Boagworld – User Experience Advice Advice on user experience design and digital strategy from Paul Boag Thu, 08 Nov 2018 12:00:38 +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 32 ways to find time for what matters Tue, 06 Nov 2018 12:00:03 +0000 0 <p>One of the most quoted barriers within organisations is a lack of time. But is that justified and if it is what can we do about it?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">32 ways to find time for what matters</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> I tell my clients to do a lot of different things. From creating service manuals to educating colleagues and running usability testing. I also talk to my peers who run agencies about the need to blog or improve the customer experience. But whatever advice I give I get the same old excuse – “I don’t have time”.

I have little sympathy with this argument. We all have the same number of hours in the day. We are all under pressure from bosses or clients to deliver. But some seem to manage to do the important tasks, not just the urgent ones. Some find the time to be strategic, while others spend their whole time fire-fighting. So how do they do it? Well, here are 32 small changes you can make which will find you the time you need.

1. Skip meetings where possible

We all know meetings waste a huge amount of time. Avoid them where possible. One option is to write a short paper for the meeting outlining your thoughts. If people have questions they want you to answer, offer to document your answers in advance. Both approaches might help you avoid attending.

2. Group meetings

Don’t allow your meetings to happen throughout the day. This breaks up your productive time and destroys its effectiveness. Instead ask to reschedule meetings so they all happen together. If you cannot do that, at least have a couple of days a week where you don’t book meetings.

3. Avoid attending entire meetings

Often meetings cover many topics and not all will be relevant to you. Ask for an agenda and offer to attend only the parts for which you can provide value. If necessary say you have something that clashes and you can only attend part of the meeting. This isn’t a lie. You have your actual work that clashes with the meeting!

4. Make sure you schedule all meetings

Discourage people from dropping in for a chat. This kind of interruption destroys your flow. Instead get them to schedule your time in advance. This gives you control over when they happen. A tool like Calendly might help with this.

Calendly is a great tool for quickly scheduling meetings that would otherwise interupt your flow.
Calendly is a great tool for quickly scheduling meetings that would otherwise interupt your flow.

5. Have do not disturb times

Establish regular times in a day when you aren’t available to speak to. Put a sign on your desk making it clear that you aren’t available to chat. But do give times when you will be available again. It is surprising but most people will respect your desire to focus.

6. Wear headphones

If you want to focus, wear a pair of noise cancelling headphones. If you don’t like listening to music, put on some white noise. This will stop you getting sucked into office conversation. It is also the universal sign that you don’t want people interrupting you.

7. Work unsociable hours

If you can, start early and leave early. Or if you are a night owl, start late and leave late. This way you have at least a part of the day when fewer people are around to disturb you. You can use this time to work on what is important to you, without your boss looking over your shoulder.

8. Work from home

Where possible, work away from the office. Whether it is at home or in a coffee shop, getting away from colleagues will allow you to get much more done. It isn't as easy to interrupt you and you have more flexibility over what you work on when.

9. Don't multitask

We suck at it! Switching tasks is always a huge time suck. That is why meetings and email are one of the biggest productivity killers. Focus on one thing at a time and avoid distractions.

10. Avoid synchronous communication

Avoid realtime forms of communication such as instant messaging or telephone. These demand your attention and interrupt your flow. Let the phone go to voicemail and set instant messaging to busy. Then respond to them on your own schedule.

11. Close that email client

Don’t respond to email throughout the day. The more emails you send, the more email you will get. Instead respond to email three times a day. In the morning, at lunch and at the end of the day. In time cut this down to first and last thing. Rarely are emails so urgent that they need responding to straight away. If you do have emails like this then set up specific notifications just for these. That way you aren’t interrupted for less important emails.

12. Batch tasks

In the same way you should batch responding to email, you can do this with any type of task. Deal with all phone calls at the same time and do all your admin together. Jumping between different types of tasks is hard for us to adapt too. It undermines our efficiency.

13. Break down bigger tasks

Break tasks down as small as possible. This means you can utilise even the smallest gap of time to be productive. For example I wrote an outline for this post while waiting for my wife. The bigger the task, the harder it will be to find time to do it.

14. Set a time limit for everything

Many tasks grow to fill the available time. You can spend weeks agonising over a design if you have the opportunity. To avoid this set a limit on how long you will spend. Getting things done and moving on to the next thing is more important than perfection.

15. Take shortcuts with the unimportant

We are often given tasks that we consider unimportant. Don’t waste time doing them perfectly. Instead get them done as fast as possible and move on to something that actually matters. Just because you have to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it well!

16. Over estimate the unimportant

When estimating, always over estimate how long it will take to do the unimportant things. Equally, under estimate what actually matters. This encourages colleagues and management to focus on the right things. But it also allows you to invest the extra time from unimportant tasks in what actually matters.

17. Block out time in your calendar

Make use of your calendar! Many designers and developers only put meetings in their calendar. But this implies that only meetings matter. Instead put all your work in the calendar and block out time for your actual work. Meetings should fit around your work, not the other way around.

If your calendar only contains the occassional meeting it looks like people can book up your time whenever they want.
If your calendar only contains the occassional meeting it looks like people can book up your time whenever they want.

18. Present a reasoned no

Be willing to say no to work you consider unnecessary. But do so with a reasoned argument. Most of all have a consistent argument that you apply the same to everybody. For example take the time to write a policy about how you decide what you work on.

19. Say yes, but with consequences

When you cannot say no (for example to your boss) agree, but explain the consequences. Being confrontational with a boss rarely works. But explaining to them what will have to go on hold if you work on their project can help.

20. Delay the unimportant

When you have to work on something unimportant, delay by asking for more information. For example, ask colleagues to complete a briefing document before you start work. I have known more than one project to disappear because somebody asked for it on a whim.

21. Shift the workload

Where possible delegate. Give stakeholders in a project responsibility for certain deliverables (e.g. content). Don’t begin work until they deliver. They will often never deliver and the project will get dropped.

Also don’t struggle with a task that is not your area of expertise, ask for the help of a specialist. They will do it faster and free up some of your time.

