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hiring: project managers

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My team is hiring two new project managers:

Project Manager x2 – Ref: 5240.

Let me know if you’d like to know more.

Written by Karen

August 13th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Posted in rnib

working on a new job title

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I’m probably going to get a new job title. And it won’t be UX-anything, so don’t worry that I’ve had a change of heart on that.

I don’t use my IA title much within the organisation. The web team get it but that’s four people.  I tend to introduce myself by what projects I’m working on. In project kick off meetings and meetings with stakeholders I’ll explain what I’ll be doing on the project but not my title.

A lot of the teams I work with are intimidated by IT projects. And for them the language of user experience design and information architecture is as alienating and terrifying as the language of server architecture and database design. It is all big words from people who get paid more than they do and seem to work in an alternate universe of conferences, social networks and blogging.

So mostly my introductions go something like…”I’m Karen, I’m part of the project team and I’ll be responsible for making sure users can find their way around the new site”. Or “the search actually works this time”. Or “putting your content into the system isn’t such a nightmare”.

So my boss and I are trying to come up with something that both more accurately conveys what I actually do and is also a user friendly one.

Anyone got any examples of doing user research into what their job title should be?

Written by Karen

July 28th, 2009 at 6:54 am

Posted in career,rnib,ucd,words

e-commerce project: business requirements

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This article is part of a series about our e-commerce redesign.

The high-level goals are to re-brand, improve the user experience and improve the back-end processes. The rebrand will be to bring the site in line with the rest of the website which will relaunch in September. The user experience goal is not particularly specific but there is also a product backlog that tells a more detailed story.

The pre-existing backlog provided some of the business requirements but we didn’t know how applicable this was, what the priority of each item was and whether new requirements had come up in the interim.

Stakeholder workshops were set up and I attended the workshops covering catalogue and marketing. We’ve now got a fresh, prioritised backlog and we’ve clarified some of the language.

Some IA bits of the wishlist from the workshops:

  • more ways to browse the content, including by price and date added
  • a more flexible category structure, allowing polyhierarchy
  • search that is less divided by our various stores
  • recommendations – lots of discussion here about the various types of related products. We have accessories, variants, alternatives and ‘you might also like’.
  • a more ‘personalised’ experience, possibly based on preferred formats. I voiced words of caution here about requiring people to express preferences and about boxing them in.
  • loads of analytics were desired but everyone was realistic about how much resource there was to interpret them

We got information about volumes and value of various customer groups. And some more philosophical feedback: unlike most e-commerce projects maximising sales and profits isn’t the absolute goal here. Exactly where the line between selling and helping lies will be interesting to see.

Written by Karen

June 16th, 2009 at 6:08 am

Posted in e-commerce,rnib

e-commerce project: current state analysis

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This article is part of a series about our e-commerce redesign.

I had some quiet time over Xmas and did some current state analysis of the online shop then. I’m so glad I did this. As per usual, as soon as the project actually kicks off there is limited time to do this sort of thorough research.

One of our business analysts has done a formal “as-is” review of the back-end processes but I’ve been concentrating on the front end user experience, particularly browsing the catalogues.

For my current state analysis I identified all the existing features. To do this:

  • took lots of screenshots, of all the screen variations I found
  • made a sitemap
  • annotated the documents, identifying each separate element

Now just because we have all these features now, it doesn’t mean we want to keep them. That said, during the website redesign we missed things that are working really well on the existing site. The site looks clunky and old-fashioned but there’s some nice features in there. So I wanted to make sure I genuinely knew the site inside out.

The functionality basically breaks down into:

  • arriving on site (including via search engines)
  • finding and choosing items
  • information about purchasing
  • registering
  • adding to basket and purchasing
  • tracking/cancelling

I’m going to concentrate on the first two areas for now.

Within the main shop (i.e. not the book shop) there are

  • a store homepage
  • category pages (including sub-categories)
  • product pages

There’s also a sitemap, terms and conditions, product news, pricing information, contact forms, and help information but the other three are the main page types.

