Some simple secrets to improving your workflow

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we have talks on simplifying your workflow and better understanding the role of the Net Promoter Score.

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This weeks show is sponsored by Fullstory and Teacup Analytics.

Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and returning from his foreign travels is cheapskate miserable arse Marcus Lillington.

Marcus: What I done now?!

Paul: Well, I mean honestly mate. You are an embarrassment to me. I get this, dear listener, I’m talking to the listener now, not you Marcus. I get this Skype call earlier going “You know how you are speaking in Barcelona…”

Marcus: Oh right, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well you’ve kind of said you might be able to do something so I’m just, you know, was that the wrong thing to do? Was I supposed to go “Yeah Paul.”

Paul: Well. So listener, what we are talking about here is that I am speaking at Smashing Conference in Barcelona which looks like it is going to be incredible. I cannot wait. Really good lineup, except for me obviously! And really great set of workshops, except for me obviously! And I got really excited about it and so I shared this with Marcus and Chris and they said “Oh yeah, that looks really good.” But they are too tight to pay the full price so I have had to go back to Smashing and say “Do you mind Mr. Smashing magazine man, if you give us discounts for my friends!” Tight arse.

Marcus: Well, you know, if you don’t ask, and all that, you don’t get in life do you.

Paul: I suppose they are getting some promotional stuff on Boagworld, on the podcast as a result, simply because I’m taking the piss out of you for being tight!

Marcus: I’ll return the favour one day. I don’t know how I could ever do that but, you know, one day.

Paul: Well, you just need to start a career in speaking at conferences Marcus. That’s the only thing for it.

Marcus: Well, obviously if you do come through Paul I will be looking forward to that too. It will be my second trip to Spain this year. I just come back from one.

Paul: Oh will it?! I was that where you’ve been? Oh right.

Marcus: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul: Oh I love the way you managed to transition to your holiday. You know nobody cares about your holiday’s Marcus.

Marcus: No, I think probably the opposite is the case. They probably…

Paul: Do you think that’s why they tune in?

Marcus: … hate the idea of me going on holiday and then blathering on about it.

Paul: It doesn’t mean you’re going to stop doing it.

Marcus: I’m feeling really relaxed and kind of, you know, easy with the world because of it.

Paul: You’re back-and-forth to America every five minutes at the moment as well aren’t you?

Marcus: It seems that way yeah. Starting off another project out there. Leigh and I are heading off in three weeks I think it is.

Paul: I haven’t been to the States for ages. They have stopped asking me. (Laughter)

Marcus: Well it seems to go in, you know, it goes in circles doesn’t it. We got loads of things on at the moment and then we probably won’t go for another four years. Then there were loads of things.

Paul: It’s just the way it goes. Isn’t it.

Marcus: It does mean that I’m accruing lots and lots of British Airways points though.

Paul: Oh, which is always a bonus.

Marcus: Well it’s kind of… I’m now a silver member which means I can get into the lounges even with an economy ticket. That is a good thing.

Paul: Ooo, that’s good. Yes, I agree with that. I’ve never made it as far as silver. I am a mere bronze member, you’re obviously much more important than I am.

Marcus: Yeah, well we flew… Because I’ve been on so many holidays as well to far-flung places and it all adds up.

Paul: Gor, you just get right up nose.

Marcus: And all the listeners. Hi, I’m back! Well at least I turned up, more than Andy Clarke did.

Paul: I know right! So people have had to listen to an episode of me blathering on by myself. Which was probably one of the best shows let’s be honest.

Marcus: It was wonderful and after you’ve had a go at me I edited both of those shows while I was on holiday.

Paul: You did do that, I will give you that. That was a bit above and beyond.

Marcus: It was one of those things that I realised as I was editing the one before I left, I thought “Hmmm, who is going to edit this? Because they are quite complicated now.” I thought you probably could have done it but you haven’t got the right tools for it or anything so it would be a nightmare. So I was nice Paul. By the pool with my sunnies on and beer to the side.

Paul: I could do with a beer now. I’ve just discovered a new type of cider. It is such a girly drink but I absolutely love it.

Marcus: It’s not one of these Swedish raspberry things is it?

Paul: Not quite. Well, yes basically. It is coconut and lime.

Marcus: Oh! Mind you, I don’t like cider. There are two things I realised I spent years trying to like and cider is one of them and cigars are another. And I realised about five years ago that I actually don’t like them, either of them. But maybe, what was it? Coconut and Marmite?!

Paul: Coconut and lime. Marmite! It wouldn’t surprise me. Ciders are getting weirder and weirder.

Marcus: Where do you buy that, in the pub? Or is it a bottle…

Paul: No, it’s a Tesco’s. Brothers cider. Ooo, they ought to send me free ones now. Or get a discount like I do off trips to Barcelona for random people that ask. Any dear listener? If any of you want a free or cheap ticket to Barcelona I’m sure, you know, just write to me. Apparently that’s my job these days!

Marcus: Just to make it worse Paul. If I do come out Barcelona in October to see you speak, and others, I’m probably going to hire a car the day after it finishes and drive to the south of Spain and have a long weekend in the villa again.

Paul: Oh, you git. Also, the other thing I found a bit insulting was the main reason I am going out there is to do this workshop on convincing clients, right? The same one that I am running online at the moment. And it is like, so you wrote to me asking for this and said “Oh, I only want a discount for the conference not the workshops.” So basically you’re not even going to bother coming to my workshop are you?

Marcus: Probably not, no.

Paul: Or…

Marcus: It’s because I’m going to be driving to southern Spain Paul.

Paul: I could have taken that as being that’s because you are more than happy to pay full price for my excellent workshop. I should have thought that shouldn’t I really.

Marcus: If I wasn’t driving to southern Spain Paul then that would be the case. Yes.