22. Speak to your boss

Don’t presume your boss will be unreceptive to your suggestions. Many bosses appreciate employees who suggest improvements. But be ready to present a good argument and be willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. Start with suggestions that don't need extra investment but just need a bit of your time. Keep bigger projects until you have built some goodwill.

23. Ask for forgiveness not permission

Sometimes the best approach is to do what needs doing even if it is at the cost of other projects. You can always ask for forgiveness afterwards, while still achieving your aims. But remember, you can only get away with this once or twice so use this technique wisely.

24. Work to rule

If you have an hours lunch, take it. If you work 9-5pm, then stick to those hours. Then take the time you used to spend above and beyond that to focus on work projects that matter to you. Your boss can hardly complain as you are still putting in the extra hours at work. You are just focusing on your own agenda in your own time.

25. Collaborate on what matters

When you are working on something important, try and work on it side by side with other stakeholders. If possible go and sit with them. Things will move much faster if you can work on a project together. Email and meetings slow progress on important projects, so don’t rely on them.

26. Work in focused bursts

Setting aside big blocks of time is important. But remember that you cannot work for extended periods. Take regular breaks, between short intensive bursts of work. Consider using something like the Pomodoro technique to give you some structure.

27. Have a system and stick to it

Whether you are talking about filing, naming conventions or task management, have a system. You lose a surprising amount of time because you are badly organised. Time is often wasted trying to find information. You can forget some tasks completely if they are not all kept in the same place.

Have one place you hold all your tasks and stick to it.
Have one place you hold all your tasks and stick to it.

28. Automate where possible

If you find yourself doing the same thing several times, look to automate it. This might be pushing content live or sending the same email. There are loads of opportunities to take the manual labour out of so many tasks.

29. Find the right tools for the job

Take some time to find tools that make your job easier. You can waste so much time struggling with inappropriate software or ageing hardware. These are the tools of your trade and you need to invest in them.

30. Prepare for the next day

End each day by putting in place the things you need to start the following day at full speed. It only takes a few minutes to ensure everything will be at your fingertips the next morning.

31. Know your body

Remember you are not a machine. Your productivity will vary. Exercise and eat well. But most of all get to know when you are most productive. Design your schedule so that you can focus on important tasks in these times. For example I know I am most productive in the afternoon so I do email and meetings in the mornings.

32. Always keep moving forward

But the most important thing in this list is to always keep moving forward. Too many people fail to take action because they want things to be perfect. That or they fear the consequences of getting things wrong. Just making a decision and taking action is the most important thing you can do. Otherwise you can waste days procrastinating and reworking ideas. As Nike likes to say ‘Just Do It!’

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One of the most quoted barriers within organisations is a lack of time. But is that justified and if it is what can we do about it? One of the most quoted barriers within organisations is a lack of time. But is that justified and if it is what can we do about it? Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 12:32
How to Get the Most From Live Chat on Your Website Tue, 30 Oct 2018 12:00:59 +0000 0 <p>More and more organisations are using live chat facilities to engage with site visitors, but few are getting the most from this new communication channel.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to Get the Most From Live Chat on Your Website</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Live chat is far from new. It has been around since at least 2002 when Livechat software launched. Recently it has grown in popularity, thanks in part to a new generation of services such as Intercom.

Services like Intercom have caused an explosion in the number of sites offering live chat facilities.

Live chat is often used as a support tool, but companies are increasingly using it as a sales tool on e-commerce sites, or an alternative to contact us forms and telephone numbers.

The Potential of Live Chat

In theory, Live chat has enormous potential, and it’s widespread adoption is understandable. Done right, live chat gives users instant access to a real human with whom they can discuss their specific requirements.

From a company perspective, live chat provides the personal service of a phone call, but at a fraction of the cost, as support staff can handle multiple conversations simultaneously.

However, theory and reality are often very different, and that discrepancy can undermine the user experience and by extension the benefits to the business.

Make Live Chat Less Intrusive

The first problem I have observed in the implementation of live chat is that it is often intrusive. Upon arriving on a site, the user is immediately confronted with a popup overlay offering help. It can feel like the modern equivalent of Clippy.

Live chat overlays can feel just as annoying as Microsoft’s Clippy.

Although in theory, a user could choose to ignore this overlay, leaving it on screen and continuing to navigate the website, in most cases, they immediately close it.

In effect, the user is forced to address the offer of live chat, before being able to continue with their primary task. That is particularly true on mobile where live chat notifications can take up a significant portion of the screen.

Live chat can get in the way especially on mobile.

One could argue that closing a live chat notification is not onerous, but when combined with repeating the same action for cookie notifications and newsletter overlays, on every site they visit, users quickly begin to suffer from overlay fatigue.

The obvious answer is to avoid presenting the offer of live chat as an overlay. Instead, display a live chat call to action within the body of a page. Only show the live chat window when the user initiates it by clicking the in-page call to action.

In short, live chat overlays are irritating if you do not require them. However, it is often even more annoying if users do need help.

Only Display Live Chat When Available

All too often the experience of using live chat fails to live up to its potential. In fact, in many cases, clicking on live chat windows results in the site telling a user an operator is not available to help them. That is especially true when interacting with a site owned by a company in a different time zone.

It is frustrating when you click live chat expecting to speak to a person and instead find nobody is available.

Admittedly, in such situations, live chat will offer to submit the enquiry as a ticket that will be addressed later by email. However, this is not in line with people’s expectations. By providing live chat, the user has been primed to expect an immediate response.

To avoid this problem, replace the default live chat call to action with a notification telling users it is not currently available and suggest alternative methods of contact. Alternatively, remove all mention of live chat entirely.

On the subject of user expectations, they also expect to speak to a real human being when they engage with live chat.

Ensure You Connect Users Directly to a Real Person

Unfortunately, increasingly a user is forced to navigate a knowledge base or chatbot, before being able to speak to a real person.

Forcing users to search a knowledge base before talking to a person is frustrating.

Although this makes sense from a company perspective, it is counter to what users expect from a live chat system. With that in mind, it is better to connect a customer immediately to a human, but make use of canned responses to address common questions and problems quickly.

