Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?

Recruiting the right participants for a study is a difficult task and an essential component of the research process. It ensures your user research is valid and the end results (your design changes) are effective.

“Poor user recruitment may have major negative impacts on your research”

It’s well worth the extra time, effort and cost to ensure you recruit representative participants who can provide useful qualitative feedback. Recruiting the right participants is the foundation of effective user research, because your research results are only as good as the participants involved.

When the recruitment of participants for your research is poorly carried out, there is a whole host of negative consequences and potentially a dramatic negative impact on your research and validity of the findings.

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment

1  No recruitment at all!

When the agency tells you they can recruit your target users, but it turns out they can’t. This is one we’ve personally experienced. We briefed an agency on what we needed and even gave them the full screener to use and they promised they could deliver. At the last minute, they suddenly pulled out as they realised they were unable to recruit any of our target users.

2  No-shows

The worst thing that can happen on the day of the research and whilst you have your stakeholders and your manager in the observation room is that a user doesn’t turn up. This might happen when people are not carefully selected and their reliability has not been assessed during the recruitment process. However, sometimes things do happen that can’t be avoided – One time a user called us at the last minute to say they wouldn’t be able to make it as they’d just crashed their car on the way to see us! Certain target groups are understandably less reliable (mums often have sick children or last minute childcare issues), in which case you might need to consider recruiting a standby user to stay onsite.

3  Late-shows

Late shows put a lot of pressure on the researcher so need to be avoided as much as possible. There may be bad traffic that day, the bus was late, or the user may simply be poor at time keeping. You should always ask people to arrive earlier to account for these little problems.

4  Uncommunicative participants

Part of good recruitment, is assessing the user’s ability to verbally express themselves. A poor recruitment process can lead to the shortlisting of participants who struggle to express themselves and struggle to communicate their opinions to the researcher.

5  Misinterpretation of your needs

Poor user recruitment is often caused by misinterpretation of your needs due to a lack of expertise in UX research by the recruitment agency. Often agencies don’t clearly understand what is involved in doing user testing / UX research and because of this lack of expertise, they struggle to understand exactly what you need and therefore they fail to recruit the right people.

6  Non-representative sample

If the agency doesn’t understand your needs, they won’t be able to craft an accurate screener.  The screener is essential for selecting the right candidates. It may surprise you to hear that many agencies don’t even use a screener, they simply send out a message with your requirements asking for people to let them know if they meet all the criteria. It means it’s a lot cheaper for them to recruit as it takes less time, however, it’s much more likely that users will tell untruths simply to fit the criteria.

7 Brand advocates and bias

Companies who recruit themselves often don’t realise how much they are biasing their own results. A real world example we have just seen, is a retail e-commerce company who are asking for users through their social media channels (along the lines of, ‘love our brand? come in and give your opinion on our website!’). Firstly this type of recruitment attracts people who are already brand advocates and therefore are more likely to give you positive feedback. Yes, that’s nice to hear but not very useful, especially as your aim is to grow your business and attract new customers – what do they think, what will make them switch brands? Also bear in mind that it’s highly likely that users will use your website before they attend the research too as they know they’re going to be using your website. Using a third party keeps this hidden until they attend the session as they won’t know they’ll be using your website until they are at the session and they can’t swot up beforehand!

8  Not enough time to recruit

Working as a UXer means working to tight timescales and an iterative process. It used to drive us crazy that recruitment agencies would need 4 weeks notice to recruit (or they’d turn us away as they were too busy). Fortunately, we have a solution for you, keep reading to find out!

9  Recruiting ‘experts’

Someone slips through who works in web design or who used to work in your sector. They are obsessed with tiny details that ordinary users wouldn’t pick up on and there will be very little of their interview that you can use afterwards.

10  People who just want the money

Their aim is to get through the session as quickly as possible so they can get paid. They don’t interview well as their mind is purely focussed on finishing the tasks quickly as opposed to getting into the mindset. Good recruitment screens out this type of person.

The solution

All of the above can be easily avoided by using good recruitment methods and a thorough user recruitment agency who specialises in UX user recruitment. They are almost impossible to find, and our own bad experiences have led to innovate within the UX industry.

We’re bringing to you our new UX user recruitment agency, I Need Users, founded by UX experts, Keep It Usable. We totally understand your user recruitment needs and your research because we do it ourselves on a daily basis. I Need Users also provides quick, flexible and last minute options to suit your iterative methods.

Need help or advice?

If you’d like to know more about UX participant recruitment and how it can help you, contact our UX experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

Will Singles Day be the new Black Friday?

Although Black Friday is the biggest shopping day in Britain, Europe and the US, the biggest day for online shopping worldwide is ‘Singles day’ in China.

Singles Day was created in China to celebrate single people. It’s held every year on the 11th November, 11.11, with the number 1 symbolising the single individual. This day has gradually become one of the biggest online shopping events i.n the world.

Alibaba Group made Singles Day synonymous with people treating themselves to gifts and last year they recorded sales of £9.4 billion during the 24 hour event (The Guardian).

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales continue to climb every year, reaching this years record figure of $17.8 billion (£14 billion).

chinas_singles_day

In the last few years, several European brands have joined Singles Day. Dyson went on board in 2014 and Macy’s, Hugo Boss and United Biscuits joined the in 2015.

Waitrose entered the Chinese market in April this year, they said: “Singles Day is a big occasion for consumers and businesses in China and has the potential to give the products we offer more exposure and provide another opportunity to test demand for our brand.”

