5 Resources to Help You Learn UX

Here are five helpful resources about UX (user experience) design and copywriting. These are a great place for a beginner to start. If you’re already in marketing, you’re probably less of a beginner than you may think, if you’ve been paying attention. Pay attention all the time, especially when you’re the user. You know what feels good. Start to ask why that site is easy to use, and look for patterns. Screenshot landing pages and exit overlays that work or shopping carts that usher you along the purchase path. Research the design process of products that make everyday life easier.

Chemex coffeemaker
Chemex coffeemaker – flawless blending of design and function. Photo credit: Karl Fredrickson

The classic paperback rhetoric for writers, copywriting tips, and podcasts about design should prove informative for designers and marketers of various levels:

  1. Simple and Direct byJacques Barzun. In high school, my father gave me this book to help me write more concisely, and I’ve kept the same copy at my desk ever since. It’s very University of Chicago, and it’s worth reviewing every couple years, especially if you write copy that users or customers are forced to read. Simplify.
    “Principle 1. Have a point and make it by means of the best word.”
  2. Design for the Human Brain
    UX and UI design tips based on how our brains process information. Cognitive psychology is paramount to user centered design. Reduce cognitive load.
  3. 10 UX Copywriting Tips for Designers
    John Williams gets copywriting and design. “Be ruthless with your copy.” Cut cut cut.
  4. 3 Fundamental User Onboarding Lessons from Classic Nintendo Games
    How to create good onboarding flow and inspire users to progress. Place emphasis on the naive user and value of external testing. Tetris “presents a world of perpetual uncompleted tasks” which stick in your memory, bugging your brain to finish. It’s the best example of the Zeigarnik Effect, or the “need to complete.”
  5. 14 Design Podcasts to Put in Your Ears
    99% Invisible, Design Matters, and more. Tip: I like to listen to podcasts with the free Stitcher app. It gets smarter with use.

Target With Digital Then Lick a Stamp

After a MapMyRun jog last week, a Houlihan’s ad pop up promoting their Inspiralized Menu. I follow the trend toward healthier menus and food labeling transparency, so I tweeted about the ad from a marketing angle, not intending to promote the restaurant. The Houlihan’s social team picked up my post, took it as a compliment (which it really was), and mailed me a $25 gift card.

Screenshot of tweet about Houlihan's Inspiralized Menu
Tweet with screenshot of Houlihan’s MapMyRun ad for Inspiralized Menu
By 2016, 89% of brands expect to compete solely on customer experience (Gartner, 2014). This gift card is a great example of G.L.U.E. (Giving Little Unexpected Extras, as Stan Phelps calls it). I’ve been a fan of Stan’s marketing lagniappe concept for years. It refers to a little something extra thrown in for good measure.
It appears that Houlihan’s personally @ messages anyone who tweets about their brand with positive sentiment. Perhaps they utilize a more in-depth analysis resulting in only offering this reward to users with a certain amount of influence or likelihood to dine. ​ ​Because any egghead can tweet about a brand; only certain tweets are really worth anything as far as advertising.
Personalized gift card and letter from Houlihan's
Personalized gift card and note from Houlihan’s
This begs the question: as marketers, should we invest time in harnessing social data and finding a formula for which users to reward, or just produce thousands of gift cards and offer them to anyone who tweets about our brand?
Even at the cost of the latter, what may seem like spaghetti on the wall is fine with me; marketing dollars are often squandered on mediums like TV, billboards, and display advertising that can’t be reliably measured. Some digital ad platforms have numerous deliverability issues and often abysmal conversion rates. Even on the more targeted and trackable side of cookies, drip campaigns, and big data-based social targeting, digital has become so personalized that nothing feels personal.
old mailbox
Photo credit: Xaiver Massa
The Houlihan’s tactic of using social and snail mail is one-to-one marketing. What has become a throwback can stand out. Haven’t you noticed how popular TBT is? Digital is saturated, but is a great way to initially target. Identify customers there, then try reaching out via the postal service, or another method that will catch them a little off guard. Another promoted post might not cut it.
Better geo-targeting would be beneficial, however; only serve this ad to users who live near a Houlihan’s (the nearest location is 107 miles from me). Whether this acquisition pans out or not, I couldn’t help but feel more affinity toward the brand. And here I am writing about them. That is certainly worth their ~10 minutes of labor and $25 plus production and postage.

