Author Archives: louise

About louise

London based user experience consultant

Heuristic evaluation – a starting point

heuristic evaluation - louise ventris [usability, homepage, navigation, forms, feedback, search, content and trust]

Heuristic evaluation is often a good starting point on the outset of a new project and especially when you’ve got little data or research to work from. It’s also a great way of quickly getting familiar with a product, service or site

There are a number of ways to run a heuristic evaluation – ideally I like to work with a standard framework, which I will vary depending on the platform or device.

If you’re in a position to enlist others to help it can give a more balanced view of the product and it’s also a great way to bring the team together to consider the project.

I’ve pulled together a google sheet as a Heuristic evaluation framework which covers items I like to check in each of the following area.


  • Is the purpose of the site immediately obvious
  • Are the main user tasks easily reached from the homepage


  • Can the user read the text easily [contrast, size of font]


  • Is the site navigation simple to use [consistent and standard position]
  • User can easily locate where they are with in a site


  • Is the content easily readable up to date and accurate
  • It is easy for a customer to cancel a purchase, service etc


  • Does the content uses plain english [jargon free and appropriate for the audience]
  • Is content easily readable [well labelled and chunked]


  • Are search results well presented and provide accurate ranking
  • Are search results relevant to the device [not linked to a desktop site from a mobile search]


  • Forms are broken down in to clearly understood sections

User testing approach and the customer buying process

I’ve been working on the testing plan for a large personal finance company.

The aim of testing is to understand customer behaviour during the purchase process and how we can help motivate customers through the journey. The purchase journey can be broken into a number of stages.
Recognition of a problem or a need
Product Search
Product Evaluation
Expectation and use

As part of the customer research I’m using an online survey to gather customer requirements at key stages in the process. A secondary aim is to understand what devices customers are using and how they use devices differently. This should help inform the longer term strategic development of the site.

As well as the online questionnaire I’m running some face to face user testing. This consists of in depth customer interviews which inform the affinity or a behaviour model. [We can then assign features and functionally to ensure that customer needs are support by the product. ]

Usability testing the current web and responsive offer will highlight what is working and what’s not working so well.

Running the two sessions will give good insight into the strategic development of the product whilst also help make immediate improvements to the product.

The soft sell

I went to a direct selling evening that was hosted by one of the parents from my children’s school.

It was an interesting evening and we were lucky to have an expert sales woman presenting the evening. My intention was to stick to a budget and I was surprised that I ended up more than doubling this figure. I don’t want to go into the details of the business but I’d like to explore a number of the techniques that were very successfully demonstrated through out the evening.

Even before the evening had begun there was a sense of how nice it was to have been invited to this event.

All guest were offered wine and a simple meal was prepared, cooked and shared. Giving people a small gift often comes with the feeling of being slightly indebted, inspiring the need to reciprocate. Often if you give people a small gift and then ask them to do something they feel obliged to say yes.

Personal recommendations

Most of the people in the group were encouraged to talk about items that they’d bought previously and how successful they were. This form of personal recommendation is very powerful; when people recommend a product it validates the product and encourages other people to ‘like’ the products. We also like to be consistent, if you’ve said you believe in a product, chances are you’ll want to be consistent with your belief and continue to interact with the business or product.

Our consultant had a great sense of humour and through out the evening she had us in fits of giggles. Laughter is a fantastic way of getting people to trust you, like you and ideally want to buy from you.

Story telling
Our rep told stories from her experience. This worked successfully in a couple of ways. Firstly telling stories can be a great way of engaging people and getting people to listen. She talked about her experiences, highlighted the similarities between herself and her audience. By aligning herself to her audience she encouraged us to trust her and identify with her.

Story telling can be a great selling tool; People are more likely to listen, engage and take on board what is being said when stories are used to sell the benefits of a product.

Celebrity endorsement
There was also a good smattering of celebrity endorsement, ‘so and so also has this item’ and a little of ‘Did you see x on her TV show, she used these through out’.

Good cause
The company supports a well-known charity and agreed to dedicate a percentage of its profits from that month to this charity. This had the added benefit of making customers feel even better about their purchase.

Hard sell
Most people move away from hard selling techniques as we’re more seduced by the soft sell. Hard selling moments through out the evening were rare. However our consultant didn’t miss an opportunity to push home a sale and there were a couple of moments in the evening when she seized the opportunity and casually asked, ‘Shall I add one of those to your order’?

All in all it was a brilliant evening, very entertaining and engaging and it was fascinating to witness first hand some great selling techniques.

Integrating key customer transactions with the Council’s CRM was never going to be straightforward

The transactions we’re looking at include reporting a missed collection, requesting a bulky item and requesting a bin, bag or box. Customers can already achieve these tasks online but the back end processes are clunky. The forms don’t gather enough information which often resulting in additional calls. They are sent to a Customer First Representative who inputs the data to generate the service request.

The user experience of the forms has to be simple and straight forward and fully controlled. Customer will be directed through a managed process with no risk of them getting it wrong. This could quite easily result it an increase in Service Requests rather than a decrease in Customer Contact.

Council the public and health

Socitm and NHM Choices Event 21st March, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester.

One of the key themes from today’s event was exploring the relationship between Health and Councils.
According to Socitm – a quarter of residents think that Councils provide services such as hospitals, dentists and healthcare. A significant number of residents come to Council websites looking for information on health. This is estimated at 3% out of those 3% – 50% don’t find what they’re looking for. Local authority healthcare reforms are likely to add to the confusion and drive increases in unavoidable contact.

Each year councils receive over 72,000 calls relating to Health. Resulting in unhappy customers who are not finding the information they need, and impacting costs to councils.

The top 5 health related searches
• Contact information
• Jobs and training
• Adult social services
• Carers and care packages
• Disability [support and advice]

The top 3 recommendations were pretty common sense.

• Eliminate jargon – ensure that plain language is used throughout the site.
• Create well designed, accessible forms.
• Use all opportunities to promote online – the example given was library cards – having the web address.

Hampshire Council was put forward as an example of good practice

NHS Choices offer a range of packages available for syndication, including
Find Services, Carers Direct, Behind the headlines, Live Well, Health a-z conditions, Planners, Comments and Interactive tools.

NHS Choices syndication

Dr Alan Goodman – Met office – correlation between weather and Health – again met office offer a range of widgets

Better Connected – Martin Greenwood – SOCITM

Three main strands

• Think customer
• Be obsessed with top tasks
• Go Mobile

Two other points that were touched upon were the use of Social media and Hugh Flouch’s research on

Online Neighbourhood Networks

    Interesting observation from the morning

Liverpool have reduced their site from 4500 pages to 400 pages and strongly argue that devolved content management doesn’t work. That have actively removed all content from the site that isn’t relevant to their customers.

Calderdale and the Social Care and Wellbeing Hub

Calderdale Council have just launch the Social Care and Wellbeing Hub. The site was developed in conjunction with the Web team, ICT and Social Care. The finished product is all about helping local people find information on health and social care services and products.

Social Care and Wellbeing Hub

The Hub offers two main functions – a directory of services and an events register.

Service providers are able to add information about their own services and products. It gives information about private businesses and voluntary and community groups as well as the Council and the NHS.

The events registers stores information about relevant events in and around Calderdale. The themes the the Hub covers are:
Advice and advocacy, Education, training and work, Health and wellbeing, Help at home, Money matters, Neighbourhood and community, Sports and leisure, Staying safe, Travel and transport, Your home.