Marianne Sweeny is a Search Information Architect: a user experience professional with deep experience in search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategy. She is passionate about dissolving the silos between information architecture, content strategy and Web development to create a more unified approach to solving user needs for an optimal user experience.
IA Summit 2015 Main Conference Talk
Topic(s): algorithms, design thinking, and SEO
Cross discipline collaboration benefits from group think, a consolidation of soft system methodology and user focused design that all starts with design thinking that sees clients, designers, developers and information architects working together to address user problems and needs. As with any great adventure, design thinking starts with exploration and discovery.
In this session, we will examine the high level tenants of system thinking, expand the scope of user thinking to include tools and devices that users employ to find out designs and delve into the specifics of design thinking, its methods and outcomes. A Discovery Session framework will be presented along with a case study where these methods have been applied.
Marianne Sweeny: Hello. How are you? Thank you for coming. I’m very happy to have you here to talk about group think. As I said, it’s not the 1984 kind, it’s the “how do I make it better for everyone involved in the project and the users at the end” kind. That’s what I’m here to talk about.
If you want to know what you missed in the news. Bruce Jenner is, yes, now, coming out as a woman. The real baby has not been born yet, and there was a young woman who survived for two weeks on wilderness on Girl Scout Cookies.
Marianne: So, let’s talk about group think. I always have an agenda, because it keeps me grounded that I’m trying to cover all of the spaces here. This talk was generated, out of a dinner that I had with Jim [inaudible 00:49] last year at this time.
He brought up the concept of design thinking. I was fascinated by that and started drilling into it. I said to myself, “Why aren’t we all doing this? Why aren’t we all approaching projects this way?” It makes so much more sense, and there is so much pure ambushes along the way.
I decided that I would tie it to my other two favorite topics, which are “user thinking,” and “system thinking.” Together, we’re going to come to a process called “group think.” Group think is a project kick off, or discovery process that will help you deliver better projects more easily.
And with the better impact on your users. That’s why I’m here. My name is Marianne Sweeney, and I referred to myself as a search information architect for the last 10 years. I’ve been in information architecture for 17.
I went back to school, and as a result of that I discovered that there’s a direct intersection between search engine technology, and information architecture. That, information retrieval search engine technology has been using information architecture as a key driver behind document relevance.
Did you know that? That’s why I’m here, because I want you all to know it. People are better than machines. Always, always, always. Let’s look at the landscape where that exist. It starts out with context that Google as you know came out with page rank.
It was very revolutionary because it was the first time that there was human mediation with regard to how documents were presented as being relevant. The problem with it was even though the mainstay of presentation of results was page rank.
Which was how many links you have pointing to you, the system was inherently flawed. Only people who knew how to create a link could vote. It was like the United States. In the mid-18th century where only white land owners, males, could vote. Not exactly fair, but better than they had under the King.
Google comes out with PageRank. The SEO community is all over reverse engineering that. Google says, “Well, this isn’t working for us.” They deployed technology that enabled them to institute, not the number of the links, but the idea of an expert linking to you.
The fact that one of you would say that, “I’m a good information architect,” should mean more to somebody who is looking for an information architect than, say, if my mom said it. That was the concept in 2002. It helped a lot. Then the SEO community reverse engineered that.
The search engine said, “We’re going to get you.” You’re getting the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner thing going on here, I hope. They said, “We’re going to introduce topicality.” They combined a bunch of algorithms and created the ability to organize the Web according to the 16 top level categories in [inaudible 04:10] .
Not only did you have to be referenced by an expert, but you had to be referenced by an expert that was about the same thing that you are. It was a great leap forward. Content strategists, boo-yah. Then the real rubber hits the road in 2010.
When Google literally transforms how the Web is indexed and how vast the repository is that they have now. It used to be that the Web would be crawled once a month and, at the end of the month, it was the Google dance where they would recalculate PageRank.
Results would go up and down, up and down, and up and down. But with the introduction of Caffeine, Mayday, and all that, what Google started doing is they distributed how things were indexed. Now, they have centers all over the world and they send out the indexers.
The indexers come back with the information. The information is then rolled up into the segmented index, which went it’s full is brought into the main index. This is cataclysmic and important. The reason is because in 1997 we had a 15 million page Web.
We now have a multi-trillion page Web because for every set of running shoes that Nike has on their website, they have multiple pages for color, size, and whatever.
