Starbucks in Italy? An Italian customer experience perspective

Italian Starbucks

Starbucks is coming to Italy in February. You might think this isn’t a big deal but for the Italian market it really is! Italian’s are precious about their coffee and their drinking habits differ greatly to those of the US and UK. The whole customer experience is different, which is why the opening of Starbucks in Italy is so controversial…

First of all, it’s interesting to know that Starbucks has an ancient bond with Italy; originally, Starbucks sold only coffee beans, but after a journey to Italy, the owner had the idea to recreate and export “caffetteria-style shops”.

Italian coffee drinking behaviour

From an Italian point of view (Yes, I’m Italian), coffee is not just a drink: it’s a ritual, a chit chat with the barista, it’s the best end after a good meal, it’s the perfect “good morning”, it’s a pleasant and quick break, but above all, it has to be short, black, bitter and served in a small ceramic cup (very hot).

Typically, an Italian will enter the coffee shop, simply ask for a coffee (which is an espresso – this is the standard drink), stand up at the counter, drink the coffee which takes just a few minutes, then leave.

You can see that both the drink and the behaviour differ a lot from the typical Starbucks experience.

In this scenario, will Italian consumers appreciate Starbucks Americano, Latte or Frapuccino? Will they buy coffee served in the famous cardboard cup? How will they reply to the renowned question “stay in or takeaway”?

In Naples, the south of Italy, the “coffee ritual” is even stronger than in the north. There’s a popular tradition called “caffè sospeso”, literally translated as “pending coffee”. It’s rooted into the Naples’ working-class culture, and basically consists of having an espresso but paying for two, leaving one on the counter, ready for the next costumer, as a symbol of good luck and an act of “charity”.

Will the Italian consumers pay for a “frappucino sospeso” or a “pending latte”? What will happen?

Image taken from “La banda degli onesti”. Totò, a famous Italian comedian and actor, drinking a coffee at the counter.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper wrote: “We thought we had everything in Italy, but it turns out we lacked one thing: American coffee”.

Coffee for Italians is part of their culture, their behaviour, a national identity and habit; and Starbucks knows it. Even more important, Starbucks have had to really know Italian customers before making the decision to open a branch in Italy. It’s no coincidence that the first Italian Starbucks will open in Milan, the most international city in Italy, heart of Italian business, fashion and a highly multicultural centre.

What are the opportunities and potential barriers of having Starbucks in Italy?

The opportunities

  • The company announced that they will promote Starbucks as a place for business meetings as well as a cozy spot where to relax; an intimate coffee shop in the heart of the business area of Milan, where you can work or sip a coffee with friends.
  • Free WIFI will be the main attraction for Italian customers. There aren’t many places in Milan where you can find free and fast WIFI.
  • A hi-tech + coffee formula. Technology will be the key differentiator for Italian Starbucks. Along with free WIFI, customers will have access to a “Starbucks digital network” streaming movies and tv shows.

Potential barriers

  • Deeply rooted coffee culture. Italian customers have a strong bond with their habits, particularly when it comes to coffee and food.
  • There are thousands of coffee shops, bars and ‘caffetterias’ in Milan where you can enjoy a high quality espresso with a snack (biscuits or a pastry) and where you can simply read a newspaper with a good cappuccino.
  • Starbucks is expensive compared to the Italian coffee prices. In Italy, one espresso costs 1€ or even less.
  • For most of the time, “having a coffee” for Italians, means having a quick break, standing up at the counter. Particularly in the afternoon or after lunch. It is not the long sit down break that is common in other countries.
  • It is not common for Italian business consumers to sit in a coffee shop and work on the laptop or meet in a public space.

A traditional bar-caffetteria in Milan – Bar Zucca. People drinking a coffee at the counter.

The “Starbucks Italian situation” is a great example of the importance of how understanding customers is crucial in order to offer an efficient and successful product.

Moving into the Italian market is a huge risk for Starbucks, however by first opening in Milan, they will be able to take advantage of the large tourist market. It is the least risky option for them and a gentle step into the Italian market to test their acceptance of the longer coffee drinking customer experience.

If you need to understand or test in other markets, we can help. Get in touch with Keep It Usable >

How just one word can change your conversion

How just one word can change your conversionLayout, images, colours, fonts are equally important in order to provide users with a pleasant online experience and increase the conversion rate of a website. The design of a website is crucial, but it’s not the only factor that we should take into consideration.

Users should be guided and helped in making a purchase decision on a website; they need to have enough information in order to make an informed decision and the navigation has to flow smoothly. But, is that enough?

Changing just one word can have a huge impact on your conversion rate.

Choosing the right way to say something is fundamental, particularly if the aim is to prompt users to take an action, like buying your products or creating an account.

Choosing the right word(s)

Unfortunately there is no universal answer or solutions.

Since words acquire meanings only when considered in context, knowing which words are better then others, means knowing the context, observing users moving and behaving in that context and constantly putting yourself in their shoes.

