Another award shortlist for Keep It Usable

WIBA Award Keep It Usable

We’re incredibly excited to announce that we’ve another award in our midst! This time it’s our founder, Lisa, who has been shortlisted for the North West Women in Business awards (WIBA) STEM category. STEM aims to recognise women who work in the traditionally male dominated areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Lisa says “I’m very proud to be representing women in the STEM category. There’s still an under representation of women in the digital and tech scene. Certain sectors I work in are highly male dominated and I would love to see more women with the belief that they can enter these sectors.”

Best of luck Lisa!

We’d also like to give recognition to the amazing work of Ladies That UX. A group set up by Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley to support women who work in the UX field. Thank you for your continued support!

8 Technology trends you need to know for 2015

2015 is looking to be a really exciting year for innovation.  We get excited by new technology and the challenges that brings, especially with regards to designing for challenging smaller screens – how you can engage users and showcase information without sacrificing the experience? Here are some technologies and trends we’d recommend keeping your eye on in 2015.

1. Wearables

Wearables are becoming big business and the growing trend will continue to thrive in 2015, particularly in fitness, fashion and health.  More affordable wearables are likely to hit the market and will bring wearables to the masses.

Keep-It-Usable-Wearable-Tech-Nike-Fuelband

2. Apple watch

A handful of companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony have launched wearables in the form of watches.  This year, will see the Apple watch hit the market which will disrupt and put smart watches on the map.  This will have huge implications for how we communicate, interact and consume information.  The potential is vast, particularly for connectivity and health.

Apple-Watch-sport

3. Digital health

2015 will be the year that healthcare finally wakes up to digital!  Wearables that can monitor everything from measuring steps in fitness to improving your hearing.  Rings, hearing aids, headphones and much more will hit the market.  Could we even see the first digital implant…?! There is already a digital pill.

Health-Wearables

4. Internet of things

From controlling lighting and heating, TVs, appliances and even connecting your body. We will use technology to increasingly monitor and intelligently improve our lives.  The promise of major connectivity and intelligence is exciting and we expect to see this technology grow rapidly in 2015.

Keep-It-Usable-Internet-Of-Things-Philips-Hue

5. Major growth in mobile e-commerce

Mobile will be huge in 2015 and will continue to disrupt e-commerce.  8 in 10 smartphone users use their phones at some point during the purchase process and with mobile screens increasing in size, their popularity is projected to grow enormously in 2015, meaning users will consume even more data on mobile.  Mobile growth is larger than tablet with 186% average growth in sales via mobile compared to 131% in tablet e-commerce.  Read our e-commerce insights for 2015 >

Keep-It-Usable-Mobile-Shopping

6. Mobile wallets

2015 will be the year that contactless payment methods like NFC (near-field communications) really start to take off.  Larger banks are likely to offer NFC payments via smartphone by the end of 2015 with 5% of NFC enabled mobiles being used to make contactless payments.

Apple-Pay

7. Omni-channel retail experience

The future of retail will be a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile devices, computers, physical stores, television, radio, mail, etc. Omni-channel retail represents an experiential change for the connected consumer as all touchpoints with a brand become one. 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. Read about how digital tools will change the in-store shopping experience >

Keep-It-Usable-Omni-Channel-Retail-Experience

8. Usability

With the rapidly changing technological landscape and continuing explosion of digital into more and more products, it has never been so important to focus on user needs, psychology and behaviour.  Great usability will no longer be a nice-to-have, it will be mandatory in order to create a successful product. There’s never been a more important time to Keep It Usable.

Keep-It-Usable-Mobile-UX

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

world-usability-day

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.

Keep It Usable beat hundreds of entrants to the DADI awards

DADI Awards Usability Finalist

We’re excited to announce that we’ve made it as a finalist in the DADI Awards Usability category for our redesign of KOOTH.com.