The ability for your clients to have their information found and have it be matched with a contextually relevant query, those were two seminal points. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Marianne, why are you telling about all of this?”
Because, in 2012, Google became so annoyed with the search community that they said, “We are going to…” I don’t want to say dispense with page rank because that gets me in trouble with the SEO traditionalists, the Tea Party people of the SEO.
But what they’ve done is page rank now encompasses like 200 signals, and Google is boosting and reducing and all of that. In 2010, they came up with Panda update. Originally, Panda was thought to be about content, but it was really about so much more.
Because Google said, with this algorithm update, that they had found a way to metrically measure the quality of an experience. I’m going to repeat that. They have metrics that they use to determine whether or not customers have a positive experience on your website.
Whenever I see this slide, I want to burst into flames because it says, “This site appears to contain a significant percentage of low quality or shallow pages.” This is all deemed by the system itself. Then we come with Hummingbird in 2014. This is really a step towards what I call paternalistic sentience.
With this update what Google does is, they take the customer’s query, and they revise it and submit it not just to their main index but they submit it to what they call a synonym engine. If it passes a certain threshold, they then toss in what they consider to be synonymous queries, and they present results for both.
You may know that there was this big brouhaha ages ago about they took away keyword data from Google Analytics. The reason they did I speculate is because you don’t know what your ranking for. You could be ranking for the synonym or you could be ranking for the actual query.
How did the SEO community respond? They all go out on the ledge. They can’t figure it out because the tactics, the tricks that they’ve been using, are no longer working. They’re degrading ineffectiveness, and that was Google’s exact plan. How do we react? Blissfully unaware.
Marianne: We really don’t want to hear it. We’re like, the SEO people, those are the guys that come in and make us put in heading tags and all of that. Google was delighted because they had found a way to stop having their system disjointed, and now they can decide when and where and who gets what.
This is where user thinking comes in. This is the landscape that we’re dealing with, and I am enlisting you in my jihad so that we can take back relevance to us, those who understand motivation, behavior, architecture, and systems.
The core values or the core drivers, theories behind what we do, at least from my perspective, are sense-making. Those of us who have gone to school, those of you who have been bored by us who have gone to school, this was developed by Brenda Durban.
She says that sense and awareness is incremental. It builds as you go along and that you encounter these gaps in your ability to understand and operate, and information is what allows you to get past that gap until you formulate a complete picture.
I also want to say that I’ve posted this slide deck to the SlideShare, and it has a lot of notes in here. Like when I cite someone or a document, you’ll find a reference in the slide notes. Those are available to you.
Marcia Bates, who’s also my hero, says that while users no longer “surf” through, we don’t whittle our days away, there is sense of berry-picking, that we will deviate or we will expand our interest in information points and then go back to what we were originally looking for, either within that search section or after.
This is what promotes my mantra whenever I’m working on a project, and that is there should be no dead ends on any page, that there should always be a next step, somewhere else for them to go, either where you want them to go or what would relate to being a next step in the journey that they are on.
Don’t count on them to find that. There were the good old days when we browsed. Unfortunately those days are gone. We are not browsing anymore. Most of our searches are very targeted. Which is not to say that Marcia Bates’ theory of berry-picking…
You can’t tantalize them with something that they may not have known that they wanted to know. I found this yesterday in an article that was published in 2014 in the “Content Strategy Forum.” But it brings up a good point and it’s a point that I was not able to articulate as well.
When I speak at IA and UX conferences I sense that there’s this sense of “Why do I have to really care about SEO?” Or where it occurs in the search results or any of that? I am telling you that from a selfish point of view, the reason we need to care is they have to find your experience to experience it.
The number one tool that they are using to find it is a search engine. If you look at any of your client analytics you are going to find that very near if not well over 50 percent of their traffic is coming from search engines and they are not going to the home page.
What has all this given us? Well, it’s given us some searchers who are exhibiting a great deal of difficulty in finding what they want and discerning what the right answer is, whether it’s conflicting information or overwhelmed by the amount of information or missing information.
It doesn’t get better from here, because as our technology has gotten smarter, we have gotten dumber. Those of you who have watched “The Twilight Zone” know that this is the road to perdition for all of us and that it’s not a book about helping us. It’s a cookbook to serve in. It keeps getting worse.
Because the lack of orientation that they find in the search results they carry to our websites. They’re not really interested in using the systems that we have set up. Because the locus of attention is in that center pane, where they land on the page. They tend to look at that page.