The project already has a product backlog from an earlier attempt to kick it off. After I have annotated all my screenshots, I compiled a list of features and then compared that to the product backlog.

The backlog was missing the following elements:

  • link from product page to product instructions
  • link from product page to other product guide/pages
  • link from category page to product category guide e.g. choosing a mobile phone
  • information about product size
  • offer product variations e.g. colour and size
  • product image
  • product image enlargement
  • seasonal offers and selections e.g. Xmas
  • alternative ordering information e.g. call this number
  • vat price + non-vat price
  • login as different types of shopper
  • links to t&cs
  • communicate different delivery prices (free, special + xmas)

This flagged up for me a problem with the way the backlogs were generated. Stakeholders contributed ideas for features they wanted to see but tended to assume they would automatically get all the functionality they already have. Even with this process, I almost missed out search from the list, as it is part of the main website navigation and I was ignoring the standard page “furniture”.

Some of these gaps would indeed be obvious as we built the site but a number are not standard e-commerce functionality and it is entirely possible that the project team wouldn’t have thought of them independently. So for me the current state analysis catches functionality that might otherwise have slipped through the net.

Next: business requirements

Written by Karen

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:36 am

charity e-commerce project

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This article is part of a series about our e-commerce redesign. The series includes Current state analysis and Business requirements.

When I tell my friends that I’m working on an e-commerce project they look a bit baffled. It isn’t something that people immediately think of in relation to charities.

But we make/publish and sell a lot of stuff: books (braille, large print, audio etc), magazines, watches, telephones, kitchen equipment, mobility aids, remote controls, headphones, clocks, calendars, software, board games, playing cards, lamps, and batteries.

Our resource centres are also shops, and we have a moderately sized warehouse in Peterborough.

I’ve mentioned the bump-ons before, but some other favourite products include:

The first thing you notice when you go to the RNIB shop is that this page talks about two separate “stores”.

“At present our Online Shop and Book site are separate. You will need to register in each store to buy a product or listen to  book.”

Obviously less than ideal.

Once you get into the stores it becomes obvious that the shop doesn’t feel like a normal online shop. There’s some basic patterns and conventions about how online shops look that the site isn’t consistent with. That makes the site a bit confusing, you have to actually read everything properly… you have to think about what you are doing. The product pages themselves are ok but the lack of images in the browse pages means the site doesn’t scream shop at you.

We’re just starting the project to relaunch the shop now, so I’m going to be digging a bit deeper. The goals are roughly to re-brand, improve the user experience and improve the back-end processes. At the moment it is just fun to be designing a shop.

Next: Current state analysis

Written by Karen

June 1st, 2009 at 6:30 am

opportunities in search logs: the geographical element

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This article is part of a series about search log analysis which includes what people are searching for, bounce rates and spotting real opportunities.

Following on from yesterday’s post Spotting real opportunities in search logs I’ve been looking at what geography can add to the picture.

Anecdotely I’d heard that a lot of our Helen Keller referrals were “just American school children”. Google Analytics seems to validate this. From within the keywords report you can select a keyword and then set a dimension of continent or country. That then gives you the data about where geographically Google thinks those keywords are coming from.

Helen Keller:  mostly North American

Excel Shortcuts: mostly Asia and North America

Fundraising ideas:  largely European

Triathalons: more European

This changes some of my initial reactions to the opportunities each term represents. The non-UK traffic is still valuable to us, but this information could impact on what other kind of content we try and promote to these users  e.g. the volunteering opportunities are all UK based so we’re unlikely to be able to cross-promote to non-UK users.

(I’ve been trying to work out how to set up a custom report for keywords by continent but can’t quite crack it. Any suggestions?)

Written by Karen

May 1st, 2009 at 6:15 am

Posted in rnib,search

spotting real opportunities in search logs

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This article is part of a series about search log analysis which includes what people are searching for, bounce rates, and the geographical element.

