Fired Groupon CEO advises ‘start with the customer’


groupon

Did you read the letter from Groupon’s CEO about his leaving (or rather being fired from) the company? There was one paragraph that particularly stood out to me:

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

Start with the customer, base your decisions on evidence not intuition. Don’t just redesign your website, redesign it starting with the customer, do research into their lifestyle, their wants and needs from your product or service and how you can best meet those needs. Design the site and test then retest and retest again to get it spot on. Get it right the first time and in the long run you’ll save yourself the huge cost of rework and guesswork that results in lost customers and sales. Do it right, spend a bit more at the outset and reap the rewards.

Ask me about customer research and the design process >>>

 


Information Architecture (IA)

Have you ever been to a website specifically to look for something and no matter how hard you look you just can’t find it? Most people will give up within a few seconds, hit the back button and go to a competitor. This is why your Information architecture is incredibly important – get it right and you will keep more people within your site, lowering your bounce rate and improving your conversion.

What is information architecture?

In simple terms, it’s about structuring your content to feel intuitive and logical to the end user.

An example of how not to do it

Tesco Direct have placed Halloween items within the heading ‘Christmas’ on the navigation bar. Users will struggle to find this as it makes no logical sense – halloween and christmas are completely separate occasions.

tesco ux usability

If a visitor to your website has the intention of browsing halloween things, they will already have expectations of where halloween things will be. Your aim is to try to understand their expectations of where they’ll find halloween related products. Only when you understand this, can you position it in the optimal place.

Card Sorting to create intuitive IA

One of the methods I employ to help create intuitive Information Architecture is Card Sorting. It’s an activity carried out with users (i.e. your target audience) using labelled cards to group and organise pages of content. Users categorise the pages in the way that makes sense to them and they can use existing grouping or create their own. What this enables us to do is to see the structure of your site or software from the user’s point of view – we can see and understand their mental model.

Card sorting exercise in action:

card sorting with userIf you’d like to understand more about how reviewing your IA can help your business or if you’re curious about card sorting please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

user experience (ux) design and usability testing agency


Organic Search Results and their Impact on Paid Search Ads

organic vs paid search

 

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Free ‘Getting Real’ book by 37signals

Getting Real 37 Signals37signals are most well known as the creators of Basecamp. I love their approach to business and highly recommend you buy their book Rework. It’s packed full of really useful business advice that’s incredibly down to earth and makes much more practical sense than any other business book I’ve read.

They’re now giving away free copies of their book, Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application.

On Amazon this book currently retails at £15.89 for the paperback and £6.99 for the Kindle version, so I recommend you download your copy whilst it’s free!


BBC Home page research and redesign

I conducted a quick piece of research on the BBC Home page as part of an event called BBC Connected. Did you know it’s the third most visited home page? Yet only a very small percent of visitors actually use it? As our research discovered, most people bypass the page completely, preferring to use the navigation bar or a direct url (usually saved as a bookmark). Here, we share our findings and a few of our design proposals to improve the user experience of the BBC Home page, in particular under-served audience(s).

How do you use the BBC website? Do you ever look at or click on items on the home page? Have you used it more or less since the last redesign? I’d love to hear about your experience. Share your story using the comment box below.

Research by Keepitusable.com


Using kittens to explain the power of Scarcity

(True story)

There are 4 kittens in a pet shop…

3 tabby kittens

and 1 black and white kitten

black and white kitten


Fact: Tabby kittens are adopted much more quickly than black and white kittens.

So, which kitten do you think will sell first?

Answer: The black and white one

Why?

The principle of Scarcity

What is the principle of Scarcity?

When something is scarce or rare, people see it as more highly valued and more desirable. This is why shops often have sales and why antiques have such a high value. Scarcity is closely related to the fear of loss – people fear losing what they have and also what they don’t yet have. They will act in sometimes non-sensical ways to avoid this loss (shopaholics and hoarders are good examples).

How do I know the black and white kitten really will be sold first?

Because these kittens have been advertised on the residents board where I live and everyone wants the black and white one.