Paul: Unbelievable. You really are terrible. Anyway, enough of such things.

Marcus: It’s nice to be back chatting with you Paul.

Paul: It’s a good job actually. It’s a very good job that we’ve only got two talks on this show this week because we seem to have spent the first 10 minutes just ranting at one another which you can’t fit in if there’s three shows. We don’t have time for that amount of ranting.

Marcus: No, well I didn’t… Last weeks show even with you and Andy trying to be quick was still an hour and 11 minutes or something.

Paul: Yeah. He doesn’t shut up mind!

Marcus: No, he doesn’t! “Australia is brilliant”

Paul: Nobody cares. I think that to be honest the line… What did the recording come out like because the line sounded awful.

Marcus: No, it was all right.

Paul: Oh, was it?

Marcus: Yeah, it was fine.

Paul: It’s like, you’re too far away. I mean Australia is just too far away. And before you turn round, Mr Australian convert Andy Clarke, and say “Well, Britain’s too far.” No, I’m sorry. Australia is… Nowhere is near Australia. There are no countries near Australia. You are just by yourself somewhere. Stupid country.

Marcus: Yeah, there was a bit of a funny little echo going on but it was all right. It was fine.

Paul: Well anyway. So, yes, we’ve dropped down to 2 talks this week simply because the number of submissions has finally slowed up. So actually even with two talks we do in theory have some spaces left which is great. And I can quite easily go up to 3 so you still can submit a talk. You have no excuse.

Marcus: I’ve been nagging all of the Headscape lot and I think there might be one or two coming.

Paul: Oh good. That will be good. Because we still got a couple of spaces to fill up if we just have two a week and obviously we can go up to 3 easy enough. But if you want to submit a talk you can do so at boag.world/18 [boag.world/season18]. I would like to get in as many as I can. Mainly because it gives less time for Marcus to talk about his holidays! So…

Marcus: I’m not going on anymore! Well, apart from maybe the one after the conference.

Paul: There you go, immediately you’ve got one. Also, let’s be honest, all your trips to America are a big jollies aren’t they?

Marcus: Oh they are so not! They really are not. They are the hardest that I ever have to work in my life.

Paul: It’s the most drunk I have ever seen you in your life.

Marcus: You haven’t seen me that often then Paul. (Laughter)

Paul: Well that… When we are in that steak restaurant where you ordered a steak and then it arrived and you couldn’t eat it and had to leave… You left. That was pretty bad! Don’t you… You see, you can’t even remember that.

Marcus: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That one. Yes, yes I do remember that, yes. That was because I went with Ed. Anyone who knows Ed…

Paul: Is like twice…

Marcus: … You know, he is the size of two men.

Paul: He is. And yes, you can’t drink…

Marcus: I tried to keep up and failed.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, that was quite a…

Marcus: I had to go for a lie down.

Paul: It was quite pathetic. He is also half your age which also probably didn’t help.

Marcus: Yeah, but he’s getting… This is the “Policeman are getting younger thing.” Ed’s like well into his 30s now.

Paul: Well you’re well into your 60s aren’t you?

Marcus: Shut up!

Paul: Well, you are a Grandad!

Marcus: Who’s got a big birthday next Paul?

Paul: That’s years away.

Marcus: It’s not, it’s fewer years away than my next birthday so there.

Paul: There you go. Anyway, I was going to talk about my latest obsession with search engine optimisation but I don’t think we have time.

Marcus: What?!

Paul: I know, you won’t know now?! You spent too long waffling. And I was going to recommend a useful app that people used and all kinds of things but that will have to wait until next week.

Marcus: You’re making your avatar of yourself bounce up and down on my screen in front of me.

Paul: Hey?! Oh, in the notes! Because I’m going between lines.

Marcus: You’re going up and down and up and down. There we go, weee!

Paul: Yeah, there we go. Oh, that’s fun! That a new game. Anyway, that means nothing to anyone else. Shall we get on with what is left of the show?

Marcus: Yes.

Paul: Right, let’s do a sponsor first as we’ve only got two talks, change the order a little bit. Now you’re jumping around, stop it Marcus. Fullstory, we’re going to talk about first. So Fullstory, yes, everybody knows by now that I am a fan of this tool. It is by far the best analytics tool on the market. Although bizarrely I’m not currently running it on my website which is a bit weird. I need to sort that out I don’t know what I did. I think I accidentally deleted them at some point which is just me all over isn’t it!? So they asked me last week to share my personal thoughts and I didn’t because I just quoted someone from the slack channel who was far more interesting than me. But this week I am going to share what I personally think of it and I think that is very brave on their part. Well, no it’s not really. They know I like it. So, I think the thing that I like most about it and have been trying to think about how to put this, it is incredibly intuitive to use somehow. I don’t know quite how to describe why it’s really easy-to-use but certainly compared to something like Google analytics which gives me a headache every time I open it it’s very easy… It’s very easy to go in with the specific question and get an answer to that question. So especially… Let’s be honest Google analytics isn’t is it?

Marcus: Every time I go into Google analytics and I think “Err, how is it I find that thing?” Every time. So I just go “Chris…”

Paul: Yes, exactly. Which if you’ve got a Chris that works very well because that even less work than going into Fullstory. So what I think we are saying dear listener is that you’ve got a choice. You can either hire yourself a Chris or you can use Fullstory. That’s about your only options there. I would have thought a Chris is quite a lot more expensive than a Fullstory. I don’t know, perhaps you can get a discount Chris.

Marcus: Possibly, I’ll see. I’ll come back with prices next week!