It is very important to keep testing, particularly in relation to CTA buttons, as shown in the following case studies.

Understanding your customer’s psychology, behaviour and intention is the secret to effective CTA copy.

Example: ‘Buy now’ vs ‘Shop now’ have a ‘Buy Now’ CTA button on their product pages. Some of the team thought that changing the wording to something less committal like ‘Shop Now’ might encourage greater click throughs. Others on the team thought the wording change could imply a longer purchase process. So they decided to test both variations to see which resulted in greater conversion.


Current CTA: ‘Buy now’. May imply a faster and shorter process to purchase.

Variation: ‘Shop now’.  May imply less commitment and therefore encourage more clicks.


17% more users clicked on ‘Buy Now’ rather than ‘Shop Now’.

The small variation in text had a huge impact on the final result. This represented a six-figure difference in the online sales of the product.


The next action is clearer with ‘Buy now’, it is very obvious that the user’s intention is to purchase. ‘Shop now’ could be mistaken for continuing to look at more shops, it is less specific regarding the action and more ambiguous.


Example: ‘Find a retailer’ vs ‘Where to Buy’ vs ‘Nearby Retailers’


Current CTA: ‘Find a retailer’. Concern that this may be mistaken for online retailers only.

Variation 1: ‘Where to buy’. The team felt this version was more direct and may imply less work for the visitor.

Variation 2: ‘Nearby retailer’. Related to a physical and geographical location and therefore may make it clearer that this indicates physical retail stores


4.1% more users clicked on ‘Nearby retailer’ compared to the two alternatives.


 The button more clearly indicates physical shops where the user can buy the product as it relates to a geographical location, while the others two options could be mistaken as solely relating to online stores.


How 2 Words Lifted Insound’s Checkout Funnel Conversion to 54%

Following the launch of a redesign, Insound found that conversion was underperforming. It was believed that this was due to the length of the checkout process and the vague wording throughout.


Current CTA: ‘Continue’. Logical description of the button, continues to the next step.

Variation 1: ‘Review order’. Describes what’s going on and reassures that the process is not completed yet, i.e. there’s still time to change your mind.

Variation 2: ‘Submit’. Based on the one-step check out process.

Variation 3: ‘Almost done’. Informs that the process is almost complete.


insound conversion


‘Review order’ was the winner with a 39.4% click rate.


It is explanatory and reassuring at the same time, clearly indicating to the user that they still have time to back out should they need to but also allows them to see an overview of their order and associated information to double check everything before proceeding.

As can be seen, small adjustments to your CTA copy can make a big difference conversion. It’s always worth testing alternatives to see which performs better.

Source of examples: Optimizely

The privacy paradox and how you can use it to increase conversion

The privacy paradox and how you can use it to increase conversionIn the era of Web 2.0, privacy is not only one of the liveliest issues in the debate about consumers behaviour and individual rights, but also one of the most difficult one to solve. Companies want more customer data, customers say they dislike this, yet they freely provide personal data.

Nowadays, the border between private and public is becoming more and more blurred; people are used to sharing their pictures, videos, preferences, personal information, and everyday a huge amount of online data is collected, however, they still appear to be seriously concerned about their privacy and claim it to be an important factor in their online decision-making process. To make things even more complicated, concern about privacy doesn’t in fact match actual online behaviour.

The Privacy Paradox

The privacy paradox is the discrepancy between an individuals’ intentions to protect their privacy and how they actually behave in the online marketplace, it’s the relationship between individuals’ intentions to disclose personal information and their actual personal information disclosure behaviours, which are often very different.

According to several privacy-related studies, the online audience can be divided into three big categories:

1. Privacy fundamentalists: very privacy-oriented and concerned
2. Privacy unconcerned: not at all privacy-oriented
3. Privacy pragmatists: in-between the other two categories

In general, consumers appear to be much more sensitive about the use of their medical, financial, and family information than they are about their product, brand consumption or their media usage behaviour. Why is this? Because things like their medical, financial and family information, when disclosed, can cause potential embarrassment and security problems. People also fear loss of control of this type of information.

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

The conceptual model of disclosure is a theory that states the consumer’s behaviour is influenced by both their perceived risk of disclosing their information and the trust they have with the company.

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

Privacy Paradox Model

In reality, the consumer’s actual behaviour is more highly influenced by trust. This is why people disclose information even when they say they’re really concerned about their privacy.

Privacy Paradox Model

Figure 1 Norberg P., Horne D., and Horne D. 2007 The Privacy Paradox: Personal Information Disclosure Intentions versus Behaviors.

One of the problems is that people have a tendency to over-report their understanding of privacy issues and their willingness to act in order to protect them. There’s a disjoint between users attitudes and opinions and their actual behaviours and experiences online.

This was tested in an “e-commerce experiment” to understand how privacy indicators affect the users decision-making process.

