There’s no doubt about it, we all know that well-designed call-to-action (CTA) buttons increase conversion. But it’s not just about the visual design of the button. What you say on your CTA (the text) is just as important.
Psychology and persuasion
CTAs guide and prompt users to do something on your website, like searching, signing up or buying a product. It needs to be a clear instruction to your users; it’s there to prompt them to take action.
That’s why your CTA needs to be clear to your users. It has to tell them what they need to do next. However, it also needs to be compelling and persuasive to motivate them to take action. This is where psychology comes into the creation of your CTA. You can’t simply state what will happen when they click the button, it needs to be written for persuasion. Your users need to know why they should click the button.
1 Use a verb
To get people doing what you want them to do on your website, you need to use actionable language. This means verbs! Using a verb helps you tell users how to get from point A to point B, providing directions and guidance. For example, in telling your user “Click here to get started”, you are suggesting what to do and where they are going next. By not including a verb in the CTA copy, you aren’t prompting readers to act, which can negatively impact your click-through rate and conversion.
Barry Feldman of Unbounce recommends starting with an actionable word such as “get”, “learn”, “discover” or “enjoy.” And once you’ve set yourself up to speak to the value of the offer, he recommends following up your action-packed verbs with “the value the clicker shall receive.”
Button copy like “click here” or “download now” doesn’t communicate what you stand to gain by clicking. “Enjoy a free week—on us!” on the other hand, does.
2 Use you or yours
Using you or yours makes users feel like you care about them, and not just about your own business. You want to help them, and make their life easier. It personalises your CTA, and gets your users feeling like you are doing something for them. They feel like you are talking to them.
3 Use me or my
Similar to the previous point, using possessive pronouns makes your users feel as though your product or your service already belongs to them.
4 Show value
Using a short sentence rather than just a word can help users to understand the real value of their action. You can have an entire page explaining the value of your product, but who reads a page in its entirety? No one. Make your call to action as explanatory as possible.
If your call-to-action button doesn’t tell users of the value they will gain by clicking it, they won’t click.
5 Use a negative call to action
Is the aim of your service/product solving someone’s problem? Make it obvious in your CTA. A negative call to action plays on your users’ frustrations with their current situation and makes it clear how you can solve their problem. “
“Worried about your credit rating?” appeals directly to the person’s concerns.
6 Add Free and consider surrounding text
Are you offering a free trial period? Make it obvious that there is no commitment for your users. Netflix example is a good one: their call to action for new users is “Join free for a month” but they clearly specify with a sentence above the button that you can “Watch anywhere, cancel anytime”. Consider the surrounding text.
Example: Adding “it’s free” next to the CTA increased conversion by 18%.
Using words that provide incentives is a great motivator to click on your CTA. Answer the question “What are your users getting out of this?” and put it on your call to action. They might get a bonus if they purchase immediately or if they invite someone to join the service.
A change in one word can significantly make the difference because words have power, so choose them wisely. Remember to test, test, test your call-to-actions.
“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
“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?
“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”
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.
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
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
“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
3 Find Pokemon
4 Flick a Pokeball to catch it
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.
“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.”
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’ ”
“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?
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.
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
Have you ever noticed how you use the same small number of features in your favourite software? It’s capable of hundreds of functions, but have you ever actually used them all? How about your favourite website… do you look at every single page or do you generally just look at a small number of pages that most interest you? Do you use all the functionality on that page or do you just press the occasional ‘Like’ button?
This is the norm. You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule; we tend to use 20% of things 80% of the time. The principle is also used to mean that 20% of the effort will generate 80% of the results. It’s often the case that 20% of customers generate 80% or more of revenue for a company. It’s known as the Pareto Principle and it can be found in all aspects of our lives.
Let’s learn a bit more about it and how you can apply it to your UX and Conversion.
What is the Pareto Principle?
In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that every year, 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced approximately 80% of the peas. He found it very interesting and he observed that this proportion could be applied, in a larger scale, to economic society: 80% of land is owned by 20% of people.
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.
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.
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.
Keep It Usable’s independent research into the UK travel market provides insights into the current UK travel consumer and the opportunities that exist for travel companies to increase their success in 2016.
Our research, conducted in the UK with 264 holidaymakers, aged 20-70 years old, helps you to better understand current and future UK travel consumers: which are their favourite destinations, how often they travel, who do they go with, how do they book, who are their preferred brands and what are the growing trends to watch out for in 2016.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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
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
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:
The abilities (and disabilities) of the target users including perceptual, cognitive, motor, and linguistic abilities.
The tasks that need to be supported, group, social and cultural dynamics, communication patterns, environmental factors, and so on.
Such as availability of hardware and software and the availability of plug-ins.
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.
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.
We asked digital natives (aged 16-24) this very question.
Their ideal future shopping experiences include holograms, robot shop assistants and smart mirrors. It may fill older baby boomers with dread to hear that this vision is already here. Let’s have a look at some current examples…
Burberry’s futuristic London store has smart fitting rooms, digital personalised customer assistance, an immersive audiovisual experience and more. The store also uses radio-frequency-identification technology (RFID) that recognises and identifies products and accessories selected by customers and turns mirrors into screens with runaway footage and exclusive videos.
Shop assistants are provied with iPads so they have access full details of customers’ purchase history and preferences to enable a more tailored shopping experience. The company knows that people no longer want to be identified as simply consumers, but recognised as students, doctors or mums. When it comes to personalised deals and assistance, they claim it doesn’t feel invasive or a violation of privacy. It feels right. Creative director Christopher Bailey said “We brought burberry.com to life, everything that we do on burberry.com is reflected in the store”
Thomson has also opened its first concept store, exploiting technology to enhance the experience of choosing and booking a holiday. You won’t find any travel brochures in this store. A video wall shop window and an interactive map help customers research their holiday.
