Digital transformation: A recipe for success

Like any meaningful transformation, a complete website makeover doesn’t happen overnight. It takes creative vision, an unwavering commitment to the process, and the right resources. We’ve spent the last 10 years helping our clients transform their digital customer experiences into lean-mean-converting-machines. While our approach is always custom to the specific needs of each client, we’ve found a few must-have ingredients for success. We’re happy to share them with you. Here’s what you need:

A clear audience understanding, and a willingness to listen 

It’s no mystery that understanding the needs and motivations of your customers is critical to designing an engaging, high-converting digital experience. Most of our client discovery sessions reveal dusty, outdated customer personas created months or even years ago (typically for the latest design iteration of a website). All too often, these personas are basic demographic representations of key audience groups, which fail to explore the broader customer journey and lack the emotional and behavioral context needed to inform optimization strategies. 

It’s important to maintain and evolve your personas and customer journeys as living, breathing documents. Frequently listen to each of your audience segments. Document what you are learning through all of your customer touch points and insight channels including: behavioral analytics, session tracking, A/B testing, user testing, focus groups, surveys, and most importantly actual customer interactions with customer service. 

Spend time reviewing these personas with each enhancement idea. Vet the idea with these questions in mind: How will this enhancement benefit this customer segment? What questions or concerns does it answer? Will it motivate them to take the next step in their purchase/decision process with confidence? Does it make the experience easier for them? Will it make them happy?

Maintaining a clear picture of each customer segment is critical to optimization success. 

A curious and collaborative mindset

Digital transformation starts with asking a simple question: How can we make this experience better for our customers? Continuously ask this question while making improvements and voilà, you’ve got a solid foundation for ongoing optimization success.

Next, get people across your organization to ask the same question from the perspective of their respective roles. Encourage them to share their ideas and hypotheses for improvement with each other. Over time, this collaboration builds a culture of continuous improvement. Be sure to vet and prioritize the flood of ideas with customer research, and remember to take a scientific approach to validating each hypothesis with testing. 

Remember to be patient. Significant cultural shifts like this don’t happen overnight. The key is to start small, share your process, and tout your wins and learnings. If you do, others will soon join to be a part of your success. 

The right resources and tools 

Like any challenging project, a successful digital transformation requires the right resources and tools. Assemble a cross-discipline team and dedicate at least 40% of their time to your digital transformation efforts. Remember, the speed and success of the program is directly correlated with the effort and dedication put in. We’ve seen many test and optimize programs struggle and fail due to a lack of dedicated resources, gaps in skill sets, and/or a failure to adopt and actualize their investment in technologies. 

One team, one dream

Strategy – You need a leader with a vision for the future, a pulse on your target audience, and an eye for improvement. Make sure this resource is tapped into the highest level business goals, KPIs, and marketing plans, and is a strong leader and customer advocate. They should be diplomatic and assertive and have a broad understanding of the processes, skills, and technologies needed to get the job done. 

Analytics – Find the folks who are passionate about customer data and not only know their way around analytics and reporting, but can deliver actionable insights and strategies with every report. Without that, you’ll just be staring at numbers. 

Design – Recruit your best UX/UI designers to bring your hypothesis to life. They should be able to quickly ideate in sketches, prototypes, and wireframes and design seamlessly into your brand standards, to avoid dissonance in testing. Designers are often empathetic customer advocates and have a critical eye for identifying optimization ideas and functional improvements, so listen to them. 

Engineering – This is the most common resource constraint we find, and the one most critical to building and launching tests and implementing wins (i.e. gateway to actualizing additional $$). You’ll want a skilled, willing, and eager developer to build tests and quickly push successful enhancements live. Find developers with an eye for design and interaction models, and a desire to learn new skills. More sophisticated A/B test builds can be tricky. 

Project Coordination – All this cross-discipline collaboration and technical know-how requires a skilled project manager to keep things moving. Recruit a well-respected manager who can lead the team and navigate the opinions of many. They must have a passion for complex project wrangling and a mastery of rapid prototyping and testing methodologies.

The tools of the trade

In addition to a skilled, dedicated team, you’ll need the right technologies. 

Disclaimer: we’ve provided an example in each category for some context, but have intentionally avoided making any specific, detailed comparisons or pros and cons lists here. There are a lot of options out there. We’d be happy to share what we’ve learned working in dozens of technologies and reveal our weapons of choice behind closed doors. Contact us to talk shop.

Primary analytics platform – A primary analytics platform must be established to properly track events and provide baseline performance data. These analytics should also be tied to key business metrics, KPIs, and tracking, and might be part of a larger centralized CDP (Customer Data Platform). i.e. Google Analytics

Session tracking and heat mapping – These tools are indispensable for not only understanding and observing user behavior, but for identifying optimization opportunities and struggle points. They are also useful for monitoring and confirming test performance and post-test implementation effectiveness. i.e. FullStory

Customer insights You’ll also want some tools for gathering deeper qualitative insights about your customer’s preferences and motivations. These include but are not limited to: surveying tools, customer service call monitoring, user testing tools etc. i.e. UserTesting.com

Testing platformA/B and multivariate testing is an important technique for ‘getting it right.’ Many testing platforms also offer personalization features that are also valuable.  i.e. A/B Tasty

Prototype and design tools – Wireframes and prototypes are critical tools for rapid iteration and design exploration. Be sure you have these in addition to your core design applications for producing web designs. i.e. Adobe XD

Project management and coordination tools – You’ll need a place to keep and track all of your project processes, communications, collaborations, and timelines. Sometimes the simple tools are best and one size might not fit all your needs. i.e. Slack + Basecamp and Trello/Jira 

Willingness to learn from failures

It’s extremely important to recognize that not every optimization opportunity you identify will be successful. Digital transformation takes time and likely at least 20% of your ideas will not yield direct conversion success. However, it’s what you do with the insights and learnings you gain from these ‘losses’ that’s most important. A/B testing often reveals extremely valuable and nuanced insights about customer preferences you cannot get through any other method. The hypothesis you put to the test that you are certain will be successful will sometimes shock you with what it reveals. So don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment.