Houlihan’s Marketing – HQ, HouliFans, and PR

Houlihan’s has a successful history of using social media and WOM techniques to identify brand ambassadors and derive valuable information from them. SVP Marketing and Creative Director Jen Gulvik worked on the 2008 idea for HQ, an invite-only social network of engaged customers with insider news and one-on-one dialogue, resulting in a ready made focus group. It encouraged customer loyalty and resulted in revenue growth based on menu feedback.
Their marketing team continues to handle the brand with poise, recently diffusing a potential PR crisis on Facebook involving a veteran with a service dog being refused service in Algonquin, IL in May 2015. A mix of intuition and good data in digital plus differentiating lagniappes in the physical world will help keep their tables full.

Technology Means Fair Play – Parking Apps

By the end of 2016, all parking meters in New York City will accept payment via mobile app. New York isn’t the first city to offer mobile parking meter payment (joining Boston, Fort Worth, Seattle, SLC, and others) and it won’t be the last. Interesting: unused parking meter money will be refunded to users. This is one of very few situations in which the government would volunteer to forfeit funds already in their possession. Historically, they may have kept monies in similar cases of overpayment to increase revenue or more likely to avoid the cost of processing more paperwork. Losses in annual revenue due to the refund feature are expected to be nominal, so it’s likely the latter.

New York City street with cars and taxis
Photo by Jon Ottosson

When technology makes transactions more seamless, it’s harder for either party not to play fair.

As the cloud replaces paper and user generated content competes with traditional journalism for greater media share of voice, policies that have served vendors and governments will give way to ones that serve users. Revenues from happy customers and their repeat purchases will characterize businesses that survive, rather than policies that hurt users but previously were not fought due to acceptance and a lower tech status quo.

Fine print, one-sided policies, and rigid contracts will go the way of the horse drawn carriage (and probably soon, the taxi). Keep an eye on companies like T-Mobile and Spirit Airlines. They put customers in control by foregoing required contracts, forced add-ons (e.g., paying for bags and peanuts), and in general offer more a la carte products. “We’ve never done it that way” and “our system wouldn’t support that” won’t be able to compete.

FluidStance Level Review

Standing beats sitting – this is known. But how can we stand better? I have been testing a standing desk accessory called the Level for three months. As a 3+ year standing desk advocate, this is the first time I’ve used a balance board. Until recently, I had relied on a thick floor mat and other products to help ease foot and leg strain.

Emily Binder using The Level for standing desk
Me standing on the Level

The Level by Fluidstance, office-category winner of Inc.’s 2015 Best in Class Awards, has added health benefits to your standard shock-absorbing floor mat. While it’s simply a piece of wood framed by curved, die-cut aluminum, the product has fantastic design and an undeniable cool factor – it gets noticed. The science behind it centers on this:

The body is meant to move in three dimensions, and our FluidStance product enables that movement at a desk or workstation. Merely standing at a desk doesn’t allow for this movement, whereas using the Level does.

Benefits include:

  • 15% increased heart rate vs. sitting
  • Increased range of motion vs. static standing desk (23.98 degrees ROM)

I’d rather not strain my feet standing in heels or wedges, and I rarely wear flats. I stand barefoot most of the day in my office and slip on shoes for meetings. That said, my feet get sore if I stand still on the Level for more than about ten minutes. It is really made for you to continually rock and sway.

Side view of The Level
The American-Made Level (Bamboo)

The Level is supposed to help reduce the need to shift your weight while standing, which can produce poor posture. Indeed, I have found this constant urge to be a negative symptom of my stand-up desk. With the Level, my feet still get tired and I end up standing on one foot with the other bent at the knee laying horizontally on my desk, which is not optimal.

Takeaway: I enjoy the added motion but I find myself switching to my floor mat for at least half the day. I think my feet would get less tired if I stood in tennis shoes; I’ve simply been too lazy to change shoes throughout the day. The Level is a neat piece of ergonomic furniture if you can afford it and wear comfortable shoes, but a quality floor mat at least 3/4 inch thick is a more affordable, still solid option that works better for women who wear heels.

Price: The American Made and Original models range from $289 to $489 as of this writing. The average American works forty hours a week from ages 20-65. This totals 90,000 hours, or 10.7 years at work (excluding two weeks of vacation per year). Your health, well-being, and productivity at work affect nearly every area of your life. Treat your body to the healthiest options possible. You could drop hundreds or thousands on an ergonomic chair or a standing desk setup. The latter will save you time and money in the long run, and you might even live longer.

