Boagworld – User Experience Advice Advice on user experience design and digital strategy from Paul Boag Thu, 13 Jun 2019 10:51:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Advice on user experience design and digital strategy from Paul Boag Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean Advice on user experience design and digital strategy from Paul Boag Boagworld – User Experience Advice How to Design Outstanding Calls to Action that Convert Thu, 06 Jun 2019 11:00:01 +0000 http://wpboagworld:83/uncategorized/10-techniques-for-an-effective-call-to-action 80 <p>Every website should have a call to action, a response you want users to complete. But how do you encourage users to act? How do you create an effective call to action?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Design Outstanding Calls to Action that Convert</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Almost all websites have some form of a call to action, from signing up to a newsletter to summiting a contact us form. However, getting a user to complete a call to action is more complicated than one would first think. There are many factors at play that you need to consider.

To begin with, users do not go from zero to clicking a call to action in a single step. Take for example buying on an ecommerce site, which is a journey involving:

  • Discovering a need.
  • Researching options.
  • Placing an order.
  • Receiving a delivery.
  • After sales support.

An experience that often happens over an extended period and involving many visits to the site.

The result of this extensive journey is that it may be necessary to present users with different calls to action at various points in the journey. For example, while researching a purchase, we may wish to encourage users to signup for a newsletter so that they do not forget us when it comes time to place an order. Equally, after a user has placed an order, we will want to make it clear how to look up their order status to reduce our support call costs.

However, there is another factor at play too. Not all calls to action are equally valuable to those running sites. An ecommerce site may want to push users towards a particular product that offers a higher margin or up-sell additional items to increase average order value.

All this means that a well-designed site has to do a lot more than offering a prominent button to click.

How then can we create compelling calls to action that encourage conversion? That is where this guide comes in. It outlines all of the critical factors that influence the effectiveness of your calls to action. Factors such as:

Let's begin by looking at timing your call to action.

Timing Your Call to Action

Understanding where the user is on their journey is crucial to success with calls to action. For example, asking them to sign up for a newsletter as they are about to make a purchase is nothing but a dangerous distraction. However, asking them to do so on their first visit, before they are ready to commit, makes sense.

Even then it is essential to be careful. Displaying a newsletter signup overlay the moment a user arrives on a site will lead to a reduced conversion rate. The user will not have had time to look around the site to decide whether they want to sign up.

Asking people to sign up for a newsletter may just be a distraction if presented at the wrong moment.

Not that picking the right moment is limited to a newsletter sign up. Asking people to share content on social media or complete a survey are best left until the user has completed their primary task.

There is also picking the right moment to up-sell other products if you are an ecommerce site. Asking users whether they want to add batteries or some other accessory to an order makes sense at the shopping cart stage, but pushing an entirely different category of product does not.

All of this comes down to having a firm grasp of the user's journey, something primarily achieved through customer journey mapping and user research. However, ‘tagging’ people who visit the site through the use of cookies can help too.

Storing related information on users in cookies cached on their computer can help us tailor the timing of calls to action better. For example, if no cookie exists, there is a good chance the user is visiting the site for the first time, and it might be worth emphasising newsletter sign up.

If a user has previously visited a specific part of your site, then the call to action should relate to that. If the user has purchased in the last few days, then emphasising order tracking is appropriate. The list goes on.

However, cookies are not the only tool at our disposal for better targeting our calls to action. If a user is logged in, we have a wealth of information to draw upon from previous orders to average visit duration.

We can also target calls to action based on where the user is on the site. For example, when a user has just completed a purchase, instead of showing them a ‘continue shopping’ confirmation page, give them the option to sign up for social media or the newsletter. We can even tailor the messaging to relate to the product they have just purchased. For example, if the user has just bought a camera the call to action might read “for advice on making the most from your camera sign up for our newsletter”.

The order completion page is an excellent opportunity to introduce secondary calls to action.

The copy associated with calls to action is one of the most significant influencing factors in conversion. That is why we must carefully consider the wording we use.

Creating Copy to Convert

Whether we are trying to encourage newsletter sign-ups or the purchasing of a particular product, the copy associated with that call to action is crucial to conversion.

Unfortunately, the drive for improved conversion often leads to copy that exaggerates. Ultimately, that undermines, rather than improves conversion.

Credibility Before Hype

There is a growing trend online towards increasingly exaggerated claims in an attempt to grab users attention. Often referred to as clickbait, this kind of copy will undermine conversion in the long term.

Although it is true that attention-grabbing headlines do indeed grab attention, it comes at a cost if those headlines are unable to deliver on their claims. This kind of copy undermines trust which is a crucial ingredient in encouraging conversion. If a company exaggerates in their text, users worry that the company will fail to deliver in their products or services.

Clickbait headlines undermine trust and leave users feeling manipulated.

That said, the copy can still be attention-grabbing. However, it needs to balance that with delivering on its promises. These kinds of balances occur time and again when writing copy that converts.

Balance Benefits with Features

For a long time marketing have sold by focusing on the benefits of a product, rather than its features. They emphasise how a product will benefit the consumer and improve their experience, rather than list features.

Focusing on benefits is a sound approach because it does not require the user to think to see how those features benefit them. For example, a company could emphasise the 12-hour battery life of its laptop (a feature). However, a consumer does not care about how many hours the battery lasts. They care whether the computer will run out of power before they finish using it (the benefit). Therefore traditional marketing argues that we should emphases the benefit in preference to the feature.

Skype make the benefits of clicking their call to action clear.

Although this approach still applies online, a degree of caution is required. Users often come to a site with a specific question in mind and are looking for answers to that question. If that question is “how long does the battery last”, a vague promise that it will “keep working as long as you do” is not going to satisfy.

It is therefore vital that benefits and features be presented together on a website to have the best chance to convert.

Admittedly this makes the copy longer, but we should always favour clarity over conciseness.

Clarity Should Come Before Conciseness

User experience designers will explain that people do not read online. That is indeed true. Instead, they tend to scan copy looking for key phrases that answer whatever questions they have about a product.

However, that does not necessarily mean that copy has to be short. Instead, the content should be as long as it needs to be to make the case and no longer. Users will stop scanning to read the text if it is relevant to them.

Conversion Rate Experts managed to increase the conversion rate of a GoHenry landing page despite increasing its length through aiding scanability.

To aid clarity while supporting scanability, introduce structure into the copy. Make use of headings, sub-headings, lists, pull out quotes and other typographic aids to break up larger blocks of text and allow users to identify the parts of the copy relevant to them quickly.

That said, avoid seeing a need for clarity as an excuse for verbose copy. Users will quickly lose patience with copy that repeats itself or fails to address their questions. They have an unusually low tolerance for copy that ‘feels’ like an attempt to aggressively sell. Once again, this tends to undermine trust.

Establish a Trustworthy Tone of Voice

Whatever the call to action, it will almost certainly involve a great deal of trust on the part of users. Trust that you will deliver on your promise. Trust that we will keep their data safe. Trust that we will respect the boundaries of the agreement.

Building trust is, therefore, a critical component in encouraging action and one that is shaped by numerous factors, not least the copy we write.

However, the trustworthiness of the copy is not merely about its truthfulness. It is also about the tone of voice. The text can come across as manipulative, impersonal and aggressively pursuing a ‘sale’.

It is true that particular language does tend to convert better. Using language that encourages action such as “buy today” or “last chance” will increase conversion. It is also true that emotionally charged wording such as “breakthrough”, “astonishing” or “surprise” tend to grab attention. However, if used without subtlety they can undermine the trustworthiness of the site and, by extension, calls to action.

Even worse, the copy on many websites lacks humanity. They use phrasing that one would never hear in everyday conversation. That leaves the user with the impression they are being asked to buy from a faceless corporation, not a passionate team of people.

Balancing compelling copy with a human tone of voice is not always easy and comes with practice and much testing. However, as a general rule, lean towards writing in a personal, open and matter-of-fact tone of voice. As users become ever more sophisticated and aware of ‘manipulative’ techniques, they routinely warm to a more honest, human approach.

Not that copy is the only consideration when creating compelling calls to action. Design plays a critical role as well.

Design Principles for Improved Calls to Action

Cognitive load makes it very easy for users to overlook critical visual cues on your site. If users are in a rush, distracted or are struggling to use a website, then they could easily miss a call to action entirely.

How then can we optimise our calls to action to ensure they are immediately apparent to even the most overwhelmed user? There are six techniques available to us.

We begin with positioning.

1. Optimise Positioning

Correctly positioning a call to action can have a significant impact on visibility and in turn conversion.

However, positioning is not merely a matter of displaying a call to action high on the page. There are other factors to consider as well.

One crucial factor is how users scan a page. In countries where users read from top to bottom and left to right, people start at the top left corner and scan down the left-hand side of the page. When something grabs their attention, they then scan horizontally across the page.

This approach to scanning favours the left-hand side of the page over the right. That means a call to action often performs better on the left, even if it is lower on the page.

Eye tracking heat maps show how users favour the left hand column of a page. They only occasionally pause to glance right as something grabs their attention.

Another factor that will improve conversion is positioning the call to action in the central content area. That is because this is where the user's attention is primarily focused. Users are interested in the content of the page and so give it considerably more attention than headers, footers or sidebars. A call to action placed in the flow of the main body of the page will often outperform the same call to action in the header or high on a sidebar, even if the call to action is lower on the page.

Positioning calls to action in the main body of content is more effective than position it high on the page.

In fact, in some situations, it is preferable to place the call to action lower on a page. As was discussed in the ‘pick your moment’ section, choosing the time to ask users to act can have a significant impact on conversion. In some situations, this need to pick the right moment can mean waiting until a user has viewed some of the pages before asking them to act.

An excellent example of this is signing up for a newsletter on a blog. If you places a call to action at the top of the page, the user may not have seen any of the content to judge whether they wish to subscribe. Waiting until they have read at least some of the page makes sense.

Working out the optimal vertical position for a call to action is not easy. Too high and the user might not be ready to respond, but equally there is no guarantee that a user will scroll the entire page. In truth they often do, but in doing so, they routinely skip content in the middle.

The best solution to this problem is to run some heatmap software on a site to get a sense of how much users are scrolling on critical pages and where their attention lingers. That is important because other factors can also influence where our attention settles, not just scroll position.

A scroll heatmap will prove invaluable at identifying the best place to put a call to action.

The position of a call to action does not exist in isolation. Other page elements heavily influence it. Surrounding text, video or stylistic elements will all either draw the eye towards or away from a call to action. We can most clearly see this in the relationship between a call to action and imagery.

2. Use Imagery With Care

Imagery is considerably more comfortable for people to process than text. As a result, photographs and illustrations unconsciously draw our attention. This phenomenon is even more exaggerated if the imagery contains people, and in particular, faces. We are programmed to pay specific attention to faces and so tend to skip directly to a face when displayed on a page.