Ecommerce test

Above: Screenshot from e-commerce experiment (Jensen C., Potts C., Jensen C. 2005 Privacy practices of Internet users: Self-report versus observed behavior).

They observed that consumers tend to disclose personal information more easily than they claim to do. What the research highlights is that users self-reported experiences don’t match with their actual online behaviour. What clearly emerged is the importance of “trust-marks” in the interaction between users and digital interfaces.
Trust-marks → factors which may not say anything about the site’s privacy practices, but which are interpreted as such by users.

Users appear to live a “double bind” relationship in dealing with privacy issues on digital interfaces, and this is affecting their decision-making process in purchasing online. The Double Bind theory (Bateson G. 1950) in psychology is defined as a conflicting communication dilemma in which the message doesn’t match with the observed behavior; that causes an emotionally distorted and frustrated reaction in the individual.

Tips to improve trust, acquire more data and lessen abandonment

Here follows some tips that could help interfaces designers in dealing with the paradox, avoiding frustration and consequent abandon in purchasing online.

Visible link to a privacy policy

It has a major effect on purchasing behavior, even though, according to the study, only a quarter of the policies were consulted. In most cases, users had more confidence in a site simply because it had a policy (the impact a policy has is of course more powerful when it is read, but it is not negligible when it is not). Policies are important, not just because of what they say, but because they are there.

Netflights Privacy Policy
• Credit card icons

Even if it does not in fact imply any promise of fraud prevention or privacy protection, consumers find these icons reassuring.

Netflights Credit Card Icons
• Show a contact phone number

Preference for phone information over mailing or email information. Consumers feel reassured to see a phone number to contact the company if any problems occur during the transaction.

Netflights Contact Info
• Development of policy simplifications and standardised indicators

Implement standardized, simple visual indicators for the risks users are exposed to.

It is interesting to note the strong effect policies have despite the fact that users rarely read them. Just having a link to a policy makes a difference. This indicates that in many cases it is the presence of a policy that has a positive effect on users, not its content. Users are looking for “trustworthiness”, not based only on fact but rather on appearance and first impression.

How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences

Digital platforms and technology allow us to do things quicker and easier. Well, that’s the theory. The reality can often be far from this. How many times have you been looking for information only to give up and visit a competitor site? Unfortunately, badly structured websites and complicated software are all too commonplace. We’ve been spoilt by the likes of Apple and expect this simple, effective and affective user experience across all our interactions with technology.

Customers want experiences “that dazzle their senses, touch their hearts and stimulate their minds” (Schmitt, 1999)

Our relationship with technology affects our emotions and quality of life. Therefore, in order to provide users with positive and satisfying experiences, understanding their emotional responses is a necessity. Experiential marketing assumes that customers take functional features, benefits and quality as a given.

How do we make users like it?

Making users like something is not as easy as you might think. The qualities of physical products, websites, software and other digital media can be classified into two distinct groups (for this we’ll look at the work of Hassenzahl et al. 2000):

1 Pragmatic qualities

Pragmatic qualities relate to practicality and functionality.


Manipulation refers to the functionality and how that functionality is accessed, i.e. the usability. At a very basic level, can it do what it needs to do? A consequence of pragmatic qualities is satisfaction. Satisfaction occurs when a user uses a product or service to achieve certain goals and those goals are met.

Examples of attributes that are typically assigned to websites (and software in general) are “supporting,” “useful,” “clear” and “controllable.” The purpose should be clear and the user should understand how to use it.

2 Hedonic qualities

Hedonic qualities refer to the psychological needs and emotional experience of the user.

Hedonic qualities are divided into three categories:


Users want to be stimulated in order to enjoy their experience with your site, software or product. Rarely used functions can stimulate the user and satisfy the human urge for personal development and more skills. Digital experiences can provide insights and surprises, for example, if after a period of time a feature hasn’t yet been used, the software could inform the user via a quick tip.


The human need for expressing ourselves through objects to control how you want to be perceived by others. We all have a desire to communicate our identity to others and we do this through the things we own and the things we use. They help us to express ourselves; who we are, what we care about and who we aspire to be. This is why people enjoy using personalisation on sites such as Twitter. Changing our background wallpaper and header image, helps us to express ourselves.


Which memories and feelings does the experience evoke?
Evocation refers to the symbolic meanings that the experience has on our memories and our background. The visual aesthetics of a website may remind you of a past experience. For example, a travel website with a background image of a beach, might bring back memories of a past holiday and all the feelings (most likely highly positive) associated with that experience. As we all have different experiences in our lives, what we feel when we look at an identical website will be unique to us, the individual.

It is the combined pragmatic and hedonic aspects that form the appeal and the amount of appeal that a digital or physical platform has. 


The users’ experience also depends on the context of use. Where are they? What do they need to do? How many times have they used it? Who are they with? How much time do they have to do what they need to do?

