Candour

Episode 26: SEO with UX expert Tom Haczewski

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What's in this episode?

Mark Williams-Cook speaks to UX expert Tom Haczewski about how digital marketers should start thinking about user experience. Tom goes into some of the things SMEs can do when starting out on the journey of improving their UX and why SEOs should not focus on the individual metrics that Google has named as ranking factors.

Show note links:

The User Story: https://www.theuserstory.com/

Transcription

MC: Welcome to Episode 26 of the Search with Candour podcast! Recorded on Friday 26th of September 2019. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today I have a special episode where I'm joined Tom Haczewski.

TH: Hello.

MC: And today we're going to be talking all about UX user experience.

Okay today, is a special episode as I said because Tom is actually the first external guests that we've had on the show before so welcome Tom and I've got to say a big thank you to Tom! Actually for two reasons so one, he's been kind enough to come in early before work to record this podcast; we normally do it in the afternoon when we've woken up and I know Tom was saying, like me, he's kind of a night owl so firstly thank you for that Tom.

TH: It's been a struggle it's only, it's only a quarter past eight but I feel like this is, this is just too early, it’s ridiculous.

MC: And secondly unbeknownst probably to everyone else, Tom did actually record episode -2 with me which was before really we got this podcast going and I knew what I wanted to do with it and Tom was kind enough to basically come in and talk to me for like a half an - hour an hour about UX stuff and I never published it because we weren't quite there with what we wanted to do

TH: Just read.

MC: So thank you for coming back again despite being burnt by me the first time around so

TH: It’s okay, it’s a pleasure.

MC: So the reason I've got Tom here today and I'll let you know more about him in a moment, is that UX user experience is a topic that over the last 12 months - 24 months has come more into the lexicon of people doing SEO as Google really has improved how its ranking sites by looking at the experience users are having. So specifically and I don’t know if you know about these things as well as Tom, specifically said we're looking at things like site speed, came up a few years ago or something, Google started talking about saying, hey this is an important thing people prefer shockingly web sites it LO quickly and then Google started saying that if your site works on a mobile phone ie its mobile-friendly, that's a thing we're going to include with search rankings and then we've had other things like HTTPs is a ranking factor and more recently, Google said they are going to penalise sites that you know, have those pop ups of sign up to our newsletter as soon as you land on the site, they take up a whole screen, they block all the content and that's something Google said that they're gonna penalise sites for. And all of these things really are reflecting the user experience and as SEOs it's a very cross discipline, I won't call it science, I'll call it an art maybe, I think science would be pushing it and we have to kind of turn our hand to various different specialisms and I do feel as an industry sometimes user experience is something we approach in a bit of a piecemeal fashion so it will be, we'll look at a site and we'll think, okay how fast is it, is it secure and oh no it's got a pop-up I should, I should get rid of that so we're tackling it from the tail end if you like, of user experience, rather than maybe going to the other side of the fence and say, okay start from the beginning how can we make this as as good as possible. Which is why you're here essentially, to tell us how we can approach that so your, your background - do you want to tell us a little bit about your background?

So at the moment, Tom is director of an agency. Is agency the right word?

TH: Yeah, the user story.

MC: The user story which is all about helping businesses make better decisions for their digital products. Yes, as a fairy tray!

TH: Yeah I think that says it in a nutshell. So, we kind of work in two main fields really so one would be quite large e-commerce or retail based site where there's a pretty clear path to actually try and accomplish a main thing; so you know you might be trying to you know get people to buy something online or fill out some sort of form and we help those companies to identify how users do that stuff and then do it better and make it easier for them which I guess in some ways you would call conversion rate optimisation - it’s that kind of thing, but actually it works much wider than that as well because it can come you know, you can start looking at things like application pathways and you can look at you know understanding product ranges and it goes much much wider than just commercial rate optimisation, that's one side.

And then the other half of what we do is actually product design; so we work with businesses that have some sort of like software-as-a-service application, so something where it's likely people are going to come back and keep using it every day. It's like, you know, some sort of online app and we help companies to build those. we're not developers, we are just designers and we're very much user centered researchers.

My background is a bit of a weird hybrid really. So before I did this, I helped to run a more traditional digital agency but then I also came from client side where, I think the role was it was kind of a UX role but it wasn't really called that because they didn't really exist, but it's a, it was a weird hybrid of development, design and research and I actually did run SEO for the for the company at the time.

MC: Really? I didn’t know.

