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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Site review: “JustGiving Crowdfunding”

The last few years have shown a great boom in projects and products originating from crowdfunds such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. UK based JustGiving is well known for enabling people to raise funds at scale, making it easy for individuals to raise money for a charity of their choice. Over the last few years, JustGiving have now established their own crowdfunding platform in the form of JustGiving Crowdfunding:

  1. How did the site come to my attention? – I remember JustGiving launching its crowdfunding platform Yimby in 2013. The main goal behind Yimby was to “create a space where communities can raise money for social activism using technology to bring people together and fund projects at grassroots levels.” I then lost track of Yimby a bit, but I recently found out that Yimby has now been renamed as “JustGiving Crowdfunding”.
  2. My quick summary of the site (before using it) – I expect this site to be geared towards individuals or organisations that want to raise money for specific projects or communities, all with a ‘social’ or ‘community’ element.
  3. How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – “Raise money to make good things happen” reads the headline on the homepage of JustGiving Crowdfunding. The slogan is followed by this explanation: “With JustGiving Crowdfunding, anyone can raise money to fund their own project. If it benefits a friend in need, or a local or overseas community, JustGiving Crowdfunding can help you make it happen.” The visual explanations of the process and the benefits of doing this through JustGiving are helpful in understanding what JustGiving Crowdfunding is all about (see Fig. 1 and 2 below).
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like? (1) – At the bottom and the top of the JustGiving Crowdfunding homepage there’s an orange button which says “Raise money” (see Fig. 3 below). After clicking on this orange button I land on a page which is clearly marked as step 1 “Create Page”, followed by a “Sum up your story” tagline. However, when I look at what I think is meant as a progress bar at the top of this page, I’m unsure about the number and nature of subsequent steps involved. Assuming that a large proportion of people using JustGiving Crowdfunding will be doing so for the first time or won’t be raising funds online on a regular basis, I believe it would be helpful to the user if the progress bar included (a) the step the user is currently on – highlighted – and (b) subsequent steps involved in creating a page – with a progress number and brief description. Another suggestion would be to explain to the user why JustGiving uses a £200 fundraising target threshold. When I – unknowingly – entered £100 as my fundraising target, I got an error message which stated “Sorry, please make sure your target is at least £200” (see Fig. 5 below). As a user, it would be good to understand the rationale behind this threshold.
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like? (2) – Completing the “create page” step was very straightforward otherwise (see Fig. 6 below). When I click on “Continue” I then land on a page which looks very different and which asks me to log in or to sign up (see Fig. 7 below). This makes me wonder whether non-JustGiving users are likely to be thrown by this step or not. I can imagine that some users might be worried about committing to signing up without having a full understanding of the JustGiving Crowdfunding process and its outcomes. As I mentioned in my previous point, having a proper progress bar to outline the different steps would be helpful.
  6. Getting started, what’s the process like? (3) – As an existing JustGiving user, logging in is very easy and swift. Once I’ve logged in, I land on an “Add the Details” page (see Fig. 8 below). I took a fictitious example to be able to answer the questions in the “Tell supporters your story” (see Fig. 9 below) and it all felt very easy and intuitive. In the third and presumably final step I get to preview the page I’ve created (see Fig. 10 below). I found the information on the preview page very helpful, particularly the section about “Pledges and Updates”. The one bit of information and guidance that I and possibly other users would benefit from is about sharing/marketing your project and your JustGiving page. I would like to get some expert advice on how to make the most out of my JustGiving page and how to make sure that people get to see and read my page.
  7. How easy to use was the site? – The process involved in creating a crowdfunding page on JustGiving felt simple for the most part. As I mentioned in my previous points, I believe that the site can do better in guiding users through the page creation process, explaining the steps involved, their sequence and outcomes.
  8. How does the site compare to similar sites? (1) – RocketHub is a large, direct competitor of JustGiving Crowdfunding. The fee that they charge the fundraiser will depend on whether the fundraising target has been met (4% if met, 8% if not). With RocketHub you get to keep the funds that have been pledged, even if you don’t meet your fundraising target (as long as you’re sure that you can fulfil your obligations). I really like how RocketHub provide users with guidance around benefits, their small print and success stories on their login/sign up page (see Fig. 12 below). GoFundMe is another good example, even though their platform is solely geared towards individuals raising funds. I like how they help their users discover charities or projects that they can give money to, e.g. by using Facebook’s “Funded by Friends” functionality (see Fig. 13 below).
  9. How does the site compare to similar sites? (2)  The experience on Razoo feels similar to JustGiving Crowdfunding, and is aimed at individuals and organisations which wish to raise funds for specific projects. I like the “Also Fundraising for this Cause” section which showcases other individuals or organisations raising funds for the same project. Buzzbnk is another good example of a competitor who focuses on “Positive people backing bright ideas”. Each Buzzbnk fundraising page has a nice, tabbed “About the project” section (see Fig. 14 below). The Buzzbnk site seems to focus more on ‘discovery’ than JustGiving Crowdfunding currently does.
  10. Did the site deliver on my expectations? – Overall, the experience on JustGiving Crowdfunding feels simple and intuitive. However, I do feel that the site can do better in guiding people through the process, explaining exactly what needs to be done (and why) in order to raise funds for one’s social projects. For example, platforms like Kickstarter and RocketHub do this pretty well. Also, JustGiving Crowdfunding’s site feels a bit light with respect to two things. Firstly, the social aspect involved in raising funds for projects, really creating a community around certain projects – LinkedIn  and Crowdcube (see Fig. 16 below) are doing this pretty successfully. Secondly, I believe thatJustGiving Crowdfunding can do more to encourage people to find and explore new projects or organisations to which one can pledge money.  Buzzbnk are doing this well and there are other non competitive examples such as Meetup.com which is a great example of a business enabling discovery in a smart way.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of the steps involved in raising funds through https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the explanation of the benefits of using JustGiving Crowdfunding to raise money for projects 

