The Science Behind Making Your Site Appealing

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we look at two factors that make a website appealing – its ability to solve real problems and its ease of use.

This week’s show is sponsored by Balsamiq and Fullstory.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boag World Show, we look at two factors that make your website appealing. Its ability to solve real world problems and its ease of use. This week's show is sponsored by Balsamiq and FullStory.

Hello and welcome to the Boag World Show, the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining on this week's show is Marcus Lillington, and that is the last thing I'm going to be saying on this show.

Marcus Lillington: No it's not because I'm really poorly. It's my turn to be the sick child. I've got a cold in August of all things. I'm going to have fits of coughing and all sorts of nasty stuff.

Paul Boag: This is going to be pleasurable then.

Marcus Lillington: Why, what's wrong with you?

Paul Boag: No, nothing's wrong with me. I'm in full health. I'm in fear, that's why I'm not speaking on this show. I am afraid of saying a certain word.

Marcus Lillington: Oh.

Paul Boag: The word, I will say it once on this show and then that is it. I'm going to say the word really. I got a message from somebody in the Slack forum saying, "I'm really sorry Paul, but I've had to stop listening to the show because you say the word really so much."

Marcus Lillington: Well we're at three now.

Paul Boag: I know. Apparently I said it 68 times in one show.

Marcus Lillington: Really? Oh dear.

Paul Boag: I'm now afraid to speak, but there you go. Oh, I'm sorry you're feeling ill. That's a bit sucky.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it's crap. I've never had a summer … I've heard that they're a thing. I actually had a go at Dan, well not a go, that's too strong. Dan said, "Oh, I'm feeling a bit peaky," last week I think it was, and I said, "Oh, it'll just be some allergy thing. There'll be a tree in bloom or something." Then that Friday, I started to stream and it's still going on, so meh is all I can say.

Paul Boag: Ew, nasty. I'm glad I'm not in the same room as you then. This is good.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. I think I'm well past the point of being contagious. I'm at the [crosstalk 00:02:35].

Paul Boag: I've just realized, you sent me a message in chat saying, "Can you send me the show notes?" I replied in chat, sending you the show notes, forgetting that we now do this show live and so I've now just sent the show notes to all of the people that are watching the show live. Enjoy seeing what our show notes are like.

Marcus Lillington: But no one's looking. They're promising.

Paul Boag: Yeah, they're saying they didn't peak. They're all liars. Anyway, it doesn't matter. It's not got anything confidential in there, so it's not a problem. Yeah, so I'm making mistakes like that all the time at the moment because I've just got too much going on. Do you know what I mean? When you're almost hysterical. You don't know which of 30 things to all do at the same time. The reason I didn't send you the show notes earlier is because I literally just finished them as I was logging into this room.

Marcus Lillington: Fair enough. I only started hassling you 10 minutes ago, so that's how much I care.

Paul Boag: Have you been hassling me? I hadn't even noticed.

Marcus Lillington: I tried it on Skype, but obviously you don't have that open.

Paul Boag: No. Skype I pretty much abandoned since they updated it because it is so crap now. It's like they're intentionally trying to make it worse.

Marcus Lillington: That's my theory as well. They have too many users and they want to make it worse, and then they'll make a really good version of it that you have to pay for.

Paul Boag: Or a full Microsoft experience version.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: But it's just weird. Anyway, whatever. Whatever makes them happy.

Marcus Lillington: [crosstalk 00:04:18].

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. I'm at that I don't care point. Marcus, talking of things I don't care about, do you have a thought for the day?

Marcus Lillington: You probably will care about this one.

Paul Boag: Oh, will I? Is it the good one?

Marcus Lillington: I don't know. I'll reserve judgment on that. It's not a particularly webby thing.

Paul Boag: Oh, here we go. Why cricket's important.

Marcus Lillington: No. Actually, the cricket is on at the moment, and we're not doing that well, although we appear to be fighting back. It's on in Southampton as we speak. If I go glazed over, it means that I'm watching that instead of listening to you.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Anyway, the title of today's thought for the day is We Need to Lighten Up. Okay?

Paul Boag: I like this. This is going to appeal to me. Yeah, go on. Carry on.

Marcus Lillington: Things have been a little bit tough lately, all right?

Paul Boag: In what way?

Marcus Lillington: Business has been slow.

Paul Boag: Oh, okay.

Marcus Lillington: We've lost a few pitches that I thought we would or should have won. We therefor haven't paid ourselves any bonus this summer. Donald Trump is in office.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Brexit is looming.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: Everything seems to be more expensive.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: I'm getting grayer and older and weaker.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I've got to say, so far, this isn't lightening up very much.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I'm setting the scene okay?

Paul Boag: You're setting the scene. Okay, fair enough. Yes, I agree with all of the above.

Marcus Lillington: Mores to the point, I've got a cold in August.

