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April 24, 2009

AIMIA-Customer Experience and Usability Workshop

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Bruce Clay Australia is a member of [AIMIA ](http://www.aimia.com.au)(AUSTRALIAN INTERACTIVE MEDIA INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION). Networking with the wider variety of marketing peeps is important for us, we like to stick our noses into their business in the hopes that they might find what we do (mostly [search engine optimisation](http://www.bruceclay.com.au/web_rank.htm) and [SEM](http://www.bruceclay.com.au/tools.htm)) somewhat interesting! [How could they not; its search! - Kate]
With that in mind I wandered down to the KPMG auditorium where the AIMIA conference on “Customer Experience and Usability: Getting Through the Recession” was taking place.
This event started off like many others, with gremlins in the machines playing havoc with the speakers’ presentation, luckily a Microsoft employee (Shane Morris) was on hand and before you could say “Customer Experience and Usability Getting through the recession” we were on our way.
First up to speak was James Breeze, who is the Chief Experience Officer of [Objective Digital](http://www.objectivedigital.com). Objective digital provides cutting edge user-centred design and usability services for anyone from start-ups through to Australia’s largest corporations. James started off his 15 minutes of fame (I am not kidding, each speaker got 15 minutes) by discussing the vital need for synergy between all parties involved in the web site project (designers, user experience experts, technologists, client etc) [Ahem... Not forgetting the all important [SEO consultant](http://www.bruceclay.com.au)! – Kate]
James said in his experience that the best case scenario is when all external parties have one point of contact between themselves and the client, regrettably this is seldom the case. If this synergy is not achieved then things go wrong, budgets are blown and timelines are exceeded. If there is a holistic effort then balanced creativity is achieved, time and budget deadlines are met and it is a quality experience for the client. In order for this to happen each party must be aware of what their particular role is within the project.
James’s next point was the vital need for communication between all the stakeholders. This often happens when the parties have a common understanding of the project. This understanding takes form when constant feedback occurs and when each stakeholder knows their partnering entity’s respective strengths and weaknesses. Turf wars must be stopped before they begin to eliminate costly delays.
Roadblocks are bound to take place and when this occurs all parties concerned need to stop and think about the problem collectively and need to manage the respective ego’s and understand the interactions taking place. Objective review from people outside the project is needed to ensure consistency. Templates are an important tool to manage expectation and perform regular review. Using the tools available is also essential to make the project a success.
There was little spoken on about usability but some good best practice information for initiating and running a large scale web site project. I think the key message here was that communication is the most critical element of success/failure of a project.
Next up was Tania Lang, Principal, User Centred Designer at [Peak Usability](http://www.peakusability.com.au) . Tania got straight to it bringing out a case study of her work with iiNet (an ISP). In this example the challenge was the old homepage, which was trying to be all things for all people, this wasn’t working so swell. Peak did an expert review on the homepage. An expert review is when the Usability expert puts themselves in the persona of a novice web user trying to achieve certain tasks on the web site. It is a useful function as it can provide cheap and fast results that identify specific page design issues for designers and developers. In the case of iiNet it was the broadband plan section users were finding confusing due to too much jargon.
Lang also conducted usability testing of iiNet’s website by monitoring 6 prospective clients and 6 current clients (novice internet users). These users were given different tasks to perform on the iiNet site and monitored by Peak analysts. This type of testing uses a one-to-one qualitative process to understand design flaws. Lang also explained how one-to-one testing was more likely to reveal critical flaws than useability tests.
Tania then showed us some footage of the usability tests and it was a real eye opener to see some novices struggling with a site, apparently this type of footage can be really persuasive in getting CEO’s and other executives to change their stance on redesign of a site.
After all the testing a new prototype was designed and tested again. The iterative approach yielded great results with not only new sales increasing as well as up selling of existing customers, the new page design even saw Google adsense revenues rising.
That’s the end of Part 1 of the Workshop, part 2 to follow on Monday.





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