Tag Archives: learning UX

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

Three Usability Testing Tips from a Rookie

9 Sep

With A Little Help

Having participated in several usability tests – as an observer only – you would think I’d be more prepared for when the guys turned around and told me what my next challenge would be; to carry out a usability test by myself. You would be wrong!

At this point I had only observed three sets of usability testing, from the planning stage through to producing reports. I had not been to any client feedback sessions yet, but overall I would say I had seen the majority of preparation that is required for a usability test. Upon hearing that it was to be my first time in the driving seat I was nervous, even though it was not a paid project.

I made a fair few mistakes, things that I could have done better, things I forgot entirely, and in some cases, things I just didn’t think about at all.

Here’s a breakdown of my top learning experiences from carrying out my first Usability Tests;

 

1. Don’t help the user

One of the main tasks I underestimated was how hard it would be to NOT help the individual.

Obviously as a researcher I am not meant to help a participant in their tasks, or lead them in any way. I am purely meant to relay tasks and then observe as the users’ lead me through what they are doing. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I was conscious that whenever I was asked a question I faltered on what to reply. I remember reading a handy list of examples of what to say should such an occasion arise, but it’s hard to include every example for what could happen.

So my tip is:

  • Keep it friendly and chatty, but once the test commences, don’t say more than you have to.
  • When asked a question try and answer it with a question, turning it back to the participant.

 

2. Always have back-up tasks in the test script

No matter how many tasks I thought I had, users took me by surprise by going through them differently and inadvertently performing the next task whilst completing another. You can’t control what someone will do, and I was not experienced enough to take total control over every situation that arose. However, with careful planning and preparation you can undoubtedly help prevent most of the things that I struggled with through that first test.

Tip:

  • Don’t be too rigid with your test script, no user will do exactly the same thing so be prepared
  • for them to go ‘off piste’, and let them move onto other tasks if it is part of their natural journey.

  • Always have back up tasks for those participants who fly through the test.

 

3. Have the confidence to stop a user and refocus them on the task

A couple of times through the user tests I became aware that the participant was offering up more opinion than actually interacting with the website. One particular user was comparing different websites’ colour schemes and not really focusing on the task at hand. I found it hard to interrupt what he was saying as obviously I was aware of spoiling the relaxed atmosphere. Although, at the same time I needed him to focus on the task to understand what people would do when I’m not sat next to them. When a user has become too unfocused and it is not relevant to the usability test, it is necessary for the researcher to intervene.

Tip:

  • Help the user to keep focused on the tasks at hand, by politely repeating the task, and try to
  • filter the participant’s opinions.

 

More tips will follow as I become familiar with running usability tests. For now, the guys have left me to learn by trial and error (on internal projects) and it’s been a really interesting experience. I’m not sure I would have learned as much if they had just told me what to do.

Are you learning about usability testing? If you’ve got any tips you want to share then it would be great to hear from you!

 

 

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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

Why we should appreciate invisible design

17 Jun

Recently I read the excellent Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. One of the key points Krug makes is that a good website should be invisible. A user has a goal to reach and that is their focus. The website is a pathway to their goal alone. This reminded me of an article I read whilst undertaking my Visual Communication degree – The Crystal Goblet also known as Printing Should Be Invisible by Beatrice Warde.

Wine Glass

Warde uses the analogy that a true connoisseur of wine would chose a clear, crystal, wine glass from which to drink their wine because this vessel has been specifically designed to hold the wine in such a way that it displays, and enhances all the wines qualities; the colour, the smell, and the taste. Its own beauty does not hide that of the wine which is the thing that we wish to consume. In the same way a website should be designed specifically to display and show the information that the user requires from it. It should not hide the information with needless flashy graphics and images.

Krug states that a good, clear website design is one that does not make the user think, it guides them clearly and quickly to the information they seek without hindering them in any way. The designer, who keeps their users’ needs at the forefront of their mind, is the designer who will produce a website that will function so perfectly that the user will not notice they have taken a journey at all.

