Free book: Designing for the web (rrp £29)

designing for the web

We’ve  just discovered this incredible free design book. It looks super useful and is full of supporting visuals. This book was previously selling on Amazon for £29.

A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web aims to teach you techniques for designing your website using the principles of graphic design. Featuring five sections, each covering a core aspect of graphic design: Getting Started, Research, Typography, Colour, and Layout. Learn solid graphic design theory that you can simply apply to your designs, making the difference from a good design to a great one.

We’ve not had a chance to read it yet so do get in touch and let us know what it’s like.

Download A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web.

Designing for the web - Free bookDesigning for the web - Free book

A psychologists thoughts on Spritz and the future of digital reading

How do you read these days? Do you read physical or digital books? Have you heard of Spritzing? Here, Lisa Duddington, Digital Psychologist at Keep It Usable, looks at how reading has changed and what the digital future holds.

UX Books“I’m an avid reader, in fact my nickname is ‘the bookinator’. You can normally find me hanging out in the psychology section at Waterstones. For a long time, I just couldn’t see myself ever replacing phsyical books with digital versions. To me, part of the ‘user experience’ is looking through a book case of pretty, colourful covers, picking each one up in turn and leafing through the sheets, breathing in the smell of the paper. Each book is in itself unique, it has character. However, this all changed when I jumped onboard the Kindle revolution. I can now carry hundreds of books with me in my handbag and that’s pretty amazing! However, there’s a new player about to come onto the market called Spritz that will radically change how we all read and could see an end to current eReaders.”

What is Spritz?

Spritz uses a very small interface to present just one word at a time. One letter in each word is coloured red and this is representative of the ORP (Optimal Recognition Point). It’s basically the point within the word that you’re most likely to recognise and therefore read the word optimally.

Have a go for yourself. Focus on the red letter and try to relax, using your peripheral vision to read each word. If you feel like you can go faster, try adjusting the wpm.

spritz 250wpm
spritz 500wpm

How does it work?

With Spritz, your eyes focus in one position, as opposed to having to move to read the rest next words. This is where Spritz makes a huge difference to the speed at which you read. 80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes from one word to the next. Without this movement, you can achieve hugely increased WPM (word per minute) reading times.

80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes.

Although this sounds incredible and I’m sure you’re already thinking about how many books and emails you could now get through in a day, what is questionable is the ability of the brain to process and store this information as deeply.

Information processing

How many times have you had to read and re-read a paragraph of text because you were distracted or you simply needed further understanding? Do you ever pause when reading a book to reflect on what you’ve just read? Does you’re reading slow down and speed up in reaction to the content? All of these things show the limits of Spritzing.

The appeal of Spritzing for many will be in reading easy to digest fiction books. However, non-fiction books are less suited. Our pace of reading is naturally slower when we’re learning, digesting and questioning, making sense of and understanding anything new. We’re also more likely to re-read paragraphs so Spritz wouldn’t really be suitable.

CEO of Spritz, Frank Walden says “If you’re reading Shakespeare, you’re not going to want to do it with Spritz, but with a romance novel, for example, people skim like crazy anyway. They just rip through a book, reading for plot. Are they savoring every word? Probably not.”

Spritz Mobile

Less emotion

One of the downsides of Spritzing is a lack of emotion in the words due to the speed. When we read we naturally tend to subvocalise (we hear the characters voice in our heads). However, when we read at speed we lose the ability to subvocalise, giving less emotion to the words.

More concentration, less control

As Spritz requires the user to look in one place and the words flash quickly, it can feel like it requires increased concentration and focus. There’s a feeling of ‘I can’t look away or I’ll miss a word’. With the constant movement we wonder if there will be any physical side effects, such as motion sickness. Will there be a tendency for users to blink less?

What’s unanswered right now is how the user controls the Spritz. If you’re interrupted, how do you get back to where you were? Whereas in a book you may recall you were about halfway down the page and relocate your position fairly quickly, with Spritz’s one word at a time presentation, this may be time consuming and difficult.

The future of digital

How would you like to read 50 emails in 7 minutes?

This will have some really interesting effects on future digital devices and interfaces. It adds a whole new world of possibility for showing lots of information, quickly, on very small screens. We’re now going through a phase of larger screens but Spritzing could change all of this. Imagine being able to read a whole novel on a bracelet, or check your emails on your ring. It could also be the perfect pairing for Google Glass. Imagine Spritzing within adverts – marketers would be able to show a lot more information within a much smaller space and people would in theory read more of it in a single glance.

