Here’s What Customers Want From Direct To Consumer UX

If you hadn’t noticed eCommerce is on the rise and has been for a while now but alongside traditional retailers finding a way to get their store online, there has been another shift taking place. It is gaining momentum and there are more and more examples of it becoming a defining point of success for businesses.

What we’re talking about here is Direct to Consumer. More and more manufacturing brands are taking advantage of the benefits of taking total control of a sales channel and selling directly to the people that are using their products.

However, along with all the benefits and just like everything in life, there are a few challenges. One of which is the expectations of your customers. You might expect that they would be the same as what they would be for multi-brand and traditional retailers. And to be fair, that is not a bad assumption to make but new research from Baymard is letting us know that this isn’t the case.

The Baymard research team spent 1,440 hours usability testing and researching Small Catalog, Direct to Consumer website features, layouts, content, and designs leading to their latest research study on Direct to Consumer UX.

The research is based on more than 217 qualitative user/site usability test sessions following the “Think Aloud” protocol (1:1 remote moderated testing).

The test sites covered smaller Direct to Consumer brands with smaller product catalogues including beauty, apparel and accessories, cookware and fitness. Some of the brands included Allbirds, MVMT & Daniel Wellington.

What they found even with testing a broad variety of smaller Direct to Consumer sites, was that users would repeatedly abandon Direct to Consumer sites due to issues with the layout, content types, or features. In fact, the users encountered 1,370+ medium-to-severe usability issues on the smaller Direct to Consumer sites.

For the report, they analysed and distilled the results into 413 guidelines found within their research study. These cover most aspects of the Direct to Consumer experience, at both a high level of general user behaviour as well as at a more granular level of specific issues users are likely to encounter.

What you'll find here is some key highlights that’ll help when you’re working toward getting a Direct to Consumer offer into the market.

 

Things To Consider When Making Direct To Consumer A Success

 

• Customers Want to Get to Know You First

One of the things that Baymard discovered during the research is that where customers of traditional B2C businesses are likely to be looking at the product price, variations and returns policy, for example, when making buying decisions, consumers are rarely making buying decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.

In stark contrast, users on Direct to Consumer sites typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision. In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.

And this is supported by research from Diffusion. They found that perception is driving purchasing with 44% of consumers believing Direct to Consumer brands produce a higher quality product at a lower price point than traditional competitors and nearly a quarter (23%) perceive Direct to Consumer brands to be an authority of what’s cool and on-trend.

All this dictates the type of information you need to provide on your Direct to Consumer site beyond just “the basics”. That being what is expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites. Things like product titles & images of the products. But it also changes where and how the information is presented.

 

• The Homepage is More Important Than You Might Think

What Baymard found during the research is that when consumers are visiting Direct to Consumer sites, a first step for them was to spend more time exploring the homepage than what’s typically observed or expected of users during general B2C testing.

As an example, consumers on more traditional B2C sites like John Lewis or ASOS, will often start by going directly to the search bar or the main navigation, to quickly drill down into the site to begin finding products of interest.

But, during their Direct to Consumer testing, consumers tended to first scroll through the homepage, considering the highlighted content, to determine if they should spend any more time on the site.

 

• They’ll Dig Deeper to Find Information Before Buying

Another thing that came out during the research was that consumers spent more time digging deeper for particular pieces of information. This included heading to About Us pages and for lists of faqs so that they could answer not only basic questions but also more specific ones.

Our tip here is to 1, make sure the information is on the site and 2, it’s easily accessible. This should help entice consumers to stay around longer. If they’re able to answer a question with a piece of information either about your brand or products it could pique their interest and engage a buying motivation.

 

• How the Site Looks is Just as Important as What is on it

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and the devil may be in the detail but there is one thing that the research found that, for me, has always been a suspicion.

When it comes to big retailer websites, the ‘industry experts’ can point out the differences all day but to the standard end-user, they’re much the same. While some aspects of design differ, for most users the design aesthetics of larger e-commerce sites rarely have much impact on their decision whether or not to purchase from the site. For them, usability is much more of a driver.

However, when it comes to the smaller Direct to Consumer sites, users tend to want to feel like a site is representative of their own individual taste, or at the very least that the site’s design aesthetics aren’t offensive to them.

And take note of this little insight. The research found that some users during testing were observed to abandon sites solely due to their dislike of the design aesthetics — not even venturing off the homepage to support their decision.

Now, what nobody would ever advocate is trying to cater to every individual user’s personal design-aesthetic preference because frankly, that is an impossible task. But pulling in some of the more eccentric design decisions and going for a simpler but still, bespoke approach was observed to perform well for most users.

 

Final Thoughts

Direct to Consumer sites have many challenging tasks facing them when it comes to perfecting the user experience.

There is no one size fits all approach, and each brand is going to face a slightly different set of challenges, but the good news is that the research is out there to help and even more importantly, there are experts out there that have made this their business and passion.

One of those businesses is us. At Eclipse we’ve got a team of experts in the Customer Experience team that can design, implement, test, optimise and further develop the customer experience for your business and drive continued growth through conversion rate optimisation and a long-term optimisation strategy.

Through user testing and experience testing, directly with the types of people that buy your products, the research and data help remove emotion and gets to the core of creating a great customer experience.

All you need to do is reach out to us and have a chat. We’re here to help you build, test, develop and optimise your Direct to Consumer channel.