I don’t want to bash Google too much. They have been doing some user research. This is a study that is important for all of us. The study is entitled “Visual Complexity and Prototypicality.” What visual complexity means, and it’s represented by these graphs from Google, is that big pictures are less pretty.
Customers don’t like big pictures. It takes them too long cognitively to figure out, deconstruct the message that you’re giving them from the big picture. They like a little text to go with that. Text is what helps them understand whether they’re in the right place.
If you’re too creative, if you depart too far from their mental model of what they expect, they don’t like that either. They deemed your site to be less attractive. What happens when we are faced with an unattractive information medium?
That’s familiar. We really don’t engage with it whatsoever, that big picture that’s not really helping me find what I want. These are all actual screen captures, heat map screen captures from clients in the last agency where I worked. Clients want the big picture. The users don’t.
Not only that, but they create their own paths or they ignore what you set up. “Conforming and perpetuating the current model causes knowledge to ossify rather than to move forward.” That’s from Roger Martin, who wrote a great book called “Designing for Business.”
What we have are these systems that we’ve set up that the customer is not using. They’re creating their own systems and very often their system is a search system that we do not understand intentionally, because the search engines obscure the methodology behind it.
System thinking is something that I’ve been in love with for quite some time. What’s fascinating about it is it was developed in the ’60s by a software engineer who realized that he was developing software that users weren’t using.
He created a methodology that said “We need to find a way to re-engage with the users.” The reason that they did this, carried through to this day, is that engineers think differently than users do. Engineers think that we’re predictable and that our behavior is consistent, we’re methodical.
And that we have these very small actions and that’s because that’s the world they live in. That’s how machines would operate. But as we can see, we’re not machines. Marcia Bates and Brenda Durvin tell us that we figure it out as we go along.
When we submit a query the search engine goes “Great, that’s what you wanted to know.” But we’re at the other end going, “No, I think that wasn’t right.” We have system thinking, which is very linear and object-oriented. Object-oriented is you encapsulate something so you can use it over and over again.
The user is often seen as a sub-process of the overarching process. Outside of “Star Trek,” we’re different. We behave differently. No wonder the idea of developing software and letting it ride wasn’t working at all. Then we get into the differentiation of human processing versus system processing.
Systematic versus chaotic. Global versus objective. Passive versus active. What we have is soft system methodology that was built to solve this problem. Believe me, how many of us have been on a project where they’ve already started coding?
It’s like, “We’ve got to get going.” Some people call it agile. I call it crazy.
Marianne: Soft system methodology was developed with the idea that you start a project not just with the kick-off meeting, but that you start it with the stakeholders and the developers and the information architects and the designers and the content strategists.
Everybody is in the same room and they have a very specific methodology of trying to figure out what it is that we are doing, what is going to change, what will the change look like, who will own that? In the end, how will we make it better, and that it’s an ongoing process.
That’s the important thing, is that it’s not just linear to an end that it keeps on going. There’s a cycle of discussion and learning that goes on. This was the ’60s version of Agile or Lean. It’s still with us. It’s been with us for a while.
There’s been a lot of renewed interest in system thinking. Here’s the soft system methodology pneumonic. CATWO, which is the customers that’s who we’re doing it for. The actors, that’s who’s doing it. The transformation literally, do we ever think about what is going to transform?
Not the beginning or the end, but that process of change. The worldviews from the stakeholders, from your users, and from your colleagues that are working on it. What do they see? What do they think? Then how is that going to impact the project?
Most importantly, the owner. I’ve been telling people at the conference this time that when I worked at an agency called Dissentium, if we had a Microsoft project, we’d mark up the bid by 10 percent because, inevitably, there was somebody who came out of the woodwork on some rework.
And all of sudden you had a new owner of the project, and you had to redo a bunch of work that wasn’t in the scope. Then, obviously, the environmental influences. Another project I worked on, we found out two months in, three months in that they were upgrading to SharePoint 2010.
That’s important to me, and three months in is too late to understand and know that. So what we want to do is build a consensus model. We want to get everybody in the room working together. Then we want to work together to express the issues.
More than the problem, we want to incorporate these alternate views and address them early on. We want to impact and create scenarios that will help as a group in formulating this shared worldview, and we want a specific organizational process.
From that, we form the conceptual model which then everyone can refer to and know that they were part of. It’s not just what we imagine it to be. It must work within the confines of the system, and there are many systems that our clients have now. There’s ERP. There’s CRM.
