Posts Tagged "user experience"

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Presentation: 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

At the center of an integrated marketing ecosystem (I hate that word too, but it works) is the brand website. But it still amazes me how many brands don’t get what it has to do. This deck tells the story.










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Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

We’ve all heard of the experiment that was done in the 60’s where kids were promised big treats, but only if they didn’t eat the yummy marshmallow sitting in front of them. The researchers were testing the degree to which kids could delay gratification in order to receive a greater reward in the future.

The kids didn’t do very well, and since then our increasingly instant gratification world has left many with the impression that perhaps our culture suffers from a lack of self-control.

An article in the New York Times last Sunday outlined recent studies that seem to point to a different reason why people opt for short-term rewards vs. the promise in the future. The research points to our uncertainty of the future as a key influence in decision-making.

The basic idea is a bird in the hand is real, but who knows what could happen if you go for the two in the bush. This reflects our universal experience of the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future.

For example, if you arrive at a train platform and it is packed with people, do you assume that the train is likely to arrive soon or that it has been delayed? Without more data, many would be influenced by the unpredictability of life and some might opt for a cab rather than an undefined wait. On the other hand, a simple clock showing when the next train was due would take all the uncertainty out of the situation.

In another version of the marshmallow experiment, two groups of kids were promised a reward from a researcher for not eating the marshmallow. In one group, before the experiment started the researcher demonstrated behavior that showed he was unreliable, in the other group the researcher showed himself to be completely reliable. The kids with the unreliable researcher waited 3 minutes before eating the marshmallow, the kids with the reliable researcher waited 12 minutes.

All of this got me thinking about behaviors brands ask of consumers such as filling out forms, watching videos and so on. In so many instances we require a consumer to do something based on the promise of something that will (or more likely may) happen in the future.

All too often, consumers do not know when it will happen, how long they will have to wait, or what will happen while they are waiting.  I can easily see this feeding that fundamental sense of future uncertainty that the researchers talk about.

So, how as marketers can we bring a sense of certainty to these interactions?

One answer is to tell people how long things are going to take. We can also tell them exactly what is going to happen while they are waiting.

It’s clear that before consumers invest time in an action or an activity they go through a risk or reward calculation. If the uncertainty of the future is a part of their calculation, it’s up to us to come up with ways to minimize its effect.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!

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How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

If you’re a marketer, you hear the term customer experience a lot. It’s a convenient catch phrase for all the experiences that a consumer has with a brand from awareness to advocacy and it’s the product of user experience design (UX) work, which focuses on creating superior customer experiences.

While many people intuitively understand that customer experience is pretty important, however, they don’t always see the value of user experience design. Value is the keyword here because at some point you are probably going to have to justify an investment in UX.

For example, the ROI (return on investment) of the user experience for a website has been a comparatively easy to figure out in the digital world. You can value and compare the conversion rate before you redesign a website using UX and also afterwards. Improvements in simplicity and relevance invariably deliver better results, which can be easily measured. The calculation gets harder, however, when a brand has to consider investing in a unified customer experience strategy and execution.

Since people hop from channel to channel so quickly and frequently today, a brand can’t have a good experience in one place and a lousy experience in another, especially when all it takes is one difficult, inconsistent experience to damage all your good work.

A friend recently went into Home Depot looking for a sawhorse. After looking in vain and not finding anyone to help him, he went to Lowe’s and used a prominently displayed Product Finder to quickly find it. He then posted to Facebook that he was done with Home Depot and Lowes was now his vendor of choice. He has over 200 friends, so what’s the cost of that customer experience faux pas?

As Forrester says:

“A good user experience builds brand equity with every interaction, but a bad one can completely erode that equity on all levels. Worse, it can cause a customer to leave you for a competitor, never to return again.”

What brands clearly need is a unified experience that reflects an in-depth understanding of what the consumer is trying to accomplish, while at the same time differentiating the brand. The good news is that consumers still want relationships with brands; the bad news is that consumer standards are so much higher than ever before, and they no longer have patience for brands that don’t do their homework.

The work of user experience results in the design of all the interactions that a brand has with consumers. That includes interactions on websites, mobile apps, social channels, the telephone or in the store. Its purpose is to ensure that interactions not only succeed in their purpose, but reinforce the brand promise and identity. UX design must therefore be based on a comprehensive understanding of the consumer, the context and the category. That means starting with research, journey mapping, competitive analysis, content strategy and all the other foundational work that informs UX design.

It’s not cheap and it’s tempting to skip it, but according to numerous studies it costs 50-100 times the original investment to fix an experience that’s not working, to say nothing of the cost of repairing a broken brand perception.