And if you’d like a copy of the research, you can get access to all 413 DTC UX guidelines, available today via Baymard Premium access.


Convenience Is Key For Customer Satisfaction.

When it comes to shopping we’re all looking for the quickest, easiest way to get what we want when we want it, however, we want it. In other terms, we are looking for the most convenient way to get the stuff we need.

When it gets a little too hard or barriers are put in the way of what we’re trying to achieve, we go somewhere else.

To achieve this always-on, effortless mindset that consumers have, retailers need to adapt to and embrace Total Commerce. This means as you might have guessed from the opening gambit, meeting the customers wherever they want to shop and, on the terms, they want to purchase. This might sound like a huge task but you can go some way to offering this without ‘selling the farm’.

In some latest research by the team at Linnworks, they found how convenience is more important than ever to time-pushed consumers, and how those retailers that get the customer experience right, will win the sale every time.

During the last year and a bit, necessity has meant that consumers needed to switch to online shopping just to keep getting access to the things they needed, and they did this in droves. The pandemic accelerated the shift that was already happening, and some won’t now shift back, with three in four consumers saying they will be shopping online more after the pandemic than before, discovered in the research conducted by Linnworks.

It’s a big change and even though some retailers seem to have taken it in their stride better than others, they all need to understand both what’s caused the behaviour change and what they need to do to keep up with it.

For nearly three-quarters of consumers, the major factor that drives their desire to shop online more is convenience. Although it has been the only solution for a while now, online retail has always offered an easy solution for many consumers that juggle working from home or at the office and that have to deal with schooling and childcare. Customers have appreciated its benefits. Benefits that all consumers dealing with the pandemic discovered when they had their hand forced as a result of lockdown. And, as a result, that desire for convenience still reigns supreme today and will continue to be a key decision factor when it comes to deciding to make a purchase.

 

Convenience is King

Linnworks research, titled ‘The Effortless Economy: A New Age of Retail’, surveyed 1,000 consumers in the UK and US to understand the change in consumer behaviour. It overwhelmingly indicated that effortless experience was what people wanted, with convenience a top priority when choosing a retailer for more than three-quarters of consumers.

What’s important to take note of here is that it is beginning to outweigh other purchasing decision factors too. Nearly half of consumers say they are now more influenced by convenience than price and a similar amount will sacrifice cost savings for convenience. It’s not only appreciated but increasingly expected – it’s become a lever that can be used as a unique selling point.

And it’s been confirmed by other research too. The National Research Federation found that 97% of shoppers have abandoned a purchase over a lack of convenience and 83% say that convenience is more important to them when online shopping than five years ago.

 

That’s all great but what does convenience actually mean?

All the research indicates that consumers may be putting convenience at the top of the list but what does that mean for retailers, and what do they need to do? The research found a few key things, that almost all retailers can do something about, came out on top.

Firstly, the ability for a guest checkout and to shop across different channels and devices, with as little disruption to the customer journey as possible. Then came easy shipping, with the ability for shipping details to be remembered for future purchases.

This all goes back to what we talked about at the beginning. We all want fast, easy, totally seamless shopping experiences, wherever we are in the buyer’s journey. If we don’t get it, guess what. We will go elsewhere.

The Linnworks research uncovered that two in three consumers have abandoned purchases because they found sites too complicated, and more than half have walked away from retailers entirely. These are figures you need to take note of. If you ignore them, they will hit you right where it hurts most, your bank account.

 

Here’s what you need to do

 

  • Understand how customers shop and make it easier for them to do it in multiple ways

Your brand and shopping experience must be delivered on whatever channel the buyer is on. That means making it as easy and pain-free as possible. Different parts of a purchase journey will most likely be completed on different devices. Linnworks research showed that 81% of customers are looking for a frictionless, cross-device eCommerce experience and that more than half (51%) have abandoned a purchase because they were forced to start the process again when they switched devices.

And when it comes to shopping your social, if you get it right, you’re likely to pick up new customers. The research found that 35% of people have already purchased through social and that 27% more are open to the idea.

One of the key numbers in the research around social is that 71% of those who shop on social would rather complete the purchase on social than be sent to the retailers’ website. This fundamentally changes what most are doing when they choose to advertise on social. Integration with Facebook and Instagram shopping is becoming core to your social selling strategy.

 

  • Offer multiple payment options and make them easy to use

Convenience within payment is about seamless and flexible payment options, with nine out of ten shoppers saying it helps speed up their decision making and prompts them to spend more. This means going beyond just accepting credit cards and into options like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and as some businesses are starting to offer, accepting cryptocurrency.

A guest checkout option, wanted by 56% of people, allows an even speedier path to purchase. It’s the consumer’s biggest ask.

Consumers are also embracing new, more flexible, convenient payment options, such as buy now pay later. These services are growing 39% a year and nearly four in five shoppers expect brands to offer this as standard, especially on everyday items such as clothing, and around a quarter of consumers have already used it or plan to.

 

  • Offer delivery and return options that the consumer wants

The importance of delivery on customer loyalty can’t be overestimated. A massive 95% of consumers say that convenient delivery options are a major factor in their choice of an online retailer.

