How to do UX research in a COVID-19 world (plus FREE handbook)

UX Research in the new normal

As the world begins to come to terms with living alongside COVID-19 for at least the coming future, we take a look at how UX research will need to adapt to continue to get good results whilst keeping everyone safe.

Remote will be the new default

When lockdown began, we hope you were able to continue testing. If you did continue, you no doubt chose to go down the remote testing route as it was by far the safest method for both you and your participants. We expect that remote will continue to be the preferred method whilst the virus is around but that remote moderated will grow in popularity.

In-person research has returned but may not be face-to-face

For many research projects, remote testing won’t answer the key research questions, or it simply won’t be possible due to technical constraints. For example, one of our clients has highly confidential and sensitive gaming hardware that is tricky to setup because it’s still at the prototyping stage, so remote would not be suitable for their needs. 

Now that people are able to return to work and to indoor environments, we have resumed in-person research here at Keep It Usable, in our Home UX Lab. However, it will look a little different and as you also resume your in-person research, there are several changes you’ll need to make and things you’ll need to consider across the whole research process.

We have resumed in-person research here at Keep It Usable

Ensuring and communicating safety

Ensuring a safe return to in-person testing is our priority at Keep It Usable. The health and safety of our clients, researchers, observers, participants, staff and anyone else within our facility is of the utmost importance. It is key not just to provide this safety, but also to communicate it well so that people feel reassured and are are less likely to worry about the environment they will be in.

White Tower Reception
Reception in our building

Participant recruitment and screening

As you may be aware, the specialist user recruitment agency, I Need Users is part of our group of companies. We have been providing recruitment for many years and are very proud of our superb attendance rate (for most projects it’s 100%). But with COVID-19 we’ve had to make a few changes for in-person research: 

  • Our updated screening process now includes additional questions relating to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, testing positive, contact with others and possible exposure to others who may test positive, and recent travel.
  • As there can be a period of time between being screened and the date of the research, all participants will be re-screened the day before your testing to ensure no new symptoms and changes have occurred.
  • When they arrive at the facility, they will be asked to confirm again.
  • We will also take extra time in the screening process to alleviate any concerns that participants may have about attending the research facility in-person. This will involve explaining the process, environment and setup so they feel safe to attend.

Face masks and social distancing

The official guidance on face masks and social distancing will apply within our facility. As these are changing on a weekly basis at the moment, these will continue to adapt in line with government guidelines. All participants and visitors must wear a mask when arriving and use the hand sanitiser when they enter the building. 

Hand sanitiser is available on arrival
Hand sanitiser on arrival

Research lab changes

We are not currently recommending researchers sit alongside participants because it would go against the current government guidelines and the PPE required may be uncomfortable for the user (and you). It will also effect the audio quality for your observers and your recording.

Instead, we have several alternatives available, where you and the participant can be in different rooms but still be close by in case you need to pop into Home Lab to sort out any technical issues (wearing PPE of course).

Home UX Lab

New individual self-contained booths

An extra option that we now offer is the use of our individual self-contained work booths. These extra special booths contain a chair, desk, internet connection and lighting. They are perfect for individual tests! You may prefer for your participant to be sat in the booth or you might prefer them to be in our homely lab whilst you use the booth. Alternatively, your participant could be in our homely lab whilst you use the large observation room next door. We have many options that are all entirely flexible and we can help to advise on which setup will be best suited to your research needs.

UX Research Booths

Process changes

In light of the new guidelines, our day-to-day processes have changed, including:

  • Participants to be kept separate whilst waiting for research.
  • Seating in the waiting area to be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
  • Schedule extra time between participants to enable cleaning.
  • Sanitisation of room and equipment between each participant.
  • Hands sanitised before handling anything. 
  • Masks to be worn when interacting with visitors.
  • Social distancing to be maintained.
  • Only bottles of water to be made available to participants.
  • Snacks individually wrapped.
  • Anything used in the research should be disposed of if it cannot be sufficiently disinfected (such as post-its).
  • No cash payments to be made to users. 

FREE Handbook

COVID-19 UX Research Handbook

We’ve put together a handbook with all of the information you’ll need in order to carry out UX research in a COVID-19 world.

