Tag Archives: service design

What’s on your bookshelf?

7 Nov

Here at Experience Solutions we love our books. We like to keep a couple of shelves well stocked with books, new and old, that we can turn to for inspiration in any aspect of our world. Our shelves are full of advice whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out. Usability and user experience are the common topics, and come in many forms. Business development, self-improvement, finances. We’ve got it covered somewhere. Conversion rate optimisation is influenced by knowledge from all these books (and more). There is nothing better than on the job training, but a good book helps you to understand from the beginning, and refine when you get to the top.

 

What's on your bookshelf?

Recently we came across this great article by Shane Snow called “You are what you read: 14 thought leaders share their bookshelves”, who invited friends and people he admired to send him photographs of their bookshelves. Shane then extended the invite to Thought Leaders. Here at Experience Solutions we found this fascinating to see what people choose to read to inspire them. As a result we snapped a couple of shots of our book shelves and asked a couple of our fellow digital friends to share their bookshelves too. Enjoy!
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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 after-sales anti-complaints process

29 Jun

It’s a well known fact that us Brits hate to complain. Instead, we like to keep quiet, seethe internally, and then vote with our feet and never use the service again. But there are occasions where you know you need to complain to get something done about the poor experience you’ve had. You might need to get a refund, get an answer to a problem, or get someone to do something about your situation.

So you’re feeling angry, frustrated, and probably stressed that you now have another item to deal with on your growing to do list. Faced with the daunting task of having to contact a company to complain, the last thing you need is a tough time finding a way to complain. Enter the anti-complaint process. Where companies make it very hard for you to complain.

So how does a company employing the ‘anti-complaint process’ operate? It’s pretty simple really. The company offers several pathways which appear to lead you to somewhere to get help, but in reality they lead you to FAQs, a generic helpdesk email, or a generic phone number offering no option to speak with customer services or customer complaints.

The Comet complaints process

Consider the example I had recently where Comet had come to install a washing machine I purchased from them. During the installation a water pipe was damaged which caused a leak. We ended up with no running water (and no working washing machine). Naturally I wasn’t pleased so sought out a way to contact customer service or complaints on their website.

After finding a generic contact number to call I was routed through to the Installations team. Unfortunately they could not help me and said instead I would need to submit a complaint. I asked for the complaints team number but was told there wasn’t one and instead all complaints were done in a complaints section on the website.

 

 

Eventually I found an a way to enter a complaint but this was difficult to find as there was no ‘complaints’ section. It also gave very little confidence that the enquiry would be dealt with in a timely manner, or any information on what team the enquiry was even going to.

The Google Adwords complaints process

Another example I noticed recently was on the Google Adwords site. Our site was hacked and resulted in Google suspending our Adwords account until we cleared the problem and asked them to review. The process had taken 9 days with no feedback from Google so I wanted to escalate my issue to customer services or complaints to get a response. I called Google and was told that there was no customer services or customer complaints department to speak to, and again I had to complete the complaints form on the website.

Although I found the form eventually, had I not been told that there was a complaint form I would never have been able to find it.

In both examples the companies had made it difficult to make a complaint. It could be argued that they had simply prioritised other more common user journeys instead, however one of the common reasons to make contact with a company is to speak with customer services regarding a problem with an order or your account. In both examples these journeys were made difficult. Whether they were made deliberately difficult is up for debate. The sceptic in me believes they are: the harder it is to complain, the less complaints they receive, the less staff they need to deal with complaints, so the more money they save. But if they are by accident, it shows they place little value on the after sales customer experience.

Customers who have paid for a service should be happy with their experience. In our research we find that users place equal importance on the after sales experience as the pre-sales experience. When things go wrong, if customers are forced to work hard to even talk to someone they will feel cheated and unimportant. If a company is unable to allow users to speak to someone directly using a complaints number, then the least they should do is allow users to access complaints contact forms easily on their website.

The John Lewis complaints process

As you might imagine with their great reputation for customer service, John Lewis offer a very good example of how to do this properly.

 

 

 

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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 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

15 questions to see if your app idea has legs

31 Aug

iPad app concept

So you have an idea for an app. You have visions of it hitting the top ten lists, going global and earning you plenty of cash. You’ve been fantasising about giving up the day job and making a business out of your app idea right?

You’re excited right now, and you should be. There are some very successful apps out there and once the ball starts rolling and people spread the word, you can find success quickly. But sometimes excitement can lead to blindness to some of the limitations of the idea because you’re so optimistic about it working. So before you hand in your resignation, let’s take a step back for a second and answer some questions to help you focus and make sure the idea really has legs.

Be honest with yourself and try to remain as objective as possible when answering them. It might help to talk them through with a friend, your family or your partner too.

Good ideas are common...

About your motivation and commitment

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much better is this idea from your previous ideas?

