Tag Archives: design

2017 digital predictions

This is now the seventh year of my digital predictions for the forthcoming twelve months (see here for 2016).

Supermarket checkouts - RIP in 2017 from Amazon Go?
Supermarket checkouts – RIP in 2017 from Amazon Go?

There are industry commentators and research analysts who release their predictions for the coming year. But I’m the only one brave enough to mark their homework at the end of the year! Last year I scored a respectable 61%.

Although President Trump and Brexit-at-some-point won’t have a direct impact on technology, there will be an indirect impact on consumer prices and investments into startups. Whether this affects the technology market in 2017 or later is difficult to say. Continue reading 2017 digital predictions

Weekly reading list

Internet of Useless Things - well worth a quick read, even on the throne
The Internet of Useless Things – well worth a quick read, even on the throne

Here are the best articles that I’ve read during the last week:

Warc – Measurement issues hit TV– regular readers will know my frustration with measuring TV audiences. Their time has come, just as they are reporting a sharp decline in audiences. But in an industry based on advertising revenue, the measurement companies are being urged to create ways of showing increasing audience sizes. Bizarre but inevitable.
25 years of Photoshop | Adobe Photoshop 25th anniversary – This one made me feel old. Some beautiful imagery here.
Apple Pay is now the number one mobile payment solution at Staples – When reading any headlines about Apple Pay, remember that Apple Pay has paved the way for contactless technology in the US, which is still growing at a good rate here in the UK.
The Internet of Useless Things – I loved this (thank you Matt) from Rehab, who we’ve done some great work with at Endava.

Continue reading Weekly reading list

Fortnightly web reading list

Here are some of the interesting articles I’ve read over the last fortnight:
The Rouble. Making Bitcoin seem stable since October 2014.
The Rouble. Making Bitcoin seem stable since October 2014.

Everything You Create Is a Product – I really liked this article, which reinforces the importance of first impressions, even for employees who turn up at the same office every day.

Inside RadioShack’s Slow-Motion Collapse – Bloomberg Business – A good, in-depth article on the demise of RadioShack. Hindsight is such a wonderful tool in business – but what would you have done differently?

Bitcoin Price – It’s been an interesting week for Bitcoin. As one customer remarked, “If you think Bitcoin is volatile, look at the Rubble as well”. Point taken. Here are various well written articles on Bitcoin including This Bitcoin Price Chart Shows What’s Blocking Faster Adoption – NASDAQ.com.

Continue reading Fortnightly web reading list

What is Digital?

Self-service - a key trend in digital projects
Self-service – a key trend in digital projects

Many organisations are finding themselves asking “What is Digital?” It’s a difficult question which sounds easy at first. After all, isn’t everything that we do today that involves electronics, digital in some shape or form?

If an organisation has a CTO (Chief Technology Officer), why does it also need a CDO (Chief Digital Officer)? If an organisation already has an IT department, why does it need a digital one too?

So what is digital?

To me, digital is a mindset. In the 1990’s we’d have called it a paradigm. It’s all about thinking slightly differently to classic IT. Continue reading What is Digital?

11 lessons about innovation from the New York Times

The BBC Newsroom. Currently peaceful. And sometimes less peaceful.

Whilst doing some research at work on innovation within the Publishing industry, a colleague of mine found a leaked report from the New York Times from March this year (the full article is at the end of this page).

At 94 pages, it’s a must-read for anyone within Publishing. I took 11 key points from the document:

  1. (page 16) Hallmarks of disruptors… number 4: “Initially inferior to existing products.” This is so true. Almost every time we work on a new innovative project, there will always be someone criticising that product A does things better, or product B is more comprehensive. The answer is twofold – firstly, you can have something more superior, but it will take a lot longer and cost a lost more money; and secondly, it’s part and parcel of developing something new. Remember Twitter’s outages? Remember how basic Facebook looked?
  2. Only a third of NYT readers visit the homepage. Just think of the effort in designing the homepage! Google is great at providing users links directly into articles, and users share articles not homepages. This is the proof. Continue reading 11 lessons about innovation from the New York Times

Mobile first? Don’t believe the hype


Designing websites has never been as difficult as it is at the moment, and it’s only going to get harder.

Think about this for a moment – people born since about the year 2000 are unlikely to have ever walked into a travel agent or mobile phone shop. They’re unlikely to have been inside a bank more than a couple of times in their lives. Couple this with more than 10% of the UK still haven’t used the Internet.

In Q2 2013, AOL earned a staggering $166m from dial up modems. It’s fair to take a decent chunk of that revenue and claim it’s from ‘forgotten direct debits’ (now here’s an irony: a quick search for forgotten direct debits produces some interesting reading from AOL which claims over 2.5m Britons are paying for services they no longer need!).

So we have this strange anomaly where the Internet is being used by teenagers who have grown up using web browsers before they could read and over 75 year olds who are just starting to use the Internet for the first time.

