Rethinking the Undergraduate Study website

On February 20th we launched a brand new Undergraduate (UG) Study website. This is the website that showcases our undergraduate programmes to prospective students around the world. It’s the most popular part of our site, attracting more than 6 million external pageviews each year from more than 200 countries and territories.

The new site has been designed to meet the changing demands of visitors to our website, including the use of mobile devices, which has seen a 15-fold increase over the last two years. We also met the technical challenge of incorporating rich course information from iPaMs, our emerging Integrated Programmes and Modules System.

UG Study - responsive course pages

UG Study – responsive course pages

Planning and preparation

We refresh the UG Study website every year, but for this year’s full redesign we went back to first principles and asked ourselves fundamental questions about who our prospective students are, what they want from a website and how we could best provide it.

  • We listened to prospective students who told us where the UG Study website fits into their information-seeking habits, what they want from the website and how this differs from, for example, the printed prospectus.
  • We reviewed websites across UK, US, Canadian and Australian higher education looking for inspiration and examples of best practice.
  • We looked at the sites of large charities and public bodies to help us understand how they encourage their visitors to engage with them.
  • We examined sites which supported ‘big decisions’, such as estate agents, healthcare providers and financial institutions to better understand how they helped visitors to find the right product for them.
  • We read research papers and industry reports to understand that visitors to university websites expected to find familiar user interfaces and tools from ecommerce and social websites, such as search filters, expandable panels and tabbed content.
  • We analysed our web traffic and discovered that course pages, visit day pages and application information account for almost all the traffic to the site, and that almost 20% of visits to the site were made by mobile users.

Designing and building

Based on our research we designed a new scheme for the UG Study site. We aimed to give the pages a more contemporary feel, to increase the amount of space we could use for content by introducing a horizontal navigation menu and to create a set of responsive page layouts which would dynamically adjust to the size of screen the site was being viewed on.

We developed wireframes to represent our main page types and began the ongoing process of testing with potential users of the site and improving our designs based on their feedback.

Creating a single page which will adjust to display well on different devices requires content elements such as text and images to show and hide, resize and reposition depending on the size and orientation of the screen. Responsive design adds a great deal of complexity to content planning and the team had to learn new ways not only to code the website but also to create and manage the content.

Integrating data

We knew from our research that prospective students wanted to find detailed breakdowns of the courses they were considering. To allow us to deliver this, we developed new methods to import data from the iPaMs database into our Web Content Management System. Not only did this present huge technical challenges as we pulled content for more than 300 programmes from one database into another, but with colleagues in the Colleges and the Marketing Team, it required an enormous amount of work to ensure that the data was current and accurate.

Adding search

We built a new ‘course search’ tool, developed using Funnelback, our website search engine. This allows us to index only the UG course pages and bring back results in a form which can be sorted and filtered by criteria such as course duration, location and study options.

Testing

Once the site began to take shape, we involved the whole team in testing it for content, appearance and functionality on a huge range of devices. With a site built for smartphones and tablets it’s no longer enough to look at it in the most popular browsers on a desktop PC. We conducted detailed testing on more than 20 different platforms, choosing those combinations of device and browser which were most popular amongst our users. We could have tested five times as many.

Sharing our work

We took the developing site around the University, demoing it to groups and meetings in every College and involving hundreds of staff members, incorporating their feedback and comments as we went.

Launch and beyond

The site was launched on 20 February after more than 12 months of thinking, planning, experimenting, constructing, populating, data-cleansing and testing, testing, testing, all of which was undertaken by the Web and Marketing Teams, with great support from colleagues across the Colleges and Services.

Traffic patterns in the month since the site went live are very encouraging, suggesting that users are engaging with the site more than with its predecessor.

  • We have seen a 43% increase in the number of pageviews per visit to the site
  • a 58% increase in the average visit duration and 
  • a 54% decrease in the bounce rate (i.e. the number of visitors who leave the site immediately after arriving).

Looking specifically at mobile visitors we have seen even more positive results including

  • a 77% increase in the number of pages per visit and 
  • a 142% increase in the average visit duration.

We think the new site is a big step forward. It achieves what we set out to do and, we hope, meets the needs of today’s prospective students. We will continue to learn from the users of our site and to improve it further in the weeks and months to come.

Take a look at the UG Study site and let us know what you think in comments.

