full time and having young families
  • meeting the needs of two customer groups - people looking for a great rate on a term deposit and financial institutions (e.g. banks and building societies) wanting to attract investors.  

Data from the pilot phase

'When we finished our pilot phase, we had validated a fair proportion of our business case assumptions.'

The pilot phase for was a limited release to the partners' network. The pilot focus was on one of the two target markets - the consumers, rather than the suppliers. It also captured information from registered users, with an optional survey, Google Analytics and a range of custom reporting tools built into the website.

From the beginning, the partners have tapped into their personal and professional networks to test the site and provide feedback. Google AdWords has been their main tool for driving traffic to the site. 

'Bigger than we'd guessed...'

The pilot provided some unexpected insights. Websites often measure success by 'conversions' - when a visitor to the site completes a transaction, e.g. making a purchase, completing a survey or downloading an eBook. The kind of transaction that's considered a conversion varies from business to business.

'We found that the numbers of people searching for information about the financial products auctioned on our website was actually larger than we'd assumed in our business case and the conversion rate was higher than we'd estimated.'

Good news, bad news

'The downside was probably that the user interface and our processes were not as strong as we had hoped.'

The partners have decided to keep the pilot running, continuing with their proof of concept.

UX feedback from early adopters

Constructive criticism about the user experience on the website came from the partners' network of early adopters. Their feedback was backed up by trends shown in Google Analytics. Further validation came from the site's built-in reporting dashboard. Unfortunately site statistics reveal what's happening but they don't fully explain why.

'We have more research to do and that's slowing us down.'

A site that serves customers and suppliers

A challenge of working with two markets is that you need to bring something to both markets that has value.

'Because we're trying to get the customer side right, we haven't progressed to the supplier side as far as we'd like. First, we need to be attracting the right customers.'

Alan says that when he was doing the entrepreneur course at Melbourne Business School, most of the proposals being presented were for two-sided markets.

'But each side of the market has its own objectives. You've got to find a way through that. It's hard to do; it's effectively dealing with competing requirements.'

Keeping focus

'We are a niche offering and that's probably been the hardest thing around the business case. There is a large market but you aren't going to run into a person investing in term deposits every day of the week.

'You need to build your offering to the market. It sounds obvious but if you try to offer everything to all people, you'll miss those specialist components and products where it's possible to create a successful business.'

Next three months

'I don't think we're as far advanced as we'd like... and we're probably not surprised by that.'

Alan predicts that the next three months will be about 'getting the user interface right and refining our offer to the financial institutions as well'.

We are talking to Alan every three months as he and his business partners start their business journey. This is the second instalment. Read the first instalment 'How to build a small business' and find out how the partners at improved on their original product idea and went to market with a much better chance of success.

To see how Alan is going in three months, sign up for the Small Business Victoria Update.

The result

Seeking feedback from visitors to their website gave the partners at valuable insights into areas where the site was not quite right - and other areas where it was doing well, with higher search results and conversion rates than expected.