Offer next day delivery and click and collect options are rated highly for convenience. Customers want similar convenience when it comes to returns, with nearly nine in ten (89%) saying they don’t want customer services involved with returns, with 87% expecting a pre-paid return label and almost half (47%) saying they are more likely to shop with brands that offer self-service returns.

But this could be taken one step further. Offering the ability to arrange exchanges through your site whereupon new items are sent out when the originals are returned and processed removes the need to wait for refunds to be processed and keeps shoppers with you, rather than looking somewhere else.

 

  • Understand the role of the marketplace

Even though cross-device functionality, guest checkouts and easy shipping topped what consumers looked for when it came to convenience, there is a fourth thing retailers must consider as they strive to deliver convenience – that is the role of third-party solutions such as the marketplaces.

The convenience of online marketplaces, where consumers can shop a wide range of products from a variety of retailers on one platform means it’s a popular channel, with 91% starting their purchase journeys on marketplaces.

But it can be a double-edged sword for many. Yes, they’re convenient but they can also be overwhelming. Nearly half of consumers have abandoned marketplaces because there were too many options, and more than three-quarters (76%) say they would prefer to shop on a branded site or directly if such brands were able to match the convenience of online marketplaces.

This presents a huge opportunity for retailers to deliver a customer experience that keeps shoppers coming back to them directly, bringing the benefits of increased margins and customer shopping data.

 

Final Thoughts

Retailers today need to focus on and win at the idea of delivering an effortless experience by providing a seamless omnichannel journey and a second to none customer experience. We can’t afford for any part of our business to work in isolation and to not be easy and convenient for the consumer to shop.

You’ll find more on the research that Linnworks conducted by downloading their whitepaper on their site. It’s a great read and gives valuable insight that will drive your strategy for 2021 and into the future as you strive to offer the convenience that consumers are looking for.

And if you're looking for someone to help you work these ideas into your eCommerce strategy and enhance your customer experience, come talk to us. We have teams of experts that can help you in the the areas that Linnworks highlighted in their research.


Conversion Optimisation Is The #1 eCommerce Challenge For Most Businesses.

Anyone who makes their living selling things understands the difficulty that the covid-19 pandemic has created. It shut down traditional selling channels and forced businesses to innovate, which has changed the face of retail for good.

eCommerce has become the shining light and the only real way to keep business moving but for those who thought it was as easy as just chucking up a website and waiting for the money to roll in has been the subject of a reality check.

eCommerce is absolutely the future of retail and it is going nowhere so truly understanding what it takes to make it work is vital.

 

A Website is Never Finished

The consumer is a fickle entity, and they shift and morph constantly. What you launch with as a shopping experience can very quickly become outdated and clunky. And more than that, for many when the rubber hits the road the potholes that appear ready to take you out are everywhere.

Understanding the challenges and preparing for them or making sure you have someone to reach out to when you hit them is fundamental to staying ahead of your competition and here at Eclipse, we do what we can to make sure we keep our clients, past, present and future, as well equipped and educated about eCommerce.

 

Challenges For Those in The World of eCommerce

This week Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers in Europe, published research unveiling the state of payments in retail today as well as the challenges and opportunities in the retail market following a turbulent year.

Some key highlights from the research when asked what the biggest challenges in online retail were, 65% of those retailers asked cited converting shoppers to purchase, 43% rated high costs for shipping or payment providers and 41% selected low margins. And for a third of online retailers (34%), cart abandonment is the biggest challenge with 30% reporting that 6-10% of carts were abandoned.

Other key findings included:

  • EU and UK merchants rely on a multitude of channels to sell: As bricks and mortar shops closed their doors, online has become far more important. Specifically, 46% of all revenue now comes from an online webshop. And on average, 37% of sales occur via third-party marketplaces such as Amazon. Finally, as much as 16% of annual revenue now comes through social media platforms like Instagram.
  • Two-thirds of retailers had revenues impacted by the pandemic: The pandemic has had both a positive and negative effect on retail sales. 23% of merchants saw sales increase last year. Conversely, 29% either saw no change or had sales decrease somewhat. And 17% saw sales decrease significantly. Of those who reported an increase, revenues went up on average by 29%. The average decrease in revenues was 27%.
  • Issues with the payments process can hurt sales and growth: 31% said that an issue with the payment service offered or the range of payment service options provided was the reason for abandoned carts. 41% cited a lack of innovation in payment systems as hindering growth.
  • ‘Buy now, pay later’ now offered by more than a fifth of retailers: With many consumers looking for more flexible ways to pay during the pandemic, 22% of retailers now offer ‘buy now, pay later’ or Apple Pay payment methods. And 20% offer Google Pay. This is set to increase with 31% looking to improve payment systems to help grow online revenue within the next 12 months.

You can get access to all the results, based on responses from 2,500 European retailers, in their report: ‘How a growth mindset leads to higher profits’.

“The retail sector has had a difficult year and this is reflected in the findings which expose a multitude of challenges and areas for development,” said Josh Guthrie, UK Country Manager at Mollie. “As the market also comes to terms with the Brexit deal, the ability to adapt and grow under pressure is paramount.”

 

Facing the Challenges Head-On

The first step is to identify if you’re facing these challenges and if you are, reach out for help. At Eclipse we’ve got eCommerce experts in all areas including conversion rate optimisation, design, user experience and the day to day running of eCommerce operations.

They know the industry inside and out and are here to help navigate you through these challenges and onto continued success.

