The Insighter

September 2007

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Neo Insight's e-newsletter on Usability topics and techniques.
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Special event Creating Customer-Centric Websites Masterclass presented by Gerry McGovern, renowned Web content and usability expert

Gerry McGovern Workshop sold out Due to the amazing response, we regret to say we can take no more registrations for this event. Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you hear about our future events.

Gerry McGovern Gerry McGovern is regarded as a worldwide authority on managing web content and has spoken about web content in 31 countries. In 2006, he was described by The Irish Times as one of five visionaries who had had a major impact on the development of the Web. On November 28-29 he will deliver a Masterclass in Ottawa. It will give you practical ways to achieve your objective of providing great Web content. Neo Insight, in collaboration with the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) and Canada Business, Industry Canada, will host this rare appearance by Gerry McGovern in Canada.Those who registered before October 26th will receive a complimentary signed copy of Gerry's latest book "Killer Web Content" at the workshop.

Upcoming events

Nov 28-29, 2007 Gerry McGovern Masterclass, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Library and Archives Canada, Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street
Nov 5-8, 2007 User Interface 12 Conference, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Nov 8, 2007 World Usability Day, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Nov 12-15, 2007 UX Intensive, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

In this issue

Taking your first step with “customer carewords”

You may have read our article last month about carewords and are still wondering how to introduce your colleagues to this area of user-centred design. Carewords are the key words your users scan for on your web pages. Carewords are what compel users to stay, read more, and take action on your site. To learn more, join us at the Gerry McGovern Masterclass in November on how to create customer-centric websites using carewords. If you do not know what your clients' carewords are, you may be wondering how to begin. We offer here ten possible ways to begin. Not to short-circuit the process but to prime the pump.

  1. Find keywords for sites your users visit
    Do a little competitive analysis. Create a short list of websites your audience uses as alternatives to yours. Check for the keywords that lead to those sites.
  2. Analyse your internal search engine logs
    Your internal search engine may track the search terms users type in once they are on your site. Internal search terms are important. For example, they result in more transactions than the words used to arrive at your site from external search engines. Internal search terms are further ahead in the user's process of accomplishing a task. On all sites, internal search terms provide the best indication of what people are looking for and what terms they are using.
  3. Put Google Analytics on your site
    Google Analytics became free last year, and continues to get better. If you have it on your site, look for the search terms which direct users to your site. The metrics can be broken down page by page.
  4. Find out what search terms bring people to your site
    Look at web statistics for your website. Ask for the list of search terms by which users arrived at your site. You can sometimes segment them by referring domain.
  5. Read the blogs that bring people to your site
    In the web statistics, look for any blogs that refer people to your site. Blogs have become important ways that users get to your site. Go to the page that links to your site, and read for words or context related to your growing list of keywords.
  6. Ask people who interface with your client directly
    Ask people in your organization who talk directly with your users what the key questions are. Have a coffee with a person in your call centre, on the help line, or whoever responds to phone calls or emails from clients.
  7. Find alternative words people might use, at Google Suggest
    Search engines sometimes anticipate what words you might type. Google Suggest tells you the most important search terms that are related to whatever you are typing into the Google box. It is a quick way to find similar words or phrases.
  8. Ask content-authors to suggest the best carewords and synonyms
    If you are involved in a large site, you may have many authors. Amongst them there may be experts in their domain. Once you have a list of potential carewords, confirm with your authors as to what they mean, possible synonyms, and key pages on site.
  9. Delegate to people who own users and tasks
    Different parts of websites often support different users or tasks. You may know managers who have responsibility for these parts of a website. Ask them to identify their users, their goals and tasks, and to put together a list of appropriate carewords. Then, get them to try those carewords (which can include phrases) on your site's search engine, and report on the results.
  10. Usability test your pages that contain key carewords
    Identify a potential careword and the associated pages that are returned when someone searches for that careword . Ask a colleague to perform a task related to the careword (without “leading the witness” by telling them the careword). Watch for if they use the careword, how they use it on a search engine, if they arrive on your website or not, how they scan for the careword, and whether they are able to accomplish the task.

We hope some of these ideas will make it easier for you to take your first steps into defining your customers’ carewords. It may look daunting – that is because there is no quick fix for knowing your users. Call us to plan some further steps.

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Is your web content invisible?

Users appreciate web pages that have the information or hyperlinks they need, where they can see them. When a web page does not, users find it difficult to complete their tasks. It turns out to be especially true for web pages that require the user to scroll. Even when web authors know what information users want, it is difficult to keep in mind the optimal placement of that information.

In a recent report, ClickTale aggregated data from a broad number of sites to show how users scan pages. Read more about the ClickTale report. (We use ClickTale to monitor for our clients’ what their visitors see and click on). Consider the 91% of web pages that are long enough to have a scroll bar. In 25% of page views, users do not bother to scroll at all. Four out of five users viewing a web page do not even reach the bottom. So if your important information or links are below the primary viewing area, many of your users are missing them.

Take for instance web sites that must conform to CLF2, the new Common Look and Feel Guidelines for Government of Canada websites. CLF2 specifies how pages should be laid out. However, the top banner and generic navigation take up a significant portion of the primary viewing area (about 33% of it when viewed at 1024x768). So, web managers must move important information high on the page in order for users to even see it. Here is an example from the Canada Border Services site.

