Book Review: UX Strategy by Jaime Levy

UX Strategy by Jaime Levy

UX Strategy: What the heck is it and should you care?

These are the first things you should ask yourself before even thinking about buying this book. For many of you (particularly the old time UXers – you know who you are 😉) you have already been doing UX Strategy for most of your career and simply classing it as part of your work as a UX Professional. It’s all the stuff we do that’s more focussed on the business side. Things like discovery research to explore current user behaviour and needs, competitor analysis, user journey mapping, personas, crafting value propositions, testing them, storyboarding, creating early designs/prototypes and testing them iteratively. Jaime references Eric Reiss’ book ‘The lean startup’ several times throughout her book and the approach detailed in her book is very much in line with lean UX and building MVPs.

In fact, one could argue whether UX Strategy is just another term that’s been created for something that already exists. However, as the definition of UX changes and moves closer to a design discipline, we need a means of people recognising strategy as a key skill. Ironically, as the UX discipline has exploded, key skills like strategy which would ordinarily be part of an experience designers role, are much harder to find. So if UX Strategy needs to be split out into another pillar of UX to increase awareness and skills, then so be it.

So, how does Jaime define UX Strategy?

UX strategy is the process that should be started first, before the design or development of a digital product begins. It’s the vision of a solution that needs to be validated with real potential customers to prove that it’s desired in the marketplace. Although UX design encompasses numerous details such as visual design, content messaging, and how easy it is for a user to accomplish a task, UX strategy is the “Big Picture”. It is the high-level plan to achieve one or more business goals under conditions of uncertainty.

What is UX Strategy

In our opinion, a good UX Designer thinks about strategy as a natural part of their role – it’s what differentiates a UX Designer from a visual designer or a content designer. The UX Designer should always start with the bigger picture before any design takes place. Perhaps Jaime’s limited definition of UX Design is why she felt the need to write a book about UX Strategy – to increase awareness of these important UX skills.

Contents

  • What Is UX Strategy?
  • The Four Tenets of UX Strategy
  • Validating the Value Proposition
  • Conducting Competitive Research
  • Conducting Competitive Analysis
  • Storyboarding Value Innovation
  • Creating Prototypes for Experiments
  • Conducting Guerrilla User Research
  • Designing for Conversion
  • Strategists in the Wild
  • DĂ©nouement

UX Strategy Page Sample

Pros

This is a really interesting read and packed full of useful information and explanations. Jamie uses real examples as much as possible throughout the book and includes templates that you can download through her website too, which is really helpful for you to practise some of the tools in the book.

The book itself is really easy to read, detailed and practical – she breaks everything down into steps to follow. It also includes a lot of visual screenshots so you can really follow the key example she uses throughout the book (an Airbnb for weddings business) and practise the techniques for yourself. This is not a book full of waffle and theory!

You’ll come away with an understanding of the UX process for creating products, and will be able to use the tools to get started on the Strategy process.

Cons

We disagreed with several things within her book and at times too much was left open to interpretation. For example, with regards to user recruitment, she quickly references Nielsen’s 5 user recommendation, but most UX professionals now agree that this figure shouldn’t be used as a one and only rule. The reality is, it’s more complex and careful thought needs to be given to how many users are seen. If you are doing lots of quick iterations you could in theory go lower, or if you have lots of variables and are planning less iterative testing, you may need to go higher.

Jaime also advises guerrilla research in coffee shops, but her recruitment method takes 5-10 days to book people in which goes against many of the benefits of quick coffee shop research. This is a bit confusing – she may as well use a lab. There’s no mention of the hugely positive effects of multiple stakeholders observing the research (this can be a key part of UX Strategy). Her coffee shop approach enables just one client observer to be present, not to mention that the recordings can be incredibly poor (the audio in particular, due to all the background noise). If research is important to you, you will benefit from reading a more detailed book.

At the end of the book there are no references.

The graphics and illustrations look dated and aren’t particularly engaging.

Should you buy it?

