Tag Archives: customer centred

How to make your emails easier to read, understand, and action

30 Oct

How to make your emails easier to read, understand and action

 
I remember in GCSE Business Studies being taught about how to write a memo. Though I never got the chance to right a real memo as by the time I had finished college and university the business world was using email.  I wonder if pupils are taught how to write emails in school today. I hope so. If I were teaching them how to write a good email I’d ask them to think more about the recipient of the message, or the user if you will. Here are my five tips to make it easier for the recipient of your email to read, understand and action your message.

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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael

The difference between marketing profiles and user profiles

16 Sep

Personas Image

At University we always designed for the ‘target audience’, broadly meaning; the people who would use the product/website etc. Sounds simple and straightforward enough, and yet I always struggled with it, but never understood why.

 

So, what does a ‘target audience’ include?

The first thing we were told was to simply think about; who do you think will use the product? What job do they have? Where do they live? What activities will they do? How much money will they earn? Down to what clothes would they wear?

At university the ‘target audience’ was always something I personally struggled with. Trying to cater to an invisible audience that I had to define before the product idea had been fully developed stumped me every time. I just couldn’t get a grip on generalising (as I saw it) to that scale, trying to come up with minute details for these peoples’ lives so that I could design specifically for all of them. Now that left me feeling a bit stupid, but I was never told exactly what I was looking for in a target audience, how to work that out and how it should influence my concept and design. Needless to say I was never taught user profiling.

It wasn’t until I started my role here at ES that it finally clicked, and I understood why I had had so much trouble with the ‘target audience’ aspect at university. What I learned from the guys here is that there are two types of profiling that happen within the sphere of a target audience; a marketing profile, and a user profile. They appear to be the same thing, and it took some patience on their part in order to communicate to me what the specific differences were between the profiles we make, compared to the profiles that are generally thought to represent that of the customer.

 

Marketing Profiles – a look at where they work, what car they drive…

Marketing profiles, generally speaking, are what companies use to determine how they can sell products and services to their prospective customers; what paper do they read, where do they live, what car do they drive, what their household income is, etc. They need to know this sort of personal information so they can target, design for, respond to, and basically pander to the customer’s interests and habits.

This information helps them to speak in the right language, at the right level. It helps them to advertise in specific publications. It knows what TV programs they are most likely to watch, and therefore where to place their ads. This of course is all relevant when trying to publicise the company. For example, your marketing profile might look like this:

“Mary, a 35 year old mother of two, household income of £60k, drives a VW Golf, reads the    Daily Mail, uses the internet mainly for emails and shopping, lives in the South East”

But how does this help to prioritise the content and functionality on a website?

 

User Profiles – focusing on the individuals goal

On the other hand, a user profile focuses on the goals of people who will use the service. When creating a user profile there are a different set of questions which must be thought about, for example; what is the user’s goal? Why do they need to achieve this? How quickly do they need to achieve this? And what steps do they need to go through to reach their goal?

If we take an online balloon retailer who needs their site redesigned, a user profile for that site would look something like this:

“Mary, her daughter’s birthday party is in two weeks, she needs 20 balloons that will ideally have    her daughter’s name (Louise) on and be pink in colour”

Of course these questions will be affected by such things as who the individual is and what kind of job they may do, however it is not dependant on all, or sometimes any of those factors at one time. It doesn’t matter if I am a mum, sister, or friend planning a birthday party for someone, I will still need to buy 20 balloons. That is my end goal which I want to be as simple, easy, and stress free as possible.

 

So what did I learn?

Although I still feel mildly ignorant for not having figured this out by myself, I now see where I went wrong at Uni. A user profile, and decent understanding of the goals your end-user will want to achieve, should be the main force driving the design of a products core structure. A marketing profile can then be used to help decide on the visuals and aesthetic appeal to appeal to the use once the site is built in a user-friendly way.

What do your profiles look like, and how do you use them?

