A couple of weeks ago, I finally moved from Quickbooks Desktop to Quickbooks Online. The product isn’t perfect but it’s going to help me stay on top of accounting in a way I wasn’t previously doing. Hooray me.
As I clicked around the site to learn more, I noticed something interesting. Let’s start with the home page. It wants you to know there is a free trial!
You then see:
30 days free at about $10 month saves $10. Sounds OK. But I kept clicking. I went up to Small Business in the global navigation, and one of the sub-choices was Pricing. Here’s how that screen looked:
Wait a minute. 20% off for 6 months is a savings of $12 in total. That’s more than the free month trial. And when I signed up for it, early in the process, it told me I can cancel any time within the first 60 days and I think get my money back. So the risk is low.
Why not offer everybody your best pricing possible? Or just one deal. People might struggle to remember which page had which deal. I don’t even think people would like one page that says get one month free OR get $2 off per month for 6 months.
User research and testing can help you know if people are more likely to go for the monthly discount OR the one month free, which may have the added perk of not entering a credit card yet. And then user testing can help you know if how you want to present that quickly makes sense and feels compelling.
Remember a month or two ago, I promised this site would get a new design? Well, it’s finally up. Still a few tweaks, but it’s going well.
I know some of my readers may be new to UX/UI, so I’ll explain that the site is designed to look like an annotated wireframe. A wireframe is like a mockup of a site, page, application, or anything someone might use on the web or a mobile device (phone, tablet, iPad). You can “sketch” them, where you use drawn-looking lines, and handwritten fonts. That helps your client know this is just a mockup, and not to go crazy over every 0.001 of an inch. The 960 grid (button at the top right) is a tool we use to line things up. Yes, you can click that button on this site; it’s not just for show.
I wanted to create something that was about what I do and how I do it. I’m fun, fresh, and don’t like to be put in boxes, so it doesn’t make sense for me to make another boring UX Architect website with mostly words, 2 tabs, and lots of rectangles.
One thing I also changed for the new site is that my drop-down menus in my navigation are on click rather than on mouseover. We’re all used to menus dropping down when we hover, but the problem is that the hover state doesn’t really work well on touch devices like phones and tablets. Once you hover your finger somewhere, it’s assumed to be a click, and that’s it. If I can only get to your drop-down menu on hover, it will be harder to use on touch devices. So my new nav menu is on click! Usability, baby! 🙂
And the business card matches.
I hope the site makes everybody smile.
I found an interesting website dead end, and I think it’s on purpose. Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted that she was going to go have a McFlurry. That sounded pretty gross to me, so I Googled to see if I can find the nutrition info and ingredients in a McFlurry. I found it. Here is a shrunken screen capture of that page (click to enlarge).
What did I think was so interesting about this? The top has no navigation. My next move was to try to get back to a general nutrition page to possibly look up other foods. I don’t eat at McDonald’s. Ever. But I thought if I could find something truly terrible, I could joke with my Facebook friend. But there was no way to get back to any nutrition section from this page. Just the McDonalds home page.
I guess if I were McDonalds, I would NOT want people easily getting to the nutrition section. When I DID finally find that, the page seemed to focus WAY more on “delicious” than “this is possibly good for you.” In fact, the page seems more like a series of apologies about how they’re TRYING to make things slightly healthier.
I remember when McD’s ran commercials saying their burgers were “100% beefy.” BEEFY? Like beef-esque? I also remember when they were proud to say Chicken McNuggets were now made “with white meat.” WITH white meat? You mean a McNugget is some weird laboratory hybrid of white meat and… and what?
So I think that the website dead end I hit was on purpose. Why make it easy for people to get back to read more about what’s in this “food,” and how many calories and other not-good things are in there.
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?
It all started with a weird little Facebook ad asking me if I wanted to work for a game developer in Germany. The job was in Germany.
Well, no and no, but I wanted to click to see where it would go. Before I show you that, let me show you the home page of this company, as I screen shot it that day (click to enlarge):
That’s a familiar website and home page design. I call it “glorified WordPress template.” You see it a lot, and it can be very effective with messaging. It often is lacking a bit in the mood, personality, and uniqueness departments. But you do get the message of what this company is about.
