15 Minutes With Swathi Rocque | Podcast Episode #10

In our tenth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Swathi Rocque. Swathi is a Manager (Senior Consultant at the time of recording) with Deloitte.

Swathi is an experienced E-commerce business analyst with a long history of working in the information technology and services industry and has worked with large scale business and brands not only whilst at Deloitte but also when she spent time at both Accenture and KPS.

In this episode, Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Her unique perspective comes from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.  

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Shelley  00:13

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we're speaking to Deloitte Senior Consultant Swathi Rocque on the importance of user centric design. Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and how we balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Swathi has a unique perspective from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.

Graham  00:45

Hi, Swathi. Welcome to the podcast.

Swathi Rocque  00:46

Hello. I'm happy to be here.

Graham  00:49

Excellent. Excellent. We're really excited to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about what a user centric design is?

Swathi Rocque  00:56

Yeah, definitely. So user centric design is more applicable when there is demand versus supply. When there is a demand from the users, this is where the user centric gets more important. User centric, has a lot of other derivations. So if you take a user centric design, from the angle of the public sector, or from the angle of private sector, it's a bit different because on the private sector is where the user centric design closely sit with actual audience and the feedback that comes into the actual use. But on the public sector, it's the same, but there's layers of approvals or things that needs to be done before it reaches out to public. So what I feel is user centric is really important, because that's where your starting point is to understand what the public needs and what the user needs. But sometimes this can get overridden from the business centric requirement, I would say, because the business will say, okay, user needs this, but we have a budget of this, we wouldn't be able to satisfy the customer demand. So that's when all the ifs and buts and trying to get the ties down comes into picture.

Shelley  02:06

So is it safe to say that two of the biggest hurdles in your experience have been budget, and also perhaps attitude of the business, particularly if that's influenced by whether it's private sector or public sector?

Swathi Rocque  02:18

Exactly. This is where things start sensing a bit different when you're working. So there might be a product example. So when you take in a private sector, you might have a module or example module that you can sort of envision and you can start building the user centric flow, because you're not starting from a blank page, you know, who is the audience, and you know, who are your competitors. But when you come to a public sector, this is where things a bit different, you might not have much competitors, no one competes for countries to countries, websites or demand, we do a user centric research. But you wouldn't be necessarily satisfying the end results, because that's where the complexity starts. Yeah, this is a user centric flow. And this goes to approval by the time you get approval, users could have moved into another at one stage, I feel it's a very different feel when you work on both sides, and things are treated differently.

Shelley  03:14

Private sector, is that much easier than to get that understanding at the end user and public sector, do you ever really get a true sense of that audience? Particularly like you say, if there are no real competitors, it must be really, really difficult to get a firm grasp of the user, if you're trying to create a user centric design, be it for a website, be it for an app, whatever it may be for?

Swathi Rocque  03:38

Yes, because that's where on the public sector, you start with an empty page, you don't know what the user needs here. You might sort of get the essence. Okay, this had worked before. Now, we are trying to draw some another line. So for example, we have the COVID application, this is a very, I would say, a very peculiar example, because we didn't anticipate that COVID is going to come and hit us in such a bad way. And taking that as an example. It was like an empty page, when things got started, the way the progression made was good, but we didn't necessarily have idea how the audience would accept the design or anything that we are trying to research on. And on the other end on the private sector, you know the demands, so based on the demand trend, you sort of start picking up, okay, this is what the user needs. And this is what the user has gone through. And this is what the other competitors are doing. So public sector, when you're starting with any new stuff, it's a blank page, you might have some information, but that's not really applicable to the end user. This is where you need to spend a lot of time understanding the audience and sometimes I don't think this efficiently happens. It happens but not an extent of how we do it on the other fence like on private sectors.

Graham  04:56

So is it safe to say that when you kind of compare them, Customer Experience somewhat takes a backseat to business need, right? We're going we need to gather this information. We want to gather it in this way, because that's how we want to look at it. And actually, people need to just figure out how to use it. And it's less about creating a beautiful, friendly experience and go, You know what, you don't have a choice, you have to use this thing. Just use it.

Swathi Rocque  05:21

Yes, definitely. That's something I would say is like a strong voice that comes out. In private sectors. If you've taken an example of any site, you have for each and every journey, you might get into like a feedback or someone saying virtual hello for you. So for example, you go to Argos site, you browse for two seconds or more than a minute, there might be a pop up coming. Are you looking for something? Can we sort of assist you? So this is where like, yeah, the user feels that they're not left alone, they have, there are some helping hands when they're trying to go through their journey. And you can ask for support when needed. But on the other hand, for example, you're filling up something on HMRC or any other forms, you will be lost, you will have so many questions. So you go to frequently asked question page and you start researching, taking an example of my experience. So recently, I had applied for my extension of my visa application. And visa application extension is such a big work like you have almost like 14 pages of forms to fill in. And it's an online form, I was pretty much lost, because the questions they asked were some like, yes, I do fall under this particular brand or category. But somewhere, I was like, what does it mean? What is there any alternate meaning for it? So this is why I had so many questions. And I tried to ring every day to the visa office to clarify my questions. But I was not like a happy customer at the end of the day when I finished my application. So this is where there's, I would say there's a clear difference, what you expect from each of the sectors.

Graham  06:55

That clearly creates an opportunity for people to go, how do we make this a better, more usable experience? Because ultimately, if you do that, theoretically, there's less of a need to have a whole bunch of people sat in a call centre answering phones or not answering phones, as the case might be. If you just built a usable, good experience in the first place, you would somewhat mitigate the need to have all these other support systems around it.

Swathi Rocque  07:20

Exactly. That's definitely I think that's something it can be in future implemented, or they can think about it. Because if you just go to any other websites, which is owned from the public sectors, you might feel the reviewers if the thing is the best thing is I sort of go through the review comments what the people have added, they could have said, Oh, it's not user friendly. I lost my time here, I sort of missed the application. And in fact, I was worried that my application would get rejected because there was so many questions, which was uncertain, like I said, okay, yes, for a couple of questions they asked, and I didn't know the meaning of it. The reason is, they hadn't given out enough explanation or justification, what does it mean? And the best thing is, I skipped a step. And I just went to the final submission. And I realised after skipping the step that oh, God, I missed the step. And I'm trying to go back and it says, error. So that was like, if I don't sort of go through the step, it means like, I'm not applicable to access any NHS funds or stuff, because as a visa application, when you're doing and UK, you got to pay certain amount for NHS, I think for the facility. So I don't know how exactly, it just got missed when I was doing my application. And I was like whole all over every place trying to call agents and the like the answer what I got from the technical support, or the customer support group was like, if you're missed, you just need to wait for a case officer to contact you. And then you can proceed with it. It took almost like two months for the case officer to contact me. I was literally lost in that whole process. I would say,

Shelley  09:00

Swathi, I can completely relate to the visa process and all of the un-user friendly features of it. I mean, it's just a black hole or a rabbit warren of poorly designed non user centric features.

Graham  09:13

But what's really interesting as well is that both Shelley and I have travelled a lot, right? We've been and you too Swathi, we've been all over the world.

Swathi Rocque  09:20

Yeah.

Graham  09:20

And it seems to be Well, I certainly haven't come across any government that's gotten this right, everybody seems to follow the same design idea of let's make it as difficult as humanly possible to lead people into corners. And nobody has thought, actually, why don't we look at what people are doing from an ecommerce point of view. And the experience has been built into that and replicate some of that on the other side it. To us, we obviously work in the industry. It seems like a really simple thing to do, but for whatever reason, no one's thought about it.

