Brain re-wired

Hotels are great aren’t they for wayfinding? A series of signs that take you on a journey of discovery, confident in your own ability to find your way around. Only to have your path halted mid corridor when all of a sudden you’re met with blanks walls adorned with work by the artist of the moment instead. TripAdvisor is littered with comments from guests of MGM Grand and the Venetian in Las Vegas getting lost in the 6000+ room hotels. Studies of those wayfinding systems would make interesting reading.

On the smaller scale, there are still challenges to overcome. On a recent trip, I stayed in a hotel of probably less than 100 rooms. Stepping out of the lift to my floor, I was met by this:

Now I might have been tired and weary, but it took me a little while to compute this. We in the western world read left to right. Yet this sign required me to read right to left, then back again. Firstly I locate my room number – 517 – then to see which direction I turn.

Having the arrows so close to each other didn’t assist scannability. Some space and distance could’ve helped with that.

Ok, so I turned right. I locked this away for future reference. Next time, I’d let my nose do the walking.

The next time I got out of the lift, I turned right. As I walked I perused the door numbers but they were not as I expected. They descended away from, not ascended to, ‘517’. What the…?

I returned to the lobby to discover 4 lifts – 2 x 2 lifts facing each other across a small lobby. And 2 room signs – one on either wall a mirror of the other. From one side of the lobby turn right. From the other side, turn left.

I got there in the end but I didn’t want to be dealing with this on holiday.

Agency Designworkplan outline 3 core principles that drive their work in helping people navigate in built environments. These include landmarks, orientation and navigation. A three dimensional rule that tells you where you are in relation to another place, how far you are from your destination and what direction you need to get there. Simple. City maps accomplish this easily with a helpful marker of ‘you are here’.

Based on this, here’s a suggested approach:

The amenities are fictional, to help illustrate the point that surrounding landmarks can help with orientation. A little more helpful than a batch of numbers tacked on to a wall.

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Data-driven world

The hot topic at a client organisation at present is data-driven development (DDD). Not only a topic, but an approach that is well integrated within the engineering team. Sitting alongside various measures – analytics and heatmapping tools (on both legacy and new infrastructures), NPS, and A/B testing – various departments are grappling to implement code and get access to the data stream that will soon hit all product team’s shores.

Its intent is to be a more accurate measure of friction in customer experience, where they struggle, drop out of the product and gather their feedback along the way. What it won’t do is sweep the floor of the qualitative approaches – the data team have been very clear about that.

Some product managers however have missed this vital point. Those uninitiated, or still in a world where Google Analytics used to tell all, believe that a number alone does not lie. A feature or flow only gets 2% usage – ‘ah, off with its head!’.

Once, I would have agreed with this response. Many years of experience later – and to some product managers chagrin – has told me, the question we need to ask is, why. Why is there only 2% usage?

It may be painfully obvious to the team why – usability problems, doesn’t work on mobile, wrong place in the user’s flow, too many other competing options, etc.

Descoping is too a factor. All too many times, I’ve seen due process followed – user research, market research, diligent design, testing – leading to a design solution that stands on its merits. Only to have it ripped apart by technical limitations, reducing time scales, dwindling budgets, development team reshuffles and changing priorities.

So when a validated design solution only fulfills a shadow of its intended glory when implemented, is it really a surprise if only 2% of customers use it? The number identifies the problem; it may be the design or it may point to process. But only after we dig around and ask, why.

At the end of the day, these are all assumptions and need validation. A number alone does not state this. It simply lights the way to finding out a problem.

Research. Insight. Discovery. It’s a cyclical process.

Simply looking at a number and saying – well no one’s using it, we’re taking it out of the product – is a naive approach. A clear intent led to its inclusion; the execution failed.

This idea left me wondering, DDD comes after the fact. It’s measuring the impact of a feature or interaction AFTER it’s been implemented. It’s assuming that an upfront design-led process is in place and working. That a customer’s experience influences a process, not only at development level but at a higher strategic level. Influencing a product offering, driving the discovery into new markets, fully exploring a user’s world and context to ascertain how technology can help them – rather than devise a solution and push it to them.

While DDD may be a move in the right direction, it raises the question of, is it the right place for an organisation to start?

Prototyping tool of choice ?

Source: Morguefile.comI was heartened to read the highlights of Future of Web Design by Hayley Charlton, UX Consultant @uxconnections.

For too long now I’ve found the emphasis placed on prototyping tools in job ads, distracting. Mind you I love the power of Axure and the minimalism of Balsamiq. A beautifully executed freehand sketch is the ultimate to me – no surprise there.

But crucial time is lost sometimes tooling up for the job at hand, when there are so many ways to demonstrate an idea, all as valid as each other.

Surely it must come down to the nature of the project, the time allocated and, as the article states, the ‘feel of things’ that a designer has. The best ‘tool’ to use to express this would be a natural selection and different each time.