Katy Thomson of The Drum told us:

We received over 550 entries this year so getting through to this stage really is a huge achievement. Your work has impressed the panel! You should be very proud of you and your team’s hard work.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with KOOTH, it’s the UKs most successful online mental health platform for young people. KOOTH.com provides online counselling to 10,000 young people with potentially life-threatening issues such as self harm and suicide through to everyday worries at school or home.

Like many pieces of software, it had been designed originally by experts, in mental health and IT. They had a very successful online service and were clearly incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their service. They care greatly for their end users and recognise the importance of an easy to use  and visually engaging platform, so, having heard of Keep It Usable and our reputation, they commissioned us to redesign KOOTH to make it easier to use not just for young people, but also for their counsellors.

3 Kooth Home Signed out

So far, the team have had lots of positive feedback from young people so this is a huge step in increasing the appeal KOOTH has with the target audience as well as increasing engagement with the platform to encourage return use and word-of-mouth referrals.

The results have been phenomenal.

The KOOTH team have also had lots more enquiries and contract wins following the redesign. Feedback from customers and potential customers has been incredibly positive. As well as the UX and visual redesign, KOOTH now incorporates advanced reporting tools that make commissioners lives much easier so they now have the confidence that young people will use the platform and they can easily see the impact and results for their region.

Of course, there’s a huge monetary return on their investment in UX for the KOOTH team. The time saved with the redesigned chat views provides much added value to service users and commissioners based on increased efficiency and effectiveness. The increased appeal to young people should see increased word-of-mouth referrals and increased return use. With the KOOTH team, we wanted to advance the current site to create a place that felt even more young person friendly and remove any existing usability concerns. With new combined chat and case note views, the young person gets even more quality counsellor time. We envisage that with the redesigned and streamlined backend (in collaboration with the team), that less money will be spent on re-training and supporting counsellors in how to use the system.

KOOTH has always been an amazing service for young people, but together, with our combined expertise, we’ve refreshed KOOTH to maintain it’s position as the leader in online mental health for young people and set a very high benchmark.

Hat-trick of client awards for Keep It Usable

We produce user experiences that make people sit up and take notice, that ruffle the feathers of your competitors and attract more customers to your brand. We don’t talk the talk, we walk the walk. Have a look for yourself:

Kooth

Shortlisted: Best User Experience Big Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)

– Estimated 5 fold return on investment in just 1 year.
Increased sales and dramatic increase in enquiries.
– Added value to service users of £300,000 per year.
– Increased staff satisfaction and decreased training costs.

“We’re delighted with our work and our partnership with Keep It Usable”

Used by young people throughout the UK, Kooth was already a hugely successful online counselling platform however it was in desperate need of an overhaul. We conducted focus groups and workshops in schools to uncover insights that enabled us to complete a successful redesign of the frontend UI that young people now love!

We also overhauled the backend system UX for counsellors as they struggled to use the existing complex interface and it was costing the company in re-training and lost productivity. We increased efficiency and user satisfaction – combining multiple views into one to decrease navigation whilst in a counselling session. It meant their clients also received more value for money due to the extra time counsellors were able to spend counselling.

Netflights

Shortlisted: Best Digital Experience – Leisure, Events and Travel. UK Digital Experience Awards 2014 (winner announced in July)

Netflight’s focus on their mobile, tablet and desktop user experience is key to their commercial success. Taking an iterative research and design approach enables us to create ideas and assess our designs with their target audience in the most effective and efficient process. We also go above the standard usability benchmark by applying PET (persuasion, emotion, trust) principles to increase positive user engagement and satisfaction.

Manchester Council

Shortlisted: Best public sector website Big Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)
Winner: Best public sector website UX UK Awards
Winner: Best government website People’s Lovie Awards
Winner: Best home page People’s Lovie Awards

How our research with residents and design recommendations led to an award-winning website

Contact Keep It Usable

New UX Book featuring Keep It Usable

There’s a new UX book on the scene and guess what, it features us!

