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bm eyesI have a hunch, based on no solid foundation, that in a few years (I’ll commit to 5) we won’t talk about mobile first. I believe it is a short term fad or a transition. Instead we will talk about independent design, separating form from function.

User research will define user requirements and design will be fined tuned to the medium on the front end regardless of the platform, technology or body part it’s beamed on to.

This theory occurred to me when I heard the CEO of Evernote talking about their approach to design, and again as I watched the most recent episode of Black Mirror with its retina display technology.

The death of ‘mobile first’

I am a big science fiction fan, and I love it when concepts and ideas that someone dreamed up for a TV series set hundreds (if not thousands) of years in the future become a reality. We all looked on in disbelief at Star Trek’s communicators back in the 60’s, now they are pervasive, but will they boldly go further.

Here is what I think could kill mobile first:

  • Screens are already growing to be more expansive and the race for the biggest but manageable screen must surely be over with the iPhone 6 plus and Samsung. Anything else will really disrupt and cannibalise the tablet market, where we are already seeing a slowing of interest. These screens barely need a mobile first approach due to their size, they are a law unto themselves
  • Wearable tech means there is a third screen to interact with, the second screen mobile will be the main interaction for now but this will split across desktop or TV as technology merges. I’ll leave others to discuss the merits of the iWatch and similar devices. Google glass is the highest profile device in this sector but it didn’t take off, as the media expected. This is probably due to it being no more than a prototype and has now been discontinued till they can overcome the geeky stereotype and the fact that most people don’t want invasive technology on their face or others

blog wearable

  • Real retina display beaming right onto your eye (as per Brooker’s vision), will be the next advancement from, let’s say, Google. The screen then, is as big as it needs to be
  • I have played with Occulus Rift and it certainly felt like the future, and Facebook even put their money where their eyes are. Or is it doomed already?
  • Microsoft have launched the Windows 10 HoloLens which will have us interacting with everything in our household

  • Other alternatives are screens or digital paper that expand to a size that you need. Sony is experimenting, but it’s very expensive and I was hoping for something more akin to Minority Report
  • If none of these were futuristic enough for you, how about projecting on to electrolysed air? I saw this prototyped a few years ago for a new type of TV. I can’t find any mention of an improved or production ready model but it can’t be far away. There is a 3D version that was prototyped back in 2011 which was starting to look like Star Wars-esque technology. Why project onto air when you can project onto yourself… via a bracelet. We have plenty of real estate around our bodies to play with

Mobile will die as our relationship with it deteriorates and sours and we will move on to other channels, whether it is those above or others not yet in the public domain e.g. Robots (for discussion in another blog on robotic interfaces).

A world after mobile

But what are the consequences of all this new technology? I cast my mind back to Charlie Brooker’s previous visual treats on dystopian technology (I hereby name it dystech) where futuristic everyday devices and software have a negative impact on human relationships and interactions. Some argue that technology is already impeding our ability to communicate and engage, campaigns like Look UP are trying to draw our attention to this impending doom.

Enough ranting, above are just a few alternatives to what might surpass the ‘mobile first’ rhetoric that’s so popular at the moment. Responsive design is a solution for the design challenges of the moment. The devices and technology thrown into the multichannel mix will grow and vie for popularity. This will mean user experience and design will need to encapsulate the demands of a multi-dystech world, not just flash in the pan technology.

If you look closely at the principles of user experience and UCD, they’re useful far beyond the web. Even if you manage or develop non-digital products and services, business plans or traditional marketing communications then don’t think that UX isn’t for you, it is!

At Webcredible, we’re doing just that. As part of our continuous improvement programme we’re using our UCD methodologies and expertise to improve our own Training Academy. This is the first of a series of blogs that will take you along the challenging (but fun!) journey that we’re going through in applying UCD principles to product development, with the aim of improving our training offerings.

This blog is going to share our process and learnings from step 1 – stakeholder research.

Why do stakeholder research?

Stakeholder research is a great way to bring all the key internal stakeholders on to the same page and collect their ideas to ensure you have their buy-in. Just like any other UCD project we run for our clients, we started off by conducting research with as diverse group of stakeholders as possible including trainers, marketing, sales and senior management. Each of these departments and individuals have their own set of goals and needs, so it’s important to get a cross-section of your business together.

