By David Curless, Art Director
It was all looking so positive. Dynamic client, interesting sector, decent budget.
And then I read the final paragraphs of the brief: “We use a royalty-free image library. We will not be commissioning bespoke photography for our new website.”
With those two sentences, my whole enthusiasm for the project drained away. Why am I being such a design drama queen about this? Because it gives a clear indication of the lack of importance the client is placing on the quality of their content. Just another website viewed as an empty vessel into which they can pour the same old content and job done. We’re online.
THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
Imagery is an incredibly powerful and efficient way to communicate complex messages and all of us are hard-wired to understand and analyse imagery in the blink of an eye. That’s 50 milliseconds. Or to put it another way, we can process and understand imagery 60,000 times faster than text. So in that blink of an eye, your visitors are making their mind up about your organisation. Do you look credible? Do you look like an organisation they might want to do business with?
We are equally adept at recognising, and dismissing, clichéd stock photography. All those handshakes, water droplets and gleaming white teeth are registered immediately as false and having no real connection to your company and values. Hackneyed imagery of this kind is positively damaging to your brand. It draws attention, in a very public way, to the fact that you either: can’t be bothered to think about what you want to tell visitors about yourself; or even worse, you don’t even know what it is about your organisation that makes you special.
Either way, you are sending a very negative, muddled message and in today’s highly competitive marketplace, customers have little, if any, tolerance of this sort of lazy thinking.
So, if you want to communicate clearly and positively, think carefully about what makes you stand out from the crowd, tell the great stories about yourselves, show your personality (come on, you must have some), decide on the key messages you want your visitors to come away with and get bespoke imagery working hard on your behalf. The care you put into this will place your organisation ahead of the competition. In the end, what you pay for commissioned imagery will be repaid time and again by the benefits it brings to the perception of what you stand for and the values you hold.
By Ryan Sackett, UX Consultant
Outside of my day to day as a UX Consultant at Precedent Towers, I decided that balance was needed for a better work life balance, so I decided what better hobby to take up than – you guessed it – more UX stuff!
I have helped run UXPA Scotland, a network that is designed to support people who research, design and evaluate the user experience of products and services for the past few years now. Over the last year I have taken charge of the ever growing events schedule, and, specifically the programme of speakers.
Despite occasionally wondering if without realising it, ‘has UX slowly taken over my life’? I get so much out of it that I know doing more is better than nothing at all. But like many of us with out of work ‘professional hobbies’, my efforts are sporadic and time intensive and you find yourself in a constant juggling act , trying to ensure you can accommodate it all.
A few weeks ago, after being approached to help out with the forthcoming UX Scotland conference, yet another UX work/hobby that I couldn’t turn down, I found myself reviewing a huge stack of submissions from members of the UX community looking to speak at the event. Delighted and daunted just about summed it up.
I couldn’t escape the fact that there are so many interesting facets to UX. The discipline is so vast and varied that choosing the right mix of speakers and topics was no mean feat. I was grateful that I had so much involvement finding speakers and content for the events programme for UXPA Scotland as the task ahead was a daunting, and in truth, reviewing talks for a paying event felt like a different beast altogether. When the quality is so good and those submitting talks are people you respect, judging becomes all the more difficult.
I made my choices, made them again, then again and after a bit more deliberation I got there in the end. I’d been supplied with a criteria, but in the end found that gut instinct seemed to balance out three key factors – how current the topic was; if the talk felt practical; and, finally if the content sounded interesting.
I am happy to report my selections all satisfied at least two of the three criteria and I’m looking forward to seeing them, and as many others as I can squeeze in, when the conference rolls into Edinburgh on June 20 & 21 this year.
By Lindsay Herbert, Head of Digital Marketing
This weekend was a heavy one. I meant to stop after just one on Saturday at the Tate Britain at the Schwitters exhibit, but before I knew it, I was binging on Lichtenstein and ‘A Bigger Splash’ at the Tate Modern, followed by blowing the last of my mind on Sunday at the jaw-dropping Russian exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery.
To try and redeem myself this Monday morning, bleary eyed and sore, I’ve collected three thoughts that relate well to my work as Head of Digital Marketing that I hope will also be a help to others. Two of the thoughts have a strong digital connection, whilst the last is just a general thought I need to remind myself of more often.
1) Untitled. (Really?)