Last year, Argos opened 25 new ‘concept stores’. Controversially, iPads replaced the infamous laminated catalogue however the iPads enable customers to watch product videos and read reviews, check stock and add items to their digital shopping basket. They can even order and prepay online with fast track product collection and a voice-driven picking system means faster collection of customer orders.
It’s impressive, however, when we visited a concept store we were asked by a couple of older ladies to help them because they couldn’t work out how to find and order a kettle they’d seen in the catalogue at home.
It’s a reminder that whatever new technologies come into retail, usability is really important to keep digital experiences accessible to all of your customers.
In the Audi showroom in London little space is left for real cars. Digital panels show different views of cars for sale and information is available through digital devices.
Prada in New York is not just an exclusive boutique, it is also a gallery and a laboratory space. Experimental technology and innovative displays are installed in store so that customers can experience an interactive shopping experience, simply touching a button to make the glass doors of the changing rooms opaque or seeing their new clothes from various angles on video projections.
For those customers who are still a bit sceptical about shopping online without experiencing the real physical product, made.com has found the solution. The brand has three showrooms. On the website customers can browse products and request an appointment to view the product in the showroom; they are then provided with a code to enter (allowing the retailer to track attendance) and a tablet or a computer to ‘scan’ items on show and purchase them online.
Omni channel rules!
The customer experience is forged around being ubiquitously present in the online and offline world, in a constant and fluid interaction between digital and physical reality. Shopping in the high street should become an enrichment experience strictly related to the online one, but including sensory and added value. When it comes to shopping in store it is worth bearing in mind that “instead of creating content, retailers should be creating opportunities for content creation, Instagrammable moments and inspiring experiences” (Sophie Turton, Econsultancy).
The combination of digital and environmental experiences, increased convenience and tailored customer service is incredibly powerful. Nowadays, a continuous experience between physical and digital, is mandatory and it is what your costumers expect from your brand. If retailers have the chance to do this, the time is now.
The UK travel consumer is changing every year. Keep It Usable’s independent research into the UK travel market provides insights into the current UK travel consumer and the opportunities that exist for travel companies to increase their success in 2016. Our research, conducted in the UK with 264 holidaymakers, aged 20-70 years old, helps you to better understand current and future UK travel consumers: which are their favourite destinations, how often they travel, who do they go with, how do they book, who are their preferred brands and what are the growing trends to watch out for in 2016.
The recession seems long forgotten, as over half (65%) of people now go on holiday abroad multiples times per year. Europe continues to be the most popular destination, followed by the USA. The most popular country that the UK travel consumer likes to visit is still Spain.
Travel in 2016
In 2016 we’ll see the continued rise of the solo traveller. A significant number of participants declared that they have travelled alone at least once in the last 12 months. The solo traveller trend is not just popular amongst the young traveller though, we also found the over 50s emerging as a key solo traveller segment.
Mobile is increasingly crucial for companies to get right. There’s a continuing increase in mobile use within the whole travel experience. From browsing, booking, through to using the mobile whilst on holiday, there is a need for digital marketers to engage the customer through every mobile part of the user journey.
We’re seeing an increasing interest in experiences and a willingness to pay more for them. Travel companies will find themselves needing to move more towards selling experiences rather than continuing to focus primarily on price. Driven by the use of social media and the fear of missing out, people are becoming more and more experience-hungry.
Google reports that travellers spend an average of 55 minutes to book a hotel and flights, visiting 17 websites and that they click four different search ads per travel search. 90% of these travellers use more than one device during the booking process. Our research confirmed this trend and highlights the importance of providing travellers with a pleasant and efficient online experience whilst they are booking their holidays, in order to increase the likelihood of your site being the one to convert the UK travel consumer.
Discover even more insights in the presentation below and if you are interested to know more about how to increase the conversion of your website, Contact us, we can help you!
Starbucks is coming to Italy in February. You might think this isn’t a big deal but for the Italian market it really is! Italian’s are precious about their coffee and their drinking habits differ greatly to those of the US and UK. The whole customer experience is different, which is why the opening of Starbucks in Italy is so controversial…
First of all, it’s interesting to know that Starbucks has an ancient bond with Italy; originally, Starbucks sold only coffee beans, but after a journey to Italy, the owner had the idea to recreate and export “caffetteria-style shops”.
Italian coffee drinking behaviour
From an Italian point of view (Yes, I’m Italian), coffee is not just a drink: it’s a ritual, a chit chat with the barista, it’s the best end after a good meal, it’s the perfect “good morning”, it’s a pleasant and quick break, but above all, it has to be short, black, bitter and served in a small ceramic cup (very hot).
Typically, an Italian will enter the coffee shop, simply ask for a coffee (which is an espresso – this is the standard drink), stand up at the counter, drink the coffee which takes just a few minutes, then leave.
You can see that both the drink and the behaviour differ a lotfrom the typical Starbucks experience.
In this scenario, will Italian consumers appreciate Starbucks Americano, Latte or Frapuccino? Will they buy coffee served in the famous cardboard cup? How will they reply to the renowned question “stay in or takeaway”?
In Naples, the south of Italy, the “coffee ritual” is even stronger than in the north. There’s a popular tradition called “caffè sospeso”, literally translated as “pending coffee”. It’s rooted into the Naples’ working-class culture, and basically consists of having an espresso but paying for two, leaving one on the counter, ready for the next costumer, as a symbol of good luck and an act of “charity”.
Will the Italian consumers pay for a “frappucino sospeso” or a “pending latte”? What will happen?
Image taken from “La banda degli onesti”. Totò, a famous Italian comedian and actor, drinking a coffee at the counter.
