Sunday, 30 December 2012

Measuring marketing impact & customer experience

Understanding your customers' experience and the impact of your marketing activity (on and offline) should be a priority for 2013. If you're committed to improving the user experience and getting value for money out of your marketing expenditure then plan to measure.

Monday, 24 December 2012

In-house UX advice

A couple of articles for those trying to establish a culture of UX within their organisation. 'UX for the masses' blog is written by an in-house UX lead, focusing on the challenges he faces.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Digital strategy development

An excellent series of articles by Paul Boag in which he basically outlines what his design agency does (and what most don't) through a sort-of tutorial and fake case study. A great primer on digital strategy development.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

UX advent calendar

Lovely idea and just right for the season. An inspiring and insightful article every day by some of the most prominent and best thinkers in the field. Well worth popping back to day after day.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Organisational relationships are essential for good website management

Paul Boag explores the real reasons why projects don't deliver and websites turn bad - people and politics. Thankfully he also provides great suggestions to help overcome these problems.

Friday, 23 November 2012

CMS users' UX matters

No matter how great your website design, no matter how usable the interface, no matter how well organised the IA - if your content management system is a beast your editors will suffer and with it, ultimately your website. Karen McGrane provides advice on how to address this.

User testing & analytics ROI case studies

Econsultancy present 8 examples of when testing an really interface paid off.

Prototyping infographic

A great comparative resource for prototyping tools. Very nicely presented by

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mobile needs content strategy

Just received my copy of Karen McGrane's new book: Content Strategy for Mobile. Only it's not really about mobile as such. But as she says - "holistic enterprise content strategy" doesn't have quite the same ring.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Reading & writing ux tips

The importance of good copywriting and appreciating user reading behaviour can be overlooked in the process of interface design. These articles from Baymard Institute make some good (and well referenced) points on headline writing, line length and help text.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

10 ux mistakes to avoid

Taking the "don't do what I did" approach, this article lists 10 things to avoid as you work to improve the user experience of your website or product.

Content writing checklist

A neat little reminder for when you're writing new content. How many of these points can you check off with your last article?

CMS design needs content strategy

I've pulled together some excellent materials that identify the challenges around thinking back from the user interacting with the organisation online, through the content, and back to the root - the content management system and the people who use it.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

IA heuristics

I've been working on a set of IA (information architecture) principles for the University, and in the process digging around for rules-of-thumb against which a site can be measured. Inevitably, Lou Rosenfeld has good advice, but I've also turned up a really well-considered, well-researched guide.

Applying the 80/20 rule to ux management

Gerry McGovern has been talking about the long neck for long time - the small number of top tasks that dominate website usage. Here, Jeff Sauro talks about how common the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) really is.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

World usability day event Edinburgh

It's world usability day on Thursday 8 November, and once again Edinburgh usability company User Vision are hosting an open house with lots of free sessions and activities.

University applicant experience enhancement - Nomensa white paper

Nomensa (a digital experience design and strategy agency) have produced a white paper titled “Enhancing the university submission experience”. While their survey and user research reveals trends I’ve also seen in my own research at Edinburgh, I found their recommendations perhaps a bit simplistic and overlooked the complex nature of higher education institutions.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Distracting user experiences

Giles Colborne of cxpartners gave a great presentation to the UXPA Scotland this week. He talked about the implications of being distracted, and how designers need to be responsible and concious of context of use.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Edinburgh UX event - 2 October 2012

There's a really interesting sounding session happening next week in Edinburgh - Driven to distraction: a presentation by Giles Colborne from cxpartners. It's the latest event put on by UXPA Scotland (was the Scottish UPA).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tips for aspiring UX practitioners

Delia Rusu writes for about why you don't need a title to be a UX professional. While some of her examples are tied to her profession as a technical writer, there are some useful points for anyone trying to prioritise the user experience within their work.

UX modelling templates & resources

I'm really enjoying a book at the moment - Communicating the User Experience - which takes the reader through a series of techniques, working towards a user centred website or application. Best of all the resources from the book are freely available.

People & strategy over technology

Reading a brief  and spot-on post by Paul Boag (Invest in people and not just technology) set me off reflecting on our situation at the University of Edinburgh. I also did a bit of digging deeper into articles on web governance and how if organisations are really going to have online reputations that match where they are offline, organisationally things really need to change.

Analytics - essential practices

This paper from UXmag provides 10 essential steps to setting up and using analytics properly. To be honest, I think the first 4 aren't really about analytics at all - more about an effective, focused website.

Monday, 10 September 2012

How little users read - lessons from familiar tube signs

I've noticed a few blog posts doing the rounds in the past week highlighting some fantastic guerilla art. Tweaking London Tube signs with hilarious consequences. What struck me is the number of people who just won't be noticing them.