First, knowing what a picture is about doesn’t just help to understand it, it can give you an appreciation of its value. Cartoon-like tattoos of chains and sad, busty women on moustached men, looking not unlike aged portraits of Shoreditch hipsters in the Saatchi Gallery, took on unsettling new meaning when the captions revealed them to be the gang tattoos of lifelong Russian criminals. Or at the Lichtenstein exhibition where the captions showed just how many of the paintings were borrowed from private collections – meaning that despite their iconic status and societal value, when the exhibitions ends we’ll likely never get to lay eyes on many of these famous works again.
It made me think back to my work on the web and the time it takes to load those big carousel banners many brands are so fond of (or at least, fond of the in-fighting they often resolve internally), and it’s worth thinking of the potential value added when making the call on whether to include space in the carousel template for that precious, value-adding editable text.
2) Yours sincerely, the Tate Modern
My second thought relates to the DREAM Destinations seminar series we’re currently running (next stop, Edinburgh!) and how attractions like galleries can (and are) using technology to forge closer connections with their visitors, and bridge the time between in-person visits.
The moment I scanned my membership card at the Tate Modern, an email popped into my Hotmail account asking what I thought of the Lichtenstein exhibit. Whilst I thought the wording could have been a little less praise soliciting (‘Looking at the comments so far, it’s clear that people have enjoyed…’) I was still impressed, first by the efficiency and then by the fact they thought to ask at all.
It’s also noteworthy though that it was my second visit to the exhibition (yes, I’m really getting my money’s worth out of my membership!) and the second time receiving the same email. Should the second email have been different and recognized me as a repeat visitor? In an ideal world (where the Tate gets the unlimited marketing resource and advanced CRM it deserves), yes, but it did prompt me to wonder what other ways the Tate could have bridged the virtual and real life gap.
For example, I was disappointed when my favourite paintings weren’t available for sale as prints at each of the galleries I’d visited – could I have been asked to vote online for which additional prints should be procured for their online shop? Could QR codes have been added to the paintings so scanning saved them to a list of favourites that I could then share and refer to later (rather than have to surreptitiously snap photos of the captions for my own un-shareable records)?
One thing I will say, even though I didn’t click through on either email from the Tate, was that I was touched to see the curator’s name pop up in my inbox. It was a sign they are keeping track of my interactions with them in a meaningful way – one that should later result in fewer ‘email all’ messages down the road – but more importantly, tells me my visit is helping them shape future visits for everyone.
3) Art: The brain’s drain cleaner!
The last thing I’ll mention is how standing for hours in four different galleries this weekend, overloading my brain with creativity and introspection, is making me oddly eager to get stuck back in at work this snowy Monday morning. I don’t know how some of the most impressive things I saw (like a giant painting at Saatchi gallery that from far away looks opulent and intricately detailed, but close up is actually made from systematically torn and paint-soiled cardboard sheets) are going to factor into the projects I’m working on, but the feeling in my head right now is a bit like the one you get right before a great idea pops in.
Not a new revelation I suppose, but a good reminder as to why we should all reboot our brains and trade staring at pixels for paint strokes whenever we get the chance.
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
Attractions should ensure that every aspect of their digital engagement works simply and intuitively in order to minimise drop out and maximise conversion rates.
One of the main recommendations I made in our recent DREAM day out report was that attractions should be constantly evaluating and refining the usability of their websites in order to maximise conversion opportunities. In truth it was difficult to find examples of effective ticket booking interfaces in all but a few of the 200 odd websites I looked at to compile the report, and there was little evidence of considered user-journey mapping, or UX design principles.
Jakob Nielsen a renowned usability guru has maintained for many years that 10% of any digital design project’s budget should be spent on usability. He contends that such expenditure will result in an average improvement in key performance indicators of 83% (see http://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-roi-declining-but-still-strong/). Of course this is for a new project, but having looked at so many attraction sites recently it strikes me that the vast majority could benefit significantly from improved usability.
I was struck yesterday by a massive promotion of the new ride at Alton Towers in the Sun newspaper. Around four pages of the red top was dedicated to an offer encouraging readers to collect tokens from the paper to secure a couple of free tickets to the Towers.
Now I am sure that such activity increases awareness and to an extent footfall in the real and virtual attraction worlds, but I am convinced that attractions, particularly Alton Towers, would benefit by forsaking one or two of their traditional marketing activities and using the money saved on increasing the effectiveness of their websites in order to ensure conversion and actual ticket purchases.