 

 

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Samantha Harvey

About Samantha Harvey

Sam recently graduated from Visual Communication. She joined our team in April 2011 and has been conducting user research and has been making sure our user interfaces follow good design principles. She's keen to point out our poor selection of fonts... er I mean typography (sorry Sam). Follow Samantha on twitter @samharvey_ux

Getting the balance right between website business goals and user goals

15 Dec

Pushy sales guy

Our primary function as a business is to bring our clients closer to the users of their website. It’s difficult to remain objective and see things from your users perspective when it’s your website. When you have conceived ideas, directed the look and feel and even written the copy. You know your website and your organisation inside out and you know what you want to achieve with your site.

 

Users don’t care about your business

When we put users in front of your site, they don’t care about what you want them to do, they don’t care about your business, they just need to get things done. It can be really difficult for us to break this news to our clients sometimes, but more often than not users don’t care about you, they are too focused on all the things they need to get done. Finding out more about how great your company is hasn’t made it to their to do list.

 

You need to make a decision about your website

If you run a website, you need to make a decision. You can either continue to push the objectives of your company and go on the hard sell, or you can accept that you are not that important in the users eyes, and focus on helping them instead. We encourage our clients to think of their site in terms of a sales person just inside the door of a showroom. As the customer walks through the door, what type of sales person do you want to be? The pushy sales guy, or the genuine sales assistant?

 

The pushy sales guy website

The pushy sales guy website acts something like this when a customer walks in the door/enters the website:

Top heavy business goals

Unfortunately, this type of website is quite common. The homepage is all about the organisation and all the navigation and calls to action are designed to push the business goals without any real thought for what users goals might be.

 

The helpful sales guy website

The helpful, genuine sales guy on the other hand might go something like this:

 

Balanced business goals

 

Focus on user goals and you’ll satisfy your business goals

Ok, so this is all a little oversimplified perhaps, but in principle we find the websites that really frustrate users are those which are too inwardly focused and over prioritise their business goals over their users’ goals. In contrast, the websites we find users naturally want to use again and again are those which balance the needs of their business with the needs of their users. By ensuring their users can find what they are looking for quickly and easily, they generate more repeat business and more sales as a result. A genuine focus on user priorities generates a big difference to their business goals.

 

Does your website act like a pushy sales guy?

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Which is best for you? A focus group or consumer panel?

18 Jun

Focus Groups vs. Customer Panels

When talking to our clients about focus groups and customer panels they invariably reply, ‘there’s a difference?’. Indeed there is, and it can have a lot of impact on the type of research you can do and the feedback you will receive.

If you conduct a focus group, you get a one shot deal. They will tell you what they think of your site or product, and then go away. All the data you get from them is received in isolation of any other factor. This might be good when asking about something definitive like a brand name or logo and asking ‘what do you think?’

A panel, on the other hand, offers a way of evolving your ideas and receiving feedback from the same people through the changes. A panel can be reconvened at regular intervals to monitor progress of, say, a new shopping site page, to see how their opinions have changed and if those changes are for the better or worse.

Naturally, the latter is more expensive, as the subjects need paying or rewarding for their time, opinion and loyalty over the course of a project. But, the information that your regular panel members provide can help bring a project from its origins to conclusion in a meaningful and structured manner.

So, you can see that the two distinct groups can serve very different purposes. For example, anything that is being researched as a concept, such as an advert or cosmetic site refresh, can go to the focus group for a snapshot of opinion and some yes/no answers to design questions.

On the other hand, when you need some ongoing feedback, turn to the consumer panel and you will see how their opinions evolve with your product. The downside of the panel is that you need some guarantee of open mindedness and a willingness to share opinion.

Another difference is that while both are traditionally run as face-to-face events, it is now easier to run a quick focus group over the Internet, allowing for the rapid collection of data. A long-running consumer panel is still best run as a face-to-face exercise to allow for a more detailed approach and the ability to observe the reaction of subjects.

Someone who starts out with negative thoughts may well harbour them through a project, no matter how it progresses and you might find that your panel runs out of love for the project long before you do. This is where companies that run these panels and groups try to find the right people, a task that would be tough for most businesses.

