Sep 24 2012

Engaging with audiences


We are currently working on several very large website design and build projects for NGO and public sector clients. Our User Experience (UX) team have been travelling the length and breadth of Britain undertaking stakeholder engagement workshops, focus groups and in-depth interview sessions.

These engagement exercises enable us to gather complex requirements to ensure the new websites are designed with the user experience at their heart.
During the design phase, lab based usability testing plays a very important role and allows us to hone the wireframes and creative treatment.

The unique and robust UX processes we have developed have been vital in offering publicly funded organisations real value for money – saving egg-on-face and costly re-dev’s due to websites not performing as well as they could.

And for smaller organisations…

We are now adapting our methods and tools, scaling them to enable us to offer this level of UX service to organisations and businesses of all sizes, so if you would like to take a user centered design approach on your next website project, please get in touch with Matt or myself.

Sep 22 2009

Busy times ahead

It has been a crazy few weeks for us. Good crazy though.

We won two major (and fascinating) contracts at the end of August and we are off to London later this week for a kick-off meeting for another big win for a brand new client.

I can’t talk too much about it just yet, but it’s one of those career defining projects that our team will talk about for years to come.

We are incredibly pleased and proud to have won it and look forward to showing you later this year 🙂

Nice to be having some decent weather at last too.

May 7 2009

Really shout the purpose and message of your site

We’ve just got back from some detailed user testing and the importance of getting the home page to answer VERY LOUDLY the user’s immediate question’s “What is this site? What is the purpose of the site? Who is it for? What can I do here” is clearly still so important…

If the purpose of the site is not clear to the user within the first few seconds of landing on the home page then the user often makes up a site purpose in their mind. This distorts their whole experience of the site making it much harder for them to interpret the site, ultimately meaning they will misinterpret something, get frustrated and leave.

When users do “get it”, understand the purpose of the site, they are much much more likely to understand the rest of the site, follow the carefully crafted user journeys and information scents – achieve their goals and have a good experience…

Getting the purpose of the site across

Every element on the home page builds a users understanding of the purpose of the site and what they can do on the site.

That being said when testing with eye tracking we really saw users scan two areas of the page where they expect to find a concise and easy to understand statement of the purpose of the site, these were the ‘tag line / strap line’ – right next to the logo and the ‘welcome blurb’.

By tweaking the text in the tag line and welcome blurb we were able to ensure participants “got it”

  • The tag line

– right next to the Logo / Site ID is one of the most valuable bits of ‘real estate’, when users saw some text visually connected to the Logo / Site ID they knew it was meant to be a description summarising the whole site

  •  The welcome blurb

– this short description of the site, above the fold in an obvious position should be a terse description of the site, try and keep it to less than 30 words, we found this really reinforced the tag line if it echoed the tag line and expanded on it slightly.


see: wasn’t the site we were testing but is a good example of the principle)

Why have both a tag line and welcome blurb?

Not everyone will use both these elements; if someone is deep linked into the site then there will be no welcome message so the tag line but the tag line next to the logo should give the user a good summary of the purpose of the site. So have both on the home page and use the tag line throughout the site.

In a nutshell – getting the message across

  • Don’t be subtle… don’t take the approach “we don’t need to, it’s obvious”
  • Use a tag line right next to the site’s Logo – and make sure it is easy to understand
  • Use welcome blurb to reinforce the tag line
  • Good tag lines are clear and informative
  • Vague tag lines are bad

If you can test the site on someone who hasn’t been involved in the site’s design asking the question “What do you think the purpose of the site is”, if the participant can give you a credible answer you’ve cracked it – nice work…

….and it helps with search engine optimisation (SEO)

Twitter and Facebook do it


Of course some sites don’t need to follow these principles – because they are huge global brands: Apple, BBCetc.

See also:

For a really great no nonsense summary of usability read this book: Steve Krug: Don’t Make Me Think – a common sense approach to web usability.

Apr 20 2009

Quick and dirty usability testing – the 5 second tests

A few years back (2005) Christine Perfetti wrote a great article about 5-second tests (, a simple usability testing technique to test that content pages are understandable to users and that the key / priority information is being communicated.

The 5-second test in a nutshell

Most content pages have (or should have) a distinct primary purpose, the 5 second test aims to quickly check that the design makes this primary purpose obvious to a user…

How to do it:

  • Give the user a simple task – e.g. “find out what the email updates include”; “ can you see the property location on a map ”; “ what sizes are available ”
  • Tell the user they will be shown the page for 5 seconds, and ask them to try and remember everything they see for this short period
  • When 5 seconds is up minimise the window and ask them to write down everything they remember about the page
  • When they are done ask them the 2 questions: “ What is the most important information on the page”, and depending on the task “ how would you go about finding what the email updates include ” / “ how would you go about finding where the property is located ” / “ how would you go about finding what sizes are available”

Now analyse the results:

  • Listen to the users initial impressions – this will tell you if the content page is clear and concise, understandable pages allow the user to quickly recall critical content and tell you the main purpose of the page

When is it good to use the 5 second test?

For quick improvements to content pages where users have said the site’s content pages are cluttered or confusing.