Swathi Rocque  09:52

Exactly. I think yeah, that's that's where is the actual gap lies in terms of understanding and the I would say It's more like educating the team itself like the the whole public sector, I wouldn't sort of point your point fingers on, the things are working fine here in public sector not. And in private sector things are a bit different. I would necessarily say like when you try to align between the private and public sector, that's where the experience is quite different as individual what to sort of go through each journeys, I wouldn't sort of solutionise yes things here, I think it's more like awareness, like if they sort of take a step to understand what the user needs, because user definitely needs the journey to be done pretty well on the public sector. So for example, visa, this is one of the complex thing, and it's a very essential thing rather than me going and buying a product from Gucci. And so I want my experience to be well defined, and I shouldn't face any sort of glitch or any back and forth, which I went through. So I think if they had done a bit of user centric research, they might have got a lot of information. And that could have been fed into the system. And it could have saved people's time, call centres calls, and also the back and forth messages or the anxiety, it's like when you don't get any response. That's where you start getting anxious. Oh, god, did I do it dry? Did I not do it? Right. So this a lot of things. It's not just user experiences, the emotion of the user also is tied into that particular thing. So that can be sort of looked after pretty well. That's what I feel.

Shelley  11:32

And they could have saved a lot of money, right? I mean, it's, it's easy when you look at a project and you measure it upfront, and you give it a budget upfront, but like you both touched on earlier, you're not measuring the after effects, and all of the knock on effects as part of that same project, you know, the cost implication of having to open call centres to answer everybody's questions, because FAQs and user journey is so poor. So Swathi, I wanted to ask you off the back of all of this, what happens when you have to continue you have to forge on and the design is being directed in a non user centric direction?

Swathi Rocque  12:09

That becomes challenging. So as a business analyst, or as I would say, consultant, it's quite hard when you don't understand what the user needs, and you get dictated from business. But that's a challenging, like, every time when you start doing analysis based on what business needs or user needs, you start questioning, what is the business impact? And what is the user impact? So this is the one of the checkpoint that always I tend to ask for the stakeholders understanding. Are they trying to drive any business needs here? Or is there anything that it benefits the customer. I have been in situation where it's not user centric, like it's not actually up directly applies to us or what features we are doing, it's more like business benefit. This is where complexity starts, because it is okay for business. But when it reaches to the end user, I'm not sure how it will be accepted from the end user. The thing is, there's a couple of things like experience that I can share, like there might be a fancy website that we are creating and one of the business user says "oh Gucci has done that beautiful USP on their website, can we get that here on our site?", but the background of it, we haven't done enough research, whether the Gucci's product, Gucci's website has got that USP, there's more users using it or what is the traffic? Like what is exactly influencing the product? Or is it sort of getting some benefit for them? If you sort of blindly copy what the other products have done? This is where the challenge starts. You're just borrowed the concept, but you haven't thought about the background of it, whether it is essential for user yes or no, you haven't researched from your product angle, it might be helpful for Gucci, but not for you for your website, because it's a different product. And it's a different set of customers who's going to use this. So this is where I feel sometimes when business is dictating what the user needs, sometimes it's misleading, they could have not done enough research. So that's why we need a more of user centric research, the understanding and the analysis, whether this requirement is really efficient, or it's fetches value as a team or as a product to our company.

Graham  14:26

If somebody is going through this process, and they're trying to kind of balance this out, and they're going look, you know, this is this is what the business wants, because it looks cool and shiny, and we think we know what our customers want, but we haven't really asked. What sort of tips or advice would you give to anybody going through this process that would put them in the right track and make sure that they don't end up in a situation where they build something that nobody wants to use.

Swathi Rocque  14:50

Understand the market demand first. So first, understand what your brand is because you need to understand whether your brand is strong enough in the market. And then understand how the other products actually managed this. I know it's a bit of research that you need to do with your competitors as well. And the next is your user, understand the types of user that you're targeting. And based on it, you can sort of do a lot of researches, you can send a feedback forms, you can do a survey, you can actually, I remember, actually one of our clients just literally standing in a mall with the handout sheets, like asking them to fill up the survey forms. So you have a lot of methods to cover. But the main thing is set your product vision and the audience, right. If the product vision and the audience are not right, then I think it's going to be a big failure. You're targeting incorrect or a different audience who are not supposed to be as a part of your target group.

Shelley  15:49

Swathi, thank you so much for your time and your insight. It has been incredible talking to you. And it's been so interesting hearing about the balance between public sector, private sector, and how that influences user centric attitudes.

Graham  16:03

Yeah, it's been amazing. And I think if the one takeaway that people get from this is to just think more about the users will be in a much better place.

Swathi Rocque  16:13

Exactly. Think more and also try to action it. Not just thinking, put it into action.

Shelley  16:19

That was Swathi Rocque, Senior Consultant at Deloitte speaking to us about user centric design methods, challenges and insights within private and public sector projects. Swathi shed light on the realities that businesses and digital teams face in order to deliver on both user led best practice and also tread the fine line that balances this approach with providing short term gains demanded by stakeholders. To everyone listening we hope you enjoyed this episode, and we look forward to welcoming you next time on 15 Minutes With


15 Minutes With Lucy Aitken | Podcast Episode #9

In our ninth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Lucy Aitken. Lucy is a UX/UI designer with booking.com

Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only e-commerce sites, but also SaaS platforms. She uses this background to create experiences that inspire confidence from users and aids them, in a seamless way, to follow digital journeys and get the most out of each digital interaction.

You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation plus how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Graham  00:13

On this episode of 15 minutes with we're talking to Lucy Aitken, UI UX designer with booking.com. Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only ecommerce sites, but also saas platforms. You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation and how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  Hey, Lucy, welcome to the podcast.

Lucy Aitken  00:43

Hi, Graham, hi, Shelly. Nice to speak to you today.

Graham  00:46

Yeah, and you. So can you tell us a little bit about how important is design to the customer experience.

Lucy Aitken  00:53

So I am obviously a designer. So I'm going to say it's hugely important to customer experience, it's quite often the first thing that users see, or the last thing that they remember, whenever they have an interaction with a website or your product, it's very visual, something that can evoke a bit of an emotional reaction sometimes. So yeah, it's super important, not just how it looks, but also how it functions and everything that kind of backs that up. But that design is the first thing that they're really going to interact with, when your brand is kind of putting themselves out there.

Graham  01:27

So when we talk about digital design, what are the different types or what are the things that you need to consider when you're putting together design for a digital experience?

Lucy Aitken  01:37

Yeah, so I think one of the big things to think about is how and what medium your users are going to be interacting with your websites and products through? So is it going to be a desktop? Is it a mobile device, a tablet? Or is it potentially you know, like the dashboard of a car, it really is that broad of a range of sort of interfaces that users interact with. And I think most importantly, in sort of ecommerce and sales world at the moment is that mobile interface, it's just been increasing in popularity of how many users like are using mobile devices and smaller screens to access websites. So it's a real area that you should be focusing your design and experience on.

Graham  02:19

And that is interesting, because we've seen or we've heard that there's going to be a large uptake, in live commerce and live commerce essentially, is really using social in a way to put the purchasing journey into a video. And I've seen really good versions of that, where it happens all within itself. And I've seen really terrible versions of that, where you're watching the video, you click Buy and sends you to a website and you lose the video that you're watching. So yeah, it is it's incredibly important to kind of understand, like you say, where the person is doing, what they're doing, and ultimately what you want them to do.

Shelley  02:54

Lucy, you were talking about the various different devices that experiences now need to adapt to. And it's varied. You know, what you said about car screens? I mean, that makes so much sense. Increasingly, we're seeing people engaging with brands and digital experiences through car screens. It's not just mobile, it's not just desktop, how do you, as a designer, adapt these experiences to fit on all of these different devices to fit on all of these different screens?

