5 benefits of observing UX research in person

5 Benefits of UX Research for Stakeholders

The impact of observing UX research can NOT be underestimated!

The impact of observing UX research can NOT be underestimated, yet it often is. Do you only ever conduct unmoderated remote research (using platforms like usertesting.com)? If you do then not only are you missing out on the rich data that actually interacting with users will bring you, but crucially, the impact of your research within the business will likely be much lower than if you’d organised face-to-face research and invited stakeholders to attend in person.

There are immediate benefits for researchers, designers and all stakeholders who attend in-person UX research.

 

1 Immediate buy-in for design changes

User frustration
There’s nothing like the impact of observing a real person struggle with your software.

You’ve been battling with a particular project manager for months about the location of the login box, you think it should go in the top right to be consistent with other websites and crucially where your users will expect to find it. Your PM, however, thinks it should be one of the first things people see when they come to the site, so they think it should go in the navigation bar so it will sit more centrally on the page.

As you watch your researcher carry out the first user interview you feel a little nervous about what’s going to happen as they’re now asked to login…. The first thing you see is the user’s eyes immediately look to the top right of the page. Their mouse soon follows as they look for the login option and they say ‘Oh I expected to find it up here”. Your PM suddenly remarks “Why isn’t the login option in the top corner?”. You feel like head butting the wall, but at least they’re finally seeing the design from the perspective of the user and you can finally move the damn login to the top right!

Buy-in is critical

In fact, it could be argued that getting buy-in is even more important than the research itself – after all, what’s the point of conducting research if it’s not believed, attended to or actioned?

2 Greater empathy for customers and their experience

Mobile Website Interaction
Stakeholders see the world through business and financial lenses, so much so, that they become far removed from seeing the world through the eyes of real customers as human beings. Instead of just being data and figures on paper, the customer becomes a real person with thoughts and feelings, and someone who makes a buying decision based on things this person has never even seen as important before now. Simply knowing that there’s a real person sat next door, with a name, hobbies, family and is your target audience, enables the stakeholder to build a stronger connection with them as a person and take this deeper connection with them in the rest of their work and the daily decisions they have to make.

 

3 Make better decisions based on valid insights and facts

Make informed decisions
At the end of the day, stakeholders really do want to make the best decisions they possibly can to benefit both the business and the end customer. The more hours they observe of customer research, the more empowered they are to make better decisions that will benefit the end user. This is why in-person observation is so crucial. Stakeholders are much more likely to attend in-person research than to sit and watch a remote user test (they’ll get bored by the one-way interaction or distracted by someone popping by their desk ‘for a quick word’ and the end result is they won’t watch more than 5-10 minutes).

If your research is conducted well (e.g. your researcher is skilled to limit the effects of biases), then the insights gathered will also be valid. This is worth noting, because if your research is conducted poorly, your findings will be flawed and lead to poor decisions being made. For instance, thinking back to the researcher in the first scenario with the login option, imagine they asked the user “So, do you like the login box in the middle?”. Through the way they’ve worded this, they’ve weighted the question in favour of a positive response, therefore biasing the end answer. The stakeholder won’t know this, so when the user answers that yes they like it in the middle, that is taken as a valid insight and lead to a bad decision being made on the login box location. In contrast, a good researcher won’t ask a question in that way in the first place, but if they did slip up (researchers are humans too after all), they would immediately know and be able to go back in the room and say to everyone, “we need to remove that finding as it was biased by the way I worded the question”. There are ways to re-ask the question in the research to still gain a response btw!

 

4 Gain buy-in for a customer-centred culture and more research!

Your customers and users

Let’s assume your business is fairly new to UX and the benefits of conducting research with real people who represent their customers. It’s your dream as a UXer that your company listens more to your team and your users. Well, one of the quickest, easiest and most effective methods to do this is to hold a research day and invite as many people as possible to attend. Let them experience the insights and the benefits these insights bring to their work for themselves. Then let the word-of-mouth spread! The insights from UX research don’t just benefit the e-commerce team or the marketing department, they have value across the whole business. That’s why gaining buy-in is SO important.