2016 Singles Day sales figure are four times that of worldwide Black Friday sales (source).

Interestingly, mobile devices play a large part in Singles Day’s success. Alibaba reported 82% of purchases had been made on mobile phones during Singles Day. “In contrast, many Black Friday opportunities are concentrated on the high street, which is not always convenient for those just wanting to shop from home, on their mobile or from more rural areas” Wing Chan, group marketing director of The Hut Group.

The exponential growth of mobile and the already observed shift online of British shoppers suggests that Black Friday will continue to grow online; this year 64% of purchases took place on mobile devices (22.7% on tablets, 41.7% on mobile), which is 16% more than the previous year (source).

This is a big opportunity for retailers in the UK and Europe. Investing and focusing your business growth on mobile clearly reflects customer’s current shopping behaviour and desires. Not only that but it can also convert more highly – on Black Friday, mobile optimised websites had a 30% increase in sales and a 25% higher average order value.

Need help optimising your website for mobile?

Let’s have a quick chat about what your first steps should be. Contact us now to arrange a convenient time.

Get your FREE Mobile UX Checklist for World Usability Day

Happy World Usability Day 2016!

We’re very excited today because it’s World Usability Day (and we are Keep It Usable after all). It’s a special day that aims to raise awareness of the importance of usability and educate people about what usability is. It brings together professionals and non-professionals throughout the world with one aim:

To ensure that technology helps people live to their full potential, and that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use in order to create a better world for all citizens everywhere

Usability unfortunately now gets overshadowed by it’s sexier cousin ‘UX’, however, we mustn’t forget that once upon a time (and not so long ago) the term UX didn’t exist at all, and in it’s place was good old ‘Usability’. Usability is still vitally critical to any design, so before we get on to your free mobile usability checklist, let’s have a quick look at usability…

What is usability and how’s it different from UX?

Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object such as a tool or device. In the digital context, usability is the degree to which a digital interface can be used by specified consumers to achieve objectives with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specific context of use.

Put simply, usability is how easy or difficult something is to use. Usability and UX are often used synonymously, but they are in fact different, so let’s have a quick look at how we can distinguish between the two… A simple way to think about it is to remember that user experience encompasses the whole experience a person (in this case referred to as a user) has with a brand’s digital components (it’s worth noting that the term Customer Experience is used to define offline touchpoints too). Usability is just one part that makes up this experience. Other aspects of UX could include things like the brand, marketing, customer service, live chat, content, pricing, visual design, etc. The User Experience honeycomb (Peter Morville) shown in the image below, illustrates usability as just one of seven parts of UX (read this post about what UX  is and the benefits).

So, nowadays, UX is used to describe the overarching process and interaction with the product, whilst usability is more about whether a task can be achieved in a satisfactory and timely manner. In fact, if we look at the international usability standard ISO 9241, it defines usability solely as efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction. Norman and Nielsen take the definition a little further, saying that “usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use”, and that it is defined by 5 components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can people recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use?

Usability is crucial to your success

For most companies, checking their usability is a basic hygiene factor for survival. Users have no patience to put up with bad user interfaces or hard to use products, they no longer try to work it out themselves, they head off to your competitor who does what you do but they do it simpler, easier and quicker. If you don’t provide good usability you’re effectively sending your customers to your competitors. If those customers came to you through PPC, congratulations, you’ve also paid money to send those lost customers to your competition! A small investment in usability testing pays off massively in both the short and long term.

What are the benefits of usability testing?

Conducting usability testing will:

  • Increase sales and conversion: your user interfaces will be more effective at selling your products/service and therefore will increase your sales.
  • Improve credibility and trust in the brand: good UX is associated with increased brand appeal and positive brand associations.
  • Decrease bounce rates: people bounce for many reasons. During the UX design process, as many of those reasons as possible will be identified and designed out, keeping people on the site, taking them further down the funnel.
  • Avoid costly redesign: testing the product in the early stages of the design process and identifying usability issues at the earliest stage will avoid redesign costs later on and lost revenue.
  • Improve user satisfaction: a satisfying user experience is related to positive emotions due to the fulfilment of fundamental psychological human needs: self-esteem, autonomy, competence and relatedness (Self-determination Theory, Deci & Ryan). Moreover, the feeling of satisfaction gathered during a positive user experience, will create an emotional and affective bond between users and your brand, as well as a sense of engagement and motivation to use your brand in the future (for more about how to engage with your customers emotions, take a look at ‘How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences’).

So, how do you test usability?

Usability testing
Typically, usability is measured relative to users’ performance on a given set of test tasks. The most basic measures of usability are based on the following metrics:

  • Success rate (whether users can perform the task at all)
  • Task completion time
  • Error rate
  • Users’ subjective satisfaction

So, you’re basically measuring whether people can complete a task, how long it takes them, how many errors they make (and their classification), and how satisfied people feel after completing (or failing to complete) the task. It is crucial to recruit a representative sample of your target users in your usability test. The recruitment process should screen and select the people that could be your users/customers. There is no point testing the usability of, for instance, your ecommerce website with people that would never buy the products you sell. For this reason, it’s crucial to define personas that will lead the screening process to recruit the sample of users that fit your demographics (to read more about personas and how to create them, check out this post).

When to usability test…

Usability plays a role in each stage of the design process. Testing the usability of your interface or your industrial design with your users should be an ongoing process, that starts from the early phases of concept ideation, through to final launch. It’s worth considering that people’s behaviour, attitudes, needs and expectations change over time and so should your product / service so it’s good practise to run regular usability tests to continuously implement and improve your designs.