Many would argue that the field of battle between brands now is not technology or even creative, but customer experience. However for many seeing the connection between a better customer experience and the UX work required to get there isn’t always clear.

A few of the numerous benefits great UX delivers includes more consumer engagement through increased conversion rates, ease of use, higher satisfaction and higher comprehension, better ROI from larger transactions, more lead identification, improved brand equity, higher customer retention, reduced costs from fewer redesigns, fewer errors, less maintenance, and less support.

Of course it would be terrific to have an easy ROI calculation that makes the business case for investments in UX. Some organizations claim that every dollar invested in UX delivers a return of 2-100 times, but in the end it is a very difficult calculation.

It’s akin to asking the value of a great advertising campaign versus one that’s just OK. We all know intuitively it can be huge, but how do you measure the value of originality in advance? Some might also point to the cultural orientation of a company as an indicator as to whether UX will be recognized as a value or not. Companies that have internalized a marketing culture, which are few, are more likely to see value vs. manufacturing and distribution oriented companies that often have a deep mistrust of marketing.

The bottom line is that in a world where consumers rule, great customer experience is table stakes for any serious player. That means taking a serious, systematic, scientific approach to getting there, which requires great UX.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!

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The 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

In the recent annual “Trust in Advertising” report for 2013 from Nielsen, we learned:

Brand websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to recommendations from people I know”.

This is a clarion call to all marketers to get their website up to scratch or risk becoming irrelevant to the modern consumer.  To that end, here is a list of the 10 most important elements of a good brand website today.

Strategy

A website only works if it’s built on comprehensive strategy. Your strategy is the iceberg under the surface that keeps the whole thing afloat. If you don’t do this work you will not get a site that cultivates and converts prospects, you will get a brochure.

Focused UX

Consumers come to your site in order to accomplish something. Identify what those things are and then execute the most important ones better than anyone else. Whether someone is there to explore your offerings or accomplish a task, your job is to make the experience easy and worthwhile. This is where modern user experience (UX) techniques are invaluable. They help you craft a site that unfolds effortlessly in a compelling, personalized experience.  That’s what it takes today to convert prospects and strengthen bonds with your existing community.

Social Integration

Social interactions and content bring your brand credibility, activate your community and amplify your brand. They attract search through SEO and include everything social from simple integration to ratings and reviews. While companies used to shy away from the associated risks, the lack of social not only sends a negative perceptual message, but means you have less influence over the conversation.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization makes your website, and more importantly the content within it, findable. It’s an art and a science. Every page and every piece of content needs to be optimized to your maximum advantage. That means keeping up with the latest search engine developments like Google Hummingbird, which recently changed the game again. SEO is cheaper marketing when compared to just about everything else you do. So remember every time someone discovers your content through search, it is one cost-per-click you don’t have to buy with AdWords.

Analytics

Analytics are not the same as metrics. Metrics tell you how you’ve already done, but analytics tell you what to do next. The many analytics packages you can buy will actually feed you metrics, albeit in an easy to consume form. What they don’t do is tell you what those metrics mean, and what you should do as a result of them. This is the work of the analyst and where the rubber meets the road.

Marketing Automation

These software platforms provide the missing link between your marketing and sales. There are many options now, and as a result these technologies have become inexpensive and much easier to integrate. They allow you to track the activity of individual customers, and in many cases prospects, not only on your website, but also across the digital spectrum, including email, blogs, search and social media. They are especially important if you have a large database of customers and prospects with email addresses. They enable personalized, automated email marketing and integrate with many CRM systems.

Landing Pages

If you have an integrated marketing strategy, then most people coming to your website probably enter at a landing page. This is because landing pages allow you to tailor a visitor’s first impression based on their point of origin. Personal relevance is one of the key elements of persuasion and tailored landing pages are how you begin a compelling personalized experience.

Mobile

Soon, most people will view your site on a mobile device of some kind. Your site should be designed to work optimally on every mobile device. This means you have to navigate whether to use Responsive web design, which creates a web experience that adapts to the device it is being viewed on, or to create native apps for different device platforms, which unlike responsive sites allow you to use the built-in capabilities of the phone.  Either way you need to offer a flawless mobile experience that fits what the user will be doing.

Customer Service

The experience of your website should reflect your brand’s attitude towards customer service, which is a key consideration for consumers. You are either an easy brand to work with or not. Your customer service capabilities should therefore be built into your site from instant chat to intuitive search.

Content

Last but not least comes content. Content is the lynchpin of modern marketing in digital channels, and your website is just a vehicle for organizing and presenting it. Consumers have figured out that they are no longer a captive audience for advertising.

