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Posts from the ‘usability’ Category

work happy.

October 29, 2012

jessonline

Poppin makes office supplies fun and colorful

Think old-school office supplies are on the way out? Paperless offices, Evernote, iPads, laptops, iPhones- there are so many ways to plug in and make your to-do’s a scheduled reminder list, your notes an archivable, searchable library on Evernote, or a quick email after a meeting. But the truth is, there are die-hard note-takers out here. There are paper lovers and pen collectors. There are those of us who are on a never-ending quest for the perfect pen, the perfect notebook- the proverbial blank page that invites and inspires and satisfies as you check off your to-do list, like no program, application or device can.

This is where Poppin comes in.

Poppin makes office supplies fun and colorful

Who says office supplies need to be black? Poppin’s site is all about color.

Of course, we need our technology, and we love that too. This is different. This is love at first sight.

Poppin’s tagline is “work happy”, and everything about the website reflects it. The copy is light-hearted and friendly- The people you can call for help are called “work stylists” who can set you up with a desk to love. On the Help page, the stylists are described this way:

“Each Poppin Work Stylist has been carefully chosen because they like to smile, have exquisite taste and looooove talking to people.”

The website itself is entertaining, fun and has a great design sensibility- you can shop visually by color as a secondary navigation bar at the top of the site.  The copy is believable and genuine, with a sense of humor. They “pinky-promise to take any Poppin product back that does not make you work happy.”

The branding is superb, end-to-end. The package arrives with writing on the outside, and air-bubbles on the inside printed with funny quotes. You actually want to save the air bubbles- they’re that cute. And a week or two after my package arrived, I got a hand-written thank you note on a Poppin card, mentioning my specific items.

All in all, it’s a complete delight. It’s not to say we won’t keep using Evernote and iPads and laptops. But it doesn’t hurt to have a desk that makes you smile everyday. Check it out at Poppin.com.

In the land of Kafka

July 8, 2012

jessonline

The dreaded VRU.  How did it come to be such a brick wall?  It’s a great tool for efficiency, of course- just not for us. No doubt it saves millions in staffing costs for companies, while creating a tedious, frustrating, and mind-numbing experience for those of us who spend infinitely more time navigating through the gauntlet of menus, only to find that none of them offer the right options- none offer a human. I’ll start to feel my blood pressure rising, the frustration growing, finally talking louder and louder to the VRU, as if I were talking to someone hard of hearing, saying, “I WANT A HUMAN!”, then getting the inevitably even-toned “I’m sorry, that is not a valid response. To return to the main menu, please press 1, now”.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were always the option to speak to an agent, but many companies remove that option. Others offer it, but only after you’ve followed a path of automated responses that exhaust all possible functions the system has in its arsenal. The thing is, I don’t actually want to speak to a human. I’d much rather be able to solve everything through email or online. But sometimes, you can’t- and you really need to speak with someone, and it just shouldn’t have to be so hard.

Used the way they were intended, VRU’s have a place, providing answers to frequently asked questions, saving time and money- theoretically leaving more time for qualified agents to deal with more complicated issues. I get it.  They can be a tolerable evil, to a degree, as long as there’s always the option to speak to someone. It’s just plain irresponsible to omit an option to do so.

In the early days of web shopping, you practically had to have connections to get a phone number at Amazon. There was one- but you could not find it on the site. It simply wasn’t there. When my friend AMB got the number- it was a big score- and we all saved it in our address books for future reference. It was like having privileged information. They’ve come a long way since those days.

Even now, there are a surprising number of high-profile companies that don’t provide phone service at all. Companies that just can’t handle the volume, or plain don’t want to. Some surprisingly big companies in the mix. See “Tech Companies Leave Phone Calls Behind” in yesterday’s New York Times- Quora doesn’t provide a phone number at all. Twitter has one, but it hangs up after directing you to email. Facebook is no better. In the article, Amy O’Leary describes the  Linked In VRU cycle as a telephonic version of “Groundhog Day”. That pretty much sums it up.

And then…there are the times that speaking to an agent seems almost as existential as working your way through a VPU. Check out “The Theater of the Absurd” today in the NYT business section, for a humorous article on the subject, including a transcript of a baffling conversation between Alan Alda and a McAfee customer service agent, in which he says to her, “I am now in the land of  Kafka” after going around in ridiculous circles. Worth a read.

I wonder if Siri could help. Try asking her to get you an agent at <company name here>, and see what happens. Let me know how that works out. I’m a generation behind, on the iPhone 4, so wouldn’t know. It would be worth the upgrade if she has that kind of power.

Celebrate simplicity

October 26, 2011

jessonline

When I think about the websites I enjoy shopping, they all have one thing in common: simplicity. And by that, I do not mean a paucity of options, detail or content.  I mean a well-curated, carefully edited navigation, content that is clearly organized and merchandised, links that are clear about where they are going, and steps that simply make intuitive sense. These are the kind of sites that are a pleasure to shop- whether you are a power-shopper, like me, or a less experienced shopper who’s not yet quite comfortable shopping online.

For newer websites, it’s about understanding what constitutes a good experience and building it that way.

For those that have been around for a while, it’s about evaluating the site from a holistic perspective, to clearly see the disconnects, redundancy or sub-optimal organization that can result from incremental changes over time: the implementation of new pages, new categories, and new additions to navigation; the older pages with out-of-date content, broken links and functionality; copy or design that seems antiquated. Yeah. It can get messy.

It’s hard. But you’ll always be behind if you don’t deal with it. Keeping it simple requires vigilance and devotion. A constant watch guard on the shopper’s experience. So how do you do it without loads of time and resources?

  1. Shop your own website all the time.
  2. Do it now. Repeat every week.
  3. Don’t just look at what’s new.
  4. Start from the beginning and follow the path all the way through checkout.
  5. You’ll be surprised at the things you notice- keep a list.
  6. Get everyone in the company in on it.
  7. See what your customer sees: try Usertesting.com for a quick read.
  8. Start fixing things, one thing at a time.

Don’t have the time? It’s all about priorities.  This won’t necessarily make the top of your list. That’s okay. Just think of it as maintenance- like putting oil in your car. If you don’t do it, the car will stop running well. By refining the shopping experience now, you are making a choice that will lead towards better conversion, a happier customer, and a strong foundation on which to do more of the fun and remarkable things that add buzz-factor to your brand. But you need the car to keep running. You don’t have to stop everything else to do it. Do yourself, and your customers a favor. Just get it started.

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