So, there can be a fine line between when to call in the consumer panel or when to get a focus group to do some opinion forming for you. Or, if your project or product is easily adjustable, why not try evolving it in front of the focus group and see their reactions and impressions change live on the day to try to shorten the timeline and development process. It’s amazing what some hard focus and nimble evolution can do.

What type of group do you think would benefit your company or product better?

Related services: Focus Groups & Customer Requirements Capture

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Weekly usability checklist

18 Sep

usability-checklist-image

For many in the retail industry a regular shop walkthrough is an essential part of the manager’s role to ensure the environment is clean, the products are in the right places, and the shelves are stocked. Do you do the same checks on your website?

Your website is just like a retailer’s shop floor, it’s your front of house. How much time do you spend reviewing your website in a week? How often do your staff, or other team members, spend on the website every week? Ask them. You may be shocked to find that no-one is regularly checking the site. What are you waiting for? Customers to complain? Sales to drop? Traffic to plummet?

Stop waiting and start implementing a set of regular and very simple tasks to ensure that your site is checked on a weekly basis. Websites grow organically and although there’s no substitute for regular usability testing, there are methods you and your team can do adopt to keep a check on your site to ensure usability issues don’t develop as the site grows. After we work with a client to improve the usability of their website we provide them with a checklist to use which helps them maintain usability, you can download it here for free.

pdf-icon1Download our Weekly Usability Checklist for you and your team to maintain good usability on your site. Feel free to pass it on to colleagues

Some of these may seem overly simplistic, but many companies are not carrying out these fundamental checks on a regular basis. If you and your staff were to spend 10 minutes a day or an hour a week just running through some of these simple checks you can be confident that you are keeping your front of house in check and giving your site visitors no encouragement to go back to Google to visit your competitors

Are you keeping your site in check?

Related services: Usability testing, and User experience audit

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

The effect of bias in DIY usability testing

26 Mar

DIY usability testing

We’re seeing a lot of people talking about conducting their own usability tests in house. The topic of DIY testing has been around for some time now with advocates such as Steve Krug and Jakob Nielson. The general principle being that any testing is better than no testing which is an idea we fully believe in.

As a company who offer usability testing it will probably come as no surprise that we would put forward an argument against companies doing their testing in house. But, before I do that I’d like to add that I think its excellent that people are taking user centredness so seriously these days and if teams feel that they want to take testing in house then that can only be a good thing for the future of the industry. If internal development teams feel so strongly about getting usability and user experience right, then of course we would fully support them in doing so.

My concern with what appears to be a rise in DIY usability testing is one of bias. One of the main benefits our clients get from using us is that we’re independent (combined with the fact we’ve been usability testing for nearly 10 years now).

Our word of warning to all those people looking to test their own projects is don’t underestimate the power of bias when testing your own stuff. When we come into a project and observe users interacting with a product or service we don’t have any of the baggage of internal politics, why it has been designed the way it has, who made the decision to put that button there, why its not possible to do this. We simply see things from a fresh, independent perspective which allows us to really see what’s going on.

When a project team comes to observe us testing their product or service with users, at the end of the day when we talk about the findings what they saw is often quite different to what we saw. They saw the detail rather than the bigger picture, they picked up on evidence to strengthen their own pre-existing beliefs, they played out discussions and arguments they’d had when designing it. We didn’t. We had the luxury of seeing what was really happening.

Not being able to see the wood from the trees is something we can all identify with at times. When we are in the day to day detail its really hard to step back and see things from a new perspective. Testing the project you’ve been working on carriers the danger that you may just see what you want to see. You may see things that you instantly dismiss because of the history of how it has been developed, but the real key to improving the experience may be hidden here and you simply can’t see it. Sometimes it takes someone else to spot the patterns going on right in front of your eyes.

Overall the increase in DIY testing has to be a good one because ultimately the winners will be the users. An increase in awareness and appreciation for improving user experience is something we would fully support, so for people with no budget to bring in independent consultants we’d fully recommend giving DIY testing a go. But, DIY testers must be aware of the dangers of only seeing evidence to support what they already believe to be true. Sometimes an independent expert review can be more valuable than an DIY usability test, but that’s a post for another day.