Rob Mitchell
Web Editor

Sourcing images and copyright

Forum Opening Day

Forum Opening Day by Ally Brown
http://www.flickr.com/photos/allybrown/7135361371/sizes/l/in/photostream/

When sourcing images for use on our University web pages it is important to ensure that you have the relevant permissions.  It is a common misconception that if an image is readily available to copy from the web (using a search on Google Images for example) it is free to use.  Anything created and published on the internet is automatically covered by copyright law and if you fail to obtain permission to use an image you could be at risk of a fine.

Do not assume that because the web is so big and everything on it available so freely that no-one will ever find out what you are using. Copyright owners can go to great lengths to ensure that their images are traceable online.

An increasing number people are making their work available online under Creative Commons licenses. These allow creators to easily communicate which parts of copyright law they reserve and which parts they waive. The image above of the opening of the Forum taken by Ally Brown in the Web Team is available to download on Flickr.com and you can see the simple one-page Creative Commons license that Ally has set up to communicate how he is happy for the image to be used.

If no such license is obviously available then you should always obtain formal permission for any image that you wish to use.  Bear in mind that the perceived owner could be using an image illegally and it is your responsibility to make contact with the original owner. Ignorance is not justifiable grounds to avoid a fine.

After securing permission be aware of any stipulations of use, for example images available for web but not print, or any specific credit that must accompany the image. Even if the owner doesn’t insist on a credit it is always courteous to include one. When using an image in the right hand ‘www Image with Caption’ template in T4 the template includes an optional field for including a copyright acknowledgement.

More information on copyright is available on our Web support site but the golden rule is if in doubt, don’t use it.

Useful image sources

However, all is not lost!  There are some useful image sources available, some of which are free:

  • Assetbank – an extensive and growing archive containing University commissioned photography for use in promotional publications, including the University website. To request download of any images contact your Web Marketing Officer.
  • Morgue File – contains photographs freely contributed by many artists to be used in creative and commercial projects by visitors to the site. You are asked to credit the photographer when possible but this is not required.
  • Fotolia – a huge image bank of free and affordable royalty-free photos and illustrations for web or print. Many of its images are free and others are available from £0.63p.
  • stock.xchng  – a community of professional photographers and amateur enthusiasts who offer their works for public use free of charge or at minimal cost. You need to register to use the site and download images but membership is free.
  • Get snapping!
    You can of course use images you have taken or created yourself.  Please do bear in mind whether the images are appropriate for use on the University website though.

Helen Evans,
Web Marketing Officer for the Medical School 

Getting started with Social Media

Social Media IconsSocial media is a great way of reaching and interacting with your audience. Many of us use it in our personal lives and want to use it professionally as well.

Building and maintaining an engaging professional social media presence can be very rewarding but also time consuming. Before you set anything up make sure you have the resource to keep it going in the long-term. It will need to be checked and updated on a daily basis.

In order to engage your audience using social media you need to have a two way conversation. Spend time commenting on and replying to things your target audience have posted in addition to sending out your own messages.

Dormant or sparsely maintained accounts look unprofessional and can give the impression an active project, group, centre, team or service is no longer running. Broadcast only accounts can be just as damaging because you are not engaging with your audience.

In many cases we would prefer to send your messages through our corporate social media accounts such as the @UniofExeter Twitter and University of Exeter Facebook presences. These accounts have large number of followers and can give your messages much greater exposure than an individual social media account.

If we then identify a need to set up your own channels we can advise you on best practice.

Before you open a social media account please consider:

  • What resource you have for the ongoing maintenance of the social media presence.
  • What do you want to say?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to do?
  • And, determine which social media mechanisms your audience uses (eg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

Please also contact your Web Marketing Officer to discuss your requirements, ideas and options.

If you do run your own channels you must behave appropriately and remember you are representing the University, even if it is a personal account. You must behave in a respectful, relevant way that protects our reputation and follows the letter and spirit of the law.

We expect everyone who participates in online commentary to follow the University’s social media guidelines, you must make sure you have read the guidelines before setting anything up.

Types of social media

There are many different social media sites that can be used for different purposes, such as: 

Linkedin

LinkedIn: Aimed at professionals. It is easy to get started and you can use existing email lists to search for and add people to your contacts.Remember to update your personal profile regularly to notify contacts about your activities. You can also recommend contacts for their professional skills – and be recommended by contacts in return.

You can join groups to communicate with others in your field and can ask and answer questions related to your area of work. The ways of engaging with other users makes LinkedIn a useful site for networking and collaboration.

For more details see the University’s guide to LinkedIn.

Twitter

Twitter: This requires more patience than other forms of social media but your posts have the potential to reach a far wider audience.