How to sell more by using scarcity in your website design

  • Limited numbers of a product left? Make this information clear in the interface.
  • Show an end date or time for an offer.
  • Offer something free with the product but limit it’s availability.
Scarcity is a very well know persuader and influencer of behaviour. Once you’re aware of it, you’ll start to see how it is used everywhere so it’s well worth thinking of how you can utilise its power in your designs. 

Amazon use 2 scarcity elements on their product page
amazon scarcity example

Asos use ‘fear of loss’ to persuade within their basket page
asos

An incredibly TAX ing User Experience

“Tax doesn’t have to be taxing”

completing tax return hmrcI can confirm this is the biggest whopper i’ve ever heard. Maybe it’s true if you never touch self assessment yourself and leave everything in the hands of bookkeepers and accountants. But, for the average Joe Bloggs, completing a self assessment for the first time (like I’ve just done) is a very unpleasant, frustrating and stressful user experience.

Completing a self assessment for the first time will:

  • Take much longer than you expect (take a guess then multiply it by at least 5)
  • Confuse the life out of you. The guidelines are so generalised that finding specific answers for your particular situation is nearly impossible.
  • Make you hate the HMRC helpline. They take a lifetime to answer the phone, and you can guarantee that as soon as you hang up the phone you think of one more vital question you should have asked so you have to start the whole process once again.
  • Make you hate all websites associated with tax, in particular the HMRC one. There’s a wealth of information out there but trying to find answers to seemingly simple questions like how to calculate how much NI you owe is very difficult as once again it depends on your particular situation.
  • Make you incredibly fearful of ‘Submit’ buttons.
  • Suddenly make you religious. In your head you’ll find yourself subconsciously saying a little prayer to the Gods of software and internet that your return is submitted successfully.
  • Make you hate Error messages even more than usual.
  • Start treating your computer like a precious object. No one is allowed within a two metre radius of it until the self assessment has been submitted. Each entry and mouse press is taken with extra care to prevent any mistakes being made.

frustrated kit

My expectations of the online user experience for completing your self assessment were that it would be easy. After all I’d seen the adverts on TV and the posters all over in the past claiming ‘Tax doesn’t have to be taxing’. My expectations couldn’t have been more wrong! Firstly I logged into the website using my login details and as I’d already told them I was a partnership I was expecting some kind of wizard to take me through the whole process online. But I couldn’t see any call-to-actions to say ‘Begin here!’ so I found myself aimlessly clicking on every hyperlink I could find. I just couldn’t find the starting point. I felt like Sarah in the movie Labyrinth who can’t work out how to get into the labyrinth.

So I went to my old pal Google. After some time I found an article that mentioned needing software to submit a partnership tax return. This was all a bit odd, I thought you could just use the HMRC site. Anyway it turns out you need to purchase software to submit a partnership return which is why there wasn’t a clear starting point on the website. I wish they’d explained this in big text as soon as I logged in. The site is very much aimed at people who have completed a previous self assessment and know what they’re doing.

I then had the task of trawling through lots of software websites and downloading demos to find something easy to use. This took time… Most were really, really bad. I’m so surprised that something everyone has to do can be made so complex. I’m educated up to MSc level, good with computers and I often have to understand complex problems so I can’t imagine how bad it must be for more novice users.

I finally decided on FTAX as it was basically a pdf version of the actual form. It looked more familiar and it had some intelligence – when you completed fields it automatically calculated other fields. It was still an unpleasant experience. The form started having what looked like a fit at one stage and would not stay on the page I wanted at all. Bear in mind I was feeling quite stressed at this point. The form was obviously evil and deliberately trying to wind me up even more. It wouldn’t behave itself until the following day and I then managed to complete all the fields.

Finally, I plucked up the courage to press the Submit button. It didn’t work. No response whatsoever. More stress. My partner tried it on his machine and hooray it worked! But oh no it failed! Errors written in the worst possible technical language imaginable beamed at me from the screen, giving me their equivalent of the middle finger. After a few attempts at tweaking random things I’m relieved to say that the form did eventually submit itself. Hooray! I can’t wait to go through it all again next year, not. I’ll definitely be employing an accountant next time because as i’ve found out tax IS incredibly taxing and should be left to the professionals until HMRC employ user experience designers to completely redesign the whole software!