If your online shopping experience happened in person - video

If your online shopping experience happened in real life... This nice little 2 minute video sketch created by Google to promote Analytics raised a smile. Or was it a grimace?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Google cross-platform research findings

A new study conducted by Google and research partners reveals how we conduct online tasks across platforms, beginning on one device but completing on another.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Customer experience management is the new marketing

A couple of articles that make the case very strongly that the internet (and especially social media) has killed the effectiveness of marketing and advertising. Managing customer experience is becoming central to effective business management.

Content strategy should influence CMS workflow design

If the publishing rules and permissions that dictate what you can do in your web content management system (a.k.a. workflow) really bug you this article probably won't make you feel any better. But it is a great primer for how to go about designing good workflow.

Customer contact moving online

Two thirds of the 600m+ customer contacts received by English local councils each year are now coming in through online and digital channels, according to research conducted by sector IT specialists SocITM.

Does metadata matter?

A quick primer on why you should pay attention to your web pages' meta description tags. For your key pages at least. Why? After all search engines don't give this information much attention when ranking...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Simplicity trumps complexity

Some inspirational articles and stories about how and why you should strive for simplicity with your website, resisting the urge to add more content and more links. Learn how to steer your managers and committees rather than trying to please everyone all the time.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Why website user journeys are like traffic

A great article in which David Hamill likens a website visitor's experience to that of someone reading signs on a motorway. Includes a corking video of what would happen if marketing departments designed road signs.

Brand guidelines impact usability

A great article that every marketing department should read. How sticking rigidly to brand guidelines on the company website can sometimes damage the brand.

Usability fix tactics

A write up of a UX workshop run by Caroline Jarrett and Francis Rowland on how to get usability problems fixed. This follows on from a survey by Caroline and Steve Krug on why usability issues often go unfixed.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Edinburgh UX group session slides

I ran a pilot session at the University of Edinburgh yesterday with the aim of pulling together colleagues with an interest in user experience. My intro slides are available on Slideshare.

Design concept communication case study

A presentation by the founder of in which she goes through how she turned her concept into reality by communicating her vision of the user experience.

Advertising & user experience

A couple of articles in which the authors discuss the relationship between and distinctions between user experience management and advertising.

Journey modelling example & how-to

The idea of taking a persona and illustrating a story of their experiences is covered in this article, this process being called journey modelling.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Edinburgh UPA July event - Persuasion, Emotion and Trust in Customer Journeys

This month's Scottish Usability Professionals Association event is titled: "The Role of Persuasion, Emotion and Trust in Customer Journeys" and is happening on 26 July 2012 at 6.30.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

University CMS workshop session

I ran a workshop at last month's IWMW 2012 conference on how we manage the University of Edinburgh's corporate CMS, our challenges and where we're looking to in the future. The initial presentation led into a couple of activities and some great discussion among the 30+ higher education web managers who came along.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

User testing useful lies

Sometimes a white lie or two can help a user test along. I've long advocated a couple of these when running user testing training. I now have a few more candidates to add to the list.

University website complexity

Too much choice confuses. It can paralyse. Matt Klawitter shares his experience working on US university website redesigns, the research that informed and backed up decisions, and the culture that continues to resist a drive for greater simplicity.

User testing techniques in plain English

This article was written for user experience professionals to encourage them to cut out the jargon. But actually, it's also a great outline of the most common techniques for everyone in plain English.

Remote testing tool choice

A great article that not only outlines some of the best remote testing tools available, but categorises them and outlines what they're best for.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

User experience & content strategy - how they relate

Content strategy is something everyone involved with information-driven websites should care about. And content is an intrinsic part of the user experience on university websites. Kristina Halvorson's article explains and connects the two disciplines - content strategy and user experience.

UK Government ICT strategy report - what can universities learn?

An interesting summary of a report on UK Government ICT strategy and where they need to up their game. Seemed to me to be the same story I've encountered in 10+ years of public sector web management.

Social media posting tips

An excellent print-out-and-keep set of tips for non-specialists who look after Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts as part of their role.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

iPad user trends survey

An interesting summary of a survey of iPad users conducted by YouGov. Tablets, perhaps unsurprisingly are identified as leisure devices and not particularly mobile.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Homepage stakeholder management

How do you maintain the coherency of your homepage, while keeping stakeholders happy? Paul Boag explains an activity he uses to focus the minds of the group all making demands for homepage real estate.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My UCD workshop at IWMW 2012 Edinburgh

I ran a workshop this week at IWMW 2012 which was hosted here at the University of Edinburgh. In it I went through some user centred design techniques I've used on a range of projects.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Card sorting resources & alternatives

I've never had a tremendous amount of success integrating the findings of card sorts into ongoing developments, but have come across one or two services that have been great to use.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Website disaster recovery

A nice little article full of sound advice from Paul Boag. Your website doesn't have to be a disaster for this to be a worthwhile read.