Italy’s La Stampa newspaper wrote: “We thought we had everything in Italy, but it turns out we lacked one thing: American coffee”.
Coffee for Italians is part of their culture, their behaviour, a national identity and habit; and Starbucks knows it. Even more important, Starbucks have had to really know Italian customers before making the decision to open a branch in Italy. It’s no coincidence that the first Italian Starbucks will open in Milan, the most international city in Italy, heart of Italian business, fashion and a highly multicultural centre.
What are the opportunities and potential barriers of having Starbucks in Italy?
The company announced that they will promote Starbucks as a place for business meetings as well as a cozy spot where to relax; an intimate coffee shop in the heart of the business area of Milan, where you can work or sip a coffee with friends.
Free WIFI will be the main attraction for Italian customers. There aren’t many places in Milan where you can find free and fast WIFI.
A hi-tech + coffee formula. Technology will be the key differentiator for Italian Starbucks. Along with free WIFI, customers will have access to a “Starbucks digital network” streaming movies and tv shows.
Deeply rooted coffee culture. Italian customers have a strong bond with their habits, particularly when it comes to coffee and food.
There are thousands of coffee shops, bars and ‘caffetterias’ in Milan where you can enjoy a high quality espresso with a snack (biscuits or a pastry) and where you can simply read a newspaper with a good cappuccino.
Starbucks is expensive compared to the Italian coffee prices. In Italy, one espresso costs 1€ or even less.
For most of the time, “having a coffee” for Italians, means having a quick break, standing up at the counter. Particularly in the afternoon or after lunch. It is not the long sit down break that is common in other countries.
It is not common for Italian business consumers to sit in a coffee shop and work on the laptop or meet in a public space.
A traditional bar-caffetteria in Milan – Bar Zucca. People drinking a coffee at the counter.
The “Starbucks Italian situation” is a great example of the importance of how understanding customers is crucial in order to offer an efficient and successful product.
Moving into the Italian market is a huge risk for Starbucks, however by first opening in Milan, they will be able to take advantage of the large tourist market. It is the least risky option for them and a gentle step into the Italian market to test their acceptance of the longer coffee drinking customer experience.
Digital platforms and technology allow us to do things quicker and easier. Well, that’s the theory. The reality can often be far from this. How many times have you been looking for information only to give up and visit a competitor site? Unfortunately, badly structured websites and complicated software are all too commonplace. We’ve been spoilt by the likes of Apple and expect this simple, effective and affective user experience across all our interactions with technology.
Customers want experiences “that dazzle their senses, touch their hearts and stimulate their minds” (Schmitt, 1999)
Our relationship with technology affects our emotions and quality of life. Therefore, in order to provide users with positive and satisfying experiences, understanding their emotional responses is a necessity. Experiential marketing assumes that customers take functional features, benefits and quality as a given.
How do we make users like it?
Making users like something is not as easy as you might think. The qualities of physical products, websites, software and other digital media can be classified into two distinct groups (for this we’ll look at the work of Hassenzahl et al. 2000):
1 Pragmatic qualities
Pragmatic qualities relate to practicality and functionality.
Manipulation refers to the functionality and how that functionality is accessed, i.e. the usability. At a very basic level, can it do what it needs to do? A consequence of pragmatic qualities is satisfaction. Satisfaction occurs when a user uses a product or service to achieve certain goals and those goals are met.
Examples of attributes that are typically assigned to websites (and software in general) are “supporting,” “useful,” “clear” and “controllable.” The purpose should be clear and the user should understand how to use it.
2 Hedonic qualities
Hedonic qualities refer to the psychological needs and emotional experience of the user.
Hedonic qualities are divided into three categories:
Users want to be stimulated in order to enjoy their experience with your site, software or product. Rarely used functions can stimulate the user and satisfy the human urge for personal development and more skills. Digital experiences can provide insights and surprises, for example, if after a period of time a feature hasn’t yet been used, the software could inform the user via a quick tip.
The human need for expressing ourselves through objects to control how you want to be perceived by others. We all have a desire to communicate our identity to others and we do this through the things we own and the things we use. They help us to express ourselves; who we are, what we care about and who we aspire to be. This is why people enjoy using personalisation on sites such as Twitter. Changing our background wallpaper and header image, helps us to express ourselves.
Which memories and feelings does the experience evoke?
Evocation refers to the symbolic meanings that the experience has on our memories and our background. The visual aesthetics of a website may remind you of a past experience. For example, a travel website with a background image of a beach, might bring back memories of a past holiday and all the feelings (most likely highly positive) associated with that experience. As we all have different experiences in our lives, what we feel when we look at an identical website will be unique to us, the individual.
It is the combined pragmatic and hedonic aspects that form the appeal and the amount of appeal that a digital or physical platform has.
The users’ experience also depends on the context of use. Where are they? What do they need to do? How many times have they used it? Who are they with? How much time do they have to do what they need to do?
The first time a user tries an application, they may experience some confusion and minor issues, leaving with a slightly negative experience. However, when they become more familiar with all the features and how to access them, they will become more emotionally attached to it, and therefore each use becomes a pleasant user experience. This can be problematic within User Experience design as a poor, inefficient interface may be disliked by it’s users but they can be reluctant to change it because they have learnt how to use it. Therefore their perceived effort to deal with the change and the additional learning is deemed greater than sticking with the poorly designed current system.
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”
Self–esteem “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.
Happy World Usability Day! Yes today is that time of year when all usability practitioners reflect on another year of helping businesses to improve their user experience and making the lives of everyday people better. It’s a day when we can reflect on the improvements we’ve brought to the world. We’re a little like silent heroes, busily working away to make the average persons day a little easier and less frustrating, without them ever realising who we are, just how much we fight for good design on their behalf or the end difference we make to their lives. Great design is invisible.