Paul Boag: I know. But if you makes you feel better about the Headscape thing, you are not alone by any stretch. I've just literally got off of a phone call with somebody, not phone call, a chat with somebody saying their agency's really struggling. That they've just lost a major client. I've had a really slow summer.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I saw you saying it.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and people are saying in the chat room, the same. Paul's saying in the chat room, "It's been a crappy summer."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I'm aware of that, and also the pipeline's looking all right, so we've done really well for the past three years so we can ride it, but it's still meh. But anyway, that was just another example of meh.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And the general conclusion that everything is shit right?

Paul Boag: Hmm.

Marcus Lillington: Well.

Paul Boag: Great.

Marcus Lillington: No it isn't.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: I have been feeling a little bit sorry for myself, but some scary stuff has happened to three of my friends lately, that's made me realize what's important in life.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It's health basically. An awful lot of talk has been … We covered it in this show, mental health, but this is physical health. Basically, two of my friends, he says hacking away, have had shadows on their lungs detected, one of which has had to have the lower-right lobe removed completely. She's doing amazingly well, which is fantastic, but it's still very scary. The other friend was ruched to hospital for a heart operation. He's also okay, hooray, but you can see the worry and stress in their eyes, all three of them.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It's really heavy shit basically. It's really real. Now of course, making a living is really vital to feeding and clothing ourselves and our families and all of that kind of thing, and not having enough cash is a source of stress in itself, but this is my rather short thought for the day is you like, is that we need to find the right balance between work and play. When I say play, I mean whatever it is that you do that lowers your stress for you personally, because I've been very scarily reminded lately of the fragility of our existence if you don't get that balance right.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I think there's a couple of other things in that. One is that when you're going through something really difficult, in your business for example, when business is going bad, the trouble is, is that you become, understandably so, you become inward looking. You're looking at your problems and your stresses and your difficulties and what a nightmare it is. Actually, it's only when you look outwards and you look at the rest of the world and what's going on around you, that you actually realize not that's thing of oh well, there's always someone worse off, which is-

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, but my point, on about we still need to make a living, we still need to work, we need to do these stressful things, but you've got to see it in context of everything else.

Paul Boag: Well what I was going to say.

Marcus Lillington: Sorry.

Paul Boag: Which is the same kind of thing, is it's that feeling of not that oh, there's always someone worse off, but the feeling that you're not alone in that stress. That the world is full of people, the human condition is struggling against different things, and that you feel so isolated and alone, you feel like it's just you that's struggling, but we're all struggling with something. There are all things that we're battling with, and so actually it makes a big difference to realize that. When your friends are struggling with things as well, and even that thing of when you're, because no doubt this has happened to you, that your friends are going through these health problems, and so you've them suddenly become focused on helping them. As soon as you start helping them, it almost makes your problems feel less, you know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Also, there's a flip side of that, and this is probably why I brought this up as a thought of my personal thought, is I have, very luckily, been fairly bulletproof all my life, and I still am, he says with a cold in the summer.

Paul Boag: That doesn't count as not being bulletproof.

Marcus Lillington: No, I know, but it's like it's just reminded me of our fragility physically, well, and mentally, but this particularly, physically. Yeah, it's just seeing that look in their eyes of really scared. It's been something that's overtaken all of that other stuff that I started this chat off with.

Paul Boag: That struggling with work is, it's part of running your own business. It's part of being your own boss, and we get a lot of perks out of doing that. There's that potential to suddenly win some big project and suddenly be really well off and are doing great, we get the flexibility in terms of the lifestyle we lead, there has to be a downside because it's not fair otherwise.

Marcus Lillington: The buck stops with you basically.

Paul Boag: What's that?

Marcus Lillington: The buck stops with us, so yeah, if it's good, it's great, if it's bad, it's all on you.

Paul Boag: Yeah. The great thing is Marcus, I know that you guys are using that downtime really well. You've redesigned your website at the moment, and it's not quite gone live, but it was really nice looking at it earlier and seeing how well it's come together, and you've got to be chuffed with that haven't you?

Marcus Lillington: Next week, well by the time we record the next one, hopefully it'll be live.

Paul Boag: Excellent. Yeah, keep an eye on that,, because to be honest, he needed updating.

Marcus Lillington: It did.

Paul Boag: If you can, get a look at their existing site and see what happens if you neglect a site for a long length of time.

Marcus Lillington: It's not that bad. But yes, it did need an update.

Paul Boag: Most importantly, you've updated the video graphic on the home page, because currently on the Headscape home page, it features a load of people that haven't worked at the company. I think there's one person in there that's still at the company.

Marcus Lillington: That's an exaggeration Paul and you know it.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But yes, we were like, "What should we put on the home page?" I've had so many clients, and even potential clients go, "We love your home page," the current one. It's just a video, well it's a GIF with little nits that animate, so we just thought well, let's do it again with all the people in the company who are actually in the company, except Dan didn't manage to get in it, but he's on the site elsewhere.