It is important to remember that digital experiences are complex. There are a lot of influencing factors, emotions and choices that go into a single conversion. Markets change hourly, new and competing product choices come on the scene every day. It’s an ever-evolving mix of variables and choices your customers are navigating just to get to you.  

So, stay in it for the long game. Keep true to your goals, stick to the process, and make small, strategic changes over time. Before you know it, you’ll have the site your customers are dreaming of and you’ll exceed your performance goals by a long shot. 

Start small, think big

We hope you find these insights and must-have ingredients to digital transformation success helpful. Remember, the most important thing is to start small and think big. Building culture takes time, but pays off big in the end. Best of luck to you and we’re here if you need some support and guidance or just want to vent. We’ve been there. 

Optimization Tips Amidst a Global Pandemic

Roboboogie Optimization Guide: Triage Edition 

The global pandemic is rapidly shaping a new digital economy. Huge behavioral shifts are happening as much of the world is relying on web-based businesses for everything from basic food needs, to complex work challenges. 

Shopping online is simply a safer, more accessible way to buy right now. In fact, it’s the only way many items can be purchased due to shuttered stores. As a result, many who were not previously comfortable shopping online are turning to the internet out of necessity. E-tailers in certain sectors i.e. grocery, home goods, and health are seeing considerable growth and sales.

Hopefully, your online business is steady or growing. We’ve compiled a quick list of considerations you should be mindful of when looking for ways to optimize your website in this new digital economy. 

Are you welcoming new users?

Keep in mind, people visiting your site for the first time might not know who you are, what you sell, or how to find what they need. Also, remember that they might not be coming through the front door (homepage) due to search. Keeping a consistent and persistent message about your value proposition throughout the purchase funnel will help drive conversions. The use of icons and other visual aids can be really helpful in communicating this in a concise and non-intrusive way.

PRO TIP: When looking for trends and insights in your analytics, be sure to consider both new and returning visitor segments. You will likely find they each have unique needs and paths through your site.

Are you considering visitors who are less web-savvy?

An intuitive and guided digital experience is key to converting first-time visitors to lifetime customers. Make sure you provide enough helpful guidance for those who need it but don’t set roadblocks for returning users who are more familiar with your site. Tooltips, FAQs, and online chat are all helpful opt-in features that can help new users without getting in the way of more experienced ones.

PRO TIP: Keep in mind new visitors could be broadening your demographic reach. Be sure to evaluate readability and ADA standards across your site.

Do your product categories make sense (outside your organization)?

An intuitive merchandising strategy is critical for shoppers quickly trying to understand available product options and what makes each unique. Product categories commonly translate directly to navigation options, so keep labels clear and concise, and try to limit the number of top-level options to 4 or 5, allowing the user to drill-down from there into the sub-categories.

PRO TIP: Do a simple card sorting exercise for your product categories with someone unfamiliar with your product mix. You might discover opportunities to refine, regroup, and/or rename categories to improve usability and ultimately conversion.

Are you adjusting your messaging?

Huge shifts to a work-from-home economy present new opportunities (and challenges) for many companies. Quickly finding your place and adapting is critical. Look for opportunities to shift your messaging to align with current needs and demonstrate how your products/services make life better/easier in this stay-at-home economy.

PRO TIP: Be cautious about using overt messaging like ‘COVID-19 Clearance Sale.’’ For some, these messages can be perceived as insensitive or off-putting. Instead, look for creative ways to soften the message (i.e. Working from Home Sale). People understand the challenges all businesses are facing right now and why.

Are you still A/B testing?

Ongoing optimization is critical during times of rapid change. We recommend an ongoing process of constant observation, hypothesis creation, testing, and implementation. If you are not A/B testing, you’re leaving money on the table. Testing can not only improve site performance significantly over time; it can also show you so much about your rapidly changing audience’s needs and motivations.

PRO TIP: Analytics and session capture platforms like FullStory are powerful tools to actually see how customers experience your site, and identify roadblocks and pain points that could be costing you a lot of money.

Are you facing inventory shortages?

Many websites are facing inventory challenges due to supply chain issues and panic buying. Don’t lose a potential sale just because you don’t have inventory. Be sure to at least include a ‘notify me when this product is available’ option. You might be pleasantly surprised by how loyal, understanding, and patient your customers are during this time.

PRO TIP: This is a great time to build up your email list to nurture new customers and activate existing ones. Customers appreciate open and honest communication. So, while you might not have what they want now, keep in touch with them and they’ll likely come back when you do. 

Are you making smart add-on and cross-sell recommendations?