As Dan Baker, our Head of UX says in the report “A philosophy of measurement and continual improvement needs to be adopted which, if fully embraced, is guaranteed to deliver digital success”
By Robbie Deng, International Consultant and Project Manager
While conducting research for our latest report into digital marketing for visitor attractions in the UK and Australia I had a particular focus and interest in what destinations are doing to target and improve their communication with overseas tourists, particularly the growing number of people visiting from East Asia.
A recent nation-wide survey of Internet usage in China by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) revealed that nearly 80 per cent of Chinese web users searched for travel information online in 2012. The really interesting statistic however was that 52.1% of users who made online bookings searched for information on food and nearby attractions.
Overall, the report revealed the potential for visitor attractions to engage Chinese visitors via mobile as China has over 400 million mobile Internet users. And this trend applied to tourists from other countries as well (See Overseas Visitors to Britain.
Go mobile responsive
In looking at around 200 attraction websites to inform our new report A DREAM day out – Digitally promoting and enhancing the attraction experience, we noted that there were few examples outside of the very big establishments that seemed to have an integrated mobile strategy. Furthermore, very few of even the larger attractions provided information in foreign languages, over and above maybe a PDF document, or single web page.
Certainly, a number of the internationally renowned British attractions, such as the British Museum, National History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have mobile websites in English, but rarely did they provide mobile responsive sites in other language options. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a responsively designed site that adapts to the access device being used by visitors. Interestingly, it welcomes its international visitors with multi-lingual sites, but its mobile site does not feature the language options available elsewhere.
Regional preferences of social media platforms
Although all of the above mentioned attractions have social media integration in place, they seemed to overlook the distinctive regional preferences of social media platforms especially for audiences based in East Asia. Yes, Facebook and Twitter do enjoy a large fan-base worldwide, but in China, Weibo (micro-blog) is one of the top social media channels; in South Korea, there is KakaoTalk; and Mixi still dominates the social media market shares in Japan. Alas, in the digital age, provision of language options can no longer meet global audiences’ needs, understanding how they communicate digitally and its regional nuances is imperative.
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
Recently I have been researching and writing a report looking into how attractions use digital to promote and enhance the visitor experience of their venues. The report’s central premise is that today, more than ever, digital communications and engagement plays a crucial role in not just recruiting visitors to an attraction, but also in ensuring that they have a satisfying and rewarding experience at it; one that they will want to talk about and share with their family, friends and peers.
To this end the report is framed around the DREAM model. The implication of which is that attractions need to look at their digital landscape holistically in order to complete the engagement cycle. The tricky parts of this are the stages at which the visitor actually attends and after they have left. However, in terms of word of mouth recommendation, and attracting the next tranche of visitors there is no stage more important, get this bit right and marketing efforts have the potential to be less scatter-gun and more targeted and personal.
With this in mind I was intrigued to see an article last week describing Disney’s new initiative aimed at making their visitors’ experience of their parks seamless and cash-free http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671616/a-1-billion-project-to-remake-the-disney-world-experience-using-rfid#1 The idea is that visitors have an RFID wristband, which allows them to eat, drink, buy souvenirs, and potentially interact with Disney characters hassle-free. Disney will be able to collect data on their visitors’ habits from the time they enter their parks to the time they leave. Monetisation of the experience must be front of mind for Disney, but so too must be the enhancement and improvement of the experience, identifying pain points and remedying them as best possible.
This is all fantastic of course, but other than visitors not having to get their wallet out, how does it enhance the visitor’s experience, and could it actually add to the apprehension of a family on a limited budget? There is of course an app that can be downloaded from the Disney site that helps visitors plan their day, see queue times etc, but a look at what it offers suggest that there is little attempt by Disney to include in the app tools to allow people to share their experiences as they happen, or to encourage visitors to interact with the ‘Disney community’ subsequently.
Maybe with a brand like Disney’s it is all about the experience, and ongoing user-generated marketing material and word of mouth recommendations come naturally due to the aspirational nature of their attractions. For the less well resourced there are any number of digital approaches that will help them close the circle and use their satisfied customers to generate real digital assets and goodwill contained in our report – The DREAM day out – Digitally enhancing and promoting the attraction experience. To find out more download a copy of our free report.
By Rob Van Tol, User Experience Consultant
If they ever make a rock opera about developing new websites, consultants like me would bounce in, a la the Spice Girls, asking:
So tell me what you want, what you really really want?
And our clients would respond in Queen-esque falsetto:
I want it all…and I want it now!
Admittedly, real life is less theatrical than that. Sequins are in short supply and the stage is usually a large table in a meeting room, but you get the gist.
