5 benefits of observing UX research in person

5 Benefits of UX Research for Stakeholders

The impact of observing UX research can NOT be underestimated!

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

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

 

1 Immediate buy-in for design changes

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

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

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

Buy-in is critical

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

2 Greater empathy for customers and their experience

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

 

3 Make better decisions based on valid insights and facts

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

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

 

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

Your customers and users

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

 

5 Build stronger team relations

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

Need help or advice?

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

You might also like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Xennial are you? try this quiz!

You might also like:

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

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

Good user recruitment is crucial to the success of UX research

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

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

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

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

Participants

1 Participants are representative of your target users

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

2 Communicative participants

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

3 Motivated for the right reasons

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

4 Punctual and reliable participants

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

5 Increased research validity

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

The benefits of good UX user recruitment

Using a third party

6 Hiding your recruitment behind an agency has huge advantages!

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

7 Reliable service

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

8 Quick and flexible recruitment

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

9 Honesty in the process

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

10 Good understanding of UX and your needs

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

Do you want to benefit from good user recruitment?

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

You might also like:

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

Increase your checkout conversion: 6 tips from real world user tests

Mobile eCommerce UX Conversion

Are you losing too many potential customers at the checkout stage? You’re not alone. According to recent research (Baymard 2016), more than 68% of users abandon an online purchase.

Why is that? Account creation, long and complicated checkout, hidden fees and security issues are popular reasons for abandonment.

Here at Keep It Usable, we’ve been conducting research with users for a long time and we regularly see the same issues, frustrations and concerns when purchasing online.

Below we’re sharing with you the top 6 things you can do that are fundamental for improving your checkout UX and conversion.

Tip 1: Ensure delivery info and costs are visible throughout

UX Checkout Abandonment Conversion

When customers have decided to buy something from your website, the next thing they want to know about is delivery. This can be split into two parts:

Delivery information: How long will it take to arrive? Can I get it by this date? Do they deliver to me?

Delivery cost: How much is it going to cost to deliver?

Customers assess the above information alongside the cost of buying the item to determine if it’s worth going ahead with the purchase from your site or if they need to compare the price on other sites. On many websites, delivery information is not easy to find! When it’s not on the product page, often people assume it will be on the basket page. If it’s not there, some continue to checkout to check for the info, others start to look for a delivery information page (often on the footer). It’s then when things start to get messy! They struggle to find the info, they struggle to get back to the item they were looking at and it disrupts the experience resulting in them being more likely to leave.

And some of you are really doing yourselves a disservice as you’re offering free delivery or free next day delivery if you spend a certain amount (which we know converts), but you’re not making this clear enough to users where it matters most – in the basket. Don’t assume that just because you have messaging elsewhere that you don’t need to keep confirming that message along the whole user journey.

Example: Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols clearly display delivery information in the basket, where users expect to see it. All the available options are clearly listed, and as opposed to needing to navigate to another page to see more detailed info (such as on asos.com), each option can be easily clicked to expand more delivery details.

Harvey Nichols eCommerce Checkout

Tip 2: Checkout as a guest is a must-have

(but persuade people to sign up at the end!)

One thing that we constantly observe is that people do not want to be forced to create an account in order to buy from you. Users expect to be able to checkout as a guest, especially for single item purchases.

Users become frustrated and annoyed when they are forced to create an account because

  • If this is their first purchase from your site, they don’t know if they’ll buy from you again so for them, it’s not worth the perceived effort of signing up.
  • They assume they will be sent marketing emails (in their words ‘spam’) and they don’t want them.
  • They believe it is time-consuming. Although often the time that it actually takes to checkout as a guest is pretty much the same as needed for signing up (mostly, the only additional information required to create an account is a password).

So, what can you do? The easiest solution is to persuade them to sign up after they’ve checked out as a guest. Simply present them with a password box to create an account.

You should also remember to tell them why they should sign up. What’s going to motivate them the most? The fact that they can track their order? Get a special discount off their next purchase? Buy future purchases more quickly and easily? If you conduct regular research with your customers you should know what will appeal to them the most, if not, ask them 🙂

Asos offer the option to ‘Continue to checkout’ or sing up using a social account. This is a clever idea – they know their target audience are active social networkers!

ASOS Checkout Conversion UX

 

Tip 3: Short and easy checkout process

During user testing we consistently observe that users feel overwhelmed when they get to a page with a lot of fields to fill out.

It boils down to two main issues:

  • The number of fields they’re required to complete.
  • They feel uncomfortable with the information they’re being asked to give.

We know that you want to know as much about your customers as possible, but this comes at a price – your conversion. The majority of the time, they don’t understand why they have to provide so many details, such as phone number, gender or other personal information just to buy a new pair of shoes or handbag.