Customise Your Canned Responses

That said, canned responses themselves can be an issue if misused. Too often those operating live chat systems, rely too heavily on canned responses when answering customer queries.

Although without a doubt, most users ask a similar set of questions, that does not mean the answers can be identical. Excellent customer service is personalised and responds to the nuances of what somebody is asking.

Often operators send canned responses that broadly address a customers questions, but do not take into account the specifics. The result is a canned response that is blatantly generic, making the customer feel at best under-appreciated and at worst frustrated because the operator didn't answer their question correctly.

Canned responses need to be seen as a starting point for a reply to users, not as a definitive response. Failing to do so makes live chat no more valuable than a searchable knowledge base or a well-written chatbot. It does nothing to fulfil the user's desire to be helped by another human being.

Add Humanity Back to Your Site

Ultimately that is what can make live chat so powerful. At its best, it replicates the human service that is so lacking from the internet. It creates a sense of outstanding customer service that encourages repeat orders and word of mouth recommendation.

Unfortunately, all too many organisations have approached it with a half-hearted implementation. The result is a system that is painful to run and provides no tangible returns. When it comes to live chat, you should either go all in or not bother at all.

Thanks to mtkang from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.

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More and more organisations are using live chat facilities to engage with site visitors, but few are getting the most from this new communication channel. More and more organisations are using live chat facilities to engage with site visitors, but few are getting the most from this new communication channel. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 5:40
A spreadsheet could be breaking your digital strategy Tue, 23 Oct 2018 11:00:08 +0000 9 <p>If those who control the purse strings of digital continue to think of it as a capital cost they will kill it’s effectiveness. </p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">A spreadsheet could be breaking your digital strategy</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Some days I feel like a failure. I pride myself on my ability to show management the importance of digital. To encourage them to restructure so they can better serve their connected consumers. I have even become somewhat of an expert at transforming organisational culture to be more user friendly.

But despite this I fail in one simple thing. I cannot get organisations to move digital from one column of a spreadsheet to another.

Brace yourself for some financial terms

When it comes to business there are two basic costs. There is capital expenditure and operational expenses.

Capital expenditure is money an organisation spends to buy a fixed asset like a building or some equipment. An operational expense is money spent on the ongoing running of the business. This often involves things like wages or rent.

Digital is not a fixed cost

My problem is that too often management see digital as a capital cost, rather than an operational one. In the eyes of management and finance you ‘buy’ a website, content management system or some other digital ‘asset’.

In essence they see digital like purchasing a building. You buy it and then spend a small amount on ongoing maintenance. But in truth it is more like planting a garden. Yes there is an initial cost but there is also a significant ongoing investment in that garden reaching its maturity. Planting the garden is only the start.

Why digital is an ongoing expense

The idea that digital is a capital expense comes from how we have dealt with websites in the past. We have redesigned our sites every few years and then abandoned them in the intervening time. This made sense in the past where websites were little more than brochures. But when a website becomes business critical this thinking fails for three reasons.

1. Periodic redesign is wasteful

The traditional pattern of redesign is wasteful. Every few years an organisation decides to relaunch their website. They launch the website and then abandon it except for some minor content updates. Over time the design looks dated, the technology unfit for purpose and the content incorrect.

In the end the website becomes an embarrassment and the company stops referring people to it. Management then intervene and commission a redesign. But by this point it is too late. For a significant part of its life the website has not been fit for purpose.

Periodic redesign every few years means your website is ineffectiveness for a considerable portion of its life.
Periodic redesign every few years means your website is ineffectiveness for a considerable portion of its life.

When we do finally redesign our site, we replace the whole thing. We do this despite some elements of it still being serviceable. It is like buying a house, failing to clean it and buying a new one when it becomes dirty! (Although I confess I would like to do this if I could afford it. I hate housework.)

2. We only understand user needs post-launch

But the waste does not stop there. We build features into our websites that are not needed. This is because we only understand what users want after we have launched the site.

No amount of research replaces seeing real users interacting with a real website. That means we only understand if we have got things right once we have launched the website. Unfortunately this is exactly the same moment the money dries up if we see digital as a capital expense. The site goes live and everybody walks away.

It is not until the money dries up that we really begin to understand users needs.
It is not until the money dries up that we really begin to understand users needs.

3. We waste money building unwanted features

As digital professionals we know that we don’t understand users needs until after we launch. That is why we want to create a minimum viable product. We allow the user to shape the digital services we provide by launching a basic service and then responding to feedback.

Don't build features you may not need. Start basic and add complexity only when users ask for it.
Don't build features you may not need. Start basic and add complexity only when users ask for it.

But when management see digital as a capital expense this is impossible. Capital expenditure turns our digital service into a project, rather than an ongoing investment. Projects need fixed budgets and that means fixed specifications. Specifications that are a best guess of what users want. At worst they are a wish list of what the company would like to build.

This means that organisations over engineer their digital services. For example it is typical for organisations to add features ‘they might want in the future’. That or features they are guessing users ‘might find useful’. It is all guesswork.

Instead organisations should be building the core of a digital service. They should then evolve it based on user feedback and changes in organisational requirements. This is much more cost effective.

Under-resourced digital teams

This capital expenditure thinking leaves the majority of in-house digitals teams under resourced. They are setup to provide basic maintenance and yet the demands of digital are requiring more of them. They never have the time to think strategically about the direction they are taking.

It also forces many organisations to rely on outside agencies. Not only is this more expensive, it leaves a business critical component in the hands of a third party. A third party that may not always been available or even in business.

How to encourage the change

Reclassifying digital as an operational expense is becoming important. But it is not always black and white. In a company where digital is not yet business critical the need for ongoing investment is less. But often it has become crucial and yet management have not realised.

My problem is that I don’t seem able to convince management that they have reached a tipping point. Hell, I don't even seem able to convince them that there current thinking is wrong.

So I turn to you. How would you go about overcoming this problem? How do you word this in such a way to convince management? Is this even an issue in your organisation? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you have a moment.