If you’re new to UX, lack understanding of how UX fits into business or you want a high level overview of the whole process then this book will be useful for you to read. It would also be useful for anyone building digital products, such as business owners, entrepreneurs and product managers.

Note: All our reviews are independent, not sponsored and based only on our opinion

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?

The Psychology of choice: Why less is more

We’ve all been there… sat in a meeting with stakeholders as one person after another insists that their content needs adding to the user interface (often the Home page right? people will argue for days about that one). Or perhaps they’re all fighting for their preferred feature to go into a product, and before you know it, the biggest case of feature creep you’ve ever seen is being drawn on the whiteboard. Your vision of the clean, simple design and intuitive Apple-like user experience that you came into the meeting with has disappeared before your very eyes. Goodbye dream!

But wait! Did you know there is tested science that proves you are right to keep things clean and simple? By keeping options and choice limited, you are actually making it easier and more likely that the user will take action. Here’s why…

The jam experiment

Imagine you’re walking down the street and you come across two stalls selling jam. One stall is selling 24 different types of jam and the other is selling 6 types of jam.

Which stall would you be most likely to stop at and taste the jam?

When we present this experiment in our Psychology talks, we find most people say they would stop at the stall selling 24 types of jam. Some people think this is a trick question, but it isn’t. People LOVE choices. When we ask people in our research sessions about choices, they’ll always go for the larger amount. In the consumer’s head choice = control and they think the more choice, the better.

In the consumer’s head choice = control and they think the more choice, the better

Let’s go back to the jam stalls for a moment. You’ve stopped to taste the jams at both – the stall selling 24 types and the one selling 6 types, in fact, you’re not the only one – 60% of people stop at the stall selling the most jam.

How many jams did you taste at each stall?

You likely tasted the same amount of jams at each stall, despite one having many more types of jam.

Which stall are you most likely to buy from?

Most people think they would be most likely to buy a jar of jam from the stall selling 24, however, research has proved that you are much more likely to buy from the stall selling just 6 types of jam. These findings are from a research study that was conducted by Psychologists Iyengar et al. They found that when it came to buying the jam, 30% of people bought a jar at the stall that sold 6 types, but only 3% of people bought a jar at the stall selling 24 types.

Customers given too many choices are ten times less likely to buy!

Psychology and the Paradox of choice - Jam experiment results

Paradox of choice leads to choice paralysis

Why, when we’re given more options, are we less likely to choose? It’s because we suffer from ‘choice paralysis’. There are too many options for us to satisfactorily compare them and feel that we’re able to make an adequate choice.

More choice requires more time and effort (to go through and compare everything). This can lead to anxiety, stress, unhappiness, high expectations, regret and self-blame if a poor choice is made. It’s hard and it’s difficult to make a good decision when you’re overwhelmed with information and options. You can’t process it effectively.

Instead of the risk of making a poor choice, we choose not to make a choice at all. No action is taken when the cognitive effort to compare all the options is too great.

Too much choice = no choice at all

Psychology and the Paradox of choice - choice is paralysing

 

This goes against how most people think they will behave. This is another thing you should know – people are notoriously bad at predicting their own behaviour. That’s why you shouldn’t ask questions like “How likely would you be to purchase this product?” in your user testing sessions, or if you do, you should at least take the answer with a pinch of salt. There may be some qualitative insights to be gained by asking it if you follow up with a “why?” query, but that insight shouldn’t be treated as a valid response as to whether they would actually buy it or not.

High value and emotional purchases are the hardest to choose

Why is it so much more difficult to choose which car to buy or which holiday to go on than it is to choose which cereal to buy in the supermarket?

There are two major differences in the purchases.

1 Higher emotion

2 Higher cost

Anything that involves increased emotion and cost has increased risk when making a poor decision. After all, who wants to be responsible for ruining the annual family holiday by choosing a poor hotel? For most mums this is a major cause of anxiety and they will spend a phenomenal amount of time tracking down the perfect family holiday.

