Kelly, it’s so great to have you on the show.
Thanks for the invite. I’m excited.
Yeah, me too. First of all, let’s differentiate for our listeners UX from CX.
Well, I’ve been talking a lot about this. The world of UX tends to be a little bit more on the product side, but there is a lot of crossover with CX. UX stands for user experience and it really comes from engineering and product. CX started from the marketing world and it’s about customer experience and learning to listen to the voice of the customer. There’s a lot of crossovers that we’ll unpack in today’s discussion.
Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about user experience and how that feeds into marketing. Where’s the intersection between those two?
User experience started from development, but then, people start realizing that it wasn’t just enough for something to work or to function. It needs to engage the people and to really enhance our lives. Then, as we get into more product experience, they have to seamlessly integrate with everything that people are doing on a regular basis. That seemed to both work in personal lives. User experience now crosses past the boundaries of simple interaction design and into the ecosystem of product experience.
What does that mean? Interaction design and product experience are probably terms that our listeners are not that familiar with, for the most part, marketers. I know interaction design is a specific thing but can you describe or define these for our listeners, and then differentiate the two.
Interaction design is really you looking at a system and interacting with that system. Usually, it was forms and then it moved into applications. In the good old days, it was the pets.com. You had to buy dog food, and you had to go to the website, select your dog food, select your leash, and then purchase it. That’s an interaction. As we’ve moved into a product world, these are obviously, the phones that you have in your hands and you could interact with those. But as they start to merge with car interfaces, and handheld devices move to your wrist, and then we move into voice interfaces, those are all different levels of interaction we’re having with systems. But as a product, it could be something that you wear, something that you hold, something that you touch, and in the future, something that you communicate with your voice. Those are all interactions that we’re having. Does that make sense?
That’s interaction design. What was the other term that you used that were interaction designs, moving into something that’s more of product experience?
Yes. Interaction design is really moving from one system to another. Product design is taking that into something that is tangible. A product and a service are often differentiated as a service being something that’s online, something that you interact with, but you don’t actually hold and feel. Products tend to be something that has an industrial design attached to it. It usually has a form factor and a physical presence. But as we move into the future, not every single product or service is going to have a physical presence. It definitely is getting blended, and it’s a bit confusing these days. I guess the easiest way for you to think about a product is something that you can hold in your hand, something that you can touch and feel, and interaction being part of that product experience, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical.Well-researched personas can create a level of empathy. You know who they are, you can figure out what they're doing, and you understand how to design for their needs. Click To Tweet
You’ve been involved in developing the interaction experience or the product experience for some pretty successful products and some big brands.
Yeah, we’ve been really lucky. We have actually been working with a lot of top tier product companies consumer-facing businesses for a number of years. That does include consumer electronics and the big names are from Japan, and others come from South Korea. We did a lot of work initially with Nokia, when they came into the country. That’s all on the customer experience side. On the other side of the world is B2B business and enterprise. We do a ton of work with large enterprise-scaled systems, such as cloud services like VMWare, and other large entities that you may or may not have heard of. Of course, GoToMeeting and some other presences come to mind.
I just used GoToMeeting earlier today. I was in a marketing webinar. What would be some other things that you would help a big brand like this figure out? What sort of buttons to use, where to put them, what layout of the screen should be like. Walk us through some of that.
Actually, let me differentiate one more thing. I’m realizing that as I talk about product and interaction, one of the biggest differentiations between the work that we’ve done in the last 10-20 years has been, when we work with marketing, we’re working on a lot of interaction design which is related to lead generation, acquisition, onboarding. As they get into a system, before they get into the product experience, is a lot of marketing based CX-oriented design. If that makes sense?
Once they get into the product experience, be it online or physically holding a phone, then it becomes a product. A lot of companies differentiate that by having a marketing team working on their website. Everything that has to do with lead generation — getting into the sales experience, getting into maybe an initial trial and things like that — once you get into the product side, it usually changes hands inside of a company into a product team which is generally in-house. It’s generally very engineering-oriented. Those two groups are really differentiated with an organization. That might help you think about it a little bit differently as well.
That sounds like it could be really confusing. If you’re working on the design—the look and feel of the brand experience for the website—and then there is a members-only portal and customer-only portal, and that’s developed by a different team that’s all about interaction design and product design. Because it’s an internal tool or resource, or maybe there’s an app, or whatever, it seems that there could be some disconnect in making sure that experience is cohesive and sending the right messaging throughout.
You really nailed it on the head. It is confusing. A lot of organizations are going through some significant restructuring of their internal teams, and also, the leads. Actually, what I’ve noticed—and I did write about it in this article that I’d share with you called X Marks the Spot—is a lot of titles are changing from VP of customer experience and VP of user experience to VP of insights. People are thinking about insights and innovation as cross-pollinating between all of these different groups, and a lot of companies are merging UX and CX together.