 

5 Build stronger team relations

UX research collaboration
When you invite people to spend time together observing users, something magical happens. They share common interests, a common passion, a purpose to better the experience for the person they’re observing. To do this, they have to talk, collaborate, come up with ideas together and all of this bonds people, helping to build stronger relationships between teams and team members.

Need help or advice?

If you’d like to know more about conducting UX research and how it can benefit your business, contact our UX experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

You might also like:

12 reasons to invest in UX
Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?

Xennials: The new micro-generation and what you need to know

Do you know there’s a small micro-generation of people who sit in-between Generation X and Millennials? Xennials were born between 1977 and 1983, which makes them thirty somethings right now. They’re different to the generations before and after them, partly because of the huge shift in technology that happened at a crucial stage in their lives.

If you were born when Star Wars was released, you’re a Xennial

Xennials are caught in the cross fire of generations. Some research sources place a Xennial as Generation X and others define them as Millennials. The term Xennials recognises that this particular age group do not fit neatly into either generation.

“The idea is there’s this micro or in-between generation between the Gen X group – who we think of as the depressed flannelette-shirt-wearing, grunge-listening children that came after the Baby Boomers and the Millennials – who get described as optimistic, tech savvy and maybe a little bit too sure of themselves and too confident.”

Dan Woodman, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne
Image source: Mashable

There’s a distinct technology gap between Generation X and Millennials. Xennials were in the unique position of having a traditional digital-free, analogue childhood but a digital adulthood – they had their first mobile phone in their early 20s when the technology boom hit. Millennials grew up with technology, whereas Xennials had to adjust to it in early adulthood.

“It was a particularly unique experience. You have a childhood, youth and adolescence free of having to worry about social media posts and mobile phones. It was a time when we had to organise to catch up with our friends on the weekends using the landline, and actually pick a time and a place and turn up there… We learned to consume media and came of age before there

We learned to consume media and came of age before there was Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and all these things where you still watch the evening news or read the newspaper”.

You may have watched Simon Sinek’s talk about Millennials, where he bluntly speaks of their self-entitlement, self-interest, lazy attitudes, growing up in a world where ‘every child wins a prize’ and how this has affected them as working adults. This is a very different mindset to Generation X.

We asked Lisa Duddington, our co-founder for her thoughts as she happens to be a Xennial!

“I find this new category quite exciting and something I can personally relate to! I’d say I identify myself more with Millennials than Gen X technology-wise, but I associate more with the attitudes of Gen X. There’s a definite cross-over with both. I was a teenager when my parents first got the internet but it was so awful to use back then – it was painful just to dial-up to get online nevermind use the horrendous looking websites! I was about 20 and at uni when I got my first mobile. I feel quite fortunate that I was able to enjoy my childhood, playing out with friends without the pressures of social networks and being permanently ‘plugged in’ but still young enough to fully adopt to technology when the shift happened”.

Of course, it’s important to remember that not everyone fits a mould. Your experience depends on factors such as your family’s wealth, technology adoption, gender, race, culture, etc. If you were a late Gen Xer with a wealthy family of early tech adopters, you may well feel more like a Millenial and vice versa.

How Xennial are you? try this quiz!

You might also like:

Free Generation Z Shopping Report Download
The future of e-commerce: Generation Z

Top 10 reasons why good user recruitment is crucial to the success of your UX research

Good user recruitment is crucial to the success of UX research

Underestimating the importance of good user recruitment is very dangerous and can have huge negative impacts on the whole research process. So, it is worth bearing in mind that investing in good user recruitment is fundamental for the success of your research.

In one of our recent posts (Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?), we talked about the risks of poor user recruitment.

So now you know the risks, let’s look at all the fantastic benefits you’ll get by conducting good user recruitment 🙂

“Good user recruitment is fundamental for the success of your research”

Participants

1 Participants are representative of your target users

This is one of the most important benefits. Good user recruitment assures you that participants reflect the main characteristics and behaviours of your target users. This means that you are able to do research with a smaller group of people but the findings can be applied to a much larger population.