  • Test your current design. If you have a design in place currently, test it first to identify what you should keep or emphasise, and the barriers and obstacles that give users problems.
  • Test your competitors to gather insights about their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for you.
  • Conduct user testing on prototypes. You don’t need to spend too much time designing prototypes, they can be lo-fidelity because you will need to change them based on your usability test results.
  • Develop the most successful prototype idea, informing the design of the interface with the findings gathered from continuous testing throughout the design process to refine the design.
  • Test your final design before launch to capture any new issues that may have entered through the visual design process.
  • Keep testing. Keeping your interfaces updated requires design changes – these should be tested to ensure you’re not creating new problems.

Mobile usability: Your biggest opportunity awaits!

Smartphones are now the core of our daily lives and are in the pockets of 66% of UK adults. 90% of 16-24 year olds own one, but don’t discount the older generation! 55-64 year olds are also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50% (keep an eye out in the new year for our latest Baby Boomers mobile shopping experience research or email us to request a free copy when it launches). Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report indicates that a third (33%) of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online.

Mobile is where consumer growth is

The rise of mobile is a predicted and inevitable trend so it is crucial for your website or app to be easy to use from the smaller screen of a smartphone. Not only will mobile growth continue, but we’ll also see mobile usage increase too. It’s something we’re noticing in our own consumer research: Users feel more comfortable browsing and purchasing on mobile devices as time progresses and they become more and more used to smartphones. We’re seeing this in the older generation too – do not discount them!

Get your FREE 50 point Mobile UX Checklist!

FREE Mobile UX checklist
To celebrate World Usability Day and to encourage you to take advantage of the continued growth in mobile, we’re giving away copies of a 50 point mobile ux checklist! Download it and you will find a set of useful guidelines to check your mobile user experience.

Get my FREE Mobile UX Checklist >

Need help?

Our Usability Experts and UX researchers have unrivalled experienced with mobile usability testing – our experience goes right back to the first ever smartphone don’t you know 😉

Email us now for your complimentary initial consultation.

Free Generation Z Shopping Report Download

You need to understand how young people shop if you’re going to convince them to buy from your brand.

Generation Z make up 10% of UK population (aged 16 to 24) and they’re of great interest to marketers, UXers and conversion specialists because Gen Z are the first generation to be born and raised in the digital age.

So, how does this effect their shopping behaviour?

How do they feel about shopping in a physical shop versus shopping online? How do they shop? Is there a difference in what they buy online versus offline? What concerns do they have and what does shopping mean to them? How does their shopping behaviour differ to previous generations and how should you engage with them as consumers? Which is their platform of choice for shopping and how do they prefer to be contacted by companies?

We discovered all this and much more!

Suitable for: Marketers, UX designers, Customer Experience, Product Managers, Conversion Optimisers, Brands targetting Generation Z

Just press the button to go to the site to download the full 20 page report for free.

Live on BBC Business Breakfast and Radio: Why are we so addicted to our mobiles?

If you were watching BBC Breakfast Business News on channel 1 this Monday at around 7.50am you will have spotted our mobile expert and psychologist, Lisa Duddington, talking to Victoria Fritz about why we’re all so addicted to our smartphones and the effect it’s having on our lives. This is because new research by Deloitte confirms that the UK ‘has never been more addicted to smartphones’.

For most people this will confirm something you’ve felt for a while. Just looking around, you’ll have noticed the number of people walking down the street with their head down, engrossed in their digital mobile lives, perhaps you’ve even accidentally bumped into a few of these mobile zombies.

How about you? Do you think you’re addicted to your mobile?

Watch Lisa discussing our mobile addiction on BBC Breakfast (skip to 8 minutes in):

Are you addicted?

It might surprise you to learn that you check your mobile hundreds of times every day. Many of these are micro interactions – a quick press to check the time or to see if you have any unread messages or other alerts.

Our mobile is our constant companion. It’s replaced many other gadgets in our life and the more it replaces, the more we rely on it. It’s now not just a device for calls and texts, it’s our alarm clock that wakes us up first thing in the morning, it’s our sat nav to get us to work, it’s our note pad for reminders, it’s our calendar to organise our day for us, it’s our camera and video recorder to capture important memories, it’s our communication device and our means of accessing the whole world.

The younger generation having grown up with technology are exhibiting the heaviest levels of mobile use. In the generation z research Keep It Usable conducted last year, nearly 40% of young people claimed to use social media and messaging to communicate with friends for more than 6 hours every day. They’re also using ecommerce sites frequently; 27% browse products more than 5 times a day, 14% browse more than 10 times a day! This is a huge opportunity for retailers to convert young consumers using mobile platforms.

Psychology: Why are smartphones so addictive?

So we know we check our phones a lot, but what is it about them that makes us so addicted?

Well, if you think about it, smartphones are designed to get us to check them repeatedly. Every single alert aims to draw our attention to check the device. When we hear an alert we experience a sense of anticipation and even excitement at what we might have received. A new message from a friend makes you feel good and this leads to positive reinforcement, it makes the connection between an alert and the reward (the message) even stronger. This strengthens the connection and behaviour pattern so that it soon becomes a habit.

One of the reasons we feel the need to constantly check our phones is the fear of missing out (FOMO). If we take the example of a message from a friend, it’s very unlikely that we will let that message sit on our mobiles without reading it as it may potentially contain some exciting news or gossip that we feel we must read now or we might miss out!