History of usability
This year is a particularly special anniversary for usability because as a discipline, the origins of usability and user experience are grounded in industrial efficiency during the world wars and of course the year 2014 marks the 100 year commemoration of the first world war. It was during war time that the value of human factors and ergonomics was recognised as a great way to create more efficient and effective soldiers, i.e. better killing machines. Our usability predecessors spent their days working on the battleground, ensuring that soldiers could get on with their daily tasks in the most optimal manner. What kinds of things did they do? Well, their work involved much more focus on human factors and ergonomics, taking into account the effects of workload, fatigue, physical task design, mental workload, teamwork, environmental effects.
It was during the second world war, that practitioners expanded their focus to aircraft and how through more intuitive design of airplane cockpits, pilot error could be greatly reduced.
Usability as we know it, didn’t really come into effect until the 1980s but it always struggled to gain recognition and respect. The term User Experience helped raise awareness of usability into the mainstream and the last 5 years have seen a phenomenal increase. What was once a highly skilled profession of human factors and usability engineers is now fragmented. However, the benefits are that usability finally has achieved the aim we all had many years ago of raising the awareness of its importance and those of us who have been around a while no longer have to fight our corner like we used to have to, which is a brilliant achievement! That in itself is worth raising a glass to. We did it!
We’re going to end this post with a look at the new Sainsburys Christmas advert which recreates the Christmas truce that happened during World War One (and that has just blown the annual John Lewis advert completely out of the water!).
Keep It Usable is an active supporter of the Royal British Legion. If you would like to help please get in touch with Lisa.
Following our hugely popular write-up of the e-commerce expo day 1, here’s what happened on day 2. It’s even better, with fantastic insights on how to be successful in e-commerce in 2015, with advice from Paypal, Maplin and leading successful entrepreneurs!
The future of payments now
Rob Harper, Paypal
Mobile payments are growing rapidly. More and more consumers are using their mobile to purchase. It means they’re buying on their terms and on their device.
However, £1.5bn was lost to uk commerce in the last year! Why? Payment friction is one of the leading reasons why customers leave websites. According to a poll by Harris, 47% of customers failed to complete a purchase as the process was too difficult on their mobile phone. What makes this worse is that 63% of consumers are less likely to buy from the same company through a different purchase channel after abandoning a mobile transaction due to poor performance.
Rob described how on average, it takes the user 140 taps to pay through a smartphone (see Smartphone Steve below).
Of course Paypal were at the expo because they believe they have the solution to this. Using Paypal, the number of taps is reduced to just 19 taps. He claimed it was more convenient, secure and Smartphone Steve doesn’t have the hassle of trying to find his wallet (which a lot of people don’t carry with them all the time, whereas they’ll always carry their mobile). Rob said that 47% of UK Paypal mobile users wouldn’t have made the purchase had Paypal not been available.
Paypal are also expanding into the mobile payments market in the offline retail space – will they be successful?
Driving performance through paid media optimisation and rich content
Michel Koch, Maplin, and Emmanuel Arendarczyk, NetBooster
Hands up if you know who Maplin are! That was one of the first things we were asked and a room full of hands shot up in the air. Apparently we were fairly unusual, as the average percentage of people who recall Maplin, is just 9%. However, just earlier this year, this figure was as low as 3%. They launched a TV campaign which was seen by 70% of tv viewers, pushing up Maplin’s recall rate to the current 9%. The TV ads focussed on Maplin Moments. If you don’t remember the ads, here’s a reminder below (I especially love the first bit, “This guy, let’s call him…. Guy”):
“The customer first, always”
Focus on your audience, on people and their behaviour. Maplin’s motto is “the customer first, always”. Maplin used to only focus on keywords, now they focus not just on people, but people with a certain behaviour.
It may (or may not) come as a surprise to hear that Maplin has a fantastic NPS score. They score second, directly beneath Apple. Beneath Maplin, in order, are First Direct, Amazon and ebay.
Maplin have heavily invested in mobile and TV channels. They advise going to where your customers are. For them, this is YouTube (the second biggest search engine in the world, after Google) and they have invested in the creation of how to videos for YouTube viewers. Video is incredibly powerful and lots of companies have seen increased conversion due to them: ‘1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words’ Forrester.
Customer engagement trends – how to stay ahead in 2015
Steven Ledgerwood and Saima Alibhai, Emarsys
Steven and Saima, advised that your starting point should be the above 4 key questions: Who is the customer, what content fits the customer, when to reach the customer ad how to reach the customer.
3 key trends of 2015
1. Understanding customer behaviour
Your website gives you 10x more user generated data compared to email alone and is the most up to date data, however the challenge is getting value from this (big) data.
Right time + right content + right person = positive perception + revenue + engagement
For example, if a user comes from facebook to your site, use the right content and language: ‘Thanks for coming from facebook…”
And if the user leaves without purchasing you can now send them an email reminding them to purchase. Then when they come back to your website you would remind them about the item in their basket that they were going to buy as well as some additional cross-sell suggestions.
2. Multichannel personalisation
94% of companies agree that personalisation is critical to future success, however, more than half of companies are not using their CRM data to personalise how they communicate with their customers. 72% understand the importance of personalisation but they don’t know how to do it.
What to use to segment and personalise campaigns: gender, purchase behaviour, email behaviour, preference centre, team knowledge (see pic)
Focus on what people are doing RIGHT NOW.
3. Automate! Automate! Automate!
The biggest opportunity available to marketers and those in e-commerce is the 92% of all website visitors that aren’t converting. Of the 8% who convert only 50% buy again. 8% of customers generate 41% of revenue.