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist famous for his book ‘The paradox of choice’ states “When you have all these choices, you have an enormous problem gathering all the information to decide which is the right one. You start looking over your shoulder, thinking that if you’d made a different choice, you’d have done better. So there’s regret, which makes you less satisfied with what you have chosen, whether or not there’s good reason to have regrets. It’s easy to imagine there was a better option, even if there wasn’t really, because you can’t possibly examine all of them.”

Less choice = more satisfaction

An interesting finding from the jam study, is that of the people who bought a jar of jam, those who purchased from the smaller stall were much more satisifed.

So, when we’re given too much choice, we’re also much less happy with the final choice we make. It’s because we’re still wondering if we made the right decision. With just 6 jams, it was easy to taste them all and feel confident about our purchase decision, but it’s unlikely we tasted all 24 jams so we leave with our purchase still wondering if there was a better tasting jam that we would have been more happy with. We’re more likely to suffer buyers remorse.

Apple website

Less is more on the Apple website

Image: It couldn’t be clearer what Apple want the user to do when they come to their website!

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in 2015, researchers analysed 99 studies on choice. They found four criteria that motivate consumers to buy:

1 When people want to make a quick and easy choice

2 When the product is complex (so fewer choices help the consumer make a decision)

3 When it’s difficult to compare alternatives

4 When consumers don’t have clear preferences

Just think of Google

The Google search screen is the best example of how limiting choice results in a great user experience. There is only one thing you can do – it couldn’t be any easier! Whenever you’re struggling within your designs, think about this design, how logical it is, how streamlined the user journey begins, how purposeful the design is to make the user take action.

The simplicity of google search

The simplicity of google search

Psychology in UX: What you can do

1. Focus on the user experience and user journey as opposed to the number of clicks

The 3 click rule is ancient now. All it does it surfaces most content closer to the first step, resulting in a busy home page that is harder to choose from.

2. Declutter, declutter, declutter!

Conduct some major housekeeping and be ruthless with your content. Does it really need to sit on that page? Does it need to be so big? Can you cutdown on the text? Does your primary call-to-action stand out the most?

3. Use white space

Make sure that the content on your pages are able to breathe. Give them space and they’ll stand out more. It will be easier for the user to know to select them.

4. Reduce cognitive load by breaking larger tasks into smaller chunks

Remind users of key information and make it really easy to find, as opposed to making them rely on their memory to remember key information on previous pages.

5. Improve the ability to make good decisions

If your website sells lots of products, like Asos, where you have a lot of choice, you may be thinking how on earth can I deal with the issue of choice paralysis. You won’t be able to fully. But you can make it easier for the user by fully understanding the user journey from their perspective – conduct research and user testing to understand what information they’re looking for and at which moments. What do they need to help them to find the right product for their needs? How can you translate these requirements into an intuitive and logical design?

Conduct research and user testing to understand what information your customers are looking for and at which moments

UX professionals need to remind stakeholders that adding too much into the user interface, requiring too many steps in the user journey, giving the user too many options to choose from only serves to make the user experience more difficult, not easier for the end user.

So, the next time you’re in a meeting and people are trying to feature creep, tell them about the paradox of choice and that there’s proven, scientific logic to keep choice limited.

Learn more psychology

Come along and see us present about UX Psychology in design at UX Crunch Manchester

Get free access to more UX Psychology articles, worksheets, courses, events, talks and more!

Simply enter your email address below.


You might also like:

Using Pareto Principle psychology to improve your user experience
10 psychology techniques to drive behaviour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Xennial are you? try this quiz!

You might also like:

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

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

Good user recruitment is crucial to the success of UX research

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

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

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

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

Participants

1 Participants are representative of your target users

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

2 Communicative participants

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

3 Motivated for the right reasons

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

4 Punctual and reliable participants

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

5 Increased research validity

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

The benefits of good UX user recruitment

Using a third party

6 Hiding your recruitment behind an agency has huge advantages!

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

7 Reliable service

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

8 Quick and flexible recruitment

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

9 Honesty in the process

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

10 Good understanding of UX and your needs

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

Do you want to benefit from good user recruitment?