CBSA home page viewed at 1024x768

CBSA home page

Now let's consider what terms users will look for as they scan the page. A key search phrase for users that arrive at Canada Border Services’ website, according to Quantcast, is “Canadian customs” or “Canada customs”. The graphic above shows how a user viewing the Canada Border Services site on a typical 1024x768 pixel display would not see any of those keywords, nor would they even see the word “customs”. Moreover, one out of four people would leave before scrolling far enough to see any occurrence of "customs" on the page.

What can you do about it? Keep track of the primary viewing area on your own web pages. Keep this chart from the ClickTale report handy. The chart shows how page views drop off at specific lengths as measured in pixels.

Maintain awareness of what is and is not within the primary viewing area by periodically testing usability throughout your content development cycle. Test whether users are able to scan quickly to the links or information for which they visit your web page. Share the results regarding task-completion with your web development team. Establish guidelines – about words for headlines – about words to use in hyperlinks – about words to start sentences and paragraphs. These will help your authors and developers keep the carewords in mind as they create web content. We recognize these are large activities and your situation is unique – call us to discuss how we can help.

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Join us for World Usability Day – it’s free!

Ottawa usability practitioners will celebrate World Usability Day on November 8th, 2007 at the RA Centre. The conference and exhibition is open to all who are interested in the usability of the products they design, buy, and use. Come see how people design things that are important to life, how to make them easier to access, and how to make them simpler to use. That’s the message: “Making life easy”. The theme this year is healthcare.

Come hear the speakers, view the exhibition, and watch live usability testing demonstrations – all for free. Keep an eye on the preparations by visiting the Ottawa Usability Consoritium web page or by subscribing to this newsletter.

World Usability Day logo


Quick guide – when to prototype

Mocking up a design is a great way to communicate a concept for a user experience. But often our clients struggle with when to plan for it, how detailed to make it, and what is realistic to expect. It comes down to how much you know about user needs, what design decisions you need to make, who you can ask. That tells us how much fidelity is needed to stimulate a response from a user or stakeholder. Here we offer some broad comparisons of prototypes. These are not necessary sequential, but if prototypes are used throughout design, they should successively increase in fidelity.

Levels of fidelity in prototypes
at different stages of design


Paper design or

Screen mock-up or conceptual screen shot

Scripted prototype or walk-through

What is it?

A limited or graphically simple layout or sketch of a user experience, including acetate overlays or sticky notes to simulate interactivity

A rendering of the user experience that looks something like a user might actually see

A series of screenshots that walk through how a user might accomplish a task and the way a system responds to selections

What do I need to know first?

What users require in order to perform key goals and tasks

All the items at left, plus users’ priorities, how their tasks will flow, and the navigational model that will support their tasks

All the items at left, plus who will use it, and some scenarios of usage

What can I find out in user testing?

Confirm the big idea, the user requirements, most important features, and what users expect links, buttons, or navigation to do

Confirm the key opportunity, the business value, ROI, stakeholders impacts, feasibility, etc.

Evaluate the design against users' goals and tasks, confirm key aspects of the user’s context, and determine what scenario will convince and compel others

How much fidelity is required?

Just enough to give the impression of what the user might do with it, and what the result of those actions might be

All the items at left, plus enough to show navigation options or placement in page layout

All the items at left, plus increased fidelity throughout the steps a user must take in completing their tasks

When should I plan for it?

Very early in the project, when you need to generate ideas

In the data-gathering phase, when you need to focus design on key value

When you need to validate initial designs before beginning development

The secret to prototyping is knowing when to generate lots of ideas in order to find the best, when to evaluate and converge, when to spend more budget to achieve more fidelity, and how to create the right prototype to gather the data you need to make strategic decisions. We would love to discuss how your design process can better prototype the user experience. Call us.

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Big discounts on Morae

Place your order for Morae usability testing software between November 6th and December 20th, and you will receive a special 25% discount. This includes private sector, public sector, and educational pricing. It also includes upgrades and maintenance renewals. When you place your order please include ‘PROMO’ in the description. Call us to discuss what Morae usability testing software by TechSmith can do for you. The time is right.

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Our next workshops

February 21, 2008 Designing usable Web-based applications – One day Workshop.
February 28, 2008 Usability challenges of new Web technologies – One day Workshop.

Our workshop “Designing usable Web-based applications”, takes place February 21, 2008. Web applications are becoming as powerful as the ones on our desktop. Join this workshop to explore the challenges of designing web applications, and come away with tips, techniques and current best practices for providing high-value services that enable your users to fulfill their goals effectively and efficiently.

Our one-day workshop “Usability challenges of new Web technologies” takes place on February 28, 2008. We will review many live Web 2.0 examples and explore how to adapt traditional usability techniques to design and evaluate the new generation of web user interfaces.

Early registrants save $100. Save even more for group bookings. Take advantage of further discounts and call us to run either workshop at your location for five or more people: (613) 271-3001.

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Quote of the month

“Getting people to click on your search result is just the first step…Find out about how people search and you get a window into how they think”

Gerry McGovern, "Killer Web Content", 2006

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