Friday, July 18, 2014

Facebook revives Social Commerce, but will it work?

The topic of Social Commerce (or SocialCommerce if you like to remove that middle space to look modern) has arisen again recently with two announcements:

Firstly Twitter a few weeks back allowed a 'buy now' button in its promoted tweet messages.
Secondly today Facebook have announced that they will do something similar and allow online shoppers to click a “buy" button. This will allow them to purchase items in adverts or other posts, without leaving the social network platform.

But will these small but important innovations fuel the much discussed 'social commerce' development of social media?

Or will it merely create further annoyance to Twitter and Facebook users, who already have a significant proportion of monetised screen real estate taken up with promotions and ads?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Give the customer what they want

“The customer is always right, even when they are wrong”, was the phrase drilled into me at my very first retail job, a weekend activity that furnished me with enough money to gain some independence during my late teenage years (e.g. to drive a car and to date girls clearly out of my league).

I questioned this mantra at first, asking why someone had the right to reverse common sense just because they wielded money. However, I subsequently came around to this financial perspective, especially when it earned me further work and therefore some incremental income. I had therefore succumbed to one of the pressures of modern life, I had followed the money and given the customer the control.


But now, as I consult on eCommerce projects across the globe, I find a similar situation… that the online customer is right in whatever they do, even if they don’t do what you want them to do. In other words: you can craft what you think is the best online user experience, you can come up with what you believe is the most persuasive design and you can create the most engaging content I the eyes of your stakeholders… however if the relevant customer doesn't have what they want to make their decision (e.g. to take them forward to purchase), then all your hypotheses aren't worth anything.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

UX actions to do BEFORE you redesign your website - part 2

Here's the second part of my thoughts on the UX actions to consider before redesigning your website. Part 1 is available here.

4. Benchmark
So who in your competitive market is doing a better job of things than you online and who isn't? What does great look like for your digital customers and why? If you cannot answer these two questions, then you clearly haven't assessed the competition and understood what makes other sites better.
Action:
Review at least a handful of competitors websites to understand how they solve the same problems you have. Assess the features that make them easy to use (you might even want to look further afield at organisations that aren't necessarily in competition with you, but just have similar goals).
Note: For a small cost you can even point your usability tool at these competitive sites and give users the same tasks you give your own site.

5. Map out the customer journeys
Not all goals are the same on each site. Whether your aim is to generate leads or to directly convert users to buy a good or service, the path to acquisition can be difficult and dependant upon a huge number of factors. Action:
Map out the journey through your site for each of your key personas, ideally from initial awareness and acquisition through to them converting and beyond (e.g. into being a brand advocate). These functional flows will explain to you, your stakeholders, your developers and your testers what is happening to your users.
Note: Remember to include the situations when things don't go exactly according to plan.

6. Build your sitemap
It's not all about functionality, you also need to map out your content and the site's information architecture.
Action:
Draw up the hierarchy of your primary content pages and understand how each of your topics is delivered (if necessary for each device).



7. Wireframe the key templates
Producing a schematic or blueprint of every key page will create a visual guide of what your online users will experience. Wireframes will explain: the kinds of information displayed, the functions available, the priority of the information & functions, any display rules and effects of personalisation & other scenarios.
Action:
Create your wireframes based upon your customer journeys and the sitemap. But remember to test your creation before going into design.


  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Digital leadership - be more than an online expert

Being a digital leader means you need to be more than just an absolute expert in one area of online technology or marketing. You may know all about PPC, display & remarketing, SEO, email , display, affiliates and social media, but this isn't enough. To truly be at (and stay at) the forefront of digital, you really need to have the following qualities or experience:

1.  A leader of people
It's not just enough to have line managed the odd eCommerce staff member or digital agency, you need to be a mentor & coach, a motivator and a decision maker who can support and build a high performing team members to do great things.

2. An all-rounder
To understand how to get the best from that team, you ideally need an understanding of all aspects of online business. From being able to produce a focused digital business case to justify further investment, through to engaging with your opposite number in the technology department... you are going to have to have a broad spread of expertise.

3. An innovator
What have you done in your career that wasn't just "me too" but truly ground breaking? Have you been creative in your delivery of a new digital platform or applied a new method or approach to a building a difficult user interface? Have you been the first in your industry to trial a new device or an advanced technology that was subsequently adopted by the rest?

4. A strategic brain
Are you able to consider the bigger picture and link your team's work to the business drivers of the wider company? The creation and ownership of your organisations digital strategy should sit with you, it's yours to manage shape and develop as the company grows in its adoption of new online technologies and practices.