Only present required fields and relevant information, in order to avoid giving the impression that the form is longer than it really is.

Your customer doesn’t want to fill out lots of information and they don’t understand why you want to know personal information. When asking for additional information, provide some help text to explain why this is required: for example, we know that people don’t like to leave their phone number, so at the side of the phone number field explain that they will receive text alerts when the order is dispatched. This will reassure people and motivate them to progress through the checkout.

Example from ASOS:

ASOS know their users dislike giving away their mobile number, so they give a clear reason that is focussed on the user benefit ‘delivery updates’.

Mobile UX

Tip 4: Provide information in the shopping basket

Giving customers the right information at the right time can minimise confusion, eliminate surprise, increase confidence and motivate them to complete the purchase.

When your users add a product to the basket, show them details about what they are buying, stock availability, delivery options, return policies, security indicators or payment options. Users should have immediate access to all of this key information directly from their shopping basket in order to reduce their anxiety and the frustration of not exactly knowing what to expect.

Example: Marks and Spencer

Marks & Spencer Basket Conversion

Tip 5: Make navigating your checkout easy and simple

It’s important not to assume that people go through your checkout in a linear manner. In reality, users navigate back and forth to previous steps to double check and edit information.

So, you need to make sure that during your usability testing you do a full test of your checkout navigation – how easy is it to go back to previous steps and edit information? Is it easy to do on mobile or do people skip back too far and lose the information they’ve already entered?

Accordion checkouts and the problem with mobile interaction

32% of checkouts are in the accordion style (Baymard, 2016). This approach is liked because it provides all the checkout steps in individual expanding and collapsing sections, presented on a single page. Having all the checkout steps in one page encourages users to review their information and lessens navigation.

It has also a positive impact on users’ perceived length of the whole checkout process: providing all the steps on one page, makes them feel that the checkout is shorter.

Although this approach is popular, accordion checkouts can cause major problems with mobile users. On desktop, users can simply click into each section of the accordion, however, on mobile users are most likely to use their back button to navigate back to previous sections but this causes them to go back a screen, resulting in them losing all of the information they have just entered and becoming very frustrated! At this point you’re likely to lose them to a competitor who provides a better checkout experience.

Example: Walmart

Walmart’s accordion provides a summary of each collapsed section with a simple ‘Edit’ button. The summary means users can easily see and double check their information without navigating back into the section.

Walmart checkout

 

Tip 6: Use trusted logos and symbols to convert

The average user’s perception of a website’s security is largely determined by their gut feeling, which is to a large extent the consequence of how visually secure the page looks. Basically, it’s all about looks! Authentication/security logos, such as ABTA and ATOL for travel websites or the VISA authentication logo for general e-commerce websites, provide users with the peace of mind that they will be protected. We also observed that users tend to feel safer when they can pay through Paypal because they know that they will be refunded if anything goes wrong.

People will also look out for a lock symbol either on the page or in the address bar – to them that means the page is secure.

ASOS is a well-known brand but nevertheless, they are very careful to reassure users throughout the whole checkout process. They provide a security logo even before users have started to enter their information. The logo is further reinforced by a note which reassures users that their personal data will never be used or posted on their behalf.

Example: Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols use the Norton logo and the accepted card logos to increase trust.

eCommerce Payment Card Types for Conversion UX

Example: Marks and Spencer

 Secure Checkout UX

Marks and Spencer go a step further by adding the lock symbol to their call-to-action button, and they’ve clearly thought about the persuasiveness of the copy too ‘Checkout securely’.

 

Need more help?

Need some expert help to increase your conversion? Want to understand your customers better and how they use your website across platforms so you can align your strategy with their needs, increase the effectiveness of your marketing and convert traffic better?

We’ve done so much user testing of websites and checkouts over the years for many brands, we know what works and what doesn’t work to convert traffic into loyal customers. We can also optimise your checkout across platforms – is your mobile experience not converting as well as it should?

Get in touch with us for a chat about your challenges and goals to reveal how we can help you to achieve them.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment

1  No recruitment at all!

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

2  No-shows

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

3  Late-shows

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

4  Uncommunicative participants

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

5  Misinterpretation of your needs

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

6  Non-representative sample

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

7 Brand advocates and bias

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

8  Not enough time to recruit

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

9  Recruiting ‘experts’

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

10  People who just want the money

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

The solution

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

Free Generation Z Shopping Report Download

You need to understand how young people shop if you’re going to convince them to buy from your brand.