The best way to start on Twitter is to:

  • Follow people with similar interests.
  • Make your profile interesting and relevant to your work.
  • Engage with others – if someone tweets something of interest make sure to reply to it.

Remember that your Twitter account is an ambassador for you and the University so avoid getting involved in sensitive subjects that could damage your reputation.

Facebook

Facebook: When targeting students Facebook could be ideal, but if you have research or other academic interests in mind it could be the wrong place for your target audience.

Academia.edu: A social media site geared towards academic researchers. Using Academia.edu you can:

  • Update your status with relevant current events that may be of interest to others.
  • Upload, track and download academic papers – sometimes as they are being written, as academics ask for peer reviews of drafts.
  • Pose questions to your followers in a similar way to Twitter, but with a much higher character limit.
  • Invite colleagues to the site.
  • Create an easy road map for potential future collaborations.

Academia.edu may be better suited to collaborating with existing contacts rather than making new connections or boosting the profile of your research.

Wikis: A simple website that allows the creation and editing of linked web pages. They are useful for a number of people to discuss a topic, plan a meeting or share ideas because all contributions on a topic are kept together and in order.

The University of Exeter wiki gives you some information on how to use wikis. You can apply for a wiki via My Exeter.

Blogs: A very quick and simple way for anybody to publish content to the web without having to establish or maintain an entire website.

Blogs are ideal for publishing news and updates, for commenting on external events and issues, and for linking to and interacting with content on other blogs.

You can set up a University blog via My Exeter.

Jenna Richards, Web Marketing Officer for RKT

Developing iExeter – our student facing app

What is iExeter?

iExeter screen shot

iExeter is the free, student app that provides anybody studying at one of our Exeter or Cornwall campuses with a range of tools and information on their mobile device. Anybody can download and use the maps, PC finder, library checker, job listings and other areas but by logging in with a student id users also get bespoke tools such as their personal timetable.

The platform we use is provided by oMbiel and it works on Apple, Android and modern Blackberry phones – although anyone with a different type of phone can access iExeter through the web version as long as it is internet enabled.

iExeter allows us to offer students useful information and tools that they can access wherever they are. This not only makes accessing their services and systems easier, but it also works towards improving the student experience at Exeter.

Student uptake

Since its launch in August 2012 we’ve seen a really high uptake from students, with over 22,000 registrations and nearly 2.5 million individual sessions. The most popular feature within iExeter is timetabling, followed by the campus maps and the full Freshers’ Week guide that is available from August to October each year.

Recent changes and developments

Throughout December and January I have been testing the new version of iExeter, which has a completely different appearance and improved stability and usability. The Apple/iOS version has already been released, and the Android one is going live very soon.

Last month we saw the arrival of Max Goss who will work alongside me to develop new features into iExeter. We also extended our license, allowing us to offer a variety of different apps to different users and to improve and build on the existing student facing features.

Future plans and changes

Over the coming weeks Max and I will be making some further additions and major changes. We’ll be taking the personalisation a step further so users on different campuses will only see information that is relevant to them. We’re currently testing several new features including ELE and live transport times to and from campus, which we hope to launch this month.

Whilst iExeter is currently focussed on the student experience we now have to the option to expand on this to a wide range of potential users. If you have any suggestions that would improve on iExeter please let me know at b.richards@exeter.ac.uk. This could be a new feature, the integration of a system or an idea for an entirely new application that would benefit one of the key stakeholders to the institution.

The app can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App StoreGoogle Play and Blackberry App World. You can also view a web version of the app.

Ben Richards, Web Marketing Officer

Writing for the web

I recently attended a Netskills workshop on ‘Writing for the Web’. The course gave a useful overview of things to consider when writing for the web, as well as some top tips, which I shall try and summarise here (in a web-friendly way).

  • Use the ‘10 second test’

We are lazy when it comes to reading online. Give yourself 10 seconds to look at a page you’ve put online – what information did you retain? Is that the same information that you want other people to take away?

A sample page of text

Click the image to open a larger version.

This example was used on the day – after 10 seconds do you get a sense of its purpose? Can you retain much information from the page?

Taking the 10 second test really highlights how we read online:

  • With lots of scanning / skim reading
  • Only reading about 20%

Tip: It can be difficult to look at a webpage objectively when you’ve spent a long time on it – so ask a colleague to take the 10 second test.

  • Use an ‘inverted pyramid’ content model

Most of us have learnt to write an introduction first, and then give more details, and finish up with a conclusion.