You might also like:

Home UX Lab – our purpose built homely, cosy and relaxing in-house lab

I Need Users – specialist user recruitment agency

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.

 

Get your FREE Mobile UX Checklist for World Usability Day

Happy World Usability Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Usability is crucial to your success

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

What are the benefits of usability testing?

Conducting usability testing will:

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

So, how do you test usability?

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

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

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

When to usability test…

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

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

Mobile usability: Your biggest opportunity awaits!

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

Mobile is where consumer growth is

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

Get your FREE 50 point Mobile UX Checklist!

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

Get my FREE Mobile UX Checklist >

Need help?

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

Email us now for your complimentary initial consultation.

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 experts >

You might also like:

The Psychology of choice: Why less is more
Is Accessibility really that important?

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

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?

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?

The biggest mobile Christmas yet! Are you ready?

This year, mobile Christmas shopping is really going to soar like never before!
This is the year mobile will begin it’s journey overtaking desktop for Christmas shopping.
Are you ready?

Last year, there was an overall 17.8% increase in online sales, much of which was due to  increased usage of smartphones and tablets and higher trust in shopping via these devices. This year, mobile shopping is set to dramatically rise. Adobe have predicted mobile shopping will grow by a whopping 97% compared with last Christmas and they anticipate tablet growth of 60%.

However, people are still quite split in their opinion of online shopping:

“I’d actually rather go and touch it and see it, to be honest, rather than go online”
“Convenience… and it’s easier to compare prices. If it’s something expensive I’d go and look at it at the shop first and then buy it online at the best price.”

Mega Monday (or Cyber Monday)

The first Monday in December (Dec 2nd this year) comes shortly after payday (last friday in Nov, also known as Black Friday) and is consistently the busiest day for online retailers. Having browsed retailers online over the weekend and shortlisted their favourite items to buy, shoppers log on typically after dark on Monday. The busiest time being between 8pm and 9pm.

Interestingly, the term ‘Cyber Monday’ was originally created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online and it appears to have worked incredibly successfully!

Last year £320m of sales were made on Visa’s credit and debit cards, with that number set to significantly rise this year. It’s been dubbed Mega Monday by Visa, which says people across the UK will use its credit cards to spend £222,222 in 4,722 transactions every 60 seconds – an increase of 20% on last year.

According to Barclays bank, nearly two thirds of high street retailers surveyed expect website traffic to increase by 11 per cent on 2 December.

On Mega Monday last year, online retail spending increased 18.9% compared to the same day the year before. Online is spreading across smartphones and tablets, with an ever-greater share of online sales. The last Mega Monday saw Mobile representing 21.5% of online site traffic – up a staggering 79% on the year before.

December’s Twin Peaks

Did you know there are two peak days in December for mobile click throughs? The first is Mobile Sunday, this is the second Sunday of December. The second is Christmas Day, especially in the morning. These are two days you need to be prepared and planning for.

Stuart McMillan, head of e-commerce at Schuh, predicts the busiest mobile shopping day will happen slightly after this, on the 16th December.

ecommerce_peak_shopping_days

Source: Econsultancy

Stuart says “It’s likely to be mobile-tastic this Christmas. I predict that we’ll have 33% of traffic coming from mobile devices, 22% from tablets and 45% from desktops by mid-December.
Now’s not the time to make big changes to your sites, but there is still opportunity to do some MVT for copy optimisation. There are probably still things that could be done on mobile site speed which are quick wins.”

Mobile WILL overtake desktop

John Lewis predict that mobile traffic will overtake desktop this Christmas.
“Mobile is set to be the shining star of Christmas 2013. Shopping is becoming much more of a social experience with people browsing, purchasing and sharing ideas with others using their mobile phones and tablets. We expect this to increase dramatically during the festive period as customers shop on the go and we anticipate that Christmas Day will be the tipping point for mobile.”
Interestingly, John Lewis have traditionally seen customers sticking to smaller transactions via mobile, however, they say this has been rising.

What should you do right now?

