Field Notes: Folk X Tidy

Q/ So, could you quickly define what UX & UI are, and the importance of each of their roles in successful online retail?

UX (User Experience) is the study and research of user behaviour when interacting with a website, application, or product (the UI).

It takes a look at their journey and how the user experience of a user­ interface can be made rewarding and pleasant.

This is very important for retail as the research will be directly tied to the potential customers.

A big part of UX is Usability. This takes into account all of the analytical data your users produce when using your website or application before making any design decisions.

Again, this is very important to retail as how users interact and perform actions on the product can greatly determine the amount of bottom line revenue.

UI (User Interface) is the visual element that incorporates all of the studies from the UX phase. The UI is the end product of what the user will see and use.

Again, understandably important, especially on products that involve a user purchasing something or a specific call to action.

Q/ How do each of these functions add value to clients?

User Experience takes a look at how users interact with your website, application or product (the UI).

We use studies and workshops that asks your users how they would use your product and we watch them in their real environment. That gives us a lot of insight as to what users are looking for, which in the end drives conversions and customer engagement.

Q/ What problems do clients repeatedly ask you to help solve when it comes to creating successful retail UX design?

User engagement and conversions. Those are the two biggest problems clients would like us to solve.

Q/ Are there any differences in the kind of UX found on mainstream retail brand sites versus luxury retail brand sites? Why?

There are differences. Luxury brands generally have a different target audience than those of a mainstream retail brand.

Although mainstream retail brands try to cater to most audiences, It’s luxury retail brands that are targeting a specific audience.

Two main examples I want to talk about are H&M and Prada.

The H&M eCommerce straight away is very clean, shows basic information with prices and is quite simple to navigate. This is to make it simple for most users to find their way and engage their site.

Whereas the Prada website uses heavy animations and flash, which increases loading times and can make the site slow and unfunctional in most browsers.

There is nothing to see on the first page and you must click through to see any products or information. It’s obvious in this case that the UX has been clearly thought about for the H&M site in regards to making product purchases.

The Prada store focuses more on imagery and quality of the product and price is secondary and not shown until you’ve clicked on the individual product.

The reason for this is that Prada is a worldwide known brand and known for great quality luxury products. The typical Prada user would already made the assumption on price and typically would not be interested in price but more the product.

H&M is also a recognised worldwide brand but known for good quality clothing for affordable and reasonable prices. The general user of H&M may know what they are looking for but may also want a bargain.

Q/ What are the most important UX features for clients to consider when creating a fashion retail site?

Navigation and checkout process. A lot of retails sites, especially eCommerce sites, are very product/content heavy. It’s very important that it is easy and intuitive enough for the user to find their way around without effort.

The same goes for the checkout process.

This is the most important part of any eCommerce site. Studies show that most users don’t make it past the first step of a checkout process. On a previous eCommerce site we’ve worked on, we found that having to sign up/have an account made people turn away and go elsewhere.

So the fix was to implement a quick checkout button, where the user can enter all of their details without creating an account and still purchase from the site, therefore significantly increasing completed purchases.

Q/ In your experience, what are the most common misconceptions about the role of UX and how it's successfully curated that you’ve discovered?

The biggest misconception we’ve noticed is the mistake being made that Usability, UX and UI are the same.

User Experience is about the wider picture. It’s about the complete journey the user takes when using your website, application or product. It’s about conveying emotion and understanding what the user feels. This is the reason for user testing, workshops and focus groups. It lets us listen to your users and really understand what’s important.

Usability is very data driven and analytically focused.

There isn’t much actual interaction with users face to face, rather more the collection of group data on how groups of users interact with the product as a whole.

To separate the understanding of User Experience and Usability we can apply the principle of qualitative and quantitative data.

Where qualitative data is the outcome of a UX study, and quantitative data is the outcome of a Usability study. Or put simply, User experience is what the user says they do, would like to do, or prefers, whereas Usability is what they actually do.

Both incredibly important to the outcome.

UI takes everything from UX and makes it visual.

Q/ How do you keep up with the latest UX trends?

We’re heavily involved in the community. We regularly go to conferences, meetups, networking events, hack days and read up on UX articles.

Although, the biggest trends come directly from the users we test. As their behaviours evolve and change, so do the factors we take into account.

Q/ How quickly would you say usability issues change compared to the rapid evolution of technology?

Very quickly. As technology changes, the needs and desires of the users change with it.

