[00:00:00] Matt Bailey: Before I start this next episode, I just have to say, wow. Thank you so much for your feedback from this series. Uh, the digital marketing skills, uh, that’ll never go out of style has just been absolutely amazing to hear your feedback, to see so many people sharing it and talking about it. Uh, the last episode, digital skill number three, analytics, it rocketed to the top of my download chart in just a few weeks. So, I appreciate all of you who are listening, sharing, and spreading the word about Endless Coffee Cup podcast, and especially the skills series.
For today’s episode, a website is never done, and there seems to be a disconnect between website development and marketing. Your agency or designer may want to sign off and say it’s all done, but in reality, it should always be tested, improved, and adapted for your audience. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on sales, leads, registrations, whatever your goal. Rather than a budget for getting a website done, budgets need to include ongoing testing, optimization, usability. In this episode I’m going to cover the fourth skill and it is all about the visitor experience.
[00:01:28] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.
[00:02:03] Matt Bailey: “I’m just not good at these online things. I wish I could go back to working with humans.” My mother, now getting into her late seventies, is slowly entering the world of online banking, online healthcare, insurance, and as every aspect of life turns digital she spent nearly three hours working through an online healthcare portal. And many of you may be at the same time of life when you’re doing tech support for your parents. If so, I’d like to ask you how many times was it your parents’ fault or lack of understanding for not knowing what to do?
You see, I’ve found most times it’s the interface, it’s the function of the app or the website, or the lack of clear instructions that causes the problem. We’re at an interesting time in this country and around the world, really, as the majority of the population is older. Now, here in the U.S. the population is not only older, but significantly richer. Those over the age of 50 hold 90% of the spending power as compared to those under 30, which only have around 2% of the spending power.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. If you’re a marketer, retailer, or other commercial business, wouldn’t you want to appeal to the audience that has the most disposable income to spend? And if you do, don’t you want to make it as easy as possible for them to spend their money with you?
Now, unfortunately, this is not the case. The skill of UX, user experience, and UI, user interface, is not only a critical skill now, but it will be in great and increasing demand as more people and more places rely on digital interfaces to conduct nearly all of their affairs online.
Here’s an example. Do you remember when the new credit card payment machines went into stores? There was this weird and harsh buzzing sound that made it sound like everything was declined, and I remember being scared, “It went declined? What happened?” You see, why would they design it to make such a terrible noise?
Well, here’s why. When they made the specification, they wanted a noise to confirm a transaction, and that’s what they got. But then there was no difference between a completed transaction or a declined transaction. Both resulted in a harsh and irritating buzz. Now, some have said that’s to remind people to take their card out of the machine. I’m not convinced about that. However, talk to anyone in the user experience business, and they’ll tell you pleasing tones are better for confirmation. And now we’re seeing that as new machines replace the harsh buzzing sound with a pleasing sound in the checkout line.
Now, have you ever been in a casino? Can you hear the sounds? Do, do you know what it sounds like? You see, neuroscience has proven that there are a pleasant range of sounds that encourage us and, and relate success. This is why, when you go into a casino, you can have hundreds or thousands of machines all making noise, but there is never a clash or dissonant note among them.
So, that’s the audible. But what about the visual, because this is where most problems lie? Many apps and websites have tasks, processes, and forms to be completed, yet how are they presented? Those skilled in user experience know the importance of these critical areas, color and contrast, layout and design, error messaging, conversion optimization, heuristics, neuromarketing, and accessibility.
Now first, color and contrast, especially in designing interfaces for older users, which by the way, let me stop right here and rant a bit. Even though I may be talking about making things easier for older users, such as increased contrast, do you know that when we make these accommodations, it actually makes it better for everyone?
You see, in contrast, and by that I mean contrast between dark and light, in a high contrast, our eyes naturally go to those areas. And so, when you are in a digital interface, our brain assumes that the highest contrast area is the most important information on the screen. Now, when we choose to ignore or misuse contrast, now maybe it’s an artistic choice or an edgy concept, but in reality, you are forcing people’s brains to go against the natural tendency.
It’s like putting a cognitive obstacle course in front of your checkout. Now again, designing for UX involves making things better for everyone, older, low vision, poor vision, color blindness, cognitive issues. There are so many people that benefit from clear contrast because it’s not simply about vision. It’s about making our brains, it’s, it’s using the way that our brains work and making the cognitive load easier for everyone, regardless of ability.
Similarly, the arrangement of an object or objects on the page or app must follow a logical flow. I’m always amazed at shopping carts that have the big “Buy” button, but it requires you to choose size, style, or quantity first. You see, if something is required prior to the main action, then it needs to have a visible priority. And now it’s easier than ever to create different active states of the interface based on input. The priority focus can change as people complete each stage on their way to a final action.
This gets to one of the most unforgivable issues in interface design, and that is error messaging. I’m not blaming programmers for this. I never blame programmers. Their job is to make things that work. I blame the people that tell the programmers to create the application or the process and then never review it or test it or make it optimal for the user experience. The programmers do their job. They make it work, but that’s not where it ends.