An example was given that if people don’t purchase, you could send them an email, offering them a discount along with photos of other products they might be interested in.
How digital tools will change the in-store shopping experience
Juha Mattson, Walkbase
Juha really was presenting the future of e-commerce and I loved this presentation. It showed how you can now analyse and treat conversion online and offline together to have one overall ROI. Focussing on an omni-channel approach. Physical stores can be measured the same as online:
There are two levels of analysis: crowds and individuals.
Crowds: useful to analyse crowds when opening a new store in a new location, christmas sales, etc.
The in-store sales funnel. How many go past the store, how many come in, how many are engaged. If you run an offline campaign what’s the roi? Footfall and repeat visit patterns. You can now work this out.
Walkbase enables you to compare and benchmark online and offline together. How does it work? It uses wifi, bluetooth, door counters, video cameras to bring you new segmentation insights and rich customer profiles. Once you have this data, you can then engage more with the customer:
Example: Customer browses products online then when they enter a physical store they get these products retargeted to them as ads or offers in-store.
The game changing opportunities in omni-channel retail:
1. Measurability of physical stores
2. Online-offline integration
3. In-store engagement
Walkbase enables retargeting across all devices and was said to be very easy to install. You need to install wifi detectors unless you already have wifi. Walkbase also uses beacons that you place in different locations in the store.
Liam Patterson of TopLAD and Osvaldo Spadano of Elastera
Surprisingly, throughout the expo there was very little mention of going out and talking to customers, researching them and getting to some real, qualitative insights. I suspect this is because most of the presenters were very data driven people / product providers. Refreshingly, the panel session was purely about the personal experiences of two highly successful entrepreneurs. And do you know what they both said was the key thing to their success? Listening to the customer!
I nearly jumped out of my seat and punched the air at this point. Two whole days it took for someone to say, look what really works is actually talking to the customer. Yes data is brilliant and vital but if you don’t get out and talk to real life physical people you’ll never truly understand what your customer thinks, feels, wants, needs and discover what’s at the heart of their interaction with your brand.
Listen to the customer
“Put the customer first is the key thing we learnt” said Liam “really understand your audience”.
Osvaldo was particularly passionate about talking to customers:
“It’s important to listen to your customer, not just rely on the data. It’s a big, BIG mistake.”
Osvaldo described, how it was only by going out and talking to customers and asking lots of questions that he was able to get the real human part of how his product was going to help people. Note: This is only something that can be gathered through real one-to-one conversation.
Beware of feature creep
Liam warned that it’s easy for businesses to become too feature led. He advised stepping back, think about what’s going to move your business forwards for your customers. Do you see how everything comes back to what is best for customers? If you’re only ever looking at data and doing small one-way remote testing, you’ll never get a deep understanding of your customer as a person, and you’ll miss crucial insights that could propel your business forwards.
I’ll conclude this post with advice from Osvaldo:
“It’s very powerful to go and talk to the customer. Try to understand their problem. Why do they want to do something about it? It’s all about problem solving. If you get good at it, you’ll have a good business.”
Jaguar Land Rover aim to reduce driver distraction and improve safety with a host of new technologies that make use of head-up displays and gesture control.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of Research and Technology for Jaguar Land Rover, said: “We are working on research projects that will give the driver better information to enhance the driving experience.
“By presenting the highest quality imagery possible, a driver need only look at a display once. Showing virtual images that allow the driver to accurately judge speed and distance will enable better decision-making and offer real benefits for every day driving on the road, or the track.”
The virtual windscreen is Jaguar’s head-up display for cars. Unlike Google Glass, the virtual windscreen is the optimal user experience for safe driving. By superimposing information and graphics onto the windscreen, the driver is able to maintain their whole attention on the road. It will display information such as the current vehicle speed, braking guidance, hazards, ghost cars and racing lines.
Who needs lots of buttons? Not Jaguar Land Rover! They’re aiming to limit the amount of physical button pushing required whilst driving so as to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and reduce distraction.
“We have identified which functions still need to be controlled by physical buttons and which could be controlled by gesture and carefully calibrated motion sensors,” said Dr. Epple. “The system is currently being tested on a number of features including sunblinds, rear wipers and satellite navigation maps. It has the potential to be on sale within the next few years.”
Self learning car
The car of the future will be self-learning and know all of your personal preferences, such as your preferred climate control settings in particular weather conditions and which journeys you prefer to take. The Smart Assistant feature will recognise that you’ll be late to your meeting and text ahead to say you’ll be 10 minutes late. It will even change the entertainment system based on who’s in the car.
With features such as Auto Adaptive Cruise Control (AACC), your future car will even learn how you drive and can replicate your driving techniques. All to help minimise driver distraction.
The pot hole avoider
Are you fed up of driving over pot holes and the damage they can cause? Well now there’s a solution. The Discovery Vision concept will use lasers to scan the road ahead and prepare the car’s suspension to minimise the impact of things on the road such as pot holes as much as possible.
3D instrument clusters
Jaguar Land Rover are also looking at technology that could replace rear view and external mirrors with cameras and virtual displays. The problem in the past has always been that with just 2D interfaces driver’s can’t accurately judge the distance or speed of other road users. Therefore, JLR have developed new technology in the form of a 3D instrument cluster that uses head and eye-tracking technology to create a more natural 3D image on the dashboard. This creates a perception of depth that enables the driver to judge distance.
We produce user experiences that make people sit up and take notice, that ruffle the feathers of your competitors and attract more customers to your brand. We don’t talk the talk, we walk the walk. Have a look for yourself:
Shortlisted: Best User ExperienceBig Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)
– Estimated 5 fold return on investment in just 1 year.