The power that imagery has to attract attention can be either beneficial or detrimental to a conversion rate.

For example, if you closely associate an image with a call to action, then this increases its visibility and therefore improves conversion. However, if there is a disconnect between the image and call to action, the user's eye will often skip directly to the image ignoring the call to action.

It is easy for attention to skip over calls to action to nearby imagery.

The ability of images to draw attention is so powerful that if you place a call to action in a prominent left-hand column, and an image in a lesser right-hand column, the eye will skip right over the call to action to settle on the image.

The obvious conclusion is to associate imagery with a call to action closely. However, there is another factor at play. It is also necessary to consider the content of the imagery.

Visual cues in the image itself can either draw the users attention to or away from the call to action. For example, if the image contains a person we will tend to follow that person's eye line. If they are looking towards the call to action, that is where we will look. If they are looking away from the call to action, the chances increase of us missing it entirely.

By associating images with a call to action it can help to draw the users attention.

However, this does not just apply to people. It also applies to any element within an image that indicates direction or flow. That might be as obvious as an arrow pointing or as subtle as some architectural detail drawing the eye in a specific direction.

Subtle design queues can pull the users eye towards critical calls to action.

It helps to think of imagery as exerting a gravitational pull on the user’s attention. The idea of screen elements applying a pull on user attention is also useful when considering negative space.

3. Maximise Negative Space

When it comes to the prominence of a call to action, the absence of competing elements is as powerful as a well-designed call to action itself.

Users often spend less than eight seconds assessing a page. That limited attention means that every element on the page potentially detracts from the call to action.

One response is to reduce the number of screen elements on a page dramatically, and indeed, this will improve conversion. However, this approach can only go so far.

An alternative approach maximises the amount of space immediately around the call to action. Doing so leaves the user's eye with nothing else to latch onto and so the call to action draws their attention.

Negative space focuses attention on any nearby screen elements.

The approach of minimising distractions will inevitably improve conversion even on a relatively weak call to action. However, increasing the prominence of the call to action itself is always beneficial.

4. Dedicate Significant Screen Real Estate

Although obvious, the benefit of creating big, bold calls to action cannot be overstated. Size does have a significant impact on visibility and by extension conversion rate. A subtle design approach is rarely beneficial in this regards.

That said, size is not just about being eye-catching. A massive call to action offers a secondary benefit too. It allows for the introduction of more compelling messaging.

Take for example a “buy now” button for a gaming controller. The messaging on these buttons are typically short because the available real estate constrains them. However, if the button is made larger, the copy could read “buy now to become a better gamer”. The additional space allows for a significantly more compelling call to action.

When it comes to calls to action, size does matter. Make it bold, make it obvious.

Of course, it is entirely possible to include this additional information in supporting copy. However, it is not unusual for users to read buttons and links out of context. In other words, they fail to read the accompanying messaging. By associating that message with the button itself, it ensures that users see it.

Not that size is the only way to draw attention. We can also utilise colour.

5. Contrast with Colour

It is possible to use colour to draw attention to a call to action, by contrasting the colour of that call to action with the rest of the website.

For example, if the predominant colour scheme of the website is blue, then using a different colour will help the call to action stand out.

Creative Digital Designer, Andy Clarke, used highlight colours effectively in his work with WWF.

There is much debate about what colour should be used to optimise conversion. In truth, there are many factors, including cultural differences, that affects how people respond to colour. For example, red decreases conversion in many western countries due to its association with danger. However, in China red is associated with prosperity and luck, resulting in a very different reaction.

That said, one consistent is that using a contrasting colour will have the most visual impact. In other words, try to select a colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel to the primary colour of a site.

The only danger with using colour to draw attention to a call to action is that we do not all see colour in the same way. 8% of men and 0.6% of women are colourblind which can impact the effectiveness of this technique, depending on the colours one chooses. It is therefore advisable to use colour alongside other techniques to draw attention, such as the use of animation.

6. Apply Subtle Use of Animation

Animation is a powerful tool for grabbing user attention when used with care. In a static environment (like a webpage) we are programmed to notice even the most subtle movement. Simply put, movement draws our attention.

However, like imagery, animation can be a dangerous tool if misused. Continually looping animation can prove distracting, preventing users from focusing on other messaging.

Overusing animation can significantly undermine its effectiveness. Users become blind to it and filter it out.

It is best to use animation with subtlety. Avoid looping animation, but instead, trigger it on load or when users scroll. If it does loop, ensure that there is a long gap between loops.

Careful use of animation can draw the attention to critical calls to action.

Ultimately, no one technique will substantially increase conversion. However, combining techniques can significantly increase the visibility of calls to action and therefore conversion.

That said, it is essential that we do not fixate entirely on encouraging action. We also need to think carefully about what happens when users do click.

Considering Post Click

Anybody who has run an ecommerce site for any length of time is familiar with the dropout that inevitably occurs when a user adds a product to a basket or when they start the checkout process. A user expressing an interest in completing a call to action is no guarantee of conversion.

It is, therefore, crucial that you give careful consideration to the post-click experience. In particular, four areas need attention. However, the most important of these is to remove distractions.

1. Remove Distraction

There are good reasons behind Amazon’s decision to remove all unnecessary user interface elements once the user begins the checkout process. Users can easily be distracted at this crucial moment in the conversion funnel, and so it is essential to focus them entirely on completing the process.

Notice how Amazon remove any distractions once you click their checkout call to action.

It is tempting to use this opportunity to up-sell additional items or bundle in other calls to action such as newsletter signup. However, each of these elements adds another choice so increasing cognitive load and the likelihood they abandon the process.

Any screen element not directly associated with completing the conversion process increases the cognitive strain on users. Individually these additions have a minor impact, but collectively they add up, making it more likely the user gives up. That is especially true when you are trying to reach an audience who is already under pressure from other sources (such as workload or family distractions) or when there are more straightforward competitor sites only a click away.

Not that it is always possible to remove all complexity from the process. That is where positive reinforcement becomes essential.

2. Provide Positive Reinforcement

One powerful tool in encouraging users to complete the conversion process is positive reinforcement. As soon as a user clicks a call to action, it is essential to confirm the user's commitment to convert and encourage them that this is a positive step. This kind of reinforcement works for two reasons.

First, the consistency principle states that people have a strong psychological need to be consistent with prior acts. In other words, if they are seen to commit to a process, they feel a need to follow that process to its conclusion. By acknowledging the fact that a user has begun the process, they are more likely as a consequence to complete it.

Children’s charity Bethesda thanks people even before they finish the donation process. That encourages users to finish what they have started.

However, secondly, this is typically a high-stress moment for users especially when it comes to making a financial purchase. People are loss averse. They feel the emotional impact of parting with a payment twice as much as they do the positive feelings associated with making the purchase.

We need to offset this loss bias by reassuring the user that they have made the correct choice and making a purchase is the right decision. However, our need to reassure does not stop there.

3. Create a Sense of Positive Progression

Depending on the call to action, completing the conversion process may require many steps on behalf of the user. It may require providing extensive personal and financial details or making various choices to do with the configuration of the product itself.

Whatever the case, this kind of complexity increases cognitive strain and the chance that a user will abandon the process, even after reducing the necessary steps to the bare minimum.

Fortunately, users are more likely to complete a conversion process if they feel a sense of momentum. In other words, they feel they are making positive progress towards the end goal.

With that in mind, it is vital to reassure the user at every step of the way. Do not wait until a user submits a form to validate it and tell them whether they have been successful. Instead, reassure them by providing positive feedback as they enter each field of a form. Also, give them a sense of how far through the process they have progressed and how much further they have.

In short, continually communicate with the user to give them a sense of progression. This principle of ongoing communication even applies once they have reached the end of the sales funnel.

4. Continually Communicate During Delivery

Even once the conversion process has been completed there is still a danger that the user pulls out. In many cases, there is a delay in delivery, and most countries provide a cooling off period when people buy a product online.

We can reduce the likelihood of this happening by communicating with them regularly during that vulnerable period. This kind of communication should provide positive reinforcement, but more importantly, a sense of control.

Making a purchase creates anxiety. Our natural response to anxiety is to control the situation. However, when we are passive players, merely waiting for delivery, we do not have that option, and so our anxiety grows further.

We can create this sense of control by providing users with information about what is going on. If we provide people with information, they feel a sense of control and that reduces their anxiety.

That principle is clear to see if we read the comments associated with any Kickstarter campaign. These campaigns require the user to wait a prolonged time for delivery of their product, and that creates anxiety. The result is constant comments demanding updates. Clear communication reduces anxiety.

Poor communication can leave customers angry and frustrated.

As is apparent, communication is just one of many techniques and principles that will help to improve the conversion rate of any site. However, it is the details of their implementation that dictate success or failure. What approach best addresses these nuances of implementation will be dependant on the audience. That is why understanding one's audience is so important. However, the only real way to understand how users will respond is to trial approaches through techniques such as multivariate testing; a subject addressed elsewhere on this blog.

The post How to Design Outstanding Calls to Action that Convert appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Every website should have a call to action, a response you want users to complete. But how do you encourage users to act? How do you create an effective call to action? Every website should have a call to action, a response you want users to complete. But how do you encourage users to act? How do you create an effective call to action? Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 27:22
What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? Tue, 04 Jun 2019 11:00:00 +0000 0 <p>The best digital marketing strategy is one that focuses on providing value to the consumer, not on promoting a product or service.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> What is our best digital marketing strategy?” is a question most organisations are asking in one form or another. It is also an impossible question to answer in a blog post, as it is dependant on so many factors.

However, I can share with you the best digital marketing strategy I have observed over the years. It is a strategy that is still considered radical in some quarters. It is a strategy built around the user and not the product.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Starts with The User

I am not talking about market research here. Marketers have been doing that for years, and it is a critical component in even the most traditional approach to marketing.

However, the premise of market research is to understand the customer to persuade them better to buy an existing product. By contrast, user-centric digital marketing aims to understand the customer better so it can provide more value to them and meet their needs. A value that comes not just from the product, but also from the marketing itself.

Take, for example, this post, which is a form of advertising for my services and in particular my training around digital marketing.

I believe that my services provide value, but that is not enough. This article needs to provide you with value too. My marketing has to provide value to attract attention and encourage people to share it with others.

Of course, what I am describing is a lot like content marketing, and indeed, when we do content marketing well, it is user-centric. However, all too often, content marketing fails because it is not user-centric.

Example press release.
Users don’t care about news and press releases. They want content that helps meet their needs.

Too many content marketing efforts fail to provide value because they are ultimately product and company-centric, rather than focused on user needs. They are so concerned with trumpeting the benefits of the companies products and services to help people. Ultimately, nobody cares about your company news!

In short, traditional marketing focuses on the product, but the best digital marketing strategy focuses on the customer and providing them with value.

Why Start with The User?