Some users attention is worth more to you than others. For the most of us, we are not in the raw attention business. We want traffic, we want referrals, we want pageviews but all as a means to an end. E-commerce sites want those users to buy something. Charities want them to donate or campaign or take up a service. Bloggers want them to read their ideas (for all sorts of further reasons).  Lots of sites want you to look at/click on their adverts. The BBC? That one’s a bit trickier. But in general you get the idea.

But that fact sometimes seems to get a bit lost.

Lots of people have got the idea that Google is important. Some are still struggling with it or missing it entirely but mostly people in the industry have got that Google matters. For some reason.

And lots of people are looking at their analytics and recognising that there is gold dust in there.  But as with so many things a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’ve been in lots of conversations and seen lots of reports that jump straight from “metric A is low” to “we must, at all costs, improve metric A”.  If you ask why then they tell you about the importance of Google. With search logs these conversations mostly seem to revolve around poor bounce rates and low referrals for particular terms.

Google brings you that all important attention. But some attention is more important. Some attention represents a good business opportunity and some is a dead-end. Where the cost is minimal then sure, why not maximise attention. But if there is cost involved (and there nearly always is) then you need to be making business decisions about what you are trying to achieve.

I’m trying to think about this in 4 stages:

  1. Attention is only a step. Do you know what you are trying to achieve? If not, put down the metrics and go back to the strategy whiteboard
  2. Look for strong opportunities. Don’t try and succeed with everyone. What can the metrics tell you about these users and how likely they are to help you meet you goals? Not masses  admittedly but more thoughts on this below…
  3. Your users are on a mission. Don’t try and persuade them to help you until you’ve helped them. This is classic seducible moment stuff. You might be unhappy with the bounce rate for a particular page but sticking promotions for other content above the content the user came looking for is only going to increase your bounce rate.
  4. Identify the hook. Given what you know about the users from the metrics (again you don’t have a lot to go on here) you need to think about what actually has a chance of holding their attention. If they are searching for homework help then they are unlikely to be captivated by content about creating a will. All things are possible but this one is unlikely.

So thinking about strong opportunities, I’ve been re-examining our search referral logs.

If the referring keyword explicitly refers to an RNIB service (Soccer Sight, See it Right, Talking Books) then we know we should be meeting these users needs. These are the obvious wins. If the metrics are bad then we probably need to sort this asap.

If the keywords explicitly relate to issues around sight loss then those users represent a good opportunity. We know they care or have some level of motivation to investigate the same issues that the RNIB is trying to promote.

But alot of referring terms are neither RNIB or sight loss specific. Fundraising ideas, excel shortcuts, flash, triathalons could all be from users with no interest in the RNIB’s cause.  They might but we don’t have any evidence. Each of these terms offers a different strength of opportunity.

Fundraising ideas: we can be reasonably sure that the users want ideas about how to fundraise. We can guess that these are people who are inclined to raise money for charities. Seemingly a good opportunity. But why are they searching Google for fundraising ideas. Probably because they have a cause they are trying to raise money for. That probably isn’t us.  So these users may be an opportunity but they’re unlikely to be a quick win.

Excel shortcuts: for some reason these users want information about excel shortcuts and it may have nothing to do with sight loss. Could be RSI or just improved efficiency. They might want other shortcuts and they might have empathy with the difficulties keyboard only users experience. Possible opportunity.

Flash: Very hard to decode this one. It is unlikely to be Flash developers (physicists don’t usually search for physics). The bounce rate is high and fast, so we know they didn’t want the content they ended up with. So we’d have to work out what they wanted and then provide that and then engage them further. Doesn’t seem such a great opportunity.

Triathalons: probably just users thinking about taking part in a triathlon, rather than the money raising potential of a triathlon. But they will probably need or be able to choose to raise money as part of their sporting endeavour. And they may well not have a strong charitable allegiance already. Good opportunity.