TH: Yeah, back in the day!

MC: So this was the Eco marketing, analyst role you had?

TH: Yeah, yeah, back at Virgin Money Services. this is going way back, yeah I used to run SEO and also you know all sorts of different things there because the team was very very small, most companies at the time would have a really small team of people who did everything around digital which is quite lucky for people you know who work client-side at that time I think because you've gathered lots of knowledge about those different things which is very handy for a UX role as we’re about to find out.

MC: So is this how you well how did you end up then so you you said you worked in this very diverse e-comm marketing/ analyst role with all sorts of hats - a wardrobe of hats - and then you went to a more traditional agency where you're head of web and you kind of got involved in more development as well, is that right?

TH: Yeah, yeah. We were very kind of development focused and we were building some quite interesting campaigns and interesting websites for people. I think the reason I started the user story was because I realised that nobody really does it the way we do it and user centered design is still quite rare, particularly amongst SME businesses that sort of science business, it's still quite rare and even in product design when you're building a new product people don't seem to follow a user centered design process and so we're actually quite unique I think in some of the things we do, some of the research we do which isn't which is nice for us because it means we carved ourself a nice little market for ourselves really.

Yeah and it's it's one of those things that's a bit, I find it quite surprising that people don't do more research and more user centered design because it is so effective because you just have this, if you have this better relationship with your customers, you understand them better, you can just make things better for them, which makes things better for you and it's just it feels like we like to take some shortcuts and perhaps that's why that's not something that lots of people do.

MC: I believe in the industry they're called low-hanging fruit.

TH: Indeed.

MC: So let’s start with the basics. How would you define user experience? - because it's a term I think, I I think I know what it is but I've heard it used in many different ways, so if I said to you, look we some help with our UX, what does that mean to you?

TH: So we hear a lot of the time people say, can you help us by doing the UX on this thing or can you just do some do some UX to this or this is the UX bit of this websites kind of development. yeah that's not that's not how it works.

So user experience is exactly that - it is what the user experiences when they are doing something. so it could be what they see what they hear what they what they physically do. I guess the other part of that is also what they feel so part of the user experiences how you feel when you are engaging with business or with a website or some sort of experience. So it's a little bit of emotion and it's a little bit of you know the five senses but it's also can I actually do the things I need to do. So it's this thing that's presented to me, it's the way that I interface with this business or this service, is it effective? is it something that I feel I have control over? is it something I feel, you know, I actually understand? and I know what's available, what's not available, I know where the limitations of this thing are - so it's a really, really big sort of target actually, user experience, and it covers a lot of ground. Yeah I think in the industry that tends to be this, this really strange kind of way of looking at UX as just a part of the process and we see it as the whole process. When you're actually designing something, it should be something that you're considering throughout your entire development, design, SEO, PPC, advertising - whatever process. It should be what is this user going to experience when they are interacting with us.

MC: So we've mentioned user centered design before, as an approach to when we’re building something and I'm gonna steer this conversation in context at least towards web based stuff, rather than digital products. Is there, so I'm thinking about here SMEs looking at their site, thinking about their business and the user experience and thinking are there any ways they could start to be proactive about this without going back to the drawing board and pulling everything down and redesigning everything and what does that look like? So obviously you've got the approach of okay we're gonna redesign everything, let's start with this user centred approach which we'll talk more about in a minute, but if okay I'm invested in my website, my infrastructure, my stack and I'm up to my eyeballs in technical debt and I would like to improve things, is there a top-down way I can start?

TH: So that's a great question and it leads into something that we always tell our clients when they're about to throw everything out and rebuild, because that tends to be the way that most businesses work is they have a website for three years and they go it's really old now and we want a new one. Which is yeah, if it's a car that's fine, you've had it for a few years, you want to get a new one totally, that's fine.

The difference is you can't really upgrade your car when you've got your car, it's a car you've got it for three years and you're stuck with it. With a website you can actually improve it over time, in sort of little bits here and there. So we we actually never recommend unless you're doing something major to your site where architecture, you know if you're replatforming and you're moving, you know let's say from magento to shopify or something like that, unless you're doing that sort of work, there is no you need to completely throw everything out at all and we would never recommend it. The reason is actually that you're throwing all of your learnings away - you've built something and you should have learnt how that thing operates, you should have learned how users are actually interacting with it. You've got a huge opportunity to understand how users are interacting with your business and you're about to throw all of that away and then blindly create something brand new. So it's actually one of the worst things you can you can do really - sorry to all of the people that design and build websites for people for a living but that is the frank reality, that actually is that you will get a better result if you work with your agency to make incremental changes over time. You can still have a brand new website but it might take you a few months to get there because you're actually tweaking and changing over time. So it's actually much better to just start talking to people.