– Increased sales and dramatic increase in enquiries.
– Added value to service users of £300,000 per year.
– Increased staff satisfaction and decreased training costs.
“We’re delighted with our work and our partnership with Keep It Usable”
Used by young people throughout the UK, Kooth was already a hugely successful online counselling platform however it was in desperate need of an overhaul. We conducted focus groups and workshops in schools to uncover insights that enabled us to complete a successful redesign of the frontend UI that youngpeople now love!
We also overhauled the backend system UX for counsellors as they struggled to use the existing complex interface and it was costing the company in re-training and lost productivity. We increased efficiency and user satisfaction – combining multiple views into one to decrease navigation whilst in a counselling session. It meant their clients also received more value for money due to the extra time counsellors were able to spend counselling.
Netflight’s focus on their mobile, tablet and desktop user experience is key to their commercial success. Taking an iterative research and design approach enables us to create ideas and assess our designs with their target audience in the most effective and efficient process. We also go above the standard usability benchmark by applying PET (persuasion, emotion, trust) principles to increase positive user engagement and satisfaction.
Shortlisted: Best public sector websiteBig Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)
Winner: Best public sector website UX UK Awards
Winner: Best government website People’s Lovie Awards
Winner: Best home page People’s Lovie Awards
How do you read these days? Do you read physical or digital books? Have you heard of Spritzing? Here, Lisa Duddington, Digital Psychologist at Keep It Usable, looks at how reading has changed and what the digital future holds.
“I’m an avid reader, in fact my nickname is ‘the bookinator’. You can normally find me hanging out in the psychology section at Waterstones. For a long time, I just couldn’t see myself ever replacing phsyical books with digital versions. To me, part of the ‘user experience’ is looking through a book case of pretty, colourful covers, picking each one up in turn and leafing through the sheets, breathing in the smell of the paper. Each book is in itself unique, it has character. However, this all changed when I jumped onboard the Kindle revolution. I can now carry hundreds of books with me in my handbag and that’s pretty amazing! However, there’s a new player about to come onto the market called Spritz that will radically change how we all read and could see an end to current eReaders.”
What is Spritz?
Spritz uses a very small interface to present just one word at a time. One letter in each word is coloured red and this is representative of the ORP (Optimal Recognition Point). It’s basically the point within the word that you’re most likely to recognise and therefore read the word optimally.
Have a go for yourself. Focus on the red letter and try to relax, using your peripheral vision to read each word. If you feel like you can go faster, try adjusting the wpm.
How does it work?
With Spritz, your eyes focus in one position, as opposed to having to move to read the rest next words. This is where Spritz makes a huge difference to the speed at which you read. 80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes from one word to the next. Without this movement, you can achieve hugely increased WPM (word per minute) reading times.
80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes.
Although this sounds incredible and I’m sure you’re already thinking about how many books and emails you could now get through in a day, what is questionable is the ability of the brain to process and store this information as deeply.
How many times have you had to read and re-read a paragraph of text because you were distracted or you simply needed further understanding? Do you ever pause when reading a book to reflect on what you’ve just read? Does you’re reading slow down and speed up in reaction to the content? All of these things show the limits of Spritzing.
The appeal of Spritzing for many will be in reading easy to digest fiction books. However, non-fiction books are less suited. Our pace of reading is naturally slower when we’re learning, digesting and questioning, making sense of and understanding anything new. We’re also more likely to re-read paragraphs so Spritz wouldn’t really be suitable.
CEO of Spritz, Frank Walden says “If you’re reading Shakespeare, you’re not going to want to do it with Spritz, but with a romance novel, for example, people skim like crazy anyway. They just rip through a book, reading for plot. Are they savoring every word? Probably not.”
One of the downsides of Spritzing is a lack of emotion in the words due to the speed. When we read we naturally tend to subvocalise (we hear the characters voice in our heads). However, when we read at speed we lose the ability to subvocalise, giving less emotion to the words.
More concentration, less control
As Spritz requires the user to look in one place and the words flash quickly, it can feel like it requires increased concentration and focus. There’s a feeling of ‘I can’t look away or I’ll miss a word’. With the constant movement we wonder if there will be any physical side effects, such as motion sickness. Will there be a tendency for users to blink less?
What’s unanswered right now is how the user controls the Spritz. If you’re interrupted, how do you get back to where you were? Whereas in a book you may recall you were about halfway down the page and relocate your position fairly quickly, with Spritz’s one word at a time presentation, this may be time consuming and difficult.
The future of digital
How would you like to read 50 emails in 7 minutes?
This will have some really interesting effects on future digital devices and interfaces. It adds a whole new world of possibility for showing lots of information, quickly, on very small screens. We’re now going through a phase of larger screens but Spritzing could change all of this. Imagine being able to read a whole novel on a bracelet, or check your emails on your ring. It could also be the perfect pairing for Google Glass. Imagine Spritzing within adverts – marketers would be able to show a lot more information within a much smaller space and people would in theory read more of it in a single glance.
Smart watches have struggled to gain mainstream popularity. They’re bulky and don’t really offer anything over and above the smartphone. The small screen poses difficult interaction with the interface, and makes reading things like emails a rather more painful process. Spritz could well be the trigger the smart watch needs to gain mass market popularity.
The possibilities of how this could effect future technology are really exciting! Let’s Spritz!
This months Keep It Usable guest interview is with our friend Fritz Von Runte.
Fritz is the Head of design for our client On The Beach and we had the great pleasure of working with the team on a recent project.
“I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.”
Could you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at On The Beach?
I started my career in Art Direction almost 20 years ago, working for the advertising industry. I was always interested in “New Media” and eventually I decided to shift my career, to focus on web. Then, 7 years ago I made my masters in User Interface Design and specialised in UX.