Creating a conversion optimisation strategy that builds into a programme of continuous testing and improvements, for now, and into the future, ensures that challenges are highlighted early and fixed.

Our team of business consultants can work alongside the strategy and guide and advise you on ways to make improvements around returns, shipping and operations that can lift margins.

So, whether you’ve identified these challenges in your business or you suspect they might be lingering in the data, your next step should be to speak to us.


Man on laptop

What is User Testing and Why Do You Need it

Anyone who creates a product or designs a website, whether that be for information purposes or as an eCommerce experience, wants it to be the absolute best it can be. That’s why we put it into the world. No one sets out to create the worst possible experience for their end-users but how do we know it is the best possible experience?

Sure, we can look at it as individual developers or designers and maybe bring in the wider design and development teams but this verges on self-gratification and doesn’t really give you much beyond the fact that you all think you did a great job.

This might sound obvious but surely engaging with the people that are either using or you want to use the product or service you’ve developed is the answer to finding out if it is any good? Well, you’ll be surprised just how many businesses choose not to do this and it is blinding their future development and improvements.

This idea of talking to the end-user isn’t new. Market research and focus groups have been the grounding to some of the biggest advertising campaigns and certainly changed the destiny of several feature films released over the years. What is new is the technology that is being used to achieve this information and the personalisation of that testing to achieve much more detailed data.

 

What We’re Talking About is User Testing.

User testing is when you analyse and measure the experience of a user that is engaging with your product or website either as a whole, or just a portion of it.

In its most simplified explanation, it’s testing and quantifying how someone uses your product, service or website. This in most cases is different from what you think they should be doing with your product or website.

User testing records and observes a set of user’s performing tasks with your product or website to find errors, frustration points and potential areas for improvement to your future product or website development. It can also involve asking a user how the quality of the experience was for them.

Often done with users in location, user testing can also be done remotely which is especially handy when you consider the current various states of lockdown, we find ourselves in. This should not be seen as a blocker to taking to your users.

 

Why User Testing

Outside of getting the valuable information you need from the end-user, several other benefits come along with user testing. At the root, user testing can help save you money, save you time and increase user satisfaction for your business, product or website.

 

Time-Saving

It may seem like an odd suggestion to think that adding another process to your development or design journey is going to save you time, but when you look at the long term the time saving is abundantly clear.

User testing saves you from making mistakes now, rather than later. The longer you stay in isolated product development and planning with your product or website, the longer it will take you to fix issues and functionality down the line. This is especially true in applications and web design, the more complexity and features you add into a product or website, the harder it gets to fix newly discovered problems. And so, it kind of goes without saying but the harder it gets, the more time it takes to unpick and fix them.

 

Money-Saving

Much like the idea of saving time, the suggestion that engaging in user testing which has a cost to it can save you money might sound ludicrous. It isn’t.

If we look back at the long-term benefits, it is clear to see that identifying potential issues early allows them to dealt with before they come intertwined into other developments or feature enhancements.

Rewriting code or redesigning layouts are far from free. Every backtrack or re-work takes hours out of moving forward and those hours have a cost attached to them and they can be substantial especially when you are starting all over again. Finding a problem before a product is completed is almost always cheaper than fixing it later.

And even though you will need to spend a little to undertake the user testing, doing it with a team of experts who can get you the best possible results the first time is another way to ensure that the process is saving you money, making it as cost-effective as possible. Remove the need to try and try again through a period of self-learning and gather valuable insights fast.

 

Increased User Satisfaction

This is a more obviously understandable benefit. Taking feedback and working it into the development and usability of your product or website is going to ensure that when others engage, they won’t be faced with the same issues those in user testing experienced.

Products or websites that focus on user experiences have been proven to increase customer satisfaction. It shows that you care deeply about the experience your users have with your product or website and improving customer satisfaction with enhanced user experience will likely have an impact on sales and your bottom line.

 

User Testing Works

If you need more of a reason to undertake user testing, you only have to look at the results. Usertesting.com has many case studies that highlight the direct benefits of taking this process on.

Zillow increased engagement and conversions by over 8%, Evernote increased user retention by 15% and Walmart Canada increased onsite revenue by 13% as a result of tailoring experiences.

And at Eclipse we’ve been performing user testing for many years and have worked with some of the most well-known brand names in the UK and across the world. Some of our existing clients have found it so beneficial that it is now just included as part of their regular process.

 

How Can Eclipse Help

Hopefully, you can now see the benefits that user testing will bring to your business, product or website and you’re wondering what you need to do to get it going.

The good news is that we’ve developed some ready-to-go packages for remote user testing that we can roll out for you in no time at all. All you need to do is take a look at what is on offer, explore even more of the benefits that can be achieved with user testing and then reach out to our Experience team so that we can make arrangements to gather those valuable insights for you.


Moon image

How User Personas Can Get You To The Moon

In this article, we’ll look at how creating a user personas can be beneficial when designing the UI for a rocket. We’ll take a dive into what this persona would look like. Then how we can apply this persona to inform the design of the UI onboard the rocket.

 

The User Persona

User personas are profiles that capture the most important data from a user base. This data is then used to outline the archetypes of your common users. These are usually one-page documents. They are used as a reference point to remind you who your users are and give you a way to communicate this to others. They help you to understand who you're designing for. Giving you an insight into what the behaviour and thought process of that user is.