Paul: Okay, so with Fullstory basically it is very intuitive especially extra intuitive if you are like me and can write a bit of CSS because you can go in, you don’t need to be able to do this because it’s got a really good natural language search as well where you can just type in what you want and it works it out. But I can go in and say, you know, this particular button which has got this class or is within this container or whatever else, give me all the information about that particular button. You can just type it almost as CSS in there and that is just flipping brilliant. Also you don’t need to go into your code and add event handlers or any of that kind of stuff. It is just recording everything so as long as the code, the JavaScript has been running on the site as a whole you can get any information on any element which is flipping brilliant. The other thing I really like about it… The other problem I’ve got with analytics is that analytics is very good at telling you what is wrong with your site, right? “Oh, people have all abandoned this page.” For example. But it doesn’t really tell you why it went wrong. Now, the advantage with Fullstory is that you can click in and watch user sessions of people, that have dropped out at that particular page or whatever else it is that went wrong, and actually see what they did. So it’ll give you a much clearer idea of finding out exactly what people did and where things are going wrong on your site which I think is hugely beneficial. So that’s why I like Fullstory anyway. You can sign up today and see if it provides the same cool results for you. If you like it as much as I do it’s completely no obligation. You can get a month of the pro account for free if you go to Fullstory.com/boag. No credit cards or anything like that and you can continue after that month if you want to without even paying, up to a thousand user sessions a month. So there’s really no reason not to give it a go and see if your experience is as good as mine.

Cool, all right, so that is Fullstory. Let’s move on to our first talk which is Remy, Remy Sharp. Do you know Remy Marcus?

Marcus: Well yeah, we’ve met yonks ago.

Paul: Ah, yes.

Marcus: I follow him on Twitter.

Paul: He’s a very… His smart chappie. So Remy is the founder and curator of ffconf which according to him is the U.K.’s best JavaScript and web conference. He has put an exclamation mark by that. I’ve not been Remy so therefore it can’t be the best because I haven’t been to it. That’s all I’m saying. He also ran jQuery for designers and co-authored Introducing HTML 5 and runs a video course on the command line. Does that not sound like the dullest course in the world?

Marcus: (Laughter) What to type into the command line.

Paul: Well it’s really one… It sounds like the dullest course in the world but actually I’ve watched a little bit of it and Remy does make it not a hundred percent boring. And the other thing with it is that it’s actually quite useful, do you know what I mean? Because nobody… It’s really hard to find good tutorials about kind of all that command line gubbins, so it’s really good. But his jQuery for designers was just a brilliant, I absolutely love that, it was invaluable. Anyway. While he’s not writing articles or speaking at conferences he does his own development and training company in Brighton, but we’ll forgive him for being in Brighton, called left logic. He’s built loads of popular tools that you will have heard of but I’m not going to bore you with all of those now. Right, so that enough praising Remy and saying how great he is, let’s hear what he’s got to say.

A simple Passion

Play talk at: 16:50 – There’s so much to learn and so much you need to know to put your ideas out on the web. As time has moved forward that process has become more and more complicated, so Remy discusses just a few of the big simplifications that are important to his daily workflow.

Remy Sharp: A simple passion
Remy is the founder and curator of ffconf, the UK’s best(!) JS & web conference. He also ran “jQuery forDesigners”, co‑authored Introducing HTML5 and runs a video course on the command line. Whilst he’s not writing articles or running and speaking at conferences, he runs his own development and training company in Brighton called LeftLogic. And he built these popular tools: nodemon, jsbin.com, and many…many more! Visit Remy’s agency at remysharp.com

Hello, my name is Remy Sharp and I have been asked to give a talk about something that I am passionate about. Now, as an Englishman I am more of a glass pretty empty kind of person and I struggled to find things that I truly believe I’m passionate in. I have been thinking about this long and hard, what it is to be passionate about something and is it kind of an absolute. Within the constraints of my work and working on the web I have come to realise that the thing that I have been consistently passionate about without really kind of knowing about it, but the thing that I care the most about and have done for years now is a simplicity to be able to actually deliver something to the Internet. Now that ranges from both my own work but also having other people kind of enter the web, start coding and I am constantly looking for the simplest solution. Now it doesn’t have to be the simplest solution which costs us performance or experience or kind of the shortcut, half baked. I want the simplest, right solution. Now when I think about this this can range anything from configuration, build tools, testing, deploying websites, building websites, what frameworks we use. A few examples of that that I have been kind of using lately I just want to share with you today.

One of them, for instance, with respect to deploying, getting a website live. As time has gone on over the last decade or two it has become easier and easier and easier and I and constantly looking for the simplest way to get a website live that doesn’t cost, you know, doesn’t cost a farm. So when I started out on the web the way that I would have to get a new server to be able to actually run a new thing, a project or an idea, is that I would literally have to phone my hosting provider, they would give us a quote, maybe they send us an email but eventually I would have to send a fax. Now we could do that through email which was fine, because we could send an email that would send a fax which is kind of a weird thought! And then it would be about a two week lead time until I actually had a machine I that I could S-H into. This would be a physical machine that I was going into and I would have to configure myself. Skip forward to now towards like Heroku which you can just do a git push to to get it live. Products DigitalOcean I think are amazing to be had to provision a new machine in a matter of minutes. The thing that I really enjoy using today is Zeit. Zeit has a platform called Now and it is a command line or you can use a GUI tool like a little menu bar tool and you just, you can take your website, let’s just say it’s a static type for this example, you can just run the commands “Now” or you can drag the folder into your menu bar icon and it will zip all of that file up for you, all of those files up for you and upload it into their hosting platform. I believe it is somewhere kind of West Coast. It will give you a URL, it will give you SSL and it will just be running that. So inside of a minute I have a live website, a static website. I can do the same thing for node projects or for docker files. Because I write a lot of JavaScript, for me the attraction is being able to just create a node project and type “Now”. There is no DNS configuration, there is no messing around with buying SSL certificates it’s all automated but it’s automated through Let’s encrypt, but the renewal is automated, everything is handled for me. So the workflow is incredibly simple and I get just really frustrated when it is anything more than that. When made SSL doesn’t renew automatically or I have to remember to renew SSL and then I have to go and Google, kind of how do I… “Where do I put the certificate?” and “What the workflow is.” It is just a headache that nobody wants.