Or course messages and alerts aren’t always positive like the example described. A lot of the time they’re quite dull and boring – a spam marketing message or a reminder to visit the dentist.  However, it’s this mix of positive and negative, of never knowing if an alert will make you feel great or not that keeps us addicted. This is called the variable reward model and it’s exactly the same model that is used in the design of slot machines. The unpredictability of the reward, the anticipation, the never knowing if the end result will be positive or not, the feel good factor of winning / receiving exciting news keeps us addicted. It is this variable reward model that makes them so addictive.

 

Listen to Lisa discussing why we’re so addicted:

Radio 5 (skip to 20 minutes in)

Radio 5 live

Radio Scotland (skip to 40 minutes in)

Radio Scotland

Nomophobia: What is it and do you have it?

Are you aware of where your mobile is at all times? Do you ever have moments of fleeting panic when you can’t see your mobile? When you leave your mobile at home do you feel anxious and feel like a part of you is missing? If you’ve ever lost or had your phone stolen did you experience high feelings of anxiety or depression? If so, you likely have nomophobia.

Nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) is the fear of not having your mobile with you. It’s very real and is something we’ve probably all experienced at some point in our lives. Unsurprisingly, nomophobia is more prevalent amongst younger people and effects them when they lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.

Nomophobia

How mobile addiction effects our health

One of the surprising and concerning findings from the Deloitte report is that a third of UK adults and half of 18-24 year olds check their mobile phones in the middle of the night. A third checking for messages and a sixth replying to them!

Now to understand the impact of this, we need to look at how the brain reacts to light. Blue light makes the brain think it’s time wake up, red light makes the brain think it’s time to sleep. Blue light suppresses melatonin, it helps with sleep timing and our circadian rhythms. The problem is that this is the same light emitted by our mobile phone screens. Basically, looking at your mobile screen in the middle of the night will make you feel more awake and disrupt your sleep pattern, making you feel much more tired the next day.

Oh and did you know that sleep texting is a thing now? Yes people are now texting during their sleep, posting all sorts of things and not remembering any of it!

 

Fancy switching off?

If all this is sounding worryingly familiar, don’t worry, there are some simple steps you can take.

Try switching your phone off at night time and if possible don’t use it just before you go to sleep – read a book instead and you’ll find you sleep better, waking up more refreshed.

During the day, try not to check your phone as often (it might help to turn it off for a set time), or have set points in the day where you check your phone and email, this will limit the disruption to your daily work.

If you turn to your phone when commuting or when in a new social situation, try putting your phone away and instead notice the things and the people around you. You might notice new things and find you speak with more people, you might even make new friends.

Feeling brave? Leave your mobile at home for a whole day and see if it has a positive effect on your life.

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good design fits our needs so well that the design is invisible.” Don Norman 

What is UX?

‘An experience is a story, emerging from the dialogue of a person with her or his world through action.’ (Hassenzahl 2010, pp. 8)

Each person has their own definition of User Experience (UX) so it can be difficult for newcomers to understand what is meant by the term UX. UX refers to the experience a person has and who they feel when interfacing with a system.

Technologies have become progressively more complex as the industry advances and they are embedded into people’s everyday life to such an extent that our experiences are mostly created and shaped through digital devices. What used to be a one-way medium has evolved into a very rich and interactive experience and from this arises the importance to not just test the product but to test the interaction between users and the product. Users’ needs are always changing as they continually evolve their expectation, so continuously testing the user experience of your product is vital to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Working in UX requires many skills, below is just a small subset.

UX design disciplines

What is UX design?

UX design is the process of enhancing the end user satisfaction with a product or service as well as increasing business KPIs (if you have a great UX designer they’ll deliver both). In simple words, UX design is about how to create technology that can fit human needs, solve problems and make life simpler.

The more you understand your users the better you can design a product that is attractive and meaningful. User-centred design (that aligns your design to your users needs) will ensure the design of a successful product and an enjoyable user experience.

A UX designer will ensure a product logically flows from one step to the next. UX design experts study and evaluate the ease of use of the product, the perception of the value of the interface, the efficiency in performing tasks coupled with business needs.

The checkout process of an e-commerce website is frequently evaluated in terms of the user experience because it’s often a major jumping off point when customers are transacting. Testing how easy and pleasant users purchasing something on the website can be utilised to identify the challenges and obstacles that users face.

As human beings, we are all different. What works for one person might have the opposite effect on another. For this reason the aim of UX is to design for specific user groups (personas) experiences, promote certain behaviours and habits; user experiences will be different and unique for every product. The design process must be tailored to goals, values, needs and expectations related to a specific product.

What’s the difference between UX and usability?

There is some confusion around UX and usability; they are often used synonymously, however in reality, usability is a part of UX.

UX addresses to how the user feels when using an interface; it is more related to the overarching process and interaction with the product, whilst usability is about whether a task can be achieved in a satisfactory time and manner. In fact, according to ISO 9241, usability is purely regarded as efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction.

Whereas UX entails everything that effects how a person interacts with something and can include a whole variety of psychological and social factors; social proof, trust, emotions, frustrations and satisfaction. Usability is just one part of UX.

Which research methods are involved in UX?

The methods for researching UX are numerous and they are strictly related to the nature of the research and the final aims of the testing. Each research is tailored to which aspects of the interface is to be evaluated.

