Category Archives: User Experience

Summing up web analytics and the web products you use

I was sitting trying to figure out how to sum up what I do as a web analytics architect and engineer. When friends and family who are not in the industry ask what I do, it can be difficult to explain. I was trying to craft a statement that’s simple enough to understand but simple enough to understand without getting into messy details. What came to mind was a media campaign by BASF in the late 90’s explaining they don’t make the everyday products we all use, but they have a hand in making them better.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to apply this line of thinking to web analytics. While at one point in my career, I’ve been part of teams that built products you may have used, my current role is in figuring out what to measure, how to measure and either code it myself, or work with a team to put the tracking in place. The resulting data is then used to identify what works, what doesn’t and identify behaviors that resulted in a good result or in the bad result.

Here’s what I came up with:

I’ve designed pages, experiences and applications for the web, and I’ve built them.

Today, I make it possible to measure, report and provide insight.

Product design and technology make a product.
What I do helps build a better product.

Strategy and marketing build a campaign.
What I do makes it possible to measure success.

10 UI Design Patterns You Should Be Paying Attention To

Smashing Magazine has a top 10 for design patterns that should be normal practice for commerce sites. These include Lazy Registration, Progressive Disclosure, Forgiving Format and more. If you’re a UI designer and don’t know what these are, take a look at the article.

In a practical sense, these types of patterns allow visitors to your site to complete their shopping tasks and move on to purchasing – the key to success for visitors to painlessly make purchases increasing your number of successful purchases.

Microsoft doing retail?

I just read an article Robert Scoble wrote on Fast Company on Microsoft’s announcement on their entry into the retail arena ala the Apple Store. I think his article is spot on with regards to what they should do to be successful.

My thoughts are that Microsoft should focus on selling an experience that’s unique to what Microsoft is capable of providing through their products, their technologies and through their partners. It’s a customer’s experience and a positive association of that experience that differentiates one retailer from another. For example, to the pragmatist, Levi’s and Diesel both sell clothes. However, the premium someone may have for Diesel is made through an emotional connection customers have to the brand because of design and an identification of the lifestyle Diesel represents — this is only strengthened through their advertising and in-store experience. That’s not to say that Levi’s is a bad brand or has bad products, the expectations with regard to the Levi’s brand is simply different.

Also, Microsoft shouldn’t look at this retail venture as a means to sell products… it’s an opportunity to sell an experience that will positively impact their brand! If Apple is the Gap of computers, Microsoft has the ability to transform themselves to American Eagle Outfitters, Diesel, Prada… of technology… or they have the option of becoming the clothing section of your local Walmart.

As Apple mentioned when they decided to pull out of MacWorld, their retail locations are important for educating and exposing customers to solutions and technologies on a a local and accessible level. More importantly, Apple’s retail locations don’t pressure people to buy either, they educate customers to making decisions that are right for themselves. People don’t like to be pressured into a sale, they like to be led down a memorable, positive experience that helps them make the right decision.

Like the Apple Store, let customers play with touch screen PCs, mini’s, and Zunes and iPods, but more importantly, let customers play with Microsoft innovations — set-up a large projection wall allowing customers to play with Photosynth, install a couple of SURFACE lounges, etc… answer their questions, abstract concepts of technology are stickier if they’re tangible… help drive desire of the products, particularly in a commoditized market like Microsoft’s.

Another area that I think that leads to an improved experience is don’t pack the store with crap to complete with the likes of Best Buy or Fry’s. Fill it with best-in-class products, particularly products that have a positive perception by customers – it will help streamline the shopping experience and improve perceptions of whatever the Microsoft retail brand may become. Have educated purchasers who understand both what the market desires, but also the importance of quality brands in the marketplace. Don’t sell cheap crap because it’s cheap – sell stuff whose brands denote quality and can help bolster Microsoft’s own brand in retail.

The Mojave Experiment

When I first saw the commercial for the "Mojave Experiment", I thought it was extremely cool… at least from a selfish perspective. If people didn’t understand part of what I had been doing for the past 6 years, I can point them to the commercial! From that perspective, it would be interesting to see the other things that were said, not just the positive.

That said, I don’t know what techniques or methods they used, but anyone who’s written a report detail the conclusions and recommendations for these types of studies has probably learned that biases going into the focus group/testing tends to taint the outcome. It may be the case that if these studies were real, the onset of the study may have been tainted if the premise was to show that Vista is better than XP. Questions and the way the study was scripted and conducted would lead to the conclusion that the research team sought. Worse, if the intent of the study was to prove that Vista was better than XP in order to support a marketing campaign, then the outcome would most certainly be heavily biased towards a positive outcome for Vista.

From an advertising perspective, it’s very reminiscent of the old Folger’s commercials where an unsuspecting victim’s coffee was replaced with instant coffee. Like the Folger’s commercial, the problem with this particular awareness campaign is that while you can "switch" the product, no one is fooled by a potentially lesser substitute — Folger’s instant coffee vs high-quality, freshly brewed coffee. Instant coffee tastes like instant coffee.


In this case, while the people in the commercial may have liked certain features of Vista, there’s no mention of what they liked… just a small selection of unqualified ambiguous statements. Depending on how the study was conducted, the features were were probably pointed out by the the study’s facilitators. If the study was to determine whether these features worked as expected, fair enough, but to judge an overall operating system, that’s tough.

In the end, the reality is no one is fooled by freeze-dried coffee… Microsoft should probably have used another technique to improve the public’s impressions of their product…

The Mojave Experiment

User Experience Resources

Here are a couple of user experience resources I’ve come across in the past and figured I’d put them here. They are for 3 companies that have shaped computing as we know it today.

While Apple wasn’t the first company to have done a user interface guide, nearly 20 years ago, they were the closest thing to what user experience designers call patterns.

I haven’t sat to compare and constrast the differences, but it might be a fun bit of analysis.