I just was at a large enterprise company a couple of days ago. At one table, it was all UX designers, and at another table, it was all CX designers. It was interesting because the two groups are different, they have different owners and silos that they represent. Customer experience is more on the marketing side of the division. User experience is more on the product side of the division. But a lot of times, you will hire user experience designers to help with your marketing initiatives. It was a good way to start the conversation, but I would say that differentiating the two is becoming more and more difficult because the lines are blurring every day.
I think we can talk about some of the ways they’re similar and some of the ways that you can use best practices from user experience across the channel over the CX if you’re in that space. Honestly, sometimes it’s just a term that they’re using. Whoever comes in has that background. A very good friend of mine, Leigh Durst, is a customer experience guru. She and I share methodologies; we have the same conversations. We work with a lot of the same projects and teams, but we come from slightly different angles or different disciplines.
Let’s talk about some of these best practices. What should our listeners know that they could apply in their businesses in terms of their marketing, their customer experience and user experience to improve retention and conversion, and all that?
That’s a big question. I would start off by saying that the focus is always on the end user and on the customer depending on the type of marketing that you’re doing. If you have a small company that you’re marketing for, and you fully understand who that audience is—it’s fantastic. Because you might have the ability to reach out to them directly, to get feedback, to continue to iterate and enhance your product or your marketing site, and be able to offer the type of services, and even content they’re looking for.
If you know your customer and you have access to them, that’s really a win-win. You have the ability to market pretty successfully. I think it starts to get more difficult when you get into larger companies that are divided. Companies that launch and they’re not sure who their customer is or potentially large enterprise systems and companies that have such a varied amount—I guess different types of companies—small, medium, large, even up to 1000 people or 2000 people, it gets a little bit trickier to differentiate. One of the best practices is first, understanding who your audience is, what their needs are, what they’re currently looking for as they become associated, and begin to interact with your product or service.
Let me another step back and say the first thing that we do is we use all different methods of research to understand who your customer is. For instance, you may have a lot of analytics of your website, you may have run some surveys, you may have also done some focus groups, I will utilize any bit of information that you have because all data is helpful, but the part that we bring in from the user experience perspective is the one-on-one research that we do and using that research to really help identify, and differentiate the different types of audiences that you have.
What is that one-on-one research look like that you guys do for your clients?
I’ll just focus on lead generation for now. We definitely want to look at both leads. Also, let’s not forget people that have interacted with your website and signed up but never engage with your service. Why was that? What happened? How can we get more information about what disengaged them or what other competitive things they were looking at? Also, let’s not forget about people that use your service. They may go through the free trial, they may go through the initial month or two, and then they fall off later.It's not enough for something to work or to function. It needs to be engaging with people and help enhance our lives. Click To Tweet
A lot of companies tend to focus only on the leads that are coming in and that’s sales process. They’re not looking at who they already have, who left, and who may have started and then dropped off. I think that all four of those audiences are really important to engage with.
When we look at on-boarding new leads, and new leads are coming in, sometimes, sales are just focusing on numbers. They’re just trying to get people in the door. They’re offering things like a free month, or a free pen, or whatever it is to get them in the door. These are not necessarily qualified leads. What we found is after we did some initial research taking, I guess kind of an enterprise level company, for example, their salespeople were interested in just getting whatever leads they could in the door, and they didn’t really care if they are qualified or not.
What we did was we worked between sales and marketing to make sure that the forms that people are filling out, and the way that people were onboarded allowed them to see who are the qualified leads, the ones that were worth pursuing and not. That’s the first level of quality control is, making sure you’re getting quality leads, and that they’re able to engage successfully with the sales process.
The next piece there is, when we do the research, we want to look at that initial, potential prospects that are coming to the websites. One of the things that we recommend is doing intercept studies where we actually post a really clear pop-up—you can use different methods—but we use Ethnio for that. Ethnio allows a gentle pop-up to come up and say, “Hey, we’d like to hear a little bit more about your experience.” We’re paying, we do put the price, and we do say, “Are you available on these days?” We’re able to get people to come in, and we’re able to select individuals that are a true prospect for that company or that website.Interaction design is moving from one system to another. Product design is taking that into something tangible. Click To Tweet
The next thing we do after that is we set up interviews. We interview mostly, one hour at a time. It’s hard to get people for longer than that, initially. We really want to understand what their motivators are, why they came to the website, what they were trying to do, what else they were looking at, and the most important thing is, what stage of the decision making are they in when they actually come to the website, and what content are they looking for, what information is key.
After we do that research, we try and do up to 6-8 per group—and I can talk about that a little bit about differentiating segments—we’re really able to understand what’s motivating them, what type of content is the actionable content, and how we need to adjust what we’re calling the lead gen path from a search onto an aggregate site, a landing page or the homepage of a website. Whatever that process is, we want to understand it from the first inquiry, all the way to the website, and then we want to refine that path and make it a smoother path. We want to understand the content they’re looking for and make it easier for them to find or make sure that it exists at all. We want to finally understand what the actual trigger was for them to engage with the company. There’s a lot of different layers there that I can get into a little bit more. I think your audience might have some use for it, but I’ll stop there and see if you have questions.