Lucy Aitken  03:23

Yeah, so there's a few different ways that it can be done. So I think traditionally, and probably the most common way of working that most people have heard of is that responsive design. So taking what you have on your website, and making sure that each component, each section responds down to smaller and smaller screen sizes, until you have it potentially in a stacked view or something like that on a mobile device. But I think as we've seen that shift away from desktop, and into these smaller devices, what's really important when you think about that experience now is looking at your data, how many customers are accessing, they're accessing your site on a mobile device, I think like Graham mentioned, talking about like social selling people coming straight through from Instagram or Facebook ads, whether we're looking at ads potentially on their mobile device and coming straight through to your website on a mobile. Once you know that that traffic is maybe something like 70% mobile 30% desktop, you want to start thinking about something called progressive enhancement, also known as adaptive design. And what that basically means is starting with the small screens, the mobile devices first and scaling up that experience to a desktop device. And you can do that in a few different ways. You could do it by focusing about what the most important needs of those mobile users are and making sure that you have all of the features and all of the experiences and the content that they want to see on the screen. And then as you scale that up if there's anything additional that you wanted to add that wasn't important at a mobile level, you can begin to add those additional details to the desktop designs as you move up the screen size. But really, the main thing is to focus all of your attention on those mobile devices. And if that means potentially something like a shopping cart looks entirely different on a mobile device, it's not just a small version of the desktop device actually has a different functionality. Maybe it scrolls vertically, it doesn't have anything next to it, you know, the layout could be entirely different. And after it gets to a certain screen size that changes completely, rather than being those traditional same components just laid out in a different order that we've we've seen more commonly.

Shelley  05:43

That makes perfect sense, because when I think of responsive design, whether it's the right, you know, definition, I suppose but when I think of it, that's exactly what I think of as when you you know, you make it you minimise a little tab, and it sort of is the same thing that you're seeing, it just gets smaller. But it makes perfect sense that we need to think about design now in new ways that actually completely changes, depending on what what device that you're using. And does that link in with the whole accessibility conversation, you know, how different people are using different devices in different ways, because actually, their needs as an individual are completely different.

Lucy Aitken  06:21

Yeah, definitely. I think one thing that we often think about is the touch points that we have on mobile devices. So you know, if you're accessing a desktop, you're maybe using a trackpad or a mouse to do that, with a very precise point that you can click on different buttons, different fields, whereas when you're on a mobile, you've got your fingers and your thumbs. And we go a little bit further than that, even and think about actually the size of those people's hands. Where can they reach? Are they holding their phone in one hand? Do they have a coffee in the other hand? You know, there's so many variables. And that's why really drilling down to understand your users. So if you know that actually, this is something that's going to be accessed by children, or it's something that's predominantly accessed by women or men or somewhere you can break that down, you can start to then think about, can these people reach that top right hand corner of the screen? Or should we make sure that anything that needs to be touched is lower down towards the bottom of the screen?

Graham  07:22

So that's all great stuff. And for companies that are wanting to look at that and change and take some of these things on? Is it a throw everything out and start again? Or is there a way to kind of do it in a piecemeal approach and which is better for your for the end user? Really,

Lucy Aitken  07:39

Yeah, so especially if you've got a quite a loyal base of customers, you know that you've got a lot of returning visitors to your website, and you make a big bang change on to your mobile experience, it's more than likely that it's not going to go down too well, with your users, people are a little bit resistant to change, even if it is something that you think is going to benefit them in the long term, if they've been used to using something a certain way. And now they have to relearn it all at once, that can cause a lot of friction. So the best approach is to do small, iterative changes. The other great thing about this is you're going to get a lot of insight from actually which change worked, which changed didn't and that's just going to build and build till you have this experience that is constantly evolving. And you can keep and discard those changes and in how well they work.

Graham  08:31

And I guess the real advice here is don't be afraid to try new things, right? Because as you say, if it doesn't work, you can always turn it back.

Lucy Aitken  08:40

Exactly, definitely. And there's no such thing as like a failing test. If you are doing like A/B experiments, they are all just learnings. They're all insight. So from doing that, you're going to constantly be getting great insights from your users that you can bring into the next sort of experience that you want to put out there.

Shelley  08:59

So it's all about constant refinement, then I guess you could say. Intuitive design Lucy, is it safe to say that that actually isn't always the case that it's necessarily intuitive, but perhaps it's just what people are used to?

Lucy Aitken  09:13

Yeah, so I think there's a really sort of strong argument for using what users are familiar with. I think as creatives we always want to push outside of the box, do something new, something that other competitors aren't doing. But actually what might be the best experience for your users is using something that they're familiar with, so that they don't have to relearn how to fill out a form or make a payment. If it's something that they know how to do. They've already spent the time learning and understanding that process. If you throw in a curveball, even though you think it may be a better experience, ultimately, it can start to fall down because it's just not what users are used to seeing. And I think that just touches again on the idea of testing and doing those small, iterative changes. Just so that if you have really tested and worked really hard and think that you found a solution that is better than what's out there at the moment, there's a little bit of a learning curve to get the users on board with this new idea. And yeah, and getting used to this new and better experience, I think, to think of like mobiles, for example, when we are when we all first had mobile phones, we were very used to actual physical buttons to click everything. And there was a real transition period where we moved over into touchscreens. And I remember there was back before the iPhone came around those the touchscreens where you actually had to physically apply pressure to sort of generate interactions on the device that was a little bit sticky had quite a lot of friction with it. And it didn't at one point, it didn't seem like it was going to take off people were like, Nah, I'll stick to my Blackberry. But now I don't think I know a single person who doesn't have a sort of touchscreen mobile device.

Graham  10:59

And I guess some of the things you also need to consider is what other companies are doing, for instance, Apple Pay, right? You don't want to try and reinvent that experience, because Apple have defined what that experience is. And your job as a designer, it should be to integrate it in and make it familiar, because it's what people are expecting.

Lucy Aitken  11:17

Yeah, definitely. And I think unless you are potentially like Microsoft, or Google and you are at that level, where they are a direct competitor, the best thing for you is to use those integrations, the users are familiar with it, they trust those brands, it's already there, it's on their phone, and it just makes a nice smooth process. When you're making payments.

Shelley  11:38

How do businesses tread that line? How do they know? Alright, these are the bits that we copy, we mimic like you said, if it's a really big company, then obviously you just integrate it. But on a smaller level. How do they know when it comes to peer to peer competition? Do we recreate this and we go down the creative route, which has its attractions, but also it has its risks? How do you walk that line?

Lucy Aitken  12:01

Yeah. So I mean, you'll get bored of me saying that I sound like a broken record. But I think doing A/B testing and finding out those insights with real users or doing user testing and speaking to your users with maybe one or two solutions to sort of test the waters, see how that's working. But there's also loads of great resources out there already. So there's a website that I quite often like to take a look at called GoodUI. And on there, they will do reviews of tests that large organisations like Airbnb, Amazon, those big names, they'll publish results of tests that they've tried. So you can look at common design patterns and see what's one, what's worked for them. So you can use that as inspiration for your designs and your website.

Shelley  12:48

That is fantastic. So actually businesses and to anyone listening you they can use that resource to actually go and have a look at what current best practices based on what other companies are reporting in their experimentation. I think that is fabulous. And your advice is actually to dip a toe in the water to try these things. But to do it on a smaller scale.

Lucy Aitken  13:06

Yeah, definitely. So go out there, especially if you have got competitors that you think aren't doing as well as you in the digital space. Or maybe they are and you want to go and see what they're doing. See how you can apply that for your business. I mean, nothing is just a copy and paste because the people that are visiting your website are probably going to be different to the users on another site at but as long as you test those ideas, get some ideas of best practice, then you can't go wrong.