2 Communicative participants

If your user recruitment is thorough, you will be sure that all participants are chatty, communicative and at ease with the researcher. It is very important that only people able to easily express themselves are recruited, in order to gain valuable and useful feedback during the research. You need people ideally who are able to verbalise their thought process and think aloud.

3 Motivated for the right reasons

Good user recruitment ensures that participants are interested in taking part in the testing/research for the sake of the research and not simply the gratuity. It is frustrating when you realise that someone is there just for the money. This person will be purely focussed on getting through your questions and tasks as quickly as possible, they won’t give you useful findings and you may need to totally discount them from your data set.

4 Punctual and reliable participants

There’s nothing worse than a room full of stakeholders all waiting for a late participant to show up. With good quality recruitment, it is possible to decrease the risk of this happening, recruiting only reliable participants that are punctual and will not cancel at the last minute. This allows the researcher to focus on their user testing without having to worry about rushing the sessions to keep in line with the research timetable or having to find a replacement for a user who has failed to attend.

5 Increased research validity

Researching with highly screened participants gives more validity to the whole research process. If your participants have been carefully assessed and fit all the criteria for being suitable candidates, your research feedback will be more valuable and representative of user needs.

The benefits of good UX user recruitment

Using a third party

6 Hiding your recruitment behind an agency has huge advantages!

Using a third party for your recruitment allows you to hide your brand until the day of the session. This has a huge positive impact on your research. Why? If someone knows they’re being recruited by, for example, Topshop, what’s that person going to do before they come to your research? They’re going to go straight onto the Topshop website and familiarise themselves with it before they attend. This can happen with labs too – if we were recruiting for you but participants know they’re going to Topshop’s address for the research, it doesn’t take a genius to work out who’s doing the research and the users are likely to swat up beforehand (even if we tell them not to – it’s like being told not to think of a pink elephant… yes you’re already imagining a pink elephant now aren’t you ;)). Not very useful if you’re after first impressions and natural usage!

7 Reliable service

A good user recruitment agency won’t let you down. You will have the peace of mind that the recruitment will be completed on time and your research will not be negatively affected at the last minute. A good agency should specialise in UX user recruitment and should tell you immediately if they can’t recruit your target audience. The last thing you need is to be let down at the last minute!

8 Quick and flexible recruitment

Researchers are often forced to postpone their research due to the unnecessarily long recruiting times demanded by agencies. This is incredibly inconvenient when you are working in iterative design cycles. Good user recruitment agencies will be able to offer quick and flexible recruitment to fit in with your research schedule.

9 Honesty in the process

Good user recruitment agencies don’t pretend to be able to recruit the sample you need and then pull out at the last minute when they realise they can’t. A professional agency is honest and transparent about it’s capabilities and ability to meet your requirements, and if necessary, it will help you find a third party more suitable for your needs.

10 Good understanding of UX and your needs

In our experience, we have dealt with several recruiting agencies who knew little about UX research. So, they struggled to really understand our needs and consequently, they couldn’t recruit what we were looking for. Good user recruitment requires a full understanding of the UX research process and methods used.

Do you want to benefit from good user recruitment?

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

You might also like:

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?
What is User Testing?

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment

1  No recruitment at all!

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

2  No-shows

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

3  Late-shows

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

4  Uncommunicative participants

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

5  Misinterpretation of your needs

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

6  Non-representative sample

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

7 Brand advocates and bias

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

8  Not enough time to recruit

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

9  Recruiting ‘experts’

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

10  People who just want the money

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

The solution

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

Top 10 reasons why good user recruitment is crucial to the success of your UX research
12 reasons to invest in UX
5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

Get your FREE Mobile UX Checklist for World Usability Day

Happy World Usability Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Usability is crucial to your success

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

What are the benefits of usability testing?

Conducting usability testing will:

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

So, how do you test usability?

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

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

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

When to usability test…

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

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

Mobile usability: Your biggest opportunity awaits!

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

Mobile is where consumer growth is

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

Get your FREE 50 point Mobile UX Checklist!

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

Get my FREE Mobile UX Checklist >

Need help?

