Thanks to Mashable for saying this out loud. In short, Mashable is saying there are 4 main reasons your UX investment might not be paying off:
- You hired the wrong people.
- You’re not letting the right people do their jobs.
- UX work is done in a silo.
- UX team brought in too late.
The #1 Reason Your UX Investment Isn’t Paying Off Probably Is…
Who you hired. If I had to guess, I would guess that most of the UX failures in big and small biz are who is doing the UX work. I am guessing this because I read job descriptions ALL THE TIME. And all y’all are looking for the WRONG people. You’ll surely find them!
But your mistake starts with the person who wrote the job description.
As soon as you say this UX position also will be responsible for all the graphic design, icons, logos, and artwork, you are no longer looking for a UX expert. Or you ask for a UI person who’s great with UX. How will you assess how great they are with UX if their resume and portfolio are all graphic design?
And based on what the job pays, I know how experienced you actually expect someone to say. You ad can say you want them to have 3 college degrees in HCI and at least 7 years in the industry, but if you are offering $60,000/yr in a major city, you are going to get someone young and inexperienced.
Runners-Up For “The Wrong People”
Here are some actual answers I have gotten from startups or bigger companies when I asked who did the UX on “that.”
- “We had an intern do it.”
- “Our developer said he was great with UX, and would include that in his work.”
- “I’m pretty good with these things, so I’m going to take care of the UX and layouts.” (normally said to me by the CEO of the company)
I’ve never had a company tell me the UX pro they hired turned out to suck. I HAVE heard people and companies later lament the lack of a UX person or team. And I have heard companies lament that the person who was going to tack UX onto his/her job wasn’t really good at it. Play it safe and hire a pro!
Last week, a recruiter considering sending me in for a potential contract job with a very big and well known company basically told me that my website didn’t look like other UX people’s websites… and therefore, I would probably be rejected by this big company because it’s not what they would want to see. I told her that I had seen websites of many other UX/UI consultants, and it appeared they were all mostly words with some tabs… and did she think my website needed to be like that. The basic answer was yes.
Seemed odd to me. In order to showcase my unique talents and experience, I should create a conforming website that copycats others in my industry? I told her that that sort of bland website made sense for who I am, and the types of things I am normally hired to do. Even other recruiters at her company have remarked that I tend to go way outside the usual boundaries of what a UX person is called in to do. So I’d like a website that reflects that. I’m not going to bland down my website to pretend to be a very corporate person so the big corporations will hire me. I’m not corporate. Recruiters are welcome to send me out for as many potential gigs as possible, but my sweet spot is startups, entrepreneurs, smaller companies, or any company or department with that mindset.
So, what’s up with this website?
The website we’re talking about is the version that’s very blue with a big flower, in case you’re reading this some time down the road when the site has another look. I call it Field of Lillies. Before I built my website, I Googled a lot of people claiming to be UX experts, architects, etc… I don’t think of them as competitors, and they shouldn’t think of me as a competitor. But I wanted to see how they were presenting themselves. Well, if websites are designed to represent what working with someone might be like, I think there are a lot of bland, in-the-box people out there.
It was a universe of *yawn*. Most of the websites I saw were nearly 100% words. Few or no graphics. Nothing creative. Nothing innovative. No real website design. Sure, they had a colour palette, but no real website design, mood, or personality. They were like coloured wireframes. On some of them, the links were mysterious or few. If I had to guess what was “cool” based on the websites I keep seeing, I would say the trends are very few buttons and grey-on-grey. All the websites looked the same to me. I couldn’t tell you any of those people’s personal or business names. I just remember there was a site with a solid brown background. There was a site with a bunch of magenta-coloured boxes with the companies for which that guy did work. And then his “about” was grey words on a grey section on top of a different grey background. Snooze.
I wanted to make sure that my website stood out in a world of grey, darker grey, slightly lighter gray, squares and rectangles, and carbon copies. I have something else to say about where my talent, skill, and expertise are. I wanted a website that was definitely different. Yes, I know it’s a little weird. It has a giant flower… that you can’t avoid or forget. It goes with my name, which I hope you can’t forget. I hope I’ve dropped an anchor with people, and out of the pile of UX websites they see, they might remember “the one with the flower.”
