Understanding the user-centred approach to accessibility

Accessibility is defined as the matching of delivery of information and services with users’ individual needs and preferences in terms of intellectual and sensory engagement with resources containing that information or service, and their control of it. Accessibility is satisfied when there is a match regardless of culture, language or disabilities.

Why should you care about accessibility?

Since the online environment is an extension of the physical one, there is nothing more effective than a metaphor with the offline world to understand how crucial accessibility online can be for your business.
Imagine you are running a flower shop; the business is going pretty well, the shop is in a very good and central location, easily accessible from the main street. A lot of people visit it every day, attracted by the colourful window display with fresh flowers, the enticing aroma and your brilliant customer service. Inside the shop, flowers are tidily organised and labels with names and a clear description are provided. You tend to stay in the shop, ready to help your customers.

Accessible flower shop

Now, think about the same flower shop, but imagine that in front of the main door there is a big step that prevents access for some of your customers. There’s no window to showcase your flowers and you turn off the light to save money. In the shop, no labels or descriptions are provided and flowers are randomly arranged. Moreover, you tend to stay in the back of the shop so your customers struggle to find you if they need help with something.

Inaccessible flower shop

That’s exactly what happens when your website is not accessible.

The context in the UK

48% of the UK population could potentially have problems accessing your website:
  • Disability affects 19% of working age people in the UK
  • 9% of the UK population have some form of colour blindness (1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women)
  • 4% are visual impaired
  • 12 million are over 60 years old; that is the 21% of the entire population
Accessibility context in the UK
Disability on the internet includes things like:
  • Problems with sight
  • Problems using a mouse or keyboard
  • Problems with hearing
  • Problems with reading and understanding
But web accessibility also helps people who:
  • Have a slow internet connection
  • Have a small screen or unusual device
  • Can’t listen to sound at work
  • Use an old web browser or operating system

What are the benefits of having an accessible website?

Web accessibility protects your website against demographic changes and opens your business to everyone with an internet connection.

People with disabilities and special needs have spending power (disposable income of £50 billion per year) and the benefits of a website accessible to everybody are:
  • The website will be higher in the search engine: SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand because websites that are inaccessible to users with disabilities are also inaccessible to search engines. One of the most powerful elements of SEO is creating machine-readable content. This is content that can be read by humans as well as assistive technologies, like screen readers.
  • You won’t incur legal fees: according to the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) and Equality Act 2010 service providers must not discriminate against disabled people and an equal access to public or private services should be guaranteed
  • Increasing conversion: an accessible website will be more usable for all users not just for people with disabilities. Good usability and a positive user experience on your website will increase conversion.
  • Your brand will gain a positive image.

Which guidelines do you need to follow for developing an accessible website?

WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) defined in 2008 is an internationally adopted technical standard; the guidelines explain how to solve many of the problems that your users with disabilities face on the web. Although, WCAG 2.0 is not an all-inclusive list of issues that users with disabilities might face, they are internationally recognised standards.

WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines that are organised under 4 principles:

WCAG-2-guidelines
Perceivable Perceivable
The principle of a website being perceivable is about the senses people use when browsing the web:
  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content
Operable
The actions people take when browsing:
  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard
  • Give users enough time to read and use content
  • Do not use content that causes seizures
  • Help users navigate and find content
Understandable
Your website must use clear terms, have simple instructions and explain complex issues:
  • Make text readable and understandable
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes
Robust
A robust website is one that third-party technology (like web browsers and screen readers) can rely on. This minimises the risk of your users relying on technology that cannot correctly process your website:
  • Maximise compatibility with current and future user tools

WCAG 2.0 are organised into three levels of conformance:

  • Level A – the most basic web accessibility features
  • Level AA – deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users
  • Level AAA – the highest (and most complex) level of web accessibility

Starting with Level A is a great way to make progress and begin helping out your users. Level AA is the standard many governments are using as this level targets the most common and most problematic issues for web users.