The reason that the best digital marketing strategy starts with the user is that the consumer has all of the power. Where once it was the company with their massive marketing budgets who had the power, today, digital has shifted that power into the hands of the consumer.

Digital gives the consumer instant access to near unlimited choice, and that amount of choice makes them extremely demanding and selective. On top of that, digital has also given users a voice to complain if they are unhappy and most now realise they have real power to damage a brand.

Infographic showing the shift in power from company to consumer.
There has been a profound shift in power from the company to the consumer.

In this brave new world, it is about more than who shouts the loudest. It is about who provides the most value and best experience to the consumer and to do that we need to understand what the user values.

How to Start with The User

Traditional market research focuses on the consumer’s demographic information and their tastes, to understand how we might influence them. However, the best digital marketing strategies focus on the user’s needs.

  • What questions do they have?
  • What pain points do they struggle with?
  • What are they trying to achieve?

That has led to more progressive digital marketers adopting many of the tools from user experience design — tools like empathy mapping and customer journey mapping.

The best digital marketing strategy makes use of customer journey maps.
Customer Journey Maps have become a valuable tool for marketers seeking to understand how they can bring value to consumers.

They have also adopted some of the working methodologies from user experience design as well.

Although the best digital marketing strategies still rely heavily on data gathering and quantitive research, they also have a healthy dose of qualitative techniques too, including things like field studies and interviews.

The best digital marketers realise that it is only by having regular content with their audience will they understand how to provide value to users in their communications.

This kind of interaction with the user doesn’t just shape the communications with the customer, it can also start shaping the product itself.

While traditional marketing was about persuading the customer to buy the product, the best digital marketing strategy is as much about persuading the business to adapt the product to the customer.

But the best digital marketing strategies do not just limit the customer’s involvement to a discovery phase upfront. They also involve the user in the creation process of the individual marketing campaigns.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Involves the User in Creation

In my experience, too many marketing campaigns begin and end with somebody’s bright idea that they believe will resonate with the audience. Rarely is that hypothesis tested or the campaign adapted based on user feedback.

Example of poorly run digital marketing strategy.
Most digital marketing campaigns tend to be driven by one persons unformed idea.

The best digital marketing campaigns are those who involve the user in their creation in some way. That may be through prototyping campaigns and testing them with users, as user experience designers have been doing for years. However, it could also be encouraging users to contribute content to a campaign via social media or community engagement.

At the very least, you should be asking users what content you should be producing and for their opinions on how you should address the topic. The best digital marketing campaigns are a two-way dialogue, not only a broadcast.

But that two way dialogue isn’t just about listening to users, it is about observing them too.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Adapts to The User

It should go without saying that the best digital marketing strategy is one built on monitoring and adapting to how users respond to the content we release.

However, although we all know this in theory, often the reality is different. It is easy to skip A/B testing to get a campaign out of the door or to ignore the analytics from a campaign because we are already focusing on the next one. A surprising number of companies seem more focused on the quantity of marketing material than its effectiveness.

The only way to avoid this problem is to ensure our digital marketing strategy establishes a campaign cycle that leaves time for review and adaptation.

We need to stop thinking that we will hit gold when we launch a new piece of content or campaign. Instead, we should have the opportunity to monitor that campaign and refine it over time.

This approach applies whether you are talking about a website, Facebook ads or even an email campaign. Always launch, monitor and refine.

We should always monitor and refine campaigns post launch.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Adopts New Thinking, Not Just New Channels

The danger with our digital marketing strategy is that we adopt digital channels while keeping our old marketing thinking.

We cannot simply swap a billboard ad for a Facebook ad or TV advertising for Youtube. Neither is a website is not just an online brochure.

The best digital marketing strategies are those who understand that the world has fundamentally changed and so the way we approach marketing has to radically change too. We now live in a world where we need user experience marketers as much as we need user experience designers.

Stock Photos from buffaloboy/Shutterstock

Stock Photos from SvetaZi/Shutterstock

The post What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

The best digital marketing strategy is one that focuses on providing value to the consumer, not on promoting a product or service. The best digital marketing strategy is one that focuses on providing value to the consumer, not on promoting a product or service. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 7:23
Hiring a Management Consultancy for Digital Is a Mistake Tue, 28 May 2019 11:00:00 +0000 0 <p>Large organisations are increasingly turning to the likes of Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or Deloitte for help implementing digital transformation. However, this is a severe mistake.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Hiring a Management Consultancy for Digital Is a Mistake</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> This post is sponsored by: Soshace

According to the Register, car rental giant Hertz is currently suing management consultancy firm Accenture for over $32 million. They claim that Accenture completely failed to deliver the functional website they had commissioned them to build.

Hertz is suing Accenture for its failure to deliver on digital project.

I don’t know enough about this case to judge where the real blame lies. But whatever the facts it highlights something I have long argued – hiring a management consultancy firm to work on digital projects is a grave error in judgement.

Why Hiring a Management Consultancy Is a Mistake

Whether it is redesigning a website or helping an organisation undertake digital transformation, a management consultancy firm is rarely the right choice for one simple reason. The big management consultancy firms are products of the pre-digital era and as much in need of digital transformation as their clients.

Take for example Accenture, who was founded in 1989, well before the explosion of the internet. The other big management consultants are as old, if not older.

  • Deloitte – 1845.
  • KPMG – 1987.
  • Ernst & Young – 1989.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers – 1998.

Only PricewaterhouseCoopers can claim to be a digital era company, founded as it was in 1998. However, the two companies who merged to form the current business have roots that go back 160 years!

None of these companies has a culture rooted in the digital reality of today’s business world. They are the products of the industrial and mass media era. An era where very different business rules apply.

I know what you are thinking. These management consultancies have been hoovering up digital talent for a pass time. Surely this fresh thinking is factored into the way they work with clients?

Like other management consultancies, Accenture have been buying up digital agencies in an attempt to modernise.

Unfortunately, based on what I have observed, and been told, that is not the case. I have spoken to many organisations who have worked with these consultancies and suffered similar experiences to Hertz. I have also spoken to current and ex-employees of these consultancies about their experiences within these companies.

It would seem that the legacy culture of these organisations stifles new and leaner working practices. Ultimately, these companies are built on delivering large, waterfall driven change programs, rather than embrace the rapid iteration and evolution of digital best practice.

In short, although some employees of management consultancies may be highly skilled and experienced, the companies methodologies and culture are often a barrier to the implementation of best practice.

Why then would any organisation choose to hire a company like Accenture for digital projects?

Why Do Companies Persist in Hiring Management Consultancies?

The answer is simple – hiring a management consultancy feels like the safe thing to do when you work for a large, risk-averse company.

You don’t get fired for hiring a large management consultancy. It is perceived as the safe choice. They are big and hired by a lot of other large companies so that must make them good right?

Also, they speak the language of management and work in ways they are comfortable with. It all feels so predictable and comfortable.

Of course, the problem is that just because something appears safe doesn’t mean it actually is. The world is different now and what feels familiar isn’t always the best solution anymore. Just because these companies had a good track record in the past, doesn’t mean they will have going forward. The rules have changed.

But there is another reason why management consultants win so much work in the digital field – there doesn’t seem to be a viable alternative.

If Not a Management Consultant Then Who?

Many companies turn to big tech players like IBM as an alternative. However, in truth, these companies face all the same challenges as management consultants.

At face value, Hertz would have been better off going to a large digital agency to deliver their website. An agency would almost certainly do a better job at delivering a website redesign like theirs. However, I suspect the failure of this project was not entirely one-sided. My suspicion is that Hertz had a role to play too.

Just as company culture makes management consultants a poor choice for delivering digital projects, so it also creates problems on the client side. In most cases, the client needs to change its working practices to provide and support digital services.

That may well have been why Hertz hired Accenture in the first place. They may have recognised their need for broader organisational change and saw a management consultant as a good fit for that work.

It may well also have been what put them off of using a digital agency. Although digital agencies are good at building digital services they are not traditionally good at change management, service design or digital transformation.

A Gap in The Market

In truth, large organisations like Hertz have limited options when it comes to digital projects. There is a gap in the market that in my opinion, larger agencies should be filling. That is why this is an area I am focusing on as I work with agencies.

At the moment those organisations seriously committed to embracing digital are being forced to improvise.

Some companies like Capital One solve the problem by buying up agencies and bringing that expertise in-house. Others, like the UK Government, are building their own in-house teams spearheaded by strong digital leaders.

Some companies have bought agencies in an attempt to introduce new working practices.

However, even these approaches are not without their dangers. It is easy for an in-house team to be subsumed by the existing culture in just the same way as the talent hired by management consultancies often are.

No Easy Answer

As you can see, there is no easy answer to turning a traditional pre-digital company into an organisation where digital services can thrive. Increasingly I am concluding that it can only really happen with enormous strength of will at the very top of the organisation.

If senior leadership wants to be a digital-first company, it cannot just launch another initiative or hire in a management consultancy. As I say in my c-suite digital training, they need to fully commit to the endeavour at every level of the organisation or risk disruption by a new agile, digitally friendly competitor.

Stock Photos from Gearstd/Shutterstock

The post Hiring a Management Consultancy for Digital Is a Mistake appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Large organisations are increasingly turning to the likes of Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or Deloitte for help implementing digital transformation. However, this is a severe mistake. Large organisations are increasingly turning to the likes of Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or Deloitte for help implementing digital transformation. However, this is a severe mistake. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 6:54
How to Collaborate in a Distributed Team Tue, 21 May 2019 11:00:34 +0000 0 <p>The biggest challenge for distributed teams lies in communication and collaboration. Fortunately, there are approaches that can help.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Collaborate in a Distributed Team</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> This post is sponsored by: Standuply

A reoccurring theme as I mentor digital team leads, both in agencies and in-house, is managing distributed teams. Some leaders are nervous about the whole idea, while others have embraced them only to face problems.

After 13 years of managing a distributed company, I can tell you categorically that managing remote teams is challenging.

Going in, many people think the biggest problem will be productivity. That people will slack off and work won’t get done. Not once have I seen that be the case. Instead, the problem lies in collaboration. It is hard to work effectively together when you are not working face to face.

Nothing beats the results you get from putting a group of people with diverse skills into a room together. That is especially true in the initial stages of a project when you are prototyping and setting direction.

However, despite the limitations of distributed teams, they are becoming increasingly popular and with good reason.

Why Even Consider a Distributed Team?

There are many advantages to building a distributed team from lower costs to boosting staff morale.

However, the biggest advantage of remote working is that you will be able to build a higher quality team. There are two reasons for this.

First, without the restrictions of geography, you will have a much larger pool of candidates. You can focus on hiring the right person, not just somebody within commuting distance.

Second, a lot of potential employees want the flexibility of remote working, especially among the newer generation of workers. That makes distributed teams attractive to many people.

