We often see marketing teams asking for heaps of information during signup. “How did you hear about us?” “What is your title?” (I’ve seen a title list that included not just Mr, Mrs and Ms, but His Royal Highness and Admiral. I kid you not.)
I appreciate that marketers want to know these things to help them in their jobs. But adding fields will cost you users. So here’s a handy guide to deciding which fields you need to get rid of…
We’re irrational. People like Dan Ariely and Daniel Gilbert have convinced us of that. Irrationality affects us in our roles as entrepreneurs, product managers, designers and developers. And it affects our colleagues too It can lead us to make make poor business decisions and deliver failed user experiences.
I did this talk for a meeting of the SA UX forum. It looks at three patterns of irrationality: loss aversion, the Ikea effect and the identifiable victim effect, and how to work around them to get the best from yourself and your team.
Flow helped MXit create MXit 6: a stylish and easy-to-use new version of their mobile phone software across three types of handset. The project delivered a 25% increase in daily registrations in the first month, to over 60 000 registrations per day.
Delivering a great user experience across the widest range of handsets is key to our strategy. Flow has been an essential part of the process for us. – Juan Du Toit, Head of International Business Development and Marketing.
The Brief: Design a new user experience for MXit on Java, Blackberry and Android devices.
MXit is Africa’s largest mobile social network. It earned this position by offering cost-effective access to messaging, gaming and information services on more than 3000 models of handsets, which include low-end feature handsets.
But the minimalist approach that gave the platform such broad reach tended to make MXit hard to understand for first-time users, and less appealing on smartphones.
So Flow was asked to help create a new vision for MXit, called MXit 6, The aim being to improve the user experience and make it more appealing to more users on more devices.
What we did: Research, concept design and detailed interaction design in an agile software development process.
Registering for a site using Facebook connect, or connecting an app to your Twitter account, asks such scary questions that you could be forgiven for backing out of the process.
Zynga wants complete control of your Twitter account. Does that feel safe to you?
Gowalla wants to access your private Facebook data while you sleep. Spooky.
We’ve seen it in usability tests and we feel it as users. It’s too scary and unless the motivation is sky high. And we ain’t playing.
“Launch and learn” is a great way to tune innovative, digital products to customer needs. But at worst, I’ve seen “launch and learn” used as an excuse for lazy, dysfunctional teams to launch ill-thought-out products that don’t provide customer value. And then listen in all the wrong ways.
Digital teams can behave in strange ways. Designing software can do that to you. To highlight how launch and learn can go wrong, let’s try a thought experiment…
If the Johannesburg’s rail link had been launched by a digital team
Johannesburg’s airport rail link, the Gautrain, was launched in 2010 before it was finished. But they did a pretty good job. I was happy to put up with the unfinished stations because they provided something essentially valuable to me from the start: fast transport with no traffic jams.
But if the Gautrain had been rolled out in the style of many a digital innovation, the process might have looked something more like this:
Version 1.0 Beta
Open the tracks between Rhodesfield and Marlborough, two small stations. Don’t run any trains. Let customers walk between the two stations.
What is design? Most people will answer that question by pointing to a designed object – the iPhone, for example. Now that’s good design! The Mini Cooper. London’s famous map of the Tube. Anything ever built by Norman Foster. That’s design, right?
Wrong. Design is not the object, but the process that created that object. It’s a process that is part creativity, part method. A process that takes a lot of time, much instructive failure and a great deal of thinking. And thinking is something that looks a lot like Doing Nothing At All.
Amazing: The only adjective that counts
It’s very hard to explain this to a client. The Silicon Cape is beavering away right now, making software and websites and iPhone apps. Just do me a design! I need to show my investors something by next Tuesday, and we’re launching before the end of the month. You guys have designed stuff before, right?
Yes, we have designed stuff before. So we know that if you just take assumptions and preconceptions and bundle them up in the first format that crosses your mind, you might churn out something decent, but you’re never going to make something amazing. And given how much stuff is out there, and how little attention people have left to give to it, amazing is the only adjective that counts.
South African websites repeatedly make basic usability mistakes. The results: frustrated customers, negative brand impact, reduced online sales, and poor return on investment for the whole web project.
The best advice for making an impact online is to Zig when others Zag. Stand out. Be amazing. Give a shit.
But if you work for a South African corporation, I’m sure you’ll feel much more comfortable following the herd. So here are five instructions for making sure your ecommerce site delivers industry-standard quantities of pain and frustration.
1. Let the programmers write the copy
Here’s an error message Flow discovered during a usability test for MWEB. If you choose the wrong kind of password, you get a message that says:
This kind of language is fine for programmers, but there are a lot of people who might want to buy an internet connection but are not sure what the word “alphanumeric” means.
So how about, “Please make sure there are both letters and numbers in the password you choose, to improve your online security.” Surely more people will understand what that means?
2. Help users to lose their work (and their tempers)
Working with Flow, MWEB took a user-centred design approach to this project. We started by doing a round of usability testing on their existing website earlier this year. This gave us many insights into how people buy ADSL. The most notable of these was that people were almost utterly clueless about the terms that ISPs use on their sites. ADSL? HSDPA? Unshaped? Even the IT consultants we interviewed weren’t completely sure what it all meant.
There was a second layer of complexity: there were so many variables to the choice. ADSL vs 3G. Three different line speeds. Multiple data caps that depended on the line speed you chose. Pricing that was affected by the choice of router.
Working with users during the design process will untie project knots and boost team productivity and focus. But there always seems to be an excuse for not testing. Here are 4 ways to counter the excuses and make usability testing happen.
Excuse 1: “It’ll slow us down”
Finding users, building prototypes and working through hours of research takes time. Why not spend that effort on writing more code?
Counter argument. You say: “Our business objective is to reach profitability as quickly as possible. To do that, we need to understand what our customers really need and make sure we’re all agreed on the direction. A usability test might take some time in the short term, but it will help us reach our overall business goal quicker.“
Usability testing, like many UCD tactics, is an investment. You put in time and money, but you get back a product that sells better and costs less to support. But usability testing is also beneficial during the design process…
Relationship marketing is the holy grail of the modern marketer – but if you get it wrong, you will annoy your customers forever
[Debre Barrett is my wife and also an excellent experience designer, with many years experience at BBC.co.uk and some great Flow projects under her belt too. She wrote this post.]
Something awful happens to babies at exactly 5pm every day. They cry, they niggle, they scream. They drive you nuts until you’ve bathed them, fed them, and put them to bed. Suicide Hour, is what a friend and mother of four calls it.
One evening last week, at 5.45pm, I was busy preparing a puréed meal for the baby, a proper meal for myself, and a meal where none of the ingredients touch each other for my older daughter. The baby was perched on my one hip, exploring the boundaries of Suicide Hour. The older one needed help working the DVD, and there was only 1 hour 15 minutes between me, a glass of red wine, and a sit-down with Twitter.
Then the phone rang. It was a friendly, middle-aged lady.
Lady: “Oh hello there Mrs Barrett. I’m just calling to congratulate you on the birth of your little one, they are such blessings aren’t they? What did you have, a little boy or a girl?”