One of the most difficult parts of organising workshops like these is to make sure people are available. The offering of food at meetings quite often works but sometimes it’s just not possible to have everyone attending every workshop. To get around this there are 2 things you can do:

  1. Split workshops into smaller, mini workshops that require less time in a row. People are more flexible if it’s 45 minutes rather than 3 hours.
  2. Don’t fret if not every last person can come. The importance really is about representatives for each need. This does come with a caveat however, part of the purpose of stakeholder workshops is buy-in, which you won’t get if someone isn’t able to contribute their ideas and thoughts early. Go and collect them and add them in if someone key can’t make it.

We ran a series of 3 stakeholder workshops last November to build a shared understanding of the goals, barriers and visions for the Training Academy.

How do you run a stakeholder workshop?

Step 1: Pose simple questions, one at a time

During our Training Academy stakeholder research we held 3 separate mini workshops, 1 for each theme – goals, challenges and vision. Concentrating on each of these separately allows ideas, concerns and needs to come forward before being analysed – “great idea but we can’t do that because…” doesn’t happen here – it’s green hat thinking.

In the goals workshop, we posed three questions to the participants to get them thinking about different purposes of the training academy:

  • What does the business want out of the Training Academy?
  • What do the customers want out of the Training Academy?
  • What do the trainers want out of the Training Academy?

Step 2: Idea generation

Each participant wrote their answers on individual post-its first before sharing them with the group. Letting participants write their answers individually first has several benefits:

  • Writing is an individual activity that requires thinking. So it gives thinking time to participants to surface more ideas.
  • Some people are not comfortable with the idea of speaking up in a group. A lot of great ideas never see the light of day because their owners are too afraid to speak in a meeting.
  • It reduces group think (when everyone in the meeting thinks the same).
  • It ensures a level playing field and that everyone’s ideas are heard and considered, not just those of the HIPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion).

After writing down their answers on post-its, the participants posted them on the wall under the relevant question.

Step 3: Consolidation

We then conducted affinity diagramming to arrange the post-its into groups based on themes that naturally occur. We then labelled each group of post-its based on its theme. We ended up with LOTS of colourful post-its on the wall!

As you can see from the number of post-its, even a short session can generate a lot of ideas. The key is to prioritise those ideas and start with the high priority ones.

What did we discover about the Webcredible Training Academy?

Business goals:

For Webcredible, training is an integral component of our delivery. Yes, it helps us make more money (what business doesn’t exist to make money?) but besides that, it helps us share our love of UX and educate our clients. Educated clients are more aware of the ROI and the value of customer-centric thinking, which makes our job a lot easier. It helps us become a one-stop UX shop. So we don’t just build great customer experiences for our clients, we also help them do it themselves.

Another goal the business was looking forward to was having a lively office every day. We recently moved into a much bigger space and having training participants in the office keeps the office buzzing and keeps the knowledge (and beers) flowing!

Trainer goals:

One of the many reasons I joined Webcredible was because at Webcredible I could continue my love of teaching as part of my day job. It was great to see this sentiment shared by other Webcredibles. I learned early from one of the UX gurus that I look up to, Kim Goodwin. She (and I) believe that we can change the world through better design but we can do it even faster if we teach others to do it. One of the major goals for trainers was to share their knowledge and help clients beyond delivering successful projects.

Training also helped them reinforce their own learning and expand their network of contacts. They also wanted to ensure that we set the right expectations with participants attending the courses. We have had instances where participants book themselves onto a UX course, expecting to spend the entire day learning about user interface design. There are still a lot of misconceptions about what UX is and we need to clarify those expectations better.

Training participant goals:

The trainee goals we compiled were mostly based on the feedback from training participants and the experience the stakeholders have had engaging with participants at various levels: pre-sales, on-the-day and post-training support. These findings will be further validated through user research with training customers. It may seem very ‘non-UX’ to make assumptions about your users goals. But it’s useful to have a benchmark of internal perception and either back it up or challenge it with user research. It’s also a great way of starting to get your stakeholders to think from a customers perspective.