Remote working is particularly appealing to the next generation of workers and has been shown to significantly improve stress levels and quality of life.

Another advantage of distributed teams is that you often find them more productive, especially when people are mainly working by themselves.

In this kind of environment interruptions are often much rarer and communication more considered. That enables a more focused working environment where people tend to get more done when working on tasks that need less collaboration.

However, for a distributed team to work well, this challenge of collaborative working has to be carefully managed, and that starts with clear and regular communication.

Clear, and Regular Communication Is Critical

One of the biggest problems of distributed working is a lack of visibility between different people’s work. Take a typical designer/developer working relationship.

In an office environment, it is not uncommon to hear heated discussions between designers and developers over the best approach. A designer will regularly comment on how a developer is implementing their design. Equally a developer will warn a designer against some decisions at an early stage because they are aware of the development costs.

These ongoing discussions about each other’s work avoid time-consuming mistakes and aids understanding of each others role.

The need to understand what your colleagues do cannot be under-estimated, and that only comes with contact. Take for example a salesperson. What exactly do they do all day? It is easy to devalue a role we do not understand, and that can lead to resentment.

Without daily contact with those in other roles it is easy to see them as the enemy.

Without rubbing shoulders with those in other roles and seeing them in action, it is easy to come to see them as the enemy, rather than a part of your team.

To combat these problems we need to ensure our distributed team has a clear view of each other’s work and understand what each other does.

That is where things like daily standups, retrospective meetings and more become invaluable. However, those casual interactions are just as important to team building. Never underestimate the importance of sharing silly jokes and pointless memes!

But how do you practically run standups remotely? How do you encourage a similar level of casual interaction and exposure to colleagues that you see in an office? The answer lies in having the right tools.

The Right Tools Are Essential

Fortunately, alongside the growth in distributed working has come an explosion of high-quality communication tools for these teams.

There are now collaboration tools for almost any role.

  • Designers have tools like Invision for collaborating on design with each other, developers and stakeholders.
  • Developers have web repositories like Git Hub for sharing and working on code.
  • Content specialists can make use of web apps like Gather Content for collating and writing content.
  • Sales teams have CRMs like Pipedrive for managing customer relationships.

The list goes on.

However, the stand out tool within many distributed team is Slack. Slack has shot to dominance as the primary communication tool for remote workers with over 8 million active users and 70,000 organizations actively paying for the service.

Slack has become the definitive communication tool for many distributed teams.

What makes slack such a crucial tool for distributed teams is its flexibility. No matter how your team communicates or interacts, it seems to be able to accommodate it, mainly thanks to the vast number of applications that integrate with it.

Take for example the daily standup. Standups are an excellent tool for:

  • Encouraging interaction between remote team members.
  • Increasing team members understanding of what colleagues do.
  • Removing obstacles that prevent people from getting work done.
  • Improve people’s view of the broader work the team is doing.

However, standups can quickly feel impossible with a distributed team. Even face-to-face they can become cumbersome if poorly managed.

Fortunately Slack can provide an excellent platform for managing digital standups. That is because the standups can be much more focused and run asynchronously, so avoiding cutting into people’s productivity and time zone issues.

Standuply integrates with Slack allowing for improved team communication.

Slack standups can be even better when supported by an app like Standuply. This application integrates with Slack and allows you to schedule and structure your standups automatically. It also allows people to respond to questions using video so improving the personal interactions missing from distributed teams.

However, I have to say that no clever app will entirely replace the visceral experience of face-to-face team events.

Face-To-Face Still Matters

Face-to-face meetings are always going to be necessary, even if you run a distributed team. They are not something that you should ignore.

As I wrote at the start of this article, some things are just better done in person, such as the initial collaboration required to set the direction of a project. Although it is possible to do this remotely, things will move faster in those early stages when they happen face-to-face.

However, although you could, in theory, skip in-person meetings for projects, you cannot afford to do that entirely for your team. Meeting in person is crucial for team building even if it only happens periodically.

If you look at any successful distributed company, they still regularly get together for team events. It is at these events that working relationships are cemented and company culture shaped.

In terms of how often that needs to happen. Well, that depends on how distributed your team is and the associated cost implications. The simple answer is that you need to bring the whole team together as often as you can. That is especially true when only some of your team works remotely.

A Distributed Team Is an All or Nothing Affair

Earlier I said I ran a remote team for 13 years. That is not to say the entire team worked remotely. We did have an office too. However, I would still call us a distributed company because if one person is working remotely, you have to treat it like everybody is.

It is all too easy for remote members of staff to feel like second class employees. They can be left out of the loop, unaware of what is happening in the broader business. They can also be frustrated in their work by poor communication from team members.

All of this means that if you decide to take on remote workers, you need to be structured in such a way that your entire working practices support this approach. There are no half measures with remote working.

Distributed Teams Are Both a Blessing and A Curse

I have seen a lot written on distributed teams that either paint it as a curse that destroys company culture or as a revolutionary disruption to existing business practices. The truth is that it is somewhere in between.

Like so many things distributed teams can be both good and bad. They help in some ways and hinder in others. Whether you adopt remote working is up to you.

However, if you do, then I would encourage you to think long and hard about the tools you put in place and in particular how you encourage excellent communication and collaboration.

If you get that right, then you can end up with a world class team that would be almost impossible to build otherwise.

Stock Photos from De Repente/Shutterstock

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The post How to Collaborate in a Distributed Team appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

The biggest challenge for distributed teams lies in communication and collaboration. Fortunately, there are approaches that can help. The biggest challenge for distributed teams lies in communication and collaboration. Fortunately, there are approaches that can help. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 8:55
Javascript Popups – How To Use Them for Long Term Success Tue, 07 May 2019 11:00:16 +0000 0 <p>So you are thinking of adding a javascript popup to your website. Before you do, think carefully about the consequences.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Javascript Popups – How To Use Them for Long Term Success</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> The web is riddled with javascript popups these days. The default response if we want users to do something is to show an overlay with some attention-grabbing call to action. However, this can come at a cost.

In this post, we will explore that cost and then break down when it is safe and not so safe to use popups.

The web is overwhelmed with Javascript Popups that come in all shapes and sizes.
The web is overwhelmed with Javascript Popups that come in all shapes and sizes as is demonstrated by the array of popups offered by OptinMonster.

The Consequences of using javascript popups badly

You only need to look at your analytics after installing a popup to see they work. They will increase your newsletter sign-ups, app downloads or whatever call to action you promote. But that isn’t the whole picture.

Like dark patterns, popups may improve things in the short term, but it can come at a long term cost. Your analytics do not show the level of irritation that popups can cause users. Anger that reduces their likelihood to return to your site regularly and which alienate some people entirely.

Of course, this kind of irritation is hard to track. There is not always a direct causal relationship between reduced dwell time, page views and return traffic, so people don’t realise that popups can be at least partly responsible.

However, if you run qualitative research such as usability testing, you will quickly see just how annoyed users can become when having to dismiss popups.

Not that every management team cares about alienating users. However, they should. In the long term, this can reduce lifetime value, word of mouth recommendations and repeat business.

Admittedly javascript popups will probably not do this alone, but together with other usability hurdles, it can contribute to overall cognitive load and frustration.

So when precisely should we avoid using Javascript popups?

When you should avoid using a javascript popup

Not all popups are bad. Everything has its place. However, the majority of popups I see online are nothing more than an irritant to most users.

The three biggest culprits are:

The three most pervasive types of javascript popups are a newsletter sign up overlays, requests to send push notifications and privacy messages.
The three most pervasive types of javascript popups are a newsletter sign up overlays, requests to send push notifications and privacy messages.

Like most popups these three culprits share specific characteristics that users find particularly annoying.

Javascript Popups Distract

For a start, they are a distraction from what the user is trying to achieve. Users rarely visit a website to signup for a newsletter, read a privacy policy or even download an app (they usually go to an App Store for that).

Javascript Popups Take Up Valuable Real Estate

Then there is the fact that javascript popups take up valuable screen real estate especially on mobile devices, often obscuring other more important screen elements.

Javascript Popups can be particularly damaging on mobile where screen real estate is limited and dismissing overlays can be difficult.
Javascript Popups can be particularly damaging on mobile where screen real estate is limited and dismissing overlays can be difficult.

Javascript Popups are often hard to dismiss

The worst culprit of all is the full-screen javascript popup that the user is unable to exit from without clicking a specific button they need to find. It is even becoming increasingly common to label these buttons in such a way as to discourage dismissing the popup. Psychological manipulation such as “No I don’t want this amazing deal” or “No, I am happy being ignorant”.

A growing number of websites resort to manipulative copy to stop people cancelling popup notifications.
A growing number of websites resort to manipulative copy to stop people cancelling popup notifications.

Do not misunderstand me. Not all popups are bad. There are times when they are precisely the right solution.

When javascript popups might be the right solution

Like most things in life, there is a time and place for javascript popups. I often use them myself. However, I do have one rule I live by when it comes to using javascript popups. I only use them if they are either triggered by the user or I am sure the user has finished whatever task they came to do.

For example, if I want to promote a newsletter or some other call to action, I wait until the user has either completed their main task (such as making a purchase) or until they go to leave the website (known as exit intent).

But javascript popups don’t just have to be used for promotional purposes. There are many more user-friendly reasons to embrace them.

Javascript Popups can remove complexity

One of the most common reasons I use javascript popups is to reduce complexity by hiding secondary information in a popup that is only displayed when the user requests that information. An excellent example of this is a popup that shows when a user requests information about a companies return policy during check out.

Javascript popups can be used to display additional information for those who wish to view it without adding complexity for others.
Javascript popups can be used to display additional information for those who wish to view it without adding complexity for others.

A javascript popup allows us to provide additional information to those who are interested without taking them out of the checkout. But it does so without distracting those who are not interested in that information.

Javascript popups can communicate critical information

Javascript popups can also be useful in informing users about critical information that they should not ignore. An example of this would be a declined credit card or validation error when a form is submitted.

A popup can be used to comminicate important information or actions that users must take. We are familiar with this apoproach from how our operating systems work.
A popup can be used to comminicate important information or actions that users must take. We are familiar with this apoproach from how our operating systems work.

Not that javascript popups are the only way of achieving these things. Often, a popup is not the best way of grabbing users attention.

Alternatives to Javascript popups

The problem is that users have learnt that most javascript popups are nothing but advertising or cookie notifications. As a result, they often close them without even fully processing what they say. That means if the information is essential, a javascript popup might not be the most sensible choice.

Often a well-designed call to action or message within the body of content can be just as powerful as a javascript popup. If surrounded with adequate negative space and designed to be eye-catching, an inline message can often perform as well as a javascript popup without being anywhere near as irritating.

Adding negative space around a call to action increases its visibility and reduces the need for a popup to grab attention.
Adding negative space around a call to action increases its visibility and reduces the need for a popup to grab attention.