So the first thing we would want to do is do some research; have some interviews with people. I think the first thing that most people do is look at your quantitative data, so things like your Google Analytics and you know traffic based stuff, so they look at the big numbers and they want to see where people are coming in and they want to see if they can make those numbers grow. I think that's fine, but I think that one of the things that that limits actually is some of the context and it also makes you much more, it just makes you numbers focused, whereas actually if you're trying to improve the users experience you want to go out and talk to those people and see what they like and what they don't like about your service you want to watch them as they try and use it so that you can identify problems with it. So the first step is always getting out and talking to people.

MC: So that opens up quite a few interesting threads and I think anyone doing SEO listening will definitely be able to relate to the paradigm of someone saying, okay we've done the site now if you can just add the SEO on top, that’d be great. And ideally all these things happen as we're going through a process, in reality we know that doesn't always, that doesn't always happen.

One of the things I speak to a lot of clients about is the user experience from my point of view, starting at the search engine because when website redesigns are discussed, I find a lot of the conversation tends to start at the homepage and people are talking about user stories and personas and what's happening when they, when they land on the homepage and then when actually we do look at the analytics we'll find in in most cases, less than 50% of the traffic actually begins their journey on the home page because they've started their experience of, I want to find something out, I want to do something, they do a search which then brings them directly to the place on the site or the app where they can do that thing.

So I think it's always an interesting one because it's our job to make that first step and then try and get people to think, okay this is their first experience maybe of your brand and they're stepping in that floor number three so we need to make sure they know at this stage still who you are and they've got all those touch points and things they need to get them through the process. So when we look at sites from an SEO point of view and we do audits and things like that, there are common threads that appear. So there's things that I know are going to crop up regularly, is there anything like that, in terms of user experience, common things, when you are helping clients that regularly crop up that you can help them fix or improve?

TH: Yeah, there always are. So our process always stays the same, so we always do things in a sort of Double Diamond fashion - so the design counsel use something called the Double Diamond, which is their method for creating good design.

MC: So, talk a bit more about that first.

TH: Which is, well it's a method of essentially diverging and converging thinking, so the idea being that you go out and discover lots and lots of things and then you hone in your thinking that you can find one specific problem you want to solve and then you go out and look at lots of different solutions and you come back in to solve that solution in a specific way and you hone in your solution. so the actual way that you would do it doesn't change the things that we find always change. there are a couple of things that I would say we always tend to try and look at first, particularly in things like me tell in e-commerce.

First one is navigation, and that's not just about you know what your row of Link's looks like at the top it's about how people actually navigate through the site as a whole. So the first thing you want to look at is your primary now and make sure that people understand what the product range is, how if there is no search for example how would they actually go around and browse the website, can they find a specific product just by looking through your categories; if you've named your categories weird kind of internal product names, it's likely they're not going to be able to be found by someone who's never seen your product before. So you know keeping nice open clear language that everybody would understand is a really good approach.

We look at things like breadcrumbs, breadcrumbs and sidebar navigation and you know when you're in a site deep and you've entered that that sort of third level - that I still know where I am, I still know what my options are, I still know what else is available to me, what's my next step is always one that so many businesses miss - whether it's the homepage whether it's part of checkout flow or whether it's actually on a product page or a blog post. I still should know what my next step is when I've done the thing that I'm doing here, how do I get out, how do I do the next thing and I think it's likely actually, that this is probably quite important to SEOs as well because one of your focuses should be; how do I get people onto this site? Sure, but then when they're there, how do I give them a rich experience, how do I make sure that they stay and that I tell Google; look actually we've taken care of this, this customer now and they're having a good experience. So actually one of the best ways you can do that is navigation; make sure that they know where they're going and what's next. So that's definitely key!

I think we also find that, I think the biggest kind of problem that most sites have is a consistent feel across every page, so actually if I do enter again at that third level that I still, I understand that this is still the same place, I understand where it fits in the wider context of the site. There's something actually that particularly on some of the newer sort of you know, built online architecture so things like shopify, do actually quite well is because they're themed and because they tend to just have a consistent looking feel throughout the whole sort of template if you like - it makes it quite easy to have that same feel across the whole site. It's really important actually for trust, so when customers come in to a site at any point they can trust that they're in a nice secure place, they trust that they've hit something that looks pretty pretty good and that when they do eventually hit the logo or the home button that they feel like they're in this sort of consistent site and architecture.