At On The Beach I wear a couple of hats. I’m the head of a design team of four professionals. We try to maintain a certain design language throughout the company, with consistence and on brand. It’s a tough job because it’s a big company, with many colleagues, many requests, and many design problems, all in need of our solutions. Plus, it’s one of the most successful online travel agencies in the UK market. It’s a massive responsibility. I am also responsible for designing the experiences our users will have, not only in the web but also offline, via our flight and hotel vouchers, and customer documentation, for example.
What does your typical day involve?
I have a very busy schedule, but there’s a certain framework that I try my best to fit it. We’re Agile, so every morning we have the Design stand-up where we communicate what every member of the team is doing at the moment and discuss the flow of tickets. We also have Agile stand-ups for all other projects, most of these involving the Design Shop (as we call our team), so one of us must be there to update the other teams. I try to schedule all my meetings in the morning so I can use the afternoon for research and design.
How important is UX at On The Beach and why is it valued?
On The Beach has been around for almost 8 years and it grew very rapidly. A couple of years ago they began to understand the need to pay more attention to the experiences and the usability. I was brought on board as the first designer focusing on the UX, we had a good six months changing the culture to accept and understand a bit more about this need. But, to be honest, this change was painless and smooth, as the directors were (and are) open to new solutions that could improve the website and our client’s experience. We have a lot of room to develop, to research, and to propose new ideas. It’s a wonderful place to work and it’s a thrill to be doing UX design at this moment in time at a company like On The Beach.
You work to an agile development process. Why and how does UX fit into this process?
I guess that is the biggest challenge. Agile is awesome but historically it tends to treat design and the experience as something frivolous or secondary. One of my goals is to raise awareness of how better it is to deal with usage challenges from the start instead of doing it rapidly and then having to re-do it. On the otherhand, when we are testing and prototyping, we use Agile principles and it works really well to prove (or disprove) assumptions from a very early stage, without having to spend much time in development for example.
What tools do you work with?
Primarily with paper and pencil – it’s how everything starts!. Then I move to a PC. I find it easier to talk to the network and to other technologies with a PC. But, we have all sorts of platforms in our team; Windows, iOS, Ubuntu, Android…
When it comes to software I use many different ones. The whole Adobe suite of course – and I mean the whole suite! I’ve used Visio in the distant past, then I moved to Axure and Balsamiq, but because of the dynamics here at On The Beach I now mainly use Illustrator for my low-fi wireframes as I’ve accumulated an extensive library of symbols and actions… 🙂 Plus a lot of on-the-fly coding on the console and notepad, and also other online tools like UXPin, Litmus, JSFiddle, etc.
Mobile app vs responsive web design vs mobile web – what are your thoughts at On The Beach?
Responsive is a terminology that I don’t really subscribe to. There are two ways to see this issue. Firstly, like we all used to test our websites, years ago on different browsers and systems, and get charts of usage of monitor sizes and resolutions, we now should make sure this product performs well in all possible environments – the mobile, the tablet, the internet tv, the laptop, etc, in all browsers and all systems. Nothing has changed – the game is just a bit harder now.
Secondly, different products have different needs and different platforms have different needs. The very first version of Tetris I’ve ever played was called Nyet. Tetris is a classic game that existed in any possible platform, even portable ones like Gameboy. Have you tried to play Tetris on the mobile? It changed the whole dynamic and usability of the game. So having a webapp whose functionality is the same on different platforms, but with some adjustments to the grid depending on the screen size, is not something I take for granted.
I always challenge the concept of mobile apps, for different reasons. I don’t think it’s always the best way to serve your product to a client. I have a parallel career as a DJ and record producer, and the music market is flooded with Mobile Apps. I don’t see it as a great tool to serve content. I see it mainly as a badge on your mobile screen, saying to the world and yourself that you’re are a big fan of artist or band xyz. I think mobile apps – the ones you download, and that updates itself when you’re connected to the wifi – are more interesting when your product is a tool and that you think the user will use it enough times to justify its download and space on screen and internal memory.
With On The Beach there are two main factors that made us not to choose this route. Firstly we are so dynamic when it comes to software development, making at least two deploys per week, that an app from us would be constantly updating, and that wouldn’t be the best experience for the user – think Acrobat Reader, when was the last time it didn’t tell you it needs updating? 🙂 The second reason is accessibility. Although we have a significant number of customers choosing us as their online travel agent more than once a year, plus all the people that come back from their holidays and come to us to book their next ones – and that would justify an On The Beach app as a tool – we wanted to use our efforts and energy on something that would serve everybody. For example, users coming from Google or Bing, a link on Facebook, a suggestion of a friend or a specialist site like Trip Advisor (that sends us hundreds of users every day). Instead, we made an entirely new website, just for the mobile, that you don’t need to download or upkeep. It’s there for anyone with a connection and it works really well.
Describe an example of the work involved from design through to implementation?
I think the design process is the same on every branch of design. From designing a chair to a party flyer, from a shopping cart experience to a car. We have an idea, then some high level analysis, then research, concept, testing and finally wireframing. Then back to the research.
How important is research to OTB? How did the Keep It Usable research feed into the agile development process and how did the feedback help to shape the software?
Research is fundamental to my work and to the company. We are constantly analysing data and testing the best way to do everything. When it comes to our mobile website we did extensive research, and Keep It Usable was a major part of it. We had instant feedback on certain features that are paramount to the mobile experience. I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.
What are your favourite UX-related resources?