Paul Boag: Yeah. All right, well that's that. Yeah, it's good. Should we talk about our first sponsor every briefly? Which is Balsamiq. Well I say our first sponsor, actually I'm going to talk about myself, because you know.

Marcus Lillington: Cricket.

Paul Boag: No, do not check the cricket. I had, actually, a really interesting thing with Balsamiq this morning. Well it wasn't dealing with Balsamiq the client. I got this contact out of the blue, from a guy, I won't go into details about who he is because that's a bit unfair on him, but a guy got to me out of the blue, they work in the finance sector, they wanted some help wireframing a thing that they were doing on their site. He said, "Look, I know nothing about user experience at all. I've listened to some of your stuff, but I'm a stockbroker," or a lender or whatever, I don't know, something financial, "Can you help us out and have a look at this?" He sent through to me, he said, "We've got this form and we want to make it as easy as possible for people," and so he mocked up this form in Excel in order to show it to me, right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Which kind of worked actually.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I mean it's columns isn't it?

Paul Boag: Yeah. That was a while ago, and I couldn't start until this coming week, so I've literally just had a call with him a few minutes ago. He said, "I came across this tool called Balsamiq, and so I've tried mocking it up in that." Honestly, I'm pissed at Balsamiq.

Marcus Lillington: Because it's done the job for you?

Paul Boag: He's done it so well. He's done a really great job. He's kept it really clean, it looks great. It's done brilliantly. For someone who knows nothing about user experience or user interface design, he has done a really good job. I said to him, "You've done really well," and he said, "Oh yeah, well I've read a few of your articles and stuff," but he's obviously just picked up and ran with Balsamiq, and he's done great. He's got stuck on the mobile experience, so that's what I'm going to help a little bit with, but he's made my job so much more difficult because suddenly I've got to actually be competent.

Marcus Lillington: You know we've always said for years that we should share our experience and our knowledge to pull in clients?

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's a bad idea.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it's coming back to bite you in particular now. Because everything you know is online.

Paul Boag: I know.

Marcus Lillington: So someone could just go and read it and you'll never be hired again. There you go.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Oh well. No, what I'm supposed to be talking about with Balsamiq was the fact, you know last week we were talking about how they're going to do these wireframing clinics where if you're a not-for-profit or a small startup that's doing something cool, you can sign up and they'll wireframe it with you live? Well, I'm doing something similar with them as well. I'm going to do a UX review webinar, where we're going to talk through websites, some of the challenges they face and that kind of thing, and hopefully, if there's an interest, we'll do it reasonably regularly. If you've got a website that you'd like me to look at, but you're too tight to pay me, or you just can't afford my ridiculously expensive rates, then you can get me to do it for free, which is a bit of a bonus. You go to, all one word, and you'll get to a landing page, you just fill in the form and submit it.

Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking oh, there's no point in doing that, no one will do it, but in my experience, that … Oh sorry, not no one will do it. I said that completely wrong. Everyone will do it, there'll be loads of them.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, too many.

Paul Boag: Yeah, too many and I'll never get picked. In my experience, that doesn't happen. That actually nobody actually gets round to doing it, so actually, I don't want to be embarrassed people, because if they don't get anybody that fills this in, I'm going to feel like a complete and utter numpty. I've told them this is going to work so don't make a fool of me people. Anyway, there we go.

Talking about giving away information for free, I've produced this wonderful masterclass, and now I'm giving away all of the information for free that's in the masterclass, but I have got a secret ploy to get people to buy the masterclass rather than just listen to it all on the podcast. Do you want to know? It's just between you and me Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Go on then. How?

Paul Boag: My secret ploy is I use the word really so often.

Marcus Lillington: 19.

Paul Boag: Yeah. That people give up with it and they just decide to buy the masterclass instead. It's a genius plan. That's called subliminal messaging.

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Buy my thing.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus Lillington: I've never noticed you say really a lot.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: You are very annoying Paul, obviously, but [crosstalk 00:18:19].

Paul Boag: For totally different reasons.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Some people do have certain things they say or certain ways they say things that you think that's really grating on me, but that's not something I've noticed, so …

Paul Boag: One thing that I caught myself doing a lot is I tend to go into a big explanation with a client, and then I finish the sentence by going, "Does that make sense?"

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: I always do that. Okay, it's actually quite a good idea because it gets confirmation for people, that you're carrying them with you, that they're going with you, but at some point you can't put that on the end of every sentence. See look, lots of other people are doing it as well. They do it in the chat room as well, so I'm not alone. Woo hoo.

Okay, let's talk about what we're going to talk about today. We've got a couple of topics, the first one is I want to look at what problem are you solving? When we create websites, and we want people to complete calls to action and we want people to do stuff on the site, we tend to focus very much on what we want to say, what we want to get across et cetera, but really you need to be asking yourself, before you get into doing any of that, what problem does my product or service solve? Headscape, what problem does Headscape solve for people? Now, not what your product does, but what they need you to solve right?