So instead they are looking for content that makes them smarter and/or entertains them. That content can be a video, an article, or even an interactive tool. In the end, however, it is how you are being judged. Therefore, it’s not good enough to just tick the box.

If your content is not compelling, engaging, valuable and original, people will ignore it. If you do everything else right, content will still be the difference between success and failure. It is what search engines will value and will activate your social networks. It will be the basis of a relationship started and the trust that is cultivated. Once you have the infrastructure of your marketing ecosystem in place, of which your website is a key piece, an ongoing flow of content will become the fuel that ignites the brand engine and keeps it running.

You might also like:

Why Brands Should Optimize for Google Hummingbird

The Big Data Bamboozle

Responsive Web Design POV 2013

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  • 05.06.13

Responsive Web Design POV 2013

Responsive Design

How can you design a site that works well at any screen size, keeps SEO and analytics under one URL, and requires less future maintenance?

Introducing…responsive web design. In very basic terms, a responsive design is one where the website adapts to the user’s screen size automatically by resizing images, videos, navigation, text, and more so that it fits nicely at any size.

Responsive design ensures that your content can flow into any device because you’re designing once for all platforms.

Our updated-for-2013 presentation answers the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • Why should you care?
  • What’s the design process?
  • Is it right for your site?

View the presentation below and contact us if you want more information! Click bottom right corner for full screen:

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  • 03.19.13

#TalkIQ – Web Development

IQ Web Development

We get asked a lot of questions by clients, friends, students, colleagues, you name it, so we want to bring our knowledge to the masses.

This Thursday (3/21) from 1:00 – 2:00PM EST, Laurie Vitas, a lead developer at IQ, will answer any questions you have related to web development, responsive design, HTML, CSS, and more! This will be the first of a series of Q&A sessions over a range of topics.

Tweet @IQ_Agency with the hash tag #TalkIQ and you’ll receive a quick response from a true expert in the field!  

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Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1/2: Bad for the user, bad for the architect

Frequently asked question
“FAQ” is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ or “FAQs” are pages or entire sections of sites and forums devoted to topics that lots of people have problems with. The idea was a decent work-around in the burgeoning days of information architecture and search [1, 2], but the FAQ is now a total anachronism. It’s time to retire it altogether.

Yet the promise of the easy fix still seems to hold sway among the decision makers of institutions, regardless of the limitations of the FAQ. User Experience Architects and Information Architects do not generally advocate for the FAQ because, well, we know better ways of getting things done. It’s the managers and clients who make the final call, and although the influence of our expertise is often nullified by this power disparity, we bear perhaps a large part of the blame by not fully making the case against these things. We defer rather too hastily to the “well, if you’re going to do it” survival technique [3,4,5,6] that ultimately makes us die a little inside.

In this blog post and the one to follow, I discuss what I think are the fundamental weaknesses of the FAQ and how we as UXA/IA/EAs can reframe the argument.

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Wirestorming: Templatize, organize, and versionize the wires out of your skull

Wirestorm

Do we know yet the volume of an idea? It’s Wednesday and I’m just out of IA and into wireframes. The pipes are knitting themselves into a fray. That’s how I know something is up there. My skull is not illimitable.

Wireframes. Wires: the boxes-and-bubbles tech docs that will instantiate the requirements of the project and breathe life into my IA. Wires: my big deliverables. The ironed down, buttoned up, spit shine proof that I “know what I’m doing.”

Heavy stuff. This cursor ticks with every new idea crashing into my cranium. I sift and sieve, identify and modify, assimilate and aggregate. How to turn this IA. In my brain is a swirling abstract with scrawny tendons and gawky legs. I command it to incubate.

The cursor blinks. My temples begin to bulge. A tumbleweed hops across the surface of my desk.

A wirestorm’s a-coming.

And here’s how I’m set to weather it. Maybe it’ll work for you as well. Continue Reading

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Gotta Share

GEL, a conference held every year in New York that focuses on good experience of all forms, got a funny surprise when a seemingly real presentation on a new social media service named twirlr turned into a musical number by the good folks at Improv Everywhere. The number parodies social media oversharing, which was sure to be a big hit with tech-savvy folks in the audience.

Full writeup of the event

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Body Language of the iPhone, Windows Phone 7, Android

The touch screen smartphones are sleek and immediately respond to your gestures.  Is there a standard set of gestures or does each have its own body language?  In reviewing the standard gestures of the iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and Android, there does seem to be a core set across them.  The following table illustrates the core set of gestures to use in applications.

Table 1. Gestures for Mobile Phones with Touch Screens

mobile phone touch screen gestures

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