And then they’re the range of screens: from a small Blackberry screen to iOS and Android (my S4 feels closer in size to an iPad Mini than an iPhone) to tablets. These screens demand large contact areas for fingers to select rather than small target areas easy to access with a mouse. Then on to desktops, which have a wider array of sizes than ever before. At work I use a square monitor with a relatively small resolution but when I work from home I have a large widescreen monitor where some sites look really nice and some look like a size zero.

Responsive design isn’t always the answer. I spend time battling against the marketing wave which convinces clients into believing every website needs to be responsive, to fit large and small browsers, touchscreen and mouse driven.

But responsive isn’t the only option. Fire up the BBC website on a smartphone and you’ll see the mobile site which is a quicker and easier to use than a responsive design. And it really comes into its own when you have a weak signal and want the latest cricket or football scores. A responsive design would be slower to download and use than the excellent mobile site. For high traffic websites it also reduces the cost of bandwidth delivery.

As well as fighting the responsive design marketing wave, I’m also swimming against the tide with mobile first initiatives. Yes mobile is increasing, however there are still very significant numbers of users using desktops. And what happens when wearable technology takes off? Or if TV apps really become mainstream?

The answer to many of these questions is to make sure that any digital platform has a complete API to support all these output devices. This can help multiple teams develop user interfaces in parallel. It also helps store the ‘state’ where users switch devices.

The best in class example of this is Facebook. Open the Facebook app on your phone and you’ll see the number of notifications in your activity feed. Click on some of them. Then look at Facebook on a desktop and you’ll see the new number of notifications. It’s the way it should be, but still so many sites struggle with these concepts.

So while it’s currently the hardest it’s ever been to design user interfaces, there are some great examples out there of how to do this properly, just don’t get too sucked into all the marketing hype.

Buying a car in the disruptive digital world

At work at the moment we have a number of clients for whom digital is presenting some turbulent, disruptive challenges. Many of these clients are forced to face the challenges head on. One industry which has faced digital disruption head on is the retail car industry.

A couple of weeks ago, we needed to replace Mrs H’s car. Our Hyundai Trajet has been the family car for eight years, and with four young kids, there aren’t many durable alternatives open to us.

Like most people we went to AutoTrader and looked for options. AutoTrader is the leader in the car industry (more on that later); it’s easy to use and enables users to filter exactly what’s needed. For us it’s at least 6 seats, automatic (Mrs H’s requirement) and we only wanted to see results within 20 miles of where we live because we’d be schlepping the kids around with us to look for cars.

Some of the results were from Car Giant – which is advertised as a car supermarket with over 1,500 cars available for viewing (apparently there’s another 3,500 ‘in the back’). It’s reasonably close to our house so we went for a visit.

I’ll skip the details of the visit, other than to say that the entire experience is ruthlessly efficient, for both customers and Car Giant. Within 2 hours of opening on the Sunday they’d already sold 200 cars. You need to be efficient to cope with that much stock and customers.

Back to the digital elements… After we’d taken a car for a test drive we thought about speaking to them about financial options. They gave us the headlines and some time to think about it. So I got out my phone and within a few minutes I’d arranged an improved offer with my bank using their standard banking app. And despite being a Sunday, the money was in my account immediately (can someone remind me why cheques take time to clear…?).

When we ordered the car, they asked the standard questions like “Where did you hear about Car Giant?”. I answered AutoTrader and the sales guy said that virtually everyone answers the same. AutoTrader is the ubiquitous car search engine. He asked what car magazines we’d used for research and I answered that we hadn’t read any magazines, just online websites and he said that he hadn’t had a single customer in the last month that had answered with a magazine title.

Clearly people buy car magazines such as Top Gear and the top selling Auto Express but I suspect their readers either buy brand new cars (which Car Giant doesn’t sell) or want to hear news and stories about cars rather than buying advice.

Three days later we came to collect the car. Full credit to whoever designed the internal IT systems at Car Giant because the process was silky smooth and again, ruthlessly efficient. The advisor went through all the steps on the screen with us (checking paperwork and so on), and just like visiting an Apple store, by the time you leave the place, they’d emailed all the necessary paperwork.

Many companies are experiencing more disruption than any previous period. I congratulate Car Giant for embracing the disruption and transforming their business into the efficient operation which attracts customers on AutoTrader, through to the collection process.

I just wonder what the industry will look like in another 8 years’ time.

11 Dos and Don’ts of Website Optimisation

Picture-51

I went to an interesting conference yesterday hosted by Webtrends titled “Successful Site Optimisation with Webtrends”. The main topics were about multivariate testing, which doesn’t get most people’s pulse racing, but it was presented in an interesting way with lots of useful tips.

Multivariate testing is a natural next step up from A/B testing.

A/B testing is where you have two pages that do the same thing, and track which one gives better results, whether it’s increased registrations, higher click through rates or more revenue, etc. These two pages will run for a certain number of users or a time period, to give good comparisons. Think of it as having two large research group.