Box canvas bag Fluidstance Level green packaging
Unboxing the Level

Materials: The Level is made with eco-conscious materials, some models featuring renewable bamboo. The finish is GREENGUARD certified so it meets rigorous low emission standards. I’m happy to support a company that prides itself on being “responsible borrowers from mother earth.” Plus, 90% of initial products are produced in the U.S. The environmentally friendly packaging is a nice feature.

Disclosure: I was given a Level by Fluidstance and asked to write a review. I have not been compensated in any other way.

How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

You may have unknowingly granted LinkedIn access to hundreds of your contacts and emails. The confusing privacy policy and comforting UI make it difficult to tell how much data you’re sharing.

crowd of people walking down busy city street
LinkedIn’s methods for gathering data from its over 380 million registered users are shrouded. Usually, they don’t ask permission, they just uncheck new Privacy Controls for you. It’s no wonder they’ve faced numerous lawsuits.

LinkedIn seems to know everyone you’ve ever emailed: The People You May Know feature seems to make predictions based on information you’ve never knowingly transmitted. Before I explain how this works, here’s a quick fix:

How to remove your imported contacts from LinkedIn:

Go to Connections -> Add Connections -> Manage imported contacts (top right of page) -> click “select all” and delete all

Linkedin how to manage imported contacts(This is easiest to do on desktop: forget performing half the functions you want to on the iPhone app.)

How LinkedIn is seemingly psychic about people you may know

  1. Other users’ actions: This algorithm is their secret sauce. LinkedIn analyzes other users’ searches and viewing histories to make assumptions about people you may know. I.e., if Sheryl and Dean searched for both you and Tony, then you and Tony may know each other. Multiply this across many users. The result is an algorithm that predicts your likely contacts without ever accessing your actual contacts. You may see recommendations to connect with someone who has the same name as someone you know, but is a totally different person.
  2. Your contacts: You may have granted LinkedIn access to your contacts, which often happens inadvertently by using the app. “Inadvertent” is the keyword for most privacy issues with LinkedIn, because its strategy hinges upon 1) the fact that most users don’t read fine print and 2) that its UI, especially on mobile, effectively shuffles users along a permission-granting bender.

    LinkedIn app import contacts screen UI
    Strategically designed buttons and CTAs usher users along a permission-granting path
  3. Your login: When logged in, even if you close the tab, LinkedIn has access to any activity you take on a site with a LinkedIn plugin or authentication that you’ve granted. To avoid this tracking, log out of LinkedIn whenever you’re done with your business.

I began researching this because I noticed that LinkedIn seemed to have access to hundreds of my old email contacts. Continue reading How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

Girl Scout Cookies: Millennials Won’t Bite

Innovation is a word that gets thrown around too often. Things have changed since Girl Scouts walked door to door with clipboards and pencils taking down orders that took weeks to process. Girl Scouts and troop leader with cookie sign 1960

Recognized by Fast Company as #10 of The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-For-Profit, the Girl Scouts of the USA are keeping up with the times pretty well. But they could do better. The ubiquitous cookies are an obvious opportunity.

Mission: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Some local councils offer Digital Cookie. Ecommerce skills are important, but not innovative. The @girlscouts Twitter stream is socially conscious and feminist. That’s great too, but not innovative.

girlscouts tweet about STEM

A growing crop of consumers are empowered to vote with their dollars, seeking products backed by social, political, and environmental responsibility. Millennials, the largest living generation at ~83 million, are what Scott Hess aptly calls conscientious consumers. Their annual spending is projected to reach $3.39tn by 2018, eclipsing Boomers. Millennials value health and brand transparency. Post Gen/Gen We (born since 2000) may prove to be even more invested in globalism, wellness, and pro-social companies.

There is a missed opportunity to set a meaningful example about both women in business and simply better business – modern, pro-social, pro-human business.

1) Role models: Thousands of women have created businesses from scratch, namely bakeries that use quality ingredients. Which of these company leaders would make a better role model?:

Karen Herrera of Sugar & Flour Bakery vs. John Bryant, CEO, Kellogg
Left: Karen Herrera, Owner, Sugar & Flour Bakery. Right: John Bryant, CEO, Kellogg

2) Ingredients: The Girl Scouts website advertises: “No hydrogenated oils” (false) and is full of misleading copy about how the cookies are wholesome.