Some of the research methods in UX are:

  • One-to-one interviews: gather deep insights from real time behaviour, interaction, personal experiences, opinions and perceptions.
  • Focus Group: this group research method allows the researcher to investigate behavioural patterns and the influence of group interaction.
  • Concept Testing: testing a concept directly with users allows designers to understand expectations about the product and to transform early ideas into more solid concepts that have been adapted for user needs.
  • Card Sorting: used to inform structure and categorisations based on how users perceive them to be. Utilises understanding of the users mental model.
  • Usability testing: is a research method to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction of a product based on empirical evidence.
  • Diary study: this technique gathers deep information about feelings, habits and behaviours across a period of time.

Is the setting of the research important?

The setting of the research is very important – a poor environment can undermine the validity of the test. As in psychology, the success of research is also based on the environment in which it has been run. A comfortable, cosy and natural environment will help users feel relaxed and behave naturally, as if they were in their natural setting: their own home. Keep It Usable pioneered the home style UX lab – our Home UX Lab has a living room design and cosy, relaxed feel to put people at ease and gather deeper insights so you get more value from your research.

Home UX Lab Manchester UK

What are the benefits for your brand?

Knowing your users and designing for them has a lot of benefits for your brand image, the engagement of your users and on your revenue.

UX design deals with users emotions and feelings and it has long term effects as well as immediate ones. For example, a simple improvement in the checkout process of a website can massively increase the revenue and, at the same time, it will grow loyalty resulting in repeat customers and referrals. If users find the product useful, pleasant and easy to use they will return and use it not just once but whenever they need it.

A positive user experience will make users wonder how they could live without your product!

  • Increase sales and conversion: your user interfaces will be more effective at selling your products and therefore will increase your sales.
  • Improve credibility and trust in the brand: good UX is associated with increased brand appeal and positive brand associations.
  • Decrease bounce rates: people bounce for many reasons. During the UX design process, as many of those reasons as possible will be identified and designed out, keeping people on the site, taking them further down the funnel.
  • Increase visibility (no. of new and return visitors): UX experts are not only looking to increase new customer conversion, but they’re also focussed on improving retention and longer term conversion.
  • Avoid costly redesign: testing the product in the early stages of the design process will avoid redesign costs later and lost revenue.
  • Increase business intelligence and ease decision making: If you understand your customers opinions and needs, everyone in the business will be able to make better business decisions that are more in line with your customers needs. The more user research you do, the more aligned you’ll be with your customers thinking.
  • Better reviews: Online reviews are read by everyone, they’re the word of mouth of the internet and they are trusted because they come from ‘people like me’. Through an increased understanding of customer needs and improving accordingly, you will create a better experience that leads to better reviews.
  • Improve user satisfaction: a satisfying customer experience is related to positive emotions due to the fulfilment of fundamental psychological human needs: self-esteem, autonomy, competence and relatedness (Self-determination Theory, Deci & Ryan). Moreover, the feeling of satisfaction gathered during a positive user experience, will create an emotional and affective bond between users and your brand, as well as a sense of engagement and motivation to use your brand in the future (for more about how to engage with your customers emotions, take a look at ‘How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences’).

In the digital era, a website is often the first point of contact that costumers have with your brand. We have evidenced in our research, that first impressions have a big impact on user behaviour and their decision making process. It takes just a few seconds for users to judge if your brand is worth their time; remember that a bad user experience will put them off, undermining their trust in your company and compromising future use of your brand.

Help!

Would you like to evaluate and measure the UX of your website or product?

Do you need help improving your online sales and conversion?

Would you like to understand your customer behaviour and opinions, discovering the whys behind your data?

Do you need to get your business thinking from the customers perspective so you can make informed, strategic decisions to increase sales?

Do you want to improve the quality of your customer research so you get deeper insights and more true-to-life behaviour?

Contact our UX and Conversion experts >

 

5 reasons to continuously conduct user research

Conducting user research is now something that most successful brands do to improve their user experience and ultimately their bottom line. However, there is still a lot more potential to increase revenue and profitability as many brands still don’t do enough user research. They are reactive and responsive to the demand for research as opposed to ingraining it within their process as an active continuous activity. In fact, recent research has shown that 58% of companies only conduct research on a quarterly or less frequent basis which is far from adequate if you want to be a leader in your market.
58% of companies only conduct research on a quarterly or less frequent basis

User research is not just about waiting until you have something to test. It should be a pro-active activity that provides regular insights into customer behaviour, psychology, process, interaction, expectations and keeps up with the fast changing pace of the digital world at the moment. The way customers shop is constantly adapting and you need to adapt too.

So why should i continuously carry out user research?

1 Understand your customers

Customer behaviour, attitudes and expectations adapt over time and with changes in technology. Conducting regular research enables you to keep informed of how customers perceive your brand and how they’re interacting and transacting with your business. Rather than waiting for changes to happen then reacting to them, you can identify early turning points and be the first to innovate to changes in your sector. This continuous learning enables you to keep all your user documentation such as user journeys and personas up to date so your team are not making decisions based on potentially out of date and no longer relevant insights.

2 Test hunches and hypotheses

Your team should always be coming up with hypotheses to explain data, current and future user behaviour. Some of these you’ll be testing through your split testing but for concept ideas you’ll need other ways to test these and gain user feedback. Assumptions should always be treated carefully – don’t base major decisions on hunches, make sure you have the evidence to back them up through user research. The type of user research you’ll need to conduct depends on what you want to find out – what’s your hypothesis? See 5 user tests every product manager should commission.

