By Leah Ryz, User Experience Research Lead
It was my first time in Philadelphia, but not my first time participating in Shop.org. And I was excited.
This year, I was a panel member with two other User Experience (UX) experts who all ended up being lovely as well as very knowledgeable. And so I was looking forward to a lot of things last Tuesday 6th October.
If you weren’t able to attend, then I’m afraid you missed out on a great panel discussion! But luckily for you, I have revisited some of the more interesting topics that came up last Tuesday.
An app for life?
“There’s an app for that” is a bit of a running joke amongst people nowadays, but if you think how technology has changed over the years, it’s becoming truer and truer. For example, apps like Tinder have revolutionized the way we date. Not speaking personally (I’m not single) but I have plenty of friends who have a love and hate relationship with Tinder. On one hand, the gamification of swiping left and right is incredibly addictive, but on the other, they feel there is just too much choice. I’ve heard a lot of stories: The confusion when you first meet someone on Tinder who you feel has committed to something exclusive, till you realise that they are back on Tinder, addicted to swiping left and right. What’s happened to getting to know someone before you swipe right past his or her face?
And then there is Songza, which I hadn’t even heard of up until recently. Songza enables you to create a playlist for everything and anything. From cooking to exercising to relaxing or working – all the way through to even breaking up with someone (probably when you realise that they are back on Tinder), Songza has music for every given moment in your life. Our moderator, Anne Marie Stephen nicely warmed up the discussion and explored the reasons why we are seeing more and more technology facilitate this snap decision culture we’re in at the moment and how it offers up experiences, which are seem to be so finely curated.
The inconsistent consistency challenge!
We discussed the difficulty brands face with ensuring consistency of design on their Omni Channel experiences. We all know that designing for mobile is still growing, rapidly, and so it should be. So many people choose mobile as their device of choice, and it’s a myth that it’s only ever used on the go. But how can brands keep up and ensure that their Omni Channel experiences are consistent? Well, my fellow panellist, Debbie Kiederer brought up a story where she was in a shop, when a customer walked in, called over the assistant, pointed to her mobile and asked the assistant where she could find a particular dress in the store. The assistant replied with “Ma’am, don’t you know that we don’t offer that dress in-store? . We all laughed, because how on earth would the customer know that? So, it was concluded that it’s simply not enough for brands to understand the context of use surrounding the customer’s behaviour, but, they need to closely review their content strategy and ensure that all of those different experiences are consistent. Think of it this way: For a user, they are shopping by engaging with your brand. They aren’t thinking to themselves “I’m currently shopping and engaging with your brand, and on mobile/tablet/desktop”.
Careful not to alienate your users through design
Which user group does your business care more about designing for today? Acquisition or retention? Because really, it should be both! I asked the audience to ask themselves which goals are most important to their business. For example, are you looking to acquire more business over than what you wish to retain, or is the other way around? In my opinion, it should always be a balance. I discussed how important it is to work up-front with Stakeholders to ensure that they understand whom they are designing for. My co-panellist, Jane Paradisand I found ourselves in strong agreement here. It seemed to be that in both of our experiences, projects could go horribly wrong if there isn’t consensus amongst the internal teams from the start!
I went on to explain that businesses don’t focus enough on retention. For example, if you spend your entire marketing budget on trying to get new business to convert through your site for a one-time purchase only, it’s not working as hard for you as it could be. Newly acquired customers will have some similar expectations to those existing users and through research and validation techniques, one can ensure that both are kept happy, albeit differently. But be ready to shift the focus more to one than the other once you know what exactly that focus is. And when you want to obtain feedback, recruit users who shop with you regularly as well as those who don’t and prefer your competition. It’s an old saying, but knowledge really is power, and it’s equally important to know what you’re doing well as it is to understand what someone else is doing better.
The Buzz of Big Data
Data - one of my favourite subjects at the moment, but perhaps for a different reason to what you might expect. The panel moved on to discuss the latest craze in big data. I am a strong supporter of the use of data to help inform behaviour and trends. However, I think we’re getting to a point where it’s really becoming quite overused. The amount of software on the market now that promises to analyse and deliver answers to some of the most complex design problems encourages an over-dependency.
Data tells you what is going on, but it doesn’t tell you why it’s going on. This means that businesses get to a point where they reach a local maximum that they can’t overcome, and this constant reiteration of designs without real purpose can result in producing little or no value to the business.
If you are stuck in a rut, the best way to overcome this is to ensure that you’re using some form of qualitative validation within your testing. I suggested to the audience, that if you are testing live landing pages, it’s always a good idea to recruit some users to give feedback on those pages. Yes, even when they are live. So when you are trying to interpret the numbers, you’ll have a much better understanding why one page is beating another or why everyone has started to suddenly bounce on your homepage. Then, not only can you fix the problem but you can also learn from what you’ve found out and perhaps apply the same solution later on in another project.
How do we future proof design?
The session was finalised with a question about designing for the future, and for a couple of minutes, there was silence. It was pretty hard to answer. In fact, I went on to explain that it’s impossible to predict the future. You can be future friendly but never future proof, as we don’t know what this will hold. But Debbie answered this pretty efficiently. She suggested that businesses must continue to take calculated risks, and we all agreed. It is true; research plays a very important role in understanding the needs and desires of the user and this goes some way to helping us adapt to future needs, but ultimately, we need to take risks to survive. We also need to be prepared to fail. Personally, I think we’re brought up to believe that failing is bad, (and my thoughts on that could easily spill over into another blog post) but in this context, failing most certainly is vital. As long as you fail fast and get up faster, you’ll get to where you need to be quicker.
In designing for an uncertain future, it’s obvious that we’re not going to get everything right all of the time. After all, I sometimes feel that brands aren’t even getting most of it right, now.