MC: That does mirror a lot the discussions we we have especially around things like main nav. We were talking to an e-commerce client the other day about how part of the function of the main navigation can be for the user discovery of what they actually sell on the site, so we were showing on a hover over and it was showing kind of the main categories of all the products they sell and seeing users were using this menu is not just for navigation but as a tool to what is on this site because I don't know what this brand is what do they sell and it was particularly important because in almost all cases, most sites I see their internal search sucks.

TH: Yeah, that’s true.

MC: It's a terrible experience and again when we watch users, sometimes they will go back to Google, type the name of the website and then what they're looking for, rather than use the on-site search - so that's a really interesting conversation. People I think don’t realise how difficult search actually is then, when they're trying to say okay someone's searching for this on our site but then we've got to work out are they searching for the product or an article about that product and then which variation do we do we rank and it becomes really difficult without any other context.

TH: So and two things on that really quickly; so the first one is about on-site search, normally when we're doing research we don't even test on site search because it's so obvious when your search is bad that there's no point in us testing it because it's either a really good search and you can type something and you find what you need and you've got everything that's related to it - so if you type in a product name you've got here's the product and here's our product range and here's some articles of other that product and how it works; that's great but if it just doesn't work it's so, so obvious.

The other thing I'd say is, it's even more important to have a good navigational structure on mobile because it's really, really hard most of the time when you're an e-commerce site, particularly one that sells a broad range of stuff to get across your product range and in particular, look at your home page and what we normally suggest and there's lots of research around this actually, is on the homepage, on a mobile site, try and list out your product range on that home page. So rather than having hidden in a navigation system, show it on the page, so when someone arrives they can very quickly flick down that page and just see, right okay I get what this brand does and I understand what kind of products I can find here or what you know, I understand what this site is and I know what I can do here.

MC: So I think this really aligns to there was a really excellent talk by a Google engineer called Paul Haahr and I can't remember if this was last year or the year before at SMX. so Paul did talk on how Google ranks websites from an engineer's perspective and it was fascinating because Google rarely gets engineers to actually talk about this stuff and the main takeaway we got from this was as an internal metric of success, what Google is doing to say are we doing a good job, is they use time to result. So they're measuring how long it takes a user to do a search to finding the thing that they want and so when you're talking about mobile ecommerce sites listing what they sell as soon as people land, that to me really slots in with this because it's all about making this path of least resistance and just giving people what they want as quickly as possible with no other clicks, no loading, no hidden stuff, just this is what we think they want just put it in front of their face.

And the other thing I found really interesting and it was kind of vague advice given by Google but they started talking this year around some of the signals they're using, like they gave an example of the HTTPS like the site and the making site secure, they said this can be a thing that decides that on the fence when two sites are otherwise kind of equal, if one is secure we will rank that one above and the other thing they mentioned is if if you're getting your site to struggle, sorry if your site is struggling to rank, having other people look at it and getting feedback from them as to whether it looks old or just trustworthy and I find that really interesting because we know you know Google uses all kinds of AI and machine learning to analyse sites and to me that suggests that maybe they're starting to work out, on an algorithmic level, what people are perceiving as; oh this website doesn't look trustworthy, I don't trust that lens flare, and that under-construction gif, and the fact it's not secure and this page is broken and all the little signals that people instinctively pick up on as you become a you know, because everything, as you use the web over the years you develop like with anything I'd like a sixth sense for you know this is good, this is bad, this is trustworthy, this isn't and all of that's basically the outline to what you're what, you're talking about right?

TH: Yeah absolutely! So you know, Google has been running for what, 15 years? They've got a lot of data now, they are clearly, they're looking at billions of data points ever, probably every month, on how people are interacting with stuff what people are looking at you know huge huge numbers of metrics, and if you think about the AI that they're they're building I mean most of their company now is just an AI company that's what they do. I would not be surprised if they have a fairly good view of what they think is a trustworthy site compared to a non trustworthy site.