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If those who control the purse strings of digital continue to think of it as a capital cost they will kill it’s effectiveness. If those who control the purse strings of digital continue to think of it as a capital cost they will kill it’s effectiveness. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 6:50
How to write a convincing blog post Tue, 16 Oct 2018 11:00:03 +0000 0 <p>Most blog posts these days exist for a reason. To convince somebody. To convince them of an argument or to buy a product. But how do you write a convincing post?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">How to write a convincing blog post</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Admit it. You have a hidden agenda. Well okay, maybe not a hidden one. And maybe not all the time. But when you are writing a blog post you do have an agenda.

Most of us write blog posts to convince the reader of something. If you have a product or service you blog to convince people to buy it. If you work for somebody else you may blog to convince others that you are worth hiring. That or persuade your colleagues about best practice. Whatever the case our writing needs to be convincing.

I have been advising several of my clients about how to do exactly this. I thought I would share the advice I gave them here.

Don’t try too hard

The last thing you want your post to do is scream “hire us”. People will hate you if you beat them around the head with your agenda. They hate feeling strong armed. But most of all it just looks desperate. If you desperately try to convince, people will shy away.

Nobody wants to read a sales pitch. More importantly, nobody will share a sales pitch and we want people to share your posts.

Make it about the reader

Although you have an agenda you cannot focus on that when writing. Instead focus on the reader. What value are you giving them. The post should have actionable value they can take away. It shouldn’t just push your agenda.

Take this post for example. Notice earlier that I linked to my consultancy services. That is my agenda. But notice how even if you never clicked that link, the post still has value to you. You don’t need to hire me to take something away of value.

Don’t bury the lead

There is a phrase in journalism called ‘burying the lead’. This is where you fail to highlight the key element of a story. This can happen for two reasons.

First, you just don’t get to the point. You become so intent on crafting your message that you forget few readers will read it all. That is why it is important to lead with the main takeaway.

Second, you don’t have a clear focus. It is easy to write a post without knowing what the core message you are trying to communicate is. What exactly are you trying to say? What question are you trying to answer? Your central idea should be something you can express in a single sentence.

Don’t waffle

Some will tell you that you should keep your blog post short. This is good advice but not the whole story. In reality your post should be as long as it needs to be and no longer.

It is true that users don’t read long posts, but they will skim them. They will look at headings and dip in and out of parts of what you have written. That means that length isn’t your key concern. Being concise is.

Express an opinion

Many writers fear expressing a strong opinion. They fear criticism. But if all you do is state the obvious or accepted wisdom then you add no value to the reader. You will also not be memorable or shift the readers perspective.

But a word of caution. Expressing an opinion does not mean being controversial to grab attention. Readers see through that.

Support your view

If you are going to express an opinion make sure you back it up. Quote experts in the subject you are discussing. This adds to your own credibility, but also supports your argument.

Use statistics and research wherever possible. Many people respond well to numbers. But they are also easy to share on social media and so that helps spread your message.

Finally, tell stories. We tend to empathise with stories. But they also are a great way of demonstrating a point with a real life situation.

Give the reader an action

You want your reader going away with something they can apply in an actionable way.

I am not talking about going on to hire you or complete some other call to action. I am talking about something they can do which makes them feel empowered. Something that helps them.

That should be your ultimate goal. Give your reader something of value. If you can empower them they will be more open to whatever it is you wish to convince them about.

The post How to write a convincing blog post appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Most blog posts these days exist for a reason. To convince somebody. To convince them of an argument or to buy a product. But how do you write a convincing post? Most blog posts these days exist for a reason. To convince somebody. To convince them of an argument or to buy a product. But how do you write a convincing post? Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 5:02
Accessibility is Not What You Think Tue, 09 Oct 2018 11:00:02 +0000 2 <p>Accessibility is not just about meeting the needs of the disabled or catering for edge cases. Accessibility impacts everybody.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Accessibility is Not What You Think</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> I have posted about the misconceptions of user experience design and information architecture. Now I want to dispel some myths about accessibility.

I dislike the term accessibility. It is an accurate enough term. It just conjures up the wrong preconceptions. When you talk about accessibility people’s eyes glaze over. They are either imagining wheelchair ramps or WCAG checklists. Either way, it does nothing to capture the truth about accessibility.

That is why I talk about inclusive design instead. Accessibility is about designing for everybody, not the few. It is not about designing just for the disabled. It is about designing for every one of us.

That is the problem with our perception of accessibility. We see it as being about edge cases. When we see it in that way it is not worth the investment. How could you justify spending money on a podcast transcription when you don’t even know if you have any deaf users? But good accessibility (or inclusive design) benefits all.

Take the transcript example. A transcript has many benefits.

  • It is great for search.
  • It allows people to scan content which is hard in audio.
  • It makes referencing content easier.
  • It provides access to those unable to listen to audio because of disturbing others (e.g. in an office).

But it is not just transcripts that benefit many different kinds of people. Almost all accessibility features do. Let me share a few examples.

Technological disability

Almost everybody has Javascript enabled these days. Why would you bother designing for the few who don’t? But what about those using underpowered mobile devices. I have seen my iPhone choke on Javascript more than once. Then there are those on feature phones or poor web connections.

iPhones can choke on Javascript, also there are those using feature phones or with poor web connections.

What about our bloated websites? Surely they are okay in the world of broadband. But what about those on slower mobile connections? What about those who have bandwidth caps?

At some point all of us will encounter one of these situations.

Visual impairment

Designers love to produce subtle design. This is fine if you have 20/20 vision, but what about the partially sighted. They need high contrast. But it is not just them. What about anybody over 40 whose vision is beginning to fail? What about those using a mobile device outside with screen glare?

If you have ever tried to work in the garden on a sunny day you realise the importance of high contrast.

Cognitive disability

People rarely consider those with a cognitive disability. Somebody with a cognitive disability would never use my site. What would be the point of designing for them?

, In fact, we all have moments of cognitive disability! We are distracted, in a rush or otherwise engaged. We might have dyslexia or not speak English as our first language.

