From Business to Buttons – making digital channels so easy that people want to use them

Ethan Marcotte at the From Business to Buttons 2015 conference in Stockholm (photo: Magnus Nilsson)

When people talk about ease of use, they are close to the industry term User Experience. It is all about making digital channels so good that people use them without thinking about it. And that is the topic of the conference From Business to Buttons.

It is generally difficult to summarize a conference. In the case From Business to Buttons 2015, it is near impossible. I can’t remember when I last attended an industry meeting so clean from nonsense. We were treated to nothing but noble practitioners of the highest rank, all with a focus on User Experience, or UX.

I will still do a little recap of my impressions of the day.

Deliver content in a way that the receiver can handle

Karen McGrane is the author of Content Strategy for Mobile and spoke under the exciting headline Content in a Zombie Apocalypse. What’s the next big thing in digital channels? Karen does not want to predict anything, but took the example of a client who sells nuts and bolts to the manufacturing industry. The company markets its products in a very thick, printed catalog.

When will they stop printing a thick catalog of nuts and bolts? Hard to say, maybe in five years or fifteen. But we probably all agree that there will come a day when the company must adapt their content to a format that customers can manage in the situation where the need arises. And in this case it’s on the shop floor, where it may not even be natural to go off to a desktop computer.

Personalize your service to the user’s situation

Mobile developer Avi Itzkovitch had much interesting things to say about the opportunities that the features of a smartphone gives us. For it is not only the intended function that we can use, but we can keep on thinking up new ways to use features and – not least – new ways of combining functions.

Avi means that the opportunities of mobile allows us to customize the user experience based on the circumstances. He takes an app for bike rentals as an example. The user has an app and an account, that should suffice a cell phone to unlock the bike. When the user stop to enjoy the view, the situation is different, and the app’s functions can be adjusted accordingly. Do you want to know something about the river you stand by? Tip of the nearest coffee shop?

When you begin to see the user’s other apps, email programs and social services as a possibility to build even stronger experiences – that’s when it gets really exciting. But it is also here that a discussion on integrity and ethics becomes obvious.

Benefits + pleasure = Happiness

For those who work with web development in some form, it was very rewarding to hear Pamela Pavliscak talk about The Science of Happy Design. She showed some seemingly clear-cut examples of websites pledged against each other, one with little intricacies and the other stripped-down, to-the-point. Which one worked best? Not the one you think.

Ask people to draw from memory how their favorite sites looks. They will not remember.

What to consider when creating a good site? Pamela Pavliscak takes up five points that are prerequisites for happiness.

  1. It should be easy to use, and stand on its own. You should be able to achieve what you want without asking questions. Users need to feel that they have some sort of control over the situation.
  2. Trust. The user must feel that there are real people behind the site. Respect the visitor, don’t enter areas that are not on the user’s condition.
  3. Giving the user the ability to test, to play with functions without risking anything. Think about all the websites where you need to create an account to even see prices or add products to the shopping cart to see what shipping costs are. Even a function to calculate mortgage rates can be playful.
  4. Togetherness. The visitor wants to feel that the people behind the site is a bit in the same spirit. We share something.
  5. Context. Digital and “reality” need to sit together. The user moves between online and physical environment, you must do so too.

Measure the only really interesting thing; happiness. And that doesn’t need to be more abstract than the sum of business and pleasure.

Design is a job, dare to speak up

Mike Monteiro of Mule Design Studio and author of the books You’re my favorite client and Design is a job talked about 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations, but taking into account the time he had reduced the list to just seven mistakes (as Mike also was very careful to point out that he himself made, and in some cases still do).

He gave some really good tips for those of us working in the industry, and delivered many funny quotes. Among other things, this:

Clients are not alone. They do not hire you to be their pal. They hire you because you have skills that they don’t have.

And it may sound obvious, but good to recall is this:

– Clients are not asking for carousels, they’re asking for success. They are currently mapping success to that shit, it’s your job to tear that apart and bring clients success.

In the service of the public, on the public’s conditions

British public sector has in recent years been at the forefront of user-centered digital development. Deeply involved in this work is Leisa Reichelt, who is Head of User Research. She has a passion for doing things, rather than talking about them. Get Started!

Here are some tips on what you can do starting tomorrow:

  1. Show, don’t tell. Make small prototypes, take your prototype and some measurement data to the next meeting.
  2. Ask others to do things, and be very specific in what you ask for.
  3. Do things that are hard to say no to (read: good and understandable functions). Simplify. Be specific.
  4. Test with users in each sprint.
  5. Be better at communicating. No interface can save a bad idea.

Leisa ended by giving this advice for those who are designing for the public: designing digital services so good that people prefer to use them.

Functions that don’t work can point out other problems

An interesting example was presented by Cindy Alvarez from Yammer. During a phase of the development of Yammer the team examined the search function. Very few visitors used search, and since the idea is that if visitors use much of the service’s features, they will use the whole service and do so frequently.

They changed the search box so that it became more differential and tested. Nobody searched. However, further tests showed that nothing was wrong with the function nor did visitors hate to search. The real problem was that people were uncomfortable with openly demonstrate to colleagues what they were looking for. It could be perceived as a loss of prestige to search for something that they thought others looked upon as obvious.

That insight changed the direction of the whole product.

Scetch your ideas on paper and test them on stressed people

Greg Nudelman runs DesignCaffeine and is the author of several books on design and work processes for designers. He passionately recommend making simple prototypes on paper, test these and discuss them in a very early stage. That way you’ll fail early and receive an opportunity to change and adjust what you initially thought was such a great idea.

Prototype first, and make prototypes simple. Keep in mind that the Vasa ship was a prototype, and that they later made a ship that was just a little wider and had only slightly smaller guns – a ship that sailed with great success in thirty years.

Greg prefers to test his prototypes with people standing in line to buy coffee in the mornings. There he finds people who are in a bad mood, stressed and only thinking about getting themselves their morning coffee. They provide very honest comments. Ask them the crucial questions, such as “would you buy this app?” And “what would you pay?”.

Sure, more speakers were on From Business to Buttons

There were other speakers at From Business to Buttons 2015 in Stockholm; Iran Narges from Adaptive Path, Kim Goodwin, Ethan Marcotte (who was a personal favorite) and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. But others may write about what they said.

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