Okay. Let’s talk about what is the typical triggers to engage that you find in these research studies.
Well, a lot of companies try and lead people to a webinar, a video or some kind of element of sales that they think they’re going to be the most impactful. What we found is that the different stages of purchase decisions—and we call this highly considered purchase. Let me differentiate between the highly considered purchase and the knee-jerk purchase. Knee-jerk is price sensitive, it’s something that people need immediately, and they have the ability to make that decision and purchase that without getting senior-level approval. Highly considered purchases are ones that take a lot of research, a lot of time, and it’s potentially going to be a change for the company, and it needs to be approved by a director, VP, or even the CEO.
What we’ve seen is for a highly-considered purchase, that there are usually about three stages. First is the initial investigation from someone that’s technical or someone that understands that product space. It might be, not a junior level, but someone slightly down on the totem pole that’s doing initial investigation just to weed out and come up with a recommendation for their C-level to consider. At that point, they’re looking at fit, specifications, they want to download white papers if it’s a technical company, they want to understand what customer support is like, and they want to know if it’s a good fit overall for the company.
Once they’ve made that initial vetting, then they usually recommend it up to the chain, to their technical director, and/or the CEO. The CEO is coming, and at that point, they’re trying to validate and make sure the company’s trustworthy, make sure that they take a look at what kind of news ratings they have if they seem stable, if they’re newly funded, who’s funded them. They want to make sure that the company is going to be around for a while. The C-level person that’s making the final yes or no decision is looking at slightly different content. We find that for the highly considered purchase, there are at least three different people looking down, and at least three different roles that could definitely be one person at a small company doing all three things, but they’re each looking for slightly different elements.
I would say that the thing that’s missing the most from all these cross-comparison and the vetting is pricing. People are looking for pricing. I think you and I both know that for companies that rely on large accounts, the pricing is usually invisible on the website, so it becomes a frustrating piece of the puzzle that is not usually found during that investigation.
Yep. In fact, I was just feeling that pain earlier today. I was looking at a potential mastermind to join, and there was no place on the website that posted the pricing for it, and I knew it would be expensive. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m probably not even going to bother inquiring,” because I have to go through a whole application process just to find out the price of this thing.
Frustrating. You also mentioned that you could talk a little bit more about differentiating segments. What did you mean by that?
Okay. Segmentation is tricky because often companies will come with demographic information, which is great. Demographics give us, age range, job titles; if it’s a consumer product, if it’s something like couples or families, or individuals who will use it. There are different ways to segment based on demographic information that you can usually collect in a survey, but what we’re looking at is segmenting by behavior. When you segment by behavior, you may have all different types of people, of all ages and experience behaving in a similar way, and then we can cluster those into groups.
The way that we do that is we conduct interviews with at least five or six people, in each known demographic segment, or we break it down by the type of company size. For instance, if you have a client and they have a company that you know has three different components; small, medium, and large business, you might want five or six people who represent roles within each of those size companies. If for instance, you have a client that has three different industries that they’re representing or more, you may want to take the top three to five industries and make sure that you have a healthy mix of those types of people.If you know your customer and you have access to them, that's a win-win. You can market through that successfully. Click To Tweet
In the end, we usually interview at least 16 to 18, and for one large enterprise client, recently we did 45 interviews to make sure we’re talking to enough people to understand how they’re behaving, what their needs are, sometimes it’s very content-focused what are they looking for when they go to a website. In the end, how do we look at these groups across a large diagram of—not just needs that they have but—problems they’re trying to solve.
We find when we look at the problems the people are trying to solve, and how we can help them solve those problems, we can sometimes clearly differentiate our end users into three to five segments based on those types of behaviors. It’s different for every client. I think it’s an “Aha” moment for a lot of organizations because they haven’t necessarily thought about it that way. It really does help to change the way that we structure and design a website experience, and also the way we present content and materials to them in email, on a podcast like this, or in different ways.
Is this done via focus groups, surveys, or both? I’m trying to envision what this environment looks like. I know you mentioned using a tool like Ethnio to get people’s attention, get their buy-in, maybe pay them a bit of money, but is this done in a virtual environment or in meeting rooms? What does this look like?
User experience again is really focused on one-on-one research, so we don’t usually use focus groups.e usually don’t do surveys. However, as I said in the beginning, I’m open to all different forms of input and analytics, as well. So, we can look at both qual and quant and really understand patterns of behavior. When you do a survey, you understand the what, but you don’t necessarily get the why. The piece that we’re adding to the mix is really understanding why people are behaving in a certain way. You really only get that in-depth information through one-on-one research.