The great thing is that if your site works for those with cognitive disabilities it is going to be a better site for everybody.

Motor challenges

If somebody struggles to use a mouse and keyboard they shouldn’t be using the web”. Somebody said that to me once. This is a horrendous attitude to take. But this isn’t just about those with serious motor problems. There are lots of reasons why somebody would struggle to use a mouse and keyboard.

Arthritis can make using a mouse or keyboard challenging to anybody. A touch screen is not as accurate as a mouse and so making selections can be harder. What about those suffering from repetitive strain injury or somebody who has broken their wrist?

Arthritis can make using a mouse or keyboard challenging to anybody.

Screen reader compatibility

You may think that making your site or app friendly for screen readers only benefits the visually impaired. You would be wrong. In fact, I use text to speech every day and I am far from alone.

On my iPhone I use the screen reader designed for the visually impaired all the time. I get it to read me web pages, articles in Pocket and even Kindle books. I use it when exercising, driving or just lying in bed at night when I have had enough of looking at the screen.

I am sure by now you get my point. Accessibility is not about designing for the few. It is designing for us all.

I am a great believer in not allowing edge cases to damage the experience for us. But accessibility doesn’t fall into that category for me. That is because it helps everybody and ultimately leads to a better website.

Thanks to Shutterstock for allowing me to use the images in this post.

The post Accessibility is Not What You Think appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Accessibility is not just about meeting the needs of the disabled or catering for edge cases. Accessibility impacts everybody. Accessibility is not just about meeting the needs of the disabled or catering for edge cases. Accessibility impacts everybody. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 4:53
Website Personalization: What Is It and What Are the Options? Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:00:04 +0000 0 <p>Website Personalization can cause a lot of confusion. It comes in many forms, and not all of them are appropriate for every site. Do not insist on personalization unless you have a clear idea of what you mean and what benefits you expect.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Website Personalization: What Is It and What Are the Options?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> So you are thinking of implementing some form of website personalization? Either that or you have a client requesting you add that functionality to a site. But what is personalization really, and does it make good business sense?

In truth, many website owners rush into website personalization before they have more fundamental building blocks in place. Before anybody looks at personalizing the user experience, they first need to ensure that experience is accessible, relevant and usable. Only then should you start to personalize what you deliver to users.

Before we start to worry about website personalization, we first need to ensure the basics are in place.

Don’t get me wrong; website personalization is incredibly powerful especially on Ecommerce sites. There are good reasons why Amazon has invested so heavily in it. But just because Amazon does personalization doesn’t mean your website should too.

People request website personalization after seeing Amazon. They don’t understand that systems like Amazon are hugely expensive and don’t always work effectively on other sites.

Then there is the considerable investment in implementing the kind of website personalization found on sites like Amazon. That is not the kind of feature request you merely tag on to a redesign project. It will need a well-considered business case for it.

In reality, most requests for website personalization are ill-informed and ill-advised. In fact, in many cases, people are not even clear what they mean by personalization.

So with that in mind, let’s look at seven types of personalization and their pros and cons. In doing so, let us look beyond the Amazon style of website personalization and consider the many other options available to us. Let’s broaden our definition of what website personalization means, as there are options available that are in many cases more effective and cheaper.

Take for example personalizing the experience through email and social media.

Email and Social Media Personalization

There are many scenarios where a user identifies themselves to an organization. That is where they signup for some form of notification (e.g., a newsletter) or follow the organization via a social media channel.

When a user identifies themselves, they often provide valuable information about themselves and their needs. That allows targeted communication with them using segmentation. For example, this might occur through targeted email campaigns or Facebook advertising.

Because we know about the user, we can personalize the content we send them to their individual needs.

When users follow you on a social network this allows you to target them based on their interests and demographics.

This type of personalization is easy to implement and involves typically little technical investment because it relies on third-party systems like Facebook or MailChimp.

That said, the degree of personalization is constrained by the available data on users. For example, a mailing list is of little use if all you have is somebodies email address.

That is why this approach works better when supported by some form of customer relationship system that includes richer data on users.

The downside of this approach to personalization is that it requires organizations to be continually creating new content to engage with the segments they build. That might be new social media content or new email updates. Whatever the case, this is time-consuming.

Campaign Based Website Personalization

Campaign personalization is a term used to describe website content personalized to support online and offline campaigns.

For example, imagine you were sending a direct mail campaign. Instead of including your generic website URL in the literature you send out, you would provide a unique website address directing users to a customized landing page. The website landing page can then be heavily tailored to the audience and messaging of the campaign.

You can use these personalized landing pages for everything from referring websites to email campaigns targeting a specific sector. In every case the principle is the same, customize the experience based on where users are coming from.

The Obama campaign used targeted landing pages to reach out to specific groups such as Reddit users.

This form of website personalization is incredibly useful because it provides users with a tightly integrated experience from initial contact to completing a call to action. That makes them ideally suited for improving site conversion.

What is more, they involve no additional technical development. In most cases, we can easily create this kind of landing page within your average content management system.

However, they are limited, and time-consuming to create. We need to design each landing page individually, and the scope of each page is limited to a small number of very similar campaigns.

Website Personalization Using Geography

Geographical personalization customizes content based on the geographic region that a user is in. For example, you may choose to redirect users from India to a page specifically designed for an Indian audience.

Geographical personalization can also be used to offer translations of content or customize the content that appears on existing pages. Of course, this kind of translation can be time-consuming and expensive to produce.

Also, just because somebody appears to be accessing a website from a particular country does not mean they are based there. People travel, and many organizations route traffic through different countries. If a user is misidentified as being from a particular geographical region, it can be hard for them to get back to the correct country content.

That said, geographical personalization is relatively easy to implement and can be a powerful way of attracting international audiences, and showing the organization’s commitment to them.

It is common for larger companies to heavily personalize website content based on the location of the visitor.

Website Personalization Based on IP

IP customization attempts to recognize the user through their IP address. Although most users access the web via an ISP, we can identify corporate and institutional users from their IP address. In other words, it is possible to know if a user is likely to come from a particular company or a competitor.