User personas are beneficial because they are a way of empathising with the people who use the software. They put the user at the centre of the design process. If you are always looking through the eyes of the user you’re more likely to create a solution that works for them. In a previous article we've covered how to create a persona in more detail, but we've covered some of the important points here to.

 

Creating a User Persona

We started by segmenting and creating hypotheses about our different types of users. There are users with two different roles onboard the spaceship. One user is the pilot who will need the essential information to fly the rocket. The other user is the co-pilot who would need secondary monitoring information. These two roles need separating as they have big differences. Within these roles, we can begin to create more nuanced profiles. 

Take a look at the persona below to find out more about our user.

Applying the User Persona to Design

Now we have the persona we can start applying this to our designs. We can take into account the pain points of our user Tim Peake. We can see he has restricted movement and wears gloves. This could influence the design of the UI. We would want to make sure that the screen size isn’t too large so that Tim can reach it all. There shouldn't be any complex gestures in the UI that would be hard to execute with limited movement. This should be worked into the design by using larger touchpoints. 

 


Crew Demo-2 Mission | Official SpaceX Photos | Flickr

 

Tim is a family man and although no stranger to risk he would inevitably be thinking of his family when undertaking a dangerous mission. Images of his family could be made available to him on the software to give him comfort when there are no tasks that require his attention.

There are times when Tim will experience an expected communication outage and long periods flying through space with nothing to do. The UI could include an entertainment system with access to exploration documentaries and motorsports.

Tim assigns a lot of values to tech and is intelligent. The UI should reflect this by being feature-rich as he will be able to cope with an added level of complexity if it enhances the abilities of the rocket. 

He is living his life long dream flying the rocket to the moon. When Tim is performing some of the more complex tasks like launching and landing the rocket he will be feeling an intense pressure to get it right. Simple and easy to use UI will release some of this pressure. As Tim has a background in flying helicopters and aeroplanes, having UI that is already familiar to him will put him at ease and shorten the learning curve. Using skeuomorphism design which emulates familiar objects/control to increase familiarity and will provide comfort to Tim. This can be incorporated into the designs, for example, using an interface for the speedometer that is similar to an analogue version that Tim would be used to seeing in other vehicles.

 


Crew Dragon Interior | Official SpaceX Photos | Flickr

 

Conclusion

User personas are a great tool to guide your design decisions. They can be used whenever there is a need for a user to interact with software, even when that is intergalactic. There’s also no such thing as ‘done’ when it comes to the personas. You should revisit, review and update them regularly as economic and social climate changes users' online behaviours.

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful and feel inspired to create your own, but drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.


Group of people looking at view

How To Create A User Persona

User personas are a great tool to improve designs and communicate design decisions. Let’s take a look at what user personas are, why they are useful, and how to create your own. 

 

The user persona

User personas are profiles that capture the most important data from a user base. This data is then used to outline the archetypes of your common users. These are usually one-page documents. They are used as a reference point to remind you who your users are and give you a way to communicate this to others. They help you to understand who you're designing for. Giving you an insight into what the behaviour and thought process of that user is. Explaining why users take certain actions in your product, and what they're hoping to do when they use it. 

People across the business in different roles should use user personas. Stakeholders, senior managers, and product owners can all use personas. They can use them when analyzing the software for new features or prioritizing bug fixes. Designers, copywriters, and developers can all use user personas too. They use them to find the best approach and solution that fits the needs of the user.

 

Why user personas are useful

User personas are beneficial because they are a way of empathising with the people who use the software. They put the user at the centre of the design process. If you are always looking through the eyes of the user you’re more likely to create a solution that works for them. 

They are specific and this gives you clarity about who to design for and who to prioritise. You are thus able to meet the needs of groups of users with similar characteristics. As opposed to creating generalised solutions that don’t fit exactly with any users’ needs.

Designers often fall into the trap of designing for themselves. Having a user persona holds you accountable for your design decisions. If they aren’t in the best interest of your user persona then they may not be the best solution. You can also use them to communicate and justify those decisions to stakeholders and clients.

Another benefit of creating personas is that they anthropomorphise data. Adding human characteristics and behaviour to data it makes it easier to understand and remember. It’s great having a ton of useful data but if no one ever references or uses it then it’s worthless. A concise digestible format that doesn’t include unnecessary information, will help you get the most out of your personas.

 

Creating a user persona

Begin by segmenting and creating hypotheses about the different types of users. You must separate your users by the different roles they have. Let's take the example of project management software. This would have users with two different roles. One user is the admin that would be creating tasks and reporting on the project. The other user is the employee who would be using the tool as a reference and to track time. These two roles need separating as they have big differences. Within these roles, you can begin to create more nuanced profiles. Through a combination of analytics and research, you can validate these hypotheses or disprove them. Both are equally illuminating.

Take a look at our example of an admin persona for a project management tool:

Do your research

User research is critical to understanding the experience of users. There are many different ways in which you can collect and present feedback. Likely, you're already getting a lot of feedback if you have a product that's up and running. 

Interviews and observation are the most common research methods. Both of these research methods are qualitative. They need analysis that looks for patterns and commonalities between users.

At this stage, it is critical to learn about the motivation of your users—what problems are they looking to solve when they come to your site? Different personas will have different reasons to use your site. You can start by developing hypotheses about what drives each user to engage. 