3 Benchmark KPIs against yourself and competitors

What do you use as your KPIs? For your online digital experiences you might be using metrics that include those found in the definition of usability ISO 9241-11.

These are:
Efficiency: How long does it take to complete the task? If you’re an online retailer who sells dresses online, how long does it take a representative customer to find and select a red dress for an evening out?

Effectiveness: How do they accomplish the task? Do they complete it using the most optimal path or do they go around the houses, getting a little lost along the way? This is your effectiveness rating and it’s an important indicator of how easy and intuitive your tasks are to complete.

Satisfaction: How satisfied does the user feel after completing (or maybe they didn’t complete) the task? This is a self rated measure.

You’ll find correlation amongst the above three measures. If one scores low it’s likely the other metrics will score low too and all the above correlates with NPS scores. If you regularly run research to benchmark your user experience against yourself (to check the changes you’re hopefully constantly implementing to improve your conversion) and against competitors you’ll always know how you compare and where your strongest opportunities are.

4 Avoid costly rework

There's nothing worse than leaving user research until just before launch, then finding out that your idea sucks!

Or maybe the idea works but the implementation of it isn’t quite right, it’s not testing well and now there’s not enough time to fix it before launch. If only you’d run some user research on an early prototype! The earlier you can catch problems the better as that’s when it’s much cheaper and quicker to fix them. Some people think user research will add time and cost to their project but it really doesn’t, it slots in easily and quickly, and will save you a heck of a lot of rework later on.

5 Be more successful

By continuously conducting user research in your process, the team are constantly seeing their work from the user’s perspective. They’ll begin to think more like your customers and imagine them as they’re working on their UX designs, when they’re in meetings and when they’re coming up with new ideas. Rather than speaking of their own opinions and experience, they’ll begin to talk about what Alice said last week and this gives them a much more solid basis for coming up with innovative ideas and solutions that are born from user insights. These ideas have a much greater chance of being successful for your business.

What to do next

Commit to a regular schedule of user research and see the changes it makes to:

  • Your team morale
  • The understanding of your customers
  • The quality of new ideas generated
  • The cost savings you’ll make through less rework
  • The improvement in all your customer experiences

…and the business will benefit hugely from the increase in revenue.

User research is a revenue generator and the key to your success

Need to rent a lab for your research?

Other posts you may find interesting:

What is User Testing?
5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

Baby duck syndrome: Why users hate change and what you can do about it

How many times have you heard people complaining because the updated version of Facebook is awful? Every time there’s a change, it all kicks off again… everyone becomes angry and adamant they’ll never use Facebook again but then they get used to the change and forget all about it until next time. There’s even been a timeline created of all the Facebook backlashes.

Facebook is just one example we can all relate to, but there are many across the internet including many ecommerce websites and apps. But why is it that people are so reluctant to changes within websites, software and apps? This reluctance that users have towards change is called ‘Baby duck syndrome’.

Baby duck syndrome

But what do baby ducks have to do with users behaviour?

Well, the name comes from psychology and ethology (the study of animal behaviour). Konrad Lorenz, studied animal behaviour and he observed how new born ducks that leave their nest early, instinctively bond and ‘imprint’ with the first moving object they see (in Konrad’s case this happened to be him).

The same thing happens to people when they’re online. Users get used to and learn how to interact with a website or software in a certain way, this can take some time to do so they’ve also invested effort into doing this. Once they are familiar with the platform and like it, they struggle to change their habits. In general, people perceive the familiar as easier and more efficient and the unfamiliar less so; they have a tendency to “imprint” in the first system they learn, then judge other systems by their similarity to the first. Changes to the existing system will be perceived as less easy to use (even if they do actually make it easier) because they require some learning and therefore effort on the users behalf to get used to the new functionality.

This is not isolated to the digital environment either. In the offline world people are also reluctant to change – they feel safer when they can maintain a routine and an instinctive inner strength motivates them to stick with what they’ve learnt, with what they know, because it feels safer for them.

When a radical change is made to something already viewed as useful, but does not fundamentally change the experience, people rebel – and they rebel quickly.

The dilemma for ux designers and product owners

So, your dilemma is this… if you keep the same interface, users will be happy and feel comfortable, but the risk is that you end up stuck with an interface that doesn’t change with the times and gets stuck in the past. It may well have issues to do with the UI and interaction that need to adapt to improve the user experience. However, if you change it significantly, even if it’s for the better, your users are likely to rebel against the change and deem the previous version as better (even if you’ve tested and proved that it was actually worse).

Keeping your product updated is important, but so is keeping your users happy and providing them with an interface that’s easy and pleasant to use. Angry users and social media aren’t a good combination!

How to make changes with minimal upset to users

  • People need to feel reassured and supported. You need to provide assistance and to guide them through the transition phase.
  • Be there for your users, support and explain the nature of the changes, reassure them about how to do it. Don’t make your users feel forced or imposed, let the interface communicate with them rather than instructing them to make the change.

If you take the risk to make changes to your website, app or software and if you are ready to upset you users, you should also be 100% sure that the changes you are introducing worth the risk.

  • Conduct user testing. Observe users using the new version of your website or software, take note of the feedback and keep the change process open and in continuous progression.
  • Lessen any fear of the change by making your users aware that these changes have been tested with them already and that you’re making the change for their benefit. Explain why.
  • Instead of changing everything at once, make a series of small incremental changes. This is what Facebook do now and for most users small changes go totally unnoticed, despite them leading to the same end result eventually.
  • Interact and listen to your users, tweeting, facebooking, reading forums and taking in their concerns and expectations.
  • Test your interface to gather concrete proof that your users will understand the improvement and finally embrace it.