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

Email us now for your complimentary initial consultation.

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

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

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

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

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

Are you addicted?

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

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

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

Psychology: Why are smartphones so addictive?

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

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

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

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

 

Listen to Lisa discussing why we’re so addicted:

Radio 5 (skip to 20 minutes in)

Radio 5 live

Radio Scotland (skip to 40 minutes in)

Radio Scotland

Nomophobia: What is it and do you have it?

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

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

Nomophobia

How mobile addiction effects our health

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

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

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

 

Fancy switching off?

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

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

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

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

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

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design

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

What is UX?

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

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

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

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

UX design disciplines

What is UX design?

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the difference between UX and usability?

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

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

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

Which research methods are involved in UX?

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

Some of the research methods in UX are:

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

Is the setting of the research important?

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

Keep It Usable Home UX Lab

What are the benefits for your brand?

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

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

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

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

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

Help!

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

Do you need help improving your online sales and conversion?

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

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

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

Contact our UX and Conversion experts >

 

5 reasons to continuously conduct user research

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

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

So why should i continuously carry out user research?

1 Understand your customers

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

2 Test hunches and hypotheses

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

3 Benchmark KPIs against yourself and competitors

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

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

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

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

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

4 Avoid costly rework

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

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

5 Be more successful

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

What to do next

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

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

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

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

Need to rent a lab for your research?

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

10 Reasons from real users: Why is Pokemon Go so addictive?

“Addictive, stupidly addictive. It’s making me feel like I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality which I didn’t think I did before. It’s bad, don’t do it kids!”

This is how one 32 year old described his use of Pokemon Go. In less than a month, it’s become the most successful mobile game in history. It’s already overtaken Tinder and is rumoured to have now reached Twitter growth proportions. Usage time has already beaten other social media apps.

Usage Time: Pokemon GO vs Social Media Apps, US Android App Data: July 8th 2016 : Data by SimilarWeb

Walking around, you’ll find Pokemon catchers of all ages and genders, often in small groups with big smiles on their faces. It seems to appeal to everyone.

But what is it that makes this particular game so addictive? We went out to hunt down Pokemon Go users in Media City, Manchester, to discover what makes the user experience so addictive.

10 Reasons why Pokemon Go is SO addictive?

1 Nostalgia

“I used to play Pokemon when I was younger so it’s just the nostalgia of it I guess and I like that this is the first generation as well so it’s the generation that I know the most”

pokemon_pikachu_misty_pok_m

A crucial factor that has a big role in the game’s success is nostalgia. The game is a real blast from the past. Fans that embraced Pokémon during their childhood in the 1990s are once again indulging in their old obsession. Nostalgia, is a powerful force in luring users to a new but familiar experience (let’s look at what’s popular in the cinema right now.… Ghostbusters… Batman vs Superman…). The adults that once loved the cartoon or played the video game on their game boy, now have the opportunity to re-live those old feelings that make them feel good. To the cries of “gotta catch’em all” people feel happy, they associate the words with their carefree youthful days of no responsibility and lots of fun.

“The only way to deliver fun is to have players feel confident, give them a sense of exploration and connect them socially to others – on those three very important counts, the game looks like it’s succeeded” said Andrew Przybylski, psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Studies on nostalgia show it increases optimism, inspiration, boosts creativity, and pro-social behaviour. Pokemon Go reminds you of the fun things you used to do and the people you used to do it with but it also helps you look forward to more fun times in the future.

2 Meet new people

“I’ve met a few people, it is quite sociable. I was talking to a woman with a dog and she was playing Pokemon at the same time so we were comparing notes, so it is making people interact a bit more I think”

We all have in common the desire to be socially connected and to belong to a group – this is clearly seen with social media. But why?

Throughout our lives, we all go through a complex identity construction process that entails a continuous practice and experience of the self, a role playing and a negotiation with other identities in order to define who we are.

In this regard, sharing and socialising, it is necessary to find the inner self; social media is a unique stage to do this. It offers the opportunity to experience the self in many different ways than in the offline world – through images, videos, avatar, status etc – and in a context where we feel more in control of our actions and of other people’s feedback.