That is especially true when the message makes use of subtle animation to draw attention. However, as with javascript popups themselves, it is easy for this to be done badly and become irritating.

In short, although javascript popups have their place, we often over-rely on them when other options are available that are just as eye-catching.

Javascript Popups are not all bad, but they are overused.

Javascript popups are the user interface equivalent of shouting at people. They get attention, but they annoy. A great orator doesn’t need to shout to get people’s attention, and a great designer doesn’t need to resort to javascript popups in most situations.

The reason javascript popups are so prevalent isn’t that they are the best solution or even work the best. They are popular because they are simple and require little skill. So next time you are tempted to resort to a javascript popup, ask yourself whether a more nuanced approach might do the job better.

The post Javascript Popups – How To Use Them for Long Term Success appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

So you are thinking of adding a javascript popup to your website. Before you do, think carefully about the consequences. So you are thinking of adding a javascript popup to your website. Before you do, think carefully about the consequences. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 6:47
How to Design a More Effortless User Experience Mon, 29 Apr 2019 23:00:00 +0000 0 <p>We are all aiming to make the experience of our users feel effortless, but is there more that we could be doing if we stopped to think about it?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Design a More Effortless User Experience</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> This post contains affiliate links

We have made huge strides over the last few years in user experience design. There is an increasing acceptance that the key to business success in a digital world is to provide an outstanding customer experience. Companies understand that time poor customers are unwilling to put up with painful interactions and will abandon sites if the experience they provide is not effortless.

We have seen the rise of usability testing and user research. Books like Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug has gone from a plead on behalf of the customer to the mantra of most teams who are responsible for the user experience.

Don't Make Me Think has become a mantra for today's user experience designers.
Don’t Make Me Think has become a mantra for today’s user experience designers.

Yes, we still have our battles. Our clients and management can often be distracted by cost savings over long term growth. We still see short term conversion targets undermining long term customer retention.

But although we still find ourselves battling over the tactical implementation of user experience design best practice, most accept the need to prioritise the user experience.

So where does that leave us? Is our job done? Has the war been won?

Challenge the Existing Thinking

I would argue that we are only just getting started. Unfortunately, most of us who work in the field, do not necessarily realise just how much further we have to go. The experience we have created, even at its best, isn’t half as effortless as we like to think.

Take for example something as simple as logging into a website, app or system. As user experience designers we have fought hard to make the process more painless. We allow users to show their passwords and have streamlined the process of recovering the password. We have even battled with I.T. to persuade them that the password complexity they demand for security reasons, isn’t always necessary.

An increasing number of sites allow you to view your password, but why should users have to enter a password at all.
An increasing number of sites allow you to view your password, but why should users have to enter a password at all.

However, I don’t think we have begun to solve the password problem. After all, we expect the user to remember a password for a system that they might only occasionally use. Even if they do use the system daily, why should they have to prove their identity and why should it require so much data entry? These are all still pain points.

Our problem is that we accept certain premises without ever challenging them. For instance, we blindly agree that the user has to enter a password. But why? Slack doesn’t require me to do so. They send me a link to my email address that I click.

Slack avoids the need to enter a password at all by emailing the address with which you registered. However, you still need to check and respond to the email.
Slack avoids the need to enter a password at all by emailing the address with which you registered. However, you still need to check and respond to the email.

But even they require the user to take action. Why can’t the system “just know” I’m me? Why do I need to prove myself? Think how much of your life is wasted typing in passwords. Now times that by billions of people. How many lifetimes are spent on that alone!

Take for example my favourite feature about the Apple Watch. As I approach my Mac, it will automatically unlock it. Because I have previously opened my watch, Apple presumes that I am still me and so unlocks my Mac. Why couldn’t a website do a similar thing?

An Apple Watch will automatically unlock your mac without the need to take any action.
An Apple Watch will automatically unlock your mac without the need to take any action.

Adopt a Don’t Make Me Act Mindset

What makes the Apple watch example so powerful is it requires nothing from me as a user. I don’t need to do a thing. It moves us beyond “Don’t Make Me Think” to “Don’t Make Me Act”. It is a new era where the system predicts and responds to the user.

My Apple Watch does that with my health too. It doesn’t ask me to continually check my heart rate to make sure I have no problems. Instead, it monitors it periodically, without me needing to do anything.

My HP Tango printer is the same, as I mentioned in a recent post about Smart Homes. I don’t need to order ink when the printer runs low. It just orders it for me automatically, and it turns up at the door.

My printer no longer requires me to order ink when it runs low. It orders it automatically.
My printer no longer requires me to order ink when it runs low. It orders it automatically.

Or what about my budgeting software. Once upon a time, I had to enter each transaction manually. Then, later, I could manually import transactions from my bank account. These days, I don’t do anything. They merely appear, added automatically.

A User Experience Designer Would Prefer to Avoid the Interface

That is the difference between a user interface designer and a user experience designer. The former designs interfaces, while the latter seeks to avoid them entirely

Sure, sometimes there are limits in our technology that prevents that happening. But other times it is just because nobody has thought to do it. Take for example my Nissan Leaf. It shows me on the dashboard the speed limit for the road I am driving on. It also has a speed limiter that I can use to set a maximum speed. However, instead of automatically setting the limit to match the speed limit, I am required to adjust it manually.

A Nissan Leaf knows the speed limit, but cannot match the speed limiter to it automatically. That requires constant adjustment to the speed limiter by the driver.
A Nissan Leaf knows the speed limit, but cannot match the speed limiter to it automatically. That requires constant adjustment to the speed limiter by the driver.

Yes, sometimes this will need fancy sensors and smart machine learning, but not always. Sometimes it is just about having sensible defaults.

Set Some Sensible Defaults

For example, how about defaulting a country dropdown menu to the most common selection, rather than making every single user make a selection. That way, people from that country wouldn’t need to do a thing.

What about unsubscribing to emails? We get excited when a company makes it easy to unsubscribe in a single click. But why should the user have to unsubscribe at all, when companies know a user hasn’t even opened one of their emails in six months?! It wouldn’t take much to merely unsubscribe them and send them an automatic email with the option to resubscribe if they so wish.

We could improve the experience of users and the quality of our mailing lists by automatically unsubscribing inactive users.
We could improve the experience of users and the quality of our mailing lists by automatically unsubscribing inactive users.

Notice that in the country selection and unsubscribe examples I give the user a way of overriding the automated action. I am not suggesting you take control away from users. Some users want to do something different or just like control. I am saying that you should automate as much as possible for the majority of users who simply want to get on with their day.

What Can You Do to Eliminate User Actions?

I could go on, but I am sure you get the idea. So, here is my challenge for you. Look at your website, app or whatever and ask yourself what you could do to automate user actions.

Stock Photos from JpegPhotographer/Shutterstock

The post How to Design a More Effortless User Experience appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

We are all aiming to make the experience of our users feel effortless, but is there more that we could be doing if we stopped to think about it? We are all aiming to make the experience of our users feel effortless, but is there more that we could be doing if we stopped to think about it? Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 6:50
How to Use Psychology the Right Way to Improve Conversion Tue, 23 Apr 2019 11:00:05 +0000 0 <p>If we understand how people make decisions, we can improve both the user experience and conversion rate of our websites.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Use Psychology the Right Way to Improve Conversion</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Whether you are seeking to improve the user experience or boost your conversion rate, you need to know your audience better. You need to get inside their heads.

The primary way you achieve this is through user research, a topic I have written about extensively in the past. But, a basic understanding of psychology doesn’t hurt either.

In this post, I want to share with you just a few of the many interesting little quirks of human behaviour that can have a profound impact on how we make decisions online.

In this post we will look at how:

You see, we are not the rational, intellectual beings that we like to believe. In truth, our evolutionary roots still drive much of our decision making.

We have Brains Stuck in the Past

We share a lot more in common with our animal cousins than we like to think. The most ancient part of our brain, often known as the reptilian or primal brain, still drives much of our behaviour.

This primal brain has many fascinating features that impact our behaviour even in today’s modern world. Characteristics that we need to be aware of when designing websites intended to encourage action.

Jump back a few hundred thousand years, and you will find that the primal brain was crucial in our survival. It helped us assess danger and controlled our “fight or flight” response.

What is interesting is how it assesses danger. One of the techniques it uses is to judge whether something is familiar or unfamiliar.

We Fear the Unfamiliar

Everyday things tend to be safe and predictable, while strange things are potentially dangerous and so treated with suspicion.

That has ramifications as we create our websites. By ensuring our sites feel familiar, it feels safe.

Creating familiarity is a tricky balancing act. We could use it as an excuse to copy the competition or well-known sites like Amazon. However, that is an oversimplification.

Embracing familiarity doesn’t just mean copying Amazon or your competition.

Equally, we could use it to suggest that we should never redesign our site. It is true that a website redesign can create a sense of unfamiliarity, but that is sometimes needed to help shift users attitudes towards a company.

Instead, if we do a redesign, we need to do so with care, ensuring that there is a sense of familiarity with what went before and with other related sites.

We can also create a sense of familiarity with the experience itself. If your site behaves a certain way at one point, it should do so everywhere. Nothing is more disconcerting to the primal brain than shifts in layout or changes in navigational labelling.

But the way the primal brain assesses threats isn’t the only unusual characteristic it has. There is another aspect of its desire for self-preservation we should note. That is its desire to horde.

We have a desire to horde

The primal brain evolved in a world of scarcity and despite the fact we now live in a world of plenty hasn’t moved on. That is why we feel the discomfort of loss, twice as intently as the pleasure of gain. The primal brain fears losing something.

Unfortunately, when we ask people to act on our websites, we are almost always asking them to give up something. That might be something very apparent such as money, or something more abstract like personal data. In either case, the primal brain will be reluctant. We will have to work hard to demonstrate the overwhelming value they will get in return if we are going to avoid an adverse reaction from the primal brain.

One way of doing this is to focus on the benefits our products and services provide, not just the features. Listing features require us to think and make the leap to how that will help us. The primal brain doesn’t make connections like that. However, if we focus on listing the benefits a product has, then the primal brain feels less of a sense of loss.

For example, the Apple website doesn’t merely list the specs of its Macs. It talks about what those Macs allow people to do. That makes the value more evident to our lizard brains.

Apple talk about features (12 hours of battery life) as well as the benefits (working as long as you do).

Fortunately, there is one aspect of the primal brain that works in our favour; it is abysmal at planning.

You can see this in toddlers who rely more heavily on their primal brains. Offer a toddler one candy bar now, or two in an hour and they will almost always take the immediate reward.

From our perspective, as those seeking to encourage action, we can use this lack of planning to our advantage by delaying the cost of acting. For example, if you allow pre-ordering on your site, do not take payment until the product is released. You could even delay payment on immediately available products through financing or some other payment scheme. The primal brain will be less concerned about a future fee.

