I recall being taught about features & benefits in the marketing part of my MBA. We were told nobody wants a drill - they want a hole. The drill is just a means to an end, so you have to talk about the benefits of the hole not the features of the drill.
Martha Lane Fox wrote a thoughtful (as ever) piece in The Sunday Times last weekend in which she talks about spreading "digital skills to unite the nation". In the wake of the Brexit vote she argues for an inclusion agenda in which the 12.6 million adults in the UK with no digital skills must have access to high quality and affordable internet infrastructure. She concludes by saying that "tech used well can unite everyone – not just the metropolitan elite".
Most web developers and digital professionals tend to be, for obvious reasons, quite tech-savvy people. This can present a problem when developing products for the ‘normal’ user (if such a thing exists), as things that are obvious to the expert are often far from obvious to the end user.
Recently, we tested a new, information-provider web site for a well-known brand (the identity of which shall be kept anonymous for reasons that will soon become clear) and were fairly surprised to find the site navigation trailing down the left hand side of the page, rather than sitting horizontally at the top, where we have become increasingly accustomed to seeing it.
Having successfully launched our brand new responsive website we are now big advocates of this method of website design, unless fundamental issues stand in your way. Some of our clients are keen to advance down the alternative adaptive route, which recognises when a smartphone is being used and pushes an entirely separate, mobile specific site onto the screen. However, these sites often have a reduced level of content, based on what are believed to be the key user mobile goals - insights gained from market research. It is thought by some clients that their target audience have different goals on their mobiles than larger devices.
Recently, we have spent a lot of time watching testers navigate their way around the smartphone apps of a well-known British newspaper. What is becoming increasingly apparent is the importance iconography has to play in a user’s experience of a site. With the growing dominance of smartphones and tablets, and the limited real estate these smaller devices offer, icons are especially important, when words will not fit. At times icons can be misleading or misunderstood but the rise in digital conventions is aiding a smoother UX experience in many mobile sites.
People use multiple devices to access the web – increasingly, they’ll refer to the same site at different times and in different contexts on different devices. So it’s important to ensure that they get a great user experience – whatever device they use, and regardless of whether it’s a responsive or adaptive design, or separate desktop and mobile sites. Just because desktop and tablet sites may look similar, it doesn’t mean people will use them in the same way – see the experience we describe in multi-device testing. The only way to check that people get a great experience – and which will build and reinforce your brand values – is to undertake user testing with real representative users.
Smart companies undertake user testing on desktop/laptop, tablet and smartphone devices – and we’ve got a lot of smart clients: here are some of the things we’ve been working on:
We have recently taken delivery of a Microsoft Surface tablet and a couple of touch screen monitors. For Peter, our director, it was like Christmas had come early. Delivery day saw him happily ripping opening packaging and focusing completely on his new toys. We could have asked him for 100% pay-rises and a week off work and he would have agreed.