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

You might also like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment

1  No recruitment at all!

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

2  No-shows

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

3  Late-shows

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

4  Uncommunicative participants

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

5  Misinterpretation of your needs

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

6  Non-representative sample

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

7 Brand advocates and bias

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

8  Not enough time to recruit

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

9  Recruiting ‘experts’

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

10  People who just want the money

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

The solution

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design

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

What is UX?

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

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

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

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

UX design disciplines

What is UX design?

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the difference between UX and usability?

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

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

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

Which research methods are involved in UX?

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

Some of the research methods in UX are:

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

Is the setting of the research important?

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

Keep It Usable Home UX Lab

What are the benefits for your brand?

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

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

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

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

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

Help!

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

Do you need help improving your online sales and conversion?

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

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

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

Contact our UX and Conversion experts >

 

5 reasons to continuously conduct user research

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

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

So why should i continuously carry out user research?

1 Understand your customers

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

2 Test hunches and hypotheses

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

3 Benchmark KPIs against yourself and competitors

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

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

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

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

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

4 Avoid costly rework

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

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

5 Be more successful

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

What to do next

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

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

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

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

Need to rent a lab for your research?

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

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

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

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

Baby duck syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

The dilemma for ux designers and product owners

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

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

How to make changes with minimal upset to users

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

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

What is User Testing?

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

Why is user testing important?

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

Increase your sales

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

Save time and money

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

Fail fast and fail often

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

Improve what you’ve got

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

Consumer insights, intelligence and evidence

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

Mobile shopping ecommerce ux

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

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

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

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

What is user testing?

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

Mobile Usability Testing

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to grow?

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

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission
What’s the real difference? Face-to-face versus Remote user testing
Top 10 major risks of poor user recruitment: Is your recruitment negatively affecting your research?

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

User Testing for Product Managers

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

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

1. Concept tests

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

2. SWOT competitor tests

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

3. Features and functionality tests

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

4. Prototype tests

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

5. Visual design tests

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

What next?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

Are fashion brands losing their identities online? A research study by Keep It Usable

Have you noticed how similar websites look these days? Cover up the logo and can you really tell one from the other? How effective and identifiable is their brand once you cover up the logo? Is their identity getting lost online?

Walk down the high street and each brand has a clearly identifiable shop front. They each have their own unique style. So why is it that these very distinguishable brands have websites that all look very similar?

Of course this could just be our opinion so we decided to put 11 female fashion brands to the test to see if their target consumers (young females aged 18-24 in this case) could correctly identify online websites with their brand (logos removed and provided separately). We used a mix of well known and lesser known brands, high street and online brands. We also tested both desktop and mobile versions.

Try it for yourself


Have a look at the following brands (notice how similar a lot of these look already?)

fashion brands

Which brand do you think the following website belongs to?

Desktop Brand

To make it a little easier, we’ll give you a clue, it’s either Topshop or River Island. Here’s a photo of their high street shop fronts to help you even more.

River Island / Top Shop

If you think the answer is River Island we can understand why. The website looks more consistent with the high street River Island shop front doesn’t it. However, the correct answer is actually Topshop.

Did you find that difficult? Well, unsurprisingly, so did the people we interviewed. The Topshop logo was correctly matched to the website just 21% of the time (so only 1 in 5 attempted matches were correct).

“I don’t know why I don’t recognise Topshop, I’m confused.”

Everyone found matching the brands to the websites much more difficult than they anticipated (they thought it was going to be really easy) and they struggled to match the brand with the correct website, even if they were a regular shopper and therefore very familiar with the brand.

And the winner is… Very

Very was the winner of our online brand identity research, closely followed by Asos and Zara. Look at their websites and you’ll see why. They each have a very distinct look and feel, their brand identity is carried through the whole user interface through the font, use of colour, imagery used, layout and style.