Too cool to be called for

‘Without this essential humility of mind, I have seen ardent designers go more hopelessly wrong, make more ludicrous mistakes out of an excessive enthusiasm, than I could have thought possible… It is not a waste of time to go to the simple fundamentals and reason from them’.

Warde, B

Sometimes, in the quest for innovative design, the true purpose of our project can become obscured and forgotten; this purpose being the need of the end users. We often spend more of our time worrying about the ‘wow’ factor and how to make a website really stand out, than focusing on how we can achieve what the consumer needs in the most efficient, and effective way. Many users will not appreciate the skill of a great designer, as the design works so well it is invisible, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted. The majority of the time we only seem to notice when things are wrong.

Look for the invisible

If we spent our time looking for the things that make a website good, and appreciate them more regularly, we would be able to learn from them and use similar principles in future designs. The next time you use a website for the first time, and get straight to the information you need, try and actively remember; note down what made it easy for you to use and how this was achieved, and consider it the next time you work on a design.

For Beatrice Warde’s full talk on the importance of good typography and invisible print click here;

http://www.designhistory.org/CrystalGoblet.html

 

 

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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

It’s easy to blame stupid users for poor design

19 Apr

Wrong Way

Having started as Junior User Experience Researcher at Experience Solutions, I have been introduced to the world of user experience. As I come from a predominantly graphic design and retail background, I thought it was safe to say that I knew a lot about user experience. I don’t.

During my interview, I was asked what really ‘pissed’ me off, a hard question to answer, especially when you are trying to deem what would be appropriate.  Stupidity was my quick response. In particular, those people who do not read signs and seemingly can’t use basic technology.

 

I witnessed the most stupid mistake

I then proceeded to give an example of a particularly memorable incident I witnessed on a self-service checkout when I worked in retail. I manning the self-service machine and monitoring the checkouts when a man came up to me and told me that the machine would not accept his money. I then discovered to my horror that this was in fact because he had tried to put the coins in the wrong place, the card holder.

This seemed at the time to be an almost unforgivable mistake. I now had a queue of people waiting and a kiosk out of use. In my mind, there was no way anyone could possibly think that the card machine was the right place to put coins in. It would never have even occurred to me as an error someone would make. However, clearly I was wrong. And to be fair to that particular man, unlike him, I had been trained on the machines, and was very comfortable with new technologies such as self-service checkout systems. Now I realise, this gentleman who was now feeling stupid and embarrassed was not to blame for doing what he thought was right.

 

This is where UX comes in

In the few days I have worked as part of the team at Experience Solutions, I have learned a great deal about the responsibilities of designers when designing for their users. It is important for companies to test design ideas on real people who can give you a true insight into how people with no previous knowledge of the service, or the idea behind it will interpret what they see. Or don’t see in some cases.

Thinking back on the self-service machines, and the particular instances that used to frustrate me, I now realise that there are in fact quite a few serious design flaws that usability testing would have solved before they were released into the marketplace. The misplacing of the payment area; so that it is above the packing station and not next to the touch screen, which of course, is the main focus for the customer. If this had been redesigned after testing then maybe the card machine would not have been mistaken for the coin slot.

The note dispenser being placed underneath the scanning bay too, led to hundreds of notes just being left there as the customer forgot to pick them up, or didn’t see that part of the change being returned. Yes, there is a sign. But when it is beneath the field of vision, and focus area, will you necessarily look for it when you are in a rush to get out of the way for other customers, the shop is heaving, kids are crying, and the dog needs to be let out at home?

 

A new perspective

In my short time in this UX role, I’ve realised that placing the blame on ‘stupid’ people isn’t fair and can distract away from the real issue. We should be looking to the manufacturers and designers, and asking them why they did not thoroughly test their products with people before launch. I know that in future I personally will not be so quick to judge a person’s intellect based on how they use something that I feel is easy to us.

I’ll be keeping you all updated with my progress as I learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of user experience.

 

 

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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