The first time a user tries an application, they may experience some confusion and minor issues, leaving with a slightly negative experience. However, when they become more familiar with all the features and how to access them, they will become more emotionally attached to it, and therefore each use becomes a pleasant user experience. This can be problematic within User Experience design as a poor, inefficient interface may be disliked by it’s users but they can be reluctant to change it because they have learnt how to use it. Therefore their perceived effort to deal with the change and the additional learning is deemed greater than sticking with the poorly designed current system.

Designer's and User's perspectives

Which feelings are felt with a good user experience?

The most satisfying user experiences are related to positive emotions such as, enthusiasm, pride, interest and inspiration. These positive emotional responses are all related to the hedonic qualities of the product: for example enthusiasm is connected to the stimulation dimension and pride is related to the identification quality. The hedonic qualities of interactions are those that make us feel  an experience is satisfying.

In contrast, users who feel irritated, hostile and upset experience more pragmatic (usability) and technical problems.

Emotions and user experience: a recent study

Recent research by Tampere University in Finland (Partala & Kallinen) about the emotional aspects of users’ experience highlights how the most satisfying experiences are related to positive emotions, those that fulfil our psychological needs and are more personal to us.

Our sense of time changes with pleasurable experiences

When people enjoy the most satisfying user experiences, such as playing Angry Birds, they typically report feeling not especially hurried and people often lose track of time. In psychology we refer to this as entering a state of ‘flow’. However, when an experience is frustrating and unsatisfying, a moderate level of urgency is felt and time may appear to go slower.

Satisfying experience and psychological needs

Users that have a satisfying digital experience will report emotions connected to the fulfilment of the most important psychological needs:

Autonomy “I make my own choices and decisions”

Competence “I can do this”

Selfesteem “This makes me feel good about myself”

Relatedness “This is connected to my needs”

As supported in the psychological theory of Self Determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the fulfilment of these needs emphasises psychological growth, integrity and wellbeing. An individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness is argued to foster the most high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. So if you want to create engagement or you want to motivate your users, perhaps to change their current behaviour or habits, then you should look to how you can utilise psychological needs.

Understand users and exceed expectations

Nowadays, users are not only looking for efficiency and good usability. What makes the user experience unique and enjoyable is making people feel confident, stimulated and surprised. Connect with your users on an emotional level.

Observing behaviour, analysing and asking users to reflect on their own experiences through user research offers the opportunity to design experiences that satisfy the user’s true needs, leaving them with an experience that exceeds expectations, creates long term engagement, increases brand value and ‘wows!’. People will then use your website or app not because they have to but because they want to.

Call to Action Buttons: 5 Psychology tips to increase conversion 


What are call to action buttons?

When designing an interface, one of the main goals of the designer, is to ensure that the end user is able to clearly understand what they should do next and where each click will lead them. Call to action buttons are essential to this dynamic, as these buttons are what guide the user through the interface.

The very name of the button, call to action, states there is a necessity for the person engaging with the interface to be stimulated to perform a task. In this case, the designer wants the user to press a button: to make it more enticing so that more visitors will convert. Therefore, your call-to-action buttons should be usable, but they also need to be actively persuasive to encourage more clicks and higher conversion.

Do they really make a difference?

Call to action buttons are the biggest A/B tests run by businesses (they make up around 30% of all tests). The difference between a poor and a great CTA can be anything from a few percent to a few hundred percent and more!

The internet is full of examples of how successful a good CTA can be. Take a look at Which Test Won for some great examples that you can interact with and test your own predictions of which CTA converted better.

So, let’s take a quick look at how we can make these buttons more enticing.

Psychology tips to increase conversion

1 Colour psychology

Colour plays a very important role in determining the pull of your button. The colour you choose can determine who clicks, how many times they click, and how quickly they click.


For example:

– Females tend to prefer the colours purple, green and blue, while men tend to prefer blue green and black

– Blue is a colour considered to build trust while yellow tends to signify a warning.

These signifiers and others should be taken into account when designing CTA buttons to ensure the right audience is drawn to ‘click’. Not only is it important to choose the right colour, but to ensure that the entire page or interface is aesthetically pleasing. Consider the background colour of your template to ensure colours don’t clash and your button isn’t lost in the background.

2 Placement psychology 

You want your call to action button to stand out on the page, otherwise it will get lost amongst other elements and suffer from less clicks. If your button has an important message, ensure that it is positioned where it will stand out.

You also want your users to understand what happens when they click on your button. It can be a good idea to introduce your button with accompanying short text to support why the user should click it, what are the benefits for them?



3 Visual psychology

The shape and overall design of the button is where one can get creative, but it is good to keep in mind particular ideas that could add to the ‘clickability’ of the button.

Take into consideration the following:

People like curves. It has been found that rounded corners draw attention to the inside of the button, whereas square edges draw attention away from the centre. Neuro-aesthetics researchers have found that people prefer rounded shapes and these shapes actually cause more activity in the visual cortex (Bar, M., & Neta, M. (2006). Humans prefer curved visual objects. Psychological Science, 17(8), 645-648).