How can you test if your website is accessible?

In the WCAG 2.0 a list of universal guidelines are presented, but what we clearly know is that it can be difficult to universally define the usability of a website. A website or an interface that is usable for one person, might not be for someone else.

Some websites were found to perform extremely well in usability evaluations with disabled people, yet did not meet certain WCAG lines.

A holistic approach to accessibility is necessary to develop an accessible website. Experts claim that ‘the key measure of a digital system is whether it fits it’s context of use: whether the people for whom it is designed can use it with acceptable levels of usability, for the tasks that they need to do, in the social setting in which these tasks take place, using the technologies they have available.’

User requirements can be grouped into several categories, including:

User characteristics User characteristics
The abilities (and disabilities) of the target users including perceptual, cognitive, motor, and linguistic abilities.

Domain requirements Domain requirements
The tasks that need to be supported, group, social and cultural dynamics, communication patterns, environmental factors, and so on.

Tech requirements Technological requirements
Such as availability of hardware and software and the availability of plug-ins.

Performance requirements Performance requirements
For example, task success rates, task-completion times, satisfaction ratings, and quality of task output (e.g. comprehension outcomes in an e-learning environment).

These requirements have a cultural context in which they have to be considered in order to be meaningful. The holistic approach to accessibility is based on social inclusion rather than on the principle of universal accessibility.

A user-centred accessibility approach will entail both evaluating your website with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and testing the usability directly with disabled users. This approach emphasises the importance of the user and on satisfying his/her requirements.

In times of increasing complexity and reliance on technology, it is important to ensure that what is being gained is increased quality of life and that “by designing with the disabled in mind, we can create products that are better for everyone.” Inclusive Design

Need help or advice?

If you’re curious about any of the above and how ux can help you to create a more successful product, contact our experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

References
Sloan, D., Heath, A., Hamilton, F., Kelly, B., Petrie, H., & Phipps, L. (2006, May). Contextual web accessibility-maximizing the benefit of accessibility guidelines. In Proceedings of the 2006 international cross-disciplinary workshop on Web accessibility (W4A): Building the mobile web: rediscovering accessibility? (pp. 121-131)
Ford M. & Nevile L, 2004, “Issues enabling support for Multi-locational Accessibility“, IDABC: Cross-border E-Government Services for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens Conference’, Brussels, February 2005.

12 reasons to invest in UX

Knowing your users and designing for them have a lot of benefits on your brand image, the engagement of your users and last but not least on your revenue as well as on the engagement of customers with the product.

1. Increase sales and market share (conversion)

The crucial reason for all businesses to invest in their UX is the value of the return. Successful companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple all invest in their customer experience and the evidence is in their huge success. To give you an idea, every £1 you spend on UX returns on average £100. Importantly, it’s also an investment that keeps paying for itself in the longer term, unlike acquisition costs.

The evidence:

From 1993 to 2004, the UK Design Council tracked share prices. They found that design-aware companies out-performed other companies by more than 200%.

ux_share-prices

Case Study: Netflights

One of our travel clients, Netflights, invested in the UX of their website. Over the space of a year, all of their KPIs increased significantly. This included their revenue increasing by an impressive 26%, and their customer satisfaction rate rising to 95%.

2. Decrease bounce rates

People bounce from your site for many reasons – do you know these reasons? Are you just guessing? During the UX design process, as many of those reasons as possible are identified and designed out, keeping people on the site, taking them further down the funnel.

3. Avoid project failure and costly redesign

Investing in a user centred design process is the most effective thing you can do to lessen your risk of project failure and redesign costs. If you include user testing throughout your design process, you can rest assured of validation in the design. This will result in 25% less rework and bug fixes post-launch. Why risk leaving that user validation to launch and having your project sink like a led balloon. Test sooner rather than later!

ux-project-failure

4. Increase business intelligence and ease decision making

If you understand your customers opinions and needs, you and everyone else in the business will be able to make better business decisions that are fully in line with your customers needs. The more user research you do, the more aligned you’ll be with your customers thinking.