An important skill of the consultant at Precedent is to bring together all interested parties, to find out what they really really want, and to marry that to what they can really really get.
In complex organisations this is quite hard. Membership organisations, universities, NHS trusts, central & local government and most financial services companies are often like this. Made up of multiple communities, they often have diverging agendas and different appetites to support digital change.
So marketing might be tasked with building reputation and driving growth, IT with containing costs, operations with improving customer experience and product management with innovating. These are all reasonable goals, but don’t necessarily share the same approach or digital needs.
Reconciling them can be tricky, but it vital in order to create a coherent digital presence for your audiences. When projects go wrong it’s usually because internal stakeholders have siloed agendas.
The simplest solution is still the best: get everyone round a table and encourage them to talk. Talk about their hopes, fears, presumptions, and requirements. If you can tease these out – especially those unspoken assumptions people often don’t think are worth mentioning, then you can go a long way towards reconciling different demands, making commonsense trade-offs, getting agreement and building trust.
Still, getting everyone aligned might take more than a round-table chat with tea and biscuits (note, quality biscuits do improve meetings, fact). So you may need to consider escalating to having one-to-one talks, or even getting divergent opinions to write a position statement.
What I’d be looking for is to make sure people feel that they’ve been heard and that there needs have been accounted for. Doing digital stuff is often disruptive: new (extra) tasks, changes in culture, even changes in the business model.
Airing fears and grievances, and managing risk is ultimately how we square the circle of conflicting wants, meeting limited ability to deliver within time and budget. This is where our project managers step forward, breaking things down to the achievable, and thinking through how to mitigate risks.
It’s a shame there’s not a bit more magic to it, a bit more rock-n-roll; but its really just people sensitively and intelligently listening to each other. Perhaps that’s why the website development rock opera is yet to written. Though if you have an idea for one, or even just a concept album, we’d love to hear it!
By Mark Russell, Consultant
If you’re anything like me, you probably walk on by feeling somewhat useless, with no real understanding of what you could do about it, or where you could turn if it ever happened to you.
Launched in December 2012, Streetlink, the new initiative from Homeless Link and Broadway aims to change this. Building on the successful No Second Night Out project launched in London in 2011, Streetlink enables members of the public, police officers, healthcare professionals, and rough sleepers themselves – to make contact with local authorities and support organisations, ensuring that rough sleepers are located and given access to the services they need as quickly as possible.
With over 2000 people estimated to be sleeping rough in England on any given night, Streetlink is an essential service, and arrives at a time of year when it is vital that rough sleepers don’t spend a second night on the streets.
When Homeless Link and Broadway approached us to help with this project, we were proud to be involved, whilst at the same time quite daunted by the numerous challenges the project presented – not least of which were a fairly tight deadline, and the need for a flexible, intuitive back end interface for the staff managing referrals.
But most interesting for me were the unique aspects of the site’s user experience. How could we ensure that reports were as detailed and useful as possible, without making the process too arduous – especially given that most referrals would likely be made on dark streets, at night, using smartphones? How could we enable people to report when back at home or in the office, while still allowing them to precisely pinpoint the location of the rough sleeper?
The guiding principles behind the Streetlink site were simplicity and direct action. The homepage of the desktop and mobile versions focuses on encouraging users to refer online, or to call Streetlink to make a referral. The referral form itself contains very few mandatory fields – asking at the very minimum for a location and description of the rough sleeper’s surroundings to help local authorities and support agencies find them. Users can add more detailed information, or leave their contact information for follow-up by phone or email.
After referring rough sleepers, users are given more information on what will happen as a result of their report, and also given advice on other ways they can get involved in helping rough sleepers in their area.
The desktop site integrates with Google Maps to allow users to search for a location or postcode, before dropping a custom pin to refine and adjust the location – crucial for referrals made from home or work, where a general location might be known, but the specific location of the rough sleeper might rely on recognising a nearby landmark or an unmarked location. This information is matched against local authority location data to ensure that the referral reaches the correct services. An interactive map also allows users to see figures on rough sleepers in their area, and numbers of people helped by Streetlink.
When viewed on a smartphone, the user is redirected to the mobile version. Featuring a further stripped down site structure, and building on our experiences in creating the Crimestoppers mobile site mobile utilises device features such as ‘tap to call’ to enable quick referral to the phone line, and geolocation to pinpoint the user, while allowing them to refine the position and location description in situations where geolocation does not behave as expected.