Need help or advice?

Are you considering making changes to your website and are concerned about how your customers will react? We recommend

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5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

Using the Pareto Principle to improve your user experience

Have you ever noticed how you use the same small number of features in your favourite software? It’s capable of hundreds of functions, but have you ever actually used them all? How about your favourite website… do you look at every single page or do you generally just look at a small number of pages that most interest you? Do you use all the functionality on that page or do you just press the occasional ‘Like’ button?

This is the norm. You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule; we tend to use 20% of things 80% of the time. The principle is also used to mean that 20% of the effort will generate 80% of the results. It’s often the case that 20% of customers generate 80% or more of revenue for a company. It’s known as the Pareto Principle and it can be found in all aspects of our lives.

Let’s learn a bit more about it and how you can apply it to your UX and Conversion.

What is the Pareto Principle?

In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that every year, 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced approximately 80% of the peas. He found it very interesting and he observed that this proportion could be applied, in a larger scale, to economic society: 80% of land is owned by 20% of people.

80-20 Rule
If you think about it, this principle can be applied to most of your everyday life. We bet you tend to wear just 20% of your clothes 80% of the time and out of everything you own, you probably use just 20% of things regularly.

When you’re creating that company presentation in Powerpoint do you ever use all of the features or would you say it’s about 20%? Does 20% of your website generate the 80% of your income online?

What are the benefits of using the Pareto Principle in UX?

  • Identify the top 20% of your current usability issues and feature gaps so you can fix them.
  • Keeping focus on the most essential aspects of your website ensures that most of your visitors can find what they need very quickly.
  • This in turn leads to higher conversion rates and more return customers for your brand.
  • A simpler, clean and straightforward user experience, free of distractions, barriers and frustrations.
  • We know that too much information can cause the inattentional blindness effect, leading users away from what they are really looking for on your website. If you want to avoid this and ensure a positive user experience, keep it simple and focus on those 20% of things that really matter for them.
  • The 20% of what you have left will be better quality and much more effective.

Applying Pareto to UX

In our experience in conducting research with users, we have evidenced that features that generate the majority of conversions are a minority of the functionality provided on a website or an app.

The 80/20 rule has a crucial effect on the user experience and ultimately on the effectiveness of the content or functionality of your website.

Knowing that, how can the 80/20 rule be applied to improve your UX and Conversion?

  • What are the 20% that users want the most? At the start of a project, consult users on the features you have in mind and get them to rank them and discuss their thoughts. You’ll soon discover the 20% of features that will appeal to 80% of your target users. Make these your MVP then develop from there in future iterations. Beware of feature creep.
  • Use analytics to determine the top 20% of things your users use the most.
  • Conduct user research on your top user journeys. What are the top 20% of things that 80% of people use your website, software or app for? Focus on these in user testing to get the most value and impact from your consumer research.
  • Prioritise the research results and focus your design and development resources on the 20% of issues that are causing 80% of users problems. The aim is to tackle the biggest barriers first.
  • De-clutter features or content that is not needed by your users. It’s just detracting from other things that are more effective.
  • Help 80% of users. Do 80% of people all choose the same option? If so, consider defaulting to that option.
  • Keep converting don’t stop. Keep focussing on the 20% of things that could make the biggest difference to your ongoing conversion.
  • Don’t invest too much time and money optimizing lesser-used functionality. Your investment is best spent in your top 20% instead.

Example: Amazon

Here is an example of the 80/20 rule on Amazon’s checkout process. As shown in the picture, the country in the form is pre-populated with United Kingdom. Since the United Kingdom is the most selected country while browsing from amazon.co.uk, they’ve made it the default selection, therefore saving time during checkout. One less thing to think about and choose has no doubt had a positive effect on their conversion of this page. People do not like completing forms so the less effort required from them, the more likely they are to complete the form and convert.

Example: Laterooms

Below is Laterooms old Home page. Through analysing their data analytics and conducting multiple rounds of user testing, they discovered that most people don’t use or even look at most of the content on the page. 98.6% of users didn’t use the menu and 98.9% ignored their prominent popular destinations content.

The vast majority only used Search.

So, Laterooms decided to redesign their home page to focus on the main thing users do when they come to the website: Search. They aimed to remove distraction and clutter, emphasise the search feature, hide ancillary elements and boost credibility. This is a great example of how removing distraction from the page creates a highly focussed user journey and a lovely, clean UI. No colourful banner ads and no gimmicks. Of course they tested the new design with users and following great feedback, split tested the new design against the current version.

The new, simplified design (shown below) was the clear winner

Mobile first demonstrates Pareto

Luke Wroblewski has made a name for himself advocating a mobile first approach to design and build and it is certainly in line with the 80/20 rule. Luke observed how, most of the time in the design process, the desktop version of a website is the first to be developed and the mobile is often an afterthought. As such, the mobile experience suffers. The mobile first principle states that the design process should be the other way round: mobile should come first. Why?

In designing the mobile version of a website the focus has to be on the 20% of features and functionality that is most crucial for users, simply because there is limited space on small mobile screens. This makes it the most challenging user interface to design for and many companies are still struggling to find talented people and agencies like Keep It Usable that can create outstanding mobile user experiences.