Business intelligence

5. Decrease your acquisition costs (advertising spend)

A good user experience is the best advertisement your business can have. “If a lot of people use that website then it means that it’s good”, we hear this hundreds of times during research. Nothing is as strong as a user that has had a good experience, suggesting to other users to use your brand. Social proof is a crucial factor for your business to be successful. And best of all, it’s FREE!
When your bounce rate decreases and you have more people coming to your site based on great customer reviews and a whole host of other positive side effects from your improved UX, you’ll spend less on your marketing channels but you’ll be converting more. This also has a longer term impact.

Decrease advertising costs

6. Increase basket size

Have you noticed how you spend more time on sites that you enjoy using? You buy more from them too. Through focussing on your customers and improving the design of your site, you’ll notice an increase in your average basket value. Focus on improving cross sells and up sells as part of your strategy to further increase basket size.

7. 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’. Of course offline reviews and word of mouth still exist, but online is where people have the most reach. Upset one person and thousands of people can read their review and decide not to buy from you. Through an increased understanding of customers needs and improving the website accordingly, we create a better experience that leads to better reviews.

Better reviews

8. Improve customer satisfaction and NPS score

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 product further 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’).

Customer satisfaction

9. Decrease customer service and support costs

If your users can find the information they need on your site, they’ll be more happy and won’t need to contact your customer service staff for further help. We all know how frustrating it is when you can’t find something on a website and have to phone up a call centre, most likely waiting on hold for ages just to get a simple answer. We’ll tell you a secret, most people won’t do this. They’ll simply press the back button and go to your competitor. The problem is that you have no idea why this has happened, unless you do regular user testing.

Support costs

10. Make your site / product reach it’s full potential

Apple didn’t invent the smartphone (we know because we part of the design team of the first Ericsson smartphone), and Facebook wasn’t the first social network, but what made those products so successful? The usability and good user experience were instrumental for their exponential growth and it can be the same for your business!

Ericsson R380

11. Increased customer retention

If a person enjoys using your website or product (if they have a good experience) they will come back in the future again and again… We hope you’re starting to understand that UX is not just a one off benefit. It keeps paying for itself over and over again.

Increase customer retention

12. Motivate your team

When your team can see the value of what they are building, so will your users.

Team motivation

Need help or advice?

If you’re curious about any of the above and how ux can help you to create a more successful product, contact our experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

What is User Testing?

Mobile UX Research Testing

User testing, aka usability testing, user research, UX testing… everyone’s talking about it, all the best companies are doing it, but what exactly is user testing? And why are your peers banging on about it so much?

Why is user testing important?

Because it will save you A LOT of money, make your projects more successful and make you look good for all those new customers you’ll convert at the end of it.

Increase your sales

Whether you’re responsible for e-commerce sales, online conversion or sales of a product there’s a common factor for those that go through regular user testing. They’re more successful, they experience higher and faster growth and the business works better as a whole because everyone understands the user.

Save time and money

A common misconception of user testing is that it will lengthen your design and build process, however, there’s no need for this to be the case. It runs in parallel with other activities. The one way to guarantee adding time and having to increase budget and that’s by not including any user testing in your project. Imagine getting to the end, only to realise that you missed out a crucial piece of the user journey and you’re going to have to rework everything.

Fail fast and fail often

If your new project isn’t going to resonate with customers you want to know that as soon as possible so that you can adapt it and re-test it until you get it right. The sooner you get this insight the better! How soon? You should start at the concept stage and you don’t even need any tangible designs to get your first, most important user feedback. Test everything with your target users.

Improve what you’ve got

Whatever stage you’re currently at (wireframes, prototypes, procrastination…) user testing will always be enlightening to improve what you already have. Identify the main issues, the strengths and opportunities for further enhancement.

