Analysts, honestly, make the world go round when it comes to any successful business – yes, data is that important. As you might expect from any role, they also make a handful of important mistakes. I've written about the biggest mistake web analysts make.
Today's post is an adjacent mistake: The cardinal sin of spending too much time with data and in reports!Wait. What?
Yes, I worry that Analysts, and Marketers, are spending too much time with their head buried in custom reports and advance segments and smart calculated metrics and strategic or tactical dashboards. Yes. They are all things I love and have repeatedly asked you to care for. But, perhaps I'm at fault for creating the problem of you spending all your time with data. Additionally, you are spending your day in the warm embrace of Adobe or Google Analytics because your job is set up as "data people."
In the biggest mistake post above, I'd encouraged you to spend time with the business, with the site (mobile or desktop) and dig from a non-data point of view. Today, I want you to do the same… Spend less time with data and a bit more time with your website. Specifically, the most key elements of the website.
The higher order bit is simple. In the second post on this blog (one million words ago), I'd shared the value of qualitative analysis because it is the only way to get context you need to answer the question why something was happening, rather than just relying on data which only answers the question what happened. Lab usability testing and online surveys both provide great strategies to obsess about user centric design. My love for heuristic evaluations is sourced in the fact that they are relatively straightforward, require the best possible cost – almost free -, and rely on you and your team.
My idea today is even simpler. The four-point self-driven path-to-business-glory:
1. Find the most critical experiences in your digital existence.
2. Try them yourself as if you were the actual user.
4. Now that you have the why, use the what to highlight the importance of improving the experience.
You must be freaking out, you have a huge website and 25 mobile apps.
While I do think it is a great idea for you to carve out 30 mins each week to execute the four-point approach above, I want you to start with places where your for-profit or non-profit entity is most likely to make money. Then, because this will be so addictively sexy, you should make time every week (might I suggest 1330 – 1400 hrs each Friday).
The initial focus of the above four steps will be the last-mile (core) experiences on your website. The starting point will be as simple as it can possibly be so that everyone in your company will care tons: Are we fabulous at the things most important to us making money as a company?
It does not matter if you are are B2B or B2C. Neither does it matter if you are a for-profit or a non-profit (it takes capital – human and financial – to change the world, right?).
My advice for you how to execute this massively important process is broken into the following sections, using delicious real-world examples:
United Breaks Hearts.
Patagonia Returns No Love.
Your Turn | Ideas To Impact Your Bottom-line Today.
BUT I Want Data-First!
Everything's Fine. Our Digital Experience Rocks!
Testing Kills/Delays Good Ideas.
Intrigued? Ready to learn from three wonderful companies, and their real-world reality, how be a one-woman/man user-centric design revolutionary?
Let's look at one example of the four step process above in action. It comes courtesy of a personal experience.
We all know HTC is in trouble. I've always thought they pushed the edge and took risks. I have had three HTC phones, and I loved HTC One. They have an approach to simplicity in software that is closer to a pure Google experience (when compared to the nails scratching a blackboard irritation that is personified in the Samsung phones).
I was in the market for a new phone recently (turns our tripping on oneself and falling into a swimming pool for a quick ten seconds is enough to fry a Nexus 5X). The announcement of an HTC 10 was that very day. A quick review of the even simpler approach by HTC to software (very close to pure Google, most default apps are Google) and pictures of the HTC 10 and I was sold.
Within ten seconds of getting the available for order email from HTC, I was on the Buy Now page.
And then… I was stumped…
Select Carrier was pre-selected as unlocked, exactly what I was looking for.
I could not figure out how to Select Color, which presumably would ungray the PRE-ORDER button.
I reloaded. No dice. Opened the page in the Edge browser – sometimes Microsoft is all you need to do the trick. No dice.
I am a usability expert after all, I did figure it out.
Turns out you have to click on the Unlocked green icon. It does absolutely NOTHING when you click on it. But, that click opens up Step 2 for you to Select Color. That in turn opens up the PRE-ORDER button.