The biggest example of this was the jump to touch screen based devices in the last 10 years and probably one of the biggest UX/Usability changes since the release of the PC interface. We went from pushing physical buttons to touching a flat screen.

Now we are seeing things move to gesture/movement based interfaces. This has a massive impact on UX as we now have to think of all the new ways of interacting with the user than just a mouse and a screen.

Keeping up with these trends, and accurately determining user requirements, is incredibly important with today’s fast pace of technological innovation.

Q/ For those who don't know your line of work very well, how much of an impact do basic design elements like colour or wording have on how consumers experience a retail site?

Colours and wording can be perceived in many different ways and using just slightly wrong wording or just a wrong shade of colour in the wrong situations can alienate your users.

Ever had a text message or email from someone and made an assumption based on what was written and not how it was written? Then come to find out that your assumption was completely unfounded?

It’s important to carefully think about what your message conveys as it can be taken differently.

For example, on an eCommerce website the words you use on the primary action for a specific product could be “Add to basket”, “Buy now”, “Buy”, “Add”, “Purchase”, “Get it now” or something else. As you could imagine by reading through those, there’s a different mental model associated with those words and their implied meanings, i.e. “Add to basket” and “Buy now” may perform the exact same action, although the user may perceive “Add to basket” as a friendly, more acceptable way, and therefore may potentially click it more readily.

The same can be said for colour of those buttons. Different mental models exist for different scenarios.

Only by asking relevant users would we uncover those models in order to do something about them.

Q/ Is it difficult to quantify the impact that UX/UI has?

In one word, yes.

UX is very much a qualitative approach and discussion, opinions, and general feedback of the user are potentially filtered through that particular user’s spotlight of the world.

This is a good and a bad thing. Good in that it can shine a much needed light onto areas that others wouldn’t necessarily know is important, or even exist. This individual’s perspective is irreplaceable as is their individual differences.

Although, the other side of the coin offers a challenge to answer return on investment and quantifiable impact with the user’s perspective alone. This is where we turn to Usability, and its data centred approach.

We integrate both into our process in order to keep a controlled yet flexible source of data. That way, we’re able to answer quantifiable questions with quantifiable answers.

An example could be the development of an eCommence checkout process. User testing with users could produce information that those particular users prefer the “Pay now” button to be blue rather than green.

This is valuable feedback, even though it may contradict web design standards and colour psychology. That is fine, as it’s the user’s unique perspective of what should be.

At this stage, attempting to quantify this information would be difficult. Instead, we would undertake an A/B experiment where we have two versions of the checkout process.

Version A with a green “Pay now” button, and version B with a blue “Pay now” button.

Both of these versions would be put live with real users and as a user enters the process they would be automatically allocated to either control condition A (green button) or experimental condition B (blue button) without their knowledge to remain unbiased.

Over the course of time, a clear statistical preference will emerge. Did more users complete the process with a green button or a blue button? At this stage we would have quantifiable, statistically significant evidence to assert an answer.

It is then very easy to then quantify the decision between whether the button should be green or blue based on the evidence.

Q/ What tools can you use to measure what you do?

A lot of what we do are direct workshops with users.

This involves us interacting with users face to face. We also use a lot of third-­party software that helps us capture data, study, track and interact with users.

We use a different assortment of tools on different projects to ensure we’re collecting the correct information at the right time in the right areas.

Q/ Do you think website design should be 100% alterable based on UX/UI impact? Which way around should it come? Design first, UX after?

There are a lot of factors to take into account and it really does depend on the client, project and target audience.

Some form of UX should be implemented within any website design or application.

The UX process is huge and there are a lot of aspects than can create a massive gain with a small amount of work, but this does again depend on the project. You are making this for them and not to listen to them would be counterproductive.

No matter how much work you put into something, it will never be perfect. UX is an on­-going iterative process and should be implemented from the beginning.

Once launched, more tests can be done to constantly improve the experience and, in return, increase conversions.

Q/ Shackles off, to what extent do you think clients get in the way of their own success?

That’s a difficult one.

The client knows their product/business the best and it can be very difficult for them to let go.

When running a business you want to shout about everything you’re doing and supply the most information possible so that your user can make an informed decision.

The idea of UX is to understand what the user wants and a lot of the time this differs from what the client thinks the user wants.

There can be times when the client has a potentially skewed idea of what the user requires and then makes decisions on their behalf rather than allowing decisions to be based on the outcome of a UX study.