Consumer insights, intelligence and evidence

You’re building for an end user, a human being so why wouldn’t you actually observe their behaviour, listen to their feedback and question their expectations? The insights you’ll come away with will help you across your whole business and the changes you’ll need to convince your teams to make will be clearly evidenced by the testing. When conducted by experts, user testing is a methodology and a science that produces behavioural and psychological evidence of the changes that are necessary to meet your customers needs.

Mobile shopping ecommerce ux

When it comes to digital experiences, users are used to being able to do things quickly. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. In recent years we’ve seen big change in the customer mindset, they now expect things to be easy to use and they’re more aware of usability than ever before. Once upon a time people would blame themselves but now they are quick to blame a company for a poor experience with their website, app, software or product.

Usability is a necessary condition for survival and doing user testing is the solution to ensure your costumers with a positive and enjoyable user experience, which will in turn create more new and return customers.

What makes this harder for you is that people no longer read instruction guides and they’ll skip through your very helpful user interface overlays. We know, you put them there to be helpful, but we’re sorry to have to tell you that we see users skip these all the time. Then when they need the help they can’t find it!

There are many things to consider. You need to provide users with all information they need and to allow them to find it as quickly as possible. Most of them will not take the time to look through a website that is not usable. For this reason, ensuring your projects include user testing is a clever time and money saving activity your company would choose.

What is user testing?

User testing is an essential part of the UX design process. It typically consists of evaluating a product by researching it with your representative users (who we recruit). A product may be a physical product such as a kettle, a piece of software, an app, a website or other form of digital interface such as those found in retail stores. User testing when done best, takes the form of one-to-one interviews that are conducted face-to-face by a qualified UX researcher. This research method enables deep information to be gained about your users’ patterns of behaviour, preferences and opinions, in order to implement this feedback for a more successful product. Testing early during the design process allows you to prevent future re-design costs and to launch a user-friendly product. Testing doesn’t require a big sample of participants since the aim of the session is to gather qualitative data. Remote user testing tools are also available and are useful for backing up face-to-face with greater numbers, however they should not be used in isolation unless your budget really does constrict you.

Mobile Usability Testing

In the user testing session, a wide range of testing tools can be involved. Each testing session is tailored on your objectives and the best user research technique is chosen according to your needs.

User testing will generally be task oriented. Tasks will be created in advance and the user will be asked to complete them whilst being questioned by a researcher who will analyse and question their behaviour in real-time. A good researcher will pick up on UX issues as and when they happen, and pursue a relevant line of questioning.

A user test may also include activities to inform structure and navigation, such as card sorting. Typical measures of usability may also be included, such as the SUS rating scale – the official measure of user satisfaction. This is a questionnaire that the user completes to give an overall satisfaction score.

After the testing sessions, our expert will analyse the findings thoroughly and they will provide you with a full range of design solutions.

Are you ready to grow?

User testing gives you deep psychological and behavioural insights from users that will improve not just your user interfaces and products, but also your business as a whole. The more you understand your users, the stronger and more successful you’ll become.

If you’re curious about any of the above and how user testing will help you to create a more successful product, contact our user testing experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission
What’s the real difference? Face-to-face versus Remote user testing

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

User research

You’re very busy, in and out of meetings all day, managing projects and making decisions that will create a successful product. You’re managing expectations and dealing with multiple conflicting opinions from stakeholders, everyone has a different idea and vision – perhaps you rely on your gut instinct to make the final decision.

It’s great to have lots of ideas but how do you refine these to those that will really resonate with your users and be a huge success? How do you then build these into successful products? How do you validate ideas and evidence required changes? The answer is user testing.

1. Concept tests

The start of a project is the perfect time to begin research with your target users. Are you guilty of waiting until the build is complete before running your first user test? This is a very high risk strategy. We’ve been called into projects at the last minute to test before launch because concern sets in that perhaps the site/software/app actually isn’t all that great. The initial cost saving of not running any user research in the early stages is not worth it when you’re then faced with the overwhelming cost of redesign, development and additional time to launch, all resulting in potential lost sales.