Girl Scout Cookies - no hydrogenated oil claim - Little Brownie Bakers
Little Brownie Bakers: interesting claims

Girl Scouts: Align your flagship activity with your mission to make the world a better place.

RFP the cookie business to socially responsible, natural bakeries. Why support Kellogg in stuffing us full of GMO bleached flour, addictive sugar, and cell-destroying oils? I’d rather buy a Trefoil baked by Karen Herrera’s Sugar & Flour Bakery (Etsy shop turned storefront) in Greendale, WI than worry what BHT and sodium acid pyrophosphate are doing to my body. I’d rather buy Samoas made with whole ingredients by Sara Fitzpatrick’s The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery in Raleigh, NC than a chemical cardboard biscuit shot out of a conveyor belt in the Keebler factory.

Meet consumers’ growing appetite for transparency and social good.

Now, those two small bakeries could not handle the national demand. So look at an innovative, more established company like Hampton Creek, upstart maker of foods that use plant proteins instead of eggs. CEO and social entrepreneur Josh Tetrick founded Hampton Creek because while working and teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa, he noticed serious issues with the global food system. Hampton Creek makes ready-to-bake JustCookies, which are sustainable and natural.

Hampton Creek Just Cookies graphic

Consider two points:
1) JustCookies are sold at Walmart
2) Unilever (owner of Hellman’s Mayonnaise) was threatened enough to sue little Hampton Creek over their JustMayo product

People have begun to care more about what’s in their food, where it comes from, and how it affects the planet.

Organic, natural, sustainable, locally sourced: these are not fringe values or niche buzzwords. Look at the fire drill the fast food and sparkling beverage industries have had in recent years over obesity. People are waking up.

So let’s make the world a better place.

More About Ingredients in Girl Scout Cookies

Tagalongs Nutrition Facts: Ingredients: Peanut Butter (Peanuts, dextrose, peanut oil, salt), sugar, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated palm, palm kernel and/or cottonseed oil, soybean and palm oil...
Tagalongs contain partially hydrogenated oil

ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, the two bakeries licensed to bake Girl Scout cookies, distribute varieties that contain nefarious ingredients such as partially hydrogenated oil (both) and high fructose corn syrup (ABC). While copywriters address this with the seeming transparency du jour, the deflection is pure marketing. It’s par for the course from Kellogg, the Little Brownie Bakers parent company, known for depicting happy healthy kids on its cereal boxes of sugary junk and currently struggling with declining sales. Fueling a long FAQ page claiming that palm oil is perfectly healthy is the assumption that the original 8-ingredient natural recipe is no longer feasible. Why not?Girl Scout Cookies recipe 1922 - ingredients

Fun Facts – Girl Scouts

  • Founder Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout Troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. (Happy 103rd birthday.)
  • Both varieties of Thin Mints are vegan (but contain partially hydrogenated oil)
  • Troop Beverly Hills, the fictional Wilderness Girls troop from the 1989 movie starring Shelley Long and a young Jenny Lewis, accepted American Express but preferred Visa.
Troop Beverly Hills - It's cookie time dance
Troop Beverly Hills, “It’s Cookie Time” – 1989

 

Troop Beverly Hills - It's Cookie Time

Snapchat Marketing: Doing What?

In the last 1-2 years we’ve seen a trend of complimenting brands who are “rocking” Snapchat and other relatively new one-to-one social messaging apps. (I prefer Allison Steele’s term: attention deficit content creation platforms.)

After 5-10 years of oversharing, narcissism, and selfie culture resulting in enough privacy backlashes, firings, and divorces, many users are crunching inwards toward more private communication. Brands automatically assuming they belong in this new crop of apps is a me-too mistake, the result of too much demand for rapid reaction.

Taco Bell Snapchat screenshot #DoingStuff
Taco Bell uses Snapchat to let fans know about new products.

Where is the data indicating that Taco Bell, McDonald’s, General Electric, Heineken, the New Orleans Saints, 16 Handles, etc. are successful on Snapchat?

Brands on Snapchat hope to reach Millennials (those born in roughly the early 1980s to the early 2000s). Targeting a demo whose childhoods were filled with every-loser-gets-a-trophy-for-showing-up has translated to brands showing up – without even keeping score – being considered winners.
Ladybugs movie soccer

You can’t measure engagement within Snapchat.