There’s the content management system. All of those have to be part of the mix, and you as designers and information architects have to understand how they work and, more importantly, how they’re going to impact your work.
Then we want to execute. It reminds of when I was in college. I had a test. I took a class on the Renaissance, and the midterm was, “Describe the Renaissance. Use the entire bluebook if necessary.” So here we have the tip of the iceberg, and I understand that.
But, in the end, what you have created as a result of soft system methodology will help you in one word create the outcome that you want. Here’s a bad Visio drawing of it which I own, but it represents the continuum that we go on through a project.
Again, if you call it agile or lean or whatever, it is imperative in terms of maintaining your sanity during today’s fast moving project cycle. Tim Brown, who is the influential thought leader at IDEO, a chairperson, said, “Design must match to what is technically feasible.”
Thinking about your projects with a soft system approach will ensure that you do that, that you stay within the bounds of what technically feasible because the two words that you do not want to hear, that will make your blood run cold, are custom dev. “Oh, we can do that. It’ll take some custom dev.”
Custom development is death because eventually that guy leaves or girl and if they didn’t annotate their code, you’re hosed. Tim Brown wrote a book called “Business by Designer.” I can’t remember. I have it in the notes. This was sketch note he did instead of an index for his book. I love this.
He said that design thinking is an intersection of an analytic mastery and what I call magical thinking. I would add to that that you add stakeholder, investment, and commitment. Very often we treat our stakeholders as these passive Medicis that are up in their palace waiting for us to finish painting the Sistine Chapel.
What we want is for them to have a more direct involvement into the development of what the design is going to be because when they do, they’re commitment is much stronger to the outcome. As Roger Martin said, a design thinker is someone who is a first class noticer. I want us all to be first class noticers.
The most important thing about it is that it departs wholly from deductive reasoning. That’s not to say you don’t have deductive reasoning, but deductive reasoning is no longer the primary and complete driving force behind the project. For me, deductive reasoning is top-down logic.
And it insists on a verifiable conclusion or outcome. I find it fascinating because when Google was launched in 1999, there was no support for that paradigm. There was nothing that would indicate that a white screen with a single box would work as a search tool.
Everything that existed then was like noise, noise, noise. They had facets and folders and things on the back and all sorts of links, and it was a mess. The Google today would not release that product because they insist on data-driven design, and there would have been no data to support that design.
That to me is why we need to incorporate abductive reasoning into our design process. I’m not saying that metrics or analytics are bad. They’re very good and I’m going to recommend some that you look at.
Every design project at IDEO does not start with framing the problem. It starts with the question, “How might we?” They posted an article on their blog that was very moving, and it was about how might we redesign the hospice process.
Not that the hospice process is broken, not that we’re losing people, not their conversions are off, it’s all about how might we make it better. The tenets of design thinking are represented here, and we’ve talked about abductive reasoning. Then what we do is we want to not exclude any idea.
But we do want to build on the good ones and make sure that we’ve scoped it to a finite set of problems that we can solve at some point along the way and post that to the roadmap but also that we allow some form of experimentation.
As IDEO says, there’s nothing wrong with failure as long as it comes early in the process. I find that to be very reassuring because we learn most from our failures than from our successes. And collaborate is that we use silver buckshot instead of a silver bullet, that when you look for a silver bullet.
You limit your scope to that one prime solution. But in the end, with design thinking, you accept the fact that there may be partial solutions that can be combined or there may be many small solutions that lead up to the outcome that we want. These are some familiar tools with us.
We talk a lot about joining across discipline, and I presented on it a number of times. But in the end, we never really seem to engage with that. Part of the problem that I ran into, and this is a process that I designed at my last job, which was an agency, is the agency’s always say, “I can’t sell that.”
I’m sitting there going, “Wow, you know, the last five projects that we did, our margin went down to three percent because we ran into so many cycles and land mines and bombs. How come you can’t sell it? Then you should incorporate it into your fee because it’s going to save you money in the end.”
Secondarily, when you meet resistance about having a four or an eight-hour discovery session, I will tell you two of the most successful agencies in our world, frog and IDEO, subscribe to this process, so it seems to be working for them, and it can work for all of us, and I want it to.
Create stories to share ideas. This is something that I don’t do enough, and i wish I could because when you explain why, it makes more sense. Not just saying, “I am telling you,” but put it in a context.