Now consider this. Here is a company in deep financial trouble. They desperately need early order like mine (at full price!), a full month before they'll ship the phone. They really need to know if their marketing, and last hope the HTC 10, is going to be received well. Yet, no one bothered to try the web experience to check how much it sucked. AND, it was the only way to submit a pre-order!
The insanity of it all makes my blood boil. And, I don't even work for HTC. As someone who loves the web, who is passionate about digital experiences, it makes me bat-crap cray-cray when I see this level of staggering incompetence.
It should upset you too. This is happening on your website.
When was the last time you submitted a product review on your site? Or, tried to submit a lead? Or, unsubscribe for your company mailing lists? Or, download a piece of software? Or, customize the layout of the car (boo BMW boo!)? Or, tried to return a product? Or…. or anything else that is directly connected to you making money?
Just do it.
My recommendation will yield two great outcomes:
1. You will get insights you can use for your data/campaigns. The why for your what .
2. You are going to become stark-raving mad at the incompetence you'll see from your own company.
Thing 2 is priceless. And, your career will really, really take off.
To prove that these experiences come in many different shapes and sizes, let's look at another example.
I humbly believe the worst checkout experience in the known universe is buying Wi-Fi on United planes. It does not work with password managers like Dashlane (which would greatly reduce the nightmare). The form has a crazy captcha that will require prayers to Buddha and the layer of magma in the middle of planet Earth. Drop-downs in the form related to credit card expiry date or other elements are terribly organized. It is missing primitive intelligence, like the city does not get auto-filled after you type in the Zip Code. It does not remember that I'm a United 1k member, and that they have all my credit card, underwear size etc. info already, and let me press one button to buy.
I would keep going on, and this is a one-page experience, but let me stop.
It honestly is the worst. I challenge you to submit an experience worse than this via comments below.
Oh, and one more thing. Set everything above. United is experimenting with pricing, you can buy Wi-Fi by the hour.
How about making it easy for me to figure out how much to buy…
I'm flying from SFO to ORD.
It is not an 81 hour flight.
Not wanting to pay too much, I had to buy Wi-Fi twice because I guessed wrong the first time. Frustrating.
Why is something so gosh darn easy so very, very hard? I understand times are tough at United-Continental, but don't United employees buy wi-fi on United planes? Or, even better, tried to buy Wi-Fi on competitor planes and realized how much better they are? Why do they put up with this atrocious horribleness? Don't they love their company?
While I'm being a bit more passionate than you might expect me to…. consider that, literally, hundreds of thousands of people each day sit on a United flight – which is already frustrating for reasons that have nothing to do with United – and the very first thing they have to deal with is avoidable pain.
Here's a story of unrequited love.
There is perhaps no brand I love as much as Patagonia. I love, love, love Patagonia. I love the clothes, the quality, the fit and all that normal stuff. The reason I love, love, love Patagonia is the depth and breadth of their corporate responsibility and the fact that as a B Corps company doing good for the world is in their legal charter.
Patagonia though refuses to return my deep love for it because of how difficult it makes the most basic thing an ecommerce company should be good at: returning products.
Let me explain.
If you see me out and about, anywhere in the world, I'll be wearing my well worn scratched blue nano puff jacket. I love them so much, I buy them for others. Recently though, my aunt did not like the green color and I had to return it.
It is easy to start a return…
When you click continue you land on the Shipping & Billing Page. The Shipping Cost is described as "flat rate repair shipping cost." I don't actually want to repair anything, I just want to return the jacket. I don't know if that is what Patagonia will charge me to return the jacket, or returns are free as I'm not sending anything for repair.
What is also a tad bit confusing is that they are asking for a shipping address.
My mind goes back to the multitude of returns we have made via Amazon Prime, and I can't recall having to confirm my shipping address.
Is the assumption of the Patagonia digital user experience team (if they have one) that most of their customers move after they buy Patagonia products?
Worse is yet to come.