Tips from Keep It Usable:

  • If you don’t have a mobile site, optimise what you have. Do a usability test – firstly your current site may not be as bad as you think! The test will highlight the most crucial areas to make mobile friendly. Make sure your hit areas are big enough and that forms are usable. You may also want to implement a save or share link so the transaction can be completed on desktop later.
  • Plan for cross-platform shopping. Even if customers don’t transact on mobile, they are using mobile throughout the discovery and browsing phases. Ensure consistency across devices so that users can easily find what they were looking at on other devices.
  • Focus on persuasion. Could your copy or design be more actively engaging and persuasive? Sometimes simple design changes can have a big impact and an outside set of eyes can really help. An expert review of your site from an outsider is quick and inexpensive.
  • Focus on search results. At Christmas and on mobile, people are both stressed and short of time so they want accurate results when searching. Make sure you provide filters so users can narrow down large search results, different viewing options to cater for different preferences, reviews should be clear and easy to find otherwise you risk losing customers to other sites (that they will visit to read the reviews), make sure you’re showing the most relevant information in search results and of course clear calls-to-action are essential.
  • Start preparing for next year. While it may be too late to turn your business around this Christmas, you can prepare for next year; 2014 is set to see continued growth in online, as well as a proliferation of mobile commerce.

Tips from Econsultacy:

Econsultancy recently published a great article with tips on what you should do right now to prepare for the Christmas period. We highly recommend you read the article.

Here are some of our favourite tips:

  • Extend your returns policy and make it obvious.
  • Incentivise repeat customers in the build-up to Christmas.
  • Obvious telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Ensure that the checkout is as easy to use as possible (Usability test and implement the quick wins).
  • Make your last delivery dates obvious and consider using a countdown to give people a sense of urgency.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thank you, have a lovely Christmas.

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.

Guest Interview: On The Beach Head of Design

Keep It Usable On The Beach interview
This months Keep It Usable guest interview is with our friend Fritz Von Runte.
Fritz is the Head of design for our client On The Beach and we had the great pleasure of working with the team on a recent project.
Fritz Von Runte“I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.”

Could you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at On The Beach?

I started my career in Art Direction almost 20 years ago, working for the advertising industry. I was always interested in “New Media” and eventually I decided to shift my career, to focus on web. Then, 7 years ago I made my masters in User Interface Design and specialised in UX.
At On The Beach I wear a couple of hats. I’m the head of a design team of four professionals. We try to maintain a certain design language throughout the company, with consistence and on brand. It’s a tough job because it’s a big company, with many colleagues, many requests, and many design problems, all in need of our solutions. Plus, it’s one of the most successful online travel agencies in the UK market. It’s a massive responsibility. I am also responsible for designing the experiences our users will have, not only in the web but also offline, via our flight and hotel vouchers, and customer documentation, for example.

What does your typical day involve?

I have a very busy schedule, but there’s a certain framework that I try my best to fit it. We’re Agile, so every morning we have the Design stand-up where we communicate what every member of the team is doing at the moment and discuss the flow of tickets. We also have Agile stand-ups for all other projects, most of these involving the Design Shop (as we call our team), so one of us must be there to update the other teams. I try to schedule all my meetings in the morning so I can use the afternoon for research and design.

How important is UX at On The Beach and why is it valued?

On The Beach has been around for almost 8 years and it grew very rapidly. A couple of years ago they began to understand the need to pay more attention to the experiences and the usability. I was brought on board as the first designer focusing on the UX, we had a good six months changing the culture to accept and understand a bit more about this need. But, to be honest, this change was painless and smooth, as the directors were (and are) open to new solutions that could improve the website and our client’s experience. We have a lot of room to develop, to research, and to propose new ideas. It’s a wonderful place to work and it’s a thrill to be doing UX design at this moment in time at a company like On The Beach.

You work to an agile development process. Why and how does UX fit into this process?

I guess that is the biggest challenge. Agile is awesome but historically it tends to treat design and the experience as something frivolous or secondary. One of my goals is to raise awareness of how better it is to deal with usage challenges from the start instead of doing it rapidly and then having to re-do it. On the otherhand, when we are testing and prototyping, we use Agile principles and it works really well to prove (or disprove) assumptions from a very early stage, without having to spend much time in development for example.

What tools do you work with?

