Tag Archives: website usability

12 tips for hosting usability testing sessions at your office

30 Oct

12 tips for hosting usability testing sessions at your office

If you want an easy life, let your usability testing agency host the usability sessions at their labs. They’ll organise everything, so you just need to turn up when you want, munch on some biscuits, and drink too much coffee. But, if you want to look awesome in front of your colleagues and more importantly, your bosses, then you’ll want to host the sessions in-house.

The downside is that you need to work quite hard in order to make these usability sessions a success. Fret not, that’s why you’re reading this! We can’t do it all for you, but we can give you some ideas on how to get the most out of these sessions, and a comprehensive ‘to do’ list to make sure everything goes smoothly.
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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 ways to increase online donations – Free eBook

15 Jul

5 ways to increase online donations

We have put together a free ebook to help non-profit organisations increase online donations. Having spent over 100 hours studying users performing usability tests on non-profit websites, we have a wealth of useful insights to share. This guide outlines small changes that can be made to charity websites, which will encourage a user to donate. It also outlines what is likely to make a customer abandon their donation.

In this post we provide a snippet from the book. You can read Chapter 1 below and then simply Pay with a Tweet to download the full eBook.
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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 6 ways AO.com improved online conversions

27 May

Appliances Online, or AO.com, as they are now known, have recently listed their shares on the London Stock Exchange and reached a staggering company value of almost £1.6bn.

 

AO Homepage

 

How has this business, that was virtually unheard of a few years ago, become the leading supplier of white goods in the UK, while previously big names like Comet no longer exist? According to Matthew Lawson, Head of Conversion at AO.com, one of the reasons for their growth was introducing a user centred design approach to the business.

 

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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

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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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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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

How to create sketched wireframes in Axure

14 Mar

There is something about hand drawn paper wireframes that I have always liked. The sketchy lines and hand drawn icons always help me to see the wireframe as one possible idea rather than a final solution.

Sketched wireframes in Axure

Don’t get me wrong, I like presenting the slick high fidelity html prototypes to clients in the final stages of the UX project but early on when ideas are forming and the possibilities are endless, sketchy paper wireframes always add an element of excitement.

However, as much as I like hand drawn wireframes, for me sketching on a pad of paper is extremely difficult and time consuming. As much as I try, I struggle to create realistic looking wireframes and am constantly starting again and again until I give up in frustration.

Most wireframes look ‘final’ when they are still just concepts

On a recent project for a well-known charity, I needed to present a series of rough concept ideas to participants in focus groups to see which ideas they engage with. I wanted to get honest thoughts and feelings and I was worried that anything looking too ‘polished’ would make the work look finished, so I felt the only option was to present them with sketchy looking wireframes so they can see the work was still in progress.

How to create sketched style in Axure

Finding the sketch effects functionality in Axure 6.0 was a nice surprise and seemed to give me the possibility of the best of both worlds – sketchy hand drawn wireframes but with the ease and speed of using specialist software.

This functionality sits neatly at the bottom of the interface alongside ‘page notes’ and ‘page interactions’ and allows you to quickly alter clean straight-lined wireframes into the sketchy hand drawn look and feel that I was after.

Sketch options in Axure

The sketch options available in Axure

Although the functionality is still quite limited here (only 4 main controls), they still offer enough to make them work.

Sketchiness – Playing with this functionality shows you just how sketchy the wireframe can be. This ranges from the standard straight lines seen on usual wireframes to wavy lines that looked like they have been drawn by a child. I found that a sketchiness of 33 out of 100 seems to provide the most realistic to hand drawn wireframes.

Sketchy examples

The sketchiness slider at work

Colour – Selecting whether the wireframes should be colour or black and white is fairly straight forward. One nice feature here is that all images in the wireframe are converted to grey scale saving you having to edit the images first.

Font – The best font to use was probably the hardest challenge. Most standard fonts seem to clash with the sketchy lines and made the wireframe look too polished. After comparing many different styles I settled on a free font called ‘Writing Stuff’ (www.dafont.com/writing-stuff.font). I felt that it was the closest to natural handwriting, however, a point to remember is most computers do not have this font installed as standard so if presenting a prototype on another computer, you need to make sure that they have the fonts installed too. [Update – Axure got in touch to let us know that it is possible to convert text into images allowing anyone to see the font by following this path in the menus: Generate > Prototype > Advanced >Render Txt as Img]

Sketchy wireframes using arial font

Without a handwritten font the sketch effect doesn’t work

Line Width –  The line width allows you to change how wide all the lines are throughout the prototype. I didn’t really see the need for this functionality so kept it at +0.

To make the wireframes feel even more realistic and to get the concepts across better, I wanted to use hand drawn icons on each concept. There are many free sketchy style icons available but not all offered what I was looking for. To ensure all the icons were consistent in style on all concepts, I decided to pay for a full set icons from www.webiconset.com. For $25, you get 120 common web icons in the sketchy font at the usual sizes. This small investment was worthwhile as communicated the ideas better and greatly added to the rough look and feel of the wireframes that I was after.

Sketchy icons for wireframe

The hand drawn icons we used

 

Sketched wireframes get more honest user feedback

Axure sketchy wireframes are a much quicker and easier solution which still creates the illusion that wireframes are still in their infancy but allows you to create them quickly and easily, and the flexibility make changes and amends without starting each page again. These wireframes will never fully replace the creative hand drawn wireframes but during the focus groups, I felt participants were more inclined to critique the rough concepts more objectively than if I had just presented a standard straight-lined wireframe. This gave me a lot more positive and negative feedback I was after.  The only downside was that when I was using the sketchy font, I had problems when showing the wireframes to other people over the internet.

Axure Sketched Wireframe

An example of the end result

 

 

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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