Design effectiveness (from Chapter 6)
What is missing from web interactions? Listening! Can you make websites listen? This is the designers challenge!
To make a meaningful contribution to dialogue, we listen first and respond second. The quality of the response reflects our listening ability, and this, in turn, determines the quality of the dialogue. Websites, in contrast, are like a fashion parade---all the outfits are paraded to the viewers without consultation as to whether or not these are the costumes that they want to see.
In the business world, most conversations between organisations, or between a customer and an organisation, require a specific dialogue. First, the customer provides a brief, and then the seller responds with what can be done to service that brief. Another name for this dialogue could be `interaction. And, quite often, one interaction is not enough. The customer continues to ask questions, and the seller continues to answer them, until the customer is convinced that there is a strong synergy between his or her need and the sellers value proposition. If the desired synergy is not found, the customer terminates the interaction.
Promoting the value proposition after listening to consumer needs is the ideal path to conversion. However, on the Internet, it is a challenging task to listen to what you have heard, to interpret this, and then to customise the value proposition. But it must be done if you want to increase conversion rates.
Face-to-face interactions, whether in a retail outlet or in a meeting with a vendor, are subject to human emotions---involving various aspects of social behaviour and appealing to all senses. Because sight and hearing are the only sensory forms available in web interactions, the focus should be on using these effectively. This means providing analytical tools and features that enable you to `listen to your customers. Attempting to incorporate other sensory interactions on your website wastes your creativity and probably deters potential customers. As noted previously, some branding experts claim that you should use the web to enable people to `smell with the eye, taste with the vision and feel with the sight sight.3 This is an impossible task, and will never happen. Instead, designers should work within the bounds of sight and hearing to produce effective design that can engage the customer with the objective of the website. If the customer seeks interactions that include the other senses, he or she should be given the opportunity in other channels.
Consistency between channels is important to establish and maintain trust and brand recognition. However, consistency does not mean that each channel should attempt to replicate the others. Different channels have different attributes with which to work. It is natural that they can offer different features to enhance interactions with customers. Making productive use of different qualities does not undermine consistency.
Comprehensive research shows that behaviours of online users differ substantially. McKinsey and Media Metrics conducted research based on 50~000 users, which suggested that online consumers fall into six segments: `simplifiers, `surfers, `bargainers, `connectors, `routiners, and `sportsters. Each of these segments exhibits different responses to different design tools. For example, `simplifiers dislike pop-up windows that are designed to encourage impulse buying; rather, these `simplifiers seek easier and faster ways of doing business. In contrast, according to this research, `surfers prefer cutting-edge design.4
You might not agree with the detailed conclusions of this research (and its `categories of users). However, the research does reinforce the general point that each person behaves differently online. Designers must be aware of this and accommodate these differences in the design and functionality of their sites.
If your website does not `listen to (or interact) with the user---based on active listening---any measurement and analysis that you conduct on your website will be after the event. It will not help you to rescue things when they are going wrong, and will enable you only to take action when a similar situation arises next time.
Having understood why people have come to the site (insofar as this can be ascertained), the object of design is to meet their requirements in a simple, succinct, engaging manner. People are extremely goal-driven on the web, and do not tolerate anything standing between them and their goals. The guiding principle for web design must therefore be to keep the site `clean, so users can achieve their objectives as quickly as possible. This implies simplicity and ease of use. And the metrics to measure design-effectiveness should be geared towards assessing these two key factors of simplicity and ease of use.
Before considering the metrics, it is important to be aware that the design of a website can impede or enhance its measurability. Understanding the purpose of a website from a measurability perspective enables designers to create a site that streamlines the measurement process.
As an example of poor design impeding measurement, consider how multiple-content pieces on a page can make it impossible to know which content piece the user has sought. Perhaps a lifestyle portal contains a page on Sydney. This page might list various pieces of information that do not lead to any further action---such as the weather forecast, addresses of golf courses, and cinema movie screenings. How would you know which piece of information the user has looked at? Designers should be careful about how they mix different content pieces on a single page.
In contrast, good design can enhance measurability. Implicit user segmentation is an example. On the entry pages of the WebMD site, users are asked to identify themselves as patients or medical practitioners. With the help of design, WebMD therefore knows, in real time, the relative popularity of the site in two distinctly different user types.
Metrics to measure the design effectiveness include:
page influence factor;
sweet spots; and
Each of these metrics is considered in the book.