Interviewing the UX Guru

UX Pro,Jon Dodd, shares his answers to 10 interesting questions.

Tags: Website Development, Website Marketing

Interview with Jon Dodd

There’s nothing more interesting than sitting down with an industry expert and picking their brains on their specialist topic. So for this particular blog post, we interviewed Dr Jon Dodd, CEO and Co-founder of the well-known UX design agency, Bunnyfoot.                   

Jon holds a DPhil. in Visual and Computational Neuroscience from Oxford University. As an academic he researched how the human brain judges attractiveness, distinguish the shapes of shampoo bottles, and make decisions when shown visual illusions (he can also tell you a thing or two about how faces indicate age, gender and trustworthiness and why caricatures work so well).

Without further ado, let’s get into the good stuff

1. Who are Bunnyfoot and what do they do?

Bunnyfoot was originally formed by an academic psychologist and an ex-management accountant who specialised in the internet industry.

In the beginning, our main line of work involved fixing people’s website mistakes. We would spend our time looking specifically at areas where their design was letting them down and fixing issues such as usability errors. However, fixing people’s bad stuff isn’t what most people get out of bed for so we spent many years evangelising about the need for companies to invest in research and user-centred design.

We still fix the problems we find on our clients websites, but as the market has matured, we’ve spent a lot more of our time providing user-centred design services, which include understanding customers and their needs up front, modelling their behaviours, and then designing the ideal system for those people from a position of knowledge. Our designs are tested using an iterative approach in order to deliver something that really kicks ass for the user.                                      

2.      Who are UX design services for?

They’re for anyone who cares about their customers. There is no minimum size your company should be before you start thinking about creating an effective interface for your users.

In terms of providing specialist services like the ones Bunnyfoot produce, we have a big base of Blue Chip companies, but we do also work with start-ups. The services we provide can be expensive, but it delivers a great ROI, and when they’re used at an enterprise level, investing a nominal amount in user experience can deliver massive benefits.

3.      What’s hot in UX right now?...

Aside from all of the obvious topics such as web, mobile and responsive design, one of the most interesting topics is the Internet of Things and augmented reality.

We see technical evolution happening all around us, but a lot of this innovation isn’t necessarily being developed out of necessity. As an example, we’re seeing companies add smart sensors to everything, but the resulting products don’t solve a real problem. It’s our job to ensure that the user’s need drive the product innovation. To determine those user needs, contextual research should be conducted by UX experts, and that will allow product creators to determine exactly what product is required to fix the problem or to improve the user experience.

4.      …What’s not so hot?

A big bugbear of mine is the term “User Experience” itself. It’s been around for about 10 years now and it’s composed of people who have jumped on the band wagon. It’s almost at a stage where someone who has used Photoshop once, considers themselves to be a user experience designer…So what’s not hot is people thinking they are user experience designers when they’re not – it damages the reputation of an industry based on academia and science. Admittedly, it’s quite a cool area to be in, so it’s easy to see why people want to be a part of it, but in reality they don’t have the first clue about what they’re doing from a professional point of view.

Another thing that isn’t so hot is the “Me too” culture. We are seeing website designers use carousels and hamburger menus just for the sake of it and every responsive platform looks the same now due to laziness of design.

5.      What metrics do you recommend tracking before and after a UX redesign? 

All the normal ones such as page views, time on site and exit rate are a given. The same goes for metrics such as conversion rates, revenue, and other metrics like the number of items in the user’s basket. It’s worth mentioning that you can use net promoter scores and questionnaires to get some of your metrics, and you can also use metrics from social channels.

Things that often get missed are actual metrics of the experience itself. These metrics were defined in 1996 and there’s an ISO standard for it:

The measures include effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction.

The Effectiveness of a system measures whether users can complete a task or not. For example, if they want to complete a registration form, you could measure effectiveness by looking at the success and failure rate as a percentage.

Efficiency isn’t always about how quickly someone can perform a task, it’s also about how much effort or how many resources they’ve had to put in. As an example, this might be measured by the number of clicks the user had to use to achieve a task. More importantly it’s not the actual amount of effort the user puts in, it’s the perceived amount of effort they feel they have put in.

Satisfaction is a funny one. Believe it or not, some people can use a system that is really efficient and really effective, but still hate doing it. Equally they can find something that is not effective and not efficient, but love it – for example Apple iOS isn’t particularly effective or efficient, but people love it.

If you nail all three of these measures, it’s going to be a pretty good experience that you’re offering.

6.      In your opinion, what are the top 5 things every modern website should have if it’s to thrive in a world where almost 1 billion websites exist?

