Day 1 of UXI Live 2011 was a day of workshops in Tel Aviv’s Kfar Maccabiah. Russ Unger and Whitney Hess from the US were joined by a raft of local experts for a packed day.
Guerrilla User Research—Russ Unger
Russ led an extremely fast-paced workshop that really took us out of our comfort zones. He started out with a brief presentation in which he outlined the benefits of guerrilla research:
- It’s faster, less rigorous, and LESS EXPENSIVE than regular research.
- It provides sufficient insight to make informed decisions.
- You can fit it into just about any project.
- Some research is always better than none.
- It is a gateway drug to “proper” research.
He went on to give some examples of the kinds of testing you can do guerrilla-style, like man on the street, Rapid Iterative ProtoSketching, user/browser role-playing, A/B testing, unmoderated testing, mobile testing, and more. Then the fun really started. Russ had us (in groups) do a pitch and critique exercise, where each group had to come up with an email interface for grandma. Then he picked one group and its leader had to pitch their idea to the room, who then critiqued it. The next exercise went much deeper. Each person was tasked with sketching out ideas for a system for a hotel that would let guests check in, check out, order room service, etc. Then we pitched and critiqued in pairs. Each group then pooled its ideas and came up with a design, which we then went out and tested. With real people. We had to go out and accost people on the street and ask them to look at our designs (in return for chocolate). We also recorded what happened using our smartphones. (In this case, the whole group was there and saw the problems that the users had, but in real life, this would be invaluable for showing to stakeholders.) It was simply astounding how much this simple activity revealed. With just a couple of real people, we found several problems with our design that we never would have discovered without this research. Thanks, Russ!
Landing Page Design—Tamir Cohen
Tamir started out by asking the audience to define landing pages—what are they? We concluded that a landing page has a single goal, gives one answer to one clear question, and is usually part of a marketing campaign. Users reach them via search results, banners, or email marketing campaigns. In the first exercise, we had to define the audience for an imaginary site by creating ad-hoc personas. Knowing our audience is crucial if we are to meet their practical and emotional needs. Tamir stressed that it is very important to establish good communication with the marketing person who is responsible for the campaign—they have the information that we need (product information, audience, competitors, page objectives, etc.) The goal of a landing page is conversion, whether that is the user making a purchase, subscribing to a newsletter, downloading something, or whatever. And we need to have a good idea of the number of conversions we will get for the money we have invested. We were tasked with designing the skeleton of a landing page in just ten minutes, keeping in mind that you only have a few seconds to capture the user’s attention and get your message across before they decide whether to stay or leave. To do this, the page must be relevant, clear, inoffensive, and not confusing. You shouldn’t:
- Try to be too clever, with teasers or plays on words.
- Use flash intros—you will lose the user’s attention.
But you definitely should:
- Keep it simple.
- Focus, focus, focus—minimize distractions.
- Provide just enough information.
- Keep it clear and clean.
- Focus on the user’s needs and the value you can provide them. (Don’t focus on your offering.)
- Talk about the results that your offering will provide for the user.
Tamir concluded by explaining what a landing page is made of:
- The main area of the page should be dedicated to addressing the user’s feelings. It should arouse curiosity. If it asks a question, the answer should be “yes”. Use positive language.
- Secondary text should include more detailed information.
- If the page requires information from the user, the form should be as short as possible and make it hard (or impossible) for the user to make mistakes.
- Testimonials should be short and real. They should include the name of the person and some details.
- The text of the call to action button should be phrased as a clear action, and if possible it should incorporate the benefits to the user. It must be emphasized visually and look clickable.
- Use known marks as trust builders (e.g., ISO9000 mark, padlock icon, PayPal icon)
- Video has a huge impact, but not always in a good way. Unless used wisely, it is not recommended.
- Stick to no more than two or three colors. Use it for emphasis only where needed.
- Use only one font, and minimize the number of different sizes. Avoid decorative fonts—they reduce readability and are not always found by search engines.
- Be sure to say thank you if the user converts, and do it on a separate page. This page will help you accurately measure the number of conversions, and can be used to offer additional products/services.
Web Analytics—Assaf Trafikant
In the world of old-fashioned advertising, measurement was hard. But on the Internet, you can measure everything. And analytics tools allow to us not just measure and collect, but to analyze, report, and hopefully understand and then to use this understanding to achieve our goals, whatever they may be. But as Assaf explained, the available analytics tools give us our analytics data so nicely pre-packaged and presented that it is all too easy to just use the dashboard that we are given and look at it regularly, but no more than that. He advises taking a different approach—first to figure out who your (internal) audience is, find out the questions that they want answers to, and only then to start thinking about how analytics can help answer them. He stressed the difference between passive analytics (the ones that you can’t do anything about, like users’ screen resolutions and the percentage of people using smartphones to access your site) and active analytics (where you actively match the analytics to your questions). For UX specifically, the questions are usually concerned with user behavior: what do users click on? Does this feature work or not? How much time do they spend on different things? Do they scroll down this far? Analytics can answer all of these questions and many more besides.
Creating a Culture of UX—Whitney Hess
If an organization doesn’t have a culture of UX, your methods and professionalism don’t matter—it will be very difficult to push UX there. So we need to be business strategists, to broaden our focus beyond just our part of the outcome. We need to plan our moves carefully and work on convincing the right people. Negotiation and persuasion are core skills. Whitney presented five case studies that represent the different roles that UX practitioners typically have (sole UI designer at a small tech company, UX VP at a large marketing company, independent UX consultant, and so on). We organized ourselves into groups according to which of these roles we most closely identified with. Then Whitney had us do an exercise where one group member tried to convince the others of their case.
Whitney talked about a number of negotiation techniques from two books that she recommends: Getting to Yes and The Psychology of Persuasion. There are a number of different negotiating techniques that people can use, and it’s important to identify which they are using with you. She suggested several advantageous approaches:
- Work alongside the other person to attack the problem together.
- Don’t make assumptions about their opinions.
- Act differently from what they expect.
- Show them that you are able to shift your position.
- See things from their point of view and adapt.
- Focus on interests that are shared by both sides, not positions.
- Generate many possibilities before making a decision—creating solutions is a different process from making decisions.
- Make it easy for them to make the decision.
- Decide the criteria together in advance.
Then she gave us an exercise in which each group was given a real-life challenge tailored to the group’s persona. Each group was tasked with preparing a pitch to give to management in an attempt to improve our position and promote what is important to us, making use of the negotiation and persuasion techniques we had just learned. When we were done, Whitney told us how each situation had actually played out in real life. She concluded by revealing one last weapon that we have in our arsenal—if all else fails, we have the ability to say “no”. Stay tuned for our report from day two.