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Fig. 3 –  Screenshot of the “Raise money” button on JustGiving Crowdfunding’s homepage

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of JustGiving’s “Create Page” form – Unclear progress bar

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of JustGiving’s “Create Page” form – Error when entering £100 as the target amount

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Fig. 6 – Screenshot of the “Create Page” step on https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/page/create

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Fig. 7 – Screenshot of JustGiving’s “Log in” page on JustGiving Crowdfunding

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Fig. 8 – Screenshot of JustGiving Crowdfunding’s “Add the Details” page

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Fig. 9 – Screenshot of the “Tell supporters your story” section – with fictitious example – on https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/marc-abraham

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Fig. 10 – Screenshot of “Preview Your page” step on https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/marc-abraham

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Fig. 11 – Screenshot of “Pledges and Updates” explanatory section on https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/marc-abraham

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Fig. 12 – Screenshot of RocketHub’s login/sign up page on http://www.rockethub.com/launch/start

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Fig. 13 – Screenshot of GoFundMe’s ‘discovery’ page on http://www.gofundme.com/

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Fig. 14 – Screenshot of “Also Fundraising for this Cause” section on http://www.razoo.com/story/Cameron-Cousins

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Fig. 15 – Screenshot of project page on https://www.buzzbnk.org/ProjectDetails.aspx?projectId=235

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Fig. 16 – Screenshot of the Sugru fundraising page on https://www.crowdcube.com/investment/sugru-19593

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.crowdcrux.com/10-best-kickstarter-alternatives/ 
  2. http://www.crowdcrux.com/top-10-crowdfunding-sites-for-nonprofits/
  3. http://techcitynews.com/2013/11/13/justgiving-launches-yimby-crowdfunding-for-social-good/
  4. http://giving.nesta.org.uk/project/justgiving/
  5. https://www.justgiving.com/developer/simple-donation-integration/
  6. http://monetizepros.com/features/crowdfunding-platforms-compared/
  7. https://www.causes.com/
  8. http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/crowdfunding-innovation-sustainability-startups
 
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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Design, Social Media, User Experience

 

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Gathering meaningful data during the user journey