2. SWOT competitor tests

Did you know you can run a full user test on all of your competitors? This enables you to understand their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your product from a user perspective. The biggest assumption you should avoid making is that they have a good UX. They may well do no user testing, they may not be very good at user testing, they may do it but not interpret and implement the required changes very well, you can’t assume they are better than you you need to find out for certain. You should also include your own site in competitor tests so you can discover how users compare you against them and where you are strong/weak in direct comparison.

3. Features and functionality tests

You have a long list of things you want in the UI. Your stakeholders have their own lists. You all disagree what should be in the UI and which features should take priority. How do you decide? What you need is a user test focussed on determining which functionality and features are important for the user. We use tools to determine what should be included, the priority of importance, user expectations of each feature, where it should be within the navigation structure and interface and much more.

4. Prototype tests

How much time do you spend sat in meetings debating what the UI should look like and where things should go? Forget it. It doesn’t matter what you think, you need to remember you are not your user. Ask your designers to mock up your early wireframes in a prototyping tool. This can then be tested with users. It’s quick, effective and provides you with the peace of mind that your design is progressing in the right direction. Of course, if users respond negatively to it, at least you’ve caught this at a very early stage where alternatives can be mocked up and tested easily.

5. Visual design tests

So you’ve been user testing at the early stages and everything’s gone well, there’s no need to test at the end is there? Wrong. You should always test after the visual design stage. Visual design forms part of the user experience and is crucial to get right. Poor readability, poor CTA contrast, copy, imagery and many other factors can all have a big influence on usability and conversion. Don’t invest in UX all the way up to this stage then blow it on the final hurdle.

What next?

The next step is simple. If you’re curious about any of the above and how user testing will help you to create a more successful product, contact our user testing experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

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

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:

Stimulation

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.

Identification

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.

Evocation

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. 

Situation

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.

What’s the real difference? Face-to-face versus Remote user testing

Have you ever wondered what the real difference is between remote unmoderated user testing (like usertesting.com and whatusersdo) and face-to-face user testing? Which method should you use, when and what for? There is a huge difference in these two techniques and the end results so let’s take a look at them both in greater depth.

Face-to-face

Interviews conducted face-to-face with target users, often in a lab setting or in-context, for example in the person’s home to make them feel more at ease and uncover more realistic feedback and issues. The interviews are a two-way conversation guided by a trained researcher.

Usability testing

The positives

– Can be conducted at any stage of the design process, even before you have any UI in place. Gathering very early feedback will save time and cost later!

– Conducted by a researcher as a two way conversation, giving the opportunity to question answers given and behaviour observed.

– Very rich data. The opportunity to question users enables you to discover deep insights and more potential barriers to conversion.

– Greater team collaboration. When observing lab research, the team are together in an accompanying observation room. This increases design collaboration and buy-in for changes.

– See the user and their reactions. Face-to-face interviews use technology that can record the user as well as their interactions, so you can see their facial expressions and real time responses. This can make the videos much more powerful – it’s harder to ignore the feedback if you can see a real person and you know they’re just sat in the next room!

– Discover deeper problems and opportunities. The researcher can spend a portion of the interview understanding behaviour and underlying psychological motivations, these can often open up greater opportunities than just examining the UI in isolation.

– If a user stops thinking out loud (this is quite common), the researcher can prompt them or follow up with another question.

– Gain environmental, contextual and personality insights (if the research is conducted in context).

When should I use this method?

– You want to understand current user behaviour, needs, wants and concerns.

– You want feedback on early concept ideas, which you should pursue and why.

– You want to test sketches or lo-fidelity mockups.

– Throughout a project when you need to more deeply understand user behaviour and interaction.