Very website

Findings

Those brands with the lowest scores included Forever 21, Missguided, Miss Selfridge and Glamorous. Interestingly, three of these brands scored higher on mobile than desktop which could be a sign of their younger audience being very mobile heavy consumers.

The research confirmed the initial hypothesis that brand identity is being diluted online and that as far as consumers are concerned, the brands are easy to confuse with one another and are relying too heavily on their logo as their sole differentiator against their competitors.

An interesting association that we discovered was that participants viewed websites with similar layouts as selling cheaper and poorer quality products. The layout affected their impression about the quality and the uniqueness of the product sold.

For the target consumers of brands tested in this research, quality is one of the most important factors for making the decision to buy an item online. A poor and cheaply perceived layout or bad usability of the website can affect the impression of the product’s quality and undermine the overall image of the brand.

Brands that scored the more correct matches tended to have a stronger identity on desktop than mobile. The market predictions for 2016 forecast that mobile will play a bigger and bigger role in the e-commerce market and fashion brands should be aware that the income of mobile traffic will have a strong impact on their business.

Moreover, the 2016 trend in retail will be the omnichannel approach to shopping; that is a continuous and smooth shopping journey through different channels, online and offline. It is crucial that high street brands create a strong brand identity on all their digital platforms to create a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. The aim will be to provide costumers with a frictionless, continuous shopping experience.

Discover even more insights in the presentation below and if you need to improve or test your fashion website in order to increase your conversion, we can help! Contact us

View on Slideshare

An interview with Zappos

Alex Genov - Zappos

This month Keep It Usable spoke with Alex Genov who is Head of UX Research and Web Analytics at Zappos.

Alex shares with us some fascinating insights into the process they follow at Zappos, the research methods and UX tools they use, how they decide what to test with users vs what to MVT.

Alex also shares with us a conversion challenge his team faced and how they overcame it. We also learn about his background, what makes him tick and his top tips for you.

Hi Alex, could you tell us a little about yourself, your team and what you do for Zappos?

I am a customer research professional who applies his Social Psychology background and his passion for research, design, and innovation to the software industry. My professional goal is to help teams create remarkable products and services which make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable.

Currently I am leading UX Research and Web Analytics for the Zappos Family of Companies.  My work includes both hands-on research for all the Zappos online properties as well as mentoring and team development.

In previous positions, I was responsible for research and usability of the products and services for companies like TurboTax (Intuit), State Farm Insurance, and the Active Network.   I have over 15 years of relevant experience – 5 years of academic research and over 10 years of customer research in the software industry.  I received a PhD in Experimental Social Psychology from Clark University.   My areas of research include: defining and measuring emotions, individual differences, usability, and consumer segmentation.

During my academic career, I developed and taught college-level courses in Research Methods, Statistics, and Social Psychology.  I have numerous presentations at professional conferences, several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and several patent applications.

What process do you follow?

The research team is part of the larger UX team.  As a UX team we follow agile, cross-functional process which involves Design Thinking, rapid prototyping, concept testing, iterative and benchmark usability, and a variety of other methods along the creative and development product development journey.

How much research do you carry out with your users?

We do research along the full cycle of: problem definition —> idea generation —> interface design —> product release —> back to problem definition.

What types of research do you do and why?

We combine both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Qualitative for idea generation and to understand the “why”

  • In-depth interviews
  • Home visits / Contextual inquiry
  • Iterative usability
  • Co-creation
  • Focus groups

Quantitative to understand the “what” and to quantify opportunities and issues

  • Surveys, including Market Segmentation
  • Choice-based conjoint studies
  • Data mining
  • A/B testing
  • Benchmark usability

Which UX tools do you and your team use?

  • Survey authoring tools
  • Sawtooth
  • Qualtrics
  • Remote usability via WebEx
  • Online card sorting
  • Optimal Sort
  • Analysis tools
  • SPSS
  • R
  • A/B testing – internal platform

How much A/B and MVT testing do you carry out?

Lots.  We do not release anything before A/B testing it.

How do you decide which changes you should research with users first vs which you should simply MVT?