One of the key goals for the training participants was to learn high quality content from expert trainers. More importantly, they need to be able to put their new knowledge into practice straightaway. Hence, on top of learning industry standard best practices, they want to learn how to take the first tiny steps within their roles to gather small wins and build credibility of UX within the organisation.

Tied in with one of the trainer goals above, participants also need help in picking the right course. The vast field of experience design and the myriad of topics within it can be daunting for people to navigate around to find the best match for their needs. Hence, they need clearer pathways through the ‘labyrinth’ of courses.

What’s next?

So those were the goals, the things that we would like the Training Academy to achieve. But what’s stopping us or can potentially stop us from achieving those goals? We tackled those questions by repeating the above workshop but posing the question of barriers and challenges.

Saturday 21st February was World IA Day 2015. IA standing for information architecture.

World Information Architecture Day is a one-day annual conference hosted by the Information Architecture Institute and held in different cities across the world. The aim is to bring professionals together and discuss a different theme every year. This year’s theme was ‘Architecting Happiness’.

What is Information Architecture?

The Information Architecture Institute defines IA as:

‘The art and science of organizing and labelling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.’

Here at Webcredible we define IA as:

‘The design of a structure for interactive information and content. It maps relationships, hierarchies, labelling and navigation schemes based on users expectations and needs’.

In simple terms, information architecture is the way we structure and organise information and content in websites and digital products, to help users finding information and completing tasks easily and quickly. Users need to know where they are and where they need to go to find what they are looking for, what is around and what to expect.

To achieve this, we need to have a good understanding of:

  • Structure and layout: what each page or unit of content should contain, and in what order
  • Scheme: used to give meaning to the structure. How we categorize and structure information
  • Labelling: how we represent information – talking the user’s language and using a vocabulary that is consistent and easily understood
  • Navigation: how users browse and move through information, and find their way around the website
  • Search: how users look for information
  • Content: the data that makes up a digital product, including: text, images, videos, etc

Fitting it all together

To fit all of this together we can use the following techniques:

  • Tree testing: is a method to test the findability of different parts of a website. Participants are asked to try to ‘find’ items based on their categorisation and labelling only
  • Card sorting: This helps to organise content into a topic-based schema. Participants are given some cards with a piece of content written on each and are asked to sort them into groups that makes sense to them
  • Page Description Diagrams: PDD is a method for documenting the content required fora specific page without specifying an exact layout
  • Underpinning all of this is a thorough understanding of the audience, business and organisational goals, so we can deliver right information to the right user at the right time

These are only a few of many techniques used to ‘Architect Happiness’. If you want to learn more about Information Architecture, and other research methods, we have a training course that can help.

Why is Information Architecture important?

Usability is most definitely one of the critical success factors for websites and digital products. Good information architecture is essential for an information-based system that makes sense to the users. It helps users find necessary information, carry out tasks and achieve their goals.


  • World IA Day 2015
  • The Information Architecture Institute
  • Architecting happiness

Axure can be a little cumbersome to maintain, especially with lots of pages and widgets. Having worked on a number of Axure prototypes (some very complex) I’ve discovered a few tricks that help me make prototyping more manageable and efficient.

1. Copy and paste interactions

01 HomepageCopy and paste is an easily forgotten function when it comes to anything other than text, but it’s ideal for prototypes with large number of interactions. I once had a button that triggered 20 interactions across five conditions. There needed to be four of these that worked differently across the prototype and the prospect of recreating those wireframes was daunting.

Thankfully, the copy and paste interaction feature cut down the amount of tedious recreation I had to do to build them all. Simply right click on an interaction in the Widget Interaction and Notes panel to find the copy and paste function. Alternatively, the conventional control + C + V will do the trick!

TOP TIP: you can copy and paste an entire case or a particular interaction.

2. Label consistently

Consistent labeling of widgets, dynamic panels and variables makes it easier to create interactions thanks to the text search feature. TOP TIP: anything that will be affected by an interaction should be labelled.

