Archive for the ‘website’ Category

User Voice and Get Satisfaction Feedback Forums

An easy way to obtain feedback from people who visit your website is to set up a feedback forum.  Some example of feedback forum providers include User Voice and Get Satisfaction.

It’s easy: just create an account, customize and implement a widget with few lines of javascript on your site and you’re off!  Unfortunately, I can’t embed javascript in my WordPress.com hosted blog, but when I move my blog to WordPress.org (soon!) it will be much easier to find.

The first level is free, but both companies have advanced versions of their product for small and large companies.  User Voice and Get Satisfaction both charge variable monthly fees depending on added features and functionality such as the level of customization, topic moderation and analytics.

What I really like about these products is that neither is invasive. Here are a couple options for embedding the script:

  • Add Feedback item to your Navigation Bar – Mine is currently under Contact and Feedback
  • Place the Feedback tab to the right or left side of your page.  When you click on the Feedback tab, the page goes dark and the Feedback box centers on the page.  But other then the minimalistic Feedback tab alerting visitors that they can give giveback if and when they choose to, the tool is hidden from the other information on your side.

See the screenshot below from the User Voice site.  The red tab on the left side says Feedback, and this screenshot is after the Feedback tab has been pressed.  The Feedback forum pops up in white.

User Voice Forum Screenshot

User Voice Forum

Once you click through and open the User Voice forum it looks like the below screenshot from my User Voice forum.  Currently, you can get there from my Contacts page or click on the picture below.  Please add some ideas if you have them and vote on the current ideas if there is something that interests you.

Lethal Sheethal's User Voice Forum

Lethal Sheethal's User Voice Forum

Here’s a screen shot of a Get Satisfaction feedback forum on another blog I mange – the Cumberland Block Association.  Same idea.  Once you click the feedback tab on the left side, the page goes dark and the forum becomes front and center.

Get Satisfaction User Forum

Get Satisfaction User Forum

Pretty cool and easy, no?

Here are some companies using Feedback Forums like these:

Please feel free to ask me about Feedback Forums.  If you know if any other online feedback tools, please share them below.

Book Review: The Inmates are Running the Asylum

After a recommendation from a user experience specialist at Huge, I just finished reading The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper. I probably should have read it years ago, but my list of books is just too long…

The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper

The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper

The technology examples are a bit out of date since the book was written 10 years ago, but the core principles definitely still apply.   People-centered design is a crucial for any project, whether its software, online marketing communications (such as your organization’s website) or even the simple alarm clock.  Unfortunately, not enough products and services are designed with the user in mind.  In fact, Cooper rejects the word user, instead insisting on personas with names and characteristics, bringing the people you are designing for to life.

Cooper definitely hates on programmers a lot in this book so if you are one, take his vitriol as a challenge and try not to get offended by his blazing, exaggerated stereotypes.  Having worked with programmers, I can see why products have issues like the examples he mentions.  And having done some programming myself, I can also understand why programmers shy away from usability.  Creating user-centric products makes for a much more difficult challenge.

Here’s a very relevant example from a couple days ago –

Having just spent too many hours trying to print another set of business cards from what should have been an easy Avery online template (which has an interface from 1995), I had some “words” for the fourth Avery customer service representative I talked to.  (“Words” in this case meaning both some frustrated negativity and some positive feedback that probably should have built into the program in the first place).  I’m generally pretty good at figuring things out (Cooper may call me an Apologist for that but I definitely spend more time looking for ways to improve interfaces rather than rationalizing them).  Without going into many details, this Avery experience has been pretty brutal and I am most likely never going to buy Avery products that require any customization again.

Avery Design and Print Online Interface

Avery Design and Print Online Interface

Going back to the book, my favorite quote –

“Most really breakthrough conceptual advances are opaque in foresight and transparent in hindsight”
-Alan Cooper, from The Inmates are Running the Asylum

This quote certainly applies to usability.  With respect to online marketing communications, this applies to every user touch point – your organization’s website navigation, event tools, online donation system, online community, etc.  Every place where you interact with people is a place for satisfaction or disaster.  Not to sound too didactic, but please (please) test with people who are unfamiliar with your product or service before unleashing it to the masses.  Problems can be solved only if you are aware of them and most likely you are too close to the problem to notice the most obvious ones.