I’m not a traditional UX person. If you’re a really traditional UX person, you may not like my untraditional background and style. If you are hiring for a traditional UX person, especially someone who has done this stuff at Google, famous food and beverage companies, and so on, you’re not going to want someone as outside the box as I am. That works perfectly for all of us. I don’t compete with you, traditional UX, UI, and designer guy. I would never work for the companies you list on your site. The gigs you want don’t want me, and the gigs that hire me didn’t want you. We should be pals. 🙂
The best place for me is exactly where I am: I’m in the Bay Area working with startups and small companies who like someone who can wear a lot of hats. They like someone brimming with feature ideas, marketing ideas, and branding ideas. Someone who doesn’t see the project as starting with a flow chart and ending when someone signs off on a prototype. I like to be part of the concept, and I like to carry it through art direction, even into development and testing.
I’m the go-to UX/UI, branding, marketing, and fresh ideas person for startups and companies looking to think like startups. I’m not a typical UX person. I’m not going to have a typical UX person’s website. The person looking for that same-old UX/UI person’s website with all those tabs, boxes, and words doesn’t want me.
This gives me an idea for a new design for my website. I’ll be sure to blog about it when it’s live. Give me a few weeks to get it cooking…
But to answer my question of what should a UX expert’s website look like? It should look right for the type of person you’re looking for. There’s no right or wrong way. There are traditional ways to showcase a UX architect or designer, but if we all always followed all the traditions, what would UX be? Websites would still be very 1996. I’ve been ahead of curves, out of boxes, and never in a cubicle for 16 years now. I must be doing something right. 🙂
Wasn’t it just last week I was saying nice things about the website design of TwentyFeet.com? Well, I just cancelled their service.
What I didn’t know until I checked my Twitter stream was that it was grabbing info about my account, and publicly tweeting it out.
I’m going to declare that very not cool. OK, I like TwentyFeet’s approach to the look of their site. I showed the site to friends, and zero of them could tell what the service was. I signed up, and I’m still not sure. It just seems to give you some stats on your followers, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. And then, they’re tweeting things out about how my Twitter account is doing?
So I tweeted asking them how to turn that off. They tweeted back about 9 hours later apologising, and sending me to a URL. The URL went to a part of their site answering the question of how to turn off this auto-posting. OK good. But it wasn’t an answer. It wasn’t “go uncheck the autopost box.” It was a video that was over 2 minutes long. I should watch a video about how to turn off something I never wanted on, something that should be an obvious, intuitive checkbox preference somewhere?
You know what was faster and easier? Going into settings, and removing all of my social media accounts from TwentyFeet. Took seconds. Was easy and obvious to find. Completely intuitive! Easily marked links to “Delete this account” next to each Twitter and Facebook account. When I tweeted them this fact, this is what they wrote back, “Deactivation actually is one click. We use 2 minute video to explain how activation went.” Oh jeez. Hands up, who wants to watch a 2-minute video about why a preference you didn’t want set, and can undo in one click, was originally set? That’s going to be very few people, I would think. They then tweeted me again that they rewrote their help file to make it way easier to change this setting. I’d also suggest that it NOT default to on since I think most people would want their Twitter stats private rather than broadcasted.
TwentyFeet made it easier to completely remove my accounts and essentially cancel my service, but not easy to turn off an autopost. UX Fail. When it’s easier to cancel service than to change one simple preference, guess which behaviour you might inspire?
I have a UX/UI Review on Skyara, just to see if I can connect with anybody looking for what I do. I’ve sold a few. It’s been fun!
Recently, I sold another, and the message that came with it was just glorious. A woman bought it for her boyfriend for his birthday. Yes, I’m serious. He has a start-up with a website in beta. He had evidently found my Skyara listing, and showed it to his girlfriend. She decided it would make a great birthday present. I’m honoured!
Not sure what to get for that special founder or co-founder in your life? My UX/UI Review service, of course! So much better for you than chocolate.