Now, kind of going from the deployment process down to the development process. For a long time I have shied away from frameworks and big libraries. Now I use jQuery, that was kind of the early days and perhaps 12 months ago I would be very, very close to the metal. I would limit the amount of framework that I would use, limit the amount of jQuery I would use or even if I needed it at all. And write very, very, air quotes, pure JavaScript. That has changed a little bit in the last six months. I have changed my workflow and I have started looking at React just to try and look at what I was missing out. I had a look at the other options Ember and Polymer and Angular and React kind of looked the most interesting to me. Really the development experience was good but the build process was painful. I am not very familiar with webpack. A kind of knew a few bits about Grunt and I did the thing and I kind of wrote my Grunt file and then forgot about it. Like, I don’t want to ever remember that stuff. I feel like webpack is the same thing. My React workflow has now evolved to using the Create React app. I’m sure anyone coming to React new will have already discovered this but this was a real eye-opener for me. What the project has done is completely, not quite abstract in the way, but it has just taken care of all of the configuration for you. It does… It has internally it manages the Webpack configuration and it can do hot module reloading and it will recompile everything, it will start a Web server for you. I just have to run Create React app, give it directory and it will just scaffold everything into there and I run NPM start or NPM run dev maybe, and it is up, and it is running. It will put me in development mode so it is a little bit easier to debug. I can make file changes in sublime or whatever I am using, hit save and that is automatically injected into the browser and there is no configuration for me and that is the real appeal. Zero configuration. Not having to learn some bespoke build system. Now, the build systems are amazing, they are truly amazing. The stuff that you can configure and do and optimise is great but a lot of the time what I am trying to do and what you might be trying to do is to just get something running and see a thing. Average performance, average decent performance without kind of destroying the browser is fine. And now, Google IO was just last week for me now, the huge improvement that I have seen is over the last year been hearing a lot more about progressive web apps and now there are like Create React app that will automatically make your app a progressive web app by default. You don’t have to opt into it, you don’t have to add any configuration it is just a progressive web app by default. It is that kind of simplifying using the best technology out there using the best options and just making that workflow so much easier.

So I realise I’m actually quite passionate about, for myself, simplifying that workflow and for other people coming to the web and starting this process new or even like me who’s been doing it for over 20 years and kind of learning that it can be easier. There is less kind of… There’s less moving parts to worry about. There’s certainly more moving parts but you don’t have to worry about them so much. You know, it’s like a car, you want to drive it and it wants to go fast and look cool but you don’t really care about, or you might not care about, what injection system it is using and heaven knows, I don’t know what! I don’t know what an injection system is and I don’t care how cool your gulp file is or how cool your webpack file is I just want the thing to work and I don’t want to have to learn some bespoke configuration to be able to do that. So that is what I’m looking for across my entire business and working experience. Simplification with the best tools and the best options available to me. So thanks for listening hopefully that is useful to some of you. Check me out on Twitter I am @rem and Remysharp.com I blog about some of this stuff as well. Thanks.

Paul: Cool, so that was Remy’s talk. I am really looking forward to hearing what Marcus has got to say. No doubt you’ve got lots of great insights into that.

Marcus: JavaScript related ones, yeah, absolutely! No, I took a little bit of offence to that when I saw your note on there.

Paul: Why, why? Did you understand anything that was said?

Marcus: I understood the words he was using, most of them anyway.

Paul: I tell you, I’m not sure you did because there were some great app names in there. And I am really… I would like to, (cough, cough) excuse me, I just need to take a moment. I wish to make a public apology to my wife who transcribes this show. I am in no way responsible for all of the words that Remy chose to use in that. If you have rouble looking them up don’t come to me because I’ve got no clue. So there you go, she’s got to transcribe that. {Dear listener… I think I’ve done ok! Sorry If some are missing or wrong!}

Marcus: You are responsible though, Paul. You kind of effectively booked him, so…

Paul: No, because it’s an open mic season. Although I did actually ask Remy to submit something because I think he’s cool.

Marcus: So there you go.

Paul: Yeah, so it is my fault.

Marcus: I have to take umbrage with one of the things he said. I am an Englishman therefore my glass is half empty.

Paul: No, I agreed that.

Marcus: That’s rubbish! Tsk!

Paul: No, no it is the inherently British way. It’s not my fault you’re an American at heart.

Marcus: Oh, stabs me in the heart. (Laughter) But I did like his definition of passionate. We had a whole series on passion didn’t we. We got a bit uptight about sort of “It’s an overused thing.” I just think… he said it’s just caring about stuff isn’t it. And I thought “That’s it”. That’s it, you care about things so that you do them more. That’s it. I agree. Definition.

Paul: I just… There was actually, this whole thing about working efficiently and in the best way got to be something that I am hugely into but not so much obviously from the technical side of things but more from the team management and organisational side of things. So I could… Even though it was probably more technical than I was comfortable with I did very much agree with him. Also, I don’t get this whole debate about frameworks, right? Everybody goes “Oh, frameworks are bad. You shouldn’t use frameworks.” Okay, I can kind of see both sides of the argument. Yes it is good to know what it is that you are using and why it works and why doesn’t. But I think it is a done deal isn’t it? Surely the commercial benefits of speedy development is going to ultimately win out against some purist argument that we should all be building stuff using binary or something.