Size = Importance. The size of the button should be determined by how important that particular action is to be carried out.


4 Wording psychology

The importance of the message plays a huge part in determining the design of the button. In an increasingly fast paced society, the concept of reading long text becomes less and less appealing. As a result, one wants to ensure that the call to action button is as specific as possible, and gets the message across in the shortest amount of time.

How do we do that?

Be specific. Consider what you want the user to do and use a command to describe the button. For example, buy, watch, download etc. However, take note that some of the bigger conversions come from using less generic and more specific phrases, such as the one below.


image source

Keep it simple. Professionalism doesn’t necessarily mean big words and difficult commands. Simple commands make it easy for the user to know what to do and what comes next and allows for a smooth transition through the interface.

Clarity. If necessary, include a simple message on the button to clarify any ambiguity that may be there from the command. Through simplicity is important, clarity is essential.

Speak the users language. The larger increases in conversion come from analyzing what your customers really need. In user research we recommend listening to the language they themselves use to explore their mental model and what resonates with them.

Free is one of the biggest persuaders to motivate action so if your service is free or has a free trial, make it obvious for the user to see.


5 Emotional psychology

It is important to keep in mind the emotions you want your end user to feel while scrolling through your interface. Whether it be a sense of urgency, pity or excitement, you want to give them a reason to click on your button. Think about what calls you to action and why. Why did you buy those shoes on the internet? Was it because they were on a one day sale, or because they were only available online? Our minds are triggered into action by emotions as well as a perceived sense of need to perform an action. With your button, you have the opportunity to develop a sense of need or create a sense of urgency or desire to take your users to the next step.


As humans, we’re pre-programmed to respond to images. They draw us in emotionally. The images you use alongside your CTA can play a huge role in creating the right emotion to engage users and increase uplifts.


Example: Basecamp

Basecamp use several techniques to increase the psychological pull of their CTA.


Concise explanation with benefits, written in the user’s language (note the informality which makes for a friendly tone of voice), ‘Basecamp helps you wrangle people with different roles, responsibilities and objectives toward a common goal: Finishing a project together’.

– Social Proof to further persuade visitors to sign up. Social proof is evidence of other people using the service, in this case, the ‘4,869 companies signed up to use Basecamp just last week’.

Free. Yes they utilise the power of the word ‘free’ within their CTA.

Specific wording. Note how they could have just used generic ‘Sign up’ wording but they chose to go with a much more personal feel ‘Use Basecamp free for 2 months – it’s on us’. Did you spot the reciprocity there too? The way they bring out the ‘it’s on us’ makes it feel like they’re doing you a favour, psychologically when someone does something for you, you’re much more likely to reciprocate.


The exciting part!

Now that we’ve taken you through a number of techniques and examples to show how you can increase your conversion using effective CTAs, there’s just one thing left for you to do, and that’s to try a few of these on your own designs.

We’d love to hear how you get on and if you need any advice or have any questions, we’re always happy to help.

The Biggest list of 35 FREE UX Books

We’ve pulled together the biggest list of free ux ebooks on the internet that will help you to design a better user experience / ux, conduct better user research and improve your usability. You won’t find a list this extensive anywhere else. Please share with your colleagues using the social links above and let us know on Twitter which books you liked the best.

1 UX Design for startups

2 Define app requirements within 20 minutes

3 Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell (patterns only)

4 Designing Mobile Interfaces by Steven Hoober and Eric Berkman

5 Designing for the web by Five Simple Steps

6 UX Storytellers

7 The Guide to UX Design Process & Documentation. A master collection of frameworks, examples, and expert opinions at every stage

8 The Guide to Minimum Viable Products. A Master Collection of Frameworks, Expert Opinions, and Examples

9 The Guide to Wireframing – For Designers, PMs, Engineers and Anyone Who Touches Product

10 The User Experience Guide Book For Product Managers 

11 Tips on how to recruit participants for usability studies by Nielsen

12 Bright ideas for user experience researchers by userfocus

13 Bright ideas for user experience designers by userfocus

14 Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman

15 Getting Real by 37 Signals

16 Knock Knock by Seth Godin

17 CSS Cookbook

18 The Fable of the User-Centered Designer by David Travis

19 Converting The Believers by usereffect

20 Usability Guidelines by Michael Leavitt

21 The Guide to Mockups Mockup types, methods and best practices

22 Six circles – An experience design framework

23 Elements of psychology by Henry N. Day.

24 Learning, Remembering, Believing: Enhancing Human Performance by Daniel Druckman and Robert A. Bjork

25 Psychology and Industrial Efficiency by Hugo Münsterberg

26 Mental Models in Human-Computer Interaction: Research Issues About What the User of Software Knows by John M. Carroll and Judith Reitman Olson

27 The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web by Richard Rutter (updated 2014)

28 Search User Interfaces by Marti A. Hearst

29 Web Style Guide by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton

30 Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design by Shawn Henry

31 Building accessible websites by Joe Clark

32 Time Management for Creative People by Mark McGuinness

33 Taking your talent to the web by Jeffrey Zeldman

34 Introduction to good usability by Peter Conradie

35 Task-Centred User Interface Design by Clayton Lewis

Have we missed any? Help us to keep this list updated for the ux community by letting us know if you find a good free ux book that we should add to the list.