In the same way, Pokemon Go gives you control of the interaction; it has the flexibility to let you play alone, or with other people. The anonymity and the de-individuation that typifies our society makes it challenging to interact and connect with other people in the offline world. The game offers the opportunity to connect with others over a common interest, making it a more spontaneous, low risk interaction.

“Just randomly having little bits of chats about Pokemon, looking at what kinds of Pokemon they’ve got”

Twitter is full of stories about Pokemon Go‘s impact on anxiety and depression, with thousands of people praising the game for getting them out of the house and making it easier for them to interact with friends and strangers.

PokemonGo_anxiety

3 Enhance existing relationships

“Everybody in the office is playing. I think it encourages people to chat to other people. It’s brought us two closer”

Playing Pokemon Go is not just giving people the opportunity to make new friendships, it’s also strengthening existing relationships. A couple of co-workers told us how they’ve become much closer since playing the game together (we caught them playing it on a lunch time walk together), and one mum who was sat with her family told us that the reason she had started playing it was to get closer to her two sons and to enhance their relationship. It was something to talk and laugh about with them, it was something new that she had in common with them.

“My experiences have been very positive. I play it on the bus to work instead of spending that time on social media and comparing my life to all my friends. In the evenings I take my three younger brothers for a walk in the local country park “pokemon hunting”. We’re spending at least an hour, often longer, out there. Only yesterday we spotted and watched fox cubs playing, bats flying over a field catching bugs and sat quietly to watch some rabbits.”

4 Augmented reality

Pokemon Augmented Reality

There’s been a lot of talk about augmented reality and although it’s out there, many apps still do a poor job of creating an engaging experience. It’s often more of a marketing gimmick than a true enhancement to the user experience. Pokemon Go embeds augmented reality very successfully – they’ve turned it into the main feature of the game. Augmented reality is ingrained into the user experience and makes the characters feel more alive. It’s successfully bridged the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

5 Easy to play

Pokemon Mobile App Screens
“It’s a pretty simple game”

“I think it’s pretty intuitive”

The game is really simple and easy to get started, there are no barriers to use. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, you just need a smartphone with a camera and GPS. Crucially, these are technologies that users are already very familiar with. They feel easy. It also doesn’t require much learning. There are no instructions to read and the game is pretty simple to understand, especially if you’re already familiar with Pokemon. In fact all you need to do is:

1 Go outside

2 Walk

3 Find Pokemon

4 Flick a Pokeball to catch it

Repeat

6 Achievement

Achievement is another key factor of the Pokemon Go success.

Achievement and motivation are two strictly related concepts. People need to feel motivated in order to act, and motivation is boosted by achievements. The self-confidence that arises from the achievement of a goal – catching a Pikachu – motivates people to play more and more…and Pokemon Go players are indeed very motivated, to the point of catching Pokemon whilst their wife is giving birth!

The achievement experience is the fundamental mechanism of the entire Pokemon Go game. And it’s such an easy goal to achieve, that you can’t stop yourself. The ease with which the reward comes every time your phone buzzes, alerting you that a Pokemon is nearby, is very basic psychological conditioning.

7 Exercise

“It’s getting everyone out walking. It’s an excuse to get out of the house.”

Catching Pokemon means you have to get out and about, in effect, you have to exercise. It’s well documented that exercise has a positive effect on both the mind and body and that many people find it highly addictive.

“It’s getting everyone to go to parks and stuff so that’s pretty cool”

Dr. John Grohol is an expert in technology’s impact on human behavior and mental health, he says. “The research is really, really clear on this, that the more you exercise, the more it would help decrease feelings of depression,” he says. “It actually works as an anti-depressant and it has a really, pretty strong effect. It’s probably one of the most beneficial things a person with depression can do.”

PokemonGo_depression

Plus, walking around also helps people’s physical health – lose weight and get fitter. All these feel good factors contribute to the addiction.