Marcus: The problem is with this and Headscapes very own Dan Shearman wrote about this, it’s when you get frameworks or technologies foisted upon you just because “That’s what we use.” That kind of thing. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it, you’ve got two choices at that point you can either push back and say “Are you sure? Why? blah, blah, blah. If you want to do X then maybe we should be using something else.” But if they come back and say "No, we absolutely have to use that then you have to, before you start working, understand between you and your client what the constraints of using that particular tool may bring. That’s it really.

Paul: Hmmm. Because it’s not unacceptable, you know, for a client if they’ve got to support something and maintain it and develop it over the long-term, you know, it’s not unacceptable for them to dictate what platform or framework or whatever it is built on.

Marcus: Hmmm, yes. That is it really. There is an argument that frameworks bring extra bloat and all that kind of thing but it really does come down to; just think about it before you do it.

Paul: Also I think a lot of it depends on what the drivers are for the project. Talking about extra bloat and stuff matters massively when you’re operating at really high scale, high load sites and that kind of thing. But those kinds of companies can afford the extra development cost of doing it without reliance on those kinds of things. But for the majority of us doing normal work that normal humans do I think the benefits of a good framework win every time in my opinion. But then what do I know, I’m not a developer and neither are you so really us talking about this is a bit ridiculous isn’t it.

Marcus: Yes, although there were some general, like you said, some general stuff came out of this and I’m nodding away when he speaking about simplicity. Everybody likes simplicity and it is kind of like my, well certainly my first rule of good UX design, make it really simple so that it’s not hard. But as I was writing that note down it reminded me of a time when we were presenting some designs, or Leigh was presenting some designs to a university client who shall remain nameless and, let me get this right, basically he was questioned, it was the most senior of the senior people within the University. All very sombre and all… in a very grand room. He was questioned about “won’t people… How will people understand what you are trying to get them to do without kind of indicating to them that this is the thing that the you want to make them do.” Leigh turned round and said something along the lines of “Well you don’t paint a steering wheel yellow just so that people notice that it is a steering wheel on a car.” (Laughter) And apparently that got us fired from the job.

Paul: Really?!

Marcus: Yes. We had actually… the project had finished but we haven’t worked with them since. But that particular person has now…

Paul: Moved on.

Marcus: … Is no longer there shall we say. So there is no longer a barrier. But yes…

Paul: That’s a classic example of pissing contest isn’t it. He just… I bet it was a he is well wasn’t it?

Marcus: It was a he.

Paul: Yes. Just expected you to roll over because he was the alpha male and you didn’t.

Marcus: And Lee just… I don’t think he took the piss he was just sort of trying to come up with an example, “You don’t always need to do that.”

Paul: No. And it was a good example. I totally agree with him.

Marcus: Yes, this round thing in front of you makes the car steer. You don’t need to have left and right on it, is I think what he was trying to say.

Paul: Ah, that’s brilliant, I love it. Right, that was Remy. Let’s move on and look at our second sponsor before we get into Ian’s talk.

So our second sponsor is Teacup AdWords. Their whole thing is about making AdWords as effortless to use as possible. So they have already got this suite of analytics tools which do exactly the same thing in analytics, they’ve taken a different approach to Fullstory that they’ve built something on top of Google analytics that makes Google analytics simpler. Essentially what they have now done is that they have done the same thing with AdWords. They have built something on top of AdWords that makes AdWords simpler. Because they reckon that something like 60% of small businesses end up wasting their Google analytics budget on poor ad campaigns and keyword management. So unless you are an expert in this area it is quite a hard thing to get right, to get real value out of your AdWords. So having an AdWords tool that kind of helps manage all that kind of stuff effectively and efficiently is really quite important unless you’ve got people dedicated to this role. So Teacups tool has got over 50 different optimisation things that it does around your Google AdWords to avoid you ending up creating wasteful campaigns. It looks for the best opportunities on the best keywords, it prevents costly marketing mistakes can and is constantly kind of optimising your bids for the best results which is very cool indeed. At the moment they are in very early beta stage of this. They are still refining and improving the product so you might think why the hell are they advertising on the pod cast? But it is because when they advertised with us before around Google analytics and their analytics product they got such good feedback from you guys that they wanted to basically open up a limited invitation to the tool to actually just get your feedback and involvement in it really and help get you guys to start helping them create and shape the product. So if that is something that you fancy having a go at getting involved with then you can go to TeacupAnalytics.com/AdWords. So there you go.

I should have said with Remy earlier, I forget this every time, if you want to find out more about Remy you can go to remysharp.com R E M Y sharp.com. Right, let’s talk about Ian. If you want to find out about Ian Landsman you can find out about him at ianlandsman.com but I will tell you that he is the founder of UserScape in 2004. Sorry, I was just like “UserScape that sounds familiar” and I just realised Headscape, yep! He has all kinds of really interesting things that he is involved with, he launches a free NPS tool that a net promoter score survey tool, this summer at thermostat.io so if you are interested in what he’s got to say about net promoter score make a note of that URL, Thermostat.io. Also you can catch his podcast about bootstrapping software companies at bootstrapped.fm. So yeah, this is Ian talking about net promoter score.

Net Promoter Score Primer

Play talk at: 36:57 – You’ve heard about Net Promoter Survey’s (NPS) but you’re not sure what it is or how it’s useful. Let’s take a quick overview of what NPSis and how it can be useful for your company or organisation.