Since I started looking into omni-channel metrics last year, I’ve been learning how to best gather meaningful data at each step of the user journey. I recently came across a great piece by Gary Angel titled “A Data Model for the User Journey”. In his article, Gary aims to address the multi-source nature of our data touchpoints, and the issues brought about by the differences in the level and type of detail data. He rightly points out that these differences in data make any kind of meaningful analysis of the user journey virtually impossible. Gary provides a number of useful steps to tackle this problem:

  1. Create a level of abstraction – Gary first suggestion is to get to a level of abstraction where each data touchpoint can be represented equally. One way of doing this is to apply Gary’s “2-tiered segmentation” model. In a 2-tiered segmentation model, the first tier is the visitor type. This is the traditional visitor segmentation based on persona or relationship. The second tier is a visit or unit-of-work based segmentation that is behavioural and is designed to capture the visit intent. It changes with each new touch. Gary summarises this two-tiered approach as follows: “Describing who somebody is (tier 1) and what they are trying to accomplish (tier 2).”
  2. Capture visit intent – One of the key things that I learned from Gary’s article is the significance of ‘visit intent’ with respect to creating a user-journey model. Visit intent offers an aggregated view of what a visit was about and how successful it was. Both the goal and the success of a visit are important items when analysing a user journey.
  3. 2-tiered segmentation and omni-channel – Gary points out how well his 2-tiered segmentation model lends itself to an omni-channel setup. The idea of 2-tiered segments can be used across any touchpoint, whether it’s online or offline. The intent-based segmentation can be applied relatively easily to calls, branch or store visits and social media posts. The model can also be applied – albeit less easily – to display advertising and email (see Fig. 1 below).
  4. Good starting point for journey analysis – When you look at the sample data structure as outlined in Fig. 1 below, with one data row per user touchpoint visit or unit of work, you can start doing interesting pieces of further analysis. For example, with this abstract data structure you can analyse multi-channel paths or enhance user journey personalisation.
  5. Combine visitor level data with user journey data – It sounds quite complex, but I like Gary’s suggestion to model in the abstract the key customer journeys. This can then be used to create a visitor level data structure in which the individual touchpoints are rolled up. Gary’s example below helps clarify how you can best map different data touchpoints to related stages in the user journey (see Fig. 2 below) .

Main learning point: The main thing that I’m taking away from Gary Angel’s great piece is the two segments to focus on when measuring the user journey: the visitor and their goals. The data structure suggested by Gary lends itself really well to an omni-channel user experience as it combines visitor and user journey data really well.

Fig. 1 – Sample data structure when applying the the 2-tiered segmentation to a user journey data model – Taken from: http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/03/a-data-model-for-the-user-journey.html

  • TouchDateTime Start
  • TouchType (Channel)
  • TouchVisitorID
  • TouchVisitorSegmentCodes (Tier 1)
  • TouchVisitSegmentCode (Tier 2)
  • TouchVisitSuccessCode
  • TouchVisitSuccessValue
  • TouchTimeDuration
  • TouchPerson (Agent, Rep, Sales Associate, etc.)
  • TouchSource (Campaign)
  • TouchDetails

Fig. 2 – Example of modelling the acquisition journey for a big screen TV – Taken from: http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/03/a-data-model-for-the-user-journey.html

  • Initial research to Category Definition (LED vs. LCD vs. Plasma – Basic Size Parameters)
  • Feature Narrowing (3D, Curved, etc.)
  • Brand Definition (Choosing Brands to Consider)
  • Comparison Shopping (Reviews and Product Detail Comparison)
  • Price Tracking (Searching for Deals)
  • Buying

With an abstract model like this in hand, you can map your touchpoint types to these stages in user journey and capture a user-journey at the visitor level in a data structure that looks something like this:

  • VisitorID
  • Journey Sub-structure
    • Journey Type (Acquisition)
    • Current Stage (Feature Narrowing)
    • Started Journey On (Initial Date)
    • Time in Current Stage (Elapsed)
    • Last Touch Channel in this Stage (Channel Type – e.g. Web)
    • Last Touch Success
    • Last Touch Value
    • Stage History Sub-Structure
      • Stage (e.g. Initial Research) Start
      • Stage Elapsed
      • Stage Success
      • Stage Started In Channel
      • Stage Completed in Channel
      • Channel Usage Sub-Structure
        • Web Channel Used for this Journey Recency
        • Web Channel Used for this Journey Frequency
        • Call Channel Used for this Journey Recency
        • Call Channel Used for this journey Frequency
        • Etc.
    • Stage Value
    • Etc.