The Facebook ad actually clicked through to this page. Definitely click to enlarge:
What a totally happy world! What a unique page. Don’t you sort of want to work there now? Berlin is evidently a land of happy cartoon clouds and lots of grass! OK, maybe not totally, but this does really make an impression. A positive one. Stuck with me! It was after seeing this that I backed up to the company home page, and saw the purple and white page above. That suddenly felt drab, undesigned, uninspired.
I think you have to live what you do. If you’re a gaming company, there is no reason to have a website that looks nearly identical to a website that might be for a doctor’s office. Or an eCommerce shopping cart. Or a hotel. Your business builds worlds people love to explore. Your website should be a world I’d love to explore.
I was stuck in the hell of trying to get support from Network Solutions last week (on behalf of a client’s domain). I was filling out the support form when I hit the pull-down menu for “select a topic” (the reason why I’m contacting support). What unfurled was the most jumbled, wacky menu I’ve possibly ever seen.
I needed help trying to figure out how to transfer a domain between NetSol accounts. Which thing do I pick here? I don’t see “domain names” or “domain transfer” obviously on the list. Evidently, I wanted “nsWebAddress,” which meant so little to users that they had to put “Domains” in parens.
Branding fail. If what you call your product is so NOT memorable that when you use your branding, you have to remind me of what you really mean, then it’s ineffective and another point where I can easily disconnect. I mean, you must be doing something really wrong when “Design/Develop” needs an explanation in parens.
Make drop-down lists as short as possible. Organise them in some obvious, intuitive way. And if you need to explain something, something is wrong that needs to be fixed rather than explained. Find a more logical and intuitive way to name or list it.
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?
Click to enlarge the above, which is the navigation on the Vonage website once you have logged into an account. I love Vonage. I’ve been with them since 2004. But I can’t stand their website. It’s time for a serious re-think!
Let’s start with what can be removed from here. Orders lead to a long list of times you’ve changed your account. I have NEVER needed to look at that list. That can be buried under My Account. Billing should also be tucked under My Account. I rarely need to look at that. These things don’t need to be in the main nav, especially when I’ve rarely clicked on them in 6 years. I’m mostly logging in to control what Vonage calls my Features.
Add-Ons would be what you click to learn about a handful of features Vonage recommends. Even if I’m signed up for them, they are there. Those are just marketing and info pages. I can’t control anything related to my account from there. Features is where I would go to do that… it’s where I can control the add-ons I have. There has to be some logical way to combine those.
Similarly, messages that pop up around the member area are illogical. There are huge messages telling me to sign up for Visual Voicemail. I am. I have been signed up since they released the feature. The system should know that, and show me no message, or some other message.
Also interesting is that the Vonage website seems to be 1014 pixels in width. My netbook has a resolution of 1000, which means I will get a scroll bar.
The Vonage website has had this navigation for years. They changed the design at some point to make the buttons medium grey with charcoal lettering. Not an readability upgrade. I’d love to see Vonage make their website easier to use. Every time I have to log in, I dread the amount of time it will take me to figure out where they’ve tucked what I need to do.
I recently read a blog post about why a company called Wesabe went under, and lost market share to Mint.com. The guy has some good insight and self-awareness, and he points out how Mint had a better UI and process flows. A quote from his post:
“Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn’t help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach’s ass.”
It’s important to read that a few times and digest it. He’s talking about making the website easier to use. The more form fields you show someone, the less likely they are to want to take the time to fill that out. Or they may not want to share all of that information with you. So the message here is to ask as little as possible, and do not require fields that you really don’t need. Anything that keeps that form from being processed could be another person just giving up.
Remember how “instant gratification” people are. We may not need to slap them with a “reward” right away, but I think it can be rewarding to join a site and begin using it by expending the least amount of my time and effort. I’m generally very patient, but I like a website that respects my time and effort, and tries to make things really fast.
I am using Mint.com, but not as a tool to change my financial behaviour. I use it so that with one phone app click, I can see the balance in all my accounts, and recent transactions. That’s all I want from it. So if Wesabe was most focused on helping people change something they probably didn’t really want to look at or change, then that may disconnect from people as well. That’s why I prefer the Mint phone app. It doesn’t try to make me change anything. Just shows me some good, updated info, all in one place.