On a website, where eye-tracking studies show that people give the top of the page much more attention, it makes sense to put your conclusion earlier on.

Start with a conclusion (or the absolute most important piece of information), then an explanation, and then more details.

  • Take care over titles

Titles are the main indicator of what’s on a page – for search engines and your users. They are often used outside of context, so should be unique and explain what your page contains.

  • Get straight to the point

The first words on a webpage really matter. Your first paragraph should contain your main keywords and vital information.

  • Be concise

“Get rid of half the words on each page.
Then get rid of half of what’s left.”

- Steve Krug’s Third Law of Usability

Simplify wordy phrases and remove redundant words or repeated information from your page. There are online tools you can paste text into to check for a ‘readability’ score, which might help you to assess how easy your content is to read. Keeping page length down will also help your users to digest information on their phone or tablet.

Common culprits – phrases like “alternative choice”, “careful scrutiny”, “evolve over time” and “merge together” – if you only need one word, only use one word.

Fiona Hughes, WMO for Academic Services

How to resize an image using Pixlr.com

How to crop images to the correct size for T4 templates if you don’t have access to Photoshop.

The templates in T4 require images to be cropped or re-sized to specific dimensions to appear properly when they publish out to the website, so you’ll need to do this before you upload your images to the media library. Image sizes are in pixels and on the web there are 72 pixels per inch. You can see which templates need which image sizes on the web support site.

If you don’t have access to Photoshop you can use a great web based alternative called PixlR.com that has much of the same functionality and is completely free. You can use it to crop and resize images, make adjustments to brightness, colour balance and contrast, add layers and text and lots of other things too.

For this example, we’ll look at how to resize an image for the www image with caption template in T4 that will place your image in the top right hand side of the page and requires images to be 218 pixels wide, but can be any height.

  1. Go to http://pixlr.com/editor/ and click the Open image from computer button. Navigate to the image you want to resize and click Open.
  2. If you don’t want to crop anything out of the image then skip to step 3. To crop the image, click on this button in toolbar  to select the crop tool. Left click and hold and drag your cursor around the portion of the image you want to keep and release to select it. You’ll then see the part of the image you’re going to keep in a grey rectangle. You can amend your selection by dragging the blue boxes on the sides and corners to the position you want. When you are happy hit return. If you want to step back at any point hit ctrl+Z.
  3. From the top menu click Image and then from the dropdown menu click Image size. In the Image size box enter 218 into the width field. Make sure the Constrain proportions checkbox is checked or you will skew the ratio of the image. Click Ok to resize the image.
    Note: If the image you are starting with is less than 218 pixels wide then increasing the width will decrease the quality of the image.
  4. From the top menu click File and then from the drop down menu click Save image. Enter the name for your image in the Name field. An image name should only contain letters, numbers and dashes – there should be no spaces and no special characters (such as & % *). From the Format drop down select JPEG. Set the Quality slide bar to 80. Click OK and save it to your computer.

Your image should now be the correct width to upload to the media library.

Dan Lott,
Web Designer 

In cyberspace everyone can see you tweet

It’s been quite a couple of weeks for matters of online privacy. The revelation that the US National Security Agency really is monitoring electronic communications on a massive scale after all is simultaneously both unsurprising and and confusing. It’s the sort of thing many people assumed would be happening, but to be told that it really is still shocks.

It’s interesting how reactions and attitudes are shifting as this story moves from fiction to fact. It’s possible to be outraged at the widespread monitoring of private communications whilst also feeling grateful that someone out there really is keeping tabs on what some of the bad guys are planning. Some say one of the things that defines us as humans is our ability to hold contradictory beliefs.

We also heard a startling interview about the apparently widespread practice of hackers peering at computer users through their webcams. It seems we may have unwittingly invited Big Brother, or Little Teenager, into our own homes.

Whilst many people around the world will now be thinking more carefully about what they say and do online, it’s also clear that many really don’t. Earlier this week a contact sent me a link to a post on UnMarketing which captures this succinctly: ‘Why Tweets About Obese Doctors Are Never Your Own‘. Scott Stratten highlights the absurdity of the often-used disclaimer “All tweets are my own”, pointing out that linking a personal twitter feed to an employer is only ever a couple of clicks worth of work, and how this:

 leads inexorably to this:

It’s a great post, please read it.

The next day, we had an example from closer to home. You won’t be surprised to hear that we monitor social media for mentions of the University. It helps us to answer questions and queries that people may have about us and it also helps us to gauge how people feel about us. So, whenever someone tweets our name, we tend to see it. And on Thursday morning, this popped up:

I’ve redacted it for language.

