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User experience appears to have achieved a position of importance in organisations over the last two years. Executives and senior management are talking about delivering better experiences to their customers and many organisations are establishing internal UX teams. Unfortunately, I often come across organisations where an increased strategic focus on delivering better user experiences hasn’t resulted in proper user-centred design and development processes.

In other words, organisations plan to create better customer experiences, but the process for designing these products hasn’t changed and often doesn’t involve users. This is not to say they do not test their products with users, but the testing often happens with the final product just before launch and only helps in making small, last minute changes.

At Webcredible, we’ve conducted many hundreds of user testing studies and we often find that users are experiencing problems that merit more than a quick fix. Overall, it’s great that user experience is becoming increasingly important in organisations, but in my opinion, many organisations still rely on the ‘good-old’ development process and don’t understand the value of a user-centred process. Below are three reasons why organisations shouldn’t omit user involvement in their design and development processes.

1. Products are ‘consumed’ through digital channels

Although more business executives are acknowledging the importance of user experience, many still don’t seem to realise how important the digital channels are to their business. Today, a range products and services are delivered through digital channels and these will often be the main touch point for customers to interact with the brand. This is an easy concept to understand from a B2C perspective; an ecommerce website or mobile app generates revenue and detailed analytics which identify where users drop out of a checkout process. But digital channels are also used for delivering products and services in many other ways.

For example, an organisation specialising in delivering HR, project management or supply chain solutions can have excellent consulting capabilities in each of these fields and provide client-centred solutions to their clients. However, the whole customer experience is jeopardised if the final solution is implemented through an unusable client-facing application. Consequently, the core capabilities of the organisation seem secondary to the unusable application, which client users are struggling with on a daily basis.

2. It’s risky business

Strategic business decisions are usually backed up by market forecasts and competitor analyses. Executives or senior managers want to make informed decisions and minimise their risk when creating a plan for the future for their organisation.  Thus, the strategic decision to launch a new product range is often backed up by insights ensuring there is commercial potential and a return on investment.

However, this insight-based approach to decision making is often not reflected within the actual design process – decisions aren’t backed up by real user insights. This is unusual because involving users in the design process serves a similar purpose as when strategic business decisions are made. User research is conducted to identify new ideas for products, to better understand user behaviour and find out how we can best serve the users in the future.

Essentially minimising risk through market insights is commonly undermined in the actual creation of the product. The result can be a service or touch point which is less likely to satisfy users and fulfill its commercial potential.

3. An imagination-centred design process?

Design and development processes are often directed by business requirements, technical constraints, generic market research and web analytics. These methods detail what’s wrong with current offerings but don’t explain why.

Decisions are made based on these methods but aren’t supported by any insights as to what users actually do when using the product. The design is left to the imagination, I call it an imagination-centred design process.

I’ve worked on many types of design projects and regardless of whether we’re designing a simple marketing website or a complex application, the insights we get from talking and observing users are invaluable. These insights cannot be found in generic market research, search logs or web analytics (although these are helpful too). Insights from user research help us understand users’ attitudes, workflows and multi-channel behaviour. It also helps us create a shared understanding amongst the product team (e.g. through personas and experience mapping), which makes it easier to make informed design decisions. Even if we’re asked to design a radically different solution, observing users interacting with an existing product helps us understand the user needs and set the right design constraints – user research isn’t only valuable for incremental changes to an existing product.

Conclusion

These are just few of many arguments for why organisations should focus on a more user-centred design process. Obviously, there are other ways to ensure a user-centred approach – some better than others – but my main argument is that involving users throughout the design and development process minimizes risk of launching an unsuccessful product through better informed design decisions.
How do you see user experience and user-centred design evolving in your organisation? Are you culprits of an imagination-centred design process?

Below is a summarised version of the introduction to our upcoming omnichannel report. This report investigates and discusses the digital channel presences of 10 of the UK’s leading high street retailers. Our aim is to use the report to inform our upcoming omnichannel roundtables.

Digital channel strategies

Over the past few years there has been a multitude of ‘digital channel’ strategies, there is:

  • cross-channel
  • multi-channel
  • and now omni-channel

So what’s the deal?

Without going into to great a detail, cross and multi channel strategies simply advocate having an up to date presence on each of the different digital channels – an important tactic for brands still playing catch up with the ever increasing popularity of the latest technology. Often however a brand’s presence will be just a variation on a theme, e.g. a mobile app that is basically a stripped down version of the website. What’s lacking in such strategies is an overarching vision into how customers:

  • shift sequentially between or simultaneously access channels to perform different tasks (e.g. find a product they like the look of on mobile, save it, then view in detail and purchase online)
  • expect to access features that take advantage of unique capabilities of each of their devices (e.g. immersive viewing capabilities on a tablet)
  • want to be offered benefits for using their devices in different contextual settings (e.g. an in-store discount for displaying a mobile app at the checkout)

(For further understanding of how customers currently use their variety of devices, Google recently performed an in-depth investigation)

How does an omni-channel approach differ

Looking at it fundamentally it is important to identify that the prefix ‘omni’ derives from the latin for ‘all’ or ‘universal’. In terms of the design of across digital channels we take the term to mean a strategy that requires thinking about all channels as a whole, it’s no longer good enough to say we need to think about ‘mobile and tablet’. It is more holistic than that, it’s about deploying a seamless and consistent digital customer experience that understands:

  • the complex, real life, and day to day behaviours of the way people digitally interact across numerous channels with a single brand
  • the design limitations and technical constraints of various platforms and devices
  • the exciting opportunities for innovation within the technology sector
  • the role of social media, and in-store or physical digital

To give one example of excellently well run omni-channel strategy, and to illustrate what we mean, we’ve mapped how Nike have adopted this approach. However, you will have to wait! Our full report is not out for a while yet.