I recently hit the Best Buy site because I am curious about the upcoming Asus Transformer Android tablet. Evidently, it’s pretty well spec’ed, and only $399. Attractive! I was wondering if they had a page on it yet.
I searched for “asus transformer.” That was a mistake. I got 99 results, and some were definitely not Asus, but were transformers. I didn’t know Best Buy’s search defaulted to “OR.”
I figured the easiest way would be to narrow that down by manufacturer. Only Asus stuff would get me closer to this tablet, right?
You’re kidding me. I know Asus is often seen as ASUS, but I’d like to dream that the Best Buy system sees those two words as the same. This means their entire database has two separate entries as if they are separate manufacturers.
Also, there is only one Asus Transformer. Why so many results? Perhaps this is the default boolean OR. I’m not happy with this user experience. And PS, it’s not on the Best Buy site yet evidently. Null set.
In early April 2011, an eBay staffer gave a talk at the Product Camp conference. Part of his presentation was talking about a problem eBay was seeing, which they called pogosticking. This is where a shopper is on eBay search results. She clicks on an item to view the item’s individual page. She spends less than 2 seconds there. She goes back to search results. She chooses another item. She spends less than two seconds there. Et cetera. How do you get shoppers to more quickly find the right items for them, and cut down on this behaviour?
As the top expert on eBay shopper behaviour on the planet, I know I can improve and possibly solve this one. Say you’re looking for a Sprint Overdrive on eBay. OK, you know what you want. You are looking for which seller has it in the condition in which you expect it, for a price you’re willing to pay, who will get it to you quickly, and stand behind it if there is a problem. Here is what eBay search results look like now (click to enlarge):
How much of what makes or breaks my decision appears there in search results? Not that much, unfortunately. The obvious solution seems to be to just add more information to the search results… but what information? And how will we present it? Well, let’s start with what info a shopper is unlikely to need to see.
- The shopper doesn’t need to see the seller’s feedback. You can opt in NOW to see that in search results, and I guess many people didn’t know they could do that, or felt that they didn’t need to see it. But when I see the Top Rated Seller ribbon, I know this is supposed to be one of eBay’s best sellers. It may not matter if the feedback is 2000 or 40,000. This is a person that eBay is pretty sure will make me happy.
- The shopper doesn’t need to see the name of the seller OR the name of the seller’s store. You can opt in now to see those too. While I wish eBay sellers got a bit more play with their own branding, I know that a shopper’s decision is not made or broken on what the seller’s name is, or what the seller named his eBay Store. I am just as likely to buy my Overdrive from “Bob’s Bargains” as I am from “Electronics Neighbourhood Warehouse.” I made up both names. Sorry if any eBay seller is using those. 🙂
Just so you can see that there are options to show this now, you can see from this screen shot that if you click Customize View (on the right side, above search results), one set of options has to do with displaying seller info (click to enlarge):
So getting back to our search results, how do we build in the info the shopper needs to see? With as few words as possible. People hate reading. It needs to be visual, and tell the story at a glance. So I worked up a visual wireframe. No, I wouldn’t expect the final product on eBay to look like this. But this is where I would be going with a UX/UI project that aims at fixing this issue. After the image (click to enlarge), I’ll give you some points on my intentions for what you’re seeing.
I actually reworked a lot of what you’re seeing. Here are some points, and note that I didn’t fully work up the second search result’s appearance:
- I added the Top Rated Seller badge to the item thumbnail. If eBay thinks that shoppers are concerned about picking out eBay’s best sellers, then let’s drop that badge out by where the eye is naturally going.
- I put the item title and subtitle on one line, not wrapped. Easier to read.
- Made the price larger. Moved Buy It Now, Best Offer, and bids right under it. Those two things go together.
- Made FREE SHIPPING into a happy, glowing green delivery truck. Shoppers will only need to look for glowing green delivery trucks to know this is an item with free shipping. Drab blue delivery trucks mean the seller is charging for shipping. eBay’s trying to push sellers more and more into doing free shipping, so having a happy truck on your search result might help inspire a seller too. I put the shipping price right into the search results for the second item. When I clicked into it, it told me $10. So eBay knows this, which means it can be put on the search results page. I know that many sellers get “dumb” questions like what do they charge for shipping. Hopefully, something this visual and hard to miss will be an upgrade from how shipping is shown/hidden in search as well as on the individual item page. I didn’t work on that one yet, but the shipping price can be easy to miss, leading to customer service questions that waste the seller’s time since the info IS there!