As people rely more and more on online shopping, convenience remains a top contributing factor for customer satisfaction. Most shoppers would prefer to buy from fewer, trusted retailers, rather than manage accounts across multiple websites – particularly if they can save on shipping (Amazon is a giant example of this).

PRO TIP: Presenting smart add-on items upon cart add, that are truly complementary and add value, will boost average order size. Just make sure they are truly beneficial to the customer, otherwise, they will actually hurt conversions. Great opportunity to A/B test to get it right.

Hang in there!

We wish you all the best in health, happiness, and financial security during these difficult times. We hope these tips and pointers help guide your ongoing optimization efforts. Please feel free to reach out with any questions. We’re all in this together and happy to offer you some FREE advice if it will help your business.

Interview with AB Tasty Partnerships Director, Carlos Enriquez

This month, we sat down with Carlos to chat about all things A/B testing, from emerging trends in the industry to leveraging partners to take experimentation to the next level.

What is your role at AB Tasty all about? 

As Partnerships Director, my main goal is to cultivate win-win relationships that drive value for the customers shared between AB Tasty and our partners. 

I’m responsible for building out AB Tasty’s North America partner network. This includes recruitment, onboarding, and go-to-market activation across Digital Experience Agencies, System Integrators, and key ISVs.

From your perspective, what qualities make up a good agency partner? 

There are are a few qualities that I’ve seen time and again in fantastic agency partners:

  • They have a deep customer knowledge. These partners have a sharp understanding of their customers’ motivations, goals, and preferences. They’ve taken a 360 approach, researching personas, industry trends, use cases, etc. to understand not just what the customer needs now, but what they will need in the future. 
  • They know their differentiation. They’re able to explain their company’s unique value proposition with absolute precision. Their mindset is to go narrow and deep as opposed to wide and shallow. Vertical specialization or use-case driven solutions are two examples of this. 
  • They’re focused on business outcomes. They’re constantly prioritizing results in their communications; they know or can estimate what business improvements customers can expect from their services.
  • They have executive sponsorship. This one is often overlooked, but you would be surprised at how much faster a partnership can move when the right people are involved from the get-go.
  • They can be trusted. Being open and transparent—with the good and the bad—is crucial for collaboration. 
  • They’re a cultural fit. Do we enjoy working together? Do we have fun together? These are two elements that do wonders for productivity in partner relationships. 

Why has AB Tasty chosen to look to partners to support customer success, rather than building out the services internally? 

In the Saas world, the scaling of internal services can be expensive and time consuming. At AB Tasty, we’ve decided to place our focus and energy in what we do best: continuous product innovation and differentiation. Partners provide us with industry knowledge and a broader range of innovative, on-demand, skills that supplement our in-house resources (while also allowing both us and our partners to continue focusing on specialization in our respective fields).

What has been one of your proudest moments while working on the AB Tasty Partnerships team? 

I joined AB Tasty about 2.5 months ago, but even in this short amount of time, I’m proud that I was able to hit the ground running. I was able to quickly create a feedback loop with our partners to help accelerate our collaboration and keep the channels of communication open—and already the perspectives they’ve shared with us have influenced the AB Tasty product roadmap. It’s huge to be able to demonstrate the value of our partnerships, and show how their feedback is instrumental.

What has been something that has surprised you about working with partners that you didn’t expect? 

If there’s one thing that continues to amaze me, it’s how open and honest our partners can be when trust is earned. Our partner feedback is highly valued, and the unique perspectives they provide really do impact our product and processes in such positive ways. 

AB Tasty is emerging as a leader in the experimentation and optimization space on the global scale in a competitive space. Where does the origin of that vision and culture come from?

AB Tasty’s vision begins with our founders: Alix and Remi. They both started out in web analytics and realized that the majority of web traffic didn’t convert. This was a telling insight on the state of digital, user behavior, and how quickly that landscape was changing. The idea of customer loyalty was waning: people wanted seamless interactions with brands across digital devices. They wanted tailored experiences and were quickly prioritizing convenience and utility. 

Alix and Remi saw this disconnect between businesses and the customer, and the continuous integration of digital (well, everywhere). And in response, they created AB Tasty, which offers businesses the ability to continuously optimize their digital experiences and products through experimentation, analytics and personalization. 

The test-and-learn mindset of AB Tasty is very much rooted in the culture of experimentation. Every test is a crucial learning opportunity that allows companies of all sizes to adapt, iterate, and continue at speed: to cultivate resilience and agility in a landscape that’s rapidly changing. 

Where do you hope to see the AB Tasty Partnership program in 1 year? How about 5 years?

We recently launched our Global Partner Program, and have been making great strides in building a comprehensive network of agency partners and ISVs to support our customers. In one year, the goal is to have a solid, scalable structure in place. In five years, with the collaboration of our partners, we believe this program will be a leader in establishing digital experimentation as a must-have practice across industries. 

Why are you excited to bring Roboboogie into that Preferred Partner network? 

Roboboogie brings highly specialized knowledge across experimentation, personalization, UX and analytics, which of course is strongly aligned with AB Tasty’s mission and focus. Having Roboboogie join our growing ecosystem is really exciting for the shared expertise we can bring to our customer base. We trust their domain expertise and are confident they’ll help our customers not only improve their win rates, but more importantly adopt a test and learn mindset

It’s also a plus knowing Roboboogie supports complementary technologies like FullStory (another partner of ours) as this helps to provide customers with a unified support experience.  