We’ve heard a lot about context at this conference. The example that they used was there was a company that had designed a water jug to help sub-Sahara African women transport water from this communal well to their homes, and they couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being used.
The reason it wasn’t being used is it was a five gallon jug, and when they filled it up, it was too heavy to carry. That makes sense! There’s the story, and I understand. Now how might we make that better? These are the three spaces of design thinking. Let’s look at them in turn.
With inspiration, this is not the RFP, and it’s certainly not the Statement of Work. It is a well-constricted preliminary creative brief that accommodates serendipity, unpredictability, and the whims of fate. Those all are part of pretty much every project that we come up to.
And they should. Then, finally, the implementation. We know that this is very iterative. I had to go through my slide deck and make all sorts of changes because everyone else all conference has been talking about all the stuff I wanted to talk about.
Remember the soft system methodology here, and that is we always want to, when we are in the implementation, look at what’s being acted upon, how is it changing, by whom, and what does the transformed state look like.
What we need to go is from this, which is how often projects end up… “I don’t want to talk to the SEOs because they’re the ones that come in and tell me to change my headline and whatever,” and then you have the SEO guys who are like, “Don’t make me go talk to the UX people.
They go on and on or they look at me like I’m crazy.” We have to get away from this internecine warfare that’s driven by anger as a result of on the spot changes that were misinterpreted by those not involved in the change decision.
I’ve had that happen to me where I’ve done design wireframes, and then I look at the design, and I’m like, “I didn’t barf this stuff into Visio. Everything that I did was there for a reason, and if you had come to me, I would have told you what the reason is. Now we have to work around the reason.”
We want to go to this. We want to respect their work and the method to their madness, and what we want is for them to respect ours because the users have to find our experience to experience.
In the world that we live in, there are a lot of uncontrolled systems with omnipresent contingent influences of some kind. It’s not the world we study or test or design for ourselves, but it’s the world our users live in because we’re all user professionals now.
We’re all user experience professionals, the Devs, the content strategists, the project managers, the IAs, all of us. It’s time for us to get together and do something about it together. That’s what I want. That’s the purpose of this, and that’s what I mean when I say groupthink.
So let’s start doing some groupthink. What I want us to do is I want us to discover what the client is, what their worldview is, what their expectations and their cultural biases are.
Every time I start a project, I always ask the client, usually in the kick-off meeting, “So what are the sacred cows?” They go, “Oh, we have none.” I’m like, “Oh, really? I’m thinking you do.” We want to surface the interacting systems. We want to define the user purpose and activity for everyone.
For the dabs and for the designers. We want to iterate the engagement. We want to shift the thinking, from the operating for technology, to operating for people. I come from a family of doctors. I can’t even read my handwriting on that one. What do we discover?
Where are the sacred cows? We uncover the hidden stakeholder. We reveal what they are using now, and how those various interlocking systems. We also reveal what they expect from it. Most of the users, most of the companies that are using SharePoint bought it.
Because they have a wicked search problem. Yet when SharePoint is deployed, search is not fixed, which is surprising to me. I was always like, “What?” Because eventually then they go, “Well, this doesn’t work.” Because what they got is out of the box search. What do they do?
They go by the Google Search Appliance. It is remarkable. It is remarkable how many SharePoint companies are running the GSA on top of SharePoint. Unbelievable. Then, we want to define the activities and the problems that we’re solving.
Has anyone else here gone into an elevator with no buttons? Have you seen that? OK. So fascinating, to me. I had an experience in Seattle. You go up, and they have the elevator bangs, one through 10, 10 through 20, or whatever. You go, and there are no elevator buttons.
Then, you go back out. You see that there’s a touchpad. You’re supposed to touch the floor that you want to go to. The touchpad tells you what elevator to go to. It doesn’t tell you where the name of the elevator is. You got to figure that out.
If you’re me, you got to figure it out in one or two trips back and forth between the touchpad and the elevators.
Then, you get in the elevator, and will be to ye! If you change your mind, because there are no buttons in the elevator. You go to the floor, that you have been designated to go to. I ask you this. It’s not a rhetorical question. What problem were they solving?
Marianne: They like to fly mental models? Oh my God. We need to shift. We need to stop designing for the technology. Marianne, what do you mean by that? I’m going to tell you. This is Microsoft in 2000. The Web had started. Navigation was dominant. Look at that navigation at the top.