A snap can’t benefit from the interaction of a Like, retweet, favorite, or share. Brands get more buzz off the flowery Mashable campaign coverage written by AYSO trophy-saturated writers who continually fail to proofread (a symptom of “A for effort”? – this is too easy). I’ve personally seen brand impressions from articles lauding the “organic/intimate/forward-thinking/risk-taking” efforts of marketers and their agencies for experimentation with Snapchat, Vine, etc. worth more than any fleeting impact the disappearing content may have on consumers. Not only do the messages disappear, the attention span of their target user base is the shortest on the planet.

Resources devoted to Snapchat when your other social ducks are anemic makes good linkbait when we’re all tired of hearing about the reach woes of Facebook and ineffective YouTube pre-roll. Instead of fixing problems on platforms with better tracking, targeting, reach, and content longevity, it’s easier and more fun to make stop motion videos. Now, Snapchat’s 32.9% penetration among 18-34 year-olds should not be ignored. And if you want to reach 18-25 year-olds with exclusive content – things like limited time coupons, flash sales, and behind-the-scenes footage – I see the draw. But where is the yardstick?

Lastly, we all know what Snapchat is for. Do you really want a brand’s snap next to your sext? The proximity alone should cause a panic attack.

Andrew Cunningham at HUGE wrote a nice summary of considerations if you choose to market with Snapchat. I am not saying avoid it: I’m saying stop handing out trophies for showing up at try-outs.

About Snapchat:

It’s a mobile messaging app that allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after a short time once the recipient opens the message (after 1-10 seconds or 24 hours for Stories). As of July 2014, users were sending 700 million photo messages each day, up from 400 million in October 2013.
Source: statista.com

Reduce Commerce Friction: Travel and Hospitality

Remove friction from the customer experience, make the sale more likely. We are seeing a trend in travel and hospitality to make transactions and guest experiences hassle-free, higher tech, and less reliant upon hard copies and hard people. Make mobile device use free, experience-enhancing, and rewarding, and incremental revenue-generating for vendors – stay in business.

Travel and hospitality companies that don’t prioritize automation and mobility won’t be here in five years.

You can already see the market for a frictionless, more seamless guest experience in the successful offerings of progressive car rental companies like Silvercarairlines like SurfAirPorter, and Virgin, hotel chains like IHG with the health-themed, wristband-based EVEN Hotels, Marriott with Moxy, etc. Reduce check-in time, reduce waits, reduce error-prone interactions with agents. Move the printed rental contract to the cloud. Take a snooty or busy or bribed human concierge and replace them with an app. Develop culturally sensitive sub-brands focused on different market needs and smarter guest profiling. The obvious fixes abound.
Silvercar homepage screenshot
While I loathe both of these resorts, I should touch on theme parks: Disney and SeaWorld are handling the trend well.
 Disney MagicBand family
Disney World’s MyMagic+ is a billion-dollar tech project that includes hotel and resort-wide WiFi and microchip-embedded wristbands that interact with sensors throughout the park and link to a reservation system to book attractions weeks in advance. Disney’s MagicBands use radio frequency (RF) technology, replacing theme park tickets and hotel room keys with tap and pay technology. MagicBands and Apple Watch (coming early 2015) both remove commerce friction, i.e., the hassle of getting a phone out of a pocket to tap and pay.

SeaWorld’s 7/15/14 app update incorporated a new mobile payments system. Now guests can use the app to pay for gifts, food, and Quick Queue access at the ride instead of paying in advance via desktop or at the front of the park.

SeaWorld iPhone app

But isn’t disconnecting important?

One could argue that the onslaught of offerings like free WiFi and charging stations at amusement parks and resorts only perpetuates the always-on, distracted state of mind from which a true vacation should provide escape, particularly when with family. If you really want a relaxing unplugged escape, however, you shouldn’t be at Disney or SeaWorld. If a parent uses a theme park’s free WiFi and app to decrease time spent waiting in line, to augment reality and amuse the kids, or to enhance the experience by hashtagging an Instagram photo to get a free Lego toy upon exit, everyone wins (guests, park, and brand). Not to mention that having instant communication via mobile can make a family trip more manageable and efficient – as long as you can find a convenient charging station.
What traditional airlines are doing for connectivity – further reading:

 

Marketing and Digital