Graham  13:34

So are you noticing any trends or anything that's kind of coming up that you think people should kind of be looking at a little bit deeper?

Lucy Aitken  13:42

I think mobile trends is something to definitely keep an eye on. Just a kind of interesting thing that I've been looking at over the sort of the last two years now, I suppose is how that desktop and mobile market share has changed. So sort of for the last 10 years, when iPhones were released, we just saw a constant upwards trend for more and more users using mobiles. But around March, April in 2020, actually, for the first time we saw in the UK that just completely dipped and desktop actually started increasing in the number of users using that again, it was still up on the year before, but it had kind of had a big impact what was going on in the world. And we did see more and more users switching back to desktop as they were spending more time at home. And then if you follow the graph, that's really interesting, because you'll see that when the lockdowns end, we see users picking their mobile phones back up, they're out and about and then subsequently, when another lockdown came into play. We saw that kind of switch over again, it's quite a small amount really, in terms of the overall numbers but it is just something interesting to keep an eye on. And then in terms of other technology that's out there. I think searching by voice, a lot of like voice interactions and searching by image and the sort of new technologies coming out around those spaces is something to watch out for. So yeah, Google's obviously been doing search by voice for a long time. But I think it's becoming quite familiar with users now. So is that time where you can start to think about can I put VR on my website is there's some sort of AR that I could be doing or searching by voice or some sort of image recognition.

Shelley  15:25

Thank you so much for your time, Lucy, it has been an absolute pleasure and an eye opener and we can't wait to have you back to answer all of the questions that I'm sure will come out of today's podcast.

Lucy Aitken  15:34

Great. Thank you for having me.

Graham  15:36

Thank you.  That was Lucy Aitkin, UI UX designer with booking.com. Creating an experience that adapts to the user's device, rather than adjusting to the size of their screen creates an exceptional customer experience that allows you to stand out from the crowd. Small iterative change allows your users to adapt with a new design at a pace that suits them, rather than forcing them to have to relearn the entire customer journey. It also gives your business the opportunity to gather insights and continuously learn to understand exactly what changes you're making work for your customer base. Thanks for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you along on the next one.


15 Minutes With Luke Frake | Podcast Episode #8

In our eighth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Luke Frake. Luke is the Experimentation Lead - User Growth at Spotify.

Luke's interests are in the field of optimisation and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the User Research Team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users.

In this episode we talk through the challenges faced when a scientific mindset is applied into a business setting, valuing 'failures' as learnings and understanding that in some cases, the failures are more valuable than the successes.

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Graham  00:14

On today's episode of 15 minutes with, we have experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake joining us. Luke's interests are in the field of optimization and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the user research team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users. Luke talks through some of the challenges that come from operating in an emerging field as well as how applying a scientific mindset allows us to value failures as learnings. In fact, it would seem the businesses can actually learn more from their experimentation failures than their successes.

Shelley  00:52

Luke, welcome.

Luke Frake  00:53

Hi. Hi, Shelley. Nice to chat with you. I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Shelley  00:58

Fabulous, so good to have you. We wanted to get straight into it and ask you, what does good experimentation culture look like?

01:06

I think there's quite a few different ways that you can summarise good experimentation culture, I think there's like a few different points that you can consider when looking at different companies and looking around. I mean, firstly, like, how data driven as a company, are they making their decisions, because somebody in some C suite office is saying that this is what they should do? Are they making decisions backed by measurable data, you know, user research, analytic data, anything like that? I think that's one of like the key ones that comes up first, I think people are encouraged to kind of think outside of the box, you know, people enabled to fail, make mistakes and try different things that kind of goes against the curve, what metric people are using? And like how, how are they measuring success in different areas of the business? Big one, I think, is democracy within experimentation culture, as well. So how are people allowed throughout the business to make these decisions that decisions and to make these mistakes? Are people C level making all of the experiment ideas? Or is it coming down to kind of every junior analyst and eveyone else around the company able to do these things? Continuing on - What happens with like results from experiments? And how do people perceive these sorts of things? I think there's like a huge list of like how people can consider and how people can think about these different like bits and pieces. It's a big one, it's a big question to unpack for sure.

Shelley  02:20

Absolutely, we could easily spend the entire episode talking about just that. In your experience, is that a utopian picture? Or is it achievable for businesses?

Luke Frake  02:30

Absolutely, I think it's completely achievable. I think it's very hard to change, though, that'd be my my crux of it. I think when you speak to companies that that do not have a good experimentation, culture don't have, you know, have fear of failure built in within the company, and how kind of top down decisions and don't look at data, I think it's very, very hard to change, you know, purely by the fact that if you have a top down culture, the top is deciding what's happening. If the top doesn't want to change, it becomes very difficult, but it's definitely possible. I mean, you know, I've worked with so many different companies and variety, like varying degrees at this scale of good culture and bad culture, if you'd like, quote unquote. But but it's definitely there are companies that are absolutely smashing this I mean, look at like Spotify, I think is a great company. But I think looking outwards, you know, booking.com, and companies like this, where they really are just churning out experiments, churning out learnings, but also making different from these learnings as well.

Graham  03:27

And would you suggest that, if a company wanted to do this, they start small? And if they're going to start small, where do they start? Because you could go, You know what, let's just both feet in and see what happens. But I guess with that, there's a risk that you'll try once fail, and never go back. Whereas if you start small, you can kind of build to a crescendo, per se.

Luke Frake  03:50

Yeah I think when it comes to running experiments, starting small is one thing, and I think it's important, but I think you touched on a really good point, then it's like, what is the outcome of these experiments? And how do people perceive that and that that is a fundamental part. And I think that's something that's hard to start small. I think that has to be kind of educated in all directions of a company. And what I mean by that is the, you know, the most successful experiments don't always come from the biggest uplift in a metric or something, an experiment that fails its hypothesis, you know, we think we think a is going to happen, but actually it doesn't. And this happens instead, that's, that's a learning. And that's what's important. That's the important crux of experimentation, you're learning. I love when one of my experiments increases a metric  by 15%. And that's a huge win. And I give myself a pat on the back for that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, that's probably built on 20 other experiments that have decreased a metric that's built and 20 other learnings that have come from somewhere completely different that enabled us to get to that point, where do we get that huge win? So I think, I think that it's very good to start small in terms of getting people into experimentation, but really understanding that learnings and knowledge is what you've gained from experimentation rather than dollars. That's not the initial outcome at least.

Graham  05:06

What advice would you have for a business where experimental culture isn't part of what they do, but they're engaging with an agency or an external business that has that as part of the way they do things? And they potentially have two different versions of what success looks like. Ultimately, you would want to bring the company that doesn't have it closer to the company that does that. Is there sort of, you know, any advice on how to bring those two people closer together faster?

Luke Frake  05:37

Yeah, I think it's the same. If you have, there's two situations that are they're really the same here, you either have a company that doesn't have a culture of experimentation, you have a say, an agency that do or at the same time, you can have a company that doesn't have a culture, and you can have an internal CRO team that do. And that,  that's something I've seen all sorts of different places, throughout my time. And it that is the bit that's hard, that's very hard to do, being being the small trying to change the big in these situations is very hard to do. But it definitely can be done. And I think one of the one of the techniques that I would say is really good for this is trying to get some common ground trying to get some commonality, really try to, you know, as the experimentation side, really trying to understand what are the goals and key metrics that the rest of the business, the rest of this company, whatever it is, are really trying to achieve? And how can we explain how experimentation can help us get there. So for instance, if you've got say, you know, say some engineering team that might necessarily not want to run experiments, they think it's a waste of product time explaining how small iterative experiments can actually help them do more more work in the long run, because what they deploy will be more valuable. If you've got a, I don't know, a marketing team who are really focused on their average order value, explaining how using experimentation and failing a few times can help kind of increase that. And therefore it will, it will make all of their metrics at the top of the funnel look much better. So I think that that's something that I've seen people fall into traps with before is always explaining experimentation is like number of experiments running. And not necessarily talking that kind of common language, that, that that piece of truth, if you'd like that everybody can kind of get on board with and agree with.

