12 Less Obvious Usability Issues to Look For

I often compare usability testing to juggling in the middle of a 3-ring circus—there’s a lot happening all at once and it’s easy to miss (or misinterpret) what you’re seeing.

During a recent usability study, I noticed that a few participants stopped scrolling about halfway down the page.

At first, I assumed it was because they had either a) found all the information they needed, or b) hit their limit on reading (i.e., reader fatigue).

There seemed to be good information scent—so it wasn’t until a tester mentioned reaching the “bottom of the page” did I look at the screen again with fresh eyes.

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Case Study: UX Research & Strategy Proposal to Drive Revenue Growth

Each year, the QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) holds a contest for its members to respond to a fictional RFP.

I joined the QRCA in late 2018 and was unaware of the contest until the finalists presented their proposals at the January 2019 QRCA conference (which were all excellent!).

At the conference, I met several market researchers who were curious about the types of research I conduct as a UX researcher (beyond usability testing). To help answer that question, here is how I may have responded to the fictional RFP.

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28 Reasons to Invest in UX Research

A common misconception about UX research is that it only involves usability testing websites and apps.

In reality, testing websites and products to ensure they’re easy to use is a very small part of the user research discipline.

Instead, think of UX researchers as business strategists. They live at the intersection of customer needs and business strategy—driving head-turning results. No joke, customer-obsessed companies outperform the S&P 500 by leaps and bounds.

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How to Persuade Your Leaders to Invest in UX

What can you do when your boss or your organization’s leaders say “no” to design?

An ongoing challenge shared by many UX professionals is getting the green light to move forward on a solution to improve the user experience.

Believing UX is the right thing to do isn’t enough. As UX strategists, we must categorically demonstrate the business value, too.

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8 Ways to Share User Research Findings & Customer Insights

Now that your UX research has been synthesized and shaped into a compelling story backed by data — what’s the best way to get it into the hands of decision-makers (and the rest of the team)?

1. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

What’s the saying about repeating something 7 times before it sinks in? True or not, I find repetition is the best method for implanting research findings into others’ brains.

Bring past researching findings forward into new research reports. Never assume older insights are old news.

In cognitive neuroscientist Carmen Simon‘s studies, she found people forget up to 90% of what you communicate.

2. Research Sound Bites

Repackage research insights as infographics or PPT slides that can be used by others throughout the organization in their own deliverables and reports.

3. Research Library

For one of my clients, I uploaded every research report and interview recording into a network directory that was accessible to everyone in their marketing department.

Every research report followed the same naming convention, so that others could easily find relevant findings:


4. Communication Tools

Get research findings out of PowerPoint and into more hands-on communication tools and activities, such as:

  • Customer journey maps
  • Storyboards / comic strips
  • Empathy maps
  • Personas
  • Role-playing exercises
  • Activation workshops

5. Museum

You may have seen the lengths some organizations go to create immersive experiences. Videos, artifacts, and placards detail the insights uncovered about their target audience in a museum-like setting.

You can do something similar for a lot less expense and formality…

Take over an empty office or a blank wall by taping up print-outs of your research findings. Post print-outs of your mock-ups and then write insights directly on them or tag areas with sticky notes.

One time, I created a little vignette about each diary study participant — using their photo, demographics, and diary entries. Using different color markers, I highlighted parts of the diary entries to help casual observers quickly focus on key information and themes.

6. Slack

Slack, or other internal online communities, is a great use for your research sound bites. Create and share infographics to help reinforce insights about your customers.

Another idea: create a channel devoted entirely to research insights.

7. Google Sheets

Using Google Sheets and Docs is a fast way to update data in real-time. Keep the whole team informed by uploading interview notes or recaps at the end of each work day.

Use Google Sheets to track usability issues. Over time, the team can see which usability issues fade away or continue to bedevil users.

Caution: I’ve tried typing my interview notes directly into Google during a session, but have gotten burned. Translation: lost interview notes.

8. Private YouTube

MP3 files are often too big to email, which makes sharing usability sessions difficult, if not impossible. To get around this, I upload the videos to YouTube — set to “private.”

Other storage options: Google Drive, Vimeo, Dropbox.