We, as business owners, running SMEs with several thousand data points a month, do not have the luxury of understanding in a data sense what is trustworthy and what isn't. So that's why research is important, that's why going out and speaking to people is so important - that is the way that we go out and get that data. but I do find it really interesting and I think, I mean clearly that's why Google are trying to bring stuff out into the search directly rather than sending people off to web pages, you know they want to get those those time to result right the way down to as soon as I've typed in a word Google has presented me with the thing that I need in the way that I need it. Yeah I think like I say they have that luxury, we don't.

MC: And that's, that's kind of the basis of why I want to talk to you, which is that if you approach user experience even in the context of SEO as here are the things I know Google is measuring, I'm going to try and optimise them, you are still probably not going to rank as well as if you do the full user centered design and maybe speak to someone like you and actually do the best possible job because you're going to be ticking all these other boxes that you probably weren't aware are being measured or that again, in context with those other things give you a better overall impression, better ranking.

TH: Yes sure.

MC: While I'm kind of talking about sometimes how bad a job SEO is do with UX, one of the discussions I commonly get into is - so SEO is tend to pick up on something like bounce rate as a metric for measuring user experience - and I always argue against this, because if it for those that maybe haven't encountered before bounce rate is when someone lands on your web page and they leave without doing anything else; so they're not clicking on anything else; they're not interacting with anything on the site; it's not necessarily a time thing. So if someone went from Google to your site and they spent five minutes staring at the page and they left, that's still a bounce. And there's always discussion around oh you know we're trying to lower my bounce rate but again taking the user experience in context with the search journey, if I'm doing a search such as you know I've got some appliance and I Google what's the battery life of this and that lands me on that product page, which tells me the battery life is through enough hours and I'm like cool, and then I leave, my user experience has been perfect because I've got that information very quickly, looking at the web page analytics it would say my bounce rate is 100%. Therefore, it's a terrible way without context to measure how good the user experience is. So my question to you is, how do you measure user experience? So when you start out and I say Tom like obviously something's wrong because people aren't doing what I want them to do on my site, we go through a process with you, how what would we look at measuring before and after to work out if things are if things are improving?

TH: That is a great and very difficult question to answer. I suppose, the answer in this and many other instances will be, it depends!

MC: That's the SEO cop out answer, haha.

TH: Hey, it's also the UX cop out! So, it entirely depends on what you're trying to achieve. I think that's a that's actually a really nice example because the ultimate user experience in that sense would be, I asked Google through either my laptop or smart device in my home, what's the battery life of my thing and it says three and a half hours - that's the ultimate user experience. I haven't even gone to the site, haven't even had to.

MC: Unless they can just beam it into my head!

TH: Well, well yeah exactly! I just somehow know the information before I know I need it! So I guess, yeah. Which is what Google's trying to get to right, by bringing all that stuff out into search results and so and so forth. The things we look at though entirely depend on what it is you are actually trying to achieve, I think that there's a, there's a mix though between what we're talking about which is metrics and what what else you can measure within UX. So most things that you would tend to cover as an SEO or some other looks analytics or anything else there's much more quantitative based, so things that are numbers essentially numbers based, tend to be things like that; so they are bounce rates, number of people on pages, conversion rates, you might look at you know, it's you know whether people are actually picking up on other product as they go through, some things like upsells and bits and pieces like that, so I think if you're an e-comm site those sorts of things tend to still be your metrics because you just are numbers focused if you're a good e-comm site, if you're a good retail site chances are you gonna have to have those numbers and you're going to be wanting to increase them.

To measure the experience though, I mean, it's a really hard question because humans don't necessarily measure their experiences in a finite way, so you know when you, so there's pastries on the table here, when you went and got those pastries how would you rate your experience when you bought those pastries? MC: Um, 7.2 out of 10.

TH: That's, I mean, I'm asking the wrong person.

MC: No, no, no I I fully get what you mean. yeah so there's a million ways I can answer that from, how clean the store was, to how long it took me to get served, yeah what - that I had to put them in a plastic bag which annoyed me, so there's a million, there's million different ways I could answer that.

TH: But the interesting thing is, if I were to just slightly change the question - how did you feel that transaction went? then you eliminate numbers because you can't answer that with what I felt about three because it doesn't it doesn't work that way, so you know exactly that, you can say well the cleanliness of the store was about eight out of ten and that's a relative term because you can compare it to other times when the store was less clean and more clean. you could talk about the time it took you to go around the store, at the time it took for you to find a product - they’re all very qualitative terms or all numbers focused, but there's more to your experience than just those numbers because those numbers could still be really high and you come out going ‘i just felt a bit crap about what's just happened’ and you might not be able to put your finger on it be there's just something intangible about it - perhaps you didn't feel safe when you're in the store, you wouldn't rate that necessarily but you you know, perhaps there was something else going on in the store and something in your mind which changed your experience, those aren't things we can really measure with numbers but that's why we go out and do that that qualitative research. that's when we go out and talk to people we understand their experience and a more contextual basis.