Generation Z make up 10% of UK population (aged 16 to 24) and they’re of great interest to marketers, UXers and conversion specialists because Gen Z are the first generation to be born and raised in the digital age.

So, how does this effect their shopping behaviour?

How do they feel about shopping in a physical shop versus shopping online? How do they shop? Is there a difference in what they buy online versus offline? What concerns do they have and what does shopping mean to them? How does their shopping behaviour differ to previous generations and how should you engage with them as consumers? Which is their platform of choice for shopping and how do they prefer to be contacted by companies?

We discovered all this and much more!

Suitable for: Marketers, UX designers, Customer Experience, Product Managers, Conversion Optimisers, Brands targetting Generation Z

Just press the button to go to the site to download the full 20 page report for free.

Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Persona example 1

Image credit: Xtensio

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

Benefits of Personas

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

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

Where did it all begin?

Personas were introduced in 1998 by Alan Cooper.

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

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

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

What is the personas method?

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

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

Why are personas so important to the design process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designing personas

The story

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

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

Collection of data when designing personas

The scenario

The scenario is very important for the effectiveness of personas.

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

The narration of an imagined scenario follows this structure:

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

Personas design-process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example persona

Here’s an example of a completed persona:

Persona example 2

Image credit: Xtensio

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
What is User Testing?

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

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

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

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

The Privacy Paradox

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

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

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

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

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

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

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

Privacy Paradox Model

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

Privacy Paradox Model

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

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

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

Ecommerce test

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

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

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

Tips to improve trust, acquire more data and lessen abandonment

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

Visible link to a privacy policy

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

Netflights Privacy Policy
• Credit card icons

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

Netflights Credit Card Icons
• Show a contact phone number

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

Netflights Contact Info
• Development of policy simplifications and standardised indicators

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

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

25% of shoppers plan to spend more this Christmas

Following our recent article The biggest mobile Christmas yet! Are you ready? new research with shoppers shows that 37% of shoppers expect to do more online shopping this Christmas than they did last year and 25% expect to spend more this Christmas, compared to 2012. We expect this in part to be due to a rise in consumer confidence over recent months.

Food retailers aren’t set to have as large an increase in online shopping as when it comes to the big Christmas food shop, 71% of shoppers say they’ll visit a physical store to carry out the task. Only 14% say they will do their Christmas food shop online.

Younger shoppers are the most willing to spend this Christmas with 45% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 25-31 year olds planning to spend more this year.Don’t get too excited for 2014 just yet…

“While we expect a better Christmas for retailers this year, it would be  premature to pop the Champagne corks.  Granted, consumer confidence has increased substantially during the past 6 months, but we anticipate that for many a reality check will set in once credit card bills start to land on shoppers’ door mats in January.”

This research was conducted in the form of a survey to 1,000 respondents by Savvy Marketing. As such, qualitative data in the form of reasons for the above statistics are missing. If you have any thoughts or explanations for the above, tweet us @keepitusable and we’ll retweet your opinions.

Lisa’s BBC Radio Appearance

bbc radio manchester

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Dragons Den’s James Caan values putting users first

 

James Caan

Any idea what kinds of business James Caan invests in? Well he recently divulged the primary thing he looks for in any type of business and it happens to be a business that is user-centric.

The first principle is that, it doesn’t matter what sector you are involved in, the basics are always the same – right from the very outset you have to know what makes your customers tick.

Of course we’ve known that focussing your business around your target users is one of the most important things you need to do but why is that? Because you are NOT your customer. You don’t think like them or have the same experiences as them. You see your business from totally different points of view. So to make your business appeal to your customer you have to take time to research them and understand their wants, needs, concerns, opinions, behaviour… only then can you build a business that meets their requirements.

If your business is based online, then this means conducting research not just to understand your target users but also to analyse their behaviour and interaction with your site to be able to improve your user experience and increase sales.

If you do not have a proper understanding of what your customers want then sadly you are destined to fail. There are plenty of examples out there of companies, big and small, who lost sight of their customers and what they wanted.  The end result is always the same no matter how big or established the name is.

Tough economic climates tend to separate the strong from the weak. If there is a problem with your offering then a recession is only going to highlight that problem.
There is no loyalty when it comes to business and that is the case even more so in the modern and increasingly competitive world.  Customers, whatever the marketplace, are fickle and will go with whoever offers them the best services and products at the best price.
The key with any business is always to remember the customer and put them at the forefront of everything you do.  You have to offer the best products and most importantly, stay in touch with the customer’s needs at all times.

In my line of work I have met too many people who have made the same simple and very fundamental mistake of forgetting about their customers.

As the old saying goes the customer is always right. If you ignore that simple motto then sadly it will all probably end in tears.