This stage mapping structure is a really intuitive representation of a visitor’s journey. It’s powerful for personalisation, targeting and for statistical analysis of journey optimisation. With a structure like this, think how easy it would be to answer these sorts of questions:

  • Which channel does this visitor like to do [Initial Product Research] in?
  • How often do visitors do comparison shopping before brand narrowing?
  • When people have done brand narrowing, can they be re-interested in a brand later?
  • How long does [visitor type x] typically spend price shopping?

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/03/a-data-model-for-the-user-journey.html
  2. http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/03/in-memory-data-structures-for-real-time-personalization.html
  3. http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2011/04/semphonics-two-tiered-segmentation-segmentation-for-digital-analytics-done-right.html
  4. http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/02/the-visit-is-dead-long-live-the-visit.html
  5. http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2015/02/statistical-etl-and-big-data.html
 

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App review: “audioBoom”

I love listening to podcasts and therefore regularly use platforms like iTunes (not the best user experience) and TuneIn (lots of choice). Although I’d heard of audioBoom, I haven’t used it yet. Let’s give it a go and see what the product is like:

  1. How did the app come to my attention? – I think it must have been one of my colleagues in the digital music space who mentioned audioBoom to me.
  2. My quick summary of the app (before using it) – I expect a platform which both enables people to upload their audio recordings and provides easy access to these recordings.
  3. How does the app explain itself in the first minute? – The first screen of the app displays a video without sound, showing two different people using audioBoom (see a screenshot in Fig. 1 below). Each video segment mentions a different element of audioBoom’s proposition: “Welcome – The best in spoken-word audio”, “Trending – The biggest stories as they happen”, “Curate – Build your listening playlists”, “Trending – The biggest stories as they happen”, “Discover – Explore unmissable audio content”, “Record – Record, upload and edit on the fly”, “Follow – Don’t miss your favourite posts” and “Download – Listen offline no internet need.”
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like (sign up and choose a category)? – I’m not looking to record anything at this stage, I’m just looking to discover new podcasts to listen to. The signup screen and related steps are very straightforward. The second screen of the onboarding looks great and again, feels very intuitive; I can select the categories that I’m interested in (see Fig. 3 below). The overlay message explains this in two easy to understand messages (see Fig. 3 below) after which I tick the categories that I’m interested in.
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like (choose a subcategory)? – Per category that I’ve selected, I then get to choose a subcategory. For example, for the “Sport” categories I can choose from subcategories such as “Football”, “Rugby Union” and “NHL” (see Fig. 4 below). Once I’ve gone through the different subcategories, I’m then presented with “Recommended Follows” (see Fig. 5 below).
  6. How easy to use was the app? – Once I completed the onboarding process, the app explains how to navigate between different pieces of audio (see Fig. 6 below) and how to follow a specific user or to download audio for later. When you get into an actual piece of audio, the interface is clean but has all the info and calls to action necessary to listen to the audio (see Fig. 7 below). Navigating between the different pieces of audio on audioBoom felt very easy and intuitive.
  7. How does the app compare to similar apps?  TuneIn Radio is one of audioBoom’s main competitors. TuneIn’s iOS app has a similar feel to audioBoom. However, I feel that TuneIn currently has more to offer when it comes to audio to listen to. For example, in the “Sports” category there’s more content to explore than on audioBoom (see Fig. 8 below). However, from a pure design and visual perspective, audioBoom looks a lot nicer and feels like a more ‘delightful’ experience.
  8. Did the app deliver on my expectations?  Yes, easy to find and use audio content, presented in a way that feels very intuitive. The only thing I’m hoping for is that audioBoom will be able to further grow its content portfolio. This way the app will no doubt get more sophisticated in the personalised recommendations that it can provide me.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of audioBoom’s opening screen

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of audioBoom’s signup screen

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of audioBoom’s “Choose your preferences” screen

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of audioBoom’s “Choose a subcategory” screen

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of audioBoom’s “Recommended Follows” screen

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Fig. 6 – Screenshot of navigation messaging on audioBoom

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Fig. 7 – Screenshot of audio interface on audioBoom

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Fig. 8 – Screenshots of TuneIn’s sports category screen

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How to create copy that works well for search engines?