Knowing where a user comes from allows the customization of content to reflect their needs, or personalize the messaging on the site. Typically this might involve changing homepage content to address the company you are targeting directly.

Optimizely successfully targeted large corporates with customized landing pages.

Unfortunately, like geographical personalization, IP addresses can be misleading. Many IP addresses are not reflective of the company for which the user works. Also if a user works away from the office, there is no way to identify them as an employee.

IP lookup can also cause performance issues as it relies on third-party services. That can negatively affect the user experience.

Also, you will need to create personalized content for each company you wish to target.

That said, a personalized experience based on company IP can create a delightful, engaging and personal experience. Content can be more personalized, and because this kind of personalization is rare, it can make a company stand out from the crowd.

Time-Based Personalization

Another way that companies can personalize the experience on a website is to reflect either the time of day or time of year. Although this may not be as highly personalized as some of the other techniques discussed in this post, it can still be useful if done right.

You can use time-based personalization as an opportunity to empathize with users by making educated guesses about their situation based on time. For example, are they accessing the site late at night or on a public holiday? If so, perhaps we can guess they are working into the evening or on their day off.

Personalizing the experience based on time of day or of year can prove effective.

Of course, the downside of this approach is that this involves customization based on geography too. What is late at night for one user, will be the morning for another one in a different country.

Also, your educated guesses about user behavior can be wrong, and that can undermine a connection with users, rather than build it up.

Nevertheless, if you get it right, it can resonate with users in a way that ‘recommended products’ will not.

Website Personalization Using Account Information

The most common form of personalization is when a user can personalize content once they have created an account. By logging in the user identifies themselves and so content and functionality can then be tailored around their needs. That typically involves adding or removing content modules or customizing quick links to functionality they regularly access.

The obvious downside of this approach is that it requires a user to create an account, something that they are often unwilling to do unless the site is one they are using on a regular basis.

It is possible to do account customization without a user logging in by relying on cookies. However, users often clear cookies and so any customization options will be lost.

Also, allowing a user to personalize a site to their needs is not always that useful depending on the website. Other than providing shortcuts to relevant content (something that could be achieved just as easily by bookmarking a page) there is often little benefit to end users of having an account.

Finally, site personalization based on account creation is also a substantial piece of technical work and often involves integration into other systems.

In short, account based personalization is better used for web apps than it is for content heavy or e-commerce sites.

Web Apps like Coschedule make extensive use of account based personalization. However, it makes little sense for other sites unless they are being used regularly.

Related content personalization is something most of us are aware of from using Amazon. It refers to recommendations based on what content you have previously viewed and the behavior of other users.

Amazon has spent millions on the creation of their content matching algorithm, and it is only because of their scale that this kind of investment could be justified. Yes, some third party Ecommerce platforms offer similar functionality, but the quality of results returned is often mixed.

However, not all related content personalization needs to be as sophisticated as Amazon. For example, it is possible to use data to match associated posts on a blog. In other words, we could create relationships between articles based on user behavior. If somebody liked a post they might like other posts that previous users have read.

An even simpler approach would be to simply manually identify the relationship between articles using tags or categories. No fancy algorithm required!

The BBC News website can recommend content to readers based on related news stories.

This basic form of related content personalization can be a useful way of reducing bounce rates and keeping users engaged. However, ensuring good recommendations can prove time-consuming as content will need to be carefully tagged. Alternatively, it will require significant technical investment to provide a good matching algorithm.

That said, with the continual improvement of machine learning and big data, this will probably prove more cost effective in the future. It is indeed an area to keep an eye on.

A Complicated Area

This post is far from a comprehensive analysis of the personalization options and I have made many generalizations in order to keep things simple. But hopefully, it has shown you that personalization is a broad topic with many approaches that can be adopted.

The key takeaway is that personalization is a complex area and not something we can easily plug into our websites. It can prove expensive, and so there needs to make sure you have a clear idea of how it will generate a return for your business.

In short, make sure you have done everything else you can before running headlong into the world of website personalization.

The post Website Personalization: What Is It and What Are the Options? appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Website Personalization can cause a lot of confusion. It comes in many forms, and not all of them are appropriate for every site. Do not insist on personalization unless you have a clear idea of what you mean and what benefits you expect. Website Personalization can cause a lot of confusion. It comes in many forms, and not all of them are appropriate for every site. Do not insist on personalization unless you have a clear idea of what you mean and what benefits you expect. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 11:55
Call to Action: How to Improve Your Conversion Rate. The Best Techniques. Tue, 25 Sep 2018 11:00:06 +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="">Call to Action: How to Improve Your Conversion Rate. The Best Techniques.</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 Call to Action: How to Improve Your Conversion Rate. The Best Techniques. 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
Where Does the Burden of Proof Lie for New UI Elements? Tue, 18 Sep 2018 11:00:56 +0000 0 <p>As companies, we need to shift our attitudes from “why not” to “why” when it comes to what we put on our websites.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Where Does the Burden of Proof Lie for New UI Elements?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> I recently posted to Twitter my dislike of those “download our app” banners that appear on so many websites. I implied that website owners should drop them as they are nothing but an annoying distraction.

Unsurprisingly this got a reaction from Twitter, with many people asking me to justify why they are damaging to the user experience. They wanted hard numbers to back up my claim. Numbers that, to be honest, I did not have.

Of course, this is fair enough, and I cannot blame them. But it did get me thinking. Why should the burden of proof lie with me? Why should I have to justify the need to exclude an element from a website? Why shouldn’t it be the job of those proposing a UI element to justify its inclusion?

The Battle to Maintain Simplicity

I see digital teams struggling with this issue all of the time. They are always fighting with colleagues across the organisation trying to simplify the user experience, but having to battle for every element they want to remove. What is more, they are continually resisting a tsunami of requests to add even more elements.

It is time for us to take a different approach. It is time for us to stop having to justify the exclusion of unnecessary UI elements. Instead, the burden of proof should fall on our colleagues to justify their inclusion. But how do we make this happen?

