Thoughts on my transition from Enterprise Application to eCommerce UX

Recovering from a raging case of Writer’s Block and the aftermath of a Spring Fever attack that left me dazed and confused – smack in the middle of a SWEET eCommerce gig with one of my all time favorite brands,  I’m just going to start writing and see what happens.

In no particular order, here are some of my impressions after 2 months:

  • MORE vendor pitches.  Seriously.  I felt really popular after the first few weeks the LinkedIn update outed me.  Seems like everyone wanted to congratulate me on my new gig and get a meeting to tell me about their “how to get people to convert” product.
  • We really care about behavioral data — and can get it.  Re-introduced to Adobe Site Catalyst — the last time I used this product it was called Omniture.  The great news is that OMG, we have an expert implementation and a dedicated analyst who can get me reports to answer most of my behavioral data questions. I spend every Monday morning updating UX Scorecards.  This feels like pure luxury.
  • Personas and Marketing Targets are often confused.  Yup. I pulled out a few old “what are personas” decks and am educating.  I’m currently working on a set of proto personas based on NNG’s eCommerce Shoppers research. I’ve been using those personas to design usability tests.
  • Everything IS delightful.  I almost cried with joy during the first design review I got to sit in.  Looking at page comps full of beautiful boots …. captivated by the lovely photography and attention to the call to action verbiage… it was amazing having just come from the land of microchip bill of materials management.  I remember being a conference listening to UXrs talk about how they wanted to “delight users”.  I’d just roll my eyes thinking, “I just want to make it not suck so bad”
  • But, we still are totally focused on page level design.  End-to-end scenario?  What the heck is that?  Context of use?  I just want to see what it is going to “look like” on my phone.   I had a meeting with my boss yesterday where I showed him that I spent a day mocking up the find product to order confirm task in Balsamiq so I’d have a set of templates to work off of to make improvements.   When I showed him the inconsistencies from page to page in black and white, his eyes bugged out of his head.
  • Everyone is a brand ambassador.  I had to start going to the gym.  And wearing mascara.  And I get to shop!
Who wore them best?

Who wore them best?

Going back in time..the value of UX session transcription

What?? It’s two-thousand-thirteen. Holy smokes! I still have pinto-beans and gold hoarded up from Y2K….

Half-way through the fiftieth year of my life, I have been going back in time a bit, looking through the events of the past — hoping to learn, and build new and better things out of those experiences. It’s been humbling.

Along those lines, I have been reviewing UX research from the past few years. I happened upon some archives on the 10T server in the garage (where all the Music CDs that we will be getting rid of now reside). I found some specific research I did years back around the needs people have to mine, consume, and report on data that they have been collecting.

I am so grateful that in the past we had the presence of mind (and budget) to have all of our remote user sessions transcribed — because, I found in my archives a bunch of general research that might be of value for a project I am working on today. The content specifics are different, but the usage patterns, goals and needs are remarkably similar.

For example, themes of getting lost in too much information, needing to distribute meaningful data to non-savvy users, and creating routine / automation came up over and over again in past data discussions. These problems were common to anyone who is working with “big data” several years ago — and continue to be. I can use this information today.

transcription 2

Here is an example of a transcript from a remote contextual inquiry. I have asked the participant to share with me some of the tools she uses so that I can get a sense of how she meets goals and challenges as she performs tasks.

I’ve talked before about the importance of creating consistent ritual around user research events — especially trying to be agile and having to be lean. That practice has paid off; the revelation of this forgotten data treasure so well documented.

As a practice here are some things that helped us ritualize transcription into our UX practice:

      1. We found a local transcriptionist who worked with a format we liked. Notice in the images I have posted that we included a column for a screen shot — every time the screen changed on the WebEX recordings of the remote user sessions, I asked the transcriptionist to grab the image and paste it in that column.

2. We linked the transcription back to the original source recording. The transcription serves as a searchable and scannable index to the library of user session recordings — the time stamp allows one to find the place in the long recorded session without having to go back through it.

3. Making the transcriptions and recordings available to the whole Scrum is a great practice for helping people understand that we are constantly gathering data about what we are building.

4. We were consistent in our schedule for the transcriptionist. Every Friday we had 5 or 8 sessions from 6 AM to 2 PM. The transcriptionist was alerted when files were uploaded to our storage area — we would receive transcription turned around by the following Monday afternoon.

5. We followed a script when we did sessions — and provided it to the transcriptionist along with the recordings. We also spelled out and defined any vocabulary words that they should watch out for as they were transcribing.

The neat thing, too, about going back and looking at these transcripts is that I get to critique my own research technique after the fact. It’s pretty humbling to read what I actually say to people as I am following an outline. Especially helpful in improving my skill at asking open questions without biasing or leading the participant.

Oh, the POWER of seeing re-enforced what we know to be true in writing — don’t ask users what they want, or need or if anything is missing — instead ask experiential questions around the topic to get your answers. Here in black and white, I can see my mistakes, and attempts at re-framing… next time I can avoid these conversation stallers….

transcription 4

After Roger gives me a bunch of great information about what he wants to see, I asked if there are any reports missing, six seconds go by and he says “No”. But when I ask him what the “custom reports” are… he tells me what reports he needs — in essence, what are missing from the reports in the view. (Also, that a custom report generator might be a useful feature.”

So, get your sessions transcribed if you can. It’s never too late!

Happy New Year — May 2013 be a better experience for all!