Smart watches have struggled to gain mainstream popularity. They’re bulky and don’t really offer anything over and above the smartphone. The small screen poses difficult interaction with the interface, and makes reading things like emails a rather more painful process. Spritz could well be the trigger the smart watch needs to gain mass market popularity.

Spritz on Smartwatch

The possibilities of how this could effect future technology are really exciting! Let’s Spritz!

The biggest mobile Christmas yet! Are you ready?

This year, mobile Christmas shopping is really going to soar like never before!
This is the year mobile will begin it’s journey overtaking desktop for Christmas shopping.
Are you ready?

Last year, there was an overall 17.8% increase in online sales, much of which was due to  increased usage of smartphones and tablets and higher trust in shopping via these devices. This year, mobile shopping is set to dramatically rise. Adobe have predicted mobile shopping will grow by a whopping 97% compared with last Christmas and they anticipate tablet growth of 60%.

However, people are still quite split in their opinion of online shopping:

“I’d actually rather go and touch it and see it, to be honest, rather than go online”
“Convenience… and it’s easier to compare prices. If it’s something expensive I’d go and look at it at the shop first and then buy it online at the best price.”

Mega Monday (or Cyber Monday)

The first Monday in December (Dec 2nd this year) comes shortly after payday (last friday in Nov, also known as Black Friday) and is consistently the busiest day for online retailers. Having browsed retailers online over the weekend and shortlisted their favourite items to buy, shoppers log on typically after dark on Monday. The busiest time being between 8pm and 9pm.

Interestingly, the term ‘Cyber Monday’ was originally created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online and it appears to have worked incredibly successfully!

Last year £320m of sales were made on Visa’s credit and debit cards, with that number set to significantly rise this year. It’s been dubbed Mega Monday by Visa, which says people across the UK will use its credit cards to spend £222,222 in 4,722 transactions every 60 seconds – an increase of 20% on last year.

According to Barclays bank, nearly two thirds of high street retailers surveyed expect website traffic to increase by 11 per cent on 2 December.

On Mega Monday last year, online retail spending increased 18.9% compared to the same day the year before. Online is spreading across smartphones and tablets, with an ever-greater share of online sales. The last Mega Monday saw Mobile representing 21.5% of online site traffic – up a staggering 79% on the year before.

December’s Twin Peaks

Did you know there are two peak days in December for mobile click throughs? The first is Mobile Sunday, this is the second Sunday of December. The second is Christmas Day, especially in the morning. These are two days you need to be prepared and planning for.

Stuart McMillan, head of e-commerce at Schuh, predicts the busiest mobile shopping day will happen slightly after this, on the 16th December.

ecommerce_peak_shopping_days

Source: Econsultancy

Stuart says “It’s likely to be mobile-tastic this Christmas. I predict that we’ll have 33% of traffic coming from mobile devices, 22% from tablets and 45% from desktops by mid-December.
Now’s not the time to make big changes to your sites, but there is still opportunity to do some MVT for copy optimisation. There are probably still things that could be done on mobile site speed which are quick wins.”

Mobile WILL overtake desktop

John Lewis predict that mobile traffic will overtake desktop this Christmas.
“Mobile is set to be the shining star of Christmas 2013. Shopping is becoming much more of a social experience with people browsing, purchasing and sharing ideas with others using their mobile phones and tablets. We expect this to increase dramatically during the festive period as customers shop on the go and we anticipate that Christmas Day will be the tipping point for mobile.”
Interestingly, John Lewis have traditionally seen customers sticking to smaller transactions via mobile, however, they say this has been rising.

What should you do right now?

Tips from Keep It Usable:

  • If you don’t have a mobile site, optimise what you have. Do a usability test – firstly your current site may not be as bad as you think! The test will highlight the most crucial areas to make mobile friendly. Make sure your hit areas are big enough and that forms are usable. You may also want to implement a save or share link so the transaction can be completed on desktop later.
  • Plan for cross-platform shopping. Even if customers don’t transact on mobile, they are using mobile throughout the discovery and browsing phases. Ensure consistency across devices so that users can easily find what they were looking at on other devices.
  • Focus on persuasion. Could your copy or design be more actively engaging and persuasive? Sometimes simple design changes can have a big impact and an outside set of eyes can really help. An expert review of your site from an outsider is quick and inexpensive.
  • Focus on search results. At Christmas and on mobile, people are both stressed and short of time so they want accurate results when searching. Make sure you provide filters so users can narrow down large search results, different viewing options to cater for different preferences, reviews should be clear and easy to find otherwise you risk losing customers to other sites (that they will visit to read the reviews), make sure you’re showing the most relevant information in search results and of course clear calls-to-action are essential.
  • Start preparing for next year. While it may be too late to turn your business around this Christmas, you can prepare for next year; 2014 is set to see continued growth in online, as well as a proliferation of mobile commerce.