If you found this list useful, please share it using the social buttons below, and if you liked any of the books, let us know on Twitter, we’d love to hear from you.

Why you shouldn’t use one way mirrors for ux research

Why you shouldn’t use one way mirrors for ux research

Do you use one way mirror labs? Do you value research that gets you the best results? Then you might want to re-consider using one way mirrors. Here’s why…

Talking to users is fascinating! It’s something we absolutely love doing despite having conducted thousands of them! When it comes to location, you can test almost anywhere but there’s one place that we advise against, and that’s one way mirror labs.

What is a one way mirror lab?

A one way mirror lab (also known as two way) consists of two adjoining rooms with a mirror between them. One room is used to interview people and the mirror functions as a normal mirror from this side. On the other side of the mirror is the observation room where people watch the research taking place, from this side the mirror behaves as a window, enabling the observers to secretly observe what’s happening in the research room.

The negative consequences for research

We’ve used this setup many times and sat on both sides of the mirror. These are the problems:

Nervous users

As a researcher you are ethically bound to tell the participant that there are observers behind the mirror. However, there is a problem with this and it’s called the Ironic Process Theory or the White Bear Principle. It refers to the human tendency to continue to think about something after being told not to think about it. For example, if someone says to you ‘don’t think about a pink elephant’, it’s the first thing you’ll picture in your head.

Many users will forget about the mirror. There are other users who will interview ok but afterwards they will admit to feeling watched  (which in turn will have influenced their answers). Finally, some people simply do not interview well with one way mirrors. They may appear nervous, glance at the mirror throughout, whisper some answers to you because they don’t want the people behind the mirror to hear any negative feedback, etc. And the mirror is a difficult thing for people to get over once they have a problem with it, because it’s such a huge object in the room and therefore a constant reminder.

Positively biased responses

If you knew there were a group of people watching you behind a mirror wouldn’t you be more inclined to give positive responses and to withhold negative opinions? It’s natural for people to do this, particularly if they are new to research – they’ll be inclined to want to please you.

Sound leakage

Your observers need to be relatively quiet. I’ve seen labs provide headphones so that observers can turn audio volume up without sound leaking into the testing suite.

When two rooms are next to each other, it’s impossible to soundproof them completely. If the observers next door get quite loud, or turn the volume up, the sound can leak into the adjoining room. Imagine if they laugh and the user hears this (yes this has happened). In some labs, the doors don’t close quietly either – this then becomes another reminder to the participant that there are people watching them.

Noisy cameras

One way mirror labs almost always have cameras that can be controlled in the observation room. These aren’t always silent though. You can be in the middle of a really interesting insight with the participant opening up to you, when all of a sudden you hear the dreaded buzz of the camera . Off-putting to say the least and yet another reminder to the user that they are being watched.

Dark, uninspiring observation room where no one speaks

Observation rooms in labs are awful places really. There are no windows and therefore no natural light, the lights have to be turned off (otherwise you can see straight through the mirror) so it’s a dark, dull, uninspiring room to be sat in all day. In one way mirror labs sometimes the observers can be much quieter than in labs without a mirror, because they can see how close the participant is to them. This isn’t conducive to team working and problem solving.

The issue is these are great setups for observing research, especially focus groups, not UX research. If you have a team of designers observing research, the one thing they’re guaranteed to want to do is sketch, but how do they do that well when they’re sat in a dark room? It’s not an environment that encourages team collaboration, makes a team feel energised, inspired and creative. Conversation and teamworking should be encouraged – now’s the perfect time for the team to get together in one place, collaborate and get to work on designs.

Ironically, no one really observes what’s happening through the mirror!

We spend most of our time watching the TV screens, which give us consistent detail, clarity and control. The glass, for all its glamour, doesn’t always fulfil its worth.

In UX research, the most important interaction to focus on is that between the user and what’s being tested, and in this regard you can’t see anything through the mirror, the detail is through the cameras pointing at what the user is doing. Therefore, the majority of the time, observers are focussed on the tv screen – where the action is. Compare it to UX design…if you want the users attention to focus on something you might give it a more central position, make it bigger, put everything else around it. So when the UI is the most important thing for people to observe, why do labs show this on a small tv screen and give the highest visual prominence in the room to the mirror? It’s crazy!