 

Your research should focus on the following aspects of the user experience: 

Bio: What does this person do? Are they always rushing around with lots of things on their mind? Are they worried? Planning an adventure? 

Motivation: What drives your user to interact with your product? What are they hoping to get out of it? Why are they using your product instead of a competitor’s - or nothing at all? 

Pain points: What are the challenges users are facing? Is your product helping them solve these or aggravating them? Are there any obstacles they have to face when using your product? 

Mental models: How does your user conceive the problem that your product addresses? What concepts and connections come naturally to them, and what do they need teaching? 

Personality traits: Is this user more of an introvert or extrovert? Are they an influencer or a follower? Are they loyal to brands or are they more fickle and drawn towards other features or lowest cost? 

Internet usage: Internet usage is an indication of online behaviour. Are they a regular online shopper? Do they mainly browse at home or during lunch breaks? Are they particularly active on social media? 

Brands: Are these users used to dealing with high-end premium brands or value brands? Or is it a mixture of both? Be specific to the actual brands this user buys from to understand their brand relationship. 

 

What to look out for

There are some risks associated with user personas. They are usually from not following the user research process correctly or thoroughly enough. One of the main areas where people tend to go wrong is by using too much second-hand information. This could be from stakeholders within the business or stereotyping. In these cases, research and data are not informing the personas.  This type of information runs the risk of missing out on actually user insights. You may be attributing characteristics to your users that aren’t accurate. Using these inaccurate personas when developing the product will mean you won’t meet the needs of your actual users. 

 

Conclusion

User personas are a great tool to guide your design decisions. They can be used to inform other models such as user journey maps, usability reviews and user stories. The entire business should make use of the personas. This will help to create the best possible experience for your users. The key to successful user personas is good quality research. There are risks to creating personas. You can mitigate these risks by following the correct research processes. 

There’s also no such thing as ‘done’ when it comes to the personas. You should revisit, review and update them regularly as economic and social climate changes users' online behaviours.

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful and feel inspired to create your own, but drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.


How Covid-19 Got The UK To Put Down Their Smartphones

Smartphones were first introduced to the public back in 2007. Since the first shiny iPhone hit the UK shelves there has been a steady increase in people accessing the internet on these devices. On the flip side, people have been accessing the internet less and less through desktop devices.

The graph below shows this trend.

 

 

Mobile access the internet soared and made history in October 2019. For the first time, in the UK, more people were browsing online using their mobile than on their desktop. This reached an all-time high in the UK in April 2020 with 53.97% of people browsing the internet on mobile vs desktop. 

This, however, didn’t last for long. On the other side of the world, something was brewing that would change the behaviour of internet users all over the UK. Covid-19 caused the UK to go into lockdown at the end of March. Suddenly the majority of the UK was working from home so there was no more commuting. The roads were quiet, the trains and buses rattled along with no passengers and cities became ghost towns. People were no longer able to roam the streets so no longer needed roaming data. By July 2020 internet usage on smartphones had slumped to 48.25% and desktop had overtaken mobile once again.

 

 

There are many reasons why more people were now back on their desktops. People were no longer playing candy crush on their morning commute, no longer using google maps to find a new restaurant while out and about. There was no more checking in at airports to let their friends know they’re on their way to Alicante. 

Most of the people in the UK were now confined to their house. Office workers now worked from their kitchen tables, bedrooms became boardrooms and users were spending more time online on their desktops. Even though people were working on their desktops from home they would normally be doing this anyway except in the office. So what could be influencing this change in behaviour?

Well, if you’re anything like me, when I get home from work and I want to do some online shopping or watch a quick youtube video I can’t be bothered to get my laptop out of its case and wait for it to start up. However, if my laptop is already out and switched on I’d be much more likely to hop on that to browse online. This behaviour change could be driving the increase in desktop usage. Another factor could be that people who didn’t previously own a desktop now had a work computer that they were able to access any time from home.

In a survey MarketingWeek conducted with over 3,000 members of the Influencer community, 41% of respondents answered that they were “currently shopping online for things they would normally shop for in-store.” As this was an unfamiliar experience to these people they may have wanted to use a laptop for what to them was a more complex experience. 

But before you go throwing away your mobile-optimised websites current usage, as the UK opens up, data shows mobile and desktop usage is 50/50 with an upward trend for mobile. While desktop usage was higher than mobile in July mobile usage for July was still up on the year before from 46.48% in 2019 to 48.25% so was up by 1.77% on the year before.

With people switching from desktop to mobile and vice versa there’s an evergrowing need to seamlessly combine the two experiences. Apple had begun this continuity with ‘Handoff’ which allows users to start one task on their mobile and finish it on their desktop. Currently, this is supported in a range of applications such as Mail, Maps, Safari, Calendar, and a growing list of third-party apps. This is built into the operating system of Apple devices. Chrome offers tab syncing and Windows has ‘Continue on PC’ which is device agnostic but does require installation. 

There are other options out there. Take eclipse’s AR solution ARES for example. It’s great viewing a 3D model of a product on a desktop browser but the experience comes to life when it is seen through the lens of a mobile camera in your surroundings. This requires users to switch to a mobile device and how that transition is handled is becoming increasingly important. With ARES you can scan an on-screen QR code with your mobile and that will take you to the augmented reality view of the product. This is where you will be able to see the product in your home.