In the idea generation stage and the concept development stage talking to customers and doing iterative research makes sense because it is cheap to start over and make changes until a good design is developed.

If the change has to do with actual customer behavior, we A/B test – actual behavior which ultimately leads to conversion is the best indicator of success.  Asking people what they would or would not do is silly.

Could you give an example of a conversion barrier or challenge you have faced and what steps you took to overcome it?

We discovered some legacy “error” messages we were surfacing to costumers.  Those were ominous-looking and had harsh and non-factual language, e.g. “Fix the following errors” when the customers had not done anything wrong.  We redesigned the messages to be much more helpful and even apologetic on our part.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Continuing to learn about what makes people tick and how to create new experiences which positively affect the lives of millions of people.  Breaking barriers and silos between Marketing Research, User Research, Web Analytics, and so on.  Mentoring less experienced colleagues.

Could you share one of your top tips with our readers?

Break down barriers and silos between Marketing Research, User Research, Web Analytics, and so on.  Those are based on archaic organizational structures and make no sense from the point of view of the customer.

Why you shouldn’t use one way mirrors for ux research

Do you use one way mirror labs? Do you value research that gets you the best results? Then you might want to re-consider using one way mirrors. Here’s why…

Talking to users is fascinating! It’s something we absolutely love doing despite having conducted thousands of them! When it comes to location, you can test almost anywhere but there’s one place that we advise against, and that’s one way mirror labs.

What is a one way mirror lab?

A one way mirror lab (also known as two way) consists of two adjoining rooms with a mirror between them. One room is used to interview people and the mirror functions as a normal mirror from this side. On the other side of the mirror is the observation room where people watch the research taking place, from this side the mirror behaves as a window, enabling the observers to secretly observe what’s happening in the research room.

The negative consequences for research

We’ve used this setup many times and sat on both sides of the mirror. These are the problems:

Nervous users

As a researcher you are ethically bound to tell the participant that there are observers behind the mirror. However, there is a problem with this and it’s called the Ironic Process Theory or the White Bear Principle. It refers to the human tendency to continue to think about something after being told not to think about it. For example, if someone says to you ‘don’t think about a pink elephant’, it’s the first thing you’ll picture in your head.

Many users will forget about the mirror. There are other users who will interview ok but afterwards they will admit to feeling watched  (which in turn will have influenced their answers). Finally, some people simply do not interview well with one way mirrors. They may appear nervous, glance at the mirror throughout, whisper some answers to you because they don’t want the people behind the mirror to hear any negative feedback, etc. And the mirror is a difficult thing for people to get over once they have a problem with it, because it’s such a huge object in the room and therefore a constant reminder.

Positively biased responses

If you knew there were a group of people watching you behind a mirror wouldn’t you be more inclined to give positive responses and to withhold negative opinions? It’s natural for people to do this, particularly if they are new to research – they’ll be inclined to want to please you.

Sound leakage

Your observers need to be relatively quiet. I’ve seen labs provide headphones so that observers can turn audio volume up without sound leaking into the testing suite.

When two rooms are next to each other, it’s impossible to soundproof them completely. If the observers next door get quite loud, or turn the volume up, the sound can leak into the adjoining room. Imagine if they laugh and the user hears this (yes this has happened). In some labs, the doors don’t close quietly either – this then becomes another reminder to the participant that there are people watching them.

Noisy cameras

One way mirror labs almost always have cameras that can be controlled in the observation room. These aren’t always silent though. You can be in the middle of a really interesting insight with the participant opening up to you, when all of a sudden you hear the dreaded buzz of the camera . Off-putting to say the least and yet another reminder to the user that they are being watched.

Dark, uninspiring observation room where no one speaks

Observation rooms in labs are awful places really. There are no windows and therefore no natural light, the lights have to be turned off (otherwise you can see straight through the mirror) so it’s a dark, dull, uninspiring room to be sat in all day. In one way mirror labs sometimes the observers can be much quieter than in labs without a mirror, because they can see how close the participant is to them. This isn’t conducive to team working and problem solving.