Can’t wait?

We are running a series of omnichannel roundtables, informed by our report, between 2nd – 4th October. If you want to request a ticket and have a chance to discuss omnichannel with some leading brands, apply for a ticket at our Eventbrite page, or call us directly on: 020 7423 6320.

password

To have strong, different passwords for each of your important accounts is a must these days. It is not good enough to have a very good password repeated everywhere. It’s a potential for disaster. If you get hacked once, all your accounts could be affected, your identity supplanted, your bank account cleaned, your online persona stolen.

We all know the theory. Passwords should contain special characters, upper and lower case, they must be long and they must not include any common words (such as “password”). Any details personal to you are also a no go; dates, your pets name your place of birth. So it would seem that pretty much anything that makes sense to you  and can be found in a dictionary is bad for a password. Passwords must not be user friendly.

In Practice creating and remembering so many random sequences of characters is becoming a more and more impossible task.

What is your strategy for remembering? How do you cope? Do you have your own algorithm? Do you use a password management system? Do you write them down in a hidden piece of paper? Or have you given up all together and use “password” as your go to password?

We are researching how people juggle the growing need for online security and actually remembering passwords. So please tell us your story,  we would love to hear from you.

Late last night on my final Reddit visit before bed I happened across a hilarious set of images entitled ‘shell accidentally creates anti-shell meme generator’. Glorious! So I emailed the link to myself to tweet at work. Ha-ha stupid Shell.

Now, perhaps I was just tired or I secretly wanted it to be true, but nonetheless I took the images at face value. I thought this was an example of the Internets spontaneous satirical humour at its finest. I was wrong.

My calamitous tweet was picked up by some of our friendly followers who pointed out my mistake and i was able to correct myself accordingly. The selection of memes I thought had been the result of Shell’s ill judgment had actually been part of a satirical marketing campaign in opposition to Shell’s arctic drilling.

Now i am no stranger to memes and I frequent Reddit and dedicated meme websites (I find them to be relatable, witty and funny) but my blunder really got me thinking about memes and marketing. How effective are they be as marketing tools and how best can business harness their fickle power?

What is a meme?

First things first, what is a meme? The phrase itself was originally coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’. He described a meme as  ‘an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture’. Internet memes as we know them fit snugly into this definition. Now, its impossible to say what the first meme was but they were popularized largely by online communities such as Reddit and the infamous 4chan. More recently however businesses have been both creating and spreading memes through advertising, but why should you take notice?

Memes are not for everyone and before you think about using them consider your business and the image you trying to represent. However, memes have great marketing potential. They are relatable,  already viral, great for sharing and they attract attention. The proof:

  • Y U NO guy on a HipChat billboard.  This memetic advertisement (just one billboard) was a huge success. It was all over the internet – on TechCrunch, Twitter and Tumblr (among numerous others). Best of all it led to an insane rise in searches for ‘HipChat’
  • Another subtle use of memetic advertising was Virgin’s use of success kid. It was rolled out as both a billboard campaign and used on their website
  • The crowing achievement of memetic advertising is surely the The Old Spice ‘The man your man could smell like’ campaign. They also created others including ‘believe in your smellf’ and ‘smell better than yourself’. What is so great about the Old Spice marketing is its creativity, it’s unique. It is the opposite to the above in that Old Spice did not use memes they created one

The above are all examples of memes used well. However, using memes is no guarantee of success.

An example of questionable memetic advertising is Vitamin water’s ‘grab it by the horns’ video. Without going into great detail just from the comments and dislikes on YouTube you can see it was not well received. Nevertheless it does have just shy of 500,000 views, and its said there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So, how might you approach memetic advertising?

s-kid

  • Try not to shove it down your consumers throat, see above vitamin water advert. Approach things with a modicum of taste and caution, don’t throw memes into an advert and hope to attract attention, its not smart or funny. Here is an example of a meme used well, honey badger does it badass
  • As with anything, do your research and don’t get it wrong. Appreciate a memes context and use it accordingly
  • Try not to use  ‘dead’ memes. Browse Reddit and other online communities to keep abreast of new and popular memes
  • Some memes might be especially applicable to your business. There are also some that can be used in most situations, for example: Y U NO guy, success kid, me gusta. The list goes on

So, what do you think about using memes in marketing? Have you considered them at all? My personal view is that they are great if you can come up with something unique and creative and be cautious about picking an existing meme and bending it to your brand; this is likely to provoke the ire of online communities, if you care about such things.

At the Internet Retailing customer experience jumpstart event, I presented some top tips for improving Ecommerce sites including:

  • Helping your customers to find your products
  • How to design a great product page
  • Making it easy for customers to make a purchase on line

You don’t want to trip up on these basic steps for optimising your retail site so for those who didn’t make it to the event, here is the video so you can get the full enjoyment and of course all the information!

Seen any great examples of best or worst practice? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear them from you.

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