As the UK comes out of lockdown smartphones are being put to use in new ways. Such as, scanning QR codes to check-in at restaurants for track and trace and to view the menu at bars where paper ones have been scrapped. Now more than ever your business needs to be adaptive to these changes and your website ready for anything. Drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.


Website Speed Tips

6 Tips to Increase Your Website Page Speed - Part 2

Looking to get a better page speed on your website? Look no further...these tips will get you moving.

Upgrade your server to HTTP/2

HTTP/2 has been a long time coming, for too long we’ve been building on top of a legacy protocol, this means a lot of our techniques have been put in place because we’re working with HTTP/1.

One of the many benefits of HTTP/2 is that we can now download assets in a much more fluid way, HTTP/1 forced us to download assets in batches, this was useful to keep connections open but meant we’d wait for the largest file to finish before we could move onto the next batch.

HTTP/2 has done away with this meaning that we can now download assets as soon as we finish any other asset currently being downloaded, this means that techniques like concatenation of files and turning images into sprites are now not best practices and should be avoided, favouring more smaller files which can be downloaded and displayed to the user as and when they get delivered.

HTTP/2 does have some requirements, one of which being browser support, the other being that it must be used in conjunction with a valid certificate. Both of which aren’t a problem to get over to help you reap the rewards of HTTP/2.

HTTP/2 has other huge benefits, Daniel Stenberg has written http2 explained if you’d like to dive in deeper.

Optimise for the critical render path

If you’ve use Google Page Speed Insights, you’ve seen this phrase. This is a much more complicated challenge than anything else we’ve discussed so far, but I’ll outline what we’re trying to achieve here.

The critical render path defines the assets required for the browser to do it’s first render, this means everything the browser first sees when scanning the initial HTML that’s delivered. The challenge of optimising the critical render path is all about prioritising your assets to get that first render as quick as possible.

This means we may want to delay our JavaScript completely, we may even want to delay a large section of our CSS and only focus on what the user can see which, if they are on mobile, could be as little as the header and some initial content. The goal here is to try and make our critical render path so small, that even on a very slow network, we could get for that ever ideal goal of our first render happening in under 1 second.

The reason this is a more complicated solution than anything we’ve discussed previously is that after we’ve delayed all those assets we then need to pull them in in a way that isn’t jarring for the user and doesn’t impact the rest of their experience. We still need all these assets delivered quickly and giving to the user without them noticing.

Ilya Igrigorik has done amazing work on the critical render path and you can see his video here.

Increase your perceived web performance

Okay, so this isn’t going to make your website faster on any metric, but it can have just as much impact on your user experience.

Perceived web performance is all about how fast your website feels as opposed to how fast it actually is.

There are a few accepted ways of increasing your perceived web performance:

Sleight of hand

I call this Sleight of hand because it works similar to how a street magician can steal your watch, we are essentially distracting the user while we load the assets to the website. The most simple way of doing this would be adding in some animation while loading in a new section of the website, if our animation takes 2 seconds and it takes us 1 second to load in the new thing, the user may not even realise it’s taken any time before they can interact with the new part of the website. If this seems pointless to you, the web already uses this a lot and you’re probably not even noticing it.

Skeletons

This is a technique that is heavily used by social media website such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the technique here is basically just loading in something that looks like the asset the user is trying to get at. In the case of Facebook, who use this heavily on your timeline, it’s a dummy post, your brain is already expecting to see a post so by seeing this skeleton in place, your head is already partly accepting the fact that the page is loaded. This is really effective and although has no increase to the actual page speed, it can increase your conversion rate massively.

Keep ‘em busy

This should be saved for when we’ve got a long wait that we can’t speed up for some reason, give the user something to do. The gaming industry will often give users a mini game to play while they load the main game. This could be a simple version of what they’re going to be playing or a tutorial. We could just give the user some information, if we’re a holidays website, we could display the weather while we’re doing some heavy processes that can’t be sped up for example.

Everything I’ve said about are all web performance techniques that actually work, I’ve implemented them, I’ve seen the results and I can vouch for them.

I’d love to hear your stories implementing some of these results, equally, I’d love to hear some of your web performance techniques that do or don’t work, so please reach out in the comments.


Getting directions with Google Maps API

How to Get Directions with the Google Maps API

This blog post offers a simple solution to providing a ‘get directions’ feature on your website.

I recently had the task of getting the directions from the current user’s location, to the location of a store, as part of an eCommerce project. For this particular application, I was working on the SAP Hybris platform but the process should be the same for any of the main platforms such as Shopify Plus, Magento, BigCommerce etc.

I found the documentation on Google Maps to be a lot more convoluted than necessary. The directions in the documentation explain that you need to use the `DirectionsService` that google maps provide as part of the API, as found in this example.

This is not the case, although you will still need the location in which you would like to direct the user (i.e. the latitude/longitude, or the name of the place).

Assuming you wish to set the start location as the user’s current location, you can achieve this by simply using this endpoint,

<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/dir//{latitude},{longitude}"> Get directions </a>.