Anyone can learn software; it just shouldn’t drive the execution of an idea.

Who’s your audience – free info tool from YouGov

Recently, a great new data tool for marketers was released from YouGov – the YouGov Profiler. Type in any search term – anything from sport, media brands, celebrities or food to find a comprehensive profile of the market it attracts.

Much hilarity ensues for search terms from Eastenders to Victoria Beckham. But looking a little closer, entrepreneurs and new business startups can find a great wealth of answers to their early questions of how to target customers with their hot new product or service.

YouGov states on their website: ‘It joins 120,000 integrated data points from over 200,000 of YouGov’s most active UK panellists to show how every single member interacts and engages with traditional (TV, radio, press, print) and new media (online, social, mobile) channels. This connected data is unique to the research industry and it means YouGov clients can mine its huge seam of information in real-time and understand more about their audiences than ever before.’

Of course, I wouldn’t suggest replacing targeted market research and customer insight with this tool. However I’ve seen personas created with a lot less ! 😦 But for those pre startup entrepreneurs who want information on their intended audiences, it’s not a bad place to start to learn about their habits.

YouGov Profiler data tool

Take a look for yourself. https://yougov.co.uk/profiler#/

App glut

How many times must I dismiss the download Yahoo Mail app interstitial when I log in via the web? I must have closed it a hundred times already that I would have thought Yahoo’s smart tracking to pick the behaviour up by now. But no, they haven’t.

I’m not old-fashioned; I just don’t see the need. I have the Gmail app and many other apps. So many in fact that I just can’t download another app to the device. So, I’m stuck with the annoying interstitial it seems.

So many apps, that I wonder we must be in an app glut. A sentiment shared by Kevin Tofel who raises a question of what must be next.

I’m further reminded of a recent experience of a friend of mine using a banking app. He was wanting to reset his password but had to not only switch between the app and the web version but between devices ! – first step on tablet / desktop, second step on phone. After several failed attempts where clearly devices and app / servers were not talking to one another, my friend resorted to phoning to speak to a human. Unfortunately there was no one on tech support to help as the time difference between the US and the UK was not in my friend’s favour. So much for mobile banking on the go…

I believe we must be fast approaching (or are already there) a crucial time for app strategy – a similar time when web design scaled back to introduce more flat and leaner code to avoid the bandwidth block of swfs and gifs. So what’s next after apps?

Perhaps the emphasis on apps will diminish along with the reliance on devices. Everyone talks about ubiqitious computing – so irrespective of device, shouldn’t we be able to we accomplish our goals on any connected technology already existing or not yet conceived? Whether it be a vending machine, ATM, kiosk or any other accessible terminals in airports, streets, in the air even. It shouldn’t have to be yet another piece of technology that we the user has to carry, wear or buy.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Arts organisations caught in the olde world?

Everyone has examples of pointless links embedded in confirmation emails and yesterday I had a new one.

I needed a copy of the confirmation for a BFI film screening, expecting the email to contain the link to take me to my account.

It contained a link alright:

email

… unfortunately it was useless. The home page offered me no ability to log in to my account:

bfiHome

I searched all the drop down menus where I was encouraged to sign up to this and that. But absolutely NO signpost to an existing customer’s account area.

I found this arrogant. This high-profile organisation’s marketing strategy is lost in the old days where getting the sale is the most important thing. Everything else is secondary.

It was back in 2004, that Jakob Nielsen wrote,

The biggest challenge in e-commerce is to get the first order. Don’t blow it thereafter. Treating customers well after they place their initial order will vastly increase the probability that they’ll place more orders in the future.

After another minute of random clicking around the site, the lovely animating banner captured my attention. There in beautiful colour was the slide for the season for which I’d bought my ticket – Studio Ghibli. Clicking the banner took me to the subsite:

whatson

…. and there was the login link. In the time it had taken me to work that out, I’d been made feel like a second thought.

In light of this, I check how another arts organisation, Whatsonstage.com, does it. In the confirmation email I’d received for a previous purchase is an embedded link. Yet however, the same thing happens! The link in the email takes me to their home page, where again, I am unable to log in:

wosHome

The onus is on me, the customer, to find where to find my account. First I click ‘More’ which doesn’t produce the desired result, then I click ‘Theatre club’. And there it is…as obscure as it is:

clubwos

It’s a matter of principle. Neither of these organisations leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that I would want to spent my money with them again. Do they think that because they have the great and exclusive discounts and offers they do, that is enough to make customers return?

On the plus side, I know that if I do, I now know where my account pages are hidden.

And the final word from Mr Nielsen,

It’s an old lesson: It’s much easier to close additional sales with existing customers than to acquire new customers. People who’ve proven willing to give you money will often give you more. This is true for all sales channels, but it’s particularly crucial for e-commerce because the first order proves your credibility if you effectively handle follow-up and delivery.