Shelley  07:18

From your experience, then it's, it's about the process. And by the sounds of it, it's also to do with context. So you can zoom in as close as you like to one particular experiment. And if that fails, it can essentially freak people out, right? Particularly if you don't have data to back it up, or you know, it doesn't, you don't have the learnings that you can apply, necessarily. But actually, if you step back and zoom out and appreciate the fact that that's part of this huge, huge context of all these other tests that are running these experiments that are running that are actually supporting, you know, a much, much broader end goal, then that's kind of the perspective that you're getting at. But I suppose from the from the angle of being data driven, you know, to try and influence leadership to change that culture. How do you do that? You know, when it's such a such a complex ecosystem?

Luke Frake  08:12

Yeah, I think, I think that's the hard bit because like you say, if you focus on a single experiment, as soon as you get your first failure, quote unquote, failure, you're in the position then where people, people don't understand the process, I think what you start to be able to do though, is you start to join up into stories, take that example a second ago, you know, we have a huge weigh in on one experiment, don't tell that story on its own don't signal that one experiment that was hugely successful out, you need to tell the story from the beginning, you need to explain the journey. And we did this, we tried this, and it didn't work. But what that taught us was x y z. So we compounded that on the experiment again, and again and again. And what we had at the end was this huge win. So make sure when you're telling your stories about how you got to this, you know, this, this, when at the end, you include that journey of pains and frustrations along the way, because realistically, that is the journey, that that's what happened. And that's how you start to get people away from this fear of failure, because they understand that nothing, you know, no failure is without learning, and we can move forward and take that into kind of the next and the next and the next and come up with something much better.

Shelley  09:16

Because we tend to understand the research process in an academic setting, you know, we get it and we go, Okay, leave the scientists to it, it's, you know, it's an iterative process, but then applying that mindset, within a business setting. It's sort of like, you know, we're not we're not joining, joining the dots fully. So I think that is such a brilliant explanation to actually say, you know, you need to look at the whole thing and don't even your own, how we present our own successes. We need to be, you know, more honest about it so that people actually understand that we're not undercutting ourselves, it makes perfect sense.

Luke Frake  09:50

Absolutely. I mean, we we so for instance, on our side, we have all of our experiments when they concluded they go into our knowledge base, and that's something that Spotify we share around the entire company everyone can see, that isn't just a pot of winning experiments, that is a pot of experiments that were run successful experiments, inconclusive experiments, failed experiments, because that is the learning. And we really push that as well.

Graham  10:13

So once you've got all the information, how do you get it out into kind of the wider teams on the wider business to get sort of other people excited about what's happening? Because having the information in a single place is one thing, but how do you get people to engage with it?

Luke Frake  10:25

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's, that's one of the most important parts of a CRO team, or in any kind of experimentation team, but often one of the hardest things to do, or most overlooked things to do. So for us, we, all of our analysis is compiled into some kind of deck. So each experiment has its own deck associated to it. And then that is contains all of the analysis and kind of all the details for that experiment. And then what we'll do after that is, if we, in this example, we have kind of a story of experiments, we might create something that's bigger that contains that whole story. So you can see you can drill down into the snippet into the singular, or you can kind of see the bigger, but having these things is only one part of it, right? If we have 1000 decks for the 1000 plus experiments that people run, then who's reading them and who's looking into them. So there's a few things we'd like to do around that. One is just sharing it as broadly as possible. So using kind of internal communication channels like email, or Slack, or Teams, or Workplace, or anything else that people are using, just to make sure that there's like a constant stream of this information being shared out to people, but also doing more, doing more like in person or virtually in person sessions, where you have people presenting these ideas, and really opening up to the floor of this isn't just me taking these ideas and giving them to you, this should be conversational. Challenge, the outcomes, challenge the questions like let's continue this learning and continue, there's bits and pieces of like, how can we improve, because out of those sessions, then you really start opening people up to there is no one right? That's all continually challenge and ask questions, which gets you back to kind of improving the overall culture and pushing those bits and pieces forward. So I think, trying to play as many channels as possible, but also trying to talk directly to people as well. And getting those outcomes is the best way to kind of disseminate that information.

Shelley  12:10

Well, definitely, I guess people in their different roles, respective roles within a business, they will have a completely different perspective of that business. And so to be able to voice their ideas, their questions and challenge exactly what you've been talking about experimentation, different learnings, is a way to enrich that process and also get them buying in to the whole to the whole process behind it.

Luke Frake  12:35

That's it. And I mean, that part earlier on trying to understand people's metrics, having those conversations opens up to that, because when you can say to somebody, this experiment has reduced the bounce rate of this page, and you can literally have the conversation, somebody can ask, well, what does that do for this metric that I care about, then you can start to explain it, you learn what they're interested in. And you can also explain kind of the joint between the two. So it just helps continue that process of conversation around experimentation, which ultimately leads to a better culture internally for experimentation to so I think it's very cyclical.

Shelley  13:05

Absolutely. And a better culture overall, when people are collaborating, communicating. So surely, that's part of how you also get senior leadership excited about this process as well.

Luke Frake  13:15

Exactly. Yeah, spot on.

Shelley  13:16

Luke, thank you so so much of your time, is there anything else in terms of tips and insights that you think people listening might be able to apply?

Luke Frake  13:25

I think I hope the main thing that people take from this is to is to communicate too many times that I go into different companies like when I when I was working within the agency, or when I'm working in companies and different teams aren't communicating. So I really hope the one main thing people take from this is talk to other teams, don't don't be that standalone silo, talk to your agency, talk to the team in your business, whatever it is, understand what people are thinking and how these different bits and pieces work and how they can come together to be something better than the sum. That's that's my main takeaway.

Graham  13:55

And that's good advice overall. So to be honest, outside of experimentation, we encourage everybody to talk to each other because it's, it's always those things that come up in surveys when you know, people ask about business satisfaction and employee engagement. Communication is always the thing that comes up is something that needs work on so yeah, we'll take that. Thank you.

Luke Frake  14:17

Most welcome. Yeah, most most welcome,

Shelley  14:19

Luke. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today, I know that this is going to be an episode that people can really really learn from. It may be a case of I imagine there will be loads of questions off the back of it. So I'm sure we'll get you back for a follow up episode at some point in the near future.

Luke Frake  14:37

Awesome. Lovely speaking to you, Graham and Shelley, thank you so much for your time. We really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Graham  14:41

That was experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake. By shifting our mindset and not looking at experimental failures as failures, but more as learnings and then sharing them with the wider business in an open discussion, we're able to fully utilise the benefits of experimentation within our business. And remember, communication is everything. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with we look forward to having you along for the next one.


Why Removing Elements from a Page is Better for User Experience and Conversions

When it comes to user experience and conversions, less is often more. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of removing elements from a page to improve the user experience. Too often, businesses focus on adding features to their website to solve problems or improve conversions. However, this can often have the opposite effect – coining the term "feature bloat." Feature bloat occurs when a website or product has too many features, which can lead to confusion, a study by Forrester Research found that every additional field on a form decreases conversions by 11%. By removing elements that are not essential, you can simplify the page and make it easier for users to accomplish their goals. So why is it that businesses are so focused on adding features?