How to Shift the Burden of Proof

That is where a set of design principles can be invaluable. By formalising the idea that the burden of proof lies with those wishing to add elements, or that every element has to justify its inclusion, we establish a new premise.

Design principles are a useful reference to refer back to in order to stay on track.

In many cases, you will meet little resistance to the creation of these design principles. Statements such as “every UI element needs to justify its inclusion” seems very reasonable in the abstract. People will not necessarily resist it in the same way as they would an argument over a specific UI element.

Justifying the Shift in the Burden of Proof

Of course, that does not mean we can get away with having no justification. Fortunately, there is a solid argument for a design principle such as the one I suggest above. There are good reasons why the burden of proof should lie with anyone wanting to add UI elements to design.

Not long ago I wrote a post on cognitive load. In that post, I explained that cognitive load has a devastating impact on the conversion rate of any website. That when users are required to process too much information they make mistakes and miss things entirely. Worst of all, at a certain point, they give up completely.

The impact of cognitive load can be demonstrated easily by asking colleagues to watch the following video.

We rarely give a website our full attention. Most of us are surrounded by distractions when using the web, from screaming children to having the TV on in the background. Then on top of this, we have the plethora of unnecessary user interface elements to distract us further.

In short, every element we add to a website increases the user’s cognitive load and that negatively impacts the likelihood of them converting.

So do I have data that shows that those “download our app” bars have a negative impact? No, I don’t. But I do know that every element added to a website will contribute to a user feeling overwhelmed.

The impact of cognitive load means that every element has to justify that the benefit it provides outweighs the damage additional UI elements cause. That places the burden of proof squarely on the person proposing the new UI element.

But What About Hard Data?

Do not misunderstand me, having data is extremely useful. But often when people ask for data, it is merely a blocking tactic to force you to justify your position because they disagree with it. By establishing a design principle backed up with what we know about cognitive load we shift that burden of proof.

The problem is that establishing a direct correlation between the addition of yet more screen elements and a decline in conversion can be harder to do than measuring how many people clicked on a “download our app” link. That is why we need to recognise the limitations of data and instead learn from the more general principles of behavioural psychology, and the impact of cognitive load on human attention.

Time to Create Those Principles

Hopefully, this gives you one more reason to create some design principles and a digital playbook. If you continue to put it off, you will spend the rest of your career arguing over every little improvement you want to make to your website.

The post Where Does the Burden of Proof Lie for New UI Elements? appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

As companies, we need to shift our attitudes from “why not” to “why” when it comes to what we put on our websites. As companies, we need to shift our attitudes from “why not” to “why” when it comes to what we put on our websites. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 5:22
The Best Advice I Can Give Any Digital Business Owner Tue, 11 Sep 2018 11:00:30 +0000 0 <p>Whether you founded an agency, launched a digital app or are a freelancer, there is one piece of advice I would share with you all.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Best Advice I Can Give Any Digital Business Owner</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Since launching Boagworks three years ago, I have worked with founders of dozens of companies, from digital agencies of various sizes to freelancers and those running software as a service.

When people come to me, they are often at some type of turning point. Sometimes they are seeking to take their business to the next level, and other times they are at a crisis point.

What Is It You Really Want?

Often they come to me with a vision of what they want to achieve. Those I mentor, want to launch a product, grow their business or get ‘better’ clients. Whatever the case, I find myself asking the same question; why? Why, do you want to do whatever it is you are envisioning? What is the underlying reason?

Probably the most common example of this is; “I want to grow my business”. Different people mean different things when they say this. They might mean growth in the quality of clients, an increase in the number of employees or growth in revenue. But my response is the same; why?

You see, I find that most people do not truly understand their desires and motivations.

Will Your Dream Give You What You Really Want?

I recently worked with somebody who had been running an agency for years but desperately wanted to launch a product. I asked why they were so desperate to start a product. They answered that they wanted more financial security, to be able to work on what they wanted to work on, and not have to deal with client issues.

It is true that done right, launching a product can help with all of these things. Having large numbers of customers paying a small monthly fee can provide a more predictable cash flow. Equally, presuming you can bootstrap the business, you can build whatever you want with no clients interfering.

But if you make mistakes you will have none of those things. You will have investors dictating the direction of the product and a constant battle to secure enough paying customers or further investment.

However, more importantly, there are many ways of achieving those aims of financial security, control and freedom from clients. For example, working in-house for the right company can give that.

Stop Fixating on a Single Solution

The problem is we tend to fixate on the solution, not the underlying problem we are trying to solve. Say for example you are miserable in your job working in-house. You may dream of being a freelancer so you can escape from your job. That might indeed work, but I know many freelancers who work harder than they ever did in a full-time job. Also, a different job elsewhere might be just as good.

Then there are agency owners. They talk about growing their business, but in fact, there is usually an underlying need. Often it is either a financial need or a desire to build their reputation. But there are other ways of fulfilling those needs than getting big-name clients (who are often very demanding) or adding more employees (that result in more mouths to feed).

It is Okay to Admit Your True Needs

The trouble is, admitting that what you want is more money or to be looked up to by others is hard. Somewhere along the line, our industry has come to look down on things like that. We are supposed to want to build something for the greater good or ‘put a dent in the universe’. But why? Can’t we have more modest desires? I don’t want to change the world, and although I want to help others, I don’t necessarily feel the need to do that in my job.

Being more selfish than that, is okay. Having more simple needs is okay. You only need to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to know that financial security and a comfortable life are pretty fundamental to everybody. They are not bad desires.

Once you understand and admit your real motivations, everything changes. Once you know those things, you can explore all of the options available to you, not just the one solution you have fixated on.

It Is Okay for Our Needs to Change and Career Evolve

Then there is the fact that what we want will change through our careers. Our circumstances will change as we find a partner, have a family, buy a house etc. All of these things shape our lives and therefore what we need from our careers.

Take my case. I established the agency Headscape with my friends Chris Scott and Marcus Lillington and worked there happily for 13 years. We were all clear what we wanted from the business. We wanted a business that facilitated our lives and so resisted the urge to build the company too large.