A lot of companies still rely on focus groups, and that’s great for large scale feedback. You have a concept, you want to get some general impressions and have a discussion of similar people so you can brainstorm. But when we’re looking at how people interact with an interface or a marketing site, we really want to understand what motivates them, what they’re looking at and what interests them. Also, with usability testing, which you mentioned at the beginning, what pitfalls exist on the interaction layer of the site itself, or the application that doesn’t allow them to get to the content or meet their goals.
We’re looking at a lot of different pieces with the one-on-one work that we do but were able to get deeper with the usability and the interaction. We’re able to get deeper with the motivations, the needs, and whether they’re able to meet their goals or not. Also, we can ask them questions about, “What’s an ideal situation? What are you looking for? What would you like to improve on the experience on this website that you’re looking at today?” In using that information, we then put it into a huge mass of sticky’s, usually, and we identify key themes—both big overarching critical problems that need to be addressed—and we outline what those issues are, then we outline what needs come out of it, and the changes that should be mad, and then, in the end, we take all the information that’s usually in some kind of spreadsheet format, and break it down into, “Who owns those different pieces, and who needs to address them?”
For instance, is it a marketing piece that needs to be re-edited and it’s a content piece, is it a media piece that’s confusing, or is it a technical glitch that needs to be brought back into development or engineering? We’re able to then take it and weigh it from a business perspective, from a technical feasibility perspective, and also from a user experience perspective, “What’s the priority for that end-user?” Using those three measurements, we can then prioritize that change and the organization can decide if they want to fix that or not.
Those three measurements again were what?
We have end users, so user experience—what is the value to the customer. We have the business need—is it something that’s important to the business. We have the technical feasibility—is it something that’s doable, how much is it going to cost, who needs to participate in it.
Got it. If you’re paying people to participate, doesn’t that skew the results? Because I know when I get invited to participate in paid surveys, and so forth, I always say, “No, my time is way too valuable to get a $20 or $50 gift card,” or something like that.
That’s a good measurement. Basically, we don’t do surveys. Actually, let me step back. We have done surveys and we offer a big price at the end, or we ask them to go through the survey as a piece of a larger picture, but the work that we do, we pay well.
For somebody that is an engineer or a salesperson—we call that a middle-tier individual—we would pay $200 to $300 for their time. We do consider their time extremely valuable. I’m a big advocate of paying people for their time so that they’ll take a moment, sit down and talk to us. With people that are really hard to recruit and we need what we call assisted recruiting because they don’t have the time, they don’t need the money, we pay them a stipend of $300-$500 for their time normally, that wouldn’t even be worth paying them that amount because they don’t have the time. Sometimes it’s a favor. It’s a board member that asks them, doctors, especially, this is really difficult. When we do general consumers, we call those sort of easy chair, I would say, between $75, $100, or $150 will get them in the door.Focus on the end user and on the customer depending on the type of marketing that you're doing. Click To Tweet
For remote research, we pay a little bit less sometimes for some customers. To get them in-house, we pay them a little bit more, but I would say that you always have to take into consideration, if people have the time, and if they need the money. If they don’t, you might need to go to them, and you might need to pay them a little bit more.
What would be some counterintuitive or surprising insight that you got by talking to folks one-on-one or in a group environment? Maybe a specific example, if you could share it if it doesn’t violate client confidentiality?
One example is actually for the healthcare site, and this is a general consumer. We met with the state healthcare exchange, and we were able to see from statistics and analytics that people dropped off at a certain point. There were several places in the experience where you can see from the analytics that people were stopping. But because there were several points, none of these were really weighed, and they weren’t prioritized within the organization. We conducted 16 interviews, one-on-one, remote interviews where we’re actually watching people using web software, and we’re watching them interact with the system real-time.
As we walked through the system, we found that one of the specific fall-off points was a huge emotional glitch that was so frustrating that someone actually stopped during our session, and had to smoke something that was illegal at the time, that’s legal now, and it was so insightful because we understood why it was happening. We brought that video back to the organization, and the engineer stood up—there were maybe 20 or 25 people in the room—and he said, “I knew it, I knew this was a huge problem, and no one would listen to me.”
I would say that the one-on-one research that we do brings things to a different level of prioritization because we’re watching people doing what they’re doing real-time, and understanding what their pain points are on a one-on-one level. That’s so much more impactful to an organization than if you just see an analytics report.
Makes sense. For those people who wanted to try a focus group because it can be done very inexpensively and impromptu on your own, maybe they read the chapter in Don’t Make Me Think, about doing focus groups on the cheap. What would you tell the person who is interested in doing that? Would you advise against that? Would you tell them some data is better than none? What would be your advice there?