Previously I’ve been learning about writing effective copy. I now want to learn more about how to best write for search engine optimisation. I used a great ebook titled “How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines” by Copyblogger to help me with this.

One of the first aspects raised in “How to Create Compelling Content” is a basic understanding of the three major components that power search engines:

  • Crawling – This is all about search engine “spiders” that crawl the web for content. These are actually bits of computer code that find information on a web page, “read” it, and then tirelessly continue along their journey by following links from your page to other pages. The spider will return from time to time to look for changes to the original page. This means that there will be opportunities to change the way a search engine sees and assesses your content.
  • Indexing –  The spider is not just casually browsing content, it’s storing the content it finds in a giant database. This is called indexing. The spider’s goal is to save every bit of content it crawls for the future benefit of searchers. It’s also gauging how relevant that content is to the words that searchers use when they want to find an answer to something.
  • Ranking –  Ultimately it’s about how the engine decides to deliver the most relevant results to searchers. The search engine algorithm which decides on the results follows a very complex set of rules. Copyblogger explains these rules as “the ground rules for a duel between your content and other content that might satisfy a searcher’s keyword query.”

Copyblogger then goes on to explain the importance of doing some keyword research upfront. What are the words and phrases that people use to find the information that they were looking for? These are the five key things to bear in mind in relation to keyword research:

  • Research tools – Google has a good, free keyword tool and there are similar tools out there such as Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest.
  • Get specific – Even though we often talk about keywords, in most cases it will be specific (short) phrases that are relevant. For example, “new car deals” or “best car discounts”.
  • Strength in numbers – It’s important to look at the relative popularity of a specific keyword among search terms. You want to make sure that enough people use your phrase or keyword when thinking about a specific topic. If you’re trying to rank in a very competitive sector, a keyword combination that can rank for an easier phrase might be preferable.
  • Highly relevant – This feels like the main point when doing keyword research: “Make sure that the search terms you are considering are highly relevant to your ultimate goal.”
  • Content resource – The key question here is whether a particular keyword phrase can support the development of content that readers perceive as value-adding. Copyblogger breaks this down into the following aspects: (1) satisfies the preliminary needs of the site visitor (2) acts as the first step in your sales or action cycle and (3) prompts people to link to it.

The book then goes into the more of the nitty gritty by highlighting “Five SEO copywriting elements that matter”:

  1. Title – With the title of your content, the critical thing is to make sure that the keywords you’re targeting are included in your title. Also, the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. I’ve included some more points on how to best optimise your title in Fig. 1 and 2 below.
  2. Meta-Description – Copyblogger makes a good point by stressing that SEO copywriting isn’t just about ranking. It’s also about what your content looks like on a search engine results page (“SERP”). The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether a person decides to read your content (and whether she clicks). Like with the title, the best would be to lead the meta-description with your keyword phrase. Also, you want to try and keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result. See Fig. 3 below for some examples of effective meta-descriptions.
  3. Content – For search optimisation purposes, your content should be on topic and strongly focus on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases. It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words.
  4. Keyword frequency – There’s a clear difference between “keyword frequency” and “keyword density”. Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears on the page. In contrast, keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page. Copyblogger explains how keyword frequency affects ranking and that keyword density might not. I guess it’s a case of using common sense when writing content, checking the frequency of your keywords against the rest of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of what’s called “keyword stuffing”, which tends to make Google think you’re trying to game their system.
  5. Linking out – Search engines are keen that your content is well connected with other content and pages, hence why linking out is important from an SEO perspective. Copyblogger provides some good tips with respect to linking out (see Fig. 4 below).

