AIMIA-Customer Experience and Usability Workshop Part 2
Vijay Balachandran , Senior User Experience Architect, [Fairfax Digital,](http://www.fairfax.com.au/index.ac) was the third speaker. He introduced himself and stressed that in the current economic climate quick win projects were seen as key, the best points of competitors were often copied and a “go live and test later ” method was often favoured, however this is often not the best approach to projects.
Vijay also introduced a case study on a Fairfax property called APM. This product provides detailed property information to real estate agents. His unit’s objective was to ascertain the feasibility of enhancing APM with mapping features to make it comparable to its competitor. The process was as follows:
• Analysis of competitors
• Internal workshop with the stakeholders i.e. product, technology, sales etc
• Go build it
This analysis was very short but proved to be successful with KPI’s reached and exceeded. The second case study he introduced was with [RSVP](http://www.rsvp.com.au/), another Fairfax digital property, this one dealt with online dating. Their goals for this project was to re-activate long-overdue accounts, fight the competitors who were gaining market share, increase RSVP’s position as the market leader of this segment and raise communication levels between members of the site. This was achieved by:
• Utilising the in-house resources that Fairfax has(massive staff numbers) by using incentives ( free movie tickets ) to get feedback from staff on different approaches to enhance the site.
• Collect data with Wufoo
• Use the in-house MS outlook system to drive recruitment for the program.
This proved successful and the site has a design tweak with almost all objectives met and in some case exceeded. The most important message from Vijay’s talk was that user validation should always be part of the process, that user validation is not always reliant on well documented wireframes and finally that user validation is not always reliant on recruiting the perfect audience.
The last speaker was Shane Morris, User Experience Evangelist, [Microsoft.](http://www.microsoft.com/en/au/default.aspx) Shane’s first topic of discussion was where is customer observation heading in the future? In the early days you were guaranteed an audience if your website had lots of cool and funky features, that is not the case anymore, these days it’s how appropriate the user experience is.
The 3 F’s were now introduced (totally SFW btw), these are guidelines for design based on user experience. The first F is Function- who has the best function their site. The second F is Form- How have the functions indicated been expressed i.e. experience. The last F is Fashion (now I heard this and thought one of my more fashion savvy co-workers should have been here to cover this alien subject to me), this outlined the idea that whatever site you are visiting says something about yourself to the people around you, for example why would you choose facebook over MySpace, they both have the same function and a similar user experience, what makes one site more desirable than another?
This third F is Shane’s idea of where user experience is heading, how to move beyond form and function to this new state of aspiration amongst web surfers. Previously this job of getting people to believe in the aspiration status of websites was left entirely to the marketers utilising off-line promotions to drive the right kind of aspiration seeking people to the website. No longer is this the sole realm of the marketer, the user experience experts need to get involved in this heavily as well as the third F- Fashion is becoming more and more vital and the web continues to evolve.
With most of my dealing with websites coming through the eyes of a Search Engine Optimiser, it was refreshing, enjoyable and informative to look at sites through the eyes of a Useability Experience Expert and I gained some insight about how to put myself in the persona of a novice internet user to more accurately locate critical flaws in the design of a site.Usability and SEO go hand in hand. It is not possible to optimise a website without considering the impact on usability and vice versa. We are always trying to balance these requirements for our clients and often we will change the [SEO strategy](http://www.bruceclay.com.au/web_rank.htm)/implementation to accommodate the afore mentioned usability requirements. Sometime it is possible to achieve a very similar SEO outcome by using slightly different SEO strategies that meet the usability requirements of our client and potential website users. We use every opportunity to find out more about usability and the impacts/cross-over with SEO to build more usable but highly ranking sites for our clients.