– When you need to get stakeholder buy-in. They’re much more highly influenced when they’re sat in a room together, observing real people struggle to use their UI.

– If you want to benefit from the expertise of a UX researcher to run the session and to help recommend changes that will successfully engage users.

– When you need to establish rapport with users to encourage trust to discuss things they might not disclose if just speaking into a computer.

– If you want more authentic results.

– If the tasks and feedback will take longer than 15 minutes.

The drawbacks

Your research is only as good as the person conducting it. Face-to-face relies heavily on the research capabilities of the researcher. If someone with little experience runs research, there is a greater risk of them asking leading questions, not establishing rapport and missing key identifiers for insights to further pursue. They are also more likely to express interviewer bias – where they impose their beliefs and expectations subconsciously on the user and therefore influence their responses. It takes years of practice to conduct great user interviews but great interviews give better output.

– If your testing requires a large number of participants, face-to-face testing will quickly become very expensive. It works best for small scale, qualitative research (5-15 people).

– It generally takes longer than remote testing.

Remote unmoderated testing

Tasks and questions are planned in advance so that the user can complete them in a small amount of time (usually 15 minutes) in their own time at home. This is a one way method (no researcher involved) with users required to think aloud as they complete tasks.

Remote unmoderated usability testing

The Positives

– Cheap

– Quick

– User is in their environment on their device (note: face-to-face can also be performed in context)

– Cheaper for collecting large samples.

– No researcher needed (note: this could also be seen as a negative)

When should I use this method?

– If you need very quick results.

– Your budget is too small for face-to-face.

– If you just need to test a small aspect of your UI, something that can be explored in 15 minutes.

– You need a larger number of responses to backup qualitative face-to-face research with greater significance.

– You aren’t researching difficult, complex flows or sensitive issues.

– You’re main focus is on identifying easy to find usability issues and not deeper problems, insights or psychological barriers to conversion.

– When your UI is higher fidelity.

The drawbacks

– One way method, no active questioning. If the user misinterprets the question or gets stuck on something they can’t recover from, no one can put them back on track and help them. You also have to try and pre-empt the problem they might encounter in order to ask the right questions in the first place, this allows no chance to pursue interesting things they may do or say.

– Limited to around 15 minutes. This limits the amount of feedback you can gather and the depth of questioning. It can feel like the user’s just got themselves settled into the research and they’re giving some great feedback, then before you know it, the session has ended.

– Doesn’t record the user so you won’t get to see their facial reactions or body language.

– Higher risk of expert and money-motivated users. Some of the users may participate in many tests therefore becoming experts, others may be highly motivated by the payment and they’ll fly through the tasks without getting into the correct mindset.

– Users focussed on usability. As people sign up through the testing website, people are sometimes aware that the focus is on usability and user experience and you’ll hear them mention ‘usability’ and other terms a real consumer just wouldn’t pick up on.

– Thinking out loud can be quite a difficult skill to maintain. Once their cognitive resources are concentrated on the task in hand it’s easy to forget to think aloud. In face-to-face the interviewer can prompt them, but in remote, the user is on their own.

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Understandably it feels very comfortable doing remote testing. You are more in charge, you can control the tasks and questions and even the end videos – if one user is particularly scathing there may be the temptation to not show that video to the team.

However, if it’s the only method you use you will always be limiting yourself to the top level issues you can find based on the tasks and questions you define (do you see how you’re already biasing your own results with your own expectations?). There’s also the limitation of the 15 minute sessions, as well as your own ability to analyse this sessions appropriately and suggest recommendations that will give the most effective results.

If you’ve never tried face-to-face research we’d strongly advise you give it a go. Yes some of it might be uncomfortable to hear but mostly, it will be an eye opening and inspiring experience! You’ll feel more connected to your customers, you’ll feel more connected as team, and you’ll go away with tonnes of new ideas to make your user experience and conversion much better!

Need help?