Primarily with paper and pencil – it’s how everything starts!. Then I move to a PC. I find it easier to talk to the network and to other technologies with a PC. But, we have all sorts of platforms in our team; Windows, iOS, Ubuntu, Android…
When it comes to software I use many different ones. The whole Adobe suite of course – and I mean the whole suite! I’ve used Visio in the distant past, then I moved to Axure and Balsamiq, but because of the dynamics here at On The Beach I now mainly use Illustrator for my low-fi wireframes as I’ve accumulated an extensive library of symbols and actions… 🙂 Plus a lot of on-the-fly coding on the console and notepad, and also other online tools like UXPin, Litmus, JSFiddle, etc.

Mobile app vs responsive web design vs mobile web – what are your thoughts at On The Beach?

Responsive is a terminology that I don’t really subscribe to. There are two ways to see this issue. Firstly, like we all used to test our websites, years ago on different browsers and systems, and get charts of usage of monitor sizes and resolutions, we now should make sure this product performs well in all possible environments – the mobile, the tablet, the internet tv, the laptop, etc, in all browsers and all systems. Nothing has changed – the game is just a bit harder now.

Secondly, different products have different needs and different platforms have different needs. The very first version of Tetris I’ve ever played was called Nyet. Tetris is a classic game that existed in any possible platform, even portable ones like Gameboy. Have you tried to play Tetris on the mobile? It changed the whole dynamic and usability of the game. So having a webapp whose functionality is the same on different platforms, but with some adjustments to the grid depending on the screen size, is not something I take for granted.

I always challenge the concept of mobile apps, for different reasons. I don’t think it’s always the best way to serve your product to a client. I have a parallel career as a DJ and record producer, and the music market is flooded with Mobile Apps. I don’t see it as a great tool to serve content. I see it mainly as a badge on your mobile screen, saying to the world and yourself that you’re are a big fan of artist or band xyz. I think mobile apps – the ones you download, and that updates itself when you’re connected to the wifi – are more interesting when your product is a tool and that you think the user will use it enough times to justify its download and space on screen and internal memory.

With On The Beach there are two main factors that made us not to choose this route. Firstly we are so dynamic when it comes to software development, making at least two deploys per week, that an app from us would be constantly updating, and that wouldn’t be the best experience for the user – think Acrobat Reader, when was the last time it didn’t tell you it needs updating? 🙂 The second reason is accessibility. Although we have a significant number of customers choosing us as their online travel agent more than once a year, plus all the people that come back from their holidays and come to us to book their next ones – and that would justify an On The Beach app as a tool – we wanted to use our efforts and energy on something that would serve everybody. For example, users coming from Google or Bing, a link on Facebook, a suggestion of a friend or a specialist site like Trip Advisor (that sends us hundreds of users every day). Instead, we made an entirely new website, just for the mobile, that you don’t need to download or upkeep. It’s there for anyone with a connection and it works really well.

On The Beach Tablet and Mobile websites

Describe an example of the work involved from design through to implementation?

I think the design process is the same on every branch of design. From designing a chair to a party flyer, from a shopping cart experience to a car. We have an idea, then some high level analysis, then research, concept, testing and finally wireframing. Then back to the research.

How important is research to OTB?  How did the Keep It Usable research feed into the agile development process and how did the feedback help to shape the software?

Research is fundamental to my work and to the company. We are constantly analysing data and testing the best way to do everything. When it comes to our mobile website we did extensive research, and Keep It Usable was a major part of it. We had instant feedback on certain features that are paramount to the mobile experience. I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.

What are your favourite UX-related resources?

I have way too many bookmarks, rss and twitter feeds, but I think the benefits from other people or companies experiences come from knowing the whole case. This is why I love to go to meetings and talks, I’m very active at #NUX, and I try to go to all UX conventions I can. It’s a good way to get to know people in the industry, but mainly I do it to hear the cases straight from the horses mouth. A button being small or big, positioned left or right, its colours… it doesn’t mean anything without data, without knowing the purposes and goals that were briefed.

Would you like to work with us?

Keep It Usable help many different kinds of companies to understand their users. We conduct research with real people and design interfaces using an evidence-based approach; every element has reasoning.

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

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.”

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“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

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Persuasion within design: Use it or lose it

Here at Keep It Usable, we’ve been studying and applying persuasion and psychology within our designs for many years, but recently it’s gained much more awareness and businesses are beginning to wake up to the huge impact it can have on sales.