The solution

The alternative, better solution is to use two rooms that have all the same technology to record and observe the user and their interaction but in the observation room, there are TV screens and no mirror. GDS (Government Digital Services) also use this setup which you can see here. Without a mirror, you’ll get better insights from your more relaxed users and the observation room can now be a creative haven. You can turn up the lights, have natural daylight (windows), have dynamic team discussions and work together on sketches and ideas.

It suddenly becomes an exciting and inspiring workshop to turn user feedback into better designs! And this, is the whole purpose of user research.

World Usability Day 2014


Happy World Usability Day! Yes today is that time of year when all usability practitioners reflect on another year of helping businesses to improve their user experience and making the lives of everyday people better. It’s a day when we can reflect on the improvements we’ve brought to the world. We’re a little like silent heroes, busily working away to make the average persons day a little easier and less frustrating, without them ever realising who we are, just how much we fight for good design on their behalf or the end difference we make to their lives. Great design is invisible.

History of usability

This year is a particularly special anniversary for usability because as a discipline, the origins of usability and user experience are grounded in industrial efficiency during the world wars and of course the year 2014 marks the 100 year commemoration of the first world war. It was during war time that the value of human factors and ergonomics was recognised as a great way to create more efficient and effective soldiers, i.e. better killing machines. Our usability predecessors spent their days working on the battleground, ensuring that soldiers could get on with their daily tasks in the most optimal manner. What kinds of things did they do? Well, their work involved much more focus on human factors and ergonomics, taking into account the effects of workload, fatigue, physical task design, mental workload, teamwork, environmental effects.

It was during the second world war, that practitioners expanded their focus to aircraft and how through more intuitive design of airplane cockpits, pilot error could be greatly reduced.

Usability as we know it, didn’t really come into effect until the 1980s but it always struggled to gain recognition and respect. The term User Experience helped raise awareness of usability into the mainstream and the last 5 years have seen a phenomenal increase. What was once a highly skilled profession of human factors and usability engineers is now fragmented. However, the benefits are that usability finally has achieved the aim we all had many years ago of raising the awareness of its importance and those of us who have been around a while no longer have to fight our corner like we used to have to, which is a brilliant achievement! That in itself is worth raising a glass to. We did it!

We’re going to end this post with a look at the new Sainsburys Christmas advert which recreates the Christmas truce that happened during World War One (and that has just blown the annual John Lewis advert completely out of the water!).

Keep It Usable is an active supporter of the Royal British Legion. If you would like to help please get in touch with Lisa.

Infographic: 2015 E-commerce Opportunities


Source: Statistics from the e-commerce expo October 2014 day 1 and day 2.

More fascinating e-commerce insights for 2015! Expo day 2

Following our hugely popular write-up of the e-commerce expo day 1, here’s what happened on day 2. It’s even better, with fantastic insights on how to be successful in e-commerce in 2015, with advice from Paypal, Maplin and leading successful entrepreneurs!

The future of payments now

Rob Harper, Paypal

paypal mobile

Mobile payments are growing rapidly. More and more consumers are using their mobile to purchase. It means they’re buying on their terms and on their device.

However, £1.5bn was lost to uk commerce in the last year! Why? Payment friction is one of the leading reasons why customers leave websites. According to a poll by Harris, 47% of customers failed to complete a purchase as the process was too difficult on their mobile phone. What makes this worse is that 63% of consumers are less likely to buy from the same company through a different purchase channel after abandoning a mobile transaction due to poor performance.

Rob described how on average, it takes the user 140 taps to pay through a smartphone (see Smartphone Steve below).


Of course Paypal were at the expo because they believe they have the solution to this. Using Paypal, the number of taps is reduced to just 19 taps. He claimed it was more convenient, secure and Smartphone Steve doesn’t have the hassle of trying to find his wallet (which a lot of people don’t carry with them all the time, whereas they’ll always carry their mobile). Rob said that 47% of UK Paypal mobile users wouldn’t have made the purchase had Paypal not been available.

Paypal are also expanding into the mobile payments market in the offline retail space – will they be successful?

Driving performance through paid media optimisation and rich content

Michel Koch, Maplin, and Emmanuel Arendarczyk, NetBooster

Hands up if you know who Maplin are! That was one of the first things we were asked and a room full of hands shot up in the air. Apparently we were fairly unusual, as the average percentage of people who recall Maplin, is just 9%. However, just earlier this year, this figure was as low as 3%. They launched a TV campaign which was seen by 70% of tv viewers, pushing up Maplin’s recall rate to the current 9%. The TV ads focussed on Maplin Moments. If you don’t remember the ads, here’s a reminder below (I especially love the first bit, “This guy, let’s call him…. Guy”):

“The customer first, always”

Focus on your audience, on people and their behaviour. Maplin’s motto is “the customer first, always”. Maplin used to only focus on keywords, now they focus not just on people, but people with a certain behaviour.

It may (or may not) come as a surprise to hear that Maplin has a fantastic NPS score. They score second, directly beneath Apple. Beneath Maplin, in order, are First Direct, Amazon and ebay.

