CIO SURVIVAL GUIDE PART 1: DESIGNING GREAT USER EXPERIENCES
Happy Customers Have More Fun
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THE USERS OF YOUR SYSTEMS WERE YOUR EMPLOYEES. NOW, YOUR USERS ARE PRIMARILY YOUR BUSINESS’S CUSTOMERS. TO THEM YOUR COMPANY MAY ONLY BE YOUR WEBSITE OR AN APP ON THEIR SMARTPHONE. THE CIO CAN CONTRIBUTE DIRECTLY IN THE BOARDROOM BY DESIGNING GREAT SYSTEMS FOR YOUR CUSTOMER’S.
By Chris Parker
If your systems are not easy and fun to use, your customers will leave. From their perspective the user experience is your company. User Experience (UX) is about how a person feels when using something and is driven by the perceived value and ease of use of the interaction. Traditional ICT tends to focus more on efficiency of the user interface, while the people who actually use the systems often prefer simplicity and a splash of fun. Brilliantly architected, coded and supported software can generate passionate responses by the users when the UX doesn’t work for them. Consider the ‘I Hate Lotus Notes’ online support group (www.ihatelotusnotes.com): “This website is dedicated to my fellow sufferers who day in day out are forced to use Lotus Notes, causing them to struggle with email communications, squirm at the thought of planning another day and generally fighting for their will to live.” If your system’s interface sucks, your users won’t enjoy it, and you will have wasted money. This can’t be left to chance. The CIO has an important role to play in ensuring the customer’s experience is positive and memorable.
The benefits of improving the UX of your systems are many, with the most obvious being user acceptance of your purchased or bespoke systems. In order for UX design to be most effective, this should be considered and validated with the real people who will use the system even before requirements are finalised and certainly before code development begins. For systems which are purchased, have these same people conduct usability testing before you settle on a short list for consideration against all your other criteria.
Improving UX can also generate revenue. The story of the ‘$300 million button’ is widely known in the UX community, where an American brick-and-mortar retailer changed one button on their site’s layout and the result was the number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. This increased volume resulted in an extra $15 million the first month and an additional $300 million in sales the first year after the improvement was made. The button they changed was simply removing the requirement for all customers to register themselves before making a purchase. This simplified the ‘checkout path’ which made the purchase process easier for casual customers and left registration for the customers who choose to have an ongoing relationship with their company.
The UX design of your systems is too important to leave up to Marketing to sort out or simply have your developers consider the brand guidelines just before the software is released. The design and development aspects of systems, traditionally separate domains of Marketing and ICT, are now too entwined to be considered independently. Your company needs to make a strategic decision regarding UX which needs to be based on the emotional response you seek to create during the customer’s journey – which is more important, efficiency or intuitiveness?
Making Pizza Fun Again
The global market for retail pizza is highly competitive and commoditised. Similar to IT solutions, the pizza market is consumerised (users can make their own or buy frozen pizza) and commercialized (users can order a pizza for delivery or go to any number of local restaurants). Customers can use the phone, or sometimes can use a website, to order a pizza. Simply making this more efficient may include remembering the customer’s preferences or simplifying the options available to order, however this doesn’t make it more fun. Domino’s took the e-commerce challenge to the next level altogether in the US market with the introduction of the Pizza Tracker online and on the iPhone.
The Pizza Tracker puts the customer in total control of the pizza purchasing experience when they order online or by phone. In additional to the pizza order related information, there are links to Facebook for loyalty promotions, there are games to play while waiting for the pizza to be delivered, the customer can provide service feedback and recently Domino’s added themed skins for the customer to further customise the look and feel of the Pizza Tracker. Since its launch in 2008, it has been tremendously popular and Domino’s celebrated the surpassing of $1 billion in online sales in 2010 and now only follows Amazon and iTunes in volume of online transactions in the US.
The system is based on intelligence mined from historical data, combined with saved user preferences, the distance of the customer’s location from the store, and information about who is working at a specific store at the time. Based on these statistics, Domino’s was able to determine with a high enough level of accuracy the time of each stage of the order to develop the Pizza Tracker, which is essentially a simulation of the real order fulfilment process combined with other entertainment for the customer. Domino’s doesn’t actually track each individual pizza’s journey from order to delivery; instead they used the information they had to create a story for the customer to follow. They could not have done this if their current processes were not well under control by Operations and if Marketing wasn’t working closely with ICT to ensure the presentation and infrastructure layers were working in perfect alignment.
In the US and other markets, Domino’s has released the iPizza app for the iPhone, which provides similar functionality as their website for ordering, and the UX is easy and fun. Now a Domino’s customer doesn’t even need to get up from the couch to order a pizza – no need to miss any football, just reach for the iPhone, enter your postal code and order your pizza. In the UK, since it was introduced in September 2010, they have surpassed 1 million orders through the iPhone app and online sales jumped to 63% when combined with their improved website and the promotion of giving a free pizza each week to the foursquare mayors of their store locations.