The secret’s out!

The secret project that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years is finally out! As I can now talk openly about it, here I share my story about creating and launching the new product and fashion focussed social network sqoshi.com

sqoshi homepage

Redundancy

When the company I worked for closed down back in April 2009 and made everyone redundant, I and two other colleagues decided it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a project of our own. I’ve hinted at this project in the past and now i’m finally going to let the cat out of the bag! Hold on tight!

Concept

Our first concept idea involved creating a place on the internet where you could do everything socially. It would have enabled you to have one presence online but to show different parts to different groups. It was a massive undertaking and to be honest it was difficult even for us to explain. So, not surprisingly, when we ran the idea past users they struggled to grasp the concept and even when they understood it, they weren’t enthralled by it.

Canning the concept and creating a new one

So we did the right thing. We canned it immediately at the concept stage and went back to the drawing board. At the meeting there were numerous ideas but the one that everyone thought had the most potential was the one I brought to the table. Now this may well have been because I researched this like crazy so they couldn’t really not agree it had potential ;) The idea was a site focussed around ‘what’s in your bag?’ There wasn’t anywhere online where you could do this but people were doing it everywhere! Bloggers, Flickr, newspapers, magazines… They always attracted lots of comments and interest. I could also understand the psychology behind why this would really interest people and how it could in the future link into brands.

sqoshi is born

We worked on this initial concept idea together as a team and broadened it to be a site all about the products that real people own and use. what’s in your bag would have been too limiting (people don’t change what’s in their bag very often) so instead, it’s just one of the things you now do on the site. that site being www.sqoshi.com

Thorough research

We conducted lots of market research, user research and usability testing right from the concept stage. Starting off with discussing ideas with users, then testing using paper prototypes, moving onto interactive simulations then eventually testing the built software. We even went so far as to test the brand name and logo design.  We commissioned a graphic designer to design 5 logos and we had already created one so at the last minute decided to include it in the user research. This turned out to be quite awkward as every single user preferred the one we had created! Here it is:

sqoshi logo

We believe the amount of research we carried out with real people is why sqoshi is now receiving such a positive response. You can read more about the design process we followed. And you can read more about what sqoshi is here.

Video of user testing sqoshi

We’ve received lots of brilliant feedback from our target audience (young people aged 16-29). This is the latest one I received about 5 minutes ago:

I think its a really cool idea that hasn’t been done before. I care a lot about my style and what it says to others about me and I know a lot of people who are the same. People bond over shared interests and I think Sqoshi is great way to do that.

I love how our target audience describe sqoshi. Words like ‘sick’ ‘dope’ and ‘rad’ are just some of the words they use. Makes you feel old doesn’t it? :p

The future

There is so much we want to do it’s often overwhelming to think of everything. Sqoshi as it stands is the most limited version we could create to launch it within the shortest timeframe. There are still bugs to fix, features to add, things to tweak and of course a mobile app to build. These will all help to grow our user base and encourage participation and engagement, which are our primary goals.

Questions

There is so much I could talk about but the length of this post would be unbelievable…you could fill a whole book! So instead, feel free to comment on this post or use the contact page to contact me directly.

As well as Sqoshi, we work with clients directly through keepitusable so if you like what we do, get in touch with us at hello@keepitusable.com


FREE amazing UX poster: the user experience machine

Keepitusable have produced a fab, fun and importantly, free ux poster as a very early little christmas present to you all. don’t worry, you don’t need to enter any personal details at all to download it, just click the image below then hit the big pink button to download your copy. alternatively, if you’d like a hard copy poster version to display by your desk, head over to their deviantART page.

free user experience ux poster


What is the optimal line length?

There isn’t one.

It depends on whether you want your users to read the page faster or you want them to like the page.

Research by Dyson (reference below) showed that users read web pages faster at an optimum length of 100 characters and longer. However, when asked, they prefer shorter line lengths and believe they read these faster (even though they don’t).

Dyson, M.C. (2004). “How Physical Text Layout Affects Reading from Screen.” Behavior & Information Technology, 23(6), pp. 377-393


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