It depends on the problem they’re trying to solve. I do love Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think. He and I are good friends. I love any kind of feedback. I think that depending on what the problem is it you’re trying to solve, a focus group can work. I wouldn’t say that I recommend or don’t recommend to do a focus group, but I will say that one-on-one research has the power to it. If you need to understand the system, how people are interacting with it, and what they’re doing real-time, then you would need to do one-on-one research.
If you want to understand an individual’s motivation, you’ll do one-on-one research. I would say that—we call them refocus groups—if I need to get a few more people in the room, I will get two or three people that know each other. I would put them into what I call refocus groups because sometimes, it is nice to have two or three people that know each other, that can talk about a problem that they’re trying to solve together. You will get some good feedback.
The problem with focus groups is that a lot of times it’s swayed by a strong person in the room. People are intimidated. They don’t really want to say what they really think. I would say that focus groups are good if you have some broad questions about a concept that you want quick answers for. Again, if you want to have a brainstorming or discussion on a solution with people that have similar problems and are looking for similar options, it is good for some types of problems, but one-on-one research is going to be how you get into, why people are doing what they’re doing, what their motivations are, and what their needs are at a level that you can’t get from focus groups. The information is going to be more relevant towards changing an actual system, changing content, and redoing the experience overall.
Is there a particular process, or SOP (standard operating procedure) that you go off of when you’re doing these one-on-one meetings, research studies?
Yes, I did write a book. The book has a lot of information on it, and weirdly, it’s still used. Again, a couple of days ago, I was at an organization, and somebody mentioned that he had a copy of the book. It was actually re-published in 2005, it’s quite old now, but those practices are still in play. There’s a couple of other good resources, Jeffrey Rubin had an original, Handbook of Usability Testing, which I believe is still used. Kim Goodwin has a book out. There’s a couple of good ones, and there’s a couple of other ones that I’ll give you links to about understanding the user experience that I think are good primers for people to read.
Basically, it’s the same process where you recruit and find the right people. You set-up remote testing, or in-person testing. You have a list of questions or tasks that you would like them to complete. You watch real-time or as close to real-time as possible while people go through the actual process. In the end, you decide how much analysis you want to do. You could also just have a discussion afterwards with people that are observing and then come up with the five or six things that need to change, if it’s a usability test or some of the problems that people have, so you understand how you need to fix that or the way that people think or interact with your product-service, maybe some of the needs and behaviors that they express, that they’re looking for, that they either do or don’t get with the product-service.
So depending on who you’re talking to, really makes a difference if you go in person or remote. We do a lot of remote testing if it’s across the US or even in different parts of the world. We also engage with different groups. We have a UX Fellows network that has 27 countries represented, and so when we need to do global research, we can reach out to partners and allow them to help us with the recruiting and the interview process there.
Very cool. You mentioned earlier something about Stickies. I’m guessing you meant post-it notes that are part of the process of assembling the data and making sense of it all. All these one-on-one interviews and everything. Could you describe this a little bit more?
Yeah. I mean, there are some simple ways of doing analysis and synthesis, and then there are some really complicated ways. I think we all would like simpler, easier things that we can get through quickly. Stickies are used to help identify themes, a lot of times we actually do transcriptions of interviews that we do and we take the way that phrases are used in different things that people said and we break them down, we cut them out and put them into themes.
Themes might be onboarding, it might be a help system, it might be looking at customer service. There might be different themes that relate to the way the website is organized or the themes might be things that they are looking for, themes of behavior and the way that they make decisions, pricing might come up, peer reviews and other factors might come up. When we use Stickies, it’s usually for complicated analysis and then we take that information and put it together into Venn diagrams and other kinds of deliverables that you may have heard of but personas come up, behavioral personas are what we usually do and also journey maps or experience maps. We can sometimes put Stickies across time and understand what the actual behaviors are for different pieces as they go through the website experience. We can do it across time, we can do it across themes, we can do it across behaviors, different ideas do come up, so that’s how stickies are used.
I’ll be honest, a lot of the clients that we work with, we have a really fast turn spreadsheet oriented results. A lot of times when we do remote testing, especially we will invite clients and product teams and marketing teams to actually watch and engage with the one-on-one research as it’s happening and will have them add notes into a spreadsheet that we would organize. We would then take that and have a discussion afterwards, we call it a Debrief Session, and a lot of findings will just pop-up, real time, as we go through the debrief discussion after each session that we do, and then at the end of the day, you can put it back into an overarching finding. If we’re doing our job right, we can do five or six people in a day, and that’s a small scale study. If we do two days, that’s 10-12 people, and if we do more, of course, it takes a little bit longer, but usually, the bulk of the research we do is a two-three day session.
Interesting. What does a journey map look like? Because I’m intrigued by that. I haven’t heard that term before.
Well, there’s journey maps, and then there are customer experience maps, and sometimes they just call it experience mapping. A journey map really does take you to a life cycle, sometimes it can be the buying process itself, sometimes it can be someone’s experiences, they’re determining a new car that they want to buy, they are looking at different ways of pricing, they are looking at websites to get a sense of reviews and model types and then as they narrow down their decision, they are asking friends and family for different models that they have used and what their opinions are.
In the end, personas and journeys can have a lot of different areas that you’re showing across time. I think that a typical journey map does take you through the learning process. You learn about a product-service and then you get into consideration, so you are considering if you are going to purchase that or not. Again, there’s highly-considered and some knee-jerk reaction considerations. In the end, you’ve cross compared and then you make a selection and then you kind of go through an iteration of potentially signing up for something, trying it, deciding if you are going to use it or not. You might actually have something that you used, but you need your team to integrate with for it to be successful. You go through a larger process of trial and then at the end, there’s going to be some red flags or some deal breakers that happen that caused you maybe not to continue use or maybe you’re going to become an ongoing customer.
For one of the clients that we worked with, we definitely focused on initial use and onboarding. Then, we did a longer study where we just looked at ongoing use. I think that one of the pieces that are missing, so many times, as we go through the marketing process is that you deal with that lead generation – the getting people in the door, the initial use and you concentrate less on the ongoing use because at the end of that—and I say you guys meaning marketing folks but we have heard the term Net Promoter Score, is that something that you are going to refer to somebody else to use. A journey map really does follow the entire lifecycle through to that retention and then the referral, that’s so important if the company’s going to succeed. You get a visual diagram of that process from beginning to end.
It’s funny that you mention Net Promoter Score because I had Jared Spool on this show and he railed on Net Promoter Score saying that they were terrible.
Jared and I are very good friends. I’m trying not to be too negative here, but I would say that there’s a huge disconnect with the way user experience folks think of net promoter and the real work that we do and the value that we bring to the table. But again, I try to be as liberal as I can about all data and information and I think that as a measurement retention, referral is a good thing to know, but for companies to rely on that as their understanding of what the user experience is like and to be able to make business decisions based on Net Promoter Score, I think is a little bit difficult and it’s maybe short-sighted.
Got it. Listeners, I’ll include a link in the show notes to the Jared Spool episode. It’s pretty fascinating. We really did a deep dive into measuring the user experience and user satisfaction and it was pretty thought-provoking. One thing that came up in my mind when we were talking about Stickies, post-it notes, and stuff was card sorting. I know that’s not usually done with sticky notes but could you describe that process and the benefits for our listeners.
Well, first of all, what is card sorting? Card sorting is really looking at the pieces of a system, usually navigation, and what you can do is take all of the content and information and put it on a table, and think about it if you were sitting there with someone. How would you cluster and group those pieces of information together so they make the most sense to you? Then at the end, how would you label that and what does that look like?
Card sorting itself is usually used at the information architecture stage of a process where you’re putting the navigation and the content together, and you are trying to buck it up a website so it makes sense. Most companies tend to be a little bit backward because they based the navigation on an organizational system of the company itself. Usually, if you look at the way a company is structured, the navigation for that company is structured in a similar way—about us, contact us, sales and support, products. A lot of people put products and services together or products and solutions together rather. That’s how the company is organized.
When we take content, and allow end users to cluster it and organize it, bucket it, and then add their own title to the top of it, we get a whole another look and a whole another way of organizing information. There are systems of card sorting that are electronic that you can actually use. There’s Tree Jacking, which is a system that you can actually have end users organize all the information, and it will tally it, and it will end up with sort of the instances and similarities so that you can use that data to reorganize or use to create the navigation or the organization of your new website. That’s how we use that information.
But I will say, Stephan, that’s it’s very specific to when the problem is that is you are not quite sure if your model is business oriented and there’s another completely different model which is end-user oriented that you should consider. If you’re in that stage of restructuring or reorganization or creating from scratch content then card sorting is something that you can use, but there’s a lot of different methods as you go up the chain to figuring out how people are really engaging with your product and service, and what needs they have, and how to get them there at the highest level.
Yeah. That bigger look at things is more information architecture and there’s a whole discipline around that. Card sorting is just one small part of it. What are some of the other pieces that we didn’t cover in regards to information architecture?
Well, I would say that’s pretty loaded, but information architecture, there’s a lot of different ways that we think about it. From models for websites, for instance, a lot of times we get several different entities that maybe one company bought in another company and they need to think about restructuring a brand or combining different resources or content. So, information architecture is a model that needs to be looked at, and decided on the conceptual level—at a business level—and business decisions need to be made.
For instance, if you have a new offshoot of a brand and it has its own web presence. How does the parent brand represent that sub-brand? How does the sub-brand relate back to the parent brand? There’s a lot of consolidation, and information design from a conceptual level, a business level that will take place, and those are business decisions, largely. Then, when you get into path flows, you may have levels of interaction with the website or application that have to do with streamlining a path flow for onboarding—that’s a good example. Onboarding itself can be its own set of information design, understanding how the content is presented looking at the voice, the tone of voice, “Is it friendly? Is it informative? Is it funny? How is it being represented, and what’s happening with the display?”
With information design, a lot of times content will feed to that, as well. Information design can also have an SEO perspective. So you are looking at the titles, and title tags, and a lot of the user experience descriptors that are on a site. You want to be able to make sure that it’s tying back to a larger strategy. Information design can get into the page layout itself, and we do a lot of what’s called Responsive Design, and hopefully, you’ve heard of responsive design, but it gets into a future discussion, our next topic, which is mobile where you want to build a website so that it scales across multiple screen sizes and multiple contextual situations and context is super important.
A lot of the work we’re doing starts off with a website that’s maybe a desktop-oriented, but that has three-five breakpoints, we call them breakpoints so that we are designing on a grid system. A grid system is something like if you look at a newspaper, you have columns where the content is laid out in a grid and then that content gets smaller and smaller, the grid gets smaller and smaller as you go to smaller devices. You have to really design the information flow and to consider all the different elements of context and usage as you’re putting that information together.
Okay. You said that responsive design is a way to address the user experience for mobile users and that reminded me of the differences between progressive enhancement and what used to be called graceful degradation and I thought would be useful for our listeners to understand the difference there. Could you elaborate?
Yeah. Well, actually I used to have a hard time saying graceful degradation. You did it perfectly. What we’re looking at is the way that, I guess, I can use simple terms, but fancy content imagery media. You are actually disallowing it on a smaller screen because you’re concentrating on content only. As we get into smaller and smaller sizes, what we’re really looking for is the context people are going to be in as they’re looking at a website or at an application.
I think one of the things that we learned when we are looking at the stats for some of the B2B clients that we are looking at, we’re looking at what they were doing at different screen sizes, and we found out that at night, when people were on their mobile devices, they generally were looking to accomplish a task, and they were looking in to buy something or make a final decision. They weren’t looking at a lot of marketing copy, they weren’t looking to read so much about it, they were just looking to complete a task. With progressive enhancement, you’re really looking at core web content and you’re looking at a lot of layers, sometimes there are nuance layers of presentation, and we’ve been trying to design more and more web experiences, so the differences between the web page itself and a mobile site that they’re largely the same, that you are getting key content no matter what view you are looking at. That is really difficult to get to without a lot of iteration, and testing. Because you don’t want a huge scrolling page if you’re looking at a mobile version of your site. Then, of course, we get into application design and web-based application. If you have a specific use, that’s why once you go onto mobile they have a banking application rather than going to the desktop version of the banking website because people are very task-oriented once they get to the mobile version of the site.
Yeah. Speaking of task-oriented, I wanted to ask you about roadmapping and I realized that I haven’t done that yet. Could you elaborate a bit on road mapping?
When you say roadmapping, do you mean strategy or give me a little bit more context how you’re using it.
I guess that might be another way of referring to the customer journey, or journey map.
When I think of a roadmap, and we use it with our clients, we’re thinking it more strategically as to maybe what the near future is, not far future but the next 12-16 months. One of the ways that you can think about it is in the near future, and so when we’re mapping out the near future experience, we’re trying to look at needs and behaviors that aren’t currently met that you can get to in the 12-18 months, so maybe 36 months out but that’s usually as far as the roadmap will go.
When we try and build experiences, what we’re doing is doing a lot of, I guess the type of research that we would do is a little bit more of what we call generative. I’m going to throw some terms out there, there’s Evaluative, which is evaluating a current system and understanding how it works.
Then there generative, and generative design looks at what the near future, future experiences, something that has not yet been created. The roadmaps that we’ve been doing when we look at the near future, we do tend to look at the iterative design, and how we can get there if we start to outline needs and then focus on three-six months cycles, how we’re going to get to that end experience.
We try not to do a full redesign anymore. We try and actually, enhance something and continue to iterate on it and improve it over time so that customer experience is improved over time. But I will say that sometimes you do need to start fresh and have almost a dual strategy where you have iterative improvements that you can keep on working with the current site or the current application that you have, and you can enhance it over time. You may have to jump to a completely different strategy where you are looking at building a completely new infrastructure, maybe you are using a different platform, and maybe you’re even creating a product experience that doesn’t exist yet that’s voice-enabled or gesture-based or just a whole another type of experience that hasn’t been yet created within the organization.
Okay. I recognize we’re about out of time. But I want to ask you one final question, and that is, what do personas or avatars look like that you develop for your clients? Are these long write-ups? Is there a lot of visuals that go with it? I remember hearing about, maybe it was Nike or Adidas, who had a room full of life-sized posters of different personas with their locker next to each, they could open the locker of that persona and see how they decorated the locker, these are teenagers and what sort of textbooks they had in there, what their sports gear was and etc., you can get a full immersion experience for each of those personas, that was a really cool way of doing it. I’m curious how you do persona development for your clients. What is the final document or deliverable look like?
