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 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 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 Rob van Tol, Senior Consultant
Once upon a time an organisation could be reasonably clear what they were: if you provided pensions or raised money for kids or offered higher education courses, you could be reasonably certain you were a financial services company, charity or university.
You certainly didn’t think you were a publisher as well.
You could steal yourself for that one big important paper document you published each year: the brochure, the annual report, or prospectus. Perhaps with a clutch of flimsier short leaflets too and maybe a newsletter, run off the photocopier.
And then the web came along.
Now any significant organisation will have thousands, if not tens of thousands of web pages. Add to that hundreds or thousands of images and scores of podcasts and videos. Not to mention social media adding a further few thousand tweets and Facebook messages.
The maths rack up pretty quickly. Assume you have 10,000 with a modest 250 words per page, that’s 2.5 million words.
Few organisations have the resources to contain or control this deluge. In our experience, most organisations only have one, two, or at most a handful of people to look after their site. Most of these don’t come from either an editing or writing background. But these aren’t the people generating the bulk of the content.
The vast bulk of contributors are diligent office workers who only write for the web on an occasional, best endeavours basis, often as an aside from their day job. Naturally, they tackle the task in much the same way that they tackle their other writing tasks: by writing information as clearly as they can, just as they would in any other word processed document.
Now, there are worse content sins than writing information clearly (e.g. vanity content, internally-focused content, duplicated content, confused content, dead-end content, out-of-date content etc.).
As monsters go, a mass of clearly written information doesn’t sound that scary. Quantity, however, has a quality all of its own. As the number of web pages climbs past the few thousand, the ability of the web team to control it evaporates.
One morning you wake up and realise that the content has grown monstrous. Too big to audit; it would take too long, be too expensive. Too big to cut back down to size; it would take too many painful internal stakeholder battles resisting cuts to “their content” (it’s not theirs, it’s the users, but that’s another topic).
Your organisation doesn’t think of itself as a publisher, even though it has published 2.5 million words (equivalent to 25 novels), not to mention pictures, video, blogs and microblogs. So it is not going to give you the resources or budget to tackle it.
This is all a great shame. You come to us to design and build a beautiful new website, with elegant interactions, lovely designs, and clear and focused information architectures. Then you realise you don’t have the time or budget or political will to audit the old content. So the raging content monster duplicates into your new site because, however horrible it might be to migrate it all, it is a less horrible job than cutting it down to size.
Of course, it’s important not to despair. Just because you can’t easily slay the monster, doesn’t mean you can’t imprison it to the lower dungeons of the information architecture, or work hard at your content marketing to use your SEO and social media to point to the good stuff, or craft your most important user journeys, or make sure that your top – most popular – pages of your site are well controlled and well written.
Sure, you’ll know that there will be plenty of places you wish you could put up a “there be dragons” notice, but your site can still have a good heart and a beautiful face, and only a few brave souls need ever venture down to the depths of the content monster.
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.
By , Head of Strategic Research
Those of you familiar with our recent report Membership Organisations: Big challenges, Digital Answers and our accompanying seminar series will know that one of the actions we propose is to digitally enrich the membership magazine.
Our recommendations seek to make organisations think of ways, other than pdf and page turning software, of making the membership missive more interactive, content rich and accessible, as well as easier to distribute.
In our seminar in June, Michelle Richmond (IET Membership Director) told a story about how the IET had decided to distribute its magazine electronically in India as a means of streamlining delivery in order to circumvent a notoriously inefficient and costly postal method. This was a short lived venture since the IET managed to upset their young Indian members who like to leave the magazine ‘lying around for their parents to find’ as a means of demonstrating their membership of a respected international professional body.
Of course the IET were unaware of this self-promotional use of their printed magazine, but their motivations were clear; reduce print and distribution costs and increase efficiencies.
At the same seminar Michelle also revealed that the IET had developed a trial iPad version of its magazine. This provoked debate among delegates around the merits and demerits of the associated cost savings, or otherwise of digital magazine production. (more…)
By , Consultant
On the 26th May, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) gained the ability to take legal action against any sites found noncompliant with the EU ‘cookie law’.
To help you try and stay current with cookie law events and requirements, here are three steps to put you on the right track.
1. Audit your site and associated systems
The first step is to review your web properties and any data capture or relationship management systems integrated with them, so you know what you’re dealing with. Having an accurate picture of your digital landscape is essential to allow you to make decisions for further compliance.
As well as looking at your own systems, if you’ve given space on your pages to third parties like social networks, external video hosting or advertising then ultimately you are responsible for disclosing to your visitors that their data may be captured on your pages by these suppliers (even if it’s only a disclaimer, as with the Guardian’s stance on third-party ads).
In referring to the EU Privacy Directive as ‘the cookie law’, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it also covers confidentiality of information, treatment of traffic data, and using contact details for marketing purposes (spam) as well as cookies. Privacy statements have been required to disclose similar information for years, but with growing focus on online privacy now could be a good time to review your compliance in all these areas.
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
For reasons that will become apparent I found myself today looking for the origins of the phrase that forms the title of this blog. As is often the case I was distracted by an apparently unrelated news article, this time on the Boy Genius Report (BGR) website.
The item concerned the unveiling of Microsoft’s new tablet device and was titled ‘Microsoft Surface tablet is sincerest form of flattery for Apple’. I was intrigued.
The article quoted Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White writing in a note to investors:
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the compliments from Microsoft poured down like a torrential storm on Apple last night. At the same time, this event indicates to us that Microsoft is still searching for its own identity in the post-PC era, something that has come naturally for Apple with the rise of the mobile internet.”
Of course the question that everyone is asking is whether the Surface is a serious contender for the space that Apple has dominated in recent years. White’s assessment was quite blunt when he said; “we found little in yesterday’s presentation that would convince us that a consumer would prefer Surface over an iPad”. (more…)