Marcus Lillington: Ah-ha.

Paul Boag: Often on websites, and I can't remember, I bet you've made this mistake. If we're going to pick on someone, let's pick on Headscape. I bet you've got a section, I can't remember, have you got a section called services or something like that?

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Used to be called …

Paul Boag: What we do.

Marcus Lillington: What we do, yeah, but I prefer services. I'm trying to be less chummy. I did a review-

Paul Boag: You're too nice Marcus. Damn you.

Marcus Lillington: Well, I even went back and I looked on, at the previous version of the Headscape site, and that was so chummy it was painful.

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington: I will go back and have a look, and I'll remind you of some of the things that were on it. I just thought, this is quite a hard thing to say, but the character of the company is get things done. I can't think of the right words, but we're not matey, trendy, Londony kind of agency, we're just professional, nice people.

Paul Boag: Reliable.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, try and get those kind of traits across, and so I've been trying to lose the chummyness, and what we do was one of those things. I thought well services is just more descriptive. But anyway, I've gone off on a massive tangent.

Paul Boag: Don't get me wrong, I haven't got a problem with services, but what it does do is it shifts it onto us. As Headscape, this is what we do. You've renamed it services, but essentially it's the same thing, rather than what benefit you provide. How you help people. We do that a lot. A lot of websites do it, although recently I came across a website that actually went too far that way, so they focused so much on benefits, they never actually really explained what it was they did, which that was equally bad, so there is a balance there. But generally speaking, we need to be talking about the benefit.

Take for example, something like, I don't know, signing up for a newsletter on a blog which is aimed at hardcore gamers. I'm a video gamer, they want to get people to sign up for their newsletter right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Now the site should list the features of what the newsletter is going to contain, how often we'll receive it, how easy it is to unsubscribe, those kinds of things, but they shouldn't just stop at that. Often you have things like, "Subscribe to our newsletter." Well why? What benefit are you providing? But if it said something like, "Subscribe to become a better gamer," or, "Subscribe to discover your next favorite game," that's a lot more compelling because it talks about the benefits. What you're going to get out of it as a person.

Another example I use a lot are web design agencies themselves. We list all the services that we offer, which are our features, and then we do talk about our benefits kind of. We say things like, "Providing an outstanding user experience," but is that actually the benefit? I think sometimes we don't dig deep enough, so yes, if we do user testing and write good content and do good design, then the benefit of doing that is it provides a better user experience, but is that the benefit the clients actually care about? Is that the need if you like, that you're fulfilling underneath all of that? In truth, you probably want to dig a little bit deeper and ask yourself well why does the potential client care about creating a better user experience?

Actually, the benefit, the strap line might be something like something like exceeding your sales goals with an outstanding customer experience, because the reason they want a great user experience is because they want to exceed their sales goals. Now you could dig even deeper, why do they care about their sales goals? It could end up with being something like get your end of year bonus, but that probably is a bit too honest, the truth is. But that principle of looking-

Marcus Lillington: I'll give you an example of the kind of words, because we're maybe not going far enough, but on our services page, which we've reduced to one page now, not the five or whatever it was before, there's different sections on research, on strategy and that kind of thing. On the strategy it says, "We help our clients to identify opportunities and add value by improving how they harness web and other digital technologies. We have helped a number of clients with digital transformation projects that have led to real organizational change." Which I think is kind of focused in the right direction.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I think I'd probably go a little bit deeper than that, because maybe how does that help the business, you know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, but I suppose my probably with that is that it could help in 100 different ways, or 10 different ways would be how do you deal with that? I suppose you could list it.

Paul Boag: Yeah, why not.

Marcus Lillington: You could come up with a list of them. Yeah. All right, rewrite the content.

Paul Boag: Oh, I'm sorry.

Marcus Lillington: But I've found the old Headscape, the old, old Headscape site, and our news section on the home page was labeled bragging rights.

Paul Boag: Oh, ow. What were we thinking?

Marcus Lillington: Hideous.

Paul Boag: That is terrible, terrible.

Marcus Lillington: Anyway.

Paul Boag: Which idiot came up with that? I bet that was me.

Marcus Lillington: I honestly don't know. Could be neither of us. Probably wasn't Chris.

Paul Boag: You know you go through these in things?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Oh, I'm currently into making it personal and approachable, so then I come up with some bullshit like that. Never listen to a word I say people, I tell you.

Right, so how can we work out what those underlying needs are? Well we've got obviously Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a starting point. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a bit bullshitty to be honest. It's not really based on very much, it works great if you're a white middle-class male, but that's about it. There are other models as well, there's things like the human given model, which looks at things like safety and security, autonomy and control, status, privacy, attention, intimacy, there's the whole load of them. I won't bore you with it all now. But looking at things like that, Maslow's hierarchy of needs to be honest, is inspiration for how to dig a little bit deeper and to maybe get into some of those things in a little bit more detail.