Tips from Econsultacy:

Econsultancy recently published a great article with tips on what you should do right now to prepare for the Christmas period. We highly recommend you read the article.

Here are some of our favourite tips:

  • Extend your returns policy and make it obvious.
  • Incentivise repeat customers in the build-up to Christmas.
  • Obvious telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Ensure that the checkout is as easy to use as possible (Usability test and implement the quick wins).
  • Make your last delivery dates obvious and consider using a countdown to give people a sense of urgency.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thank you, have a lovely Christmas.

Manchester City Council named Best Government Website

Manchester City Council wins Prestigious Lovie Award for Best Government Site following research by Keep It Usable

AWARD WINNER! Named the best government site at the prestigious People’s Lovie Awards!

Manchester City Council’s website came top of a public vote as the best website in the government category, and judges also bestowed the website a silver award and shortlisted it in the ‘best home page’ category from a list of more than 1,500 entries from 20 European countries.

With the help of Keep It Usable, we’re proud to announce that Manchester City Council have won their first award for their innovative user-centric website.

‘Unsurpassed in its design and functionality, our new look site has become the benchmark of local government websites, making ease of use the main priority for our users in an era when the internet is  gearing increasingly towards tablets and smart phones.’

Following a review of how people asked for services, reported problems and paid bills, the site was redesigned to be wholly customer-centric. In particular, ensuring the top things people want to do are as easy and simple as they can possibly be.
Manchester City Council stated:

“The website was tested thoroughly by Manchester-based company, Keep It Usable. They asked ordinary local people from a range of backgrounds and ages to perform various tasks on different devices to see how easily they could do things.

The site was also tested by accessibility-experts and organisations representing blind or partially-sighted people to make sure it is useable by everyone.

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said: “This is a fantastic achievement that gives testimony to the quality and success of the new website. That it has been judged by industry experts as one of Europe’s top government sites, while also being voted for by users of the website, is a huge accolade.

“Unsurpassed in its design and functionality, our new look site has become the benchmark of local government websites – making ease of use the main priority for our users in an era when the internet is gearing increasingly towards tablets and smart phones.”

Nik Roope, Executive Chair of IADAS, said: “The re-designed Manchester City Council website has excelled in its category, showing fantastic prowess in digital innovation and creativity. This award is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

Read the phenomenal user feedback the site received upon launch >>>

Lisa’s BBC Radio Appearance

bbc radio manchester

If you were up early this morning and listening to BBC Radio Manchester, you’ll have heard Lisa Duddington of Keep It Usable chatting with Allan Beswick.

Lisa was invited to appear on Allan’s show following her recent success at being shortlisted for 2 women in business awards, the award ceremony of which will be held next week.

The topic of focus for the interview was today’s news as well of course as some discussion of usability, research, tech and women in business.

Allan told Lisa of his own frustrations with websites:
“If I had control of the world… I would require all websites to operate the same way, because when you’re looking for something, looking for a product or a service or whatever, you go to one website, you’ve got to spend ten minutes, quarter of an hour trying to navigate it, you go to another one – it’s entirely different! What’s the point of that?…So many of them are counterintuitive”.
Lisa and Allan also discussed the importance of research, prototyping and usability in a world where you don’t get second chances with customers:
“Lisa: A lot of companies underestimate the amount of research and testing and prototyping that you need to do on anything, be it a hard product or a website or an iPhone app. You really do just need to spend quite a bit of time testing it and researching it with real people, people like yourself, to make sure that it is easy to use and it is going to be a success and that it does meet people’s needs and their wants… What we would do is we would go in and do the research for them so as opposed to just launching something and hoping people like it. We would do research beforehand to make sure that they do like it before you spend all that money on launching a product.

Allan: Because a customer driven away is a customer that never comes back…

Lisa: Exactly! And not only do they not come back but they tell thousands of people on social media not to come back.”
If you missed the show, you can still listen to Allan and Lisa on BBC Radio Manchester’s Allan Beswick show. Just fast forward to 44:30 and 1:17:35 to hear Lisa’s parts.