Traditionally, marketers, web managers, business owners were mainly reliant on marketing strategies and visual design to capture attention and convert customers. However, where this failed was in understanding the customer and end user. It’s the same if your company focusses too much on A/B and multivariate testing – you’re making changes blindly and just hoping for the best if you haven’t conducted enough user research to start with.

Changing a button colour or text may give you a conversion increase but if you haven’t had any dialogue with your users you have no idea if you’re giving them what they expect, need and want. It’s these things that have the biggest impact. Not only will it inform your design now, but everyone in the company will have a greater understanding of the user and what they want, which can lead to better future ideas.

What is persuasive design?

Persuasive design is based on understanding the end user and using psychological design techniques to increase those persuasive factors that encourage and nudge a user to take action. There are many persuasive factors, including and not limited to, trust, credibility, authenticity, reciprocity, scarcity, motivators to act (free, sex and food being the most common). The skill is in identifying and knowing which will appeal to your audience and which to present at the right time to motivate the desired action. It’s not a case of simply adding everything to your home page and sitting back whilst the clicks roll in, unfortunately it takes skill, timing, an experienced designer, user research, and an understanding of the users psychological buying process to create the perfect momentum to drive the desired behaviour.

Amazon: Masters of persuasive design

We see persuasive design elements used a lot within Amazon’s website. Here are a few examples that are easy to spot.

Imagery

Amazon ImagesEver wondered why people prefer images to reading text? It’s a scientific fact. Our brains respond more quickly to images, they take less time to process which causes us to like them more. So, wherever possible you should display images of your product or service. People like to see visuals of what they’re buying, it helps them to understand and feel confident of their purchase. If it’s done right, imagery can also greatly increase trust in your company and give you credibility, however, be careful because when done badly it can lose you a lot of business. We don’t recommend using stock photos – users know they are fake and that feeling transfers to your business.

People like to imagine how things will look and feel in real life. This is why showcasing multiple imagery of the same product and videos are now commonplace. Fashion and clothing websites benefit dramatically from showcasing videos – people want to see how the garment will look on their body and the movement of the fabric tells them a lot about how it might feel to wear.

The power of FREE

Free is one of the biggest persuaders, which is why it is used in every type of industry. Have you seen the big campaign by Graze at the moment? They’re offering one free box to every new customer as well as offering existing customers a free box for every friend that joins (clever hey?). It did take Amazon a while to offer free delivery on all items (remember when you had to spend £5?) and the fact that they’ve kept the delivery free says a lot – it’s working! Paying for delivery adds extra cost to the user, as well as concerns about the cost of sending the item back should it not be suitable. We call these concerns ‘barriers’ and each barrier to purchase adds up to one huge barrier that results in you losing a potential customer. This is why user research and usability testing is so important – it enables us to identify all psychological barriers to purchase so we can not only remove them, but add in elements that address these concerns at the crucial point.

Power of free

You won’t identify psychological barriers like having to pay for delivery (and understand why this is such a problem) by A/B testing alone. You can only gain rich information by talking to your users, getting inside their mind, understanding their daily lives, how your product or website fits in, how it can help them, what’s stopping them using it, what concerns and worries do they have, etc, etc. It’s REALLY important!

Social proof: Reviews

What do you think Amazon is? A product retailer? Surprisingly, they’re primarily a review site. Most people who visit Amazon go there to check out the reviews, even if they intend to purchase the product elsewhere. In user studies, when given tasks, users will often visit Amazon before continuing with their task on the intended site. Reviews are the key reason for this and Amazon know it! That’s why you have to scroll right down the page past all the things they want to cross-sell to you before you can get to what they know you’re there for: the reviews. Their hope is to distract you with similar purchases, free delivery, what other people have bought and all the other lovely things they hope will catch your eye.

Reviews
Customer reviews are very powerful. They give what you’re trying to sell credibility and increase trust. The more the buyer is like them, the more their concerns mirror their own, the more trust and reassurance the user will feel. Most people don’t want to be the first to try something, they want to know someone’s taken the risk before them. People fear making the wrong choice so your aim is to remove or at least lessen that fear, thereby removing another barrier to purchase. A good review placed at the optimal stage in the user journey can be the psychological edge the user needs to feel the pull towards purchasing.