Understanding people's needs is one part of it, but also understanding the questions they have when they're making a decision to buy is really important as well, so it's like objection handling. What are the objection they might have? A newsletter is a great example of this isn't it? When someone signs up for a newsletter, they're asking themselves questions like are they going to be spamming me every five minutes? Are they going to sell my data to someone else? How hard is it to unsubscribe? Et cetera, et cetera. Is the newsletter actually going to contain anything of value that helps me? Knowing what those objections are and being clear in your mind about what those objections are, what those questions are is really important, so that you can answer and address them. That's where something like top task analysis becomes really useful.

I'll link to Gerry McGovern's article on a A List Apart, about top task analysis because it's actually very good. He says, "Trying to type top task analysis …"

Marcus Lillington: I'll take over.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: I've found top task analysis, it's the best thing to include in any kind of survey. Because you know what?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: I've probably said this before, but surveys, you tend to get people who either love you or hate you, and if you say to them, "What's your opinion on this?" Then you're just going to get a whole load of rubbish. Whereas if you get them to select, normally five things isn't it? From a list of say between 50 and 100 things.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Then it randomizes it and you end up with quantitative results which are really useful.

Paul Boag: Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: [crosstalk 00:28:44].

Paul Boag: I tell you another one that I've done recently, I'm trailing this currently on my masterclass page, which is I ask people, "If you're not going to buy today, why not?" I'm currently coming out and asking them and I'm giving them a multi-choice list of reasons why they might not be buying today, just to see, so I get an understanding of what's actually stopping people, do you know what I mean? It's a silly little thing, but I'm really pleased with the results, I'm learning loads of useful stuff.

Marcus Lillington: Are they being honest with you though Paul?

Paul Boag: Well I see no reason why not.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I suppose.

Paul Boag: Why wouldn't they be?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: For example, I thought price was going to be the number one reason, but actually, right up there is well I don't really understand what's in the course. Ah, that's a bit worrying, you know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Actually, surveys can be really good, I'm really into them at the moment, but they do need to be worded so carefully. You need to put a lot of effort thinking about them. But no, I'm [crosstalk 00:30:01].

Marcus Lillington: One more thing on that, and this is down to Chris who came up with this, but we're doing, or about to do a survey at the moment, and as well as having top tasks, we're; doing top factors for making a choice on something. You've got tasks on one, your list of tasks, and then the next section is about different factors, and also we're obviously segmenting the audiences as well before we get to that, so hopefully we should get some really useful stuff. Because this is quite a scary thing that we've been asked to look at, redesigning a site that makes quite a lot of money, and the people that are running it think that it's, and they're right, it's not very usable, but of course, it still makes quite a lot of money, so you've got to be very careful about what recommendations you make if it stops making quite a lot of money, but yeah.

Paul Boag: That's really interesting because we're going to come on to some of the challenges around that in just a minute. But we'll tale about FullStory, then I'll come back to that because that ties in beautifully. It's almost like we're professionals, but I do need to talk about FullStory before I do that. FullStory have been huge supporters of this show, I think they've been on for about 20 seasons now. They're just a consistent advertiser. I might be exaggerating again.

Marcus Lillington: I don't know.

Paul Boag: I do occasionally do that.

Marcus Lillington: Once in a while.

Paul Boag: Yeah, maybe just occasionally.

Marcus Lillington: 100,000 times you've exaggerated.

Paul Boag: Yeah, something like that. When trying to convince your colleagues that you need to make improvements to your site, I find that there are two types of people. There are those that respond to empathy and those that respond to statistics. That is why I like FullStory because it sits slap bang in the middle of those two things. It's great for winning over colleagues and clients and people like that because you can provide them with the statistical data, you can show them that X number of people have dropped out at this point, that they're struggling with this, bu thank you can also show them videos of users getting frustrated and annoyed, and rage clicking and things like that. It allows you to, for those that are empathetic, to show them users struggling and that resonates with people, but it also allows you to provide those statistically significant numbers.

I think it really hits that sweet spot between analytics and usability testing, it doesn't replace either, but it reinforces both, so I really love screen recorders and FullStory's one of the best ones out there. The best one out there in my humble opinion. I might be slightly biased, maybe. But you can sign up today and get a fee month of their pro account so you can judge for yourself whether or not I am biased. You don't need to enter any credit cards, and even at the end of that month, you can continue to use them for up to 1000 sessions per month absolutely free. Go and check them out at

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: Right, back to what you were talking about. Right, the reason that I'm interested in that is because when you redesign a website like that, you break people's existing mental models. Anything that you do to change that will cause problems to existing customers okay?

Marcus Lillington: Hmm.