World Mental Health Day 2013

World Mental Health Day

Today is world mental health day and it is a crucial day to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues that can effect anyone at anytime.

We’ve been heavily involved in mental health for the last few years. It’s an area where having a good, simple user experience designed by specialist ux psychology designers is absolutely crucial. When someone is distressed, frustrated, stressed, angry, confused, the last thing they need is an interface that worsens their current mental state.

Qwell

Qwell Counselling - Mental health software application for adults

Qwell is a software application that we designed for Xenzone. The engaging user centred has ease of use at the forefront.
Aimed at adults, Qwell provides a safe, reassuring online therapy environment run by fully trained counsellors.

Read the Qwell Case Study >

Kooth

Following a successful launch of Qwell, we were invited to redesign the hugely successful Kooth. Kooth is an award winning online counselling platform for young people. It is commissioned throughout the UK and has helped tens of thousands of young people.

At the start of the project, we held workshops and focus groups with young people in schools and it was clear that the design of Kooth wasn’t engaging with the target audience. They knew what they liked, what they needed, what was cool and so with their input we designed a much more youthful, fun, simple, engaging platform that met with both their requirements and the clients.

Excitedly, our redesign of Kooth will be launched later this month. We can’t wait to show it to you and tell you all about it, so be sure to check back soon!

A psychological explanation of why consumers love colour choice

iphone5c colours

Whenever colour choice is discussed with consumers, we have always seen a positive reaction

Apple have finally done it with the iPhone 5C! They’ve launched coloured handsets in keeping with their other famously colourful products. Will consumers like coloured phones? Will they appeal to the mainstream user?

For those of you who follow @usabilitygal on Twitter or have spoken to Lisa in the past, you’ll know that for years she’s been championing colour choice in mobile handsets and it’s been a bug bear that there is so little choice for consumers other than boring, dull colours such as black, dark grey, navy and white. Most people disagreed, their explanation being that a wide variety of colourful cases was all that consumers needed. Sell mobiles in monochrome colours and let people pimp them up if they so desired.

Unfortunately, this limited viewpoint relies on the consumer at the point of purchase having the imagination to envisage each mobile in a colourful case that they haven’t yet even begun to think about. Therefore, one of the major purchase factors is in fact colour.

We’ve conducted hundreds of research interviews and usability tests with mobile users which is why we’ve always been champions of colour choice and personalisation. That’s not to say that you should let people have free reign, people need boundaries and limits otherwise we’ll just see a repeat of MySpace in the 90s all over again!

Whenever colour choice is discussed with consumers, we have always seen a positive reaction, particularly with the female market. We feel that the female consumer has been hugely overlooked in the tech world and unless more women take board positions within tech companies, the only way companies will be able to adapt to the female consumers needs is to listen to them. Simply, conduct research.

So, why is having the choice to personalise a design through the use of colour so appealing to people?

Extension of the self

When people buy products that will be shown and used in public, there is an added social acceptance dimension in the purchase decision – what will other people think? This is where it becomes more difficult to predict human behaviour. People have a multitude of reasons for why they buy something, and if that product is both a high purchase price and something that a wide variety of people in both their current and future social circles will see, the decision becomes more complex, weighty and important.

The mobile becomes a reflection of you, your status in life, your personality, your desires… Knowing this, people will often choose a product that is not a reflection of who they are currently, but who they want to be in the future. It becomes a status symbol of their future self.

Colour helps this expression of themselves as we know through the many articles that have been written on colour psychology – is your personality a bold, confident red or a friendly, reserved blue? Are you a blue but want others to see you as a red so you purchase a red product? Whatever the reasons, people like a choice of colour and are often conscious of what that choice indicates to others about them.

Increased emotional attachment

Admit it, you have an emotional attachment to your mobile don’t you? Most people admit to feeling like a piece of them is missing when they are without their mobile. Increased personalisation increases the amount of human-device attachment that a person experiences. It becomes an expression and extension of themselves which brings with it an increased emotional bond.

