Category Archives: UX methods

The oldest trick in the customer experience book

Every Tuesday NZ business strategist Lance Wiggs issues ‘Three ways to improve your business’, Last week at number two is ‘Meet your customers’.
This simple advice represents the grass roots of a customer-centric approach to building a great experience for your customers, and competitive advantage for your business.

So, if this approach is simple yet crucial to design and business, why do we have to be reminded?

In the world of retail, gaining customer insight is; there for the taking, known best practice and as old as shops themselves.

In traditional retail, understanding customer behaviour is a matter of key staff keeping eyes and ears open. At base level, switched-on store managers can track and respond to demand and popularity of products simply by watching them fly off the shelf (or not). Front of house employees with their ears ‘on’ can gauge reaction to new product lines and track customer requests to inform potential new products or services.

Online, without face to face contact with your customer, you’re blinded to these insights and opportunities.
…of course web analytics can paint some of the picture, and tracking keywords in your site search can take you closer to the mind-set of your customer…

…but ultimately these aren’t stats or keywords, they are people and  it’s about meeting them, understanding the attitudes that drive behaviours in and around the context of your product or service, and their wider goals relating to what you offer.

This means qualitative research at an individual level. By building empathy with your customers, you can gain valuable insights into their motivations, monitor changing attitudes and expectations to inform vital changes to your proposition. …just like shopkeepers have been doing for thousands of years.

Lance’s timing is good however, as too many online businesses have failed to keep eyes and ears on their customers.  It’s an old and proven approach, and it ain’t going anywhere soon.

UX Research participants. Harder to pick than a broken nose?


Recruiting the right participants is a numbers game, so I was unsure sure what to expect returning to New Zealand from London.

All the insights, opportunities and reality-check moments which emerge from customer research or usability studies can be thrown down the pan if you’re not talking to the right people.

If your target sample is iPhone users who’ve downloaded from the appstore, that’s a pretty clear ‘consumer’ type brief. You probably won’t struggle to find a few of these and can’t go too far wrong.

…But what about when your client’s product is business to business and still at concept stage? You know the demographic, market segment, and perhaps the industry the potential customer base work in, but you need to know they are ‘warm’ to your product.

This is when a good recruiter is worth gold to the credibility of your User Experience project.
The ‘face to face’ research component is sometimes only a slice of a User Experience or User Centred Design project but the insights gained and direction provided can have a powerful effect on the end product. Being certain that these insights come from the right place and are based on truths is essential.

Finding a sample truly representative of your potential audience, achieving a realistic spread of demographic and many other factors across a small sample of people is a professional art form. Rather than asking yes/no screener questions, they’ll use subtle but revealing attitudinal questions to weed out the less useful participants.

I’ve recently worked with a company in Christchurch who had this level of attention to detail and came up with the goods on a tight brief.

If you are looking to find a solid and accurate sample, I can recommend you get in touch with Karen at Opinions info@opinions.co.nz

Do you know of any good recruiters for User research or Usability in New Zealand? or viewing facilities around the country ?   … or perhaps you know of some to avoid…
I’d be interested to hear.

Best laid plans. Blueprint for a charity home page

To help the client team moving forward I’ve produced a home page blueprint for the website built during Full Code Press.

With web projects requiring information architecture and overall user experience input it’s often as useful to justify the strategy and principles behind recommended approaches as it is to implement them.

Rainbow Youth helped us to understand their audience, now they need to pick up the website and run with it. It’s important they understand the strategy behind the home page and the function each element performs in relation audience motivations and expectations.

Since the Full Code Press event the Codeblacks team are providing tweaks and ongoing direction for our client, Rainbow Youth before the new site goes live.

To Share the goodness and our findings, …I have made a copy of the web page IA-UX blueprint available for those who work with the design of charity websites.

Full Code Press. 24 hrs to build a great web experience

Next week I’ll be part of an NZ team competing in Sydney against the Aussies to build a website for a charity at CeBIT’09

We’ll have just 24 hours from initial briefing to completion so we’ll cover the full journey from paper through to pixels, against the clock.

My role as User Experience guy is to play the user advocate. Making sure the Information Architecture maps well with the goals and needs of both the audience and the charity.

I’m thinking along the lines of ‘Le Mans’ UX design race;

  • standing start
  • all nighter
  • …but only one set of tyres
  • and no change of driver

Formal User Research and Usability methods are out, number eight wire is in …It’s time to improvise.

The event is called Full Code Press and our team are the Code Blacks.

Australia vs New Zealand, live at the CeBIT 09 conference in Sydney, 12-13 May.

Kiwi teacher’s User Centered Design approach wins over students (and Microsoft)

A geography teacher from an Auckland school is hailed as the ‘most innovative teacher in the world’. Delivering lessons via students mobile phones.

Nathan’s approach:

  • Understanding his audience
  • Observing their behavior
  • Building empathy with their needs
  • Harnessing their input

…and ultimately innovating learner experiences in an education system stymied by tradition.

Here are some cues from the article as to how a User Centered Design approach helped him reach this great outcome:

“No matter how much technology advances, high-quality teaching will always be linked to having a good relationship with students”

‘learning through information technology and student involvement. Students helped – by telling him what they felt was most appropriate or interesting’

There’s a video on MSN charged with Nathans enthusiasm for the way he’s been able to respond to the needs and behaviours of the students, by the power of observation.

He says the students who inspired the new method have embraced the technology and experience.
Pass rates have risen from 50-60% up to 80-90%.  Hard to argue with that sort of result.

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.