And what about Helen Keller? This represents a huge amount of attention for us but does it help us meet any goals? We think (but don’t know) that this traffic is teachers and schoolchildren, probably primary age. They will be thinking about sight loss and the impact on individuals so it should represent a good opportunity. But they are also thinking about cutting and pasting and getting homework done. Kids can be great fundraisers. We want to start life-long relationships. This could be a great opportunity but also a huge challenge. We don’t understand this space enough. And the logs won’t answer these questions, they can only take you so far.  We’ll have to talk to real people.

Next: the geographical element

Written by Karen

April 30th, 2009 at 6:35 am

developer role @ RNIB

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We’re hiring a developer, based in the Peterborough office:

Information and Knowledge Systems (IKS) Lead Developer – Ref: 5156.

I’m particularly interested in the bit that says “experience of developing in an MS Commerce server environment” as I’ll be working on our e-commerce redesign shortly.

As with the knowledge officer, non-profit rates apply(!)

Written by Karen

April 17th, 2009 at 9:37 am

Posted in rnib

knowledge officer role at RNIB

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The RNIB is recruiting a Knowledge Officer role:
Knowledge Officer – Ref: 5155.

This is part of my team and would include some information architecture work (with me!). Some of the role would be involved in designing system solutions to knowledge sharing problems but the role is also about coming up with people and process solutions.

The systems side might be about intranet and extranets, document management, collaboration tools, people directories.  Probably quite a bit of SharePoint here.

The people and process side might be about communities of practice, knowledge cafes, learning lunches, improved communications, workshop facilitation, maybe  training solutions.

Imagine how you would improve knowledge sharing within customer helpline staff, between a group of home-workers, or across the busy project managers working in different departments. Different combinations of technical and process solutions will be appropriate for each group.

The RNIB calls it KM but you could even consider the combined role to be about cross-channel design. Or enterprise IA.

Non-profit rates, I’m afraid.

Written by Karen

April 16th, 2009 at 10:59 am

Posted in junior ia,rnib

search logs – bounce rates

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This article is part of a series about search log analysis which includes what people are searching for, spotting real opportunities and the geographical element.

As well as popular queries, I’ve been examining the bounce rates in our search logs. Often interpreted as a bad thing (after all, you don’t want people to leave your site) bounce rates can mean all sorts of things. The searcher could have rapidly realised they are in completely the wrong place for their query, they could have been dissatified with the content, or they might have only been looking for a quick answer which the site actually satisfied.

You need more evidence before you can unravel which of these reasons is causing a high bounce rate. If I see the query has a high bounce rate,  and a high number of new visitors and the query is non-RNIB specific  then this tends to suggest the searchers ended up on the site “by mistake”. I see this alot where the query is quite general e.g. “curriculum” or “flash” and then content on the RNIB is specifically about accessible curriculums or accessible Flash.

Some seemingly similar searches have very different bounce rates.  Searches for ‘Helen Keller’ average a much higher bounce rate than searches for ‘Louis Braille’. This doesn’t necessarily reflect lower satisifaction with the Helen Keller content. ‘Helen Keller’  goes to a simple lengthy page with limited onward links. Louis Braille, on the other hand, leads users to a mini-site about Louis Braille and Braille more generally.  Whilst ‘Helen Keller’ has a high bounce rate the term also has a reasonably high “time spent”, so you could interpret this as the searcher got the information they were looking for and didn’t feel the need to explore further.

The logs might provide evidence for areas where we should try and lower the bounce rates. Should we be trying to keep the attention of the web designers and developers who stumbled onto the site looking for general web design ideas? Or the schoolchildren looking for a Helen Keller biography to complete their homework? Or fundraisers looking for ideas for raising money? Which group represents a better opportunity for the RNIB? This needs more thought.

Intriguingly, the bounce rate for ‘RNIB judd st’ is twice that for ‘RNIB Judd street’ but the results are the same. Does that reflect the impatience of a searcher who won’t spell out ‘street’ in full?

Next:  spotting real opportunities

Written by Karen

March 25th, 2009 at 6:35 am

Posted in rnib,search

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