  • Hub pages which display clear information – not just dull menus with some pictures, and they should show rather than tell.
  • Clear navigation mechanisms that adhere to best practice – ultimately clarity of navigation requires a good information architecture.
  • They should be interoperable and accessible. This isn’t just about catering for disabilities, it’s about allowing the information to be used and consumed in the way that the user needs it to be. For example, if the user is in a car, the information needs to be transformed so that it meets the needs of the user’s environment. A good example of this is responsive design – the ability for a website to appear in a readable format across many devices.
  • Content should be provided in a way where it can exist in different contexts. So potentially using a snippet of content from the website on a social site.
  • Clean modern design and one that is considered to be appropriate for their positioning and location. So for instance a Chinese site would have a very different aesthetic from the equivalent English/US site. We have to recognise internationalisation issues.

To add a couple more points,

  • If you’re selling stuff, you have to think about not just functional, but persuasive content and emotional design.
  • And finally, the site has to have great SEO so that it can be found, otherwise you might as well not bother.

7.      What’s the number 1 thing stopping the vast majority of websites achieving better conversions rates at the moment? 

It’s got to be design based on opinion rather than customer insight. This is where people design things the way they like them or think they THINK is best. Some even design their sites based on what their competitor’s site looks like.

Companies should be reaching out and finding out what their customers really need. If you’re a travel agent providing services online, go and hang out in a travel agent for a while. Make notes of what customers talk about, what they think about, what questions they ask and in which order they ask them, and use that information to hone in on what your proposition should be. Then when you’re designing for those needs, test everything before you’ve invested too much. After testing and readjustment, you’re left with something that is both unique and customised for your target audience, and a system that is therefore more likely to be successful.

8.      What is your view on website personalisation and A/B Testing? 

There are two ways to look at this. Website personalisation is a potentially dangerous thing. It’s also potentially a very powerful thing. It’s really powerful because if you can anticipate the needs of your customers well, then you’re helping them without them knowing, which is fantastic. Get it wrong and it could be disastrous.

Microsoft’s “Clippy” was potentially a great idea, but it just annoyed the hell out of everyone. Similarly, when you return to a website and there are suggestions based on previous browsing patterns, that can be very useful, but it can also be very invasive and there have been cases where it’s been used incorrectly, and it led to divorce! So it’s a great idea in principle, it just has to be executed well, and for that, it requires research and testing.

As for A/B testing, it’s a fantastic idea too, but again it needs to be used properly. The only problem with A/B testing is that it helps you know what’s working, but not necessarily why. You’ll find out which option is better – A or B - but you won’t find out if you’re missing something that is massively better than both of those options. You can’t just scatterplot your tests and hope to arrive at the optimal solution. If you’re just a/b testing, you run the risk of reaching the peak of a local maxima.

We want to put you on the top of the mountain rather than the top of the foothills.

It’s about fundamentally getting the overall positioning right and then running multivariate testing. Even people that are bad at A/B testing will get small improvements using the tool, but they may be missing something fundamental

9.      We understand Bunnyfoot offer eye-tracking experiments. Can you briefly explain this service?

We’ve been using eye tracking now for about 15 years now, and I was using eye tracking technology to understand how people perceive the visual world in front of them back when I was in university. We were probably the first design company to use eye tracking technology, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that we popularised its use in the UK and abroad.

The reason eye tracking works is because it’s based on something called the “eye's mind hypothesis”. The fundamental underlying concept states that your eye looks at what you’re interested in, or what you’re considering. We all do that, and knowing what people are interested in will help you deign better.

Unfortunately there have been a lot of false claims from people that use eye-tracking technology inappropriately or incorrectly, and this leads to unreliable data. For example you’ll need to test on a minimum of 30 people to get any kind of scientific data, but poor companies will produce visualisation showing hot spots with just a few people looking at it, and essentially that’s meaningless.

Eye tracking can be a really powerful tool if it’s used correctly. If it’s used incorrectly it’s either useless, or worse than that, it gives you the wrong information on which to base your design. So eye tracking needs to be conducted as a proper scientific study if it’s to be effective. 

Eye tracking is just a tool – one of many when it comes to UX. It can be useful all the way through the design and build phase, but it’s most useful when the higher fidelity prototypes or designs are being put together.

10.  What will UX design look like 10 years from now? (Futuristic view on how we use the web)

The most appropriate answer that I can give is “It doesn’t really matter”. UX design is built based upon humans. We know the fundamental rules about how humans work and those rules are device agnostic, making it future proof to the technologies that will come along in next 10 years.

There was a book written 26 odd years ago by Donald Norman called “The Psychology of Everyday Things”. In that book Donald established some fundamental rules for how people might interact with objects. He bought out the second edition of that on its 25th anniversary and in the intervening period a lot had happened – mobiles, touch devices, even the internet! ...despite the birth of all of these new technologies, all that Donald had to do was update some pictures in his book. All of the rules still apply and they always will because they’re based on the fundamental limits or capabilities of humans. Once you understand humans, you can understand how to design better. 

Professional UX design and development services 

3chillies partner with leading design agencies such as Bunnyfoot to ensure that we deliver solutions which have been not only built by specialists, but designed by them too. Get in touch today to find out more about these services. 

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