Tag Archives: customer experience

Explaining what user experience is & why it is important

18 Dec

What I do - explaining user experience

I still don’t know what to say when people ask me what I do. After 13 years of being in the user experience profession I should have a standard response by now. But I either over complicate it by explaining in detail what I do, or I over simplify with “I’m a design consultant”, “I do market research” or” I’m in web design”. Recently I’ve tried explaining that I help companies design products that look great, work well and fit users needs but I still get that vacant expression in response.

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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

5 Essential UX Questions to Ask at a Project Kick-off Meeting

6 Nov

5 Essential UX Questions to Ask at a Project Kick-off

Focusing on users at the very beginning of a project sets a solid user-centred foundation for a project. It can be difficult to remain focused on users when technical reasons, business aims, project objectives all combine to kick off a new project. To help you remain focused on users here’s five core questions we use when we first get involved in a project.
The questions we’ve used here are for a website redesign project, however, they are just as relevant for any digital product or service, whether it is being re-designed or developed from scratch.

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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

3 of my biggest Bugbears – because users were ignored

25 May

“In medieval England, the Bugbear was depicted as a creepy bear that lurked in the woods to scare children” – Wikipedia, May 2011

 

Hand dryer

I’m generally a pretty happy go lucky chap, but even I have moments when certain things irritate me. I call these my Bugbears. They are reoffending irritants, and I should really know better than to lower myself into a rage every time I encounter them.

In an attempt to better understand my Bugbears, I have realised that they are irritating and frustrating because someone in the chain of development has not thought about the user. Or more accurately, has thought about the user but has chosen to ignore them.

Let me share three of my bugbears:

 

1. Hand dryers that don’t dry hands

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. After going to the loo in a service station, restaurant, cinema, etc, you (I hope) thoroughly wash your hands, amble to the hand dryer and place your dripping wet hands under the machine, only to be greeted with a meek outflow of air. It’s like the machine has a little fairy inside blowing on your hands. After a few seconds you realise that this isn’t going to work, and walk out wiping your hands on your trousers, or covertly drying them in your pockets.

I don’t believe that the manufacturer has tested these and thought, “you know what, these dry my hands really well”. And I don’t believe the buyer has tried the hand dryer and thought, “my customers are going to love these hand dryers”. I imagine what they have thought is, “hmm, these hand dryers are pretty crap, but they are cheap, and I’m sure the users won’t mind”.

Well, they do mind! At least I do. Isn’t it bliss to see a Dyson Airblade or a World Dryer Airforce hanging on the wall?

 

2. Coffee full to the brim

I love my coffee. Judging by the number of Costas, Neros, Starbucks, etc, there are these days I’m sure a lot of people do to. I generally order an Americano with hot milk. When I’m taking my coffee away, the Barista has the job of topping up the coffee with the hot milk. Now, the fact I’ve ordered a take away suggests I’m walking off somewhere with my coffee in hand, so how come the Barista tops up the coffee to the brim of the cup, then squeezes on a lid?

The result is me arriving at my destination with wet, burnt fingers, coffee smudges on my shoes, and a coffee cup and lid that do not look healthy.

All the Barista has to do when they’ve topped up the coffee is pour a little away. Surely they look at the full cup and realise that it is not possible to walk this anywhere without spilling it? But they still carry on and pop a lid on. To all you Baristas, just think about the user experience when you top up a cup. I won’t ask for a discount because you pour a little away to save my fingers and my shoes!

I shouldn’t have to ask the Barista to pour a little out for me!

 

3. Ticket machines that don’t give change

I don’t really need to explain this one. Regardless of what they say, there is only one reason why a council would install non-change giving ticket machines in public car parks, and then charge tariffs like £1.30, or £2.80. When the decision makers sat around the meeting room table discussing which ticket machines to install, surely someone in the room raised the point that customers will be pretty pissed off at not getting change. I’m sure this was even discussed. But the user experience was not considered important enough over making free money.

So you see, these Bugbears exist because common sense user experience practice has been ignored somewhere along the development or delivery process. All it takes is for someone in the decision making process to champion the user and maybe we can rid the world of Bugbears!

What are your Bugbears, and are they because the user experience has been ignored?

 

 

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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

Pukka miss an opportunity to design a great customer experience

7 Feb

Pukka teas are a brand that’s easy to like. They present themselves as a healthy, organic company. They have a nice overall feel, they have good quality products, their packaging is appealing, their website is…well, ok.