We’ve been getting a bit of a name for ourselves within the UX scene based on the quality of our work and our passion for all things UX. So when Peter Beare and Gavin Allanwood gained approval to create a new UX book they invited us to take part. The book covers an overview of the whole User Experience process, from research with users (our section – chapter 2) through to design and build.

It’s a book that you can easily dip in and out of and is particularly beneficial to those new to UX who need a higher level understanding of the process, tools and techniques that are used to create a good user experience.

User Experience Design: Creating designs that users really love is now available on Amazon for just under £20 – well worth it.

User experience design book - Creating designs users really love By Gavin Allanwood and Peter Beare

“By putting people at the centre of interactive design, user experience (UX) techniques are now right at the heart of digital media design and development. As a designer, you need to create work that will impact positively on everyone who is exposed to it. Whether it s passive and immutable or interactive and dynamic, the success of your design will depend largely on how well the user experience is constructed.

User Experience Design shows how researching and understanding users expectations and motivations can help you develop effective, targeted designs. The authors explore the use of scenarios, personas and prototyping in idea development, and will help you get the most out of the latest tools and techniques to produce interactive designs that users will love.

With practical projects to get you started, and stunning examples from some of today s most innovative studios, this is an essential introduction to modern UXD.”
UX-User-Profiling-Chapter

We particularly like the layout and style of the book as there is an emphasis on imagery and real world case studies that makes the content really easy to consume and particularly engaging.

Below, you’ll see our user experience machine poster. If you’d like an electronic copy of this, you’re more than welcome to download a copy. We also have a few printed copies – if you’d like one just get in touch.

User Experience Machine

Look out for our next book!

We’ve also been invited to appear in another ux book out later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that one, which will have a more academic slant.

88% of mobile shoppers have negative user experiences

Keep-It-Usable-Mobile-Shopping-UX

We’ve just read about some interesting research that was conducted in the US by Skava earlier this year that shows that although the number of consumers using smartphones to shop has increased to 71%, the user experience is still far behind consumer expectations and satisfaction is low. 88% of consumers who shop via mobile have had negative experiences.

Mobile shopping user experience issues

  • Navigation (51%)
    People find that websites are more difficult to navigate through their mobile device compared to desktop.
  • Small images (46%)
    Product images are too small for consumers to make a buying decision.
  • Security concerns (41%)
    Concerns regarding security still prevail. This particularly relates payments.
  • Checkout process (26%)
    Checkouts are still not being designed to be easy and simple to complete via mobile. This creates a major barrier to purchase.

Other consumer concerns

  • The costs of data usage.
  • Difficulty adding coupon / discount codes.
  • Mobile website speed.
  • Clicking the wrong buttons (less precision on mobile).

Consumers don’t return after a bad experience

  • 36% would abandon the purchase altogether.
  • 30% would never return to that particular retailer’s mobile website again after a negative experience.
  • 29% of smartphone owners claimed it would be 6 months or more before giving a retailer’s mobile website a second chance.
  • 33% would immediately go to a competitor.
“It isn’t just about putting a mobile website out there – it is about building an experience that is easy for customers to use and takes into consideration the unique attributes of mobile devices. Achieving significant conversion rates on mobile is possible. Amazon, a constant threat to traditional retailers, generated $4bn in sales through mobile last year.” Arish Ali, Skava

Many retailers are still failing to provide a satisfying user experience and are currently losing customers and market share to their competitors who create superior mobile experiences.

Would you like to work with us?

Keep It Usable have many years designing mobile user experience – we’re some of the most experienced mobile ux specialists in the UK. We even worked on James Bond’s mobile phone! If you need any advice with regards to your mobile ux, we’ll happily provide complimentary advice, send us a quick message now.

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If you’re not investing in UX, your competitor will be!

Manchester City Council named Best Government Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa’s BBC Radio Appearance

bbc radio manchester

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

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

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

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

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

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