When I scroll down on the above page, I see this… REVIEW ORDER.
Order to return a jacket?
Is Patagonia so short of buttons that they could not make a separate one for the return process and call it PROCESS RETURN?
I genuinely pause at this moment not sure how much the return costs, and what I'm ordering. Perhaps an address label?
But remember, I love, love, love this company. So, I persist.
Here's the next page…. It is called Shipping & Billing. What the hell happened to REVIEW ORDER!
I would have assumed at the minimum the above step would happen when they asked me if I had moved homes after ordering the jackets.
I persist of course and give them my credit card, which will be charged for $5 or $0. I'm not quite sure.
Then I have to go to two pop-up windows to separately print a page I have to include in the package and the page I have to stick outside the package.
The whole experience is so bad, it hurts my feelings. Especially because I really do love this brand and I can't believe they suck so much.
I don't understand what the problem is. Is this so bad because Patagonia run out of money having created a order submission process that they had to re-use it for processing returns? Is this so bad because no human at Patagonia has experienced returning anything they've purchased on the internet? Is this so bad because I am the only person who has ever purchased anything at patagonia.com and hence honestly they don't need to give a crap for one person?
As an outsider to United, HTC and Patagonia, it is hard to understand why companies that put so much money into trying to provide a service seem to run out of money, or love, at the last-mile.
Fix that for your company. Fix the last-mile.
Oh, and remember my beloved blue nano puff jacket? Don't bother searching for it using the search box on any patagonia.com webpage. You get zero product results. Zero. For a jacket that costs $199 list. Zero results via search. Patagonia is making me cry, I don't know how I'm going to fall asleep tonight.
If you are a part of an ecommerce company, order something right now (in a different tab, keep this one open to read the rest of this post!). Make note of what frustrates you. Email it to the CMO. Then tomorrow. Try to cancel the order. Take notes. Email them to the CMO. If it won't let you cancel the order, try to return the order after you get it. Take notes. Email them to the CMO.
That is what it takes to drive change.
If you work at Salesforce, submit an online lead, experience your company in all its frustrating glory that your potential customers do.
If you work at Unilever, go to any brand's active Facebook page and submit a problem using the comment system. See what happens.
If you work at AT&T, try to review the current month's bill to understand the charges on a family plan before you use the online bill pay feature. Then, get really, really mad. (Or, ask me to send you a video of my pain as I try to do that each month.)
If you work at the Lutheran World Relief, try the funky box that opens up when you hover over the red Donate Now, see how it feels. (Then fix it please.)
I hope you'll be the bright star whose obsession with true digital simplicity and glory will infect others in your company. Imagine how many problems will be found, how much improvement can be driven…. all without Google or Adobe Analytics.
Oh. And, before I forget. Try all of the above on your mobile websites and mobile apps. I would post screenshots, but I fear the pain it would cause you. So. Be sure to have a friend or lover hold your hand before your dive into your company's mobile experiences. It is going to suck a lot, but consider the fact that you are going to be doing God's work and making the world a better place.
Bonus | Download: The team at Google has already spent loads of money on research to identify the mobile best practices, with loads of cool examples. Why not benefit from Google's spend and improve your mobile experience? PDF Here: 25 Principles of Mobile Site Design.
[sidebar] I'm writing a weekly newsletter that shares tips on how to make sense of data, my favourite data visualizations, marketing strategies and things to avoid in your quest to be a smarter digital person. No advertising, just amazing advice. You can sign up here: The Marketing-Analytics Intersect. Thanks. [/sidebar]
For some in our audience here, it is hard to leave analytics and data behind no matter how desperately I want you to. I understand the pain of trying to let go of years of accumulated comfort from never having to experience your business, and only living through data. I've done it.
You can use data as a starting point, if you really want to.
It is possible that the HTC team could have found their heartbreaking Pre-Order page via the fabulous Shopping Behavior Analysis report that is part of the magnificent Enhanced Ecommerce Reporting in Google Analytics.