Ian Landsman: Net Promoter Score Primer
Ian Landsman founded UserScape in 2004 with his flagship product HelpSpot. He’s launching a free NPS survey tool this summer at Thermostat.io. Catch his podcast about Bootstrapping software companies at Bootstrapped.fm. Visit Ian’s agency at ianlandsman.com

Hi there, this is Ian Landsman from UserScape and today I am going to talk about in NPS surveying. So NPS is probably a term you’ve heard is kind of getting popular these days and we are hearing a lot about it on Twitter and talks and conferences and so on. I know a lot of people don’t actually know what NPS surveys are or aren’t really clear on what they are good for besides the basics so we thought it would be useful to come on Boagworld here and do a little lightning talk on what they are, why they are for you and how you can use them.

So let’s just take it off with who they are for and kind of what they do on an overview. NPS surveys are simple one question surveys and I’m sure you have got these in your email and posts popped up to you online, these are going to be zero through 10 rated surveys. So you get a question that along the lines of would you recommend product X to a friend or a colleague and a 0 to 10 scale. And this is, I’m not going to go on with this forever, the background, but basically this was invented 15 years ago or so and a lot of research has been done on it and it turns out that this one question and this specific scale, it has to be 0 to 10 not just 1 through 5, there’s a lot of other scales, those aren’t NPS surveys but the specific scale does provide pretty accurate results. That’s one of the things I really like about NPS is that it’s an accurate enough system so it’s not designed to, it’s not your sales numbers. It doesn’t have to be at that level. It’s a tool that gives you an overview of how satisfied your customers are on an ongoing basis and it’s a very flexible tool, it’s very easy to administer, is very easy to understand the results of it and this is what has really drawn me to it because, you know, I’ve been lost down the metric sinkhole a thousand times. You know, were going to install a mixed panel and this tool and that tool and we are going to have to get these tools all talking and we are going to micro capture every interaction on our whole website and across all these different parts of our website, our lead generation tool to our website to our CRM tool to our store, so on and so forth, trying to make all that work and most of the time it never really works. So then a) that’s all really complicated and hard to do. On the other side, on the surveying side also complicated and hard to do are things like big customer satisfaction surveys. So you’ve gotten those, here’s 20 questions with all different things trying to dig into your satisfaction level which can be useful from time to time to do those but those aren’t really good giving you the ongoing feedback on a very regular basis from your customers because you can’t ask your customers every three months to take a 20 question survey. In most businesses that is not going to work. So NPS being one question, one click, very, very simple. They just give you a 0 to 10 and you can ask that question every three months, every six months and get that more continuous feedback into how you are doing.

So the NPS score itself is just a single number that is generated and it’s a very simple calculation. What it boils down to is the percentage of the responses that were from your promoters, those are people who rated a 9 or a 10, minus the number of people who were detractors, those people who were rated 0 through 6. Some people are surprised by that so if you have given a 6 and you thought that was a middle-of-the-road answer, you thought that the company was okay, six is actually considered a detractor. So, you basically take the percentage of all of the total number of responses that are promotors and you subtract the percentage of the total that were detractors and that gives you your score. So if everyone was a detractor, right? Then that would be –100%. If you had 50 promoters, if half the responses were promoters and half were detractors then you would be zero. And so it is very simple score, it’s great to pass around in the organisation, outside the organisation. It’s kind of a baseline everybody understands what it is. You can’t always directly compare across industries in certain sense because each industry is kind of different but it does give you some sense, even across industries. It is great because you can pass it around internally or even externally. Everyone has an understanding of what the NPS score is even within your organisation to other groups within the organisation or if you are a consultant, to your customers and so on. It’s great because you can pass it around inside your organisation you could have this one number that you can focus on when everybody can be on the same page of what that means with very little training. It’s not passing through 20 question survey and all the answers to that and having to make heads and tails of those different questions and what does that mean? Are there contradictions? Ultimately, what parts of it are even actionable? When most of the time you’re kind of just interested in; are you heading in the right direction? Are things improving? Are your customers happier? Or, is it going the wrong direction. Are they getting less happier? Are things potentially problems? So, by having that one number that you can… The most important way that I like to use it is to compare to yourself. Right? This month we were at 20, next month were trying to get to 21 or 22 and the month after that 23, 24, right? How can we keep improving and in that way you are just competing against yourself and it is a relative number and so it is just a nice simple way to keep an eye on that ball and what I think is important is that a lot of times when you get down these metric sinkholes of more complicated solutions to this general problem, if those don’t work out what ends up happening is that you kind of default to your sales numbers. Well, sales are improving so that means things are okay right? But very, very, very often that is not the case at all and NPS is a fantastic tool to have next to your sales numbers because it is simple to implement, easy to understand and it can show you a lot of things that your sales numbers don’t. So, if you kinda think about it like an iceberg, your sales number are way up above the water, right up at the top and okay things look good up there there’s sales they are growing but when you look down below the surface that’s where the trouble is going to be. NPS can help you spot that trouble if it arises because in a lot of industries you don’t see the trouble in your sales numbers until the sales numbers go down and at that point you may be months or even years in a more enterprise scenario, into the decisions that got you into trouble and there’s not going to be a quick way to fix that problem. So if you made some bad decisions and it took six months for that to shake out into your sales numbers and they start going down, you know, you’re not going to be able to, in most cases, fix that right away and see that improvement the next month in your sales numbers. Instead you are going to be rotting that out for months and months in that decline because you didn’t realise it until it was too late and it takes a long time for your changes to take effect and for the sales processes to move forward and for customers to make decisions and all those kinds of things. Even more importantly, existing customers that you lost you may simply not be able to replace them, right? Or at least not anytime soon if you had a really solid customer that leaves that was a significant customer right? Then you are not going to be able to just replace them even after you fix your bad decision. So that’s all that we are trying to head off by using NPS to see into the future a little bit, see the problems that are below the surface, look for things like “Okay, we changed our pricing structure” and see how that goes with potential customers if you survey them or trial uses if you survey them. You can spot quickly “Oh, wow, trial happiness, the NPS score of the trial customers is way down after we made this pricing change.” Or maybe it after a feature change, may be you change your onboarding, maybe with your existing customers you changed the policy or again, you adjusted a feature or something like that where they are not even necessarily complaining to you, they are just absorbing it and thinking “Hey, maybe we need to look at other solutions.” That kinda kicks it off and you lose them 3/4/5 months down the line. It’s not something that is so egregious that it is, you know, they unsubscribe that day but it takes a few months for that to happen. And in those few months the sales look great but actually you are in trouble because people are starting to look at other solutions.