There is also an opportunity here to set various rules on how the directions should be set, such as the mode of transport, the travel time, waypoints, and much more. All of these options can be found here.  But, to save you the click, here they are;

{  origin: LatLng | String | google.maps.Place, // where you will begin  destination: LatLng | String | google.maps.Place, // where you will end up  travelMode: TravelMode, //driving, train, boat, transit etc  transitOptions: TransitOptions, // only applies if travelMode is provided  drivingOptions: DrivingOptions, //you can set the departure, and pessimistic or optimistic driving coniditons  unitSystem: UnitSystem, // metric or (the archaic) imperial  waypoints[]: DirectionsWaypoint, // places to stop off on the way  optimizeWaypoints: Boolean, //when true, it chooses the shortest route  provideRouteAlternatives: Boolean, // when true, gives more than one way to get to the destination  avoidFerries: Boolean,   avoidHighways: Boolean,  avoidTolls: Boolean,  region: String}

TLDR;

<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/dir//{latitude},{longitude}"> Get directions </a>

Note: the two  `//` after `dir` are required, as otherwise it will assume you are setting the starting location.


Website Speed Tips

6 Tips to Increase Your Website Page Speed - Part 1

As anybody who knows me will tell you, I’m a huge self-confessed web performance geek, I love websites that download fast, I believe that fast internet is a basic human right and I think hotels that claim to have WiFi but instead have LiFi (WiFi that doesn’t quite seem to download anything) are criminal and should be boycotted.

This means that I’m always on the hunt for a good website performance technique and I thought I’d share 6 of the best web performance techniques that work every time.

Reduce the size of your images

The most commonly overlooked technique to get a faster website, can not only give you some of the biggest rewards but it’s also the easiest technique to implement.

There are a few areas in which you can reduce the size of your images:

Reducing the aspect ratio
This sounds very obvious but a huge amount of websites I’ve optimised and found that their main banner at the top of every page is 5000 pixels wide but is being displayed at 20% that. Just by reducing that you can save yourself a huge amount of bytes and therefore save your users from a huge download for no real benefit.

Make sure you’re showing the right image for the device
If your customer is viewing your product on their mobile, show them a version of the image that’s no wider than the device. When CSS is used to reduce the size of an image, it’s still the same size to download, just the browser then has to process it to the size required by the CSS, adding more time. Consider looking into srcset which is becoming more widely supported.

Compress the image

Tools like TinyPNGTinyJPG and ImageOptim can save your users from many kilobytes of download without reducing the visual of your image in any way your users will notice. This means that you can save a large amount of bytes on your page, without actually impacting your users. If you can have this built into your media upload, you don’t even need to think about it.

Reduce the ‘quality’ of the image

By reducing the quality of our images, we’re really talking about simplifying the amount of colours being used. This means that we can not only reduce the file size but also making tools like Gzip more effective. Other more advanced techniques of this include reducing the quality significantly to the point where you can see but saving the image at double the resolution, this has been proven to deliver even smaller file sizes without impacting the asset visually.

Remove old and unneeded code

Technical debt is an unavoidable part of any development, making sure you go through and remove old CSS, HTML and JavaScript is hugely important, though.

A few common areas that get overlooked regularly:

Removing vendor files

Pulled out an old version of a carousel or a split testing tool, make sure to pull out the assets as well, that includes the JS and CSS that goes with it.

Removing losing variants of split tests

Very often I’ve seen examples where 2 or more versions of the same element have been created and tested. After this has been analysed and a winner decided, the traffic is pushed down one stream to the winning variant only for the old versions to be forgotten about. Make sure to remove any old code associated with the losing variants of the split test.

Not including the entire framework

This is the most common cause of removing unneeded code, when people include frameworks like Bootstrap or Zurb, they very often include the entire framework, this means all the JS and CSS that build elements that the website might never even use. You can build these files up as and when you need them by not including the unneeded Sass files or only downloading part of the JS. For instance, the entire bootstrap CSS and JS is 668KB whereas the bootstrap grid is just using the grid is 13KB. You can use the customize tool on the Bootstrap website to do this for yourself and tailor the download to your needs.

Prioritise your assets

This is equally as important as anything else, make sure you’re downloading your assets as and when you need them. The simplest case of this is making sure to put your CSS in the head of your file and the JS in the bottom.

Even more than this though we can look at preloading pages and lazy loading.

Preloading

Preloading is when you download an asset before the user requires it and store it in cache or local storage, this means when they get to the area of your website where you think they might need it it’s already available and you don’t have to download it. A good example of when this could work is if you have a booking flow on your website, your booking flow will probably have some extra functionality, so before the user clicks on the search button on your booking engine, you could preload some of this functionality meaning you can load the page quicker and hopefully convert that user.

Lazy loading

Lazy loading is the other side of this, delaying your assets on the page the user is currently looking at until they actually need them. If for instance, you’ve got a gallery on your page, you don’t need to load all of the images the moment the user lands on the page. A more optimal way of doing this would be to download nothing at first, this allows for the first render to happen. Once we’ve displayed the page we download the first couple of images, and maintain being 1 or 2 images ahead of the image in view. This means you’re not downloading images that your user might not ever see but still make your users feel everything is instant as they slide through your gallery.

This is part 1 of a two part series, read part 2 here.

Everything I’ve said about are all web performance techniques that actually work, I’ve implemented them, I’ve seen the results and I can vouch for them.

I’d love to hear your stories implementing some of these results, equally, I’d love to hear some of your web performance techniques that do or don’t work, so please reach out in the comments.