“Our bosses kids are into it, so he has the excuse of saying ‘do you want to come on a walk and we’ll go and catch some Pokemon’ ”

8 Fun

Pokemon Mobile Outdoors

“It’s simple and it’s fun. You just plod along, it’s something to do on your lunch breaks”

It’s a game and it’s fun to play. You could go for a walk to the park or you could go hunt Pokemon at the park, which you’ll likely find much more fun to do and you’ll probably bump into other players whilst you’re there.

9 Variable reward model

Slot machines are so addictive because they give intermittent variable rewards. Social networks are addictive for the same reason. Pokemon Go uses the same reward model. Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools to ‘hook’ users. Research shows that our feel good hormone, dopamine, surges when the brain anticipates a reward. Introducing variability multiplies the effect, creating a hunting state that activates the parts of the brain associated with want and desire.

The rewards in Pokemon Go aren’t predictable and as you chase that Pokemon there’s also the fear of not catching it: the psychological ‘fear of missing out’ (fomo) coupled with the excitement of the anticipation of catching that Pokemon. It’s the anticipation that often gives us the biggest dopamine hit.

10 Post brexit escapism

The timing of the launch of Pokemon Go couldn’t have been any better. In the UK, half of us still are depressed about brexit, there’s real uncertainty and fear of what’s to come and in the world there’s been numerous terror attacks. A little escapism is much welcomed! Where Brexit divided the UK as a nation, Pokemon Go is bringing us back together.

How do users want to improve Pokemon Go?

Pokemon-Loading-Mobile
Whilst chatting with Pokemon Go users, we also found out what’s annoying them the most – server issues! Everyone said this was the most frustrating issue with the game at the moment. The gyms also seemed to be a little confusing for some people who didn’t really know what they were supposed to do. Younger people wanted more features, more Pokemon and greater access to gyms.

Will the addiction continue?

Analysing the psychology behind the game mechanics and the user experience, we don’t see any reason for the current addiction to decline.

Need help to create an engaging gaming app user experience?

Our UX experts specialise in psychology and designing engaging mobile user experiences that create a sense of flow. Our expertise in mobile interface and experience design goes back to the first ever Ericsson smartphone, so your mobile app is in the safest of hands with us.

Email us now at hello@keepitusable.com for your complimentary initial consultation.

Other posts you may find interesting:

Baby duck syndrome: Why users hate change and what you can do about it
Using the Pareto Principle to improve your user experience

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

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

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

Baby duck syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

The dilemma for ux designers and product owners

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

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

How to make changes with minimal upset to users

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

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

Using Pareto Principle psychology to improve your user experience

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

80/20 rule

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

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

What is the Pareto Principle?

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

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

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

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

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

Applying Pareto to UX

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

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

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

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

Example: Amazon

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

Example: Laterooms

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

The vast majority only used Search.

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

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

Mobile first demonstrates Pareto

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

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

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Persona example 1

Image credit: Xtensio

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

Benefits of Personas

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

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

Where did it all begin?

Personas were introduced in 1998 by Alan Cooper.

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

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

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

What is the personas method?

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

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

Why are personas so important to the design process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designing personas

The story

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

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

Collection of data when designing personas

The scenario

The scenario is very important for the effectiveness of personas.

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

The narration of an imagined scenario follows this structure:

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

Personas design-process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example persona

Here’s an example of a completed persona:

Persona example 2

Image credit: Xtensio

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
What is User Testing?

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

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.

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.

Poor Accessibility UX Design

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 for Web Accessibility
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
5 reasons to continuously conduct user research

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

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

User Testing for Product Managers

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.

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

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

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.

We built our own pioneering homely research lab

At Keep It Usable, we’ve designed our own lab from the ground up. We understand the importance of a natural environment to get the best out of user research / usability testing, somewhere that is comfortable and cosy, as if the user were in their natural setting at home.

Meet Home UX Lab

We’ve pioneered the home style UX lab – our Home UX Lab has a living room design and cosy, relaxed feel to put people at ease and gather deeper insights so you get more value from your research.

Keep It Usable Home UX Lab
Read about the amazing Home UX Lab.

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design
Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?

Infographic: 2015 E-commerce Opportunities

Ecommerce-infographic-2015

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