Is your perception of usability in your product or service accurate?

Related services: Usability testing, and User experience audit

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

The 10 most common reasons for poor usability – part 1

15 Sep

You only really notice the usability of a product when it’s not there. It’s very easy to come up with examples of poor usability, but for the most part, people don’t usually know the reasons for why one product is easy to use, and one is difficult and frustrating to use. Well, it doesn’t happen by accident! Most of the great products out there that we enjoy using have been through intensive user experience design and usability testing.

Here’s our ten most common reasons for why a product has poor usability:

1) Too much focus on features and technology

Many projects start off with project leaders and stakeholders having a strong desire to use latest technology or to develop a product with endless features. Feature development and testing are given a high priority and will often have a dedicated technical team responsible for them. The projects which go wrong are the ones that fail to balance these features against what users really need. Instead user requirements are an afterthought thrown in towards the end of development when much of the interface has already been developed.

2) Designers and developers ‘scratch their own itch’

In absence of any contact with real end users, designers and developers have no option than to use their own experiences as a guide.  They end up designing the system according to their own capabilities, understanding and beliefs. Often they will be so deep into the project that they rarely question their decisions. If it works for the way they would use it, then that is good enough.

3) No-one has considered what people really need to use the interface for

It’s easy to get caught up in the detail of a project and immerse yourself in the complexities of how to make a product work well. Sometimes, a project team can be so focused on the inner workings of the system that they fail to step back and question their design decisions from a user perspective. Understanding what users really need, and what situations they are likely to be in when they use the product can completely change the direction of the design.

4) The person with the final say has little or no interface design experience

Often, we will come across a competent and well meaning project leader responsible for the end product who has to make the call on how the product looks and operates. More often than not, this person has little or no experience of user interface design and unwittingly makes decisions without fully considering the impact on the users.

5) Too much focus on quantitative measurement

When a website is doing well, you’ll hear the project team talking about numbers. The number of unique visits, the number of conversions, the number of page views and so on. Unfortunately, the usability of a product or website is not so easily measured. Whilst project teams may know they have a problem with basket abandonment, or low page views on key pages of the site, they rarely understand why users behave the way they do which is key to understanding how to improve usability to fix the issue.

Part 2 of the 10 most common reasons for poor usability.

Do your products or services suffer from any of the most common reasons for poor usability?

Related Services: Customer requirements capture, Usability testing, and Customer experience research

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Small changes can make a big difference to customer experience

5 Sep

Credit Card Machine

I paid for a train ticket over the counter yesterday. As I completed the transaction I nearly walked off leaving my Debit card in the PIN machine. As I turned back to the machine to retrieve the card the chap behind the counter said something along the lines of, “That was lucky. We’ve already had three people leave their cards here this morning.”

Three people, this morning, have walked away leaving their card in the machine. Can you imagine arriving for a day in London and realising you’ve left your Debit card somewhere? Pretty stressful huh?

If your customers are suffering – take action

So having already experienced people leaving their cards, would it not be courteous to remind customers to remove their cards after the transaction?

Since Chip & PIN, all organisations have had to invest heavily in installing new equipment to cater to the new technology. However, I can’t help but ask myself if some of this technology either hasn’t been thought through properly, or is not being used properly.

Technology shouldn’t create customer experience issues

If the staff working behind a counter are unable to see the Chip & PIN machine it would be useful for their screen to inform them that the card has not been removed. They can then prompt the customer. Like most ‘simple’ fixes, it becomes less simple to fix once the technology is complete.

If the full customer journey and scenarios are planned and mapped out prior to build, these minor details will be catered for. And if customers are introduced to the project early, to test a prototype, the barriers will be highlight and dealt with before these ‘simple’ issues become costly fixes.

Do you involve customers in your project process early enough?

Related services: Customer Journey Mapping and Usability Evaluation & Testing

 

 

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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael