Figuring out when and how people are using your site, can be a bit of a guessing game. We’ll say perhaps like the game of clue. Is it Jen.. on the couch.. with a windows tablet? Or is it Steve, in the bathroom with an iphone? Or worst of all for people conscious of browser compatability like me, aunt Margaret, in 1997, with Internet Explorer. (Speaking of which, here’s a link to update your browser, if that’s you.)
In a recent discussion with Fred Beecher, a User Experience Designer at the Nerdery, we talked about Josh Clark’s insights in his book “Tapworthy” (http://globalmoxie.com/) about when we are using our phones, (Hint: It’s not always when we are on the go.)
These are some primary “Mobile Mindsets”:
Many mobile experiences offer less options, but allow people to do something quickly and easily. Make the core features of your app or site extremely accessible on a mobile website, and then ‘polish, polish, polish’ to help make the experience delightful for your users.
Mobile sites and applications that can tailor the experience for someone based on the location sensor of smartphones, can deliver an extremely personal experience. The goal is to put an “appealingly near-sited lens” on the whole vast ocean of data. Thinking about mobile websites, it can be to your business’ website’s advantage to have it connected with a Google + account, and a Google maps listing so people near you will be more likely to get results that include your company and your websites content. Google does a great job at making sure it’s algorithms serve up relevant content, and geo-location is one great way to do this. Consider adding a “Get Directions” button to your business’ websites’ mobile experience that integrates with Google maps if location is a high concern for people coming to your website.
Consider how the mobile experience might offer moments of delight and distraction as well. It’s not all productivity apps, but it can often mean exploration. Just as Twitter is often an avenue of exploration, consider ways in which you could allow people to explore on your site.
By crafting the ‘scenarios’ or plausible descriptions of the future based on coherent assumptions, you can prepare and design a web design or mobile experience for any eventuality. Scenarios have been used in other fields besides design, such as urban planning and military tactics, and as Kim Goodwin puts it, “scenarios are among the most powerful tools in product and service design, with uses ranging from developing requirements to ensuring that a design accounts for the full range of possible interactions.”
With User Experience we are often planning with goals in mind. We want people to sign up for our newsletter, contact us from our contact form, or buy a new pair of pants. So we can create scenarios of how someone would start using a browser or mobile device, get onto our website or application and navigate around, and the steps they would take, eventually reaching a goal. In a well-defined scenario we can describe the person’s motivations, and how the person’s own goals are fulfilled by using the system that we are designing.
Glean what times people are using your site, and what browsers and devices they’re using from analytics
Looking at the analytics of your site can tell you a lot about when people are looking at your site. For instance if, like twitter, people are checking out your site around lunch, in between lunch and dinner, and before bed your site is likely an extra-curricular ‘exploration’ for them. It’s interesting that at Snap we are looking to connect with other business owners, chief marketing officers, and people in the marketing industry, but people are definitely using the site in their leisure time, not during peak ‘work hours.’ Insights like this can help us pin-point certain things about how people are using our site, but not everything.
From there, use user interviews and user testing to identify patterns in the research, work on making the experience better and easier to use, and see how it changes the results in analytics.
As Fred Beecher put it; “Analytics only tell you what is happening, not why it’s happening… Things like’ oh people are looking at the features, and then going to the sign up page, and then abandoning from there. ‘Ok. That’s happening, I don’t know why it’s happening. So, if you have analytics, it’s also good to have some qualitative research such as user interviewing, and user testing to help you answer the why. I think analytics are really, really valuable, but they’re half of the story. I like to use analytics to help me figure out what there this for me to focus on in qualitative research. And then maybe if I start with qualitative research and identify patterns in that research, if that system already exists, I can go to the analytics to see that those patterns are born out in the actual system. “
Have open and honest interviews with existing users, without leading them, to help determine the context and practical application of the experience you are improving.
You’re not always going to be going into the User Experience design of a website without the ability to talk with current users. In a redesign for instance you can use ‘User Interviewing’ to find out more about peoples stories and how they use your website, and in what types of situations. Ask open-ended questions about their experience with the site, and the best questions cannot simply be answered with a yes or a no. Do your best not to ask ‘leading questions’, where the interviewee can tell what answer you’re looking for. Many people have a low appetite for conflict, so they’ll avoid it when possible. Avoid interruptions, allow silence and as Steve Portugal said, “let people speak in paragraphs.”
Check out this slide share by Liz Danzico for more on User Interviews.
Test, Test, Test your site. Test it before you redesign, test your ideas as you’re designing, before you touch a line of code, test after you’ve done some coding, test with people who are not savvy with the technology and you’ll gain empathy for how having a difficult site to use is bad for business.
We’re not only talking about mobile devices here, though that’s a point where usability could use a ton of improvement right now. With any experience, including the desktop, it’s extremely important to define the problem. Spend time working on some persona’s of people who might be using your site, but most importantly consider scenarios of how and why these people would be using your site.
If we spend time steeping in these considerations for awhile before rushing headlong into a design solution we might save ourselves a lot of time later, and in the end create something that is much more pleasant to interact with. For business owners, marketing professionals and other people who may be a client of design team, consider that this time spent on the front end of a project is insurance that the website and/or mobile experience designed will be much more tailored to the people it was designed for, the end users. In this way the experience leaves a better taste in their mouth, and is more likely to significantly increase your return on investment later, making you and your team look good.