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 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 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 , 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.
With many structural changes, mergers and service changes within the NHS, it can be a challenge to communicate these successfully to your audiences. However digital can be the perfect way to not only keep your audiences informed about these changes but also help them to embrace new ways of delivering services.
We’ve recently been working with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust to help them with their digital communications following their mergers. Together we’ve learnt some important lessons and would like to share some tips with you.
1. Make practical information easy to find
No matter how important a new brand, partnership, department or building is to your organisation, your service users’ priorities will still be access to information about practical services and care. Ensure they can quickly find this without having to figure out your internal restructuring to do so.
This practical approach can also be extended to GPs and referral information. This can be as simple as providing downloadable referral forms.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (shown below) do a great job of providing clear practical information aimed at different audiences.
2. Provide reassurance
With the news full of headlines about NHS cuts, bear in mind you are talking to a suspicious audience who now more than ever need reassurance they are getting top quality care. Show them how delivering familiar services in new ways, for example through integrated teams or at home can actually be a better experience for them. Consider using video to explain new services; having staff or even patients explain changes will help you instil trust in your users.
By , Senior User Experience Consultant
Google’s gross annual revenue from mobile advertising is over US$2.5 billion per year*.
eBay expects mobile customers to buy and sell $8 billion of merchandise in 2012*.
PayPal expects to see $7 billion in mobile payment volume in 2012*.
Mobile is big business. Digital experiences that are locked in to where you are and what you’re doing, that emphasise convenience and cater for people on the move (and sat on the sofa) are making the most of mobile technologies and context-based services. Gesture and voice based interactions have introduced a new way of interacting with the web, driving innovation and influencing customer behaviours and expectations. (more…)
By Craig Cartwright, Technical Architect
Well it’s the end of an era for Google Analytics: come end of January 2012 they plan to replace the current interface we have all learnt to love and use with the new dashboard and features that they’ve been promoting for a while (Some may have already jumped shipped to the new interface as we’ve all had the chance for a while to change to the new!).
So what does this actually mean for all of us? And is it time to panic? Well I’d like to think that it’s nothing too serious to worry about, and for most, it will all be fine. But for some of the regular users like me that use some of the more obscure reports, it does mean some annoyance as they are being laid to rest (RIP).
But before running for the hills (or the likes of other great analytics packages such as Mint, etc.) be aware that some of these reports can still be found – but in the strangest of places – namely as “secondary dimensions” or via “advanced segments” for some of the traditional reports. As per the old interface these act as additional “parameters” for filtering reports. For example, the great old screen resolutions reports is now stored/shown as a secondary dimension in the browser report.
So what’s the hype or moan about? Well, with my like for spaghetti westerns – here’s my take on the good, the bad and the plain ugly….
By , Head of Strategic Research
When looking for inspiration and a slightly different angle for a blog to mark World Usability Day I happened across a newsletter that I wrote in June 2000 titled ‘Dotcom Disasters’. For those of you who were still in short trousers at that time, the summer of 2000 was the beginning of the Dotcom collapse that saw funding pulled from numerous high profile Internet start ups.
At the time the most prominent failure, and the main focus of my missive, was a site called Boo.com. It had received over $200m worth of funding, assembled a highly talented and creative team with the remit to develop an innovative, state of the art B2C website selling sports wear. This it had done, and a year previously had launched in a blaze of publicity, albeit five months later than the initial publicity had promised. However, within a year Boo.com had failed and gone to the wall.
By , Head of Research
It is with a sense of relief, and not a little gratitude to my colleagues, that I can formally announce the launch of our latest sector report: Integration or isolation? – The digital landscape for UK financial services.
I have been producing big reports into various sector websites for over ten years and the title of this one had me reflecting on the process that we undertake to get these reports ‘to press’.
As always the research and data collection is really the easy bit. It can be done in isolation. Just put me in front of a computer, leave me alone for a few weeks with a spreadsheet and ‘the job’s a good ‘un’!
It’s the concept, design, proofing and coordination of the people who help me bring the reports together that presents the biggest challenge – the integration.
By , Consultant
At our recent #UsabilityFail seminar Mark Russell and I spoke about why you should stop wasting your marketing budgets on bad usability, covering the functional and organisation barriers that inhibit organisations from providing good online customer experience.
According to a recent report by e-Marketer by 2015 an estimated $51b will be being spent on online marketing each year.
So much money is spent and so much hard work is involved in getting people to your site which is fundamentally wasted if the experiences customers have on your site are poor. You should also be concerned that bad user experiences hurt your brand.
It’s easy to look at sales figures (or whatever success means for you) to quantify how well you are doing. With pride these figures get marched (well, sent) off to the senior management team where everyone pats themselves on the back for a job well done and left with the impression everything is going to plan.
But while this tells a usability story of sorts does this really indicate anything about the usability of the site and how satisfied your customers are with their experience on it?
For many years I worked for a website that failed to address the usability flaws in one of the most popular areas of the site because it provided the “least profit”. Investment was instead piled into those areas that were on paper the “most profitable” even though they were less visited.
This lack of investment where a larger percentage of visitors were most engaged ultimately turned people away from the profitable areas of the site. Why? Does a bad experience resonate with users much more than a good one? You can be certain of it!
We as website users take good usability and experiences for granted and so we should if you want your business to succeed online. Poor usability resonates with us and makes us more likely therefore to leave, complain and never return.