For example I tend to label widgets as follows:

  • If it’s an input field I add IF (stands for input field) to the end of the label, so it will look like this “widget description IF”
  • If it’s text that will change due to an interaction I label as “Type of copy COPY”

This way, if I need to make an interaction involving an input field, I can filter the results by typing IF into the select widget option.

search 1

While you should choose your own labels, for team projects establish a consensus on how you will label your widgets, dynamic panels and variables. Trying to figure out interactions made by a team member can be time consuming.

3. Widget style editor

If you’re unfortunate enough to be applying different button styles after creating 30 of them scattered across a prototype, then you will appreciate the value of having the widget style editor.

You can use it to create custom styles that can be applied across your prototype. No more hunting and applying style changes individually. They also work for interaction styles so your mouse over or widget selected style can all be manipulated at once.

4. Scaling height and width

This is helpful for quick image or button scaling. Click on the height box and when it is highlighted, hold the shift key and use the up or down arrow key to change both the height and width of the widget. However, this does not work with the width box.

scale 1




If this is not enough for you and you’re hankering for more Axure tips, we have two brilliant classroom courses that’ll have you prototyping like a pro in no time: Axure, and advanced Axure.

If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments!

My colleague, Nirish and I ran a workshop, ‘Where UX and Analytics Meet’ yesterday for the UXPA’s Winter Workshop Extravaganza. I have to say it was a challenge (but a fun one) to try and convert hardened sceptics among the 30-strong crowd to the value of analytics in the UX process.

Analytics and user experience are typically viewed as being very different from one another. The traditional view is that analytics (data interpretation) is left brain, UX is right.

On the surface they seem very contradictory. However, I believe the truth is far from it, UX and analytics can and should work harmoniously together.

Persona based segments

Any UX’er worth their salt knows what a persona is, but have you tried using them to segment out your traffic in Google Analytics? It might seem like an unusual idea, but hear me out!

From your personas pick out defining features and use them to build a segment in Google Analytics. For example, you could build a segment  based on a persona of someone that…

  • Mostly uses their smartphone to browse the internet
  • Lives in London
  • Speaks French (or at least browses in that language)
  • Aged 25-30
  • Interested in technology

All of the above are stats that Google Analytics has, or can have, on your users (you might need to enable some reports to get all this data, like age demographic). While Google Analytics wont have this level of data for everyone that uses your website, it will for a significant enough proportion to make it a worthwhile exercise.

The real benefit of creating persona based segments is that it humanizes your data, making it much more digestible. It’s also practical, as it lets you match real website usage data to research based personas so you can better understand how different groups of users interact with you online.

The what and why of user behavior

Another instance where I find analytics can work harmoniously with user experience is in helping you understand what users are doing on your website, before exploring why they do it. For example, your online sales have been steadily dropping for months, but you don’t know where the problem lies. Using Google Analytics’ behaviour flows tool (image below) you can see user journeys through your site, and identify the problem pages. A problem page might be one where a large percentage of people are dropping off (leaving your website).

Google Analytics has removed the ambiguity of diagnosing the problem/area for improvement. It’s showed you quantitatively what users are doing on your website – in this case, people on the user journey of making a purchase and where they are dropping off. At this point you’ve narrowed the problem down to a page, form or whole user journey. Now UX comes into its own and tells you why there’s a problem, so you can work on designing a solution.

This is obviously over simplified, but hopefully illustrates how UX and analytics can work together as part of the same process.

Setting goals

One of the first steps in a project of any sort will be setting goals. A UX’er will work on developing user goals, one of which might be to enable a user to find a product or service quickly. An analytics goal might be to shorten the length of a user flow. Are they really so dissimilar? I don’t think so. The reason for the goal in both cases is to make life easier for the user.

I’d recommend that at the start of a project the UX and Analytics teams meet and discuss goals and success metrics together.

In the end I think we softened even the staunchest of analytics-haters, and helped the group leave with an understanding of how UX and analytics can compliment one another. Personally, I learned a lot about how we can integrate analytics into our own UX projects.

All-in-all it was a great evening (we even met some old friends), and we look forward to running another workshop with the UXPA. If you have stories of working with UX and analytics please share them in the comments. Alternatively if you want to learn more about interpreting analytics, I run a training course on the topic.

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