Programmers are rarely the UX experts. This is where the interfaces and processes must be viewed by someone who understands what normal people will need to go through to accomplish this task. Field input examples, it’s so helpful when I see an example of the field format, such as a phone number. You see, without an example, do I put dashes, spaces, parentheses, plus sign, or just the numbers? You see, when you show people the format that’s expected, you show them what to do. Now, by the way, if you put it in the field and it disappears when people start typing, that doesn’t help. Show them what’s expected. Don’t make people guess.
[00:10:00] Also, do you show indicators of success, showing that the input was correct and acceptable? Do your error messages give helpful and constructive feedback to fix the input or correct a field? How many times have you tried to fill out a form and there was an error, but there were no instructions as to what to fix or how to fix it? How about when creating a password that didn’t meet the requirements?
The amazing thing is these seemingly small nuances in the interface, they all work together. And in fact, it can improve your overall conversion rates when you optimize, test, and improve these processes. Making your forms and processes easier to use and understand will naturally increase the number of leads, sales, completions, tasks, and the overall happiness of your audience. Good UX and UI helps everyone, including you and your organization, as it increases the success rate of your process.
Now, testing is a critical part of this process, and it doesn’t even have to be formalized. It can be simple heuristics that expose issues. In one case, my tester and friend Kim Krause Berg was testing a travel booking form and a checkout process. And she tested it from multiple aspects. But when using the persona of a single parent with two kids, it broke. And we don’t know why, but the software didn’t accommodate all the multiple variables of parents and kids. Only the testing of this booking software exposed the issue and it got fixed.
When I had my agency, we called it the “Mom Test.” Yes, my mom was our accessibility and usability tester. We asked her to complete so many tasks on websites because many times she was the target audience, and she was also a novice at computers and was very unsure of herself. Simply watching her navigate an interface exposed so many user experience issues that digital natives simply overlook. Bottom line is your testers should not be digitally savvy 20 year olds within your own organization. Your testers should be real subjects who don’t have perfect vision, they don’t live in front of a screen all day, and they aren’t familiar with the latest technology.
Site owners need to recognize that layout, design, navigation, and content should be simple and easy to find. It’s not a game for your visitors to win. It’s the simple ability to navigate and find information and answer a question. To accomplish this requires skills in information architecture, design, labeling, use of color, and of course, consistency. Your visitors don’t live in your website or app like you do. They need to be able to understand it in the first visit and within seconds.
A knowledge of UX and UI benefits from a practical knowledge also of neuroscience and how these elements work together in our brains. Contrast, color, organization, messaging, word choice, all these things work together to create a pleasing experience for the visitor. And I always recommend that anyone working with interfaces be familiar with eye tracking studies.
You’ll be amazed at how powerful contrast, color, and images are and how we use patterns to scan information. If you do business internationally, be sure to look at how eye tracking changes in different contexts and languages, such as languages that are read right to left and how they mirror sometimes English and our behavior of scanning left to right.
These are also the tools of the conversion optimizer, those who test and evaluate sites and apps to increase conversions. And usually, it’s just a simple change improving the interface. I could tell you endless stories about working with websites where only a few small changes to the interface resulted in massive increases in sales.
For one site, it was simply making the “Buy” button larger and using an impactful color. For another it was changing the arrangement of the “Buy” button and the “Cancel Order” button. You see, the bottom right button was “Cancel the Order,” exactly where people expected the “Buy” button to be. The amount of people that clicked that button on accident and then gave up because they didn’t want to do it again.
Another website was targeting older women for travel holidays, so of course they chose a pink background but used dark gray text. Now, if, if you don’t know the headache that’s going to create for someone, go try it sometime. I’m not sure they did any research into their market, or even any user testing. Simply changing the background to white and the text to black and increasing the size of the text, it increased sales almost overnight.
I can go on and on. The lesson is just because you created a new website or app does not mean it’s the best possible iteration for your users. Analyzing the flow of your visitors, finding the roadblocks, and improving the experience is a never-ending process.
I also place accessibility into this category. Anyone who deals in UX should be familiar with accessibility needs. And what amazes me is the resistance to the idea of accessibility. But in reality, those working in SEO have known for years that great accessibility also has massive benefits for search engines, not just users. Being inclusive also means being accessibly inclusive for all users. If you dig into accessibility, you’d be surprised to find that it doesn’t require massive reprogramming. Many times, it’s just simple additions and modifications, or maybe even changing a process, but these will all provide a number of benefits that outweigh the minor investment.
There are many marketing campaigns that could easily be improved with just simple user experience or user interface changes. Just because you have a nice template or a designed site doesn’t mean that it’s correct or even usable. Don’t let your campaigns, don’t let your websites go down in flames because of a simple fix that could have been avoided with a usability review.
Take the time to learn the language and the discipline of user interface and user experience. I’ve added some links on the show page here that I’m sure you’ll find helpful about this subject. And in fact, I’m sure if you’ve never dealt with UX or UI before, you’re going to find this as being one of the most rewarding skills, because all other skills are made better because of it. Usability touches so many areas and brings them all into a sharp focus on the visitor, their needs, and their outcome, which ultimately impacts your business.
Thank you again for downloading and listening to the Endless Coffee Cup podcast. I look forward to having a good cup of coffee and conversation with you next time.