Isn’t that great? It’s a text-based Web. People were reading at that time, because they were on 56K, was screaming fast. All of these rendered quickly. Then, we go to 2001. They’ve discovered the right rail that’s a little more designed.
There’s an actual picture then and now, because technology’s getting faster than more slow. 2004 is when broadband really hit the road. What you have now is the big honking picture that makes that splash. It doesn’t look pretty. We still got all the text links down there.
Remember this is when we hit contextual text links. Then, we get into, now they understand links and PageRank. That’s the actual home page, three screens. Let me give it to you again. There you go. That’s the home page. More links, and more links.
Did they honestly think somebody was going to navigate that? I guess they did. It wasn’t about you and me. It was about ranking and the search results. Here we have Microsoft 2015. Isn’t that great? Am I the only one that read that thing by Google about visual complexity?
That’s right, because Google doesn’t share their research broadly anymore. Who’s going to figure out that stuff down there? What’s the home page for? It’s like wallpaper. We are not blameless here. WordPress site, after WordPress site, after WordPress site, after WordPress site.
What’s that for? We’re designing for WordPress, because it’s easy. It doesn’t matter if they’re using it. You saw the heat maps. Half of those were WordPress. What problem are we solving?
Marianne: Iterate. We need to iterate throughout the engagement. The way we start is, we iterate off of the old school discovery project. I was kidding with John Coleman earlier about going to 90 slides and having a picture of my dog in there. This was my dog, Shady. She’s no longer with me.
She did like cookies, though. We need a new world discovery project. We need to have a four or an eight-hour session that is dedicated to exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last few hours. I’m going to lay it out for you. I hope that you download this stack.
It makes it so much easier on the project that I used it for, which by the way I can’t present as a case study, because I have since left the company in a blood wedding that happened at the end of January. The project hasn’t launched yet.
We have to get altogether on the same page on a journey, to get on the same page. I believe in my bones. I know that it works, that this is the way to do it. You need a business model review. Theirs, not yours. It has to happen in the room with them, so they can make it happen.
If there’s time, you can do a SWOT, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities. I don’t know what the T stands for.
Audience Member: Threats.
Marianne: Thank you. We need to do our own cat wall, client specific cat wall in the room. Who are your customers? Who does the work? What are the world views that you have? How can we consolidate with us? Out of that will come a road-map.
Not in the room, but later. This is my favorite slide, because it was an actual client of mine. We talked a lot about content. We talked a lot about content models. Clients don’t understand them. Show them this, and they will. At the top, what I did was, I went through and I crawled their site.
I got all of the pages listed, and I categorized them. Utility is like home page, footer, contact us, all of that. Then, the rest is their navigation. There are high level navigation categories. Then, I went into Google analytics. I tracked where the customers are going? Where do they spend their time?
The users. I got news for your client. Your press releases are really important to you. Your clients want more about why they should buy your product. I understand that you like the webinars. You think there is value there, but they’re not getting there from the navigation.
You have to associate the fracken webinar with the page in the product that helps them understand why they should buy it. It’s a very easy. It’s all in the slide. If not, I will send the link to the article that talks to you about how to do this.
It is in a view why you need a content audit and content curation. This should come up in the room. Who is going to own it? I’m not saying you should trim it back, but you definitely need to know where you should put content and possibly where you should not focus so much energy.
We need to agree on the UXIA model that talks about purpose and objectives, and determines the content, the target audience, and then defines the calls to action. I love the purity of IA and UX as much as you do. The clients that we work with need to pay us.
The way that they pay us is by having their websites earn money. It is incumbent on us, because of our knowledge of users and behavior, to help them establish metrics that will exhibit, that our work generates revenue. It could be engaged visitor. It could be “contact us.”
It could be your whatever. Otherwise, they’re going to be talking about ranking. Where am I ranking? Why am I not number 1? Not, whatever. We can’t use ranking anymore, because everyone in this room could do a search. You would likely get different results, because of personalization.
Ranking is dead. Conversion is it. We need to talk about conversions. We need to find conversions that demonstrate our work has value. The infrastructure model, which is incredibly important for us, to know again, what are the systems we’re working with? What is the workflow process?
What are the resources? Then, we look at the design model, the idea that they might have a style guide. They might have brand issues. They might have secret cows that we need to deal with. I want to go back here. This was an exercise that comes from the ideal toolbox. It was enormously successful.
You’ll find it on the Web. I like, I want, I wish. What I did was, I put the huge sticky notes with the big ones around the room. I had a section that said, “I want, I like, and I wish.” Then, we have little stickies. People spent 20 minutes, the clients and us, the agency, everyone involved.
What do we keep? What do we change? What do you like? What do you not want to go away, no matter what happens? Then, what was so valuable was the “I wish.” A direct example is, I can’t remember. It was some component that I put on the home page.
Where they said, “I wish we had a place on the home page, where we could talk about upcoming events.” Just random. There were a number of them that put that up there. I put it on the home page. The account manager came to me and said, “We’re going to take this out.”
I was able to point literally in the handwriting of the VP and say, “No.” It’s something that they want. It’s not part of any document that we’re looking at. It’s an articulated wish that we can fulfill. That will delight them. Here is another exercise that I did. What was equally is illuminating.
I did it with in-house at the agency that had the blood wedding. I used to do internal tradings about what are wire frames. I had everyone sketched their idealized home page. Granted there’s a lot to talk about how we shouldn’t go to the home page, and that’s fine. You can pick any page.
To have everyone in the room with pencils, and paper, and whatever, start drawing what they want, what they like, what they see. It becomes imminently clear, where the intersections are, when you have competing visuals. Why bother? This is falling water.
It’s one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous designs. It’s famous, because it was so structurally unsound. It started falling apart that immediately, when it was built. Cantilever is totally unsupported.
All the engineers that have gone in there have been like, “Yikes.” They went through this multimillion-dollar shoring up and all of these, which they have to hide, because it’s so beautiful. Beautiful that doesn’t work is vapid and annoying.
Marianne: If you walk away with one thing beautiful that doesn’t work is not what they paid for. It’s what we want them to want, but it’s not what they paid for. If we don’t do anything, then we’re like narrow. We’re watching Rome burn.
They’re going to change our designs. It’s not going to work, and there’s going to be a lot of unhappiness all around. We have an opportunity to go from this to this.
Marianne: I’m so mad that Boone got SpongeBob out on Twitter, before I was able to have this slide. This is really what I want. I want us all to be celebrating jobs well-done with clients that are delighted that have websites that are making money in a way that can be attributed to the work that we’ve done.
That’s the type of group thinking that I want us all to engage in. I hope that you do.
Audience Member: Thank you for the talk. That was wonderful.
Marianne: Thank you.
Audience Member: My question was something you said early on about user’s attention moving from the navigation to the center of the page, which is something that I’ve been talking about with absolutely zero research behind it. It’s something that I have been assuming is happening.
Can you talk a little bit more about the resources or the research, what you meant by that to make sure I understand correctly?
Marianne: The research, it can be found into that slide that I used that on. This is the problem, when you have 89 slides. You can see here that there is some quick attention up there. When we go from some of the others there, it does seem to be marginal interest in the navigation up there.
The theory behind this is from George Furnas shoot. If you type George Furnas, F-U-R-N-A-S. Let’s see if we can find it.
Audience Member: It looks like on this map. There is a lot piece on navigation, and not on the big pictures.
Marianne: Yeah. Here you go. Generalized fisheye views is the academic research behind it. That’s what he says. This is part of general standard information theory, where when people hit a page, they tend to look here.
And then they might move up and around, but they go back to the center page. The point he headed way is called the “locus of attention.”
I have the maps. I will show you on client sites, where nobody is like, “It’s all dark up there.” The one where it shows is with social. Everyone puts their social icons at the top. It’s dark up there. They’re not clicking up there. They’re clicking all around. What they’re not clicking on are the big pictures.
Audience Member: If they’re not clicking on the navigation, and they’re not clicking on the big pictures, where is the focus?
Marianne: They’re going back to the search engine. What happens is, they go to a search engine, and they come to your page. For the last three or four years, Google has been recommending that you put your Google Analytics code in the head component.
Because they’re not even waiting for the page to load. As it loads, they’re like, “I’m not seeing what I want here,” and they’re out. If you put it in the head component, you at least know that they visited, and you get a bounce rate of it.
That gets moved away to get the content load first, because they maintain that users want to see something that will tell them they’re in the right place. If they don’t see it, they quote “bounce back,” and select another search result.
What you failed is, you’ve failed the bounce rate and the click-through bounce rate conversion. For the search engine, a conversion is, did you solve their information need? If they come back and select another result, you failed. Does that answer your question?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Marianne: Good. Anyone else? Excellent. Thank you again.