2. Think back to the last app idea you were excited about, what were the reasons that stopped you from following through with it?

3. Are any of those reasons valid with your new idea?

4. Some app ideas take a while to realise. If you were to just focus on this app for the next 18 months will it hold your attention? Will you still be excited about it then?

often the difference between...

 

About your app idea and its potential

We all have ideas for a new app or a new business but commitment and courage are what turns an idea into reality. But just making the idea happen doesn’t mean it will be successful. The idea has to be a good one and has to offer something of value to the people who will use it.

5. Do some research, how many other examples can you find of similar apps. How different is yours? Realistically what do you need to do to make yours even better?

6. If no-one else is doing it, why do you think that is? Is there a good reason why other people or companies haven’t taken advantage of a similar idea?

7. What problem does your app solve? How big a problem is it? How do people currently resolve this problem?

8. Be as specific as possible, who would use your idea? Why would they use it? When would they use it?

9. Why would they use your app instead of what’s already available to them?

10. How would they know to use your app over current alternatives?

Making sure your idea is not just another one in a sea of similar ideas is critical to success. If there are already lots of people doing something similar, yours has to stand out and offer something better or different. You also have to be sure that people will use it over their existing choices and even more important, will be aware of your app as an option. Be really honest with yourself here, if you can’t get past these questions you could end up wasting time on a bad idea, instead of starting again with an even better one.

the way to get good ideas...

Practical considerations to creating your app

Ok, so if you’ve got this far and you’re still going strong, now you just need to get a bit more practical on how you’ll fulfil your idea

11. What resources will you need to make your idea happen? People, equipment, skills and so on.

12. Are these resources within your reach? Can you overcome the obstacles to find these resources?

13. How much money will it take for you to gain access to all these resources? How will you raise this money?

14. Imagine your idea is now complete. Working backwards, what were the major steps involved in getting there?

15. How much time will each of these stages take you? How will you find the time among your other commitments?

This last set of questions was designed to help you get a grip of the realistic and practical aspects of turning your ideas into reality. You’ll need a clear project plan and a clear vision to get there, especially if you’ll be bringing others in to help you create the app.

new ideas pass through...

Most app ideas end up staying in someone’s head or notebooks, and rarely get past the kind of questions and thinking set out above. Coming up with an idea is the easy part. Making it happen takes far more time and effort than some people realise. But, if the idea is good enough and your passion is strong enough, you might just find that you’re at the beginning of a very rewarding and exciting journey. Good luck!

 

 

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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

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

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

Does my iPad look big in this? How gadgets will shape the future of online retail

29 Jul

It is fair to say that the Web has changed shopping in some major ways over the years. From the initial rush to provide bricks and mortar stores with a wider profile and client base, to the monsters of Amazon and eBay, shopping has changed forever, and will continue to evolve.

The current problem is the static nature of e-commerce where most online stores use pictures and some descriptive text. That can be fine for books and boxed product, but there are many product types where a more immersive, higher fidelity experience is required.

Despite some high-profile attempts to change that (Boo.com, anyone?), it has taken longer for the hardware and the marketeers to catch up. But now shopping is ready to move to the next level, changing the user experience forever.

iPad Shopping Mock Up from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Who says the pictures in your catalog  have to stand still?

New technology can make a big difference to user experience

As you can see, when selling clothes, having the ability to see how a dress hangs, how it floats or flows or how the cut of jeans looks can really help make up a buyer’s mind. Our usability research shows that online shoppers really want to see the product in the same way they can in a physical store. While this is only a mock-up, it won’t be too long before online retailers catch on to providing the kind of experience shoppers are hoping for.

It will also only be another couple of development steps to reach the point where an avatar of the buyer’s proportions can be used to show how the clothes will fit you and the exact size you would need to order.

Stores like Gap are already preparing tightly integrated apps for Apple’s iPad and the portable, instant-on nature of tablets and smartphones means that shoppers will be able to buy on a whim, just as they do when perusing the high street.

Retailers must remain focused on user needs and not just cool new features

User experience designers will need to work very closely with media creators to make their store look just as good as the top apps. Just as shoppers wouldn’t buy from a tatty, grubby store, they won’t buy from a poor-looking website.

Navigation will play a key part in designing a successful site where buyers will want to go freely from the dress, to the belt, to accessories (appropriate to the main item) without meandering through menus or hordes of unsuitable items. Retailers will need to remain focused on usability and information architecture and be careful not to get too carried away with exciting new technology.

Improving the user experience without overcomplicating things will take great effort. Portable devices like the iPad will provide experiences better suited to natural browsing but retailers will need to be careful not to get carried away with the technical capabilities and ‘whats cool’ and keep focusing on what users really need from the experience.

Have you seen any good examples of what online retail will look like?

Related service: e-commerce usability

 

 

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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