I would recommend the book to anyone building a product or service and would like their users to be happy with the experience (and avoid calling customer support!)  You can get it from your public library (my preferred method) or from Amazon.

Next book up for Goal-Centered Interaction Design is Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services

Facebook’s new search functionality

Facebook just announced a new search functionality.

From the Facebook blog about Facebook’s new search functionality from one of the Facebook engineers.

You now will be able to search the last 30 days of your News Feed for status updates, photos, links, videos and notes being shared by your friends and the Facebook Pages of which you’re a fan.

Facebook Blog Post about New Search Functionality

Facebook Blog Post about New Search Functionality

Is this Facebook’s attempt to catch up to Twitter’s current news and information search without the hashtags?   I guess this could be good to see what’s been discussed on facebook recently by your friends or it may be adding some functionality in that’s not much needed as opposed to other features that I could see as more useful.  So far I’m not impressed.

Here’s a simple search suggestion I just made to the people at Facebook that is not solved by their new search functionality –

How about being able to search your friend list by geography?

Let’s say I’m going to San Francisco in a month (which is true) and want to meet up with my friends who live there now.  I haven’t yet found a good way to find my San Francisco friends on Facebook.

  • When I click on Friends, I can see all of my friends. Right now I can filter by network.  This is a pretty useless because not everyone tags themselves by every network with which they are affiliated.  Or I can filter by group.  This is also pretty useless unless I have categorized my friends in a group called San Francisco.  I would more likely group friends based on their relation to me – colleagues, family, college friends, high school friends, etc. if I grouped them at all.  Not useful for my problem.
  • With the new search functionality just announced, if I search for “San Francisco”, I get a ton of results with San Francisco – places, fan pages, groups, and people in San Francisco.  Next, I have to click on results only related to People.  Then, I have to filter by geography by inputting San Francisco, CA in the geography filter box.  But there are still way more results than just the people I know.  (I don’t plan to contact strangers, just want to catch up with some folks).  It looks like the first results are friends, but that’s a bit clunky considering the search results go on for pages and pages.  There’s no way to filter by just my friends.

If anyone knows how to do this easily, please let me know!  I don’t think I’m the only one interested in solving this problem.

Here are my two simple recommendations for Facebook to solve this problem –

  • When I click on Friends, give me a geography filter
  • When I use the new search page, let me filter by my friends

How about letting me search my friends for their stated interests?

For example: friends interested in classical music, so that when I want to invite someone to a Festival Chamber Music concert, I know who are my low hanging fruit?  My Facebook community is a group of some tight and many loose connections, based on different periods of my life.  And I don’t think I’m the only one in this boat, considering Facebook is so good at suggesting friends based on my already made connections.  I suppose searching through the last 30 days of discussion on status updates could help me find some of these friends, but 30 days is limited and most people don’t announce in their status “going to a classical music concert,” they would more likely say “at Lincoln Center” or “seeing Femi Kuti at Celebrate Brooklyn”  This would be hard to search, considering how many venues and artists there are.  Searching byFacebook Pages could help, but what if my friends aren’t tagged as fans?

I know Facebook tested search on a small group of users before they rolled it out to everyone, but I wonder if they thought of real-life situations based on one of the most important reasons for why I believe people use Facebook – connecting with people they know online and offline.

NYPL’s disappointing new catalog search

I have to say the NYPL has disappointed me with their new website.  Their new search functionality was supposed to make it easier to find items because you only had to search in one place across all catalogues.  I have to say it has not only made searches more difficult, it has also shown inaccurate and incomplete results that were not the case with the old system.

