Create Apps and Websites with Convenient, Cost-effective and User-centred Design

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"We don’t need to ask our customers. We know exactly what they want!”

Even in a world of ever-shifting need, fragmenting touch-points and rapid technology development, we still hear this (or at least know it’s implied) all too often from certain clients when it comes to web and digital service design.

Of course, not every client thinks this way. Many of the great teams we work with know that getting and keeping customers involved throughout the product development cycle (yes, a web site is a product) is a vital cog in the creative wheel that helps keep a focus on what will really make a difference to end users and, in turn to a clients business.

Learn how to start bringing user wants and needs into your creative and development decisions quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

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Obstacles and answers

We’ve got the analytics, that tells us everything - right?”


Things like Google Analytics and data-mining from web-logs can tell you ‘where’ people seem to be having digital problems - things like drop-off points, bounce rates, cart abandonments etc.

But only by speaking with, and observing real people can you start to see what the problems are and, more importantly, why they are happening.

Only by knowing ‘why’ - and sometimes these can be small things like button labelling (but often more significant issues) - can we then look to improve things that make a genuine difference.

"We’re a bit worried about what we might hear or see.”

Nobody wants to hear people saying that there are problems with a product - especially if you were responsible for bringing that product to market, and particularly when those issues are brought to light by ‘externals’ - like customers or agencies.

That’s probably why we find that the clients who are more open to getting customers involved and hearing about issues have little history with a previous launch or are new to the client’s business.

However, any problems we find now could be due to changes in audience need, expectation, technology or many other factors - and not that the product was flawed to start with. Learning and improving is always a good. Every day should be a school day.

"It costs too much and there’s no real benefit.”

What do app startups, local and national retailers and large corporates like Google have in common with you? All of them depend on users enjoying their products and services in order to continue doing business successfully. The ‘X’ in UX stands for experience - and, specifically, a positive experience. Customers who get this will then reward you with their trust, their business and their advocacy. But to deliver this positive experience you can’t just guess or go with what you (or your CEO) thinks.

Or whoever shouts the loudest. No lesser organisation than IBM have stated that “every dollar invested in ease of use returns $10 to $100” and Forrester have reported 15%+ increases in willingness to pay, willingness to switch brands and willingness to advocate because of positive digital experiences. But these improvements don’t have to cost the earth (or your bonus). Here at NetConstruct we’ve developed the R-UX program to kickstart your user-centred design processes. We’ll explain more later.

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"It takes too long. Let’s just build it and refine it later.”

There’s no-one who loves a good iterative improvement cycle more than us. We don’t just build great, new digital platforms - we build great, old digital platforms. However we also know that sometimes we are going to start on a complete re-development and putting the user, and their wants and needs at the heart of this, means we can then start to iterate from the most productive start point.

Trying to remedy an error after development is up to 100 times more expensive as it would have been prior to before a stroke of code is written. And by error we mean anything from poor structure, broken or confusing user journeys and wasted hours on functions a user isn’t finding useful. Getting to that best starting point doesn’t have to take forever as we’ll cover.

Introducing R-UX. Rapid (and useful) user-experience design

So, as you see, there are a number of reasons that people have as to why they don’t take a user- centred approach. However, we hope you can also see that there are even more reasons to say ‘why not’. So here at NetConstruct we have created a discrete process to help get clients (and client’s bosses) on board. We call it R-UX.

R-UX is a suite of specific user-centred research and evaluation tasks that we can undertake remotely with only very little time and resource impact on a client’s business.

It allows us to uncover key areas of site content, functionality and performance that need to be addressed, based on evidence provided to us directly from the mouths, mouses and tablets of real end-users.

Remote, unmoderated usability tests

Quantitative data like Google Analytics is a vitally important tool. However, data can only tell us ‘what’ and not ‘why’ people are doing things - or not doing things.

It’s crucial to understand the human side of technology usage, so we get real people to try to do ‘real tasks’ on real websites and see how they do.

Doing this in a physical lab and recruiting local and relevant participants can often be both costly and time consuming. Using a remote online system provides the same testing opportunity but in a much quicker time period and with a much broader scale of participant, to choose from. For a specific task, as few as 5 users can start to provide great results.

People are undertaking the tests in the most natural environment - their home - and so what they say and do can be seen to be much more accurate than if asked to attend a lab. Recruiting a pool of users and getting them to perform the same tasks allows us to quickly see patterns in what they do and don’t like or understand, acting as research stimulus as to where to focus developments or improvements.