If someone is interested in learning more about the partner program, what steps should they take?

For anyone interested in becoming an AB Tasty partner, or learning more about our program, registration is available via our website. Or, even better, they can email me directly at carlos.enriquez@abtasty.com. I’m always happy to provide more details with respect to onboarding, certification, go-to market, and answer any questions they may have.

Ok, now on to the most important question… if you could have any one super power, what would it be? 

Teleportation! Having the ability to travel in the blink of an eye would certainly make my life easier—plus, it’s better for the environment ;). I also love to see new places and explore, so that’s a no-brainer for me. 

Thanks, Carlos! Our partnership with AB Tasty adds a top-notch experimentation platform into our quiver of technologies we can use on our quest to optimize digital experiences for our clients. Stay tuned for more collaboration between our two organizations in the months to come!

Looking for some more interview action? Check out our conversation with Harrison White, Partner Manager at FullStory.

Interview with Roboboogie Strategic Design Intern, August Wanner

Are you dying to know what it takes to be a data-driven designer at Roboboogie? Look no further! This month we’re chatting with Strategic Design Intern, August Wanner, the newest addition to our killer design team. August plays a huge role in our creative process, from design innovation to creative problem solving. Read on to get their thoughts on data-backed design, UX trends, and their approach to solving problems.

How do you describe what you do?

I support the design team in identifying and improving clients’ user interaction experience across websites and apps, in addition to creating graphics for Roboboogie’s social media, office, and website. As an intern, I don’t actually spend my time getting coffee for everyone (but I wouldn’t mind doing that, either.) 

What are the most satisfying parts of your role?

It’s amazing to see a project all the way through from conception to execution! Even if it went in a different direction than I expected, it’s so satisfying to know that we put our brains together to create something that can bring joy, ease of use, or connection to the users and clients. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to be a designer? 

When I was a kid I wanted to be the person who paints promotional illustrations on store windows, which when I think about it is pretty similar to graphic design! I never thought I could actually make it as an artist even though I spent all my free time drawing, so I spent a few years in the middle thinking about going into music education—another form of creativity that challenged me in a way I loved. 

But once I learned how to use Photoshop in high school, it was all downhill from there. I took a Graphic Communications class and would finish assignments a week early to work on my personal passion projects, then after school I’d come home and spend a couple more hours on them. I remember thinking to myself, “If I could just work on projects in Photoshop for 8 hours a day and get paid for it, I wouldn’t want anything else.”

What is a skillset that you use every day, but never thought you would have to?

Speaking skills. I used to think that if your project was any good it would speak for itself, but being able to effectively communicate the complex ideas behind any decisions I’ve made is really valuable. Once I stopped presenting my projects with phrases like “I don’t know,” or “So yeah, here it is,” and started owning my design with confidence, I noticed that others were more responsive and I came across capable and in control, even if I didn’t really feel like I was.

How do you approach solving problems?

I break down the larger picture into chunks, and continue breaking those down until I have a list of chronological tasks I can get done in order to complete the main goal. It makes the whole problem seem a lot more approachable when all the bite-sized pieces are neatly organized in my mind, and that organization also makes it a lot easier for me to get a good estimate of how long the project might take. Fun fact: my sketchbook has more lists than actual sketches in it. 

What are your favorite online resources (news, blogs, tools) and why?

I read a lot of Medium articles about accessibility, UX/UI, web trends, and design thinking. For general design inspiration I love Muzli. Even if I’m reading about a technique or concept I’m already familiar with, it’s great to get refreshed a little, or just take a look at what other designers are creating outside of my sphere. 

What user experience trends or tools are you currently most excited about?

For years now I’ve been wishing I could collaborate on a design project with someone else at the same time, like Google Docs, so I’m really excited that Adobe XD has started supporting coediting! I’m so ready to leave “File_AugustUpdates_R3.xd” behind.

What is some advice you would have for someone who is new to letting data drive their design process?

Discard any preconceived ideas you’re bringing to the project that don’t have the context of specific data points behind them. Those ideas, while they might be exciting and innovative, will just end up stretching and warping until they fit the data, ultimately rendering them unrecognizable and ineffective. Starting with the data and working from there means that the design can be more intentional and ultimately more effective. 

Why should people care about good design?

Why should people care about good music, or good art, or good books? Good design makes our lives a little bit better and brighter. Design is all around us, in every product we use and everywhere we look. Good design takes those everyday items, websites, apps, and turns them into something extraordinary.

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your brain, August! Stay tuned for more interviews with the Roboboogie team & optimization experts coming soon.

All About Design Sprints with New Relic’s Silas Sao

Photo of Roboboogie's September Camp Optimization Meet-Up

On Thursday, September 19th, Camp Optimization returned with the familiar face of Silas Sao, Senior Manager of Product Design at New Relic. Back in November 2017, Silas taught us all about the importance of ADA compliance and designing for inclusion, and left us with a few strategies for helping make the internet accessible for all. This time around, his focus was on design sprints, and how crafting an effective sprint is key to reducing risk, achieving team alignment, and moving projects forward.

Meet Silas

With over a decade of experience in building digital products, Silas has a unique background. Starting his career as a Software Engineer, he has developed the ability to think on a deeply technical level, while still focusing on the customer. Defining Product Strategy, facilitating workshops, and leading high performing Design teams is what he does today. He believes awesome experiences come from teams of awesome people and works towards fostering a culture of customer-centricity anywhere he goes. Pretty cool, huh? We couldn’t agree more.