We Fail to Consider the Future

A great example of this is the “save more tomorrow” campaign. Most people do not save enough for retirement, despite knowing they should. That is because the long-term gain of saving is too abstract for the primal brain when compared to the short term pain of losing the monthly payments.

The save more tomorrow campaign deals with this issue by encouraging people to sign up to start saving in the future. For example, people might commit to starting saving when they know they will next get a pay rise.

The results of this approach are dramatic, encouraging a considerable percentage of people to start saving. That is because the primal brain fails to respond to a possible future cost. It is just too abstract for it to process.

If you run a charity website, the potential of a “give more tomorrow” campaign is immediately apparent, as charitable giving is hard for the primal brain to swallow despite the fact the vast majority of us want to donate more.

But the primal brain is not the only aspect of our thinking we need to note. There is also the roles of system one and two.

If you are looking for a deeper dive into psychology, I highly recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

We Have Two Approaches to Decision Making

In the superb book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” we are introduced to two modes of thinking called system one and two.

The Intuitive, Instinctive System One

Most of us associate system one with unconscious thinking. The kind of thinking that is fast and automatic. It is autonomous and efficient, requiring very little energy or attention.

For example, system one is used to recall a fact like the capital of France or the answer to two plus two. It also allows you to make instinctual decisions based on very little information. Opinions like the trustworthiness of somebody you meet or whether you can safely overtake in a car.

At face value system one appears to have superpowers, but it is prone to error because it takes shortcuts to achieve its incredible results.

It tends to ignore any information that is not immediately available. Instead, it is more concerned with a believable story. For example, if I told you about a person called Jim and said he was quiet, studious and had fantastic attention to detail, you would almost certainly conclude he was more likely to be a librarian than a farmer.

That is understandable as the description fits our stereotype of a librarian. But what your system one is ignoring is the fact that there are 20 times more farmers than librarians. You made the assessment purely on what you knew and chose to ignore the fact you might not have all the information.

What this teaches us is that we do not need to overwhelm people with information to persuade them to act. The tendency to add more and more information to our sites in an attempt to convince does not help. Too much information is likely to overwhelm system one, and that will wake system two.

Deliberate, Analytical and Logical System Two

System two is what you would probably describe as your conscious mind. Although much slower than the system one, it is much less likely to make mistakes. It is more deliberate and analytical, enabling us to address more complex questions such as 28 times 6 or learning a new skill.

The drawbacks of system two are that it is slow and takes considerable energy when compared to system one. It is also much more details orientated and tends to be more suspicious.

That is a problem for us as we try to convince because people are more likely to over analyse the decision and ultimately fail to act. System two feels like too much effort for a task like using a website. It is also more hesitant, meaning it will be more reluctant to act.

One upside of system two is that because of the effort involved it doesn’t like to work for long. We use it sparingly and quickly shift reoccurring tasks from system two to system one, which is why we often talk about muscle memory when referring to things like driving or riding a bike. It is also why sites like Facebook or Amazon feel so intuitive. We have used them so much we can use them without waking system two.

You might be wondering at this point why you should care about system one and two. The answer is that far more of our thinking and decision making happens in system one than we might like to think. We want to believe ourselves rational decision makers, but we are not, and that impacts how we need to build our websites. Often times, we simply take the path of least resistance.

We Are Lazy Decision Makers

We make thousands of decisions every day. Most of those decisions are easy. They are decisions like whether you want a drink, which pair of socks to put on or whether to respond to that notification on your phone.

These types of decisions are primarily automatic and unconscious. In most cases, we aren’t even aware we have made them. These are handled almost exclusively by system one.

But more challenging decisions, such as which laptop to buy or where to eat out, are harder to answer and so have to be decided by conscious choice. These are decisions being made by system two.

The problem is that system two thinking is hard work and so we tend to avoid it. Instead of waking system two, system one will substitute a challenging decision with a simpler one.

For example, it regularly replaces a complicated question such as “is this person trustworthy” with a simpler one “does this person look like other trustworthy people I have met”.

That is why it is so hard to diet. Counting calories is hard and requires system two to be fully engaged. Instead system one simplifies the question of “which food would be most healthy to eat right now” to the simpler questions of “am I hungry” or “do I like this food”.

Of course, most of the choices we want people to make on our site are harder — decisions about making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

When faced with these kinds of decisions, if left to its own devices, system one will either substitute the choice of sign up for a newsletter with a question like “do I like getting spam?” or will give up entirely.

There are two things we can do to avoid this problem.

First, we can simplify the question for people by emphasising the positive benefits of signing up for the newsletter. For example, let’s say you sold sports equipment. If you ask people to “sign up for our newsletter”, they have to weigh the pros and cons of that decision. But if you say “sign up to start getting fitter”, system one can easily answer the question “would I like to be fitter”.

Second, if we cannot control how the question gets simplified, we can be sure to address that simplification or any other objections people might have. In other words, immediately alongside the call to action to signup for a newsletter, we should make it very clear how much the user can expect to hear from us. That way they will not be concerned about being spammed.

Do not make people hunt for answers to their concerns. Reassure at the point of conversion.

But there are other ways we can help people decide without having to think too hard. One of those ways is to make sure we consider their perceptions.

Our Preconceptions to Shape Our Decisions

Because we are inherently lazy, system one tends to ignore information not immediately at its disposal and instead creates a story that seems plausible based on what it knows. That means it can easily misinterpret what is going on as we jump to conclusions. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I work a lot with universities. One of their goals is to encourage overseas student recruitment. In student interviews, we discovered that many of these students were discouraged from attending some institutions because they didn’t see any photos on the site containing students from their ethnic background. They, therefore, concluded that this wasn’t a place that ‘people like them’ went.

International students want to see people like them when visiting a University website. Imagery can prime users to draw the wrong conclusions.

They didn’t stop to ask themselves whether they had all of the facts. They made a judgement based on what was in front of them.

We can counterbalance these kinds of misconceptions by priming users to help shape their perception.

We can use priming in all kinds of ways to influence behaviour. For example, in experiments, supermarkets have found that if they play French music in the store, they increase the sale of French wine and reduce the sale of wine from other countries.

The principle of priming has some interesting ramifications for us as web designers, not all of which are particularly ethical. But we can use priming for good too. We can use it to prepare people for their experience in our app or website.

We have already talked about how photography can be used to prime a students perception, but our imagery is not the only tool at our disposal. Colour is another powerful priming tool because we associate different colours with different emotions and behaviours.

For example, at the most basic level, users in western countries will be less likely to click a red button to a green one because we have been conditioned to associate red with danger.

We can also use layout to prime users expectations. More significant, more prominent elements will be seen as more meaningful and so given more attention.

By making a call to action big you make it clear that it is important. You have primed people with the size.

There are all kinds of ways we can prime users, from the associations we make with our products, to the number of times the site features a product prominently.

For example, by associating your product with happy, smiling people you prime viewers on a subconscious level to expect the product to make them happy. Equally showing a product multiple times primes them to consider that product as significant.

Of course, this can be dangerous. Priming can set up false expectations too. If you prime people to think your product will deliver specific results and it fails to do so, then this can prove damaging to your reputation, and by extension, long term sales.

Before we wrap up this very long post, it would be remiss of me at this stage not to mention the influence of others on how we make decisions.

Others to influence our decisions

One of the substitutions we make all of the time when making complex decisions is to ask ourselves “what have other people done”. It is easier to rely on other people’s judgment than to make a considered, informed decision ourselves.

That is particularly true the more complex the choice is. For example, when faced with a series of very similar options, we tend to go with the decision we consider the most popular.

When facing too many options we tend to follow the crowd.

That is where ratings, reviews and testimonials become critical to our websites. These have a massive impact on our decisions and we can use that to give people confidence in the choice they make.

It is important to stress that the goal here is not to manipulate people into making a particular decision. As I have already said, that is ultimately damaging to business over the long term.

Instead, we are seeking to help somebody make a fast, informed decision that leaves them confident in their choice.

Time Undermines our Confidence in a Decision

We want people to make fast decisions, not because we want to rush them into buying, but because the longer they take to make that decision the less confidence they will have in it.

A lack of confidence will either lead users to abandon the decision entirely or to go into the decision primed to believe it is a wrong choice. That increases the likelihood of them being unhappy with the results of that decision.

Unhappy decisions are bad for business. They lead to more unsubscribes, more buyers remorse, more returns and more complaints. That is why it is so crucial to helping users make sound decisions they are confident in, and to do that we need to understand them much better. But, that is a subject for another post.

Stock Photos from TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

The post How to Use Psychology the Right Way to Improve Conversion appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

If we understand how people make decisions, we can improve both the user experience and conversion rate of our websites. If we understand how people make decisions, we can improve both the user experience and conversion rate of our websites. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 18:00
How to Measure Engagement on Your Website and Why Bother Tue, 16 Apr 2019 11:00:40 +0000 0 <p>When most people think of key performance indicators, they focus on measuring conversion, but we should also be measuring engagement.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Measure Engagement on Your Website and Why Bother</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> How are you tracking the success or otherwise of your site? The chances are you focus on conversion metrics. Maybe you also consider tracking usability. However, are you measuring engagement? If not, you should be.

Why You Should Measure Engagement

The problem with focusing on tracking conversion is that there can be a long gap between a change to your site and seeing that translate into improved conversion rates.

Take for example my case, a company can take well over a year from the point of first hearing about me to finally hiring me. That means tying a particular marketing initiative or interface improvement to better sales can be hard.

One option is to track a smaller point of conversion such as signing up to a newsletter, and indeed you should. However, it is also worth tracking other factors that ultimately lead to better conversion, metrics such as usability or engagement.

Engagement is a critical component in how likely a user is to take action on a website. The more engaged a user is with your content, the more influenced they are by it, and the more likely they are to act upon it.

Unfortunately, although tracking engagement it is relatively easy to get rapid feedback, that data cannot always be taken on face value.

The Problem with Measuring Engagement

A common metric that organisations measure when seeking to understand engagement is session duration. However, taken alone this can prove misleading. For example, is a long session an indication the user is engaged, or that they have just left the browser window open and gone to make a cup of tea?

Google Analytics measuring engagement through bounce rate and session duration.
Google Analytics highlight session duration and bounce rate, but that doesn’t necessarily tell us much about engagement.

A low bounce rate can also be a sign of good engagement, but it could equally mean a user is wandering a website lost and confused.

Even mentions on social media are not always a sign of positive engagement if those mentions are critical.

It is, therefore, necessary to treat any engagement metric with a critical eye. However, that does not mean we should give up. Indeed many engagement metrics are definitely worth paying attention to.

Metrics for Measuring Engagement

Let’s be realistic. There is no perfect metric, whether you measure conversion, usability or in this case engagement. However, there are many tools in our arsenal we can use to start building up a picture of engagement.

