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Customer Research

Boden and Bunnyfoot work together to take customer experience to the next level across European and US markets

Boden the international fashion retailer is to enhance online customer experience by gaining insights from watching the real behaviour of its customers whilst they use the current Boden site and also some new innovative prototypes.


Make sure you do good audience research: observe don’t ask

30th October 2010
Posted by in Brain Bites: 2 Minute Insights
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‘Observe don’t ask’ I seem to bleat endlessly like a broken record (showing my age now, I mean a um… corrupted memory sector) ‘what people do  is often very different from what they say they do’.

When you ask people direct questions (even well formed ones) then they are reliant on their concious executive mind, something they often don’t activate when doing the thing you are asking them about, and certainly not in the way that you are asking them. Also they lie (or confabulate as researchers like to call it) and make stuff up based on their assumptions rather than reality (postrationalise). This is because they don’t remember, don’t want to appear stupid, want to please you, want to appear superior, and numerous other things including they just don’t plain know.

What are you looking at?

I’ve got loads of examples and demonstrations of poor research (not carried out by Bunnyfoot I hasten to add) including disastorous actions that major global companies made because they based their decisions on poor (and expensive and extensive) research – those are for another day. Here  I provide a fun example instead.

pictures of male and female models in swimwear

Above picures shown to 30 men and 30 women whilst individually eyetracked. Results below - can you tell which was from the 30 men and which from the 30 women?


Love App-tually. User research on why people prefer mobile apps

Why is it that Apple’s App Store hosts over 200, 000 apps and has served over 3 billion app downloads despite only being launched a mere two years ago? What makes apps so popular and how do you harness that popularity?

Our most recent app testing for a major household name revealed 2 key reasons why apps were preferred to browsing the web: people like apps because they are immediate and focussed.


Love, App-tually: People Prefer Mobile Apps According to User Research

Why is it that Apple’s App Store hosts over 200,000 apps and has served over 3 billion app downloads… despite only being launched a mere two years ago? What makes apps so popular? And, most importantly, how can you harness that popularity?

Our most recent app testing for a major household brand revealed two key reasons why apps were preferred to browsing the web: people like apps because they are immediate and focussed.


Understanding Local AND Global Differences


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.


WolframAlpha beats Google for Results and Usability but not Brand

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?


Internet enabled cars? Surely not in 2000 … oh yes!

The BBC news item below shows a report on the UK’s first Internet enabled car – produced and invented by Bunnyfoot in 2000. The car was intended as a demonstration of the essential importance of usability and accessibility … our message got somehow lost in translation in the newspapers and TV shows that ran the story, but it taught us a lot about different communication methods and to always look to the future.

Since then (is it really 10 years ago?) we have produced hundreds of video demonstrations showing usability testing, eyetracking and accessibility in action, our customer experience presentations at seminars and conferences etc, and many will be appearing here in the next few months – but this BBC one was one of our first … and is still a firm favourite.

What is perhaps surprising is that this type of technology and other ‘alternative interfaces’ haven’t really come on that far in the last 10 years– it seemed then (in 2000) that things like sophisticated voice interfaces for all sorts of devices and uses were bubbling just under the surface. In 2009 though you are likely to be annoyed at best, but most probably bemused, by the majority of telephone interfaces (has anyone tried Egg’s?), never mind anything more ambitious. It seems like it should be simple but this type of interface requires just as much research and careful design (perhaps more) than seemingly more complex visual interfaces. I’ll return to discuss this in more detail in a future post.

The point of the Bunnymobile video?

It was meant to demonstrate that usability and accessibility are vital for the interfaces of the future:

  • the car used software that blind people use to translate web sites into voice = accessibility
  • and needed to be simple enough so distraction didn’t cause you to crash (amongst other things) = usability

It seems we were right, and they still are important … lots more challenging and interesting work to do though.


Internet-Enabled Cars? Surely Not in 2000 … Oh Yes!

The BBC news item below shows a report on the UK’s first Internet-enabled car – produced and invented by Bunnyfoot in 2000. The car was intended as a demonstration of the essential importance of usability and accessibility… however, our message somehow got lost in translation in the newspapers and TV shows that ran the story, but it taught us a lot about different communication methods and to always look to the future.

Since then (is it really 10 years ago?) we have produced hundreds of video demonstrations showing usability testing, eye-tracking and accessibility in action, our customer experience presentations at seminars and conferences – but this BBC one was one of our first … and is still a firm favourite.

What is perhaps surprising is that this type of technology and other ‘alternative interfaces’ haven’t really come on that far in the last 10 years – it seemed then (in 2000) that things like sophisticated voice interfaces for all sorts of devices and uses were bubbling just under the surface. In 2009 though, you are likely to be annoyed at best (but most probably bemused) by the majority of telephone interfaces (has anyone tried Egg’s?), never mind anything more ambitious. It seems like it should be simple, but this type of interface requires just as much research and careful design (perhaps more) than seemingly more complex visual interfaces. I’ll return to discuss this in more detail in a future post.

The point of the Bunnymobile video?

It was meant to demonstrate that usability and accessibility are vital for the interfaces of the future:

  • the car used software that blind people use to translate websites into voice = accessibility
  • and needed to be simple enough so distraction didn’t cause you to crash (amongst other things) = usability

It seems we were right, and they still are important… there’s still much more challenging and interesting work to do though.


Does the North South divide exist online too?

During 2005 one of the many interesting projects undertaken by Bunnyfoot included a large scale usability test of a new Microsoft website.


Does the UK’s North / South Divide Exist Online Too?

During 2005, one of the many interesting projects undertaken by Bunnyfoot included a large scale usability test of a new Microsoft website.


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