Fun

Quite simply, having a colourful phone is more fun! Who wants to look at boring black all day long? Bring on bold, bright colours that make you feel alive, energetic, playful and happy :)

Choice and increased control

iyengar jam

Who doesn’t love choice! In studies it’s been shown that people love choice, well, they say they love choice ‘the more options the better!’ however in practise this isn’t the case at all. Famous studies that demonstrate the paradox of choice, such as, the jam experiment by Iyengar, prove that when given too much choice people actually don’t make a choice at all. Why? The crux of the issue is that people fear making the wrong choice. Lots of choices puts a lot of demand on the person to weigh up each choice, it’s pros, it’s cons, the implications of making the wrong choice, how they’ll feel if their choice is the wrong one, etc. Given a few choices, people are more likely to make a purchase, will feel more confident about their decision and happier afterwards.

Choice equals more control and a greater feeling of power. Providing more colours for the iPhone 5C is giving more control back to the consumer.

 

Manchester Council launches award-winning site following research by Keep It Usable

Manchester-City-Council-Responsive-Website-Keepitusable

AWARD WINNER! Named the best government site at the prestigious People’s Lovie Awards!

The site came top of a public vote as the best website in the government category, and judges also bestowed the website a silver award and shortlisted it in the ‘best home page’ category from a list of more than 1,500 entries from 20 European countries.

 

Manchester Council recently launched a radically different, user-centred website following research with local residents by Manchester UX agency Keep It Usable. The result? An overwhelming success.

Releasing a new council website can be tricky – it’s hard to please everyone and people don’t always have a good opinion of their local council. Get it wrong and you can be facing a backlash from residents and councillors.

Council sites need to be user-focussed. Mobile use is growing phenomenally and it’s a trend we see with users during the research we do. The mobile phone is now the new PC. Some people tell us they don’t even turn their computer on, they do everything on their phone because it’s always with them. Knowing that mobile and tablet traffic will double in the next couple of years, the site has been designed responsively to support all devices.

Importantly, the site is designed around the top things that people want to do “Research showed us that 80 per cent of people visit the site to carry out specific tasks and the new site has been designed with this in mind…There is a financial aspect to this too. The more people access services online, the more it helps us to deliver those services more cost effectively.”

Manchester-City-Council-New-Website

“We’ve looked carefully at what residents actually use our website for and redesigned it with their needs in mind. It’s also been tested by real people who tell us that they find it refreshingly easy to use. The way people use the internet has changed dramatically, and as half of all visits to our website will be made using tablets and smart phones within a couple of years, we’ve made sure it can be used easily on these devices as well as more traditional computers. Having a well-designed website is therefore hugely beneficial,” commented Councillor Nigel Murphy, executive member for environment for Manchester City Council”.

The new website was tested by groups of real people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Lisa Duddington, head of research for Keep It Usable, said: “Everyone was very positive about the new direction and it was evident that a well-designed council site improves people’s perception of the council and changes their behaviour. The site was so easy and quick to use that people who traditionally always called the council said they would now use the website.”

When the site went live we monitored responses on social networks and the result was overwhelmingly positive. Have a look at the comments below and be convinced that making your website user-centred is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Keep It Usable feature in The Guardian: How councils can keep up with changing online trends

Manchester Council: New look website puts residents first

The Drum: Manchester City Council launches new website following consumer research

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-1

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-2

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-3

Content Strategy: Exclusive interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This month, we’re focussing on the importance of Content Strategy. This coincides nicely with the launch of a new book titled ‘Content Everywhere’ by Sara Wacheter-Boettcher who is also the editor of A List Apart. We interviewed Sara to talk to you about her new book and explain exactly what content strategy is, how it fits into the User Experience (UX) process and why it’s important for you to have a content strategy.

Hi Sara! Please could you tell our readers about yourself and what you do

I’m an independent content strategist, the editor of A List Apart magazine, and a general loudmouth. Right now I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Amish country, because my husband has a visiting professorship here. Before that, I lived in Arizona, and before that, Oregon, which I still miss every day.

I work directly with clients or partner with agencies to solve complex content problems, and I spend a lot of time writing articles and speaking at conferences to help other web professionals deal with the complexities of content and how it affects their business.

Congratulations on your new book ‘Content Everywhere’. What is it about?

The idea for book came out of all the hubbub over mobile and responsive design that started in the summer of 2011. I had this realization: The problems that we already had with content—both with managing and maintaining it, and with users being able to find content that was relevant to them—were about to be exacerbated by mobile.

