Our Point of View
We love stories. Stories connect us — human to human — across divides of space and time. We think in stories. We make connections and, following threads of narrative and observation, we draw conclusions. Stories instruct and persuade and form pathways to understanding. Stories help us make sense of the world around us.
Our lives are stories, each of us heroes and heroines in our own minds. And, if we’re lucky, in the eyes of our loved ones, too.
Your brand is one such story. And, pretty much universally, we find that brands that make their users the hero of their stories tend to fare better than brands that don’t.
When your hero is your user — not your product or service, but your user — the siren song of competing constituencies subsides. The fog of uncertainly that surrounds features and priorities dissipates. It’s a shift in perspective, a change in point of view, that makes all the difference.
Want to make your user the hero of your story? We can help.
So… just who are your users, anyway? Certainly they’re more than a demographic segment or slices from a pie chart. Your users are people with goals and desires, both spoken and unspoken. Your users have points of view — some of them very strongly held, thank-you-very-much — that create a certain pattern of thinking, or cognitive framework. Our user research leverages trusted tools and techniques to identify how your users view the world.
What kind of research do you do?
We learn about your users’ needs, behaviors, and motivating influences by interacting with and observing members of your audience. You read that right… we speak to your users!
Contextual interviews provide the opportunity to see how your users operate in their natural environments… in retail locations, and in their offices and homes. Contextual interviews provide the greatest opportunity to learn, but also incur the greatest costs.
Individual interviews are one-to-one discussions about user goals, attitudes, background and relevant experiences. Individual interviews can take place anywhere, and are frequently used in place of contextual interviews.
Focus groups are moderated discussions conducted with a group of users. They are economical, but the panel can be influenced by the points of view of people with large personalities over those who are more reserved. Having a skilled moderator is critical to getting good results from a focus group. (And yeah… we’re pretty good at this.)
Digital Content Strategy
The principles of content strategy are pretty simple: support user goals with content that is contextual and appropriate. Ideally your content will also prove useful and timely, clear and concise. And on message, with the right voice and tone. (Okay… maybe not so simple.) If your content makes your user feel like a hero for being so clever and smart they didn’t have to consult your FAQs or phone a friend to complete a simple form, so much the better.
Is Content Strategy a thing?
It’s totally a thing! A very good thing, at that. Content Strategy is both the framework and the benchmark for how you create, deliver and ultimately, govern your digital content throughout its productive lifecycle.
Note some key terms, there. The first is digital content — not just web content — but all the content you generate for your whole gamut of earned, owned and paid media: your web site, your blogs, your emails, your Facebook presence, your Twitter stream, your search engine marketing… you get the idea.
The second term is govern — which implies you should actively manage and control your content… hopefully before it manages you.
The third key term is productive lifecycle. You content is born, it has a useful and productive life, and then — when its purpose is complete — rather than confuse your users with out-of-date offers, old instructions, and conflicting resources it should quietly go away. Sometimes with a wooden stake in its undying heart.
Experience Planning & Usability Testing
Experience planning fills the gap between the development of strategy, and the creative process. Its purpose is to capture and define what a product or service might do — and what it won’t. In its ideal form, experience planning is a liberating expression of user needs and attitudes, and brand aspirations. It is the narrative arc of your user’s story.
Usability testing closes the circle of the design lifecycle by measuring actual user experiences against planned experiences. We believe testing should take place early and often in the development process. Problems identified early can be fixed more economically.
What sorts of user testing do you do?
We’re old-school usability nerds, and have clocked hundreds of hours moderating lab-based usability tests. We’re finding the trend toward agile web development practices demands similarly lean and agile usability testing, using low-fidelity prototypes of all sorts. Low-fi methods combined with think-out-loud protocols yield surprisingly effective results, especially early in the development cycle.
Card sorting exercises can discover how your users think about concepts, and are singularly ideal to learn how users group like things into categories — and how they label those categories.
First-click testing is useful to identify whether or not your navigation model is effective, and works nearly as well on crude paper prototypes as it does on more refined wireframes or rendered screens.
Usability testing on a screen-driven prototype or actual product at most any stage of development remains critical to identifying real-world problems and frustrations as your users attempt to complete tasks and goals. Now that it’s been liberated from the lab, usability testing is more effective than ever.
Engagement & Conversion Analytics
Analytics have long tracked your web site’s vital signs, telling the story of what visitors do on your web site, and how that behavior leads to transactions and other conversion events. Today, web analytics only tell a part of the story. It’s increasingly vital you measure your entire digital ecosystem — ads, emails, videos, and social media platforms — across a full array of device types, from smartphones to tablets to televisions.
Digital analytics technologies are providing better visibility than ever to your customer’s journey. The challenge remains, however, to translate ever-larger piles of event data into actionable user insights.
Which metrics matter?
We pay particular attention to measures that relate to content, and to conversion. More, we generally hope that the first will lead to the second. Our ambition, after all, is to drive customer action. To that end, we model metrics related to consumption, sharing, lead-generation and sales or conversion.
Hard data and objective, quantitative measures can lack context, and so we need to consider our softer side, too, with qualitative measures like influence, and sentiment.
Lately we’re combining what’s traditionally qualitative stuff with qualitative scoring, by measuring conversation, applause, and amplification rates of social media and trying to derive relative engagement rates across social platforms. Because… data. Tasty, tasty data.
“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen — A great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.”
Let’s talk about your story
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Our home base is the Silicon Prairie, but we can (and do) work everywhere you want to be!
“Your brand story is infinitely more interesting — and rewarding — when your user is your story’s hero.”Doug Cadmus