We’ve done fancy posters for sure. We’ve had workshops where we have journey maps and personas together. The two go hand-in-hand, where you have the persona, and then the journey that they take and those are huge documents that go across walls. I would say that less is more.
Although we do fancy persona work and we do posters, I think that what the goal is—there are two goals—basically, your team, product team, marketing team understand who these people are in real life, and they begin to identify and empathize with these people. We didn’t get into empathy as much, but you really want to understand the needs and behaviors of these individuals and begin to build experiences for them.
For instance, I’m working on an opioid prevention project, and we’re trying to deal with the opioid situation in the US, which is horrific. I was walking through the Mission district last week, and I walked by someone. I thought, “Oh, they don’t look homeless. They look pretty well-dressed.” I saw them shooting up right in front of me. There’s nothing that will just drive it home as strongly as just seeing it right in front of you and giving you instant empathy for the situation. Personas can—when they are well done—create that level of empathy so that you feel like you know who they are, you can figure out what they’re doing on a daily basis, and really understand how to design for their needs.
What we’ve done more recently is develop interactive personas where we’re really understanding what their tasks are, key tasks and responsibilities, questions they have that they need answers to when they come to the website and also what are the measurements of success. What are the things they’re looking for that makes them successful in their job?
Because we are really trying to look at their goals and allowing them to meet their goals. We’ve been focusing, at least in a couple of projects recently, on content that they’re looking for and who they are sharing that content with, and then we’ve developed interactive personas where you can actually click on what stage they are in the process.
Remember, I was talking about learn, and consider, select and then maybe use or try. Depending on where they are in the process, there’s different content and there are different experiences that they are looking for. That’s really what we’re building at our personas and our roadmaps for these days.
Very cool. I’d love to be a fly on the wall watching you deliver all these incredible deliverable documents to your clients, and having them get wowed by what you created. I know we are out of time if we could send the listeners to a website to learn more about you, and your company, your services, where should we send them to? I’m guessing there’s probably two websites we should send them to and not just one.
Yeah. We have gotomedia.com. That’s just my last name Goto with the media tagged on, and that’s really the UX design and strategy work that we do. Then there’s gotoresearch, which is my name with research tagged on, and that is a lot of the generative research that we’ve been engaged in. Those are the two pieces that we’re really working on these days, the UX design and the research together.
That’s awesome. Listeners, I hope you do take a deeper look at what Kelly is creating out there in the world. It’s quite incredible and I remember learning about her many years ago with her book Web Redesign 2.0 and how innovative and cutting edge it was back in the day. Thank you for taking the time, Kelly, to spend some time with us and discuss some of the amazing things that go into great user experience.
Thank you for having me.
All right. That’s it.
- Kelly Goto
- Web Redesign 2.0
- Journey maps
- Card sorting
- X Marks the Spot
- Jared Spool – previous episode
- Leigh Durst
- Don’t Make Me Think
- Jeffrey Rubin
- Handbook of Usability Testing
- Kim Goodwin
- Net Promoter Score
- Tree Jacking
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Include the strategy for user experience from the start of site development. Let my web design be a combination of style and convenience for my viewers.
Focus all my marketing efforts on the end user. I should clearly lay out the steps on the customer journey from start to finish.
Understand the difference between user experience and customer experience. The experience should look and feel different for hot leads and those who have already purchased my offer.
Get feedback straight from my clients through analytics, surveys and more. Find out what their needs are so that I can quickly implement methods of better service.
Utilize website pop-ups properly. They can be quite annoying if done with the wrong strategy. Kelly Goto recommends using Ethnio for effective pop-ups.
Understand the time it takes to purchase my product or service, whether it’s a knee-jerk or highly considered decision. My UX will depend on how long it takes a person to consider buying the offer on my site.
Segment potential customers by behavior and not by demographic. I am able to present the best approach when I know where they are in their customer journey.
Be transparent with pricing and let my potential clients see it right away. Doing so diminishes the back and forth in conversation and in their decision-making process.
Always be engaging and make it a mission to change people’s lives for the better. Let this be my drive in gaining more leads.
Check out www.gotomedia.com to get the best out of conversational and compelling design.
About Kelly Goto
Kelly Goto is the founder and principal of gotoresearch, a digital products and services research firm. 22 years ago, she saw the need for strategy that was driven by research but still people-friendly. She has set industry-wide standards ever since for iterative processes that lead to ideal user experiences. Kelly is a pioneer in Design Ethnography, which is deep, specialized customer insight that focuses on mobile research across multiple device types. Clients include Hyundai, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Target, Wells Fargo and Seiko Epson Japan. Her style and passion make her a popular keynote speaker, instructor and consultant on Lean Processes, Emotional UX, Design Thinking, and Getting Unstuck. Her book, Workflow That Works, is used in corporations and university curricula in 22 languages.