Main learning point: I’ve learned that getting your copy right is extremely important from an SEO perspective. This starts with being clear about the ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve through your content, making sure this is reflected in your keyword phrase and, subsequently, in the title and body of the actual content.

Fig. 1 – Optimising the title of your content for SEO – Adapted from: http://www.copyblogger.com/seo-copywriting/

  • Have an alternative title in the title tag – It’s important that your CMS or blogging software allow you to serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google pulls to display a title in search results) than the headline that appears on the page.
  • Try to keep title length under 72 characters – Keeping your title length under 72 characters will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.

Fig. 2 – Sample titles, optimised for SEO:

For example, let’s say the keywords or phrases that I’m looking to target are “Ford Focus discounts”, then sample titles could look something like this:

“Three ways to get the best discount on your Ford Focus”

“Why getting an incredible discount on a new Ford Focus is easy”

Both titles contain my keyword phrase, but the keywords might not be in the best location for ranking or even for quick-scanning searchers compared with regular readers. By using an alternate title tag, I can enter a more search-optimized title for Google and searchers only, such as:

“Ford Focus: 3 ways to get the best discount”

“Getting discounts on a Ford Focus is easy”

Fig. 3 – Examples of effective meta-descriptions – Taken from: https://econsultancy.com/blog/62553-33-examples-of-great-meta-descriptions-for-search/ 

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 Fig. 4 – Best practices with respect to linking out – Taken from: http://www.copyblogger.com/seo-copywriting/
  • Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy
  • Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
  • Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
  • Link with naturally relevant anchor text
 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Digital Content, Search

 

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Book review: “User Story Mapping”

Three years ago I wrote about Jeff Patton’s “Story Mapping”. I described this technique as a great tool to help design and develop products (see Fig. 1 below for a good example of a Story Map). Jeff Patton has now written a book about this technique, titled “User Story Mapping”.

Patton is a well-known user experience (‘UX’) specialist. He starts “User Story Mapping” by stating that “story maps are for breaking down big stories as you tell them.” His point is about telling stories instead of concentrating solely on what should be written. Patton subsequently explains about “talk and doc”; this technique helps you to externalise your thinking as you map the different stories.

“User Story Mapping” then goes on to describe the aspects involved in mapping user stories – taking an idea, mapping it and talking about it:

  1. Frame your idea – For me, the ability to put structure around your product idea is one of the most important benefits of Patton’s story mapping technique. Patton urges us to focus on “desired outcomes” for a specific group of customers and users (see Fig. 2 below). Once you’ve gone through the exercise of figuring out what to build, for whom and why, it should be much easier to prioritise development work. As Patton explains, the ultimate goal is “to minimise the amount we build.”
  2. Breadth over depth –  Patton recommends focusing on the breadth of a story first, before delving into the depth of it. This means starting with mapping big activities first, and then breaking these down into smaller, more detailed stories. I’ve included a good real-life example from the book in Fig. 3 below. After covering breadth, you can then start exploring details and options per individual user story: What are the specific things my target user would do here? What are alternative things they could do? What would make it really cool? What about when things go wrong?
  3. The backbone organises the story map – With a story map, one typically starts with a “backbone”, which is formed at the top of the map. One level can be a basic and high level flow of the story. When this first flow gets too long, you can use the row below to summarise some of the stories.
  4. Focus on outcomes – For me, the key of “User Story Mapping” is the point that Patton makes about focusing on outcomes instead of features. “Focus on outcomes – what users need to do and see when the system comes out – and slice out releases that will get you those outcomes.” He then goes on to stress that the secret to prioritisation is to prioritise outcomes and not features.
  5. Minimum viable product – Paton takes a leaf out of Eric Ries‘ book by talking about what makes a “Minimum Viable Product” (‘MVP’). You can see how you can use story maps to slice out stories to make up an MVP. Patton debunks the myth that MVP stands for “the crappiest product you could possibly release.” By contrast, Patton reminds us that the MVP is “the smallest product release that successfully achieves its desired outcomes.” Also, an MVP is the smallest thing you can create or do to prove or disprove a (risky) assumption.
  6. Start by discussing your opportunity – The first story discussion should be about framing the opportunity, suggests Patton. This is very much akin to the “opportunity assessment”, which product guru Marty Cagan introduced a number of years ago. An important part of this initial assessment of the opportunity is to establish whether the problem that you’re looking to solve really exists (see Fig. 5 below).
  7. Exposing risk in the story map – For me, being “Lean” is all about managing risk. User story mapping can help you to identify and mitigate risk early on in the product development process. Story maps are a great way to make risks visible (see Fig. 6 below) and serve as a starting point for a conversation about how to best manage risk.
  8. How to create a story map? – Chapter 5 of “User Story Mapping” is all about how to go about creating a story map. Patton provides a good overview of the steps involved in creating a story map as part of a collaborative process. I’ve listed these steps in Fig. 7 below.
  9. It’s about the conversation! – So you’ve created a story map, so what!? I’ve learned over the last few years that the critical part of creating a user story map is the conversation around it. Getting the right people in the room to create a shared understanding of the user problem(s) to address is a critical first step. The next, but equally important step, is to use the story map is a reference point for conversation and collaboration. Patton provides a very useful “checklist of what to really talk about”, which I’ve included in Fig. 8 below.

