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?

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Fast, hassle free online donations

Recently friends of mine have been active participants in fundraising events for charities. Naturally quite inspired by their endeavours I’ve wanted to sponsor or donate to their chosen causes. But two sites most recently have shown vast differences in their online models, it begs the question that their website design are huge barriers to onboarding potential donors ! This is quite topical for me at the moment as I work to simplify online registration for a global beauty retailer that severely hampers visitors becoming members.

Firstly Oxfam Australia. A friend is competing in the Trailwalker hike. 100 kms. Wow, I want to support her team. I follow the link to their page where I see a clear Donate call to action. Clicking this button takes me to a form asking for my donation amount, name, email, physical address (why?) and finally credit card details with a final Confirm button at the end. Phew, all done. Yet clicking the Confirm button does nothing. The fields which I had filled are all in focus so I suspect that this is a validation exercise. So I recheck the details I entered and click Confirm again. Again, nothing.

oxfam2

I try this a number of times, wondering if my credit card also has been charged the same number of times. What I had been failing to see was a slimline drop down at the top of the screen which was asking me to login. What? Why allow users to enter all of these details if it’s necessary to be a member? Not to mention that I’ve never been to this site before – I just want to make a donation and go. I don’t have the time to register !

My friend who’s competing is a good friend so I persevere. I register and I get my subsequent registration confirmation email. Go through the motions and I’m back on the site to login before another attempted donation.

Now the site doesn’t recognise me. I retype the password I’d chosen and typed twice on the confirmation only a minute ago but to no avail. I’m getting well passed annoyed now. Every second I am re-evaluating how much of a good friend the willing 100km hike participant (just kidding, Ron !). My guilt gets me in the end and I click the Forgot password link. A temporary saviour arrives, I type it in and bingo, I’m finally recognised !

But before I try to donate again I want to check the Donation History to make sure my credit card hasn’t already been received or processed. This screen asks me to select the dates I want to check. Rather strange as a new registrant. Also the pre-populated date range seems a bit random – some date in November 2012 to June 2013. Today is 28 April 2014 right? I change the date to today and phew, no transactions display. Then I read the text above the date selector – “If you’ve made a recent donation, please note that donations may take up to five working days to appear.” Oh dear – a simple listing of donations made with a given status of ‘pending’ wouldn’t do here? So do I wait 5 days or go ahead with the donation?

The other site I’ve used recently is Virgin Money Giving. What a breeze! I don’t need to register. I don’t need to login. I select the charity, the amount and chose how I want to pay. Simples. Done in less than 3 minutes.

Multiply 3 minutes by the number of steps taken on Oxfam, amplified by factors of annoyance and frustration and that’s how many potential donors you’re missing out on Oxfam.

Stop and question how much you really need to know about donors. If you were selling raffle tickets at the local shopping centre you wouldn’t find out much at all. It’s called fund raising for a reason, not data collection.

Fundraising is hard enough – I know; my mother fundraised for charity for the best part of 20 years before the convenience of online tools. Use them wisely and be smart.

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