The other aspect of NPS I like is most NPS survey tools, and we should note here that most of the time you will want to use a dedicated NPS survey tool for this, only because they will do the calculations for you. Which the calculations are not hard and you could absolutely do that manually but that will defeat a lot of the purpose of it because having instantaneous access to the scores and giving email updates and things like that kind of critical. Most of the other survey solutions while you can of course do a 0 to 10 scale survey they are not going to do anything with that number and you will have to manually do the calculation. So normally you will want to use a dedicated NPS tool for this. So one of the things that most of the tools will do is they will have a… after the customers submit the score they will have a feedback box that just asks them why they chose that score. You can normally adjust that question as you see fit as well. So that’s another really important part because while you don’t want to make it a big long survey and you want to be fine if they just answer the score and leave it at that, giving them that one extra option to… Just an open-ended feedback box really lets… Gives us that extra bit of interaction which is super, super important. You know, we’ve definitely seen tons of insights ourselves through that feedback and one of the reasons I think that is the case is because there is kind of a tendency to once you get a customer through the sales process, at that part you are interacting with them very closely, you have yourself or your staff working with them, once you get to the other side of that there is a tendency to just… The customer’s on their own, there are not obvious points where you are explicitly trying to interact with them. And so the NPS surveying if you can do it responsibly, I’ll say, so you definitely don’t want to over survey, but if you responsibly do the NPS surveys then you are creating these additional touch points with the customer that can be used to strike up conversations if they reach out with the question through that surveying process. You should obviously be responding to them and even if it’s not something that requires a response you are just having another chance to interact with them, you know, eight months into them being your customer instead of only that early interaction. Then usually, very many times, you have that early interaction around the sales process, you might have some support interactions and then you’ll have an interaction when they leave, maybe, and then that’s kind of it. So in a lot of businesses that’s what it looks like. So an NPS solution gives you a chance to reach out to the customers, strike up conversations, just in general get their feedback at different points in their life cycle as a customer beyond just those built in spots where it exists in a lot of cases.

The other nice part about NPS is it lets you know how to approach each customer, how to interact with them. It can give a lot of insight there because a customer who gives you a 10, that person you want to be working with in a very different way from somebody who gives you a 3. The person who gives you a 10, what they are saying in an NPS survey is that they would refer you. It does not mean that they do refer you, it means that they would refer you. Well, if they giving you a 10 that’s the person you want to ask for a referral for “Could you tweet this?”, “Could you work with us on being a case study?” Is there something maybe you want to do special for your promoters, maybe some sort of special programme or some sort of discounts to your conference you are on or whatever. These are your sort of fanatical customers and you want to encourage them further, right? Whereas someone who gives you a 3 you don’t want to just blast that person with a “Hey, will you refer us?” email or ask them to tweet to all their friends because they are unhappy with you! So that’s not going to endear them to you with that person. Instead that person is a person, you know, probably needs you to reach out and maybe they need more support, maybe they need training, maybe there was an incident that didn’t get resolved to their satisfaction that you can now double back on and resolve. There’s lots of different reasons why somebody might be unhappy but you don’t want to have that conversation with those two very different customers in the same way. You want to have different conversations with those two customers and NPS give you the ability to do that.

And kind of finally one of the things… Another sort of misconception about NPS is who it is for. So, I’m assuming most of the people on this podcast, who listen to this podcast, are fairly Internet savvy people and you might think that NPS is more focused on software companies, you know, technology companies even in general and that certainly has been adopted there widely but it’s definitely not only for that. In fact a lot of uses are all over every sort of industry. So NPS was actually originally an enterprise tool that a lot of large companies used and still use, I mean they would commission NPS surveys by phone. They would literally call up their customer and say “Hey, here’s a question 0 to 10 scale” and they would have that conversation with the person all through a telephone call. And then aggregates that information. So this is used across airlines and telecom companies and energy companies and so on and so forth, all across pretty much every industry. Also a lot of other really good uses for it if you are involved in any kind of conferences, I used it myself for a conference it was amazing. The feedback for the conference as a whole, the per speaker feedback and having that was really, really great. The interesting thing, just anecdotally, on the conference front is I kind of keep my own notes, I throw a conference and I keep my own notes on the conference and the different speakers and how I thought they did. The NPS was a great tool to see if my impressions were valid and if they lined up with what the attendees thought. So it was really, really useful for that. You know, I’ve talked to a lot of nonprofits that use it in different capacities for surveying their constituents or different stakeholders or around different events so really a lot, a lot of uses for it. Anywhere where you have anything resembling a customer that you want to find out if they are happy with your product or your service that’s definitely a tool that you are going to want to have in your tool belt. So I would just say thanks to Paul by for having me on and good luck with your surveying.

Paul: Cool, so that was a great talk by Ian about the net promoter score which is something that I think a lot of us have heard but not necessarily many of us have thought about how to apply it or how to use it. I presume this is one that you have come across before is it Marcus?

Marcus: I’ve heard of it but I kinda felt like, when I listened to these two talks I kinda felt like that I had less to say on this one then I did on the first one. But looking at the many notes that I wrote maybe that’s not true, but that was my initial reaction. Of course I heard of it but it’s not something that I’ve… I’m not a marketer so it’s not something that I kind of surround myself with I guess.