Main learning point: User story mapping is a great tool for anyone who wants to create a structure and conversation around a user problem or a product idea. Jeff Patton’s technique makes you take a step back and think through the problem(s) you’re looking to solve. “User Story Mapping” thus provides a very valuable framework to anyone involved in product development.

Fig. 1 – Example of a User Map – Taken from: http://www.barryovereem.com/the-user-story-mapping-game/

UserStoryMap

Fig. 2 – Frame your idea – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 8-11

  • What is it?
  • Why build it?
  • What will happen when you do?
  • Type of users?
  • Types of activities people would use the product for?

Fig. 3 – “Mimi’s Big Story” – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, p. 13

At the top of the user story map you’ll see big activities like:

  • Signing up
  • Changing my service
  • Viewing my band stats
  • Publicising a show
  • Viewing promotions online

“Publicising a show” was a big thing. It broke down into these steps arranged left to right underneath the “Publicising the show” card.

  • Start a show promotion
  • Review the promo flyer Mimi created for me
  • Customise the promo flyer
  • Preview the promo flyer I created

Fig. 4 – Anatomy of a User Story Map – Taken from: http://www.slideshare.net/bradswanson/lean-startup-story-mapping-awesome-products-faster

lean-startup-story-mapping-awesome-products-faster-15-638 Fig. 5 – Start by discussing your opportunity – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 38

  • What is the big idea?
  • Who are the customers?
  • Who are the users?
  • Why would they want it?
  • Why are we building it?

Fig. 6 – Adding risk stories to make risk visible – Taken from: http://www.slideshare.net/AgileME/jason-jones-agileme2015

user-stories-and-user-story-mapping-by-jason-jones-11-638

Fig. 7 – Creating a story map – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 67 – 77

  1. Write out your story a step at a time – Start with user tasks; how do you expect people to use your product or software to achieve their goals?
  2. Organise your story – Organise your stories in a left-to-right flow with what you did first on the left, and what you did later on the right. Maps are organised left-to-right using a narrative flow: this is the order in which you’d tell the story.
  3. Explore alternative stories – Once you’ve got a basic narrative flow in place, you’d want to consider edge cases, alternatives, exceptions and capture these in stories. In other words: your basic narrative flow forms the “backbone” or a “happy path”, and the alternative stories are in the “body” of a story map.
  4. Distill your map to a backbone –  At this stage, your user story map is likely to look pretty wide and expansive. This is a good point to take a step back and identify clusters of stories that go together. Creating a backbone of your story map is about grouping stories. Patton refers to these groupings as “activities”. These activities aggregate tasks directed at a common goal. Activities and high-level tasks form the backbone of a story map.
  5. Slice out tasks that help you reach a specific outcome – This is the bit where you focus on a specific outcome and where you extract those tasks and related details relevant to the outcome.

