UXPA – SmartThings and RedBrick

World-usabilitydayWorld Usability Day 2014 combined three components of the “world” of usability: the internet of things, the content strategy (or behavior design), and… organizational structures that we have to navigate (as an example of government agencies).  Quite interesting – as usually.


SmartThings is a company trying to “connect” all “connected devices” with each other.  Its core product is the platform that makes the connection possible.

Though the first step in development of these devices was the creation of devices themselves, the next step is the possibility of the connection of all of the devices.  My guess, it is close to the concept of Cloud 2.0, when cloud-based software was expected not only interact with the cloud, but also with other software in the cloud.


I guess, it is still difficult to see the practical application of the “connected home;” the most interesting are security-related (knowing when the liquor cabinet has been open, or when children came home from school).

Interesting usability point on “difficult of use” of the “internet of things” in the case of a guest visiting “smart home:”

If you don’t know how devices are operating, it is difficult to operate somebody else’s devices

Samsung demonstrated that it clearly sees potential in the industry by purchasing SmartThings.   I love the site design!

RedBrick Health

RedBrick Health presenter, Sanna Yoder, has probably one of the most futuristic job titles: Director of Content Strategy and Behavior Design.

The new concept (for me) of Behavior Design is quite amazing – a scientific method is applied to the area of human life that was almost considered divine.

Teaching people what they should be doing is not working…  and had been done for centuries.

Fogg Behavioral Model approaches the task with concentration on small steps rather than unlikely to succeed commitments.


This approach is used by RedBrick Health in its behavior modification efforts.


Little tips from the experts:

  • If you wait for 10 minutes, craving will disappear (works on food 😉 )
  • To assure that you will exercise in the morning, sleep in your exercise clothes
  • People overestimate their chances for winning – drawing work reasonably well when resources are limited

Organizational challenges (government):

Information architecture should precede visual design (government agencies struggling with it also).

In the situation when one agency provides services to others…

We can provide glorious templates, but they manage to screw them up

Ah – so familiar situation 😉

MIMA – Content Strategy

Wow!  Before I could thin about typing my notes, the presentation and the video was already posted!  The event was as great as usually, and it was a pleasure to hear from a friend that I lured to attend how much she liked the event.

Kristina Halvorson impressed my friend (and probably everybody else) with wonderful information and exceptional delivery.

Points from the event:

  • In most cases, brands are now evaluated for their “usefulness” rather than “preferability.” Brands are expected to be functional.
  • Offline: passive engagement (we hope to capture attention)
  • Online: people are active (getting attention is not enough) ; the brand must be
    • Useful
    • Usable
    • Enjoyable
  • Content strategy plans for creation for useful, usable content
  • Content should “support” for business goals and needs of the user

Example: Ford Models


Web content allows the modeling agency to create a new successful business model – the agency uses beauty tips and other beneficial for the target audience material to attract attention (and sponsors) to its videos. The agency is keeping careful balance of authenticity of the advice and product promotion.

Business case study –  Ford Models YouTube Channel

 Web content is different from the print – it is permanent and requires maintenance; the company needs to

  • Plan
  • Create
  • Publish
  • Govern 




Example: Money management software



Example of content not as useful form the user standpoint (I would simply call it product centric this malady does not affect online content only… 🙂 )




pic-mintExample of content that is more beneficial from the user’s standpoint (I would simply call it customer-centric approach – but marketing was struggling with it for a long time not only in the area of web content)

Brands are looking for functionality and usability that can bring measurable results online.

From the questions:

  • people do read online after they finished scanning
  • newspapers are dying because we are going online to read
  • however, we need to support pre-read activities

An exercise to “put the stakeholder into user’s shoes” – offer the stakeholders to “shop” for  car insurance online (for example).  Start with the list of questions that they would like to answer, then visit several sites trying to answer these questions…  The exercise should help stakeholders to view their site from the point of view of the users.

MIMA – Web Content

bookI was fortunate to attend a presentation of Ginny Redish, author of the best-selling Letting Go of the Words – Writing Web Content that Works. I definitely plan to read the book!

The focus of the presentation was not usual perspective of SEO copy writing, but web content in general as a method of achieving business objectives. SEO is definitely important, but what actually “happens” when the user is found the web site…

Interesting points from the presentation:

Consider yourself a user and a web site as a “web story.”  Start with the goal: why the user wants to visit the web site?

The purpose of the content:

  • solve the problem
  • accomplish the task

Usability definition (which was created 30 years ago and still relevant – human beings have not changed):
The content useful if:

  • users can find what they need
  • users can understand what they found
  • users can act appropriately on their find
  • users believe that all the time and energy spent is worth the effort

Use of the web site is a conversation – use personas!

If you are not the newspaper – don’t focus on the news (particularly on the home page…)

Web is different from print. Who starts the conversation on the web site?  The user.

People don’t read the copy

  • people focus on what they need
  • people read just enough to satisfy their goals

Average time spent on the home page: 25 – 35 seconds
Site where people find something: about 4 minutes
Site which people abandon: about 2 minutes

Don’t hog the conversation – respect people’s time. It will increase the conversion rate.

Changing paragraphs to bullets generally increase the conversion rate.

Research in AARP: current generation of older people do read content on the web because they feel obligated to do so, not because they want to do it.

Web site must connect in the language the site visitors bring to the conversation.

A usual mistake in creation of a headline – using the internal language of the document that would not normally be available to anybody except people who expect it. For example: Roadmap for performance-based navigation. Very unclear what it could be…

Better headlines:
– How much do Americans pay for fruits and vegetables?
– How many fruits and vegetables do you need?

A marketer should think: How do I get my brand messages across through answering questions my users are asking? The users are starting the conversation.

First: answer the user’s questions; then market… This is the approach that is different from print.

Questions to ask before creating a web site:

  • What are my business goals?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What are the conversations my target audience wants to start?

However… find the marketing moment when the site visitor is ready.

Book sites are good example of utilizing marketing moments: first – they answer the most important questions (shipping time, price), and then book sites attempt an upsell by displaying other books the shopper might want. This works similar to the customer service – answering the question first and trying to upsell after answering the question.

Don’t miss the marketing moments by forgetting calls to action!

Best practices of writing copy:

  • main point first
  • set context
  • talk to your visitor
  • break info in chunks
  • respect visitor’s time
    • short paragraphs
    • short sentences
    • fragments, lists
  • all best practices came from linguists (working with conversations)

People skim and scan; if the section is broken into smaller chunks – more will be read.

Blind people also “skim” by reading only headings first; use <h> tag for headings rather than class.

Every web site needs a content strategy

  • Is your content planned?
  • Is it coordinated?
  • What does content needs to achieve?
  • What are the needs for the future?
  • Do you have a marketing plan?

Focus on content – think CONVERSATION.