5. A customer advocate
Do you know who your customers are and what their digital needs really are? Do you know why your online presence or your eCRM initiatives work well (and why sometimes they don't strike a core)? It's not just a case of hiring a user experience (UX) person to do your thinking for you... you also need to get under the skin of your users and know what drives both their loyalty & resistance.

6. A scientist
Getting data from your analytics package is a basic necessity for any online practitioner these days, but being able to dive into the dashboards and analyse the insight that the information is giving you needs more than just a little diligence. You should also have experience of carrying out multiple experiments to improve your goals, ideally from a programme of on-going AB and Multi-Variate tests.

7. A communicator
It's fine to have strong views on those topics that you are passionate about, but you also need to be able to get your ideas across in a structured and eloquent manner.... especially to senior stakeholders.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

UX actions to do BEFORE you redesign your website - part 1

Before you dive into a full creative redesign of your next website project, here's six user experience tasks I recommend you carry out.

1. Understand who your customers are:
Some of the biggest mistakes I've seen on sites are when they assume who the customer is... without actually find out the trust and validating that assumption. I'm sure we've all seen or heard of the exec who comes along at the beginning of a new digital project and says "I know who our customer is, I don't need to research them" or something similar.
Action:
Dip into your site's analytic package and see if this provides any insight into who your current visitors are (just don't assume this will be the same going forwards or that the same type of visitors all convert in the same way).
Note: If this doesn't tell you much, then carry out whatever research you can (Alexa demographic figures, online survey, site registration details, etc.)

2. Create customer personas
Personas are simply a way of describing the attributes, qualities and required outcomes of your key customer types. I believe that the aim here is not to be too descriptive about who they are (e.g. what income they have or what car they drive) but to describe their online needs (e.g. what they specifically want from your website).
Action:
Jakob Neilson says that you only need to test with 5 users to get the best from your usability tests [link] and I also think the same is true of personas. In other words, I recommend creating more than a couple but don't create too many.

3. Review your current site(s)
"Our site is rubbish, I want something entirely new" said the business stakeholder to me on a recent website redesign project. To which I replied... "that rubbish site is currently making millions of £'s worth of revenue for you each year, it must be doing something right!"
Yes, sure sites can always be improved... but just to slate everything about the current one without actually know what is working well (and conversely what is not) is of vital importance to ensure that you do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Action:
Carry out a set of user test on your website to see what users like & don't, plus where they incur obvious struggle in completing their goals.
Note: A few tests using a tool such as whatusersdo.com will highlight key user issues and also provide a permanent record of just how 'rubbish' your site is or isn't. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Lack of Digital Skills – not just a Scottish Problem

A workforce skilled in online & digital tools & technologies is key to developing an organisation’s digital agenda. From the more specialist digital-specific & IT / IS / ICT roles, through to the generalists who may need up-skilling and re-training on average every 3 years… the hiring and development of skills necessary to take forward your online roadmap is not something to take lightly. In fact, the lack of digital skills could be one of the greatest factors in why your digital change strategy fails.

I've previously blogged about the lack of digital skills in Scotland and highlighted the lack of technical, marketing and associated skills (design, user experience, content, etc.) ‘North of the border’ where I live. But this skilled and empowered workforce isn't just missing in Scotland, or even across the UK. In a digital skills presentation today from ScotlandIS, the Scottish IT Trade body, I was actually shocked to hear the fact that there is a shortfall of 1 million digital jobs across the EU.

Scotland is therefore only a drop in the ocean compared to this, with only 10,000 people a year needed here to fill the gap.

So what is being done about it?

  • Are schools, higher education and further education producing the right courses and talent?
  • Are companies investing enough to drag seasoned employees (who may have previously resisted or ignored the use of digital)?
  • Are cities and even governments doing enough to encourage digital enterprise in specific areas that need it most?
  • Are boards hiring Chief Digital Officers to champion online excellence?

I fear not.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Social Media in action – CalMac Culture

As some readers will know, one of our clients at Ideal Interface is Caledonian MacBrayne, the ferry company known as CalMac. Based on the west coast of Scotland, they are the UK’s biggest ferry operator by size of fleet and cover 60,000 square miles of land and (mainly) water.

One of the initiatives that I’ve been involved with has been CalMac Culture #calmacculture – an online competition to find original singer / songwriters, leading to a slot in several of Scotland’s key festivals (e.g. Tyree Music Festival, etc.)
If you happen to be online tonight, you can see the ‘Battle of the Bands’ being streamed live from King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow:

Take a look:
https://www.youtube.com/user/calmacculture