The Human Instinct

Because businesses are full of humans and fall foul to human bias'. When humans are posed with a new problem they are much more likely to consider solutions that add features rather than remove them. This is a cognitive bias known as the Availability heuristic. The availability heuristic dictates that humans judge the probability of an event by how easily examples come to mind. So when presented with a problem, our first thoughts are of solutions that add features because they're more available to us.

Removing features or elements in an application is a lot easier than adding features. It's also less risky. So why don't we do it more often? The answer is twofold: first, we don't like to give up features that we've spent time and money building; and second, humans are bad at estimating the value of something that isn't there. This is known as the sunk cost fallacy. The sunk cost of preexisting features is a huge hurdle for businesses to overcome. We conduct existence testing with our clients to ensure each feature of an application or website is earning its keep!

 

Think Differently

Then what can we do to make sure we're not missing out on high-performing but low-effort solutions? We need to be aware of our biases and make a conscious effort to consider all potential solutions, even those that seem counterintuitive. This can be difficult, especially when time is tight, but it's important to take the time to explore all possible options before settling on a solution.

Having strong and objective prioritisation frameworks is great support. You can build in point weighting for solutions by removing elements. This will help you to compare and contrast different types of solutions more objectively.

There are some great examples from companies where removing features can have a massive impact. 

 

Learn From Others

Slack and their "Remote Screen Control" feature. This enabled users to take control over the screen and interact with the applications the host is sharing. 

“Slack ultimately decided to kill this feature. First, it was a niche feature, with relatively low adoption, which was not strategically aligned with the long-term goals of the company. Second, there was a high cost and complexity with maintaining it, especially as we were working through a re-architecture of the front-end.” Fareed Mosavat – VP of Programs and Partners, Ex-Director Product Growth at Slack

We run lots of experiments removing features, as mentioned previously Existence testing. One of the more recent ones for P&O Cruises is the removal of the sticky header. Sticky headers are when the main menu and other elements are fixed to the top of the screen as you scroll down. They are in vogue and are considered best practices in some industries. We found that the sticky header was impacting customers negatively, fewer people were progressing through the journey and purchasing the products significantly! Users were 1.3% more likely to progress through the journey. Our takeaway from this is to consider the value of a sticky header when selling complex products and test everything!


What Happens When You Ignore Your Customers and Define Your Own Journey?

Necessary or Not?

Customer experience and ‘experience journeys’ are very topical in business at present. The common vein running through expert opinions is that a central focus on experience is key to good business practice. Understandably, it can get confusing when it comes to deciding upon whose advice to heed on achieving this in practice. Knowing your customers and giving them what they want is the crux of this philosophy. But what if you were to ignore all of the advice? What happens then? We take a look at some examples of when big brands have gone against the experience advice and how it panned out for them.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

If you are considering going against the grain, you’re not the first. Remember that Snapchat update? Its aim was to improve navigation and user journeys - but it didn’t include any user research. Changes included how stories were categorised, with friends, celebrities, brands and media messages being separated out instead of presented as one combined interface. Further changes also affected how content was presented on users timelines, where previously content was displayed chronologically, the updated version displayed content based on interaction levels.

 

The intent? Good. The result? Disastrous.

Snapchat stock lost $1.3 billion after Kylie Jenner, one of the most influential celebrities on the platform, tweeted about her frustrations with the changes. They lost 3 million daily users after this tweet.

A petition on Change.org was created by Snapchat fans to remove the app redesign, which achieved over 1.2 million signatures. But the response from Snapchat executives? They stuck to their guns. They believed that the update was necessary to expand Snapchat's user base. They insisted that the previous app design was confusing, and that this old format underserved older users and advertisers. In fact their CEO stated "Snap is doing the right strategic moves but needs to manage this process well".

 

 

Ambition Isn’t Enough

Facebook recently rebranded to Meta, in its unwavering belief that the future of the internet is in the Metaverse. But what if it’s wrong? What if people don’t want the Metaverse? Tidio recently released a survey showing that 77% of the sample population believes that the Metaverse will prove harmful to its users. Common concerns centred around addiction to the simulated virtual world (46%), privacy issues (41%), and mental health (41%). So early indicators would suggest that public opinion does not fall in favour of the move by Meta to push for such a future.

Facebook is dead - it just doesn’t know it yet”.

- Jared Brock
Image Credit: Jared A Brock.

Still, Meta executives show such steadfast dedication to a future that users say they do not want. Their new values of “move fast”, “build awesome things” and “live in the future” seemingly enable this worrying trajectory. Do we need to live any faster? Do we really need to be more immersed in technology? Do we really believe that living in the future is in the best interests of the end user?

 

Resistant, or Just Plain Wrong?

Resistance to change is a part of human behaviour. And most effective user experience iterations, though positive evolutions overall, begin with a bit of resistance to the change. But then how is it possible to know when users are genuinely and unfalteringly against change? How can brands tell the difference between fear of change, versus a true hate for the update? Brands can be ambitious and also balance their users' needs and include them on such journeys of change - instead of leaving them behind. Brands must also consider the impact of big bold changes on their user base. Changes to customer experience journeys are almost always best introduced in small, iterative steps. This helps to navigate through the inevitable resistance to change from current users, whilst gently and unthreateningly introducing them to new and improved features in a more piecemeal fashion. According to The Drum, only 31% of people surveyed confidently think they know what the Metaverse is. The majority had little to no understanding of the concept, or what it offers. Meta seems to be missing a bit of a trick here. Why not include their users on their journey?

 

Summary

Not all brands follow best practice when it comes to user-focused customer experience journeys. Snapchat and Meta are two brands that have seemingly boundless resources with which to research their user base, and experiment with new methods. Despite this advantageous market position, they too are capable of getting things wrong. A bit of gut instinct is usually no bad thing. But a whole lot of it (without any actual user input) can be disastrous. Favourable share prices, user bases and reputations can be swiftly undone when brands fail to serve the needs of the customer. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to try new things, but include your users on that journey. Listen to them. Make small changes and take small steps. Don’t shove your new gospel down their throats. Because if they don’t like it, trust us, they ain’t buying it.


Are You Ready for the Travel Boom?

Demand

Traditionally, the travel industry has been easy to forecast and predict. Calendar years could be categorised tidily into ‘peak seasons’, ‘shoulder seasons’ and ‘low seasons’. Seasonality affected this demand and dictated the popularity of travel destinations. For example, the summer seasons usually aligned to ‘peak’ periods of travel and school holidays, and winter travel destinations were usually based on either winter pursuits such as skiing, or sun-seeking ports of call to avoid the cold altogether. But while the travel sector continues to struggle under the strain of Covid-19, its subsequent variants, and ever-changing restrictions imposed by airlines and governments, too many businesses are waiting for ‘normal’ to return. They must understand that this wait is futile - both in time and in energy. There is a new normal for which the industry needs to adapt. This new normal is dictated by world events and by a consumer market that, now more than ever, seeks autonomy and control over their own experiences.

Reflexivity

The travel sector has been among the hardest hit by evolutions dictated by the past two years. As one destination or government opens up, others close. Airlines cancel flights - or entire routes. Travel agents and national carriers have collapsed under impossible financial burdens. Qualified staff must be retrained before airlines can even reinstate routes and flights.

Whilst in the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed rational to wait and see how global events would conclude. But now, two years on, it’s safe to say that disruption has become commonplace and that we ought to embrace it to survive and thrive. Reflexivity to demand is vital in harnessing this market. Seasons and trends are no longer easily predicted or follow logical patterns. They are fast to emerge and even faster to wane. To capitalise on these spikes of activity and opportunity, the structure and infrastructure of businesses in the travel sector must adapt.