Paul Boag: Because they're used to the experience. You will see a decline in existing customers and how they respond to the site, and the reason for all of that is something called cognitive load. I am obsesses with cognitive load. You know we were talking about what people's new thing, that I go through stages where I have different things?

Marcus Lillington: Right, yes.

Paul Boag: At the moment, it's cognitive load. That's all that matters. Nothing else matters in the world except cognitive load. Right. I so wish right now, we were a video podcast. Marcus, have you ever seen the gorilla experiment?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: Oh, it is just brilliant. I'm going to explain it, which totally ruins it the instant you explain it, but essentially what it is, you can Google it and you'll find it on YouTube really easily, so it's an experiment where you're watching, there's two teams, people wearing white tops and black tops, and then each team is passing a ball between their own team members, so there's two balls. They're kind of walking in and out of one another as they pass the ball around, and your job is to count how many times the black team passes the ball between them. Of course, because they're all moving and because there's lots of people, it's quite hard. You have to concentrate quite a lot.

Now the reason it's called the gorilla experiment, or the invisible gorilla experiment is halfway through the experiment, a person dressed as a gorilla walks out in the middle of the stage, beats his chest and walks off the other side, but because you are concentrating so hard on that ball being passed, 50% of people miss the gorilla. They don't see the gorilla because they're concentrating so hard. Now that is cognitive load in action. You're being overwhelmed and you're not being able to take in everything that's happening.

Obviously, that is very much applicable on a website. If there's too much going on, if there's too much happening, people miss your call to action. If they miss your call to action, doesn't matter how clever the wording is does it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, right.

Paul Boag: It's not going to work. This is why our websites need to be really simple, but here's the other thing, is you'll sit down and you'll look at the website, and you'll go, "It is very simple." Well there are two reasons for that, one is that you've looked at the website 100 times, so for you it's familiar, but the second problem is you're giving that website your full attention, users don't. Users have got a cat that's just jumped on their lap or the doorbell's just gone, or they're sitting on train or they've got screaming kids, so their cognitive load is already high at this point right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Very rarely does anybody give your site the full attention, so what all this means is not only are people more likely to miss your call to action, high cognitive load has other effects too. We don't like it. We don't like being overwhelmed right?

Marcus Lillington: No, yeah.

Paul Boag: As a result, if a website is overwhelming us, or contributing to overwhelming us, we dislike the website. Also, when we have to really think about something, it wakes system two. I've talked about system two haven't I?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. We don't like using system two.

Paul Boag: Yeah. We don't like using system two, but also, system two is more cynical, so once system two is engaged, we're more likely to reject the website that we're looking at, or go, "Well that isn't a very good deal," or pick it apart in some kind of way. And when our cognitive load is high, we tend to be more distrustful as well. All in all, cognitive load bad. We want to avoid cognitive load.

Now, the obvious response to that is that we want to simplify everything, remove elements, make it as simple as possible, and that is one of the things I-

Marcus Lillington: Step one, step two, step three, step four.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Wizards. Make everything into a wizard.

Paul Boag: That's not always the answer, but I know where you're going.

Marcus Lillington: That's kind of what have done.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It works.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. The new Headscape site, every simple, looks great perfect. Sweet spot on that. Love that a lot. But there are other factors at play here, and this brings me back to your new client, and that's familiarity. That if you're familiar with something, your cognitive load is lower because you don't have to think as much about it. A great example of that is when you've been driving for years. I used this example before didn't I, on the podcast? You've been driving for years, you don't have to think about it, it becomes easier and your cognitive load is low because it's familiar. That's why using Amazon's so easy, because even though it's not a particularly well designed site and is overwhelming you with a lot of things, you're so used to using it that the cognitive load is low. The problem is when you redesign the site, you break those mental models, it's no longer familiar, and your cognitive load shoots up right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Makes sense.

Paul Boag: The answer is avoid redesigns. Yeah, but that doesn't always work. If you've, like in your case Marcus, with your client, if you know that there are usability problems, you want to address those don't you? It's silly to leave them there just because, you know.

Marcus Lillington: It's a nightmare. Yeah, well I won't go into the detail of it. Maybe I could come up with a thought on that when we've gone into it a bit further and we've got into it a bit more deeply, because at the moment, it's just research and we're finding out stuff about what users want. But yeah, the final point is to make some recommendations about how it should be changed.

Paul Boag: Yeah. The problem will be is making it clear in your recommendations, "This will have consequence on returning users." Because you'll fix a load of stuff and it'll be great for new users because they've got no familiarity, so from them it's just going to lower cognitive load from where it would have been, but for repeat users, it will actually temporarily raise the cognitive load.

When we do redesign, we need to do so with care, and there's three things that I think you should do. One is you should mirror the previous site as much as possible, so don't change stuff you don't need to change.

Marcus Lillington: Sure.

Paul Boag: But it's amazing how often people do do that. Oh yeah, we are hired as an agency to redesign the site. If we are just making some small changes, then we won't like we've earned our money will we? You feel obliged to do more, so don't redesign things you don't need to redesign. Sometimes you want to allow people to switch back, allow a transition period right?