For example, I have just been selected to be a Kiva Fellow for 6 months in Latin America, and since it’s been 10 years since I lived in Spain, I need to brush up on speaking, reading and writing in Spanish.  So I have decided to take some workshops by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and classes, read Spanish novels and on the suggestion of my last workshop teach from Spanish Black Belt, I have decided to read El Amor Tiempos de Colera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez while listening to the Audiobook to increase comprehension and listening skills.  I am also planning to attend a Spanish literature discussion workshop about the short story Viaje a la Semilla by Alejo Carpentier.

Of course, the first place I look is one of my favorite places – the New York Public Library.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues trying to search the library catalogue.

#NYPLFail #1

My first search was for the short story.  I searched by Keyword which gave too many results.  I then narrowed my search to Title and found the short story by Alejo Carperntier, but when I put it on hold, I didn’t see it show up in My Holds.  I refreshed the page a couple times and still didn’t see it.  Since this is the first time I put something on hold through the new interface and there have been a lot of bugs, my first thought is that it didn’t work.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who placed this book on hold, but it’s time sensitive since I have to read the book before the book discussion.  Did it go through or not?  I guess I’ll have to check back to see.   The worst thing is that I don’t remember this being an issue when I used the old system.  I guess fixing certain things breaks other things…

#NYPLFail #2

I then searched by Title for El Amor en Los Tiempos de Colera.  The search results looked like this:

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

What are those weird looking question mark characters?  And why does it ask say “Your entry el amor en los timepos de colera would be here — Search as Words”  What does that mean and why do I have to go to another page for the right search results?  What ever happened to anticipating what the searcher meant?

When I clicked on that link, it gave me 11 results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera, the last one being an edition of the Spanish language version of the book.  Even the Portuguese version came up before the version I wanted.

When I searched by Author for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera
came up as the first several books many times in Spanish and other languages. I understand that I wouldn’t find the Italian version when I searched by Title, but I’m still confused as to why the multiple Spanish versions didn’t come up.

I think the new NYPL search capability needs work and a whole lot of usability testing before it’s ready for primetime.

Sorry NYPL, I had to comment on my disappointment because I expect better from you.

Measuring Goals with Web Analytics

Besides wanting people to engage with the content on your organization’s website, you probably would like if they completed some action.

Here are some examples of goals –

  • sign up for your newsletter
  • make a donation
  • buy tickets
  • submit a volunteer form
  • join your facebook group
  • follow you on twitter
  • etc

It’s easy to track those goals with your web analytics program, whether you use Omniture, Unica, Google Analytics or any other.

All you have to do is configure goals. Each program has different set up instructions, but the idea is generally similar.

I’ll use Google Analytics for the example below.  Google allows a maximum of 4 goals per profile, but you can get around that by setting up multiple user profiles.

Goals with Google Analytics

Goals with Google Analytics

When you click Edit under the Settings column, you get a screen like this

How to set up goals in Google Analytics

How to set up goals in Google Analytics

All of you have to do is enter the Match Type (Exact, Head, or Regular Expression), Goal URL, and Goal Name.

If there a several steps to the goal process, GA also allows you to create a funnel so you can see where people drop off.  The URL can be a made-up URL that just triggers goal competion “on click” if the Goal Page is not within your domain.

For example, if you use Feedburner to manage your email subscriptions, the “Thank you for subscribing” page is on the Feedburner website, so it cannot be tracked by your web analytics program.

If you are collecting donations through your website and want to know which natural sources generate the largest donations, you can use the eCommerce set up to track donation values.

If you have a live online marketing campaign and want to track which sources generate donations, you can use campaign tracking, which comes with standard with most analytics programs.  Please see an earlier post on campaign tracking for more info.

If you need help setting up goals, feel free to ask.

Online Search – 311 online

I met Chenda Fruchter, Assistant Commissioner at 311, Dept of Information Technology & Telecommunications, City of NY at the SVA Interaction Design Lectures Dot Dot Dot several weeks ago.  She spoke at the event called “The Service Designers” <- link to video.  The event was enlightening.