That’s because the way we’ve been conceiving of and creating web content has been in big, monolithic pages—and those pages just wouldn’t hold up against the onslaught of different devices and services that are coming. It just looked like big, broken blobs of stuff. Creating new, separate content for every new device wouldn’t work for long, either—there are just too many to keep up with. Instead, we need to make our content more flexible—more capable of being shifted and moved around however it’s needed—and that comes from structure.

When we break content down according to what it is and what it is trying to communicate, and store it in a way that respects its natural shape and flow, then we can do so much more with it: We can connect it to other content based on shared attributes and relationships. We can reformat and reflow it for different devices. We can mash it up with third parties’ data via an API. So that’s what the book is all about: Showing you how to break your content down and turn it into a flexible foundation, and then showing you all the different types of things that will allow you to do.

Who would benefit from reading your book?

It’s definitely a practitioner’s guide—a book for people who want to work hands-on with content. That includes people in content strategy, editorial, and writing roles, but it’s not limited to them. It’s also for people in IA and UX, who are often tasked with organizing and labeling information. The book helps you take those skills and apply them to a micro plane, within a single piece of content.

What I didn’t expect when I wrote the book was how many people from mobile design and development fields would pick it up because they want to really learn how to deal with content—and that’s been really exciting to see as well.

How does the role of content fit within UX? 

You can’t really have one without the other, I don’t think. If you’re trying to design an experience and you don’t think about the content, what exactly are you designing? And if you are thinking about content without thinking about the people who will ultimately read or use it, then what’s the point?

What’s interesting about content strategy work is that it both fits within and outside of typical UX roles, because content has to deal with so many other things: the people and workflows and departmental silos and skillsets inside an organization, the content management system, the relationship between groups like IT and marketing and their ability to communicate and get things done, the ongoing needs of the business and how much content will need to be produced in the long run to serve them. The list could go on.

 

IBM’s “Customer Facing Solutions” infographic

What are the benefits for those companies that include content in their UX process? 

If you don’t think about content, you get delays. You get content that “breaks” the design. You get a beautiful interaction stuffed with defensive and condescending error messages. You get a system that works beautifully, but no one on staff who understands how to care for it—how to update the content effectively, what to do when content needs to archived, what sorts of content are appropriate for the experience in the first place. And so, the benefit of including content considerations in every project and every organization is that you can skip all that mess and wasted time and budget, and deliver something that fits the brand, resonates with users, and smooths the entire process—oftentimes with a lot fewer headaches.

 

Richard Ingram’s illustration shows ways in which a UX team might collaborate with a content strategist

How would user research feed into content strategy?

Well, it’s really hard to connect with your users and get them to care if you don’t understand much about them. I personally work on user research as often as possible, conducting user interviews, synthesizing analytics data, observing users in action. If I’m not the one conducting the research, I want to hear as much as I can from those who are. The more you can empathize with users and understand what’s important to them, the better you can make your content resonate with them, and also the more you can avoid the lure of pretty-yet-meaningless marketing copy, which is shallow and useless.

Could you share one thing people reading this article can do right now to improve their content?

Just go look at it—really look at it. What are all the things you’re putting out there? Do they reflect the organization you want to be? Do they sound human and relatable? Can thou figure out why they’re there? How much are you publishing, anyway, and for whom? Every piece of content you put out there takes time, money, and resources away from your organization. Ask yourself whether it’s helping you reach your goals. Once you’ve taken a good, hard look, don’t get overwhelmed. You can tame the beast, but it’ll take some time. Do a little thing to start, and work from there. It will pay off in saved time, better experiences for users, and a lot more clarity about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Other than your book, are their any other online or offline resources you’d recommend to learn more about content?

The magazine I edit, A List Apart, publishes frequently about content, as does Contents. I’d also suggest some books. The foundational text is Content Strategy for the Web from Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. I’d also suggest Margot Bloomstein’s Content Strategy at Work, especially if you’re from a neighboring field and want to understand what focusing on content or working with someone who does can do for you as a designer, a project manager, etc. And finally, Karen McGrane’s new Content Strategy for Mobile is a great complement to my book, especially if you need to convince the powers that be to stop blowing budget on glittery mobile apps and actually make all your content mobile-ready.

Further info

Sara’s website: sarawb.com    Twitter: @sara_ann_marie

£13.29 Kindle £23.75 paperback View on Amazon.co.uk >>>

$20.08 Kindle $39.00 paperback View on Amazon.com >>>

 

Want to find out more about content strategy? Want to ask a question? Contact us

 

10 psychology techniques to drive behaviour

If you want to increase your engagement metrics, increase page views, increase the amount of enquiries and much more then follow these simple techniques.