Maplin have heavily invested in mobile and TV channels. They advise going to where your customers are. For them, this is YouTube (the second biggest search engine in the world, after Google) and they have invested in the creation of how to videos for YouTube viewers. Video is incredibly powerful and lots of companies have seen increased conversion due to them: ‘1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words’ Forrester.


Customer engagement trends – how to stay ahead in 2015

Steven Ledgerwood and Saima Alibhai, Emarsys


Steven and Saima, advised that your starting point should be the above 4 key questions: Who is the customer, what content fits the customer, when to reach the customer ad how to reach the customer.

3 key trends of 2015

1. Understanding customer behaviour

Your website gives you 10x more user generated data compared to email alone and is the most up to date data, however the challenge is getting value from this (big) data.

Right time + right content + right person = positive perception + revenue + engagement

For example, if a user comes from facebook to your site, use the right content and language: ‘Thanks for coming from facebook…”

And if the user leaves without purchasing you can now send them an email reminding them to purchase. Then when they come back to your website you would remind them about the item in their basket that they were going to buy as well as some additional cross-sell suggestions.

2. Multichannel personalisation

94% of companies agree that personalisation is critical to future success, however, more than half of companies are not using their CRM data to personalise how they communicate with their customers. 72% understand the importance of personalisation but they don’t know how to do it.

What to use to segment and personalise campaigns: gender, purchase behaviour, email behaviour, preference centre, team knowledge (see pic)


Focus on what people are doing RIGHT NOW.

3. Automate! Automate! Automate!

The biggest opportunity available to marketers and those in e-commerce is the 92% of all website visitors that aren’t converting. Of the 8% who convert only 50% buy again. 8% of customers generate 41% of revenue.


An example was given that if people don’t purchase, you could send them an email, offering them a discount along with photos of other products they might be interested in.

How digital tools will change the in-store shopping experience

Juha Mattson, Walkbase

Juha really was presenting the future of e-commerce and I loved this presentation. It showed how you can now analyse and treat conversion online and offline together to have one overall ROI. Focussing on an omni-channel approach. Physical stores can be measured the same as online:


There are two levels of analysis: crowds and individuals.

Crowds: useful to analyse crowds when opening a new store in a new location, christmas sales, etc.

The in-store sales funnel. How many go past the store, how many come in, how many are engaged. If you run an offline campaign what’s the roi? Footfall and repeat visit patterns. You can now work this out.

Walkbase enables you to compare and benchmark online and offline together. How does it work? It uses wifi, bluetooth, door counters, video cameras to bring you new segmentation insights and rich customer profiles. Once you have this data, you can then engage more with the customer:

Example: Customer browses products online then when they enter a physical store they get these products retargeted to them as ads or offers in-store.


The game changing opportunities in omni-channel retail:

1. Measurability of physical stores

2. Online-offline integration

3. In-store engagement

Walkbase enables retargeting across all devices and was said to be very easy to install. You need to install wifi detectors unless you already have wifi. Walkbase also uses beacons that you place in different locations in the store.

Panel debate

Liam Patterson of TopLAD and Osvaldo Spadano of Elastera


Surprisingly, throughout the expo there was very little mention of going out and talking to customers, researching them and getting to some real, qualitative insights. I suspect this is because most of the presenters were very data driven people / product providers. Refreshingly, the panel session was purely about the personal experiences of two highly successful entrepreneurs. And do you know what they both said was the key thing to their success? Listening to the customer!

I nearly jumped out of my seat and punched the air at this point. Two whole days it took for someone to say, look what really works is actually talking to the customer. Yes data is brilliant and vital but if you don’t get out and talk to real life physical people you’ll never truly understand what your customer thinks, feels, wants, needs and discover what’s at the heart of their interaction with your brand.

Listen to the customer

Put the customer first is the key thing we learnt” said Liam “really understand your audience”.

Osvaldo was particularly passionate about talking to customers:

“It’s important to listen to your customer, not just rely on the data. It’s a big, BIG mistake.”

Osvaldo described, how it was only by going out and talking to customers and asking lots of questions that he was able to get the real human part of how his product was going to help people. Note: This is only something that can be gathered through real one-to-one conversation.

Beware of feature creep

Liam warned that it’s easy for businesses to become too feature led. He advised stepping back, think about what’s going to move your business forwards for your customers. Do you see how everything comes back to what is best for customers? If you’re only ever looking at data and doing small one-way remote testing, you’ll never get a deep understanding of your customer as a person, and you’ll miss crucial insights that could propel your business forwards.

I’ll conclude this post with advice from Osvaldo:

“It’s very powerful to go and talk to the customer. Try to understand their problem. Why do they want to do something about it? It’s all about problem solving. If you get good at it, you’ll have a good business.”


Did you miss our write-up of day 1? Read our overview of day 1 of the e-commerce expo >

Watch out for our next blog post: Your 2015 e-commerce crib sheet.