Encouraging cross-sells and exploration

What if users decide not to buy what’s on the page? Amazon try to direct the user to other products they may want to purchase. There are two ways in which they do this but their aim is the same: keep the user within Amazon and increase the likelihood they will see something they want to purchase. Amazon showcase ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ and ‘What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?’ They’re pretty much the same and as people don’t really read text what matters is that they see something that captures their interest and keeps them engaged until they eventually purchase.

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This isn’t just a clever use of social proof, it works because it’s likely that if you like the product you’re looking at, you’ll also like what most other people looked at or bought. The fact is that although we like to think we’re all individual, we’re more predictable and alike than we want to believe.

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Further information and advice

Lisa Duddington

We hope you enjoyed this article that only touches briefly on how you can use persuasion within design.

If you’d like any help or if you’d simply like to know more about how persuasive design and user research could help your business, get in touch with us right now and ask for Lisa.

 

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A day of eye tracking at the Expo

Eye tracking is amazing, insightful, state of the art technology that enables you to literally see through people’s eyes. It’s most often used to increase sales on e-commerce websites, software or products but can also be used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns before they launch.

If you’ve never used eye tracking to gain insights into consumer behaviour then you really are missing a whole section of vital information to improve your user experience and conversion.

We recently exhibited at Salford Business Expo where we held live, interactive eye tracking demos using our website eye tracking unit. The unit looks like a standard computer monitor however inside are hidden cameras that track the users’ eye movements, mapping them onto what’s being tested so we can see in real time precisely where they’re looking.

One of our live eye tracking demos

Website eye tracking demo

 

We have several types of eye tracking units from a portable pair of glasses to large Monitors, that we use to test a whole range of things:

Digital – Websites, software, touch interfaces, mobile apps, tablet apps

Products and hardware ergonomics – Mobile phones, machinery, remote controls

Marketing – Adverts in magazines, digital adverts online, billboards

Packaging / out of the box experience – Does your packaging attract the customer? Measure and compare your out-of-the box experience.

Shopping customer experience – How do customers shop in your store? What draws their attention? Does your product / brand stand out against competitor products?

On a very basic level we’re observing and analysing human behaviour with digital and product platforms, our aim being to improve the interaction by making it feel intuitive, easy and enjoyable. If you can achieve this people are 87% more likely to buy from you, they’ll buy more, come back more frequently and will be 3 times more likely to recommend you.

We were impressed by their focus on what actually works, rather than just what looks nice on a mock up

Visitors to our stand at the expo were clearly fascinated and amazed when we replayed their eye tracking videos back to them, discussing with them why certain elements of the website being tested caught their attention and why other things that should have in theory caught their attention didn’t. User behaviour is unpredictable and differs between types of people, so for design to work to sell your product or service and not just look pretty, it needs to be user centred.

Just like a shop front, if people aren’t drawn in through the door by seeing something that appeals to them or if they can’t work out how to get through the door, they’ll walk on by and stop at your competitor instead.

We run and analyse all our eye tracking research so we do all the hard work for you, delivering the insights you need to sell more of your products or services.

We had a brilliant day at the expo, educating the people of Salford and Manchester to the benefits of user experience and eye tracking and we hope at the very least that they start to think more about the people using their website or product. As opposed to designing something that just looks nice, our designs actually work to bring you more sales (as well as looking nice too of course!).

An example of our mobile and tablet eye tracking unit setup

Mobile and tablet eye tracking setup

5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants

shh photoWithin the User Experience and Usability community there is a hugely popular, well-respected website called UX Booth. Lisa recently wrote an article for them where she shares some of her most effective insider research tips for how to increase the validity of research by encouraging more honest responses from participants whilst also helping them feel at ease during research.

One of the ways Lisa achieves this is by using a few little white lies during the research interview. She says “Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever taught these lies. Some of them just make logical sense, such as, telling the user you aren’t involved in the project in any way. After all, we all know that if someone knows you’ve created something, the last thing they want to do is tell you all of it’s faults and failings! It’s human nature. Other white lies I’ve created myself over the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, learning techniques that work well (as well as those that don’t), with the aim to increase trust and encourage more open, honest feedback from research participants.”

Read the full article 5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants