Cob, bap, muffin, barm cake… what do you call it? Chances are it depends on your social background, where you were brought up, and a myriad of other influences over the past years. If you haven’t got a clue what I am talking about by the way they are all terms for things you might stick some cheese or a sausage in to make a snack. Other terms include ‘bread rolls’ or ‘buns’ and there are about 30 or so others in common use in the UK.
If something as innocent as baker’s doughy product has the potential for confusion, misinterpretation, class associations and heated argument (yes disputes are rife – raise the issue with your colleagues and wait for the fallback) then imagine the potential for chaos and bewilderment when communicating more complex propositions across national and international markets…. …this is where good customer research with a reach beyond the confines of London can help
Bunnyfoot has been performing customer research and customer usability testing for the last 10 years. We noticed very early on that there were distinct UK regional differences (over and above other demographic influencers) in people’s responses to the same website – and these differences have profound consequences on the websites’ ability to communicate, persuade and convert. Knowing and acting upon the geographical differences (cultural, social, language, attitudinal etc.) dramatically increases the effectiveness of the end result. This is one of the reasons why we set up 5 offices with usability labs running the length of the UK and why we encourage our clients to look beyond the myopia of London when researching with their customers (it works better if you do – simple as that).
But you don’t have to be locked to physical labs, getting out there in the field and observing what real people do in their own environments is a valuable thing to be doing that can reveal key insights. One problem with this is that it can be expensive. One way of getting there without so much cost is to perform ‘remote usability testing’. This typically relies on screen-sharing over the internet, and with recent advances in broadband penetration it is now possible to run usability tests and observe people in their own homes or places of work (with consent!!) from practically anywhere.
Beyond the UK
When your product or service reaches beyond national boundaries then geographical and cultural differences become even more pronounced. HSBC clearly know this and you will know doubt have seen some of their adverts revealing the different cultural, geographical and socio-economic meanings associated with things like colour, gestures, symbols and language.
It goes beyond this too – we have recently been working extensively across Europe, the Middle East and Asia (and a little bit in Africa) we have uncovered challenges associated with extending online communications across these regions. This includes:
the need for flexible or even completely different interfaces to cope with different languages (e.g. German = long words and phrases, Arabic and Chinese = right to left)
the fact that in some regions the preferred or only way people engage online is via mobile (Africa and Japan in particular)
display advertising and contextual advertising is far more effective than search engine marketing in some regions (e.g. Middle East) because of not just language differences but also cultural differences
‘western style’ minimalist aesthetic design doesn’t work well in China – and again this is cultural and not just because of the character sets used
We, as an agency, need to take our own advice on board to adopt local knowledge to get the best results. Bunnyfoot employs consultants from across cultures and have recently opened an office in Hong Kong to get closer to international differences. When we test abroad we use a network of quality agencies, it just brings that edge of local knowledge that makes the testing run much smoother.
In 2005, here at Bunnyfoot, we carried out an eye tracking usability study; it showed that 79% of people were able to find the 2003 UK gross domestic product using Google.
We carried out a similar eyetracking study in May 2009 using Bunnyfoot’s Mass User Testing approach and found that this had dropped to 37%.
We also compared the performance of Google to the new WolframAlpha search engine where 100% of people got the correct answer. This result is worrying for Google for two reasons:
Google’s algorithms have got better in the intervening years; despite there being significantly more pages indexed on Google in 2009 compared to 2005 Google returns fewer results for the same search string; “gross domestic product UK 2003”. Given more pages to return results from and better algorithms it ‘should’ be easier to find information, not harder.
The general level of people’s Internet experience and expertise has increased since the original study – people ‘should’ be more successful, not less.
WolframAlpha also outperforms Google on three key measures of usability; effectiveness and efficiency and satisfaction. However, the strength of the Google brand dominated WolframAlpha with 100% of users saying that they would recommend using Google to a friend with only 77% saying they would recommend WolframAlpha.
The study is by no means comprehensive; it is based on a single search query and one that favours WolframAlpha’s approach to knowledge management/search, but is does pose an interesting question:
Can Google’s search dominance be beaten by better results and usability or is the brand so strong that people will stay loyal no matter how good the competition gets?
We developed ‘mass user testing’ in response to the real world needs of commercial clients and to combat the deficiencies inherent in the most widely used traditional usability testing methods (we have actually been doing this for about 4 years but formalised it last year).
The key to mass user testing is using large numbers of people rapidly and cost effectively – this is achieved through recruiting people ‘off street’ with the lure of some cash (or other incentive – we are quite creative in this regard) for about 15 minutes of their time.
I am often asked how the eyetrackers work (second only to why the name Bunnyfoot?) – so here it is – in essence it is really simple – a digital camera videos your pupils (the holes that let light into your eye) and a computer works out where you are looking based on the video images.
Well there is a little bit more to it than that (not much though):
The infrared diodes shine light on the person in front of the eyetracker (it’s 14 times less strong than that emitted from a TV remote – so doesn’t burn their eyes out).
How do you measure the effectiveness of your in-game ad investment?
Do you need to know accurate performance and brand engagement metrics?
It is not just about brand awareness or brand recall anymore, the new era of digital innovation provides us with an array of rich media to communicate with the increasingly cynical consumer. Games offer a huge untapped market with a broader profile than typically assumed. 59% of the UK population (26.5million) are gamers and 45% of those are women! Playing games is not just a nerdy boy thing anymore.