Remote testing can pull from a huge panel of users, allowing very specific socio-demographic recruiting. Screening questions can be added to ensure even more accuracy in getting just who you need to take a test. Users then undertake the tests while talking through their thoughts about what they see and do on a website. These sessions are recorded as videos - showing the screen and with the user commentry as audiotrack and are then available to review and annotate.

What’s great about these tests is that it’s as easy to test your competitors’ sites to see what others are, in the eyes of users, doing well so that we can learn from this.

Sample task script : skin clinic

You have been recommended XXXX as a clinic to consider, as you are looking to get some treatment on Acne and Acne Scarring. After a Google search - you arrive at the homepage of the XXX website. URL:

  1. Go to the website
  2. Looking only at the Home Page say out loud what you can do on this site. What does the site make you feel/think? Looking at the navigation and links, do you feel it is easy to understand and will be easy to navigate? What things about what you see and read do you like and not like?
  3. You are interested in acne treatments. Using the site and navigation - try and discover the information you think you need about these problems and the clinics services in this area.
  4. Assuming you feel that this clinic can help you, given your concerns and where you live in the country, take your interest further and get in touch. What are your initial thoughts on the ‘Book a Consultation’ form? What do you think this will do? What do you understand would happen next after completing this form?

DO NOT CLICK the Book Appointment button after completing the form Exit Question Answer: “What is one thing you would have expected to see on this site that would have persuaded you to book an appointment?”

Heat/scroll mapping analytics

Where people look and what does (and doesn’t) draw the eye is very useful insight when evaluating how a site, a function or a single page could be improved.

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There are incredibly costly eye-tracking labs where a user’s iris is constantly scanned to evaluate what they are looking at on the screen in front of them. However, research has shown that on desktop computers people subconsciously - but readily - move their mouse cursor to the place where they are looking. A simple piece of JavaScript code can be added into your site and then start to collate data from everyone who visits the site to build a visual picture - a heat map - of users’ focus points to ascertain how a site’s design and structure is ‘working’ for them.

The same code also collects scroll data. This can tell us how far users are scrolling down any specific page helping us understand if key information is being consumed or not, or more broadly whether the site page design and content are engaging the user.

Agency and best practice evaluation

Naturally, your agency is still important. :) Users know what they know, but they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s where an agency with over 20 years development experience is important.

This strand looks to rely on our experience and expertise in the creation and delivery of digital services to add another layer of analysis and insight, based on looking at the clients and their competitors sites.

Building on the tests and users’ opinions, we ourselves look to evaluate the site against known best practice online with regards to what functionality or service levels are provided.

Here at NetConstruct we use bespoke emulation software alongside a bank of physical hardware to look at how the site displays on various devices. We will look at cross browser and cross platform compliance of the design and page structures, producing screenshots of how it appears on the most widely used technology, annotating where problems are occurring.

We would also recommend researching - where sector relevant - site compliance with regards to web accessibility levels, type size, colour contrast etc, to ascertain what W3C compliance level the site achieves and to detail its shortfalls. Each evaluation is documented in a short report with annotations on positives and negatives we have observed.

Solution sketching

Research and insights only become valuable if they can be made into tangible, actionable opportunities for change and improvement.

All the previous research, generated insight and ideas are now used to create new proposals for how any service could operate and be structured better. These take the form of wireframe sketches which detail content, functionality and navigation options on different screens, and are sequenced together to show how a user would use and move through the new site ideas. These ‘sketches’ can be hand-drawn, but we like to produce them in a piece of dedicated wireframing software which can allow us (when we are working on live web development projects), to link them together to form a lo-fi ‘interactive prototype’.

Design assessments - 5 second tests

This task can be used with wireframes and also with visual design treatments of key pages such as home pages and landing/ PPC pages.

Again, using remote web-based services, a 5-second test where the participant is exposed to an image of a webpage for 5 seconds. This image is then removed and the participant is asked questions relating to what they remember seeing on the page. The test is used to evaluate how well a page communicates the purpose and content within.

A major benefit of a 5 second test is the data that can be obtained, which is both quantitative and qualitative. Because the test is so fast and easy to distribute, it can be deployed to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of testers in a matter of hours, or at the most days. It is relatively quick and easy to obtain statistically significant results that can be organized into charts and graphs for analysis. This takes almost all of the guesswork out of validating if a page is communicating effectively or not, and makes it easy to develop useful conversion optimization recommendations.

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