The above data does not belong to HTC (15% also might be a bit too high!). But, the first column is what we would be looking for. That could trigger a visit to the website to try the user experience.
I do want to caution that not everything broken will be so easy to find, hence I want you to complement your data skills and analysis efforts with just going to the site/app and trying to emulate a normal person (you!).
Another source of starting points, if you insist on using the data, is to leverage the Behavior Flow report that automatically helps you unpack the complexity of the user experience on your website or mobile app.
I am not a huge fan of path analysis, so do know that you have some of those issues here. But, the GA team has done a wonderful job of trying to avoid some of the issues. Besides, you will likely be most intrigued by the red bars above and any really dark gray bars that are ending up in odd places.
By reflecting the actual behavior, GA is trying to get make this a productive use of your time and when it comes to trying to walk in the shoes of the user this report does a pretty decent job.
There are other reports you can use as well. I hesitate to give you a complete list because my core ask of you is to skip the whole data bit and just use your site/app.
It does not.
If you want me to prove it to you, reach out with your URL. It won't take too long to find the issues. :)
I do not believe in the everything's fine mantra. Stay hungry, stay foolish. If my four step process outlined at the start of this post does not yield anything meaningful, I take it as an indicator that I've become assimilated.
In these cases, my strategy is to use the blessings of the multitude of online usability testing tools to identify problems my beloved users might be facing that I've become blind to.
Steps One and Two are the same as I've recommended for when conducting Heuristic Evaluations.
Then, you'll pick a unmoderated usability (or moderated if you insist) tool you like, from UserTesting to UserZoom to Loop11 to UX Recorder (for mobile) to the many others out there. Conduct your studies, wait for the result to roll in, reflect on how much there is to do (a good thing!) and get stuff fixed.
If you have read either one of my books, or even bits of this blog, you would have learned of my extreme stress on experimentation in terms of fixing the user experience. And, I do stand by it. Most Analysts and Marketers are less than ideal proxies for actual users (you are too close to your own company).
There is a class of fixes, everything above, where you should not recommend testing anything. First, stop the bleeding. Just fix the primitive problems.
(I'm not sure there is one, but if there is one…) What should the United digital user-experience team to first? See what two of it's main competitors are doing, take the simplest things, implement them right away.
HTC team? Patagonia?
Or, just copy Bonobos or Amazon or someone who has already figured it out.
In these cases, testing becomes another boondoggle that will continue for another trillion years while the bleeding continues. You can even quantify the bleeding if you use any of the above report. It is very expensive.
Once the core is fixed, then use experimentation and testing to elevate yourself beyond your direct competitors, beyond how great your customers thing you could ever be.
I really did write this post for you, the person whose job description does not have one word about user experience or user-centric design. No matter what your title, dogfood your own digital experiences. You'll find valuable insights that give context (why) to your data (what). Besides, you'll get mad and pity your customers, and, because you are awesome, you'll get things fixed.
And, once you fix all the last-mile (core) issues, don't stop there. Most Analysts, Marketers, rarely search for their own brands on Bing or Google or Baidu and follow the experiences that come up to the end. Rarely do they click on their display ads and see what happens (remarketing to death!). Most don't follow their brands on social media and are self-tortured by the embarrassment that is their social media presence. Most… You catch my drift.
User-centric design powered by you can transform your company. You can get a ton of enriching insights if you set aside 30 mins every week to use your mobile and desktop website, your mobile app, your Search ads and your social channels. So… make time, solve for world peace.
As always, it is your turn now.
Does your company have an existing user-centric design practice? If yes, are all the last-mile user experience problems solved in your digital experiences? Is there a cultural incentive in your company to do what I'm recommending above, even if your job is not UX? What is the most embarrassing thing you've discovered about your company? What is the most delightful phone buying, wi-fi ordering, order returning experience you've seen? Is there a painful experience you want to share, perhaps we can get it fixed (!)?
Please share your tips, best practices, painful experiences, joyous clicks, and masterful guidance via comments below.