Let’s look at what is available to us and ask what works best in which circumstances.

Attention Minutes

One of my favourite metrics for measuring engagement is attention minutes (otherwise known as engaged time). In some ways, this is similar to session duration. However, unlike session duration, it only counts the time a user is actively engaging with a page.

The page has to be active (not sitting in the background somewhere) and the user has to be doing something on the page within a certain interval. That might be scrolling, clicking or watching a video.

Momently measuring engagement in the form of attention minutes.
I rely on a tool called Momently to help me track the users attention. It enables me to identify my most engaging posts.

Of course, even attention minutes are not perfect. A user could be desperately searching for relevant information, frustrated they cannot find what they want. However, typically users give up such efforts after about 10 to 20 seconds. So as long as they remain active beyond 20 seconds, you should only be capturing people who are truly engaged.

Unfortunately, not every analytics application can measure engagement using attention minutes. However, it is definitely worth installing one that does if you wish to track engagement.


If you cannot track attention minutes, your next best option in most cases for measuring engagement is interactions. In the average user session, how many times is the user interacting with the website?

Those interactions may be:

  • comments,
  • downloads,
  • shares,
  • clicks
  • or any other interaction you consider important enough to track.

Some of those interactions will be more valuable to you than others, so you might want to give a numerical weighting to certain ones.

Next, take this numerical score and divide it by the number of unique visits. That will give you a better indication of how engaging your content is without you skewing your data with fluctuations in traffic levels.

In some cases, it is also interesting to consider interaction depth. For example on this blog, I can judge engagement by the number of articles a user has looked at in a single session. When users go from one post to the next, it is a good sign they are finding my content engaging.

Google Analytics measuring engagement using pages per session.
Google Analytics makes it easy to see the number pages a user views in a session. Depending on your type of site this could be a valuable engagement metric.

Frequency Of Visits

One easy metric for measuring engagement is how frequently users are returning to your website. If they are visiting often it is a good indicator that they find the site useful.

There are a couple of views of this metric worth considering. First, you can look at how many times a user visits the site. The higher the number is, in most cases, the better.

Google Analytics measuring engagement through number of sessions per user.
Although Google Analytics makes it easy to see the number of sessions per user over a given period, it is much harder to calculate the number of days between visits.

However, you can also look at the average number of days between those visits. In this case, the relevancy of that data will vary.

For example, if you are updating the site hourly and yet users are only returning once a month then there may be a problem. However, if you update monthly then the user only returning once a month would make perfect sense.

In fact, the frequency of visits can be a tricky metric from which to gain real insights.

Although it is easy to track, the type of site will heavily influence the data. For example, a high frequency would be desirable for a site like this one. However, if a site was effectively brochureware, it might be perfectly fine if people only visit once or twice. That would be enough for the site to do its job.

Scroll depth

A better metric for measuring engagement and one I personally pay close attention to is scroll depth. How far down any particular page does the user scroll is a good indication of how useful they consider the page.

That means, as a metric it tends to be more useful in tracking the engagement of a particular page, rather than the site as a whole. However, it is also useful for optimising page design too as it helps you place calls to action in the best position.

Momently measuring engagement through scroll depth.
Momently makes it easy to see how much of a page users are viewing. This is useful for both measuring engagement and working out the optimal positioning of calls to action.

One of the nice things about tracking scroll depth is that there is no shortage of applications that allow you to track it. Its simplicity makes it a convenient indication of engagement. Just recognise that like all metrics it cannot be used in isolation as people may just as easily be scrolling because they cannot quickly spot what they are looking for.

Social Media Shares and Comments

Depending on your type of site and its audience, one of the best metrics for measuring engagement can be user comments and social media shares. That is particularly true if your website serves a role in content marketing. Users are inclined to comment on, and share, content they perceive as valuable.

Of course, they also comment on content they dislike as well, so it is important to track the sentiment of a comment or mention on social media, not just the number.

Social Mention measuring engagement through social media sentiment.
Social Mention will not only track the number of mentions on social media, but the sentiment too.

The Net Promoter Score

Finally, I could not write about measuring engagement without mentioning the net promoter score. That tried and tested surveying technique is ideal for ascertaining how likely somebody is to recommend a company, service or even website to another person using a simple 1-10 rating.

A score of six or below normally indicates that a user is a detractor and view the site negatively. Only a score of nine or ten indicates the user is actively engaged with the website.

Visualisation of the Net Promoter Score.
The Net Promoter Score is a well established tool for measuring satisfaction and engagement.

When measuring how engaging a website is it is important to focus on the site rather than the company in our survey. In other words, we should ask:

“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend this website to your friends, family or business associates?”

Otherwise, results may be distorted by some other element of the customer’s experience with a company beyond the website itself.

However, even when asking the question in this way, users tend to be influenced by other factors so keep that in mind.

Beware Measuring Engagement With Any One Metric

As you can see, no metric is perfect for measuring engagement or indeed the overall effectiveness of a website. We need a range of metrics working together in areas such as engagement, conversion and usability to build up a complete picture of a site’s performance. Only then can we be confident that the improvements we are making to our site are having a positive impact.

Stock Photos from Sondem/Shutterstock

The post How to Measure Engagement on Your Website and Why Bother appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

When most people think of key performance indicators, they focus on measuring conversion, but we should also be measuring engagement. When most people think of key performance indicators, they focus on measuring conversion, but we should also be measuring engagement. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 8:28
A UX Disaster: Can We Solve the Cookie Crisis? Tue, 09 Apr 2019 11:00:00 +0000 0 <p>Cookie notification overlays are undermining usability (especially on mobile) while also wholly failing to secure improved privacy.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">A UX Disaster: Can We Solve the Cookie Crisis?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Excuse the melodrama, but I am coming to believe that the European Commission is destroying the web one good intention at a time. Or more specifically their desire to protect our privacy online has resulted in unforeseen consequences in the form of an explosion of cookie and privacy overlays.

In fact, I would argue (and I know this is more melodrama) that from the perspective of your average user, the cookie crisis is more damaging to their daily experience than the demise of net neutrality.

Yet you hear little or no organised resistance to the insanity of cookie notifications in the same way you do towards net neutrality. Instead, we have all just rolled over because the underlying intentions are good.

Let me be clear, they are good. People should have control over how much sites can track them and what information they can collect. What the European Commission is trying to achieve is admirable. However, as it currently stands they are not only failing, they are making things worse for the majority of people.

In this post, I want to explain why they are failing, how they are making things worse and then talk about possible fixes.

At this point it is probably worth saying that this article has been heavily inspired by a post written by Troy Hunt entitled, These Cookie Warning Shenanigans Have Got to Stop. I highly recommend you check that out.

As I understand it, the European Commission aims to empower people and put them in control of what data can be collected about them online. However, I think it is fairly clear at this point that displaying a cookie and privacy policy notification is not achieving that goal.

Many websites may be complying with the letter of the law, but they are certainly not complying with the spirit of it.

By overwhelming users with technobabble, legal jargon and a myriad of options, companies know damn well that users will not have the time or inclination to make informed decisions. Most users are simply clicking yes and moving on.

A collection of different cookie notifications.
The current approach to cookie notifications seems designed to overwhelm the user. There is no consistency of approach and nothing to guide users to make informed decisions. Not to mention it is devistating the user experience of nearly every website you visit.

But even if we were to imagine a magical world where users did make an effort to read every privacy policy and examine every cookie a site is using. Let us also assume that the users had degrees in computer science and law. Even then cookie notifications would fail to solve the problem for which they have been designed to address.

Sure, advertising networks currently mainly rely on cookies to track a user between sites. But that is not the only tool in their arsenal. There are other ways a user can be uniquely identified and tracked.

Screenshot from
Am I unique perfectly demonstrates how easy it is to track an individual without using cookies.

By combining various factors such as your browser version, operating system, language, resolution and other detectable characteristics it is perfectly possible to uniquely identify you and therefore track you across multiple sites.

However, it could be argued that doing something about these invasions of privacy is better than nothing. Unfortunately, the cost to the user experience is so high that this particular something is not our best option.

If you mainly access the web from within the European Union you will already be aware of the cost of cookie notifications to the user experience. But, if you are lucky enough to live elsewhere, let me give a sense of how bad things have got.

Techcrunch's privacy notification.
Few users are going to wade through privacy policies of manage their cookie options.

In his post on cookie notifications, Troy Hunt uses Techcrunch as an example of just how bad things can get. Their privacy policy runs at over 3000 words and it is a labyrinth of links before you can get anywhere near setting your privacy settings.

When you do finally get to the settings, you are confronted with 224 different ad networks that need configuring individually.

But that is not the worst part of the user experience. It is the fact that on every website you visit you are confronted with one or more overlays you have to close.

Each and every website involves closing at least one overlay before you can view the content. Also, it is not unusual to have to do this multiple times for each website over subsequent visits.

Now, this is annoying on a desktop. It feels like death by a thousand cuts. However, on a mobile device, it can make some sites unusable. I regularly encounter sites where you cannot close the overlay for some reason, or the overlay takes up so much real estate you cannot see the content of the site to decide whether you want to proceed or not.

In short, for mobile users, the web has become a huge game of whack-a-mole as cookie notification overlays spawn and need to be agreed to.

What then can we do about all of this?

There are no easy answers, and I am certainly not setting myself up as the person to solve what is a very complex issue. I am not a lawyer or particularly technical.

This is going to take smarter minds than me from many different disciplines including, but not limited to:

  • Advertisers.
  • Developers.
  • Lawyers.
  • Policy makers.
  • User Experience specialists.

That said, I do begin to see some possible ways forward that are at least worth exploring. In particular, I want to look at how we could solve this long term and what you can do immediately on your own website.

Let’s start with the a possible long term fix.

Potential Long Term Fixes

Unsurprisingly I found some alternatives to cookie notifications already being proposed. One that got my attention was Do Not Track, a standard created in the states that allowed users to specify their preferences at the browser level.

The idea only gained limited traction, in part because there was little incentive for websites to honour user preferences. However, I believe there might be potential in the underlying concept if properly implemented and if website owners could be properly motivated to implement it.

First, I would suggest that the choice of settings would need to be slightly less binary than it currently is. As it stands Do Not Track only offers to opt in or out of tracking. I am a great fan of simplicity, but if we want advertisers to respect it, and for websites who rely on advertising, to survive, it might be necessary to provide a little more flexibility.

Screenshot of Safari browser settings
If websites could be encouraged or forced to comply with user preferences at a browser level it would avoid the need for on screen notifications.

Second, and most importantly, website owners need to be motivated to implement it. Government mandate is one way, but I have little confidence in their ability to do so effectively.

Another solution would be for Google to weigh in. If they introduced Do Not Track compliance as a factor in their algorithm for ranking, most website owners would fall in line.