However, over time my circumstances changed. We started homeschooling our son, and so I wanted more flexibility than the agency could provide. But I also had increased costs that a small agency wasn’t best suited to cover. In the end, it made sense to move on.

From the outside, it may have looked like a step back in my career. After all, I walked away from a successful agency that was well known and respected. But being an independent consultant just made more sense for achieving my personal needs.

In fact, it has proved less pressured, more profitable and allowed me to grow my reputation among my peers.

People Will Do Fine Without You. Don’t Let That Hold You Back.

But what about my cofounders at Headscape? Was my decision unfair on them? Maybe you have people reliant on you, who you feel you will be letting down if you go in a different direction?

Well possibly. But I have a shockingly harsh truth that I had to learn the hard way; you are not as indispensable as you think. At least I wasn’t when I left Headscape.

For years, I put off leaving the company because I feared I would be letting Marcus and Chris down. I thought Headscape was built on my reputation. I thought it would flounder without me. Instead, it thrived. I would go as far as saying that with me out of the way, it allowed the other two co-founders to step up in a way they could not with me around.

Also, if I am honest, I think that was just an excuse anyway. A reason to avoid facing the uncertainty of change and the unknown.

It Is Time to Be Honest

So what is my point for this somewhat self-referential post? My point is that we need to learn to see things clearly when it comes to our careers. We need to be honest with ourselves about what we truly want from our careers and stop making excuses for not doing it.

Of course, it is easy for me to say that and difficult for you to do. But if you find yourself at a crossroads in your career, I would encourage you to find a friend or colleague to discuss it with. Somebody outside of the situation who can maybe help you to see your motivations more honestly.

Thanks to PopTika for allowing me to use this image.

The post The Best Advice I Can Give Any Digital Business Owner appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

Whether you founded an agency, launched a digital app or are a freelancer, there is one piece of advice I would share with you all. Whether you founded an agency, launched a digital app or are a freelancer, there is one piece of advice I would share with you all. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 7:00
Why Is My Website So Bad at Converting? Tue, 04 Sep 2018 11:00:59 +0000 0 <p>When analytics, usability testing and session recorders let us down, we need to turn to alternative methods for ascertaining our sites shortcomings.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Why Is My Website So Bad at Converting?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Boagworld - User Experience Advice</a>.</p> Nothing is more frustrating than launching a new website only to discover it doesn’t improve your abysmal conversion rate. It feels like you spent all of that money for no return. But before we linch your web designer, let's take a step back and work out where things are going wrong.

Start With the Basics

The obvious place to start is with analytics. I don’t want to get into that in depth here as that is not the point of this post. But analytics may help you identify drop off points where things are going wrong.

Usability testing and session recorders will then help you to narrow the search to what specifically on a page is putting people off.

Staring at an analytics dashboard is not going to be enough to discover why most people abandon your site without acting.

But despite what people like me claim, these techniques are not a cure-all. You will often find yourself none the wiser as to why people aren’t buying. Just because a site is well designed and has avoided obvious usability hurdles doesn’t mean they will act.

So how do you find the problem and fix it?

Want to Know, Then Ask!

The answer is simple. If we want to understand why people are not acting on our website, we merely need to ask them! It's not rocket science, and yet it rarely seems to happen.

Start by adding a one question survey on your site. One that triggers when the user goes to leave. I am running one at time of writing on my conversion masterclass course page. It simply asks them “If you decide not to enrol today, it would be useful to know why.” I then offer them the following options based on my best guesses as to why they might be leaving.

  • I am not sure what the course covers.
  • I don’t think I need it.
  • I am not convinced it will help.
  • I think it is too expensive.
  • I don’t trust the website.
  • I want to think about it.
  • I have never heard of the tutor.
  • Other.

Although I have tailored this list to my specific circumstances, you can see how you could quickly adapt this to your situation. Instead of “I am not sure what the course covers” it could easily become “I am not sure what your company does”.

If you want to know why people aren’t acting, ask them!

Note that only one of those options directly references the website. Most of the reasons people do not act have nothing to do with site design or usability. Instead, it is factors such as the copy not being persuasive enough or the cost of acting being too high. Heck, you might even find that there isn’t a need for the product or service you are offering.

Make sure you include the ‘other’ option at the end and allow people to type in an answer if they select this. You will be surprised at what you learn. For example, more than one respondent to my survey said they wanted to persuade their boss to pay for the course. I am now working on a “convince the boss” PDF they can download, print off and hand to management.

Of course, one thing this approach doesn’t take into account is the fact that some of those coming to your site might not fall into the group of people you are trying to reach. For example, a lot of replies might signal the price is too high only because you are driving the wrong kind of people to your site in the first place.

To resolve this problem, you also need to talk to those who did buy your product or service.

Talk to Those Who Acted

At face value, it might not seem to make a lot of sense talking to those who acted when you want to find out why people are not responding. But there is a method in my madness, honestly!

For a start we know these are the ‘right kinds of people’ by the very fact that they have chosen to act. By definition, we want to win over people who are similar to those who did act.

All we need to do is ask those who acted the right question. We need to ask; what nearly stopped them from acting.

Whether we are talking about buying a product, completing a contact us form or subscribing to a newsletter, we have doubts. Even if we then go on to act, we have still had those doubts or concerns. Although the people we are talking to overcome those concerns, other similar people might not have. If we know what those worries are, we can address them.

Not Rocket Science

Admittedly this is not a revolutionary approach. It is trivial to implement, and obvious if you think about it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen very often.

But what I like about this technique is that it looks beyond site aesthetics and usability at the real problems that prevent people from acting the majority of the time. For that reason alone, we should include it in our tool belt of conversion optimisation techniques.

Thanks to Olivier Le Moal from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.

The post Why Is My Website So Bad at Converting? appeared first on Boagworld - User Experience Advice.

When analytics, usability testing and session recorders let us down, we need to turn to alternative methods for ascertaining our sites shortcomings. When analytics, usability testing and session recorders let us down, we need to turn to alternative methods for ascertaining our sites shortcomings. Boagworld – User Experience Advice clean 5:08