Tell me more about these… “Design Sprints”

So, what exactly is a design sprint? A design sprint is a 4-day process for rapidly solving big challenges, creating new products, or improving existing ones. It can compress months of work into a few days. The design sprint process was born from the problem that cross-functional teams find it hard to align to common business objectives. As a result, teams often work toward unclear goals as project scope changes rapidly and repeatedly. Ultimately, teams lack real data on which to base decisions and instead rely on a vicious cycle of internal discussions. Ever felt the pressure to be “innovative,’ but at a loss for where to start? Sigh. The endless cycle can cause teams to lose enthusiasm and focus, and thus become trapped and unable to move forward.

Matching problems with solutions

Worry not, for Silas showed up with solutions and strategies for kicking this cycle to the curb. In order for the design sprint process to be efficient and effective, it is important to first ensure that it is applied to the proper use-cases. Challenges best for this process should be:

  • Big enough to warrant blocking multiple people’s time for a few days
  • Worth the cost of devoting time and resources to a design sprint
  • Something that needs to be validated quickly before starting a long program of work to create it
  • Something that requires more than one or two people to address

Some examples of situations conducive to resolution via design sprint include: problems with user engagement on a particular product, developing a brand new product, and adding a new type of service to an existing product.

Design Sprint Principles

With this in mind, Silas provided a number of resources for helping adopt the design sprint process and making it unique to the organization embracing it. His favorite is the book Sprint by bestselling author, Jake Knapp. In his book, Knapp explains, “The process is flexible… the principles aren’t.” So while the design sprint process may vary from problem to problem, organization to organization, it’s important to keep the following key principles at the forefront:

  1. Together alone
  2. Tangible > Discussion
  3. Getting Started > Being Right
  4. Don’t Rely on Creativity!

The Process

Let’s get specific on what a design sprint actually looks like:

  • Monday, Day 1: Define the challenge and produce a mass of solutions.
  • Tuesday, Day 2: Curate and vote on the best solutions, then define the prototype with a storyboard.
  • Wednesday, Day 3: Design and build the prototype, then recruit and schedule user tests.
  • Thursday, Day 4: Test the prototype with 5 real users, then use feedback from testing to create clear next steps.

While the specific process may look a bit different depending on each organization and its goals, what is important is to not be afraid of diving in and finding a workshop that works well for that particular challenge or team. While you’re at it, make sure to be aware of the inherent risks in these types of processes. The problem with anything that requires creative & critical thinking, is that it’s easy to get lost, lose focus, and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. To avoid this, take the following steps to help set up a workshop for success:

  1. Start with what’s working
  2. Capture the problems
  3. Prioritize
  4. Reframe problems as challenges
  5. Ideate on solutions
  6. Prioritize
  7. Decide on what to execute on
  8. Make solutions actionable

There’s a ton to unpack here when getting started with the design sprint process, but taking the time to learn the ropes will provide immense value in the long run. Hungry for more? Head on over to Silas’ site to explore additional insights and recommendations. 

That’s all for this round of Camp Optimization! Stay tuned for announcements and details for our next event coming later in 2019.

Design is (not) just Problem Solving

CXO, John Gentle, working in design file.

“Design” is a fuzzy word. It takes on a vastly different meanings depending on the industry, context or background. So it makes sense to add some clarity and standard definition to the word.

There has been a hot debate around the philosophical purpose of design, in this quest for clarity and nailing down a definition. One camp gaining momentum advocates for a simplified explanation that “design is simply just solving problems.” And to take it one step further—if you’ve got a problem, the only cure is design.

We went to our CXO and long time UX Designer, John Gentle, to get his two cents on the topic. Turns out he had way more than a couple cents for us.

Roboboogie CXO, John Gentle.

So what do you think of this idea of design being “problem solving” for business?

Calling something a problem infers that it’s not working. Often design is addressing things that are not a problem, but could work better, or more efficient. So to refer to “design problem” and its “design solution” suggests that there is an issue that can only be rectified with one specific solution. I believe this way of approaching design is narrow minded and does not recognize there are often many valid design solutions to the same “problem.”

Design is a continuous process of evolution, designers are a curious bunch and always ask “How can I make this better? Be more efficient? Provide a better experience overall?”

For example, if a client came to us with a design request and I gave the project to three different designers, they would each come up with a solution that they believe will best fix “the problem.” It is likely they would all solve “the problem,” but the solutions would most likely all be different and each would have its own set of strengths and weaknesses, making choosing the “best” solution very difficult or highly subjective (that’s where testing comes in—but we’ll save that post for another day).

Ok, let’s back up for some context. What exactly is “design” to you?

Design is a way of creating that accounts for context. When we engage our clients, we work within a set of constraints. We’re producing something that meets a need for both them and their end-user. It’s our job as designers to move the needle forward and be mindful of their constraints, needs, and goals. Not just simply create what we think is the best thing based on our biases, opinions, or artistic vision.

At Roboboogie, our work is highly user-centric: we design from the perspective of the end-user and work hard to understand what their perspective, motivations, and desires are and improve those interactions significantly.