Need help simplifying your user journeys or creating amazing mobile experiences? Arrange a call with one of our super friendly UX experts for complimentary, no-ties advice.

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Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Persona example 1

Image credit: Xtensio

Personas are amazing! If you don’t have them or if you have them but don’t use them (what a waste!) then you’re missing out on a whole host of business benefits. Let’s have a quick look at these before we dive more into what personas are and how they fit into the design process…

Benefits of Personas

  • Company wide understanding of who your users are
  • Deep understanding of customer behaviour and needs
  • Stop everyone in your company from talking about themselves, their friends and family as the user(s)
  • More effective, focussed conversations and business meetings
  • Clearer and better decision making – focussed on user needs and goals
  • Greater empathy with the customer

Enables your design team and project managers to create much better products and services

Where did it all begin?

Personas were introduced in 1998 by Alan Cooper.

At the time he was working on the design of new software and he interviewed some colleagues (possible future users of the software), to collect some ideas to implement in his project. That day, without even realising it, Cooper started to engage himself in a dialogue, play-acting as a project manager, inspired by one of the colleagues he interviewed that day.

Cooper found this play-acting technique was tremendously effective for solving design questions around functionality and interaction, allowing him to understand what was necessary or unnecessary from a user-centred point of view.

Since then, he used this technique to design all of his products, bearing in mind the benefits of thinking from the users point of view. Hypothetical user archetypes allowed him and his clients to better understand the end user in their projects.

What is the personas method?

Using Cooper’s own words:
“You tend to canvas the user community, collect their requests for functions, and then provide them a product containing all of those functions. I call this the sum of all desired features.”

Personas are narrations, stories about imagined characters; they are imagined and described in interaction with the product that is going to be developed (website, device, app, software etc.). Personas are defined in the early stages of the design process and they guide the project team throughout the product development process.
Defining personas is also essential for any consumer research involving the product. To canvas the profile of future users helps in the recruitment of a representative sample of the population for an effective and realistic UX testing session.

Why are personas so important to the design process?

The most important goal of personas is to create understanding and empathy with the end user(s).

If you want to design a successful product for people, first of all you need to understand them. Designing for everyone results in an unfocused goal that will dehumanise the profile of future users. The personas method allows you to draw not just a profile about gender and age, but to dig into the psychology of the imagined character in their interaction with the product.

“Personas consolidate archetypical descriptions of user behaviour patterns into representative profiles, to humanise design focus, test scenarios, and aid design communication” (Cooper, A. (2004) The inmates are running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity)

The power of the narration that typified this method, allows us to create a story that introduces the product in the everyday life of the imagined character. The narration sets goals, creates visibility of problems and potential issues in the user-product relationship.

Personas are a crucial passage in the user-centred design process because they define expectations, concerns and motivations, helping design teams to understand how to design a product that will satisfy users needs and therefore be a success.

People are no longer passive users of a product or a service, but they are actively interacting with it; they are engaged in a ‘conversation’ in which both sides, user and product, are actively asking and responding. Defining personas during the design process helps your team to imagine that conversation.

Designing personas

The story

When designing personas, the story needs to cover the following:

  • Demographic presentation of the character (age, gender etc.)
  • General traits (occupation, interests, hobbies etc.)
  • Psychological traits (needs, motivations, aspirations etc.)

Collection of data when designing personas

The scenario

The scenario is very important for the effectiveness of personas.

Scenarios are imagined situations in which the character interacts with the product. Personas without scenarios have no value, so defining good scenarios is crucial.

The narration of an imagined scenario follows this structure:

  • Setting a problem, a situation
  • Describe the character’s reaction to the problem
  • Define the role of the product in this scenario (e.g. how does the character interact with the product in that situation? Why does the character use the product? With which aims? What are the character expectations of the product?)
  • Resolution of the situation

Personas design-process

Remember, if you want your product to be successful, you have to design it bearing in mind who will use it.Personas design process

1. Collection of data. In the first step, you collect as much information and knowledge about your users as possible. Data can come from many different sources, even from pre-existing knowledge in the organisation. A good starting point is user research to gather insight into your users.

2. Hypothesis. Based on the data collected in the first step, you create a general draft of the various kind of users, including in which ways users differ from one another.

3. Description of scenarios. You create scenarios that describe solutions; possible situations that could trigger the use of the product are described. Scenarios will be used to better imagine user interaction with the product. The story about how the character will use the product is the personas’ ultimate objective.

4. Description of personas. Preparation of a brief description of the typical user, paying attention to user needs, motivations, aspirations and values. It is very important that you add to the narration one of the scenarios created in the previous step. The ultimate aim at this stage is to generate a narration that creates an empathic bond between the imagined person and the reader.

5. Selection of 3-6 personas. The ideal number of personas is limited (too many and you’ll start to lose track of who’s who). At this stage, choose 3-6 descriptions that are the most representative of your typical users. Selecting a limited number of personas allows you to be more focused during the design of the product.

6. Dissemination of personas. It is important that personas defined during the process are shared with the whole project team to provide a shared understanding of your users / customers.

Example persona

Here’s an example of a completed persona:

Persona example 2

Image credit: Xtensio

Need help or advice?

If you’d like to know more about personas and how they can help you to create a more successful product, contact our UX experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
What is User Testing?

References
The origin of personas (Cooper) – http://www.cooper.com/journal/2008/05/the_origin_of_personas
Persona templates – http://fakecrow.com/free-persona-template/