Paul: Yeah, except I think it’s actually quite a good measurement to be tracking from a user experience point of view as well. The reason being is one of the big problems I find with organisations is that they are very good at measuring purely financial metrics, right? So, you know, conversion rate those kinds of things. But they’re not so good at measuring user experience metrics like time to complete the task is one that I particularly like. Instead they just kind of tend to open up Google analytics, look at the dashboard and all those vanity metrics and bounce rates and kind of nod sagely like they know what’s going on and that’s about it. So having something that actually tangibly measures the customers reaction to the experience that they are having is in my opinion a really good thing. And net promoter score is one example. I mean it’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong, it’s, you know, there are limitations to it but at least it begins to move management away from thinking purely financially in terms of the stuff that they measure. Because if you measure just purely financially what inevitably happens is that you make a lot of short-term gains but at the consequence of longer-term stuff. So for example, if you are measuring conversion rates, okay? How many people sign up for our newsletter? And that’s all you’re measuring what you inevitably end up with is pop up overlays bullying people to signing up for a newsletter. And that does actually work, you know, you will see an increase in conversion but you are also… Well you’re not measuring and you are not seeing is the number of people that you alienate along the way of doing that kind of thing and that’s what a net promoter score will help pick up on which I think is good.

Marcus: Yeah. Connecting it to Remy’s talk about simplicity I like the simplicity of it. I’ve had experience of dealing with large organisations who have got all different departments all focusing on different things. They’ll come together to kind of pull some systems together to try and do something and then it gets forgotten about. I think a part of that, and what you’re saying about Google analytics as well, it’s complicated, so just having this score, single score, is something that Ian mentioned that you can just pass it around. I thought that was really good and really useful. Because I think a lot of people just sort of get on with their everyday jobs and tend to ignore things after a while if it’s not sort of pushed down their throat. One thing he did say… Oh, sorry, carry on…

Paul: I think… No, I was just going to say the only danger with that I think is that with any metric you have to take it with a pinch of salt and not obsess too much about it because when you start obsessing about “Oh, all we care about is raising the net promoter score” then that’s just as bad as “All we care about is increasing conversion rate.” It will have… It will skew what you are doing and send it off in one particular direction which can be done damaging. So it’s all about balance!

Marcus: Well that, what you’re saying there is my next point.

Paul: Oh right!

Marcus: Fetishising, that is a word isn’t it? Fetishising about this idea that we must improve year-on-year on year on year. We need to be up 2% this year, up 3% the next year, up 4% the next year… You know, we were 1% lower this year so doom and gloom but actually that means you were 10% ahead where you were three years ago. So it’s just something that kind of annoys me a bit, this constant we must do better, we must do better. And you know, what’s wrong with providing just a continually good service. Not an ever improving one. I know that you do need to kind of look to push forward, et cetera and you don’t want to stagnate but I think sometimes it can be damaging to be having this just “must do better, must do better” when just providing a good service might not necessarily mean that.

Paul: And also I think you hit something else that is really important there as well is that metrics are so easy to misinterpret or to approach from the wrong way. So you said there “Oh, okay this last year you are down 1% but if you take it over the last three years are up 10%.” So you know, things like how you measure things and over what period of time can all make a difference as well. So, yes, you need a nice mix of metrics that you use to guide you rather than being a stick to hit people over the head with when you fail to meet them. The one thing that I did really like which is his point about “It’s not enough just to collect the net promoter score you actually need to do something with that data.” He talked about, you know, doing things special for those who are promoters or detractors and actually putting in some extra effort to allow that to shape the experience that you give those people. I liked that a lot, actually converting… Instead of taking a net promoter score as an indication of how you are performing, to actually then tailor the experience to people that have expressed either a strong like or a strong dislike of what you are offering I thought that was very sensible, I liked that a lot.

Marcus: Yes. I guess my final point is slightly related to that. You still need to be careful because I don’t know anyone that likes to be contacted by companies to fill out forms even if it’s one question. Nobody likes that. So even if you are a 10, as he described, you might actually be pissing them off by contacting them. So, be careful I guess.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. Again it comes down to how often you contact them, how you contact them, whether it’s via email whether it’s a thing on the website or whatever. It’s also complicated isn’t it?!

Marcus: Life difficult isn’t it!

Paul: I know, why bother! I think, just, I wouldn’t bother with this web thing. It is too much like hard work.

Marcus: Go and have a peanut butter and banana cider.

Paul: Yes, that’s what I need to do. I’m supposed to be writing a blog post at the moment for Smashing Magazine that is you know, “What I’ve learnt over 20 years of being in the industry” or whatever, something like that.

Marcus: Blimey!

Paul: Or “What advice would I give to my younger self.” That was it. I think my advice is don’t bother really!

Marcus: (Laughter) Yeah!

Paul: Go and garden. Gardening is nice.

Marcus: Gardening is nice, it is true, yes. More time in the fresh air.

Paul: Yes, exactly. Get out, get a life. You know, something like that. I don’t know. Anyway, Marcus do you have a joke for us?

Marcus: I do. This one is from Chris Forence. “Did you hear about agreeable Caesar? He came, he saw, he concurred.”

Paul: Oh dear. That was in the slack channel wasn’t it now, I recognise it.

Marcus: It was, yes, it was in the slack channel.

Paul: Ahh, where would we be without our slack channel. That’s been a saviour for you hasn’t it?

Marcus: It has been an absolute diamond thing. Thank you all for posting stuff on there.

Paul: If you want to join our slack channel, it’s not just jokes, although it is mainly, you can go to Boagworld.com/slacking. But for now goodbye and we will talk to you again next week.

Marcus: Bye.

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