 

Pukka Customer Experience

 

So, over the years while I’ve been a customer, I’ve found a few teas that I really like. But I have tried some that I don’t like so much too. I know they have quite a big range so every time I see their invitation for free samples on the inside of their box I think “one day I should do that”. I can try out a bunch of different teas, and expand my horizons a little. Pukka get more money from me and everyone’s happy. Every time I found myself in the supermarket to buy some new teas I looked at their range, hungry to try something new but wary of buying a whole box if I didn’t like the taste. And every time I would kick myself for not filling in that free sample form!

 

My goal was clear: Broaden taste horizons by sampling different teas without having to commit to a whole box in case I didn’t like them

So after lots of times telling myself I should, 2 weeks ago I finally did. I went to the website and filled in the form with anticipation. Then after completely forgetting about it, this weekend I received a small package in my letter box.

Pukka Service Design 1Pukka Service Design 2

 

Excited when I saw it was from Pukka, my next thought was it looked a little small. I opened it up to find 2 free tea bags, both of which I had tried before. Excitement turned to disappointment, which then turned to anger. I’d wasted my efforts in filling out the form and telling myself off every time I hadn’t filled in the form.

 

Pukka Customer Journey

 

Pukka could turn customers into brand advocates
Pukka had an opportunity to turn me from a regular customer to a loyal customer who spends more money with them and who will potentially go on to become an advocate to recommend the free samples to their friends. Allowing Pukka to grow their customer base and increase their customer data capture from their free samples form. Instead they offer a sub standard customer experience, leaving me frustrated and much less likely to fully engage with the brand further. Although they haven’t done enough to stop me from being a customer altogether, its unlikely I’ll ever try out the other options in their range and will just stick to what I know until I find an alternative brand which interests me more.

 

Cost to send tea samples vs. benefit of delighting customers
If the issue is one of cost in sending out a bunch of free samples then there are different ways to look at it. One would be to give customers the option to indicate which teas they have tried and which they haven’t. Alternatively Pukka could look at the opportunity to create loyal customers or customer advocates who will bring them more customers. They may decide that the cost associated with sending a larger number of free samples is worth it to acquire new customers and larger purchases from repeat customers.

 

Pukka took an opportunity to delight and instead replaced it with one which frustrated and angered. Are you making the most of your opportunities to delight your customers?

 

 

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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

Does web-retargeting benefit or just scare users?

4 Oct

Retargeting Example  - click to see image in more detail

Retargeting example – See larger image

As part of a casual query, I once typed in my car registration into a certain site that offers to purchase absolutely any vehicle. Scoffing at their derisory offer for my motor, I went on to live a full and happy life, and part-exchanged my car for multiples more than the site offered.

However, for the next month, almost every advert I came across on any website was a reminder of how much this company, that will acquire any auto for money, would offer for my, now crushed, car. Friends have reported similar experiences on a range of shopping sites, where your previous interest in an item can haunt you like a marketing-oriented poltergeist.

This technique, known as retargeting is an online advertising model where ecommerce websites can re-connect with past website visitors to remind them of what they had looked at with the hope of stimulating a sale. If you forgot what site you were on or what exactly you were looking for, then it can prove a useful reminder. But, if you were looking for a present for a partner, or for, ahem, a sensitive medical or entertainment item, then it might come as a bit of a shock to anyone else who uses your PC.

Whilst its an obvious benefit to businesses, with some companies offering a no-conversion, no-fee model, there may be some user experience concerns which may not be fully considered when deciding to kick-off a retargeting campaign.

 

High-wire balancing act, without a net

If you want to attempt this kind of approach on your site, then you need the kind of balance that would do Man on Wire proud. Most sites that engage in the activity of retargeting use a third-party service, such as TellApart or Criteo. Over time, these services have responded to the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over retargeting and improved their user communications to make it easier for a user to understand why their shopping searches are suddenly following you around the web, and to disable them.

Why are you being shown this banner?

Explaining to users why they are being shown retargeting ads

 

Kicking off a retargeting campaign must consider user experience

If you do decide to use such a service to promote your site, you should be aware of the potential pitfalls involved in customers feeling stalked by you. Privacy is a big concern for customers and comes up again and again in our research. If customers feel like their privacy is under attack, however small "the attack" may be, they may associate negative feelings with your brand. Rather than initiate sales and inspire revisits, you may well result in negative reviews and less repeat visits.  