If you are in any doubt as to which method is right for you, or if you would like to find out more about how face-to-face could help you, feel free to get in touch and one of our experts will happily help 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.

Infographic: 2015 E-commerce Opportunities

Ecommerce-infographic-2015

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).

average_moible_payment_process

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.

maplin_youtube_results

Customer engagement trends – how to stay ahead in 2015

Steven Ledgerwood and Saima Alibhai, Emarsys

customer_engagement

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)

market_segmentation

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.

website_visitors_not_converting

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:

retail_store_engagement

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.

online_offline_marketing

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

ecommerce_expo_panel_debate

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.

Fascinating insights: E-commerce expo day 1

This week we attended the London e-commerce expo to discover the latest statistics, technology and importantly, what’s predicted to be big in 2015. Here’s our write-up of the sessions we attended on day 1 (day 2 to come soon). What’s very clear is that mobile will be massive in 2015! New technology enabling more advanced tracking of customers offline and online will also pave the way for advanced data, customer engagement and retargeting across channels (more of this in our next blog post: day 2).

Driving Sales in a connected world

Tracy Yaverbaun, Facebook

facebook mobile
Mobile was a key theme in Tracy’s presentation. There has been a huge change in devices and multi-device use, for marketers this is a huge challenge!

Mobile is where the growth is and where it will continue to be but brands aren’t moving as fast as consumers.

Only 4% of budgets go into mobile but it’s where 20% of consumers time is. Everything has to work on mobile for facebook now.

80% of Facebook’s users are mobile. 26m daily users on facebook, out of these 23m are mobile .

Mobile is disrupting commerce. Physical shop real estate is shrinking so e-commerce is more important than ever. Yet the screen size is smaller so marketers have to work harder on the small screen real estate.

Consumers want msgs relevant to them at the right place at the right time. You need to consider:

1. Discovery. People can find your brand. The Facebook newsfeed is one of the best places for consumers to discover products. Most people check their newsfeed a whopping 14 times every day!

2. Personalisation. Personalisation at scale. E.g. Amazon used Facebook to only target people who didn’t own kindles and were frequent flyers (using their CRM to filter out people who had kindles). It’s all about ‘good targeting’.

3. Measurement. ROI no matter which device consumers start or end their journey. Mobile has a huge amount of traffic but a lot of brands discount this. Marketers are obsessed with looking at clicks but they don’t matter, what matters is return on investment. Even if people don’t click, they’ve seen your message and taken in your brand. Facebook now has cross device measurement capability.

The future of ecommerce is personalised discovery across devices and that you can measure every step along the way.

The future of mobile on the high street

Andrew McClelland and Matt Norbury

Future of mobile on the high street
What was very clear in this keynote, was that mobile is a huge, growing market and the key takeaway was that if you’re not focussed on mobile you are already getting left behind. Here are some of the key points:

Mobile growth is larger than tablet. 186% average growth in sales via mobile compared to 131% in tablet e-cmmerce. Average mobile conversion last year was 1.1%, this year 1.4%.

Basket size on mobiles is almost equal to desktop. £76 average basket value for mobile, average for desktop is £80.

8 in 10 smartphone users will use their smartphone at some point during the purchase process.

Mobile is critical to retail in the coming years. You have got to give people a real reason to engage – games and fun stuff. Add sufficient value that people keep coming back.

Don’t fear ‘showrooming’. Although people are using their mobiles inshore, most are actually just checking their email and social networks, not comparing prices.

Provide wifi. Wifi in-store is becoming a requisite – people expect it. Some people will leave a store if it doesn’t have wifi. Good for the guys whilst the girlfriend is shopping – keeps the boyfriend happier, keeps the girlfriend in the store for longer, everyones happy and the girlfriend has spent more.

Personalisation is big. 70% of people will give personal information and preferences to get something valuable in return such as offers.

Use beacons to measure footfall. Can measure uplift of message and conversion from a voucher you sent them. See the full end-to-end conversion, starting online, ending offline.

Five tips to make sure that customers transact with your app

David Pope, Jumio

Mobile commerce transactions

25% of downloaded apps are NEVER used.

Nearly 66% of consumers making purchases on a tablet or phone, regularly abandon their purchases during the payment process.

David explained his top five tips to get customers using and buying from your mobile app:

1. Be aware which operating system or platform will deliver the best return for your app. Interestingly, although Google Plays market share is way more than Apple’s, Apple’s users actually spend more – almost five times as much! ios users display 6 times the engagement of android users and tablets drive about 20% more spending on avg. Avg spending is 89 eur for tablets, 67 for pcs, 66 for smartphones. Although this isn’t the same in every industry and he specifically excluded travel and gaming as not applicable.

2. Be sensitive to data privacy concerns that may inhibit app usage. Trust is the number  barrier to growth of mobile content and commerce. 99% of users will not share their contact information. Less is more. Don’t ask for location, don’t ask how old the user is, don’t ask to access their contacts – greed for data gets in the way of transactions.

3. Reduce payment friction. This is all about your User Experience. David specifically talked about the keystroke level model – timing how long it will take customer to type data into your forms and working to reduce this number. And the gestalt laws of grouping (this is a more general design rule). Quite rightly, he pointed out that lots of apps still show alphanumeric keyboards for numeric data input – this is really frustrating and time consuming for your users. He also spoke of form length as important for reducing friction and gave the example of one change reduced to just 4 fields that resulted in 160% increase in conversions.

4. Balance functionality with speed and performance. There is a direct link between the performance of an app, number of downloads and its rankings in the app store. Tagman widget for calculating performance optimisation for your app. David recommends taking an MVP approach.

5. Build customer retention into your app. Integrate social features e.g. Sephora. Create a sense of community and use timely reminders, e.g. Map my run. Promote the benefits of your app, e.g. Swiftkey, tells you how much time you saved compare to normal keyboard. Personalise your customers experience.

Jumio
David’s aim in describing the above, was in promoting his product, Jumio. Basically instead of typing in their details, your customer would use Jumio on their mobile to scan their credit card and all the fields on your form would be populated automatically (Fastfill). Apparently this aids validation and reduces fraud. Note, legally, the customer still needs to manually enter their CVC number. It’s claimed that the average increase in form completion rate is 18-33%, coupled with less data entry errors.

Watch the video:

The customer journey report 2014

Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights

Dave’s slides can be viewed below. He placed focus on the customer journey and how wide it actually is – you need to focus on all channels, both online and offline and how people interact with / switch between them. It’s also important to use the right language for each of your personas to appeal to them in the words they use.

It was fairly disappointing to see that only 33% of respondents in the survey make use of usability studies but I’d be willing to bet that these 33% are the more successful companies. Clearly, there are a lot of companies that need to make greater use of user research methods as opposed to just analysing numbers.

Beware of the box: Don’t let your commerce software dictate how your business works

David Winterbottom

David’s presentation was from  a more technical viewpoint, being from a developer background originally. I loved his approach to writing software requirements which is called YAGNI (You ain’t gonna need it). We often experience feature / scope creep in our UX world and we’re always battling against it, so YAGNI is definitely an acronym I’m going to be using! Quite rightly, David also advised that companies shouldn’t write a long list of software requirements at the RFP phase as this should be open at this stage to allow the company you work with to come up with the best solution, otherwise you’re already limiting them and telling them the solution.

I also liked the example that in Korea, customers can now scan QR codes to purchase things in the store. Soon, you’ll also be able to have your items delivered so that they’re waiting for you when you get back home (very cool).

David spoke briefly about an open source platform they’ve created called ‘Oscar‘. It’s totally free, designer friendly (apparently), and mobile by default. It’s built in Django and quick for prototyping which David said can be done in just a few days.

Read part 2 : More fascinating e-commerce insights for 2015!