Bonus Tips

9. Posters

Among my colleagues, I’m well-known for my love of posters. Choose topics that require a highly visual story, then go big! I love printing giant posters for customer journey maps, site maps, complex user flows, and competitive analyses.

At Staples, you can print black and white 3×4-foot posters (called blueprints) for around $4. Color posters also are very reasonably priced.

10. TV Show

Develop your own reality TV show based on your target audience. Whether monthly or quarterly, create episodes that showcase how customers interact with your products in their everyday lives.

UK grocer, Asda has produced a monthly TV show called “Our Home” for the past 2 years. The episodes are storyboarded in advance and are built around themes, such as “Halloween.” The show’s “stars” are 9 real families who were intercepted while shopping in their grocery stores (then vetted via follow-up IDIs).

11. Insights Database

Individual insights quickly become forgotten when they’re trapped in research reports. Ensure research insights remain accessible by inputting and tagging them individually in a searchable database.

Build your own database, or try companies like Airtable, Trello, or Asana.

12. Podcast

For teams on the go, create a podcast series. Interview a UX researcher or product manager about their most recent study, and ask them to share their insights.

If you’re conducting a longer diary study, share IDIs or read aloud participants’ written diary entries. Or, intercut IDI clips with a discussion about what the research participant just talked about.

13. Story Book

Collect photos and stories from real customers, and then publish them in a hardbound, four-color book. The goal of this book is to strengthen the empathy the team has for their users.

Tip: Ensure the team doesn’t mistake these stories for personas—they are significantly different.

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24 Best Practices for Optimizing a Customer Lifecycle Communication Program

Your organization is supported by talented and passionate people who want to deliver the best possible customer communication.

There’s a lot to say. You want customers to renew their subscription or buy more stuff. You’re responding to customer service and tech support questions. There are statuses, receipts, and acknowledgments to send. Satisfaction survey results to gather.

A/B testing helps you improve open-rates and click-throughs, but there’s more to think about when creating a holistic communication strategy that nurtures, engages, and motivates customers to take action throughout the entire lifecycle.

Here are 24 principles to consider as you continue to build out your customer lifecycle communication program:

1. Tracking & Measurement

Understand how communications perform in order to provide a better overall customer experience. Consider how even one-to-one communications could be tracked and measured.

2. User Experience

Deliver clear, concise information. Provide self-service tools. Use a consistent design and voice across all communication. Consider the entire user experience — from email to landing page to action to confirmation and  on and on.

3. Personalization & Segmentation

Only send communication that is relevant and personalized. No email blasts.

4. Awareness & Engagement

Promote and engage customers with support services and tools. Help customers help themselves.

5. Communication Tools

Find the best ways to communicate with customers — email isn’t the only channel.

6. Automation

Automate communication based on timing and customer behaviors.

7. Quality Assurance

Ensure all data and information is 100% accurate before it’s communicated to customers. Make sure all links work, images load, and layouts respond down to mobile as expected.

8. Customer Success

Create content that educates and informs customers about how to be successful using your product.

9. Communication Timing

Send the right communication at the right time.

10. Collaboration

Collaborate with other teams to ensure all communication is aligned (and not redundant or contradictory).

11. Visibility

Give customer-facing teams access to every communication sent to customers so they can better serve them.

12. Content Management

Update, share, and organize existing content for other internal teams to leverage.

13. Customer Service

Ensure support teams are a visible, accessible, and approachable support system to customers.

14. Advocacy

Teach and provide tools to raving fans so they understand how to champion your product. Tell them what else they can do to support you besides referring a friend or retweeting.

15. Staffing

Hire enough staff, and then train them with the right skills to most effectively support your customers.

16. Program Management

Use a formal process to develop and manage communication strategy and execution.

17. Automated Risk Detection

Flag at-risk customers for human intervention to prevent them from falling through the cracks.

18. Profile Management

Update customer contact information in real time, across all systems.

19. Preference Center

Customers can opt-in to only the communications they want and in the channel they want.

20. System Integration

Maintain and support integration between technologies and data.

21. Compliance

Ensure all communication adheres to ADA requirements, and email adheres to the CAN-SPAM Act.

22. Coaching

Provide ongoing coaching to customer-facing teams so they can better communicate with customers.

23. Customer Insights

Fill in knowledge gaps about customers to better support and communicate to them.

24. Community Development

Help customers connect and support each other.

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