The issue is these are great setups for observing research, especially focus groups, not UX research. If you have a team of designers observing research, the one thing they’re guaranteed to want to do is sketch, but how do they do that well when they’re sat in a dark room? It’s not an environment that encourages team collaboration, makes a team feel energised, inspired and creative. Conversation and teamworking should be encouraged – now’s the perfect time for the team to get together in one place, collaborate and get to work on designs.

Ironically, no one really observes what’s happening through the mirror!

We spend most of our time watching the TV screens, which give us consistent detail, clarity and control. The glass, for all its glamour, doesn’t always fulfil its worth.

In UX research, the most important interaction to focus on is that between the user and what’s being tested, and in this regard you can’t see anything through the mirror, the detail is through the cameras pointing at what the user is doing. Therefore, the majority of the time, observers are focussed on the tv screen – where the action is. Compare it to UX design…if you want the users attention to focus on something you might give it a more central position, make it bigger, put everything else around it. So when the UI is the most important thing for people to observe, why do labs show this on a small tv screen and give the highest visual prominence in the room to the mirror? It’s crazy!

The solution

The alternative, better solution is to use two rooms that have all the same technology to record and observe the user and their interaction but in the observation room, there are TV screens and no mirror. GDS (Government Digital Services) also use this setup which you can see here. Without a mirror, you’ll get better insights from your more relaxed users and the observation room can now be a creative haven. You can turn up the lights, have natural daylight (windows), have dynamic team discussions and work together on sketches and ideas.

It suddenly becomes an exciting and inspiring workshop to turn user feedback into better designs! And this, is the whole purpose of user research.

We built our own pioneering homely research lab

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

Meet Home UX Lab

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

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

Need help or advice?

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

Other posts you may find interesting:

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

Manchester Council launches award-winning site following research by Keep It Usable

Manchester-City-Council-Responsive-Website-Keepitusable

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

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

 

Manchester Council recently launched a radically different, user-centred website following research with local residents by Manchester UX agency Keep It Usable. The result? An overwhelming success.

Releasing a new council website can be tricky – it’s hard to please everyone and people don’t always have a good opinion of their local council. Get it wrong and you can be facing a backlash from residents and councillors.

Council sites need to be user-focussed. Mobile use is growing phenomenally and it’s a trend we see with users during the research we do. The mobile phone is now the new PC. Some people tell us they don’t even turn their computer on, they do everything on their phone because it’s always with them. Knowing that mobile and tablet traffic will double in the next couple of years, the site has been designed responsively to support all devices.

Importantly, the site is designed around the top things that people want to do “Research showed us that 80 per cent of people visit the site to carry out specific tasks and the new site has been designed with this in mind…There is a financial aspect to this too. The more people access services online, the more it helps us to deliver those services more cost effectively.”

Manchester-City-Council-New-Website

“We’ve looked carefully at what residents actually use our website for and redesigned it with their needs in mind. It’s also been tested by real people who tell us that they find it refreshingly easy to use. The way people use the internet has changed dramatically, and as half of all visits to our website will be made using tablets and smart phones within a couple of years, we’ve made sure it can be used easily on these devices as well as more traditional computers. Having a well-designed website is therefore hugely beneficial,” commented Councillor Nigel Murphy, executive member for environment for Manchester City Council”.

The new website was tested by groups of real people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Lisa Duddington, head of research for Keep It Usable, said: “Everyone was very positive about the new direction and it was evident that a well-designed council site improves people’s perception of the council and changes their behaviour. The site was so easy and quick to use that people who traditionally always called the council said they would now use the website.”

When the site went live we monitored responses on social networks and the result was overwhelmingly positive. Have a look at the comments below and be convinced that making your website user-centred is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Need help with usability testing?

Keep It Usable feature in The Guardian: How councils can keep up with changing online trends

Manchester Council: New look website puts residents first

The Drum: Manchester City Council launches new website following consumer research

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-1

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-2

Manchester-City-Council-Tweets-3