- I made it clear from where this seller ships (NY), when he will ship (2 biz days), and how. You now have a good idea of when you’ll get this. But if you go into the individual item page, eBay will tell you a range of days when you can expect to get this in your hands. That’s why…
- The calendar is a placeholder for something way more advanced. The calendar would NOT show one day. It would show a range. eBay is calculating what days you’re likely to have this in your hands for the individual item page. So this image will show in an bold and hard-to-misunderstand way, “APRIL” at the top of the calendar on the red, and then “24-27” underneath (it would be more of a rectangle than a square to make room for the numbers). Boom. Obvious. No need to read much or think. This is when you’ll get this! When you eyeball all the search results, you’ll quickly see who is getting this to you fastest. Sure, you can read that it’s the guy who ships soon from near you, or in an expedited manner.
How long did it take you to figure out what I mocked up? Zero seconds? Was it just darn obvious? Did it leave you with questions or doubts? I think it’s fairly solid. It’s really just a slightly-designed wireframe, but I have confidence in it! I think this would be way better than eBay just slapping non-urgent info there, like the seller’s store name.
Will this idea solve every problem? No. For a collectable, a shopper will still want to go into the item, review lots of pictures, read about it, etc… Nothing we can put in search results to explain what this is in the detail it deserves. For a used or refurbished item, I’m going to go in and want to see more pics (is there damage?) and read about the condition (does it totally work)? Another concern is if a used item is guaranteed, warrantied, or can be returned. That might be nice to bring out into search since it CAN make or break a decision. But before I bring more info into search results, I’d love to see eBay test an idea like mine. I’d like to see if pogosticking goes down, and if not, I want to conduct interviews that find out WHAT info these people needed to see, and how they found it so quickly (if they’re staying less than a few seconds on an item before leaving).
Publicly-stated problem. Publicly-stated answer. I hope eBay will give this a try.
In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote about how I think some sites are mis-using the colour grey, especially for text. They’re making text harder to read, which hurts the user experience.
Today, I want to write about a different take on using grey and how it affects the user experience. Today’s example is eBay. A few years ago, eBay removed most of the design and personality from their site. They stopped using their main font (Matrix), and made everything very plain. The site now mostly has no design. It mostly looks like a wireframe to me. But that’s a complaint for another day. Today’s complaint is that eBay uses grey on purpose to make things invisible… on purpose.
eBay’s search results are sorted, by default, in an order called Best Match. This is eBay’s algorithm. But you can “opt out.” You can re-sort your search results to sort by price, what’s newly listed, what’s ending soon, and a few other choices. Not everybody knows that. You might not know that because the UI doesn’t highlight that feature. eBay would want to be able to show that when search results come in, people stick with Best Match because Best Match works. If eBay made it clearer that you could re-sort, I think more people would, and the numbers would show less adoption and more “opting out” of the Best Match search results. I re-sort every time to lowest price.
Take a look at some sample search results. Notice where the sorting option is? (click to enlarge)
Did you find it? It’s not that easy. It’s in a fairly logical place, but the page has SO many paths for you to go down that it’s easy to not notice the sorting option. You’re naturally looking at the search results. You’re also eyeing the left side categories to try to figure out how to narrow down your results. You may not notice tiny grey words on a white menu on a grey background with “Sort By” written in dark grey on a light grey background. Invisible, but I think deliberately so.
I’d like to see eBay innovating again. I blogged in 2009 (in a different blog) about some ideas I had for eBay, how they could use sliding panels with side tabs to show and hide the information people want to know when looking at an individual item for sale. These tabs would stay anchored on the side as you scroll down the page. That way, you don’t have to scroll back up to see shipping details or the seller’s reputation. I still think this would work very well for the eBay “vibe” and experience, plus it would solve problems sellers and buyers experience on the individual item page, which eBay calls the View Item page.