If you choose to use retargeting then you should enquire as to whether you can limit it to certain ranges, perhaps high value items, as no one wants to be chased across the web for a book purchase. Also, ensure a reasonable time limit is in place as well. On the whole, think about it from the user’s point of view.  

Ultimately, when it comes to adding new features that could cause even mild confusion among your user-base or site visitors, remember to treat them with kid gloves. Users do not like surprises and they hate any infringements on their perceived privacy. While the marketing spiel from a retargeting company may offer the world and massive ROI, its benefits will be countered by accepting that some users may be completely turned off by retargeting and may damage brand perception.

 

What do you think of retargeting?

 

 

 

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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

Usability testing is critical to online customer satisfaction

8 Jan

Tick box

We were interested to see that a study of the UK’s top 40 online retail websites found that customer satisfaction is increasing year on year. Compared with US however, we were disappointed to find that UK sites still lag behind our US counterparts by 10%.

The study measured four key elements that the research company, Foresee, believes affects customer satisfaction: Merchandise, Functionality, Content, and Price. The study claims that functionality enhancements provide less of an ROI that merchandise and price improvements.

What, no usability?

The functionality aspect of this study does include the usefulness of functionality, but fails to include the usability of a website. In our experience, the right price for the right product is very important, but if users fund it difficult or frustrating during their user journey they will often revert back to Google to find an easier to use competitor offering.

The research is interesting and useful but usability is critical in the success of eCommerce sites and has not been considered in this study.

Usability is critical

The report advises online retailers to increase customer satisfaction by being aware of how changing specific elements of their websites will or will not impact customer satisfaction.

Observational research with the target audience is an excellent way of understanding what enhancements will and will not improve the user journey. Usability testing will help online retailers to understand where the issues are in the user journey, and then review the success of any enhancements that fall out of the research.

Does your website produce excellent customer satisfaction?

 

 

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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

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

Top 10 reasons for poor usability – part 2

3 Mar

Poor usability

Following on from part 1, we have another 5 reasons why products and services so commonly deliver poor usability:

6) Too many cooks

When a project team has too many stakeholders or a large team with no clear project leadership or role definition, the team can suffer from too many conflicting opinions on how the product should be designed. Often, the team will argue among themselves to try to implement interface changes they *think* are the best for the project. If this goes unchecked product development is at the mercy of whims, speculation and ego. Project teams have little or no sanity check on their ideas and tend to lose focus on who they are designing for and what they need.

7) Poorly defined project objectives

We are always surprised at how few projects have clearly defined project objectives when we first engage with a new client. When projects have no clear objectives, the product or service is likely to grow in a haphazard fashion. Over time the project team lose interest with it and the users suffer from a mismatch of features and functionality. A clearly defined set of business objectives balanced with a clearly defined set of user/customer objectives is critical to delivering consistently good experiences to customers.

8) There are no incentives for good usability

Very few teams are given incentives for offering good usability in product development. All too often, companies reward teams for more traditional measures or KPIs (customer satisfaction, budget, traffic, output etc.). It stands to reason that if project teams are not rewarded for improving usability, they will place more emphasis upon the aspects they will get recognised and rewarded for. Setting up regular usability tests with a clear benchmark at the beginning of the project will offer an excellent way to measure and incentivise usability in any project.

9) They are simply not aware usability is poor

We’ve heard many clients tell us that they already know what’s wrong with their product/service, yet they are always surprised when we report usability problems they had not even considered. It is very difficult to know you have usability problems unless you actually conduct usability testing on a regular basis. Customer comments, complaints, and website analytics can sometimes indicate that you have a problem, however they rarely give you insight into what the problem is and why it is occurring. This can only be discovered by observing users interact with the product or service, and many project teams have never done this.

10) Can’t see the wood for the trees

We’ve all experienced the feeling of being so close to something, we can no longer make good decisions. This happens all the time in projects where everyone has such an intimate knowledge of the product or service that they can not step back from it and see the bigger picture. They can start to make decisions which result in poor usability because they can no longer see the project from a user’s perspective. Independent, eternal advice is critical to integrate an objective perspective into their decision making processes and eliminate usability issues.

As we said in part 1, it is not easy to develop highly usable products and services. Eliminating poor usability happens throughout the entire project lifecycle from setting objectives at the beginning, right through to getting regular independent user input after the product or service has been launched.

Do you recognise any of our top 10 reasons for poor usability in your projects?

Related services: Customer requirements capture, 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