Web Design News 22/06/10

Paul Boag

This week: The Boagworld Podcast goes off air, how to design better and faster, using stories in your design ideas and how to think from a users perspective.

Boagworld Podcast takes a break

The biggest news of the week (at least if you are listening to this… maybe) is that this will be the last Boagworld Podcast in its present format.

As I announced this week on the Boagworld blog we are taking a 6 month break from podcasting before returning with a new show and a new format.

To be honest at this stage we are not quite sure what that will be. That is why we wanted to take 6 months off to experiment with new formats and different material.

Between now and the end of the year we will still be putting out just as much content as we are now, but in a variety of different formats as we experiment with where to take Boagworld.

In fact we are starting these experimentations with a niche Webinar that we will be holding on the 21st July. If you work as part on an in-house web team then you maybe interested in joining us for a free interactive session where we talk about battling bureaucracy and ensuring the website gets the attention it deserves. To register your place email me on paul@boagworld.com. Remember to secure a place you need to be a permanent member of a web team in a large(ish) corporate or public sector organisation.

This will no doubt be just the first of more niche content that addresses the different needs of different members of the web community.

Dolphins saying 'So long and thanks for all the fish'

ShopArtGallery, Shutterstock

Design Better And Faster With Rapid Prototyping

If you have watched my presentation about Pain Free Design Signoff you will know I am a great believer in working collaboratively with our clients and showing them everything from initial sketches to final comps.

However considering the looks I get from some other web designers when I suggest such a hands on role for the client, I was beginning to wonder if I was alone in this view.

Fortunately an article entitled “Design Better And Faster With Rapid Prototyping” on Smashing Magazine has reassured me otherwise.

When talking about engaging all stakeholders in the design and prototyping process the author writes…

Doing this rapidly and iteratively generates feedback early and often in the process, improving the final design and reducing the need for changes during development.

He goes on to say…

Rapid prototyping helps teams experiment with multiple approaches and ideas, it facilitates discussion through visuals instead of words, it ensures that everyone shares a common understanding, and it reduces risk and avoids missed requirements, leading to a better design faster.

I couldn’t agree more!

The post goes on to look at how best to use prototyping and client interaction in the design process. In particular it looks at the fidelity of your prototypes in terms of design, functionality and content.

A graph describing the different levels of fidelity in prototypes from sketches to fully interactive websites using real content

He also provides a great list of do’s and don’ts that includes my favourite line in the post…

Do work collaboratively with users, business and IT stakeholders while rapid prototyping. Apart from giving valuable feedback, they also gain a sense of ownership of the final product.

This is a great article and definitely worth reading.

Using Stories for Design Ideas

Prototyping is a great way for discussing possible solutions. However, often there is a need to communicate and discuss the underlying problem first.

Before we can agree that a new feature is required, we first need to agree what problem it is solving. To do that we need to understand what the user wants.

User testing can partly help, however it doesn’t really focus on understanding the users ‘story’ or their motivation.

An article on Johnny Holland Magazine talks about how stories can guide our design process and inform what we do on our websites.

This is a new concept for me and one I am still wrapping my head around. However, as I understand it the idea is to take the problems we believe users are experiencing and weave them into a ‘story.’ This story that not only identifies the problem but also how the user feels and behaves.

Once you have the story it becomes easier to rewrite with a ‘happy ending.’ An ending where your website solves the user’s problem.

It’s a hard concept to explain so I recommend checking out the post. It contains lots of examples of how to turn a basic problem into a story and then how to use that story to generate a solution.

In essence it is an alternative to brainstorming that is ideal for the collaborative approach I have been talking about. This is because everybody is working from the same stories and so understands the problem that needs solving and the proposed solution.

An example of user centric thinking

While on the subject of understanding the users thinking, I want to conclude with an example and how it can solve very real problems.

The problem I want to look at is checkout abandonment. More and more people are abandoning the checkout process when purchasing from an ecommerce site. Of those users a whopping 29% are giving up because they are forced to register. That is second only to hidden charges being applied at checkout.

Abadnoned shopping cart

Sam Aronov, Shutterstock

In order to solve this problem you need to understand how users think. Why do they hate registering so much?

According to econsultancy the reasons are as follows…

  • Completing my purchase will take much longer than if I didn’t register.
  • I will need to provide lots more personal information.
  • I will start getting spammed with offers and promotions.
  • The retailer will pass my personal details on to third parties, who will also start spamming me.
  • Why do they need me to register? All I want to do is buy this one thing.

After reading that list you can understand the users point of view. The question then arises – why not remove registration entirely? As econsultancy points out, there are a lot of benefits for both the customer and retailer in registering. It’s just that the user cannot see that.

The real genius of the econsultancy post is what it does next. After identifying the feelings of both customer and retailers the post focuses on the crux of the problem…

The ironic thing about the whole ‘encourage customers register’ challenge is that when you break it all down, all new customers should be required to simply complete is one additional field – the create password field.

By understanding the users objections on a granular level you discover quite how small a problem is how obvious the solution.

Instead of asking the user to register up front you move the password creation field to the end of the checkout accompanied by the question “Would you like to save your details for next time?”

Actually I think it could be made even more compelling by asking “Would you like to save time when you next purchase?”

By understanding that while purchasing the user is focused on the buying process rather than registration, it becomes much easier to find the right solution.

This is user centric thinking in action.