Call to action advice

Calls to action. I don't think we're that great at them. Why? Because we manage websites where we're not crystal clear about what we want visitors to do.

Mobile user experience briefing

I went along to another of User Vision's excellent breakfast briefings today; the topic was mobile UX.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Testing internal search

Some great tips for scenarios when testing your website's search engine, from

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Why usability problems go unfixed

You'd think it would be a no-brainer to do something about serious usability problems when they're uncovered. But in some instances things that cause problems for users time and again, affecting business performance go untouched. Why? Caroline Jarrett and Steve Krug's presentation explains.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Remote testing webinar

Jeff Sauro presents his approach to remote user testing, combining tracking and recording tools to great effect. The webinar includes a case study which is a great way to illustrate his approach.

The high cost of website user task failure

A nice piece in which Jeff Sauro recounts a study he conducted with users of 59 websites, and quantifies the high cost to the business when users fail in their tasks on a website.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Content strategy quick intro

A short and well referenced piece that outlines what content strategy is, including a very helpful diagram illustrating the relationships between the various disciplines of website development.

Content strategist talks responsive design in higher ed

Sara Wachter-Boettcher in conversation on the College Web Editor website, talking about topics her forthcoming book Content Everywhere, and the challenges facing the HE community.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Customer experience competitive advantage

A great (short) paper which is free to download from UK usability company Foolproof which is making the business case for customer experience management.

Higher Ed infographic examples

A good infographic is immediate and accessible and has a message. Sometimes a relatively complex one. This article presents a range of examples from US colleges - some better than others but all worthy of a look to inspire you one way or another.

Customer engagement myths

While I don't think many in HE really 'get' social media yet - it's still just another way to push stuff out rather than engage - this short article has a few challenges that made me think about why we should be engaging via these newer channels.

Using personas for better websites

An interesting article on personas which takes them in a direction which was new to me. The piece also reflects on a designer's experience of trying the technique out.

Getting started - Undercover UX design

I'm reading a very enjoyable book right now - Undercover User Experience Design by Ceynnydd Bowles and James Box. A great quote from it - something I do, but I always enjoy coming across someone expressing something so much better that I can...

Retune don't redesign your site

Lou Rosenfeld outlines how you can improve your website and keep improving it. It doesn't involve new technology or a new design. It involves your users and your business requirements. And it's wonderfully simple.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Choosing the right web metrics

Gerry McGovern writes about measuring online performance. He says - "Just because something is easy to measure doesn't mean we should measure it."

Customer experience infographic

An interesting diagram full of stats, propositions and comparisons which should supply plenty of food for thought.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Nielsen mobile recommendations provoke design community rage

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently wrote an article summarising his recommendations for mobile website, which prompted quite a degree of anger in the design community. So much so that he responded to some of the feedback via an interview in .net magazine.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Justifying usability research

A great article which provides stock answers you can use when challenged about how or why you're conducting testing.

Title tag guidelines

Web page titles are so easily overlooked at times, when they are fundamental to both usability and search engine performance.

Colour blind views of websites

A great website dedicated to highlighting the experiences of colour blind people. There are good and bad examples, as well as a simulator.

Good and bad examples at We Are Color Blind

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Usability, UX & UI guidelines

A couple of articles that pull together a range of guidelines - from big companies and from governments.

Axure mistakes to avoid

Axure's a great tool for prototyping, communicating and testing potential user experiences. Here, Webcredible's Alexander Baxevanis highlights 5 beginners' mistakes. 5 mistakes people make using Axure

Why customer experience matters

A couple of articles that go through why your customer experience should be at the top of your agenda. 'Customer experience' is an increasingly popular term these days, but you could just as easily say 'target audience experience' or 'student experience'.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Accessibility guidelines - SUPA Edinburgh session

The next session run by the Scottish Usability Professionals Association will be on developing web accessibility guidelines and a web accessibility culture.

Free IA session Edinburgh

Edinburgh usability consultants User Vision are running another of their free breakfast briefing sessions on Thursday 26 April. This time the topic is Information Architecture.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Web managers conference - Edinburgh, June 2012

The annual university web managers conference - IWMW 2012 - is being held at Edinburgh this year. I'm running a workshop on user centred design.

Usability ROI Nielsen report - Free to University of Edinburgh colleagues

I contributed to the 4th edition of Jakob Nielsen's Usability Return on Investment report, getting a site licensed copy for the University in the process.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Why mobile matters

There's an awful lot of talk about what we need to be doing with regards to mobile. This is a great article - thoughtful, informed by data and best of all, holistic in its outlook.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Usability tips for agile teams

A great article from Jared Spool on the challenges involved in getting real user focus and design iteration into the agile process.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

How organisation goals can impede the user experience

A great (if long and detailed!) piece about how if you don't understand the motivations of all stakeholders in a project, you're unlikely to deliver a great user experience.