I have way too many bookmarks, rss and twitter feeds, but I think the benefits from other people or companies experiences come from knowing the whole case. This is why I love to go to meetings and talks, I’m very active at #NUX, and I try to go to all UX conventions I can. It’s a good way to get to know people in the industry, but mainly I do it to hear the cases straight from the horses mouth. A button being small or big, positioned left or right, its colours… it doesn’t mean anything without data, without knowing the purposes and goals that were briefed.
Keep It Usable help many different kinds of companies to understand their users. We conduct research with real people and design interfaces using an evidence-based approach; every element has reasoning.
If you’re not investing in UX, your competitor will be!
This month, we’re focussing on the importance of Content Strategy. This coincides nicely with the launch of a new book titled ‘Content Everywhere’ by Sara Wacheter-Boettcher who is also the editor of A List Apart. We interviewed Sara to talk to you about her new book and explain exactly what content strategy is, how it fits into the User Experience (UX) process and why it’s important for you to have a content strategy.
Hi Sara! Please could you tell our readers about yourself and what you do
I’m an independent content strategist, the editor of A List Apart magazine, and a general loudmouth. Right now I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Amish country, because my husband has a visiting professorship here. Before that, I lived in Arizona, and before that, Oregon, which I still miss every day.
I work directly with clients or partner with agencies to solve complex content problems, and I spend a lot of time writing articles and speaking at conferences to help other web professionals deal with the complexities of content and how it affects their business.
Congratulations on your new book ‘Content Everywhere’. What is it about?
The idea for book came out of all the hubbub over mobile and responsive design that started in the summer of 2011. I had this realization: The problems that we already had with content—both with managing and maintaining it, and with users being able to find content that was relevant to them—were about to be exacerbated by mobile.
That’s because the way we’ve been conceiving of and creating web content has been in big, monolithic pages—and those pages just wouldn’t hold up against the onslaught of different devices and services that are coming. It just looked like big, broken blobs of stuff. Creating new, separate content for every new device wouldn’t work for long, either—there are just too many to keep up with. Instead, we need to make our content more flexible—more capable of being shifted and moved around however it’s needed—and that comes from structure.
When we break content down according to what it is and what it is trying to communicate, and store it in a way that respects its natural shape and flow, then we can do so much more with it: We can connect it to other content based on shared attributes and relationships. We can reformat and reflow it for different devices. We can mash it up with third parties’ data via an API. So that’s what the book is all about: Showing you how to break your content down and turn it into a flexible foundation, and then showing you all the different types of things that will allow you to do.
Who would benefit from reading your book?
It’s definitely a practitioner’s guide—a book for people who want to work hands-on with content. That includes people in content strategy, editorial, and writing roles, but it’s not limited to them. It’s also for people in IA and UX, who are often tasked with organizing and labeling information. The book helps you take those skills and apply them to a micro plane, within a single piece of content.
What I didn’t expect when I wrote the book was how many people from mobile design and development fields would pick it up because they want to really learn how to deal with content—and that’s been really exciting to see as well.
How does the role of content fit within UX?
You can’t really have one without the other, I don’t think. If you’re trying to design an experience and you don’t think about the content, what exactly are you designing? And if you are thinking about content without thinking about the people who will ultimately read or use it, then what’s the point?
What’s interesting about content strategy work is that it both fits within and outside of typical UX roles, because content has to deal with so many other things: the people and workflows and departmental silos and skillsets inside an organization, the content management system, the relationship between groups like IT and marketing and their ability to communicate and get things done, the ongoing needs of the business and how much content will need to be produced in the long run to serve them. The list could go on.
What are the benefits for those companies that include content in their UX process?
If you don’t think about content, you get delays. You get content that “breaks” the design. You get a beautiful interaction stuffed with defensive and condescending error messages. You get a system that works beautifully, but no one on staff who understands how to care for it—how to update the content effectively, what to do when content needs to archived, what sorts of content are appropriate for the experience in the first place. And so, the benefit of including content considerations in every project and every organization is that you can skip all that mess and wasted time and budget, and deliver something that fits the brand, resonates with users, and smooths the entire process—oftentimes with a lot fewer headaches.
Richard Ingram’s illustration shows ways in which a UX team might collaborate with a content strategist
How would user research feed into content strategy?
Well, it’s really hard to connect with your users and get them to care if you don’t understand much about them. I personally work on user research as often as possible, conducting user interviews, synthesizing analytics data, observing users in action. If I’m not the one conducting the research, I want to hear as much as I can from those who are. The more you can empathize with users and understand what’s important to them, the better you can make your content resonate with them, and also the more you can avoid the lure of pretty-yet-meaningless marketing copy, which is shallow and useless.
Could you share one thing people reading this article can do right now to improve their content?
Just go look at it—really look at it. What are all the things you’re putting out there? Do they reflect the organization you want to be? Do they sound human and relatable? Can thou figure out why they’re there? How much are you publishing, anyway, and for whom? Every piece of content you put out there takes time, money, and resources away from your organization. Ask yourself whether it’s helping you reach your goals. Once you’ve taken a good, hard look, don’t get overwhelmed. You can tame the beast, but it’ll take some time. Do a little thing to start, and work from there. It will pay off in saved time, better experiences for users, and a lot more clarity about what you’re trying to accomplish.
Other than your book, are their any other online or offline resources you’d recommend to learn more about content?
The magazine I edit, A List Apart, publishes frequently about content, as does Contents. I’d also suggest some books. The foundational text is Content Strategy for the Web from Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. I’d also suggest Margot Bloomstein’s Content Strategy at Work, especially if you’re from a neighboring field and want to understand what focusing on content or working with someone who does can do for you as a designer, a project manager, etc. And finally, Karen McGrane’s new Content Strategy for Mobile is a great complement to my book, especially if you need to convince the powers that be to stop blowing budget on glittery mobile apps and actually make all your content mobile-ready.