I am a huge fan of 311, New York City’s information phoneline.  Now there’s 311 online so people can find answers themselves.  I’m interested to see if people will use the site as much as Chenda said they call.  I am used to the efficiency of the 311 phone operators.  Perhaps a bit of laziness sets in when one can easily get an answer without waiting long 😉  I do most everything over the internet, so if 311 online works as well as 311 by phone, I will change over to the online version going forward.

Let’s try out the site.

Since I recently started a block association, Cumberland Block Association, I am interested in finding out information about  Tree Guards (for protecting the city trees from dogs, etc), Bike Racks, and the like.

My first search was for tree guard since I would like find out how to install tree guards in my block.  See results below.

311 Online Search for Tree Guard

311 Online Search for "Tree Guard"

None of the results fit my inquiry.

The search must be a broad match, because it found a result with the word “guard” but not the word “tree.”  In the Dog License entry, it says “Register a guard dog…”   Clicking through the Domestic Animals & Pets entry, the article also contains info about guard dogs.  Clicking through ther Lead Law Guide entry, there’s a link to download the lead and window guard notice.  Clicking through the Oil in Waterway Complaint entry, there is a comment about the Coast Guard.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but it’s interesting that “guard” was the dominate search term in the results.  I wonder if that is because there are too many entries related to “tree.”  I know that the Parks department is integrated into searches.  And I know I found info about tree guards on the Parks Department website.  Seems there is a gap in information between the Parks Department and 311 online…

I’d probably pick up the phone and call 311 for this one.

—————–

Let’s try again.  This time I searched for bike rack since I would like to request a bike rack on my block.  See results below.

311 Bike Rack Search

311 Bike Rack Search

This search is more fruitful.  It’s great that the search knew to change “bike” to “bicycle.”  It would be frustrating to get no results for searches related to “bike” since they were only liked to a search for “bicycle.”  The first link summary tells me that my search is over!  Good news.

I click on the link and see information on bike racks. I find the bike rack application and voila!  Easy peesy.

Bike Rack form

Bike Rack form

Incidentally, the 311 operator I called about this issue sent my a PDF form to fill out or mail.  Had I used 311 online, I would have been able to fill out this form more easily over the internet, and not had to worry about envelopes and stamps.

Search is obviously important on the internet, and it’s important that your site search works well so the user can find what they are looking for, especially when your site is focusing on imparting information.

Adding Events to Calendar

An easy way to make sure patrons remember your organization’s events is to place a link on your site that automatically adds event information to Google Calendar, iCal (Apple calendar system) or Outlook.  I picked those three because they seem to be the most widely used though I’m sure there are others.

Here is an example of adding to a Femi Kuti concert to a Google Calendar (look right below Gates Open at 6PM)

Femi Kuti - Add to Google Calendar

Femi Kuti - Add to Google Calendar

  • Click to see how easy it is add this event to your Google calendar (You can do this with Outlook and iCal as well)

Add to Google Calendar

  • You can make this feature more visible by adding a familiar Google Calendar button

  • You can link all of your organization’s upcoming events to a public Google calendar so they events are searchable in Google Public Events for more exposure.  Just be sure to keep the feed up-to-date and accurate.  (I just added a Brooklyn Bike Tour to my calendar.  The event was supposed to be Saturday, June 21st form 11-3, but the information in their automatic link was inputted as June 21st 11 PM – Sunday June 22nd 3 AM. I had to manually fix it in my calendar.)
Make Your Organization's Event Public and Searchable

Make Your Organization's Event Public and Searchable

  • If you don’t already have a calendar of events on your website, you can embed a customized Google calendar on your site by copying and pasting a simple snippet of code.
Sample Google Map

Sample Google Map

Automatically adding events to a calendar will help people remember your events.  Spending the summer in New York, there are tons of competing events going on and it’s hard to keep up.  If the organization makes it easy for me, I would be more likely to particpate.

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Addition to post:  Image from below comment

NYC Parks Department Event Calendar

NYC Parks Department Event Calendar