No Substitute for (User) Experience

by Jessica Ramesh

Webcredible are a specialist UX agency who, as well as consulting, offer learning and development programmes across a variety of digital subjects. Founder & CEO Trenton Moss talks to Figaro Digital about keeping skills up to date

Digital marketers in 2014 are faced with a dizzying array of challenges. Whether it’s adapting to cross platform communication, reaching always-on consumers or just keeping up with the latest Google update, it’s vital that skillsets reflect the demands of the industry.

Webcredible have been running training courses since 2004. The consultancy helps companies up-skill in user experience (UX), user research, copywriting, front-end development, SEO and social media, as well as enabling companies to embed user experience methodologies into their processes.

More than 8,000 people from more than 2,000 organisations – including the Houses of Parliament, John Lewis, PwC and the World Health Organisation – have benefited from Webcredible’s coaching. So where are the knowledge gaps and how do Webcredible help
trainees fill them?

Covering the knowledge base

“UX is becoming mainstream, so whether you’re a designer, developer, marketing manager or business analyst, you’ll need UX skills to get the best of your deliverables,” says Founder and CEO Trenton Moss.

One of the challenges with UX, says Moss, is that implementing it can be a slow process. “Pressures of delivery may mean you skimp on research – you just want to design something and get it out there. But that’s a false economy.”

Instead, stresses Moss, it’s important to be aware of different UX methodologies and to choose the right ones for your business. “There are lots of different types of research, and making the most of UX design, as well as achieving a harmonious balance between quantitative and qualitative research, is important,” he says.

“One of the biggest problems is how to excite people about user experience, and to make sure everyone has the same idea about what it is and what it will deliver. One of Webcredible’s most popular courses is User Experience Fundamentals. It explains what UX is, what to expect from it and how to make the most of it in your organisation. You can’t become a UX practitioner overnight, but you can learn how to make the most of it quickly. Whatever you think you don’t know, you’ll be surprised how many people are in the same boat.”

Optimum performance

With Google rolling out regular updates to their search results ranking algorithm, it can feel as though the landscape is literally shifting beneath digital marketers’ feet. As well as providing training in UX, Webcredible help companies refine their approach to other digital competencies, including SEO. This now needs to be part of a broader approach that integrates everything from social media to overall perception of a brand. Does that mean it’s still possible for marketers to implement quick SEO wins?

Moss says it is and recommends undertaking simple checks to your website, including looking at page titles and meta-descriptions to achieve a higher click- through rate.

“Look at the internal linking on your site and make sure you have links to all your important pages. It’s always good to keep on top of keyword research and find new and upcoming search terms that will bring in more visitors. Good tools to use are the AdWords keyword planner and Google Trends.”

Moss emphasises that the golden rule of marketing very much applies to SEO: content is king. “A quick win can come from publishing content that no-one else is writing,” he says. “Look at infographics, top 10 lists and well-written, slightly longer blogs or articles. Above all, make content easy to share.”

Brain Illustration(1)

The ‘so what’ test

With so much focus currently on content, how can marketers ensure they get the approach right? Moss highlights three ways to assess your content’s effectiveness.

“My first suggestion would be to make sure your copy doesn’t fail the ‘so what?’ test. That’s copy that doesn’t explain the benefits of what it’s selling or promoting in a way that’ll make users care. Marketers aren’t thinking like users. Often they’re talking to the wrong user.”

Secondly, Moss recommends the ‘squint test’. “Scan your pages and see where your eye falls without actually reading the body text. Would a user see what you think is obvious? Make sure there’s no dated material there or any confusing date references. Are your paragraphs too long? Don’t be afraid to create space with line or para breaks.”

Webcredible’s advanced copywriting courses, says Moss, explore the relationship between content and engagement more deeply.

“It’s important to look at how to get a better feel for your users. We use personas to help think about what sort of content is needed. Personas are a great UX research tool that all marketers should use daily and for annual planning to really keep your customers at the front of your mind – not in terms of demographic data but in terms of their behaviours and needs. It’s about adding the human touch, which is so important.”

Shared values

Social, of course, is the glue that binds these elements together and connects brands with users. But social media can also be a potential minefield.

Webcredible run an introductory course and also more advanced sessions covering strategy, writing for a social audience, encouraging conversation, how to measure social’s impact on business targets and monitoring conversation about your brand.

“You need to share a range of content on social media,” says Moss. “Video and photo content are huge at the moment so don’t forget to use the channels that really focus on that – Vine, Pinterest etc.

“Sharing great content is essential, but timing is also important. You may have lots of content, but don’t want to share it all at once. There are lots of free tools which let you schedule messages for later in the day, week or month. The social networks you employ for each campaign should fit your target audience and your goals, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each platform.”

Each of these areas, then, has a role to play in the overall user experience but it’s users themselves who need to form the starting point.

“Quantitative data and analytics are vital,” says Moss. “But marketers can miss the human element, which is what allows you to understand and, more importantly, react to what’s happening.”

For most marketers, acknowledges Moss, it’s neither possible nor necessary to know everything about everything all the time. “Our corporate programmes in particular are developed by starting with gap analysis to identify what skills are missing. We then match the learning style to the people and, most importantly, we help our clients look at how well those new skills are being implemented the week after, the month after or three months down the line.”

For the team at Webcredible the key is to prioritise learning. “There’s a trend for organisations to become more selfsufficient,” says Moss. “But remember, specialists are important! Ask yourself what you need to know to make your work more effective, holistic and viable in the long-term.”

Article by Jon Fortgang