The design process is a journey of gaining more and more understanding—becoming more accurate and precise to the end user’s needs, and continuously making improvements. A/B testing key elements of our design is critical to that process. Not every test we run is a success from a “design solution” standpoint, but we often learn something from that design and the experiment that opens a whole new world of unanswered questions. At that moment we don’t have a solution, but what we do have is a whole new set of questions and other requirements we can use to evolve to a better place.

CXO, John Gentle, working in design file.

How has ease of access to data impacted the Roboboogie design process?

It’s removed a lot of the subjectivity and helped fill gaps around presumed requirements and user needs. We still talk to users, but now we can see those things—what’s working well and what’s not—in the behavioral data. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between what people tell us and what they actually do as they’re interacting with something.

It’s been instrumental in significantly improving website experiences and their performance over time. The old way was “we need a new website so let’s scrap this one and start over!” A lot of valuable learnings were tossed out and a lot of time wasted designing websites that did not meet the needs and expectations of the business and/or the end-user.

Access to data helps us be more informed with our design strategies and make improvements in confidence, trusting that with the design process there’s no “magic bullet” solution.

Final thoughts?

To tie it all together–no, design is not just about a single ‘right’ solution; it’s a process that combines curiosity and continuous problem-solving. Asking questions, answering questions, continually feeding new data and learnings back into the process. You’ll never fully solve the problem, because you can always go deeper.

— John Gentle, CXO of Roboboogie

— —

Want to go deeper on this topic? Here are a few articles we’ve been following that have fueled this conversation.

https://medium.com/@salituri/design-is-not-problem-solving-bace64318d56

https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/why-design-is-not-problem-solving-design-thinking-isnt-always-the-answer/

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/design-thinking-essential-problem-solving-101-it-s-more-than-scientific

https://www.canva.com/learn/design-thinking/

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/08/design-solving-problems/

#teamnotjustproblemsolving

Looking for more design thoughts from the Roboboogie team? Check them out here.

Moving, Shaking, and A/B Testing in Oregon Wine Country

On a warm August evening, the Roboboogie team arrived at the Scholls Valley Lodge in scenic Oregon wine country for the Party in the Pinot, the Technology Association of Oregon‘s annual shindig. Bringing together some of the Oregon technology community’s top movers and shakers, the event is a sight to behold and we were proud to be part of this year’s sponsors.

Since we never want to miss an opportunity to bring together data, design, and a good time, we designed, developed, and launched an A/B test microsite specifically for the event. The goal: test partygoers on how their personal preferences on unlikely issues shaped their taste buds.

Photos by the incredible Jason DeSomer

Through a highly scientific process, we honed in on testing categories:

  • Star Wars vs. Star Trek
  • Broccoli vs. Bacon
  • Unicorn vs. Sasquatch
  • Hugs vs. High Fives
  • Wine preference: Wine A (Sokol Blosser Evolution Big Time Red) vs. Wine B (Dundee Hills 2016 Pinot Noir)

With everything set up, we invited one and all to challenge their palates and predilections. The wine flowed, the people chose, and the results were fascinating! Some were close calls, others a world of difference. Armed with our new knowledge, we compiled the most interesting insights into our handy-dandy infographic:

You can check out the test site we built here. (NOTE: we optimized it for tablets, so that’s the best viewing experience.) While we aren’t collecting any more submissions, you can always reach out to us at hello@teamroboboogie.com to learn more about how we can up your data and design game.

Roboboogie is a Website Performance Consultancy. We provide a measured approach to improving website performance and some might say we’re obsessed with performance. Find out more about what we can do for you.

A/B Test Building: Streamlining Design-to-Dev Hand-offs

Here at Roboboogie, our bread and butter is web experimentation. We’re obsessed with A/B testing and how it can lead to better online experiences. But working within a multidisciplinary environment can be tricky—especially when it comes time to hand-off the test from design to development. Nobody likes to have a ton of meetings, but without them, it can lead to confusion, overlap, stalling, and possible failure, all of which are worth avoiding.

As a result, we’ve developed our own in-house process for these test-design-to-development hand-off meetings. The meetings are quick, only require a few people (designer, developer, producer), and create clarity, which saves everyone’s time.

Here’s the official Roboboogie Test Development K/O Checklist™ (RTDKOC™):

  1. Is the test signed off by our team and clients?
  2. Do we have mobile and desktop designs?
  3. Can tablet be built from desktop and mobile designs?
  4. Are we using standard viewport sizes for designs?
  5. Is the PSD accessible if a developer needs to slice?
  6. What assets need to be handed off by the designer?
  7. Is all functionality understood?
  8. Any pages that are outliers and may not be accounted for in designs?
  9. What are the traffic implications?
  10. What needs to be tracked?
  11. What types of animations do we need?

Is the test signed off by our team and clients?

This is the most important task to check off. In speed-to-market, it’s important to ask if all necessary stakeholders have signed off on a project. This prevents anything from being drastically altered or completely shut down by someone who hasn’t given their approval. This is the most time consuming if projects move too fast and someone does not sign off on a hypothesis.

Do we have mobile and desktop designs?

Is the test running responsively across all devices? If yes, have the designers handed off designs for mobile and desktop? This prevents design bottlenecking by ensuring the developers aren’t responsible for the translation from desktop. A little extra time spent upfront frees time for everyone else further down the line.

Can tablet be built from desktop and mobile designs?

