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In my first blog post, I discussed what a kerfuffle all the paperwork leading up to university was for me. After accepting my place, applying for halls, student loans and a disabled students’ allowance, I actually thought I would be free from forms for a little bit but, alas, they just keep coming! I feel like I’m doing a degree in form filling.

I think my parents had it easy during freshers week as they just stood in queues after they arrived! To save time, however, I have everything online beforehand. Selecting modules was a particularly difficult task. A massive catalogue arrived through the letterbox with its own infinitely complicated system. You have a certain number of credits to “spend” and each course module is worth so many credits. Not an easy system for me as numbers make no sense to me and I am unable to retain them.

Finally, after deciding what I want to do and decoding the system, as instructed, I logged on to the University website to try to enter my module selection. However, what is written in the catalogue completely contradicts the instructions on the website regarding the number of modules I’m allowed to take from each department. This would be a big enough problem for non-dyslexics but I have the additional problem of doubting myself. I keep thinking, “Maybe I haven’t understood the system”, or “Perhaps I have misread something?”

A few emails later, and assistance from some very helpful administrators, who were able to over-ride the system for me, I was able to enter my selection. The paper and the online instructions were both correct but it was impossible to find this out without some human assistance. I really think online form filling needs more human back up, with a rapid response email or telephone help system.

Currently the main aim of these forms seems to be to collect as much data on you as possible. Most forms I come across online could work with only half the number of questions. The designers should not lose site of the fact that online forms are supposed to make things as easy as possible for the user to input data quickly.

We’ve had presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for over a year now, the blog’s been going strong for 6 months, so lately I’ve been looking into some other social media channels we can get involved in.  The result is the WebcredibleUK YouTube channel and the Webcredible Flickr photostream.

The Flickr photostream at the moment offers pictures of all our facilities that are available to hire as well as our new Webcredible branded polo-shirts to be worn by our consultants at exhibitions.  On the exhibitions note, keep an eye on the stream next week as we will be putting up pictures from Ecommerce Expo which we are exhibiting at on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At these types of events, we get a lot of people asking to view our presentations that they didn’t manage to catch on the day, so that’s where the YouTube channel comes in.  You can now see Senior Consultant, Abid Warsi’s presentation on mobile ecommerce usability from last week’s IMRG mobile commerce workshop – The presentation is split into four parts each in a separate video.  You can also checkout the demo videos of our accessible CMS product.

Let us know what you think.

Step into middle England’s best loved department store, stroll through haberdashery to the audio visual department where an awfully well brought-up young man will bend over backwards to find the right TV for you - then go to dixons.co.uk and buy it.

1926310454_e19d38395aThe text above, one of a recent series of advertising messages by Dixons won’t come as a surprise to those of us at Webcredible who’ve been through countless usability testing sessions with ecommerce websites. Especially when purchasing large, high-value goods or goods where design is an important factor, customers are right to want to “try before they buy”. And this often means browsing the high street, coming up with a shortlist of products and then looking for the cheapest price online.

Dixons’ campaign hasn’t gone without a reply from some of their high street competitors, who rightly point out that Dixons doesn’t even sell many of the upmarket products found in high street stores. And does Dixons really want to highlight that their competitors can provide better advice than they do?

So, apart from creative advertising, what can online retailers do to make consumers more confident to buy online without browsing through the high street? Here’s some tips:

  • Showcase the product online from as many angles as possible. ‘Catwalk’ videos for clothes and demo videos or 360° views for gadgets can replicate (to some extent) the experience of seeing a product up close.
  • Add product reviews and, even better, Q&As with your expert staff. If customers can ask you a question and get a satifactory reply (or even find that their question has been already answered) then they’re more likely to buy without seeking advice from your competitors.
  • Put a generous returns policy in place, and let your customers know. If customers know they can easily return a product they don’t like, they’ll be happier to checkout even when they’re not 100% sure about their purchase. On the other hand, if they get stuck with a product they don’t like they’re less likely to come back.

In our e-commerce usability report, due out next week, we’ve seen that some sites do better than others in helping consumers pick a product. How well does your site perform in this area?

P.S. Come meet us in Ecommerce Expo at Earls Court, 20-21 October.

Photo credit:  Indiana Stan via Flickr / Creative commons

A few of us Webcredible-types headed over to the groovy offices of Yahoo! in London yesterday to participate in the IMRG mobile workshop. IMRG logo

Abid Warsi, a senior consultant at Webcredible and mobile expert, was speaking about mobile user experience and usability best practice. In addition to our slot, there were excellent speakers from Akamai, ComScore, IBM, Yahoo!, Elastic Path & NEOVIA Financial/Handy Group.

It was a very interesting morning session with a great deal of lively debate on some very pertinent issues. I was particularly interested in a discussion of how mobile fits into the broader multi-channel experience of consumers.

Like many, I’ve always felt that mobile (or any other single channel) shouldn’t be treated in isolation when developing the communications and engagement around your commercial proposition. In my experience, if you do, you invariably allow technologically-led factors to drive the consumer user experience. This is not to say that you shouldn’t form a mobile strategy or take advantage of innovative enabling technologies to optimise your proposition. However, I think it’s best to ground your mobile strategy within your consumers’ overall journey and an understanding of their context of use.

In reality mobile is good for some things and poor for others. Carrying out research to learn about your audience’s behaviour, goals and needs will help determine at which point to use mobile activation (whether it’s an iPhone app, optimised mobile website, SMS messaging or whatever) or perhaps a completely different channel during the overall journey to hit the right spot.

By taking this broad view of your service proposition you can be confident that you’re using the most appropriate tool for the job at the right step in the journey depending on whether your consumers are at home, on the move, abroad or literally just around the corner from the flagship bricks and mortar store.

There’s no doubt about it. With the number of UK Smartphone users set to increase exponentially over the next few years and the planned explosion of broadband connectivity (as part of the Digital Britain agenda) the importance of digital is not to be underestimated. Clearly. But, as I discussed in a previous article on service design, you need to make sure you join up your mobile, online and offline thinking to come up with a coherent story and high-quality service for happy shoppers.

Webcredible is very proud to announce that two of our User Experience Consultants, Francesca Pagnacco and Philip Webb, are the joint recipients of UCL’s Interaction Centre (UCLIC) John Long Prize. The John Long Prize is awarded to students (full or part-time) who show outstanding research promise in their MSc project work. Both projects were based at the Victoria Line control room and were concerned with observing and understanding how the line control staff collaborate to keep the Underground train service running smoothly. If you would like more information on either of their projects visit the UCLIC website.

Congratulations, Frankie and Phil!

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