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: Gmail is a good example of this at the moment. They've just launched a new interface for Gmail and you can switch back to the old version if you don't like the new one. Skype could do with doing that right now. But of course, that's very interesting as well, because you then build up all these stats about how many people are adjusting to the new site, how unhappy people are with it and that kind of stuff.

Then the third thing you can do is you can highlight changes to returning users. You might actually want to say to your client, "Stick a cookie on them now, before you make all the changes, so we know that when we do make the changes, that these people are people that have been using the previous version of the site, and so we can give them a bit of advice on boarding if you like, about how the website has changed and improved."

Marcus Lillington: I like that.

Paul Boag: You didn't just write that down did you Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: Oh right.

Marcus Lillington: I'm just thinking about it more than I normally do.

Paul Boag: Hang on a minute, are you getting free consultancy from me here?

Marcus Lillington: I might be.

Paul Boag: Damn.

Marcus Lillington: Like everyone else is Paul.

Paul Boag: Oh yeah. Good point. I forget there's other people listening. Yeah, so that is how I deal with familiarity. Then of course, also you, going back to the cognitive load thing, that has other effects, so if you want to keep your cognitive load down and you want to keep that sense of familiarity, that doesn't just apply to redesigns, it also applies to consistency across your user interface right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: You want it to behave in a consistent way for all users. That isn't just consistency within your own site, so obviously something like a design library would, well that's not the right word, pattern library, design system.

Marcus Lillington: [crosstalk 00:42:54], yeah. System, yeah.

Paul Boag: Would help with that ensuring that consistency across site. Great, another reason to have a pattern library, way hey. We know that they're a good thing already. But we also need to think about familiarity between sites as well, and not just within the same sector, because we don't want to look all just like our competitors because obviously that's a bit crap, but there are certain conventions that have come along on the website, on the internet, which we need to stick with. I feel like I've talked about this before on the podcast recently. Have I? It might have been …

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, maybe.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I'm getting confused because I've been doing webinars on this course, and so I'm forgetting what I've said where. I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself. But the basic principal I'm driving at is that there is a bit of a thing at the moment, within the design community, that, "Oh, all websites are looking the same. It's so boring and it's terrible for the design industry." Even though I say that in a sarcastic tone of voice, I actually do have sympathy with that position. We have become a bit staid, we've become a bit boring, we've become a bit repetitive, and I would-

Marcus Lillington: Technology and process is another reason for that happening. It's easy to just repeat stuff.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus Lillington: Or it's easier to repeat stuff. But anyway, that's a tangent that we don't need to go off on.

Paul Boag: But from a purely cognitive load perspective, there is a huge benefit from being consistent with user expectations that they've learnt via websites. For example, if I say to you, where should a shopping basket appear on a website? You instinctively go-

Marcus Lillington: Down the bottom in the footer, every time.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Where does the logo appear? Where does navigation appear? We all know where these things should appear on websites, and so we've got to have a damn good reason for moving them from those positions because if we do, immediately cognitive load's going to go up. It's going to feel unfamiliar, people are going to have to think. Because we have something called procedural knowledge.

Now procedural knowledge is that if I say to you what are the points of a compass? You'll probably go, never eat shredded wheat in your head, or naughty elephants squirt water, or something like that in order to remember, that's called a pneumonic, a way of remembering the positions. That's how we remember a lot of things, including searching on a website, your procedural knowledge says you arrive on a website, you want to search, you look top right-hand corner. Do you see a input field? You type in your search query, is there a button next to it? You press the button. If anything out of that procedure gets broken, so the input field or the search box isn't in the top right-hand corner, or the box that's in there is sign up for our newsletter, which is a mistake we once made on the Headscape site years and years ago, and we ended up with a load of search queries being entered into our … Or if the button doesn't say search, it says something else or whatever, it throws our procedural knowledge and that increases our cognitive load. Yes, that's a bit about cognitive load.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: None of that, nothing that I've said there, I think, blows you away. It's all common sense isn't it really?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: I think anybody that's worked in design for any length of time would already know it, but it's worth knowing the psychology behind it. But knowing words like procedural knowledge, cognitive load, because when you talk to a client then, it makes it sound like you're not just making shit up and that there's some kind of real science behind it rather than. "Oh, white space is good. We need white space on our design." Now you can say, "Because we're trying to reduce cognitive load."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, that's a really good point, because we've been talking about staying with conventions for years, but it's been because there's a lot of sites that do it kind of thing, and we don't want to annoy people. But it may be a little bit more behind it than that, but I've never gone to this level, talking about things like cognitive load, and yeah, for some people, I think it would maybe make the difference for them, particularly about simplifying things. Because it's all very well, everyone, if you talk to a client and whatever, everyone will go, "Yeah, simplification. That makes sense because it's make it easier for the user," and then when it actually comes down to making choices about things, about what's going to be removed, then it's different. Having some kind of thing to back up your arguments like this is useful, so yes. Thank you Paul

Paul Boag: The way that I like to think of it is it's almost like a bucket, and that every little thing, every form filled, every element is like putting a drop of water in the bucket. The bucket slowly fills up and some of those things will be to do with your website, but some of them will be external. The bucket's probably already half full, if not more, before they even arrive on your website, with kids and all the other stuff. Then drip, drip, drip, drip of annoyance, and then eventually the bucket overflows, and when it overflows, they snap and they leave, and you've lost them.

You're absolutely right, and the thing about its where the rubber hits the road of those little decisions people are making, those, "Oh, do we add this extra field. Well one more field doesn't make any difference, or just this element doesn't make any difference," and that's where I do the user retention point exercise, which I must have covered before. I'll put a link in the show notes, the user retention point exercise, if you're interested. It's just a way of getting people to think about how these things have accumulative effect over time, and that's what you want to do isn't it really?

Marcus Lillington: Yep.

Paul Boag: Right. I think …

Marcus Lillington: Er.

Paul Boag: What you erring at?

Marcus Lillington: I need a joke. I've got one.

Paul Boag: Oh, it's like he hasn't planned ahead again. Really? You don't have that much to do on the show Marcus, is it really that difficult?

Marcus Lillington: I've got it. It's there in front of me.

Paul Boag: It's a slack attitude.

Marcus Lillington: I was just thinking ah, I need to go and get it.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: It was hiding behind other windows.

Paul Boag: Oh okay, so you had pre-prepared?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: You haven't just grabbed the first joke you came across about the Slack channel?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: All right, go for it.

Marcus Lillington: Okay. This is from Ian, Headscape Ian.

Paul Boag: Oh, Headscape Ian.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: I'm sure he does have a surname.

Marcus Lillington: Ian Luckraft, so there you go. Excuse me. Oh dear, I'm dying.

Paul Boag: T internet famous isn't he?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: He's blogging regularly now, or has he given up yet?

Marcus Lillington: He is blogging, and he's also looking after the Headscape Twitter account. Bless him, because no one else wants to do it, so good on him. Anyway, he-

Paul Boag: Do we know what Ian Luckraft's website address is? I want to-

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I think.

Paul Boag: Let me have a look.

Marcus Lillington: I can tell you. One second. Team, Ian. Personal site is … Ian, then Luckraft, which is L-U-C-K-R-A-F-T, He's a proper techy.

Paul Boag: Yeah, so that's like a proper techy blog.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Oh good for him. He seems to be keeping … Hang on a minute, last post, 27th of March.

Marcus Lillington: Well don't be mean.

Paul Boag: He was doing it every week up until then. Well he'll have to put out something now won't he? He'll feel the pressure after we've just mentioned him on the show.

Marcus Lillington: Ian listens religiously every week, so hello Ian, and don't listen to the nasty Paul.

Paul Boag: No, I am not being nasty, I'm encouraging him.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, okay.

Paul Boag: I'm encouraging him to keep blogging because it's so easy to give isn't it, when it comes to blogging? It's really hard to keep going every week. Trust me, I know, after 13 years of it. But yeah, no, and he should keep going. There's not enough people blogging these days. Everybody's just spewing random thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and we need … Yeah, you've got lots of companies blogging, but they're all just doing it for content marketing points of view. There's not actually people sharing their experiences and yeah, there needs to be more. I miss the good old days of blogging. God, I sound old.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Paul Boag: Sorry, you had a joke.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, well he's coming up with jokes instead, so there you go.

Paul Boag: Oh yes, that was it. Yes, it was a joke from him.

Marcus Lillington: Right, I've got to say this properly, did you know you can only ran in a camp site, not run? Because it's past tents.

Paul Boag: Oh no. That's actually really good, but terrible at the same time.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. So bad it's good.

Paul Boag: Excellent. Well hopefully you found this show useful. I personally think it was amazing.

Marcus Lillington: Obviously.

Paul Boag: You were lucky to get to listen to it, which is good. But yeah, if you feel the need to send me a message saying I've said really too many times, to some other …

Marcus Lillington: 27.

Paul Boag: 27. That's an improvement on 68. By the way, he didn't count all of those. It want like he was going through the show counting them all to be fair to him. He did a search on the show notes.

Marcus Lillington: Ah right. Still.

Paul Boag: But that's still pretty impre … That is annoying actually, 68 times in an hour. That's one a minute.

Marcus Lillington: It's really annoying Paul.

Paul Boag: Anyway, thank you guys for listening. If you want to find out more about the masterclass behind this season and the show, go to If you'd like to join us on Slack to tell me how shit I am at podcasting, you can do that by going to But other than that, I'm really looking forward to speaking to you again next week. Bye.

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