Sometimes tablet or mobile size doesn’t translate well from desktop. When both of these issues arise at the same time, it’s important to get direction or wireframes from designers to shore them up. Usually a quick chat will do, but addressing the situation before development will save time for designers instead of asking them to context switch whenever there’s an issue.

Are we using standard viewport sizes for designs?

To create pixel-perfect designs, it’s important to know what you’re working towards with design to get the exact sizes for all spacing, fonts, and DOM elements. Desktop is generally designed at 1440px and mobile at 380px, with all assets handed off at 2x. When handing off assets at 2x, if a PSD or XD file is 2880px for desktop, then all sizes must be even numbers to be divisible by two. This helps avoid sizes resulting in decimals.

Is the PSD accessible if a developer needs to slice?

At Roboboogie, all developers can slice assets according to our image style guide. Making sure the PSD is accessible saves our designers time and allows the development team the opportunity to slice and size according to development needs.

What assets need to be handed off by the designer?

Some assets need more adjusting by people with stronger design experience. These generally include SVGs and JPEGS that need backgrounds removed when transforming to PNGs.

Is all functionality understood?

Walk through the test together. This way, everyone understands any added or altered functionality. This presents the opportunity to discover any functionality that may become time-consuming during development, so it’s important to reevaluate the hypothesis and determine if it is meaningful.

Any pages that are outliers and may not be accounted for in designs?

Ok, you’re ready to start redesigning. But wait, how many legacy pages are there? Product pages? Templates? There are sometimes two, three, maybe more! Can we apply the designs to older templates? Do products outside the main categories have a different display? Getting clarity and accounting for future impacts is key to staying in budget and delivering on time.

What are the traffic implications?

Before starting development or design, knowing that the traffic implications might run through a full month’s visitor count in a week should be fully understood and signed off by all stakeholders. (i.e, if there’s a pop-up purchase modal on every page, be prepared to account for that.) The knowledge might postpone or outright kill a test.

What needs to be tracked?

If tracking in Google Analytics, ask the question: have we introduced any new interactions, or replaced old ones? There’s nothing worse than concluding a test and realizing you missed tracking an important variable.

What types of animations do we need?

Knowing how a designer envisions a change in design to give users feedback through design is what transforms a flat design into an interactive experience.

That’s it!

It takes time, and it’ll look different at every company, but keep in mind that collaboration and continuing to experiment with process is the key to winning. Make sure you’re always continuously improving your process, and you’ll see results!

Roboboogie is a Website Performance Consultancy. We provide a measured approach to improving website performance and some might say we’re obsessed with performance. Drop us a line to learn more and see what we can do to help you make sense of your data.

Embracing Experimentation Culture with Roboboogie’s Test Team

It’s July and Camp Optimization was upon us yet again! This time, we teamed up with Technology Association of Oregon to bring a panel discussion regarding Embracing Experimentation Culture, a subject near and dear to our hearts. Gathered in the Assembly Lounge at Revolution Hall, our esteemed panel of Roboboogie professionals shared their thoughts on what experimentation is, what it means, and how it can be applied to many disciplines.

This month’s panel was Jedidiah Fugle, Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Pappoff, Producer, and Tyler Hudson, Data Analyst.

So, how is experimentation utilized at Roboboogie?

Jed: One of our core offerings is managing web experimentation programs for our clients. It’s being observant, finding ways to improve things by trying something new, and more. One way we’ve recently utilized it is we noticed a lot of siloing going on between our design and development disciplines, and we wanted to encourage more collaboration. We hypothesized that if we provided a daily standup it could increase productivity and efficiency. So far, it’s been working really well, and we’re letting it run its course before we come back and review our wins. Culturally, we’re always trying to experiment with things that will make us perform and do better.

What does it look like to adopt that scientific approach?

Tyler: If you think back to the scientific method, you start by forming a hypothesis. You want to start with a question that brings innovation over time. As far as starting with the experimentation culture, it really just starts with being curious. Ask questions, see what you could improve, and take some risks!

So, you’re using data to make decisions. What qualifies as data?

Andrea: Data can take a lot of forms. You want to take the qualitative and quantitative data, so for example you can take anything from a group of opinions about a specific matter to getting out and interviewing people which leads into the more quantitative side where you can pull data. You can also tie back to best practices by pulling together all the years of experience you have on your team to pick what data points will work best.

Website experimentation is one of the services offered at Robobooogie. Can you tell us what goes into a website A/B test?

Tyler: A/B testing, at its core, goes back to something as simple as testing a red button vs. a blue button and see what works better. We take that to the next level by introducing new functionality to our client’s website, look to streamline different areas or break them apart, and what collectively makes them function better by understanding every point in the customer journey. When setting up an experiment, you want to make sure you’re collecting the right data, so you always want to make sure you’re strategizing with your team. Clear KPIs will always set you up for success.

What roles contribute to experimentation at Roboboogie?

Andrea: One of our critical pieces to having a successful program is bringing together multidisciplinary teams in order to tackle a problem from all sides. It starts with an opportunity we identify in the data, and then relaying that data to a UX strategist or designer who will ask “How can I make this better?”, and then passing a specific design solution onto the developers. Then you need collaboration between development and analytics, to make sure we’re backing up the design elements with hard data. Ultimately, we want to give our clients the confidence to implement those wins.

What is an interesting or unexpected outcome of web experimentation that you’ve seen?