We checked to see where this was coming from, and found that Roy was at the UCAS fair at Liverpool University. We discovered this by looking at the rest of his public twitter feed. It looked like this:

Fairly reasonably, we found ourselves wondering who this chap was. So we googled his name, plus UCAS and came up with some of his work references. He’s the Education Liaison Officer at a college in West Yorkshire.

I’m sure the students he met at the UCAS fair didn’t realise that he was on the look-out for faces that fit a Liverpudlian stereotype. I doubt the student ambassadors from Exeter realised he wanted them to leave. I’m guessing the guy with the horn-rimmed spectacles never knew that Roy was thinking about punching him in the face.

However, if any of these people, after meeting Roy, had gone away and googled his name plus ‘twitter’, perhaps because they wanted to ask him a question, they would have found out fairly quickly.

In our social media guidelines, we say:

  • Social media are public spaces. You should not say anything that you would not be happy to say in a public gathering and you should not publish information which you would not be happy for anyone in the world to see.

This is as true for your ‘personal’, ‘private’, ‘views all my own’ social media. Think about what ‘social media’ means in strict literal terms. And then think about what you’re saying.

Post script: Roy’s original tweet was useful for us. We contacted our Recruitment Team, showed them the tweet, and they had a conversation with the Student Ambassadors who represented the University at this particular UCAS event to check that they had behaved appropriately and think about whether there was anything they needed to change.

So, thanks Roy, for showing us one of the many benefits, and some of the pitfalls, of social media.

Ten golden rules for blogging – webinar

I’ve been blogging for quite a while in a personal capacity – possibly since before ‘blogging’ was even what you called it (LiveJournal, late nineties.) But whilst I’m a seasoned expert in “talking about myself and making friends online”, I’m quite interested in learning more about how that translates to a more professional context, as a marketing tool. So, I was keen to take up the opportunity to sit in on the ‘ten rules for blogging’ webinar by “Guru in a Bottle” Ardi Kolah, for vocus.

Ardi’s ten golden rules for blogging are:

1)      Keep it up

You’re starting a conversation, so don’t just stop it if you’re not going to be around for a while. Try to let your readers know that you’ll be back, or arrange for posts to go up when you’re away. Guest entries can be nice for this, and these also build up a network around you and your brand.

2)      Be personal and friendly (just like me, now – hi!)

To blog professionally, you don’t have to use professional terms or jargon. CLES and iPaMS are fine if you’re talking to a very specific group of people, but using more accessible language means your blog will potentially appeal to a much larger audience.

3)      Have something to say, not sell

Use your blog to engage your audience in conversation – don’t use it to pedal specific products.

4)      No hard sell

I think this is kind of the same as number 3) – Ardi says he’s read a lot of blogs that push “get rich quick” schemes. I’ve never encountered a “get rich quick” blog – but, basically, try not to sound like a dodgy salesman, which will probably damage your reputation.

5)      Remember that blogs and web pages are different

Blogs are for “opinion and insight”, but web pages are for “product and service information”. Use one to drive traffic to the other, but don’t confuse the two.

6)      ‘Receive’ as well as ‘transmit’

Listen to what people say in response to your posts and engage with your audience.

7)      KISS

(Oh, how we laughed, at this point in the webinar.)

Keep It Simple and Straightforward. At this point, Ardi talked about his cartoonist, which helps him to convey things in a simple visual way. I don’t think we’re going to get a Web Team Cartoonist but at least two Web Teamers have degrees in colouring in of an artistic nature, and we have a brilliant design studio – so chat to others about how you can say things in more visual ways.

8)      Don’t take criticism personally

9)      Make recommendations

Not for your own product, thus breaking 3) and 4) – but recommend other experts in your area or people you agree with. Just like, right now, I’m ‘recommending’ this webinar.

10)   Have fun!

Always.

So, those are Ardi’s tips – I wonder if anyone else has suggestions of things that are missing? Maybe there is something more specific to the Higher Education industry we could be thinking of? I’m in ‘receive’ as well as ‘transmit’ mode, here, after all…

If you want to watch the whole presentation, it’s available ‘on demand’ here.

Fiona Hughes, WMO for Academic Services

Introducing the iExeter Governance Group

iExeter is the University’s smartphone app. Launched in 2012, it has been delivering services to more than 10,000 registered users throughout this academic year.