Fig. 8 – A checklist of what to really talk about – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 104 – 107

  • Really talk about who – Don’t just talk about “the user.” Be specific. Talk about which user you mean.
  • Really talk about what – Start the user stories with user tasks – the things that people want to do with my product.
  • Really talk about why  Talk about why the specific user cares. Talk about why other users care. Talk about why the user’s company cares. Talk about why business stakeholders care.
  • Talk about what’s going on outside the software – Talk about where people using your product are when they use it. Talk about when they’d use the product, and how often.
  • Talk about what goes wrong –  What happens when things go wrong? What happens when the system is down? How else could users accomplish this? How do they meet their needs today?
  • Talk about questions and assumptions – Take time to question your assumptions. Do you really understand your users? Is this really what they want? Do they really have these problems? Also question your technical assumptions. What underlying systems do we rely on? Do they really work the way we think? Are there any technical risks we need to consider?
  • Talk about better solutions – The really big win comes when those in a story conversation discard some original assumptions about what the solution should be, go back to the problem they’re trying to solve, and then together arrive at a solution that’s more effective and economical to build.
  • Talk about how – Talk about the “how” as well as about the “what”. Patton explains the risk of people assuming that a particular solution or the way it’s implemented is a “requirement.” Without explicitly talking about “how”, it’s difficult to think about the cost of the solution. Because, if a solution is too expensive, then it may not be a good option.
  • Talk about how long – Ultimately, we need to make some decisions to go forward with building something or not. And it’s tough to make this sort of buying decision without a price tag. For software, that usually means how long it’ll take to write the code.
 

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How made.com connects online and offline

Made.com has been around for a good few years and has made a name for itself by offering designer furniture online. However, I hadn’t realised that apart from their online platform, Made.com also have 2 showrooms (in London and in Yorkshire respectively). Keen to find out more about how Made.com combine a user’s online and offline experience, I went to their London showroom to see for myself:

  1. CloudTags – When you enter the Made.com showroom, you will see a stand stacked with white tablets (see Fig. 1 below). These devices enable you to scan individual items in the showroom. You can scan visual “Near Field Communication” (‘NFC’) tags on each item. Scanning these tags with your device will get you more information about a specific piece of furniture and create a list of items you’re interested in. Made.com can then email you the list, which enables you to do further research on the items that you’ve looked at (see Fig. 2 below). This also provides Made.com with valuable data on its users .
  2. Product discovery – I really liked the product pages that came up on the handheld device as I was scanning CloudTags on products. For example, when I scanned a “Landsdowne Upholstered Bedside Table”, I got a product page which was clear, visual and which encouraged me to look at similar products (see Fig. 3 below). From this product page, I found it really easy to look at the bedside table in different colours and to explore different products by type and collection respectively. Also, the email that I got from Made.com included both the item that I’d looked at as well as “recommended products” (i.e. other items in the Landsdowne collection).
  3. Don’t forget about the iBeacons – Based on my in-store selections, I expect Made.com to be able to build up a good profile of my furniture preferences. In addition, Made.com uses iBeacon technology in-store which, in combination with the tablets, generate data on e.g. customer dwell time. Made.com can then use this data to personalise its marketing and showroom merchandising strategies.

Main learning point: I really like how Made.com are combining the online and offline user experience. When you go in-store, their combined experience feels intuitive and seamless. I’m curious to see how Made.com will continue to build on this combination of online and offline touchpoints, and how it will use the data which it generates in the process.

 

Fig. 1 – Handheld tablets as used in made.com’s showrooms – Taken from: http://www.essentialretail.com/news/article/53be97c7361cb-in-pictures-madecom-showroom-trials-tablet-shopping-experience

Made_com using Cloudtags tablets in showroom 2

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the email confirmation screen of Made’s tablet

IMG_2667

 

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of the Landsdowne bedside table on Made’s tablet

Made 2

 

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of the email I received from Made.com following my visit to their showroom

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 15.54.15

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.made.com/about-us
  2. http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/07/10/madecom-attempts-connect-offline-and-online-store-product-scanning
  3. http://www.essentialretail.com/news/article/53be97c7361cb-in-pictures-madecom-showroom-trials-tablet-shopping-experience
  4. http://www.cloudtags.com/
  5. http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12024
  6. http://www.cityam.com/214513/intelligent-design

 

 

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