Customer service across channels

A couple of items from usability company Webcredible, who seem to be giving a lot of attention to how big brands deal with customer service across the board - in person, the website, email and all the social media channels people are using these days. Not directly relevant to higher education but a word of caution to all of us spreading our engagement wider.

Form hint text guidance

A nice article from Caroline Jarrett explaining why it's not a good idea to put hint text in form fields you expect your user to complete.

Boag on social media management

An excellent and thought provoking piece by Paul Boag. It's so easy to establish an online community these days with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. But it's also very easy to get it wrong.

Higher Education content strategy views

An article from a web content manager at a US university which, while quite long and rambling, hits the mark I think.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Collaborative design presentation User Vision

Last month I went to a great breakfast briefing session hosted by Edinburgh usability company User Vision on collaborative design.

Free prototyping breakfast session at User Vision, Edinburgh - 15 March

Edinburgh usability company User Vision are running a free breakfast session on rapid prototyping on 15th March 2012.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

How style & design impact usability

A nice piece that summarises the key areas of style and design that impact on a website or application's ease of use.

Microsoft's approach to personas

A quite long and detailed piece from the Microsoft Journal for Developers. It's not techie, although the focus is on interface design rather than websites.

7 questions to ask of your personas

David Travis sets seven questions for you to ask of your personas. A great way to review your work and make sure you're on the right track.

Strategic content management & CMS selection

A great article by Jonathan Kahn for A List Apart, in which he discusses the problems in CMS design that arise from not thinking enough about the nature of the content or the skills, processes and time of website editors.

The risks in redesign

An interesting little article about how lots of companies approach website redesign. It's about e-commerce websites, but a lot of this resonates with university web publishing too.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

FAQ usability guidelines

A great article on how to get the best out of Frequently Asked Questions. Author Stephen Gracey is pretty up front about the fact that he doesn't like them (a man after my own heart) but his article is pretty balanced and well referenced.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

UX practitioner skills set

A really interesting piece from David Travis who reflects on what he feels it takes to be a successful user experience consultant. Most of us will never be (and possibly don't want to be) a UX consultant, but I think this article is useful for the budding amateur and the jack-of-all-trades.

Search patterns podcasts

A couple of really interesting conversations about trends in searching and navigation behaviour. One of the interviewees is Peter Morville, co-author of the seminal Information Architecture for the WWW (otherwise known as the Polar Bear Book).

Effective scenarios for personas

Persona expert Kim Goodwin talks about scenarios - the stories we place our personas in. To effectively make use of personas, we need to be able to get stakeholders to engage with them. And the best way to do that is to tell stories.

Web forms questions podcast

Jared Spool interviews forms expert Luke Wroblewski covering a load of common questions about what makes forms easier or harder to use. It's a follow up to a paid seminar, but even without seeing this, there's a lot of good advice for anyone creating web forms.

User experience search engine

UX Pond is a great idea - a search engine that only trawls websites related to usability and user experience. As their blurb says - "Why search the ocean when the answer's in the pond?"

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

6 design & usability guidelines

Some core principles summed up in 6 guidelines; Pamela Vaughan's article is well worth a review.

Comparing usability testing methods

Jeff Sauro provides a comparison of different ways to approach usability testing - in person, remote moderated and remote unmoderated.

Shared understanding through collaboration

Everyone on the same wavelength is probably one of the biggest factors in a successful project. Working together on activities is a great way to get common consensus and shared vision. In this article Jared Spool discusses a few ways in which you can do this.

BBC - 15 website principles

I wish I could express myself as well as the 15 points laid out here. They were developed in 2007 as part of the BBC 2.0 project and still stand good today.

Link writing tips - McGovern

A witty and engaging take on link writing advice from Gerry McGovern. Worth two minutes of your time to re-enforce a few points.

Monday, 30 January 2012

McGovern challenges audience navigation

An interesting piece from content management specialist Gerry McGovern who suggests that audience-driven navigation often isn't the best approach.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Remote user testing tips

An excellent introduction to using remote unmoderated user testing services like If you've never tried and are considering giving it a whirl, read this first.

Planning user research

An excellent set of questions to run through with your colleagues or clients (or just in your own head) before beginning the process of planning user research.

Personas: beware creative writing

Jared Spool discusses the dangers involved in creating personas with little or no user engagement. There comes a point where the persona creation exercise is simply a process of creative writing and therefore virtually useless.

Eyetracking with a webcam

The author of an upcoming book on eyetracking blogs their experience of trying out an eyetracking service that uses nothing more than a webcam.