Tag Archives: website usability

5 alternatives to CAPTCHA that won’t baffle or frustrate users

19 Mar

5 alternatives to CAPTCHA that won't baffle or frustrate users

We spend several hours every week conducting usability tests on a variety of different websites. In our research we often see people struggle with CAPTCHA, the anti-spam solution designed to differentiate between a human and a spambot. It’s easy to see why web teams adopt this tool to avoid spam – it is clearly an effective tool. However, they are probably not aware of how frustrating users find it! We regularly hear users say things like “oh I hate these things”, “not this thing again”, “why are they making it difficult for me?” In some cases we have seen users abandon a site altogether when faced with a CAPTCHA tool.

As a result of our observations we recommend that our clients remove the CAPTCHA tool from their site. In a recent client meeting we had a long discussion about the UX implications of anti-spam tools, and they challenged us to find a better alternative, that protected them from spam but didn’t frustrate users in the process. We accepted that challenge and thought we’d share the findings with our readers. In reverse order, we provide our top 5 CAPTCHA alternatives.
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Caroline Bell

About Caroline Bell

Caroline is a User Experience Consultant. With over six years’ experience in digital she loves to understand user and business needs to create better online experiences. Caroline loves a good challenge; whether it’s running a marathon, climbing the three Peak Mountains or solving a complex digital problem. Follow her on Twitter @cazbell

21 things we like about the new M&S website

21 Feb

We noticed yesterday that the new Marks & Spencer website redesign went live. Here’s a quick summary of the changes we felt were most interesting. More research would be needed for us to give a thorough UX opinion but our first thoughts are that it’s a positive redesign.

M&S website redesign

In this article, we highlight the 21 UX improvements made to the new Marks & Spencer website and why we like them.
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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

14 leading insurance providers’ quote processes and what you can learn from them

24 Jan

According to Insurance Business Online, last year 69% of insurance policies* were acquired online, yet we see many users struggling with the usability of quotation processes in usability testing. Insurance companies still neglect the quotation and application process on their websites and present poorly designed, unintuitive and confusing forms to their prospective customers which in turn could see them missing out on conversions.

14 leading insurance providers' quote process and what you can learn from them

We reviewed the usability of these sites to see which one offers the best life quotation experience

 
In this post, we analyse the life insurance quote process of 14 leading insurance companies and comparison websites to see which sites offer the overall best usability and user experience.  We also provide explanation as to what makes a good quote form and how insurance companies can consider implementing changes on their website.
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Oliver Gitsham

About Oliver Gitsham

Oli is a Senior User Experience Designer with 8 years experience of researching and designing digital user interfaces. Oli has just become a Dad for the first time so we're expecting some rants about buggy usability anytime now. Follow Oli on twitter @olivergitsham

Stop waiting for the perfect time to run usability tests

30 Jul

No one is perfect, that's why pencils have erasers

 

“Perfectionism is the enemy of progress”. This is a quote I’ve found to be very true throughout my life. Whenever I hear it or read it, I remember to stop trying to do everything perfectly and focus on getting things done once they are good enough. Once I start focusing on good enough, my to do list shortens, I’m meeting deadlines, and generally feeling like I’m getting somewhere again. So when I see clients doing the same thing I try to encourage them to focus on progress rather than perfection.
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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 useful UX lessons you can learn from getaheadofthegames.com

27 Jul

Olympic lane

If you live in the UK, you’ll be hard pressed to avoid The Olympics at the moment. One of the main talking points, certainly for Londoners is the traffic nightmare expected to jam the roads, underground, buses and trains. In anticipation, the powers that be have set up a website which is advertised to help people avoid traffic chaos: www.getaheadofthegames.com.

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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

Telegraph redesign is more user centred

18 Jul

As a keen photographer I love looking at images. I have a variety of sources to feed my need for regular photography inspiration: Flickr, 500px, twitter, blogs and so on. One of my favourite sources of inspiration is seeing the amazing photojournalism shots that show what’s been happening around the world.

As with all experiences on the web, some websites make life easy for users and some make reaching their goal a little more difficult. Often we find that this will depend on how much they have prioritised their business goals in comparison to their user goals.

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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 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

A quick win to improve password entry

22 May

One of our clients is in the process of re-designing the registration process on their ecommerce website. She got in touch and asked our thoughts on whether she really needed to mask users’ input in the password field and display a repeat password field. This is a fairly common approach you’re probably already familiar with. Here’s an example of Skype’s registration using this approach:

 

Skype log in screenshot

Skype masks all passwords and asks users to re-enter the password to avoid user error

 

Her doubt arose after reading Jakob Nielsens’s Alertbox from June 2009 titled ‘Stop Password Masking’ which argues that usability suffers when users can only see a row of bullets in the password field and since there is “usually” nobody looking over their shoulder, security is not a good trade-off for poor usability .

Now, although we agree with Mr Nielsen that masking passwords can create usability issues (especially when entering long and complicated passwords), we feel that security is an important issue and with the massive growth of accessing websites on mobile devices in public places, it wasn’t something we could just dismiss.

So what’s the solution to password masking?

Users will always need an option to enter a password securely when there are other people nearby so we did some digging around and found Microsoft Windows 7 has a great solution to this problem. They found a good balance between security and usability.

The password input field is presented unmasked by default meaning users receive the visual feedback they require yet they have the control to enter the password more securely by selecting the checkbox to hide the characters.

Windows 7 password masking toggle

Windows 7 provides an unmasked field with the option to mask characters

 

This solution not only gives users the choice to decide on the level of security they require but also removes the need for a confirm password field so the risk of user errors is reduced. Our client is now redesigning the registration process with a single password field with a checkbox to toggle visibility of the characters.

 

 

 

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Oliver Gitsham

About Oliver Gitsham

Oli is a Senior User Experience Designer with 8 years experience of researching and designing digital user interfaces. Oli has just become a Dad for the first time so we're expecting some rants about buggy usability anytime now. Follow Oli on twitter @olivergitsham