Admittedly, Google relies on advertising themselves. But, they also value performance and usability, which cross-domain tracking can impact.

However, even if we could not get a system such as Do Not Track to work, that doesn’t make cookie notifications the only option.

What about requiring website owners to display privacy and cookie information in a consistent standard, like That way browser manufacturers could build a way for users to look up privacy data into the browser so providing a consistent experience.

Mockup of in browser cookie notifications.
Some kind of in browser privacy notification would introduce some consistency to the user experience and free up valuable real estate.

Of course, these are possible long term solutions to a very complex issue. Even if a viable alternative was presented I don’t see the European Union changing its current recommendations anytime soon.

So what can we do as website owners in the meantime?

What You Can Do Now

The biggest problem with cookie legislation is that most organisations are intimidated by it. They are afraid of getting prosecuted and yet don’t really understand what the requirements are.

Part of the reason for this is that a lot of the legislation is open to interpretation. As I said, I am no lawyer and so not an expert on the subject. But, as with any legislation, the wording is crucial.

For example, cookie legislation requires that a site gets prior consent from the user to use cookies, but what does that mean? How do you have to get consent? What does prior mean in the context of a website? Although there is government advice, there is little definition in legislation.

Currys in the UK have decided that they can comply by using an inline message rather than an overlay that takes up valuable real estate on mobile devices

These are the kinds of decisions companies are having to make and on the whole, most organisations go with a ‘follow the crowd’ approach. If you do what a lot of others are doing surely, you won’t get in trouble.

That is understandable, but not all websites are the same and neither are all users. An overlay may indeed be necessary for some sites in some situations, but that doesn’t mean it is for yours.

For example, it may be perfectly acceptable to place the cookie notification inline, rather than as an overlay.

UK retailer Marks and Spencers seem to have concluded that they don’t need a cookie notification.

Also, it may be that your site doesn’t require a notification at all because the cookies you are using do not fall under the legislation. For example, if all you use cookies for is to enable necessary functionality and they don’t identify individual users, then a notification might not be necessary. That is why you don’t see a cookie notification on this site, but instead a plain language privacy policy.

It is also worth noting that it is improbable that a government body will prosecute a company for non-compliance without any warning. Instead, they will receive notification that they have not complied and that will give them time to rectify the issue.

Ultimately this is all about risk management. Companies need to balance the risks associated with non-compliance with the damage to user experience and by extension conversion rate.

The problem is that at the moment these decisions are being made almost exclusively by legal, and by their nature legal teams are going to be conservative. After all, they will be the ones fired if the company breaches regulations!

Instead, this needs to be a bigger discussion, not a decision made by legal alone. I would encourage you not to blindly accept the ‘rules’ laid down by legal but instead discuss it with them. Seek to understand the legislation wording better and work with them to explore different possible approaches. Nothing is ever as black and white in compliance as it first seems. There is a conversation to be had.

As Khoi Vinh explains, we need to put the same effort into creating a great user experience when designing privacy controls as goes into the rest of the interface. The Times newspaper does a surprisingly good job at this.

What the Future Holds

In many ways, the current situation around privacy reminds me of the early days of accessibility. To begin with, nobody knew what disability legislation really meant. Then people settled on implementing WAI Guidelines.

However, for a long time, this was nothing but a box-checking exercise. If it passed some WAI automated checker then you could call yourself compliant.

Today thinking has moved on and we know that just implementing the letter of some guidelines does not truly make an accessible experience.

I believe the same is true for privacy and cookies. We should focus on applying the spirit of the law rather than ass-covering. We should be seeking to empower users by being transparent, giving them control and asking for prior consent. That is far more productive than spamming them with overlays they cannot understand.

Stock Photos from Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

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Measuring Usability: What Metrics Should You Track? Tue, 02 Apr 2019 11:10:00 +0000 0 <p>When establishing the <a href="">key performance indicators</a> for any site, they should always include measuring usability.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Measuring Usability: What Metrics Should You Track?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Measuring usability is often overlooked in favour of a focus on conversion. However, ignoring usability as a metric can have a significant impact on the long-term health of your business and ultimately will undermine users taking action.

Why You Should Be Measuring Usability

Usability underpins everything on a website. A website can be unattractive, un-engaging and even poorly written and it may still convert. However, if people cannot use a site, taking action becomes impossible.

Worst still, users have an extremely low frustration threshold when using a site. With so many competitors out there, why would a user struggle with a problematic website?

But good usability can provide a distinct business advantage too.

There is a reason why every Christmas I say to friends and families that they can have whatever they want as a gift, as long as I can order it from Amazon. I know Amazon, and so for me, it is easy to use.

My familiarity with Amazon makes me loyal to that site, and I am not alone. Users tend to be loyal to sites they find easy to use. That increases the customers lifetime value, allowing companies to pay more for customer acquisition so outperforming competitors in pay-per-click listings.

alt="Amazon Website">
Like many, my bias towards buying from Amazon is down to the fact that it feels easy and familiar.

Customers will even pay a premium for a straighforward experience. That means if your website is easy to use you can potentially charge more!

How then do you know if your site is easy to use? How do you measure its usability?

Measure Your Site’s Overall Usability

There are many ways to measure a site’s usability. However, most of the options are relatively time-consuming to implement, which means that they do not happen regularly. That makes it hard to track the effectiveness of site improvements over time.

Pragmatically most organisations need a cheap, quick method of measuring usability and that is where the system usability scale comes in.

The System Usability Scale

The system usability scale is a simple survey that asks users to express their agreement with a series of statements. Participants rank each statement from one to five based on how much they agree or disagree with it. Five means they completely agree, while one means they strongly disagree.

alt="System Usability Scale Survey">
The System Usability Scale is a simple survey for measuring perceived usability.

What statements you use is of course, entirely up to you, but ideally, you should have ten. A typical sample list of statements for a website might read:

  • I think that I would like to use this website frequently.
  • I found the website unnecessarily complex.
  • I thought the website was easy to use.
  • I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this website.
  • I found the various functions in this website were well integrated.
  • I thought there was too much inconsistency in this website.
  • I would imagine that most people would learn to use this website very quickly.
  • I found the website very cumbersome to use.
  • I felt very confident using the website.
  • I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this website.

How to Calculate Your System Usability Scale

Notice how the above statements alternate between positive and negative statements. For example, the first statement is positive:

I think that I would like to use this website frequently.

While the second is negative:

I found the website unnecessarily complex.

For each positive statement take the users score and subtract one. So, a score of four would become three.

For each negative statement subtract the users score from five. So, if a user scored a statement as a five, then the final score would be zero.

Once you have a number for each statements, add these together and times the total by 2.5. That will give you a score out of 100.

Admittedly all of that mathematical gymnastics is a bit fiddly, but it does give you an easy rating out of 100 for measuring usability. A metric that allows you to track improvements over time.

How to Use the System Usability Scale

Once you have the hang of it, the system usability scale opens up a world of possibilities.

For a start, if you use the standard statements as outlined above, you can get a reasonable idea of how usable your site is compared to other systems in general.

The average system usability score is 68 and anything above 80 means you are in a very good place. However, anything under approximately 50 and you need to be prioritising usability fixes.

alt="What your system usability score means">
The average system usability score is 68 and anything below 50 should be of concern.

But, you can also use the system usability scale to compare your site to the competition by asking users to rank multiple sites.

Finally, you can use the system usability scale to rate a prototype against an existing site, or to compare multiple design approaches.

The Limitations of The System Usability Score

Although the system usability scale is an excellent way of measuring a site’s usability and by extension the impact of usability on conversion, it is not perfect.

The system usability scale suffers from two flaws.

First, it can only identify how good or bad the usability of a website is. It cannot diagnose why it is succeeding or failing.

Second, there is often a discrepancy between what a user says and reality. For example, somebody may describe a website as easy to use because they are familiar with it. Equally, they might say they will recommend that site to others in the moment of completing a survey, but not do it in reality.

These facts mean that we cannot only rely on the system usability scale. We also need to be measuring how users perform when completing critical tasks on a website.

How to Measure Usability of Critical Tasks

If you want users to complete a call to action on your website, taking that action has to be easy. But how do you know if signing up for your newsletter, buying a product or completing your contact form is, in fact, easy?

What Task Metrics to Measure

For that kind of specific action, the system usability scale will not help. We will need a different type of usability metric tied specifically to our calls to action. We will want to measure a series of factors. Factors such as:

  • The time it took the user to complete the action.
  • The number of users who simply failed to complete the task.
  • Whether the user was able to complete the call to action using the most direct route.
  • The average number of mistakes the user made when trying to complete the task.

Fortunately, these various metrics do not all have to be measured separately. We can ascertain all of those metrics by watching real users complete tasks.

How to Measure Task Metrics

You can track task metrics when running any facilitated usability test session as long as users are being asked to complete the appropriate tasks. However, because we are looking to gather quantitative data, testing with a more significant number of users is preferable as this reduces any one user skewing the metric with abnormal behaviour.

Because facilitated usability testing can be time-consuming, it may be preferable to carry out unfacilitated testing when seeking to establish metrics around critical tasks such as your calls to action.

In unfacilitated testing, the user is set a task to complete, and they then finish it without being directly observed or interacted with by a facilitator.

There are a number of tools that can help with unfacilitated testing of this nature.

One option is to use an application such as Lookback. Lookback allows you to carry out both facilitated and unfacilitated testing both in person and remotely.

alt="Lookback Screenshot">
A tool like Lookback allows unfacilitated testing and the ability to watch each session back as a video.

Lookback will allow you to send a link to a user which when clicked will set that user a task and ask them to complete the work while being recorded. The advantage of this approach is that you can see users completing the task in video format along with a commentary of them explaining what they are doing and thinking.

The drawback, however, is that you are left to calculate the metrics by watching each session and recording the number of misclicks or whatever other metrics that are of interest.

One solution to this problem is to use a tool like Maze. Maze doesn’t record videos of user sessions or allow you to see the user completing the task. However, it does provide detailed analytics in regards to what those users did. That makes it ideal for task metrics, while Lookback is better suited to qualitative testing.

Making Sure Measuring Usability Happens

Using the right tool for the job is of crucial importance if you are to integrate tracking usability metrics into your workflow. If gathering those metrics is not straightforward then you will stop doing it, and that is a dangerous road.

Our tendency is to focus on things we can see. If all we see are conversion numbers, then this will be the focus of the organisation. The result will be the adoption of short term techniques to improve conversion ( dark patterns) at the cost of long term success.

If we start tracking usability, we not only ensure it gets the attention it deserves; over time we will also be able to demonstrate its value. We will be able to show that if we reduce the time it takes to complete a task, then there is a direct correlation with improvements in conversion.

Stock Photos from NicoElNino/Shutterstock

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When establishing the key performance indicators for any site, they should always include measuring usability. When establishing the key performance indicators for any site, they should always include measuring usability. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 9:41