The problem with A/B testing is that these pages are usually fundamentally different, so it’s difficult to know which difference made users increase metrics on one page over another. Hence multivariate testing was born. Multivariate tweaks the ‘control’ page, subtly changing any of the following:

  • Content (copy)
  • Colours
  • Format
  • Page section behaviours (making whole section clickable, or just an image, or just the text next to an image)
  • Audience segmentation.

These multiple changes can run in parallel as long as they are measured correctly.

At the conference, Webtrends asked who in the audience show a different landing page for new users compared to returning users. It sounds obvious – if a user has already come to your site before, they probably know the basics, so show them more detail, or entice them to actually buy something on the second visit. Out of 60 people in the audience, only 4 companies said they show different pages for new and returning visitors, and one of those companies were MoneySupermarket.com who gave a case study later on.

To do multivariate testing, you need to develop a culture within the business to try different ideas. Most organisations want to design a single solution for web pages, and implement those. The concept of creating multiple designs, copy and user behaviours for each page is alien.

Multivariate testing also requires more people. At the minimum, you need the following:

  • Optimisation analyst
  • Creative specialist
  • Web develop
  • QA

As mentioned earlier, MoneySupermarket.com gave a case study of how they implement multivariate testing. Steve Willey from MoneySupermarket.com explained that they have 120 million visits a year, and 6.7 million individual customers. This gives them a large control group to test updates.

Steve spoke a lot about the optimisation culture within MoneySupermarket.com, which is vital to fight the subjective decisions that most organisations take with design and content. His key recommendations were:

  • Set objectives
  • Take small steps
  • Educate the rest of the business
  • Keep wowing stakeholders with results.

It took MoneySupermarket.com two years after the first A/B test before optimisation became cultural. The first test was to controversially remove a large amount of content from some pages which gave improved conversion results.

MoneySupermarket.com have an SEO expert in the optimisation team to ensure they don’t lose their top spot for most keywords. 

For new products, they always A/B test before launch. They always try to avoid new launches without any data of how well it will perform. Sample sizes are usually around 10% of the audience, giving pretty quick results to MoneySupermarket.com.

One of the things I noticed in a number of the case studies were how calls to action (e.g. the text on links and buttons) are more subtle rather than direct. For instance, ‘Next step’ worked better than ‘Book now’ on the sites.

The next speaker was Tom Waterfall from Webtrends. He gave 11 Dos and Don’ts of Site Optimisation:

  1. Do constantly test. Results only last for a certain period of time (e.g. during a sales campaign, perhaps with above-the-line support)
  2. Do make sure you have the right resources. Research from Forrester shows that the right resources will make the testing more successful.
  3. Do keep it simple. This reduces the risk internally and externally. It helps keep the test shorter and easier to analyse. Copy tends to have the most profound impact on visitors, and adding a chevron (>) helps. You can go into infinite detail about Add to cart buttons.
  4. Don’t forget to sell yourself on every page. Keep adding security information, free returns/ delivery/ service/ etc., and publish information about the amount of content, customers, products or even ‘Likes’ that your brand or products have.
  5. Do make use of other technologies, including analytics, insight database, eye tracking and heat maps.
  6. Do think about the audience. Tom gave a great example screenshot when he was looking to buy a pair of [men’s] shoes and the recommendations on the page included some women’s clothes. So have some recommendation rules to prevent these simple mistakes. Have a think about the audience based on their location, or the traffic source (where the user came from), their previous behaviour on your site, and if possible, demographic data.
  7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Break the changes down from A/B testing to smaller multivariate tests. Try to test one thing at a time (although you can have multiple tests at one time, just not all on the same page). In summary, make sure you can analyse the results from your tests. And test each language separately – what works in one language probably won’t work the same in another.
  8. Do plan ahead. Have a long term plan of tests. As soon as one test has finished, start the next test, hence the need for a team, with a pipeline.
  9. Do think radical. Firstly, the more radical the changes, the bigger response you’ll get from users. MoneySupermarket.com sometimes push (or ignore) the corporate brand guidelines because they guidelines are sometimes subjective, and Steve’s team can prove that bending or changing the rules will give improved revenue.
  10. Do consider future trends. Tom recommended everyone should be testing on mobile, tablets and web, and on the first two formats, companies should be testing app and browser versions. Companies that took future trends into consideration more than two years ago stopped designing mouse hover over effects and lightboxes which don’t work well on touch devices.
  11. Do have fun with testing. Tom’s examples were a little lacking (read: corny!) here, so I’ll give an example of one of our customers a couple of years ago. The customer produced a mobile app, some tactical social media implementations, and a YouTube channel. All three were the first implementations of their type for this client. Everyone within the Endava and client team said what they thought would be the most successful initiative (and why), which gave us more ideas for each project.

The morning was a really good session, so thank you to Webtrends and MoneySupermarket.com for sharing so many useful tips for website optimisation.

Image courtesy of Mccormicky