But back to my original point. Grey on purpose is, well, strange. I would love to see eBay search results where the “Sort By” menu is brightly coloured and hard to miss. I’d like to know if they see more re-sorting from that, and then, do they see more purchases because people are then finding more of what they want, thanks to the items sorted another way. I’d LOVE to see this tested. I don’t think eBay will do it, but I’d love to see it tested.
I recently heard a few people say that if you’re not somewhat embarrassed by version 1.0 of your website, you’re doing something wrong. I can’t think of a reason to not make the first thing the public sees from you as fantastic as it can be.
An old commercial has the timeless line of, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I was thinking about that again when I saw answers to a Facebook question about why the search engine Cuil failed. People explained the early tech problems they had, which then made search results junky. People got fed junky search results, and they didn’t want to come back or give them a second chance. Cuil wasn’t enough to make them stop using Google or whatever they had, and that was it. Impression formed, decision made.
To me, version 1.0 should have been thoroughly tested, especially with a focus group made of up people from your target audience. Launch something you’d be proud of. Sure, it won’t be perfect, but why not shoot for close to perfect?
I recently saw a startup that has plenty of competition already launch something that I felt needed more time in the oven. The UI was gloomy and dreary whereas competitors had designed “brighter” happy cartoon lands like Twitter or Skype. Their UI was dark and plain. I found things hard to use and counterintuitive in places. How will they bring people over from competitors? Why not show me something compelling and amazing so that I stick around and tell friends?!
This also reminds me of what I once heard Seth Godin say about the Microsoft Zune, which was being developed when iPods were already all the rage. He basically said that if MS is not developing the iPod killer, then what’s the point. If you’re not developing the product that will make people throw away their iPod, what do you really have.
I ask that to startups who are launching sites, products, or services, that may not be ready. You often only get one very short chance to make the impression people will always have of you. Show them the best you have in that moment. Don’t show anything that’s not quite ready. Show them the iPod killer for whatever your market or vertical is. If your company is not so hot that people will drop what they are already using, then what do you really have?
Part of the user experience is customer support, and part of that is your hold music. Last week, I was on hold for Quickbooks for about a half hour. That’s a lot of time to listen to hold music and have a certain experience.
This was the most depressing music I’ve ever heard. Minor-keyed, slow-moving symphonic movements. Depressing bass clarinets. Old standards done in electric pianos. Horrible. I would hang up if Quickbooks worked as promised, and I didn’t need to use it right now.
In the 1990s, I used a long distance phone company called Working Assets. Their whole angle was that a percentage of your monthly bill was given to green charities. That sounded good to me at a liberal, liberal arts college. Whenever I used to call them for support or issues, the ONLY song their on-hold played was Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” You’d know that song as the musical vehicle that reminds you over and over that everybody must get stoned.
But back to Quickbooks. Why am I on hold for 25 minutes on the last mailing day for when quarterly payroll has to be mailed (I’m writing this on 30 October 2010)? Didn’t anybody think there may be more action today, and put more staff on? It’s an instant gratification world, and I don’t know why I’m on hold for a half hour.
My estimated hold time of 25 minutes was 35 minutes, and then the agent told me that the payroll department is off for the weekend. Again, today is the last day to mail in quarterly payroll reports and be on time. You’d think someone might being in some payroll support guys today.
When you are asking someone to do something on a website or inside an application, sometimes, their natural reaction in their head is to say, “Give me a good reason.” Give me a good reason to:
- Tell you my age or reveal my complete date of birth.
- Disclose my income.
- Give you my fax number or mobile phone number.
- Tell you how many children I have.
- Upload a photo of myself.
- Give you my credit card.
Can you? If you don’t have a great reason to collect that data, consider not asking the question. Do you really plan to fax me something? Do you need my payment info right now if this is a free trial? A free trial should feel free and without obligation, but you want to take and store my sensitive payment information for later?
People are more likely to fill out and submit a form that is shorter. Less time, less work. More trust. I would trust a company more for knowing what to ask and what NOT to ask.