Here’s what it looks like:

The project to develop iExeter finished in January and now ownership has passed jointly to Communications and Marketing and our colleagues in Exeter IT. Oversight will be from a new Governance Group which meets for the first time next week.

The group is made up of representatives from:

  • Communications and Marketing
  • Exeter IT
  • The Students’ Guild
  • Learning Spaces
  • Student Services
  • Campus Services
  • Academic Colleges

The principle aim of the group is to ensure that iExeter continues to meet and, hopefully, exceed the needs and expectations of our students.

Uptake of iExeter has certainly exceeded our initial expectations. More than half our students have registered for the app and our technology partners oMbiel tell us that this puts us in the top 2 or 3 universities in the UK for take-up. The feedback we’ve received has been positive and the usage stats show that where the service is directly relevant to mobile users then the app is becoming the preferred channel. We’re already seeing access to personalised timetabling information via the app beginning to overtake access from desktop machines. Which makes sense!

We’re using this data to plan the next round of developments, focusing on what our students tell us they want to see.

We’ll keep you updated as we progress, but in the meantime if you have any comments on the app, or ideas for new features, let us have them!

‘Killer UX Design’ by Jodie Moule

The cover of Killer UX Design by Jodie MouleIt’s been a while, but this week I got around to reading a book for the first time in ages: ‘Killer UX Design’ by Jodie Moule.

Jodie is a psychologist by background and co-founder and director of the Australian consultancy Symplicit. Judging by their current homepage, Symplicit really love UX.

We’re all users, so learning about approaches to user experience design can sometimes feel like you’re learning stuff you already knew but perhaps hadn’t articulated. Jodie’s book hits the right balance between deeper analyses of stuff which many of us may already have tried or considered – discussions of user testing, card sorting, prototyping – and insights into techniques, tools and theory that we’re coming to fresh, even though they may still carry the eerie sense that you’ve known them all along.

I folded down a few pages, and made the following notes as I read:

  • Henry Ford – a faster horse.
  • Users can’t envisage the end point, that’s the Designer’s job. Consider the end state we wish to achieve before speaking to users.
  • Need a mission statement for the ‘xyz’ site.
  • Focus on affecting ability rather than motivation.
  • Prototyping: build quickly then discard. Do not worry about code standards.
  • ‘Screen Flow’ and ‘Silverback’ for capturing users’ faces on mac, in conjunction with QuickTime for recording screen activity.
  • www.balsamiq.com
  • www.endloop.ca/imockups

These last two are recommended wireframing tools, one for desktop, one for iPad. I’ve tried both since and can attest that they are extremely easy to get to grips with.

The point about focusing on ability rather than motivation comes from Jodie’s description of the research of B.J. Fogg, which I confess I hadn’t come across before. Reading it felt like a lightbulb moment for me. Fogg postulates that for a user to exhibit a specific behaviour three elements must converge: Motivation, Ability and a Trigger. There’s a graph in the book, and on Fogg’s website which captures this succintly.

What this means for us as designers of websites, apps, services and experiences is that if we can affect the user’s ABILITY to do something to the extent that it’s very, very easy for them to complete the action we are seeking to encourage, and accompany this with the right TRIGGER, such as a call to action or alert, then they only need a relatively low level of MOTIVATION to go ahead and act.

Improving the user’s ability to complete key tasks is what user experience design is all about, and through careful design we ought to be able to do that relatively consistently. Increasing the user’s motivation to complete a particular task can have a similar effect on completion rates, but it’s much harder, costs much more money and that’s why we leave it to the crazy folks in the Marketing Department.

I’d recommend the book. It’s very readable if you can handle a steady dose of UX terminology. I got through it quite happily in a couple of evenings and came away feeling informed, motivated and, importantly, like we could take much of Jodie’s advice and put it into practice without too much heartache.

SPOILER ALERT!

One minor gripe, however, and a small SPOILER ALERT for those who may go on to read the book in the near future. Jodie uses a clever device through the book of describing how her own techniques and approaches have been used in the real-life development of a recipe sharing app. By the time you get to the end of the book you’re so deep into the thinking, planning, research and build of the app that you can’t wait to try it yourself to see how it really turned out (plus it sounds pretty great in its own right).

Bad news: it’s not available yet! The closest you’ll currently get is the facebook page for the Cook App.

Using the develpomentof a real life app as a hook for the chapters of the book works really well. It also, surprise surprise, means anyone who finishes the book is highly MOTIVATED to buy the app, only to have their ABILITY reduced to zero. B.J. Fogg would be unimpressed.