 

User-Led

Adaptations to this shift must reflect the expectation of a user-led process. Placing control in the hands of the users necessitates design and infrastructure sympathising and reflecting with this expectation. So, what does that mean exactly? It means accepting that what you think you know, is no longer as accurate as it once was. It means that a lifetime of experience and customer insight in the travel industry has now been completely redefined. This dictates that to adapt and thrive in this new environment, the end-user must become the new expert.

The end-users will and should shape the new norm for the future of travel. But how does that reflect in a business approach to travel? End users are now the masters of their destinies, expect to be treated as such, and will seek and favour systems that allow them to act by this belief system. Antiquated systems that seek to control or define travel for them will continue to suffer.

P&O Cruises are a shining example of how the impacts of the travel sector can be harnessed to improve customer loyalty and pipeline sales. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

 

Summary

Price comparison sites, travel agencies, airlines and hotel booking sites are key features of the travel sector landscape. These business models require - now more than ever - a user-led design that places the power in the hands of the people. No longer can seasonal forecasts or annual trends be relied upon to deliver or regulate sales.

Sales spikes and troughs can occur suddenly and unexpectedly because of internal or external factors, such as governmental announcements, changes to airline policy, or spur-of-the-moment loopholes for foreign travellers. To prepare for, and capitalize on, this new world order design and infrastructure must facilitate a user-led approach to travel. P&O Cruises are a perfect example of how the downtime within the cruise ship industry was used wisely to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in the future of travel.

In the absence of forecastable material, the end-user becomes the new expert on the industry, and as such requires the power to act and control their experiences in a way that is suitable and pleasing to them. To allow them this control, a system that provides for ease and autonomous self-servicing must be prioritised. We are already starting to see the separation between the businesses that are proactive in this approach, compared to those that remain reactive.

Several established industry names have already fallen into administration, whilst others have prospered. For businesses that fall into the former camp, the time has never been riper to take the plunge and adapt to a new future in the travel business.


Design Is Boring

There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.

 

I lied – the above statement is not at all true. Yes, there are certain things we know we shouldn’t do, or we should avoid when designing experiences but to say that there’s a golden bullet is completely wrong.

There are guiding principles and ‘best practice’ approaches that we’re led to believe is the correct thing to do, but does that mean we should treat these as rules?

Absolutely not. If that was the case, then how do we advance the industry? How would humanity move forward if this approach was always taken? In the well-weathered and referenced words of Henry Ford:

 

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

 

So why would this be the case? It’s because the car didn’t exist at the time and no one else had the foresight or confidence to think beyond what they already knew.

This is also the danger with competitor research and analysis. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear “I like what this business does so we want to do that”. This raises several questions; “Do you want to be your competitor? And if that’s the case, what differentiates you as a business? Why would anyone buy from you over your competitor?”.

In some instances, there’s a genuine answer to this based on price or faster delivery, but there’s a limit to how far this can go. It’s impossible to compete infinitely on price and certainly huge logistic challenges to promise things like next day delivery.

 

 Best Practice Should be your Foundation, not your Goal

This isn’t a post to completely disregard the proven approaches and methodologies. This is a post highlighting the fact this should be your starting point. The whole idea of starting these best practices is to create something that ‘works’.

But creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t provide a memorable experience. Just creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t build brand loyalty. Building something that just ‘works’ is emotionless and non-descript. In the words of Charlie Chaplin:

 

“To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men! Machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use that power. Let us all unite!”

Please note that the above quote has been shortened for succinctness

 

 Where Process Makes Sense

There are instances much like the checkout process where having something that ‘just works’ is a good thing. Once the user has got to this level of their journey, it’s about a transaction.

In essence, it’s a process, so recognisable patterns and best practice makes it much easier to complete that process. In many instances you don’t even need a checkout anymore – you can simply use PayPal or mobile payments to complete that transaction without having to engage any further.

 

Where Process Doesn’t Work

On the flip side, the browsing of products is a much more emotive experience. If your shopping experience is the same as everyone else, how will they remember you? Why would they come back? The same rules apply in physical retail experiences and can be seen all over the place

 

 

Apple is a classic example of this. The grey storefront with towering glass panels and a giant Apple logo front and centre is a staple look of their stores.

 

 

And the inside the stores themselves are just as striking. The minimal look, drawing all attention and lack of checkouts is a staple to their physical retail spaces. Even the uniform alignment of the tables is carefully considered to create smooth flowing footfall around their stores.

The same can be said about Victoria’s Secret and their bold pink and black statement so they capture the attention of passing footfall. It’s recognition. The association of a statement look or mark with a brand.

 

What’s in a Colour?

The same risks of identity can also be applied to colour psychology. There’s a very particular reason that so many of the largest social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use blue as a brand colour.

Blue is associated with trust and stability – something that all social media platforms can never be short of. The same can be applied to many other brands such as IBM, Intel, American Express, Salesforce and Visa. All these brands are dealing with sensitive or private information and need to do whatever they can to build trust and confidence in their users.

When you apply the same colour theory to other industries such as fashion, you have very similar issues. You could arguably say that the clothes and apparel should make the brands stand out, or the larger brands relying on reputation.

However, at a face-value brand level, so many high-end websites look the same. Standard patterns, excessive use of black to portray ‘luxury’, small typeface to draw attention to the clothes and away from the price. This is an example of brands following one of two approaches; we should do this because we aspire to be an elite label, or this is what we’ve always done.

Neither of these is a measure of success and unless brands begin accepting experimentation, it’s going to remain this way for a while. The issue with this is that this removes multiple levels of visual hierarchy making and all levels of identity. Suddenly, these brands are merely competing and relying on status, more than that of having their own identity.

 

 

The use of colour doesn’t only apply to the brand, but also the UI in which they sell their products as shown here:

 

 

All the images here are from each of these brands (that’s right, they’re not the same site), but they all start to look the same. All use black and white in excess and lack a visual hierarchy or identity. That could switch around the logos on any of these sites and you wouldn’t know the difference.

So now we’ve moved from a conversation of ‘best practice’ to a conversation of ‘commonality’ in UI, but both are interlinked.

 

Take a Piece of Advice from Apple and ‘Think Different’

So, let’s hope brands open themselves to more creative execution and innovation and avoiding getting sucked into a copy and paste future of faceless, legacy-reliant brands.

Brands, be proud of who you are and what you stand for. Be seen and be noticed. After all, a world without innovation and identity is a world that’s going nowhere.


CX, UX and UI. What’s the difference?

If you’re in the world of digital commerce or to be honest delivering anything via the medium of digital, you’ve no doubt heard these 3 terms before. These are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different people.

The news here is that they aren’t but when you look at things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work with these things every day, it’s easy to see how people get confused with terminologies that have similar meanings yet are fundamentally different.

So, were here to clear up any confusion. We’ll explain these terms individually and show up how they are related.

 

CX or Customer Experience

We’ve talked about Customer experience before in some detail, but we’ll give a quick overview here for context.

Customer experience (CX) is closely linked to user experience (UX), but there is a difference. Unlike UX which focuses solely on a customer’s satisfaction with a product or service, CX is centred on the customer's entire experience. Think of it as a large circle that wraps itself around UX.

It is fundamental to user experiences in different places and at different times. A consumer can have a bunch of different experiences with the same brand. CX is a combination of all these, across all channels where you as a brand engage with your customers.

Because customer experience covers all these different user experiences, it doesn’t just concern your online channels, but in-store ones as well. Great brands often go the extra mile to establish a good CX, aligning different channels such as social media and customer service.

A thing to note here, as we mentioned in a previous blog, customer experience is not customer service. Customer service is a user experience that falls into the customer experience circle.

 

UX or User Experience

The term user experience has an interesting history.