Jed: It’s really fun in this new era. Organizations have become more comfortable with tracking data, which brings up its own challenges in organizing and understanding that data, and with our clients, we track the most minute detail. For example, we created a pop-up modal that displayed an item that a returning customer to an eCommerce site had looked at the last time they had previously visited, but it dropped overall revenue. It presented an opportunity to go deeper into the data to see what happened. It’s a funny question because there’s always something interesting as you go deeper and deeper into what your findings are.

So you’d say these findings have contributed to your client’s interest in web experimentation?

Jed: Yeah! The phrase we like to use is “Data Storytelling.” Our job is taking those spreadsheets, all that huge amount of data, and telling something meaningful with it. Oftentimes people come back to us and say “Wait a minute, I’ve been sitting on all this data and I’ve never done anything with it?” which leads them to ask us what more they can do with it. That builds a culture of curiosity and more data-driven results.

Are there any other benefits to online experimentation?

Andrea: It’s fun to watch a client open up to the idea of testing. Sometimes when we’ve started with a client, they don’t entirely understand what it means, but as time goes on and you see the data and apply their wins, then you see them grow into being the one who offers up testing. It’s really rewarding to see that testing culture grow!

Let’s talk about failure! How do you deal with that? It seems like for some organizations that would be harder than others.

Tyler: Well, that’s why you’re testing. If you knew 100% that something would work, there wouldn’t be a need to test it. Failure is an important data point. If a test “fails,” you can dive into it and find out why, and it will inform smarter decisions down the road.

If I’m going to bring experimentation to my company, how would I go about approaching my manager to convince them to try it?

Jed: It really starts with being curious and having a genuine interest in the scientific approach. Then you might want to find allies, others in your organization who are interested in the scientific approach. Then you would want to have a conversation with a director or manager—unless you are that director or manager!—get the ball rolling with them. The more data you can bring to the conversation the more success you’ll have.

Tyler: When you find those allies and have that curiosity, you’ll notice a lot of momentum will build behind that. When you feel like your voice is being heard, you’re giving them an opportunity to see the potential and your hard work.

Andrea: There are a lot of misconceptions that there is a lot of risk by adopting an experimentation culture but for most of our clients, the program pays for itself. Working with a strategic partner like Roboboogie, we can help inform where to start, especially with simple, high-value tests that help move the needle quickly.

See you next time!

Save the date for our next Camp Optimization, Thursday, September 26. Want to learn more about how we embrace and utilize experimentation? Drop us a line!

The Future of AI in Customer Experience Optimization

Roboboogie’s Chief Experience Officer John Gentle has spent most of his adult life in web consultancy and iterative, data-backed design. With that kind of experience, one tends to get really excited about topics that others don’t tend to think about as much—but with that excitement comes passion and knowledge. We decided to kick off a new series, John Talks, to get his years of experiences and insights on the various subjects we handle on a daily basis.

Hanging out in the serene vibes of Martha’s, our local coffee shop located 23 feet from the Roboboogie headquarters, John shared his thoughts on artificial intelligence, how we use it, and the roles it will play in the future of CX, UX, and UI.

What do you find so exciting about AI?

Beyond the fact that we’re literally building robots who can learn, AI helps us deliver a more complete online experience. We build machines that can instantly identify anything from customer pain-points, to bounce locations, down to the color of a button on a screen to make selection and purchase easier.

Interesting. So where do you see AI fitting into the future of CX?

Well, it helps streamline so much of the development process, especially iterative design. The more sophisticated these systems get to understand the relational components, the more you can automate and take the pressure off of people.

What sort of benefits do businesses have by leveraging AI?

Oh, tons. With AI, we have more success with CX journey mapping, which is an important step to understanding someone’s experience from end-to-end. After that, we can develop multiple touch points, create a more meaningful relationship between the customer and the brand, and open up more opportunities for revenue.

And that’s part of the whole thing, right? Creating that customer-brand relationship?

For sure. In terms of AI, we can automate how we manage relationships, especially through things like targeted messages and eliminating barriers to engagement. In the world of eCommerce, we can integrate it into services. That helps better predict the customers needs, create better post-sale relationships, and develop a more meaningful connection to the brand. And that’s just eCommerce. We could potentially apply these same sort of principles to something like healthcare—maybe start seeing more people getting the care they need before something happens.

What potential pitfalls could you see regarding this form of AI?

Any kind of software or digital experience adoption has to make life better or easier or people won’t adopt it. A lot of AI and retargeting is happening in the background, so people are right to be suspicious. When it’s done right and brands are being transparent, it makes life easier. When brands get too “creepy” with it, that’s when people drop off.

For example, think of going into a store or restaurant where they’re familiar with you. They know your order or what you like to wear. You’ll like that place more. However, if they suddenly popped up and were offering you things outside of those stores, you might not like them as much.

If you get a similar experience on a brand webpage and they reach out in a more meaningful way, it makes decision making easier. It’s more effective and creates a better connection to the brand and the customer. However, if you’re not respecting the customers, you can alienate them and they’ll reject you. People don’t have a relationship with the AI, they do with the brand. That’s where we can step in and help.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Timing and context is everything. Be empathetic to customer needs and be empathetic towards where they are at that place and time and the rest will fall into place.

Check out more interviews with the Roboboogie team. We’ll see you again next month for the next installment of John Talks!