Finally, the mobile app reproduces the mobile site functionality, but capitalises on the interest shown by users engaged enough to download it in the first place by allowing them to save their personal details not only to save time on referrals, but also to receive information on future initiatives and ways to get involved in helping rough sleepers, as well as a mobile optimised version of the rough sleeper numbers by local authority from the desktop site. The app is now available for Android from the Google Play store and for iPhones from the iTunes app store.
Streetlink has already started making a difference to people’s lives – and we can all help. So download the app, or bookmark the site today, and next time you pass a rough sleeper, you’ll know exactly what to do.
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
Keeping an eye on the buzz can be cheaper than a PR event
Lessons from our latest industry report ’20 Scottish single malt distilleries: No time to sit still – building brand awareness in the digital world’
Back in June Diageo announced that it was set to invest £1billion in Scotch whisky production over the next five years. This announcement, coupled with Precedent’s interest in the industry, provoked me to research the online presence of 20 of Scotland’s top single malt whisky brands.
Diageo, and a number of other distilleries in the market, are showing great ambition for expansion, particularly in relation to growth in emerging markets. We wanted to discover how prepared distilleries are to leverage the awareness of single malt that will inevitably be created when Diageo, and others, up their marketing ante?
The report can be ordered from the Precedent website, in it are lots of examples of how the featured brands are using digital both in the UK and China.
One of the interesting observations contained in the report is that whisky brands’ digital presences seem to be managed, populated and created by agencies with a PR-led view of how to measure success. This manifests itself in digital properties containing a lot of references to physical events, PR stunts and so on, all of which are part of the brand awareness mix, but we found little evidence of any imaginative use of digital.
In the graph above there are two obvious peaks in the buzz volume generated by one of the brands in our report Laphroaig. Each year Laphroaig broadcasts an event known as ‘Laphroaig Live’ across the internet. It is a reasonably large set piece event, which is keenly followed. This year the event came from the Oktoberfest in Germany, and the buzz generated related to the simple key words ‘Laphroaig’ and ‘whisky’ is represented by the left-hand peak on the graph.
The second and of course considerably larger peak in buzz volume is directly attributable to a posting on a long established blog called Kottke.org about a collection of videos on the Esquire website in which actor Brian Cox teaches anyone interested how to pronounce over 40 whisky brand names, an interesting asset in itself.
However the main feature of the blog post is an embedded tongue in cheek YouTube video teaching people how to pronounce the Laphroaig name. This video on YouTube has been viewed 81,411 times, 7,018 of which are directly attributable to the Kottke blog!
A short investigation of the blog revealed that its abiding principle is that ‘People are Awesome’. Match this to the assertion on Laphroaig’s website home page that Islay, where the whisky is produced, has ‘created a hardy people whose single-mindedness and honesty is as distinctive as Laphroaig’ and it is not much of a leap to understand how with a little creative thinking Laphroaig could have leveraged this exposure to its advantage at a fraction of the cost of a live broadcast from Germany…
To order a copy of the full report email email@example.com or visit www.precedent.co.uk.
Cardiff Design Festival is bigger and better than ever before – so this year, our Cardiff team have challenged local creatives and design professionals from all disciplines to come together for a unique event: ‘Bodystorming Cardiff: UX gets physical’.
Using real-world experiences to inspire better design Bodystorming is a user-experience research technique in which practitioners use real-world environments to inspire new ideas or approaches to solving problems in the digital world. It’s a bit like method acting for designers. Cardiff is a vibrant hub of art and design culture, and we’re teaming up with artists and illustrators from Morgan Arcade studios to give participants a real insight into the user experience design approach that we bring to all our client projects, whilst also giving often under-promoted local talent a platform to show their work to a wider design-savvy audience.
Intrigued? If you come along this is what you will gain…
• You’ll learn a new user-experience technique that you can use to improve your own work, project or product
• You’ll explore the Morgan Arcade Studios, meet inspiring local artists, learn what it’s really like to be a creative in Cardiff and gain a better understanding of how to tackle the brief based on actual experience
• You’ll have the chance to work directly with Precedent’s UX Strategists, Designers and Developers, see how we tackle projects and hopefully leave inspired and confident that these kinds of approaches can work for your business too!
Ready to take up the challenge?
Here’s what you need to know:
When: Wednesday 10th October 2012, 2pm – 5pm
Where: Morgan Arcade Studios, St Mary Street end of Morgan Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 1AF
How: Book online or email Cory direct