It first appeared when Donald Norman, the acclaimed UX design expert wrote about it in his book, The Design of Everyday Things. It was first published in 1988 and marked a shift from the previous term “user-centred system design” where instead of focusing on the system itself and the aesthetics of the interface, Norman concentrated on the needs of the user.

It wasn’t until the early 90s when Norman joined Apple Computer first as a fellow, and then as a “user experience architect” that the term made its way into a job title.

According to Donald Norman “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Looking at that definition it doesn’t make mention of tech or the internet. It’s not surprising really because the world wasn’t so digitised back when it was defined. While in the original sense of the definition UX could include any engagement of prospects and customers with a brand, its definition has become strictly digital. It is pretty clear to now see how the confusion between UX and CX can come about.

If we take it to the brass tacks, user experience (UX) at its core has the purpose of optimising a product or service to the total satisfaction of the customer. It achieves this goal by enhancing the usability, accessibility, and enjoyment of whatever is being offered.

UX should create a smooth journey for customers. This journey will encompass your customers visiting your website, browsing around, selecting a product, and navigating to the checkout. But it doesn’t end there. It also covers the confirmation of the order, delivery, and customer services. Again, when you look at this you can see how the confusion with CX can happen.

Fundamentally, UX is what helps users accomplish their goals and solve a particular problem they might have.

 

UI or User Interface but also User Interaction

We’re going to need you to stay with us a little here as we’re about to go down a bit of a rabbit hole.

When you look up UI, you may be faced with either user interface or user interaction as the answer. They are not the same thing, but they’re very very closely related. Essentially you can’t have one without the other, but you can alter one without having to touch the other.

User interface design focuses on the design of the visual interface, user interaction design focuses on the design of the global interaction behaviour of the system.

To add in a further complication some people have started to refer to user interaction as interaction design or IxD. Either way, we will explain what they both are and how they link right now, and we’ll attempt to simplify it as much as possible.

 

Let’s start with User Interaction

As the name suggests, it is concerned with how a user interacts with something. As an example, if you look at a website or an app the user interaction would be things like deciding if the user should swipe, tap, press, or maybe even hold to achieve an outcome.

Think Tinder with the interaction of swiping left, right or up. The user interaction or interaction design here was about being able to achieve a result, quickly and easily without the need to find the button on the screen. At this point, it is not about what it looks like but how the person is going to do what needs to be done to achieve a goal.

 

Now Let’s talk User Interface

This is where the visual aspect comes into play. You may have designed a great interaction but if the design of information on screen does not lend itself to the interaction that has been designed, you’re going to be delivering a poor user experience.

The UI should be putting the relevant information in a place that makes sense and is easy to read and understand. It should be making sure it is accessible and that colours and fonts are not creating issues for users making it unusable.

It’s about layout, imagery and animations coming together in a coherent design formula that when supported with intuitive user interaction make for an exceptional user experience.

If we go back to Tinder as the example, the user interface of having the large image front and centre with the information you need to make a quick decision on the front page make the interaction of swiping left, right or up easy.

The addition of tab indicators across the top of the picture let people know there are more pictures to see and that tapping on the left or right of the image moves the user onto the next.

Without that piece of user interface design, the interaction is dead. There would be nothing to tell a user that the tap is the key to more information. And at the same time, they have added a small icon to indicated that there is other information hidden within the profile.

Giving it a tap opens it up but if the icon was not there and you were a first-time user, you may completely miss that interaction or possibly stumble upon it by accident.

 

Bringing it all together

Hopefully, we’ve managed to offer a clear explanation of each of the elements and how they link together. It is easy to see how they can be confused but when you understand that they all need to coexist in harmony and that they all hold an equal weight of importance you’re able to harness them and create truly special things for your customers.

Just remember that UI is a part of UX, which is a part of CX. All of these are dependent on one another, and you can create an engaging experience when they’re in sync.

Exceptional customer experience needs exceptional user experiences, which requires an exceptional user interface and interactions.

And at Eclipse, this is exactly what we do. We make good things happen by putting data and your customers at the heart of every strategy, design, and experience decision to create more personalised experiences that make a genuine difference.

If you need a hand with any of these elements, we’re here to help. Just reach out to our Experience team and we can get to creating exceptional experiences together.


What is Aspire? (and why you need it)

Making the best-uary, of your estuary

“I have a dream…and that dream evolves based on new data and learnings”

Just to clarify in case my attempt at creating a clever headline has confused anyone. Much like rivers flowing into a single point, I’m referring to aligning multiple workstreams and projects into a single vision.

As businesses increasingly compete and challenge each other to reach the top of their respective markets, one of the challenges faced is throwing things at the fan and seeing what sticks. This type of action can have great results but ultimately results in a completely disjointed experience on their website.

These are some of the reasons why, at Eclipse, we offer a programme we call Aspire.

 

What is Aspire?

We all love to dream. We all have our own interpretations of what ‘great’ or ‘next-level’ looks like. This ultimately creates extensive discussions and debates on who is right and who is wrong (hint: neither answer is correct until proven).

The cause of debate is generally around where time, effort and budget should be spent. But let’s wait a moment…let’s take a step back – what is the objective? Is this aimed at a short-term gain or long-term sustainability of the business? Whatever the answer may be, projects often head off in different directions and create a disjointed experience.

Think about it. I’m sure you can remember multiple times when you’ve been on a website and one part of the site feels significantly better/different than the other. “Meh” you may be thinking…as long as it works. This view, I can absolutely tell you, is short-term thinking and can seriously damage your long-term objectives.

This can lead to a stage when you feel you really need to invest heavily in an unplanned redesign of the whole website, or you turn users away as the journey no longer makes sense. You may not even realise it till late on as visitor numbers have gradually (or sharply) declined and you’re not sure why.

Our Aspire programme is about going beyond the short-term. Aspire is about removing all the barriers of today, be that technology, process, budget or limitations to create the best experience you can envisage for your customers.

Aspire is about making you stand out in the market as being the “best of the best”…the “Top Gun!” (apologies Tony Scott). Most importantly, Aspire is about aligning all experiments, changes or parallel workstreams within teams or organisations to ensure everything and everyone is driving towards achieving the same vision.

Whether you’re a single team running multiple channels of experimentation, or multiple teams operating individually, Aspire is here to help you align your workstreams to create consistency from both a UX (User Experience), UI (User Interface) and CX (Customer Experience) perspective.

 

How often should you run Aspire programme?

This is a really important question to ask. Aspire creates this long-term vision, but this is a constantly evolving thing.

As you learn more about how your customers are interacting with your website, and you as a business, this vision will evolve. This can be due to new technology hitting the market, change of circumstance or even changes in the political and public landscape (particularly relevant over the last year).

We monitor this through behavioural analysis using data and predictive patterns. “X has just been announced – how can we mitigate the impact now, so it doesn’t affect us going forward” is just one example of how that may emerge.

 

Cheesy analogy time…

A post like this wouldn’t be the same without a cheesy analogy, so here we go. Think carefully about how you align business objectives. I’ll compare Aspire to rockets and fireworks.

The short-term way of thinking can be seen as a firework. All these channels shooting off in all directions. All are exciting, all are great and can end up providing a beautiful array of colour and success, however, ultimately fade away and come floating down to earth as ash.

Aspire on the other hand is comparable to a rocket. Aspire is your launchpad, that looks beyond the initial excitement of colour and wonderment, to a longer-term future that shoots you into orbit and allows you to stay there.

The Aspire approach can be run as an individual programme, but we aim to use this thinking in everything we do. We consider the pros and cons based on your individual business objectives and goals.

So, if you’d like to have a chat about how this can work for you, give us a call and we’d be more than happy to see how we can help.


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.