Over the past year or two, I have found myself wondering about a better life with personas. Are personas giving us enough or can we do more? Real people’s needs, attitudes and behaviours shift or change over time and sure, there will always be new people that fit a persona, but should we be okay with letting people go? That might be okay for an entertainment app, but it probably is not okay if you want to provide long term customer value.
“The best interface, is no interface.” These were the pearls of wisdom offered by Alan Cooper back in 2012. Fast-forward six years, and here we are with ecommerce: forced registrations, whimsical delivery times, late/cancelled deliveries, basket analogies, wishlists, broken mobile-web journeys & impersonal recommendations.
If “Customer is King” and we follow User-Centered Design (or any of the other variants of UX), why is it that businesses, marketing and even sometimes UX put obstacles in the way of users reaching their goals?
After “What are you trying to achieve?“, my second-favourite and most used question, is “Why?”
Anyone who has ever engaged the inquisitive mind of a four-year old has had the experience of answering the dreaded follow-up question of ‘but why?’. While this line of questioning has lead to many frustrated adults, this line of thinking has inspired the problem-solving approach employed by some of the top companies and leaders in the world.
“Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It’s also known as ‘reverse card sorting’ or ‘card-based classification’” ~ Optimal Workshop
The test works like this. You take your current navigation structure, which in case of an ecommerce site might be quite wide (product range) and deep (product sub categories) and list them on a tool like Treejack from Optimal Workshop. You then ask users to navigate this menu and indicate where they would expect to find a certain product. For example: “Where would you find Black Shoes for a school boy?” The user then might navigate down your menu structure through “Fashion – Men – Shoes” or they might go through “Kids & Toys – Fashion” or through “School – other”. It all depends on which items you have available in your menu and which words interest their train of thought. This leads to an interesting graph on how many people find your product and which other paths they take. If a big portion of your users can’t find your product, you will need to move it to the category they expect to find it, or maybe not…
In User Experience (UX) we establish users’ needs through research and looking at product usage (where do users struggle with the use of the product – context of use), through the process of user testing. We establish user needs, help the product owner clarify his MVP and expose user problems, so that the product owner, in the end, can create a better product.
One problem with these tools, is that they are reactive. We need to gather data and it is “new” for every product and market. What if we had data that could be used proactively to shape the design, before you get to testing? The first designs tend to copy existing popular products, but we don’t have context of their design decisions and their products aren’t necessarily better.
Every company does their UX a bit differently. It all depends on resources available, are you a start-up or large company and the influence of your existing business-developer processes.
I worked for an ecommerce company and work were usually handed down from the top, in the form of “We need to redesign application X” or “We want a new application X”. My first response is always: “But why?”. Why do you need to redesign? Why do you want to build a new product? What is wrong with the current product?