1. Know your audience

Know your users

If you don’t know who your audience is then you won’t know what makes them tickYou can’t persuade people if you don’t know much about them. Knowing your audience helps you to shape your message in a way that’s most likely to gain their acceptance. That’s all the more important when your goal is to persuade, and not simply to inform.

2. Speak the same language

Speak the same language

Once you know who your audience is, you need to make sure you communicate with them in an effective manner. This involves speaking their language, using phrases and expressions they’re familiar with, limiting unfamiliar words where possible. The tone of voice and content should match the level and knowledge of your audience. If it’s too technical or not technical enough you will lose the user.

3. Stay concise

Stay concise

People will actually read more your text, the less text you write. Why? People are busy, they’re bombarded by text and adverts all day every day and there’s an internet full of content for them to sift through for answers. Long paragraphs of text drive people away so make sure you keep your content short and snappy, full of content, not waffle.

4. Use good layout

Eye tracking

People scan content for things that stand out to them. If nothing interests them they’ll head off somewhere else. To make sure they’re able to get a good overview of your content within a few seconds, make sure that content is sectioned with good headings, that key words visually stand out (i.e. bold them or use colour), make use of bullets, use white space to draw attention to things and let content breathe, and of course use good imagery leads us nicely to our next point.

5. Use engaging imagery

Whirlpool toaster

People are drawn to imagery over text. In eye tracking studies, people are instantly drawn to photographs on a page. Our brains are wired to prefer visuals, they are processed faster and enable us to draw quicker conclusions. In short, people prefer them. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. You need to ensure any images you use appeal to your target audience. They also need to feel real so don’t be tempted to use stock imagery (unless it’s really good). People see through stock imagery, they know you’ve paid for the images and they aren’t authentic, this reflects on you as a business. Where possible, use real photos that do a great job of appealing to your audience and reflecting your purpose for the imagery.

6. Make use of video

If you want to get your message across and have it remembered, video has the advantage (over just reading text) of communicating social and emotional information, not just facts. If the video shows your company, products, testimonials… it can give your business instant credibility and authenticity. The human brain is drawn to moving imagery, sounds, emotion which is why video can be a powerful tool for increasing audience engagement.

7. Cats

Keep It Usable Cats

The Keep It Usable cats! Bowie and Ramos.

Cats are one of the most searched terms on the internet right now. We’re not really suggesting you use cats (unless your target audience enjoy them) but it can be a clever technique to make use of trends, what’s fashionable and popular right now. You need to use content that engages with your end users. You’ve heard of the Harlem Shake? You’ve seen all the youtube memes? If your business appeals to that audience then why not jump onboard and produce your own version!

8. Use stories

Once upon a time

From as far back as history takes us, humans have used stories to pass on knowledge. Why did they do this? We remember stories. When stories are told, the recipient recreates the feelings inside themselves. We can’t help it. Inside all of our brains we have mirror neurons and these literally mirror what we’re seeing or hearing. This is why when we watch a sad film, we feel sad too, the brain lives it it for the first time, as if it’s our own experience. Because stories use so many of our senses, we are also able to remember them easily.

 

9. Use real people

UX books

This is me. You’ll make instant judgements within milliseconds of looking at this photo. A picture really does speak a thousand words.

Do you know what fascinates people? People. Do you know who people trust the most? People like them. Use content and imagery that is yours. This could be testimonials from your customers or photographs of real people (not models or stock imagery) using your product. Show images of you, your employees, your workplace, etc too. The more real your company feels, the more honest and trustworthy it will appear to be. In the photo above you’ll see me pointing at our vast collection of UX related books. What instant judgements did you make? Have another look and see if you were right.

You’d be right if you thought that I… love reading, I love learning, I prefer physical books as opposed to digital. You will also have made assumptions about me as a person and my lifestyle. There’s a lot you will gather from a photo or image that is subconscious and conscious. An image really does speak a thousand words.

 

10. Clear call-to-action

Clear call to action

FileShare HQ have a clear call-to-action. They know what they want users to do.

Give the user a place to go next. Too often, we see website pages and software that doesn’t clearly guide the user to the next step you wish them to take. For every page, decide what you want the user to do next and make sure there is a clear path to take them there. If you want them to call you then show your telephone number and tell them to call you. If you want them to buy from you then ensure your call-to-action is a nice visual button that stands out on the page.