Category Archives: Observations

Personas. Journey or destination?

After a personas workshop last week I came out feeling the process was actually more valuable than the personas themselves.

Along with eye tracking, personas are a frequently debated UX method, usually judged by the end product, rather than the process of defining these hypothetical characters.

I’m convinced that a set of personas based on user research can be a powerful design tool, but when a budget and time-starved internal team have only their collective knowledge to base personas on …how valuable can those personas be?

When you’ve got marketing, commercial and design staff all batting for their corner, a consensus must be reached on ‘what works best’ …for the business and the customer.

Going through this journey together, agreeing on this balance can change the way teams think about their product and the customer experience.

Building personas without qualitative user research is certainly a ‘poor cousin’, less insightful and less reliable …but enabling this change of mindset within the facets of a team can be a milestone towards taking a user centred design approach.

…a powerful outcome from creating a ‘budget’ set of personas.

The price of cookies when booking your flight

Air New Zealand’s current advertising cheekily claims their fares have nothing to hide…

have you ever checked flight availability and prices then returned later to make the booking only to find the price has risen?

This happened to me using Air New Zealand recently, only when I went to make the booking using a different browser I was offered the original, lower price.

When the website cookie policy states;
‘will track website usage patterns’ and ‘display content more relevant to you, based on information we collect when you visit our websites’

…does this really mean;
‘We’ll offer fresh sales prospects our best price, then bump it up depending on how interested you appear to be?”

What’s going on here?

Raising the price creates a sense of urgency, encouraging us to ‘buy now before the fare goes up, or worse, sells out’ …a cheeky tactic. …but discovering you could have paid less, and have potentially been duped out of your dollars certainly doesn’t encourage customer loyalty.

The message in the advert initially sounds promising.
Upfront and transparent pricing through the browsing and booking process is something that keeps people coming back.

So, How appealing is it to use the features of myairnz if you’ve got the feeling you might be better off masquerading as a new customer?

Kiwis love a good deal offline, but do we need to delete cookies, or switch browser to ensure that we’re being presented with the best prices online?

Those who adapt, survive.

When it comes to adapting, we Kiwis are experts.

Our ‘Number 8 wire’ attitude sees us modify, improve and invent products out of necessity, or just to ‘make do’. This Wellington cyclist shows Kiwis are not afraid of some prototyping to find a solution, and stay safe on the road.

Businesses wanting to survive in times of change can learn from how people behave and adapt to and interact with their environment.

  • Which coping strategies do people employ when a product is not up to the job intended?
  • How could the product be improved to provide a more rewarding experience for the user?
  • Do customer’s habits reveal a latent need for a new product to serve emerging behaviours?

Observing customer behaviour in the context of use, getting out there amongst your customers, building empathy with their needs and watching for these habits is an insightful way to answer these questions   …and a core user research technique.

…but if you are  a bicycle accessories company, this may find you hanging out behind the bike shed after dark. …hmm.

A sign your User Experience needs a reality check

How can it be that a sign-writer, who arranges letters day in day out, can make a spelling mistake?

A mere series of stickers applied to a board, but somewhere along the line, the very purpose of the sign, the word itself became an abstract series of tasks within a task.

Happily beavering away up there in the cherry-picker, the sign-writer has lost sight of the big picture only two letters in … and walked away from the finished task unaware it has totally missed the target – To be read by people.

This happens every day when business and design teams become too close to their product.

The end user experience can and often is inadvertantly deprioritised when you are totally immersed in the myriad details of build and delivery.

User research with identified customers provides the vital ‘reality checking’ of a product, helping the designers see the product through the fresh eyes of its future users.

We’ve got spell-check to keep us literate, but before we deliver our message, it pays to test the product with real customers to ensure we really are speaking their language.

Grass roots customer research. The visitors book

Ok, it’s an occupational hazzard, but from a curious browse through the guestbook at a Bed and Breakfast there were some pretty clear patterns emerging.

From years worth of entries a clear picture emerged of the type, nationality and values of the guests , plus some insight into what they think are the most (and in some cases least) memorable attributes of the experience. (a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival is a big hit)

This was a pro-active B&B owner who understood and served his guests well, but customer facing staff in larger organisations are confronted by valuable user feedback on an hourly basis and are seldomly in a position to analyse and convert this feedback into improvements in customer experience, let alone to measure changing attitudes and expectations over time.

In this case, it’s a humble visitors book, and more than likely the quality of feedback is biased towards the positive but this is a great example of how some basic research at the front lines of a business or service can help shape a proposition to best meet customer needs. …or perhaps exceed them by leaving a chocolate on the pillow.

Trademe changes age-old roadside selling behaviour

The ubiquity of Trademe in New Zealand is well documented but this ‘advert’ changes the way we do things.

Not long ago a roadside for sale sign would include make, model, service history, price etc. …but here, it assumes that you’ll simply go to the website, enter the make and model of the car and all the info will present itself.

This assumption places a heavy reliance on trademe’s search function,  but is there a way that Trademe can leverage this behaviour to it’s advantage, and to the advantage of it’s customers?

For each roadside sale, a printable A4 sign could be auto-generated for sellers to print and display.

These could include unique barcodes so that mobile devices with cameras could be instantly taken to the auction web-page and place a bid on the house, car, boat etc.