Business Can Be Fun Too
Improving UX in the business -to-business (B2B) space can be more challenging, yet even more important than when servicing business-to-consumer (B2C) markets. B2B typically has lower transaction volume than their B2C counterparts, which often make the investment more difficult to justify. It is even more challenging when business customers are locked-in to term contracts which effectively forces them to use the systems you provide – whether they are easy and fun or not. Excellent UX creates an experience which can delight the customer so much they choose to be locked-in, as opposed to the proverbial ‘iCuffs’ which hold the customer hostage. The higher revenue from individual business customers makes their loyalty more critical to the continued success of a company, and poor UX design will certainly damage this relationship even if it takes longer for this to impact the bottom line.
Business customers buying from you during the day are consumer customers in their personal time, and they are expecting the same type of experience as their favourite social networking site or iPhone app.
The pre-sales and delivery processes of B2B are often long and complex, thus don’t lend themselves to being tracked with an online simulator like Domino’s. The UX can be improved by using techniques like breadcrumbs to guide the user through a process, moving information outside the barriers of being a registered user, providing complete and accurate product descriptions and being transparent about pricing. The post-sales experience for B2B customers also has many points which can benefit from improving the UX of e-commerce solutions, particularly when they are easy and fun, such as the ordering of spare parts, other supplies, providing manuals and documentation, and presenting information and other business intelligence for their benefit.
Tools Make It More Fun
When UX experts are asked which tools are most important for great UX design, the answer is frequently ‘paper and pencil, and don’t forget your brain!’ The thinking behind the design is the most important success factor in UX design and improvement. The UX experts have tools to draft out the flow chart of the design (which they call wireframes) and to actually create the product – leave that process up to the experts. For the CIO, there are various tools and services available which can help ensure your UX efforts deliver the desired result.
If you are having difficulty getting the awareness and funding for UX improvements, then consider conducting usability tests with the people who really use the system while recording their facial expressions along with their screen activity. If your systems need some attention in the UX area, these pictures will make it very clear. Silverback (www.silverbackapp.com) and Morae (www.techsmith.com/morae) are both applications which record the users activities on the screen and their expressions during the testing process.
A common challenge with any development project, and in particular UX improvement projects, is getting a user base to do the testing and having clear feedback about how your changes are impacting the usability. User Testing (www.usertesting.com) is a service which provides a group of anonymous testers who complete the tests and you get feedback very quickly. The Usabilityhub (www.usabilityhub.com) is a bundle of online solutions which allows you to validate and review analytics about the usability of your developments. These services can also be used to get a feel for whether or not your users adore your current systems.
Let’s Have Some Fun
An efficiency-led CIO strategy is now less valuable in the Boardroom than a customer experience-led one. You need to find ways to impress on your executive colleagues how vital UX is to your competitive advantage, customer service and beyond. To do this, you will need to demonstrate how your company looks from the outside-in, while many of them are probably more comfortable looking from the inside-out. You need people who are fanatic about the customer’s perspective of your company. These people then need to be positioned in the organisation to maximise their influence and to work directly with Marketing and Customer Service.
UX design will continue to grow as a key competency of any business, and it is more than just a brand manual from Marketing or complying with the ISO 9241 standard on human system interaction. Your UX needs to embody the brand position you are striving for and be a holistic part of the customer’s journey.
Your journey to improve the UX of your systems and websites isn’t going to be without pain or occasional failure. The content and technology are constantly changing, which requires perpetual development and testing. Sometimes things go really wrong, and not just in the form of bugs. The Pizza Tracker from Domino’s, for example, doesn’t take into consideration if an order does not include a pizza – so when you order only soft drinks, these also go into the oven!
The next CIO Survival Guide will explore how the CIO can improve your company’s performance in providing Customer Service.
Chris Parker ([email protected]) is a customer experience expert and helps business leaders around the world improve customer experiences by embracing emerging technologies.
The CIO’s User Experience Survival Action List:
- Educate yourself and your team on UX with the below resources
- Assess your current systems UX by the people who use them and with external advice
- Enhance your software development life cycle by including UX design before development
- Test for usability – and fun – early in the development process
- Hire or partner with a User Experience Architect to make this all happen
- Make friends with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), as this is important to both of you
Resources on UX for the CIO
Book: ‘Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability’, by Steve Krug (2005)
Book: ‘Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design’, by Bill Buxton (2007)
Book: ‘Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software’, by Johnathan Anderson (2010)
Book: ‘www.jensondesign.com/The-Simplicity-Shift.pdf’ by Scott Jensen (2003)
Report: ‘Best Practices in User Experience (UX) Design’, by Mike Gualtieri of Forrester Research (2009)
Online: UX Magazine (www.uxmag.com)
Online: Interactions Magazine (interactions.acm.org)
Training: UX Intensive (www.adaptivepath.com/events/2011/uxi/)
Training: Usability Training and Certification (www.humanfactors.com/training/)