The way we measure that really is not in numbers, so when we're doing you know product design for a company on an ongoing basis, we might be building a product for a you know a specific target market. The way that we report those isn't with numbers at all, it's here are the sorts of things we're finding out, here are what we think the value that your product is providing, here's where we think you should be concentrating next, this is what customers are telling us their problems are, and and the challenges that they're having not, just with your product but around that products, the context of what they're using that product in and so it's much more detail-oriented I think when it comes to UX and that's why actually it's such a difficult thing to do. I think to be a very good UX professional, because you're working in these really abstract terms, is quite a hard thing to do.

MC: It's almost like humans are complicated.

TH: It is!

MC: So I was leading you down the garden path there a little with that question, and I think the answer you've given highlights that if you try and put everything on a spreadsheet - and this is a conversation I had with a potential client last week - is that you can miss things that you know for instance that needs to be done because you're trying to satisfy a metric that doesn't encompass the whole picture.

So this was in my example, we were trying to do some forecasts for a campaign and there were some things that we could see through common sense that everyone in the room agreed needed to be done. However, because of the complexity of the business model it was just about impossible to justify that on a spreadsheet without just making stuff up, which obviously no one wants to do and at this point I said some that I think everyone knows we need to do this I think we just have to do this and then see what the impact is and I appreciate especially when you're dealing essentially at that exact point, where you've got the human interacting with the product, there's so much going on there that you have to accept that that more qualitative speaking to emotional way of looking at it, is the only way you're going to be able to work on it effectively, rather than trying to say, we're looking at bounce rate we're looking at time on site and trying to affect these metrics.

TH: Certainly! And sometimes things that you make are not going to have a direct impact on numbers, not you know, if you change something on a site that, I don't know, solves you know solves a specific problem for a certain type of user, you might find that your bounce rate doesn't change and the number of people going through an experience doesn't change. Those things are actually changing the intangibles, which over time will give you a more trustworthy product or it will give you a set of users that just love using your product just slightly more, which over time will have an impact. It's really hard to measure those things, but it's still really important stuff.

One of the things we, I think used to struggle with is, a lot of clients would say well why would I build these things that you've suggested I do, when I know there's the set of things that will literally you know, we think could increase the conversion rate. I think that is a really tricky thing to get around actually, which is why now most of the suggestions that we make regardless of whether they are quantitative kind of we think this will increase conversion rate or qualitative we think this will give users better experience are just recommend it in the same way and that's value. So which of these things do we think, which of these changes do we think is going to be more valuable and how much effort is going to take it, so actually you get to the low-hanging fruit in that way but actually it's not just about your numbers, it can also be about, what is just gonna make people's experience slightly nicer and maybe make them feel like they can come back a bit more often and they can have more more sort of, engaging experience with us.

MC: It's fascinating! Time, time is flying on. I'm having a good time I can see we've already got a post thirty minutes here. I have to ask you and I know you're by nature quite a privacy advocate and have to ask you there's been a lot of changes in the web over the last few years with laws, legislation, GDPR, what's your opinion on the cookie law and protecting users privacy that way and the pop ups that now appear on every single website that we go to?

TH: I'm really pleased you've asked me this. So yes, I'm a privacy advocate so I'm a member of the open rights group; I used to run the open rights group chapter here in Norwich, so I'm I'm all for people understanding what the digital rights are, understanding how to protect their data, all that kind of stuff and and making sure that we share data in a responsible way and that you know, just the nonsense that we've seen in the last few years comes to a stop because it's ridiculous.

So yeah there's two kind of separate things there, but actually I think the effect of the changes recently has been the same. The cookie law was the first one, the GDPR stuff the second.

Cookie law actually, if you look at what it's done, I think has had the worst effect it could possibly have had. I think the sentiment behind the change in the law, is sound, like actually yes we should be telling people how their date is going to be used, what we're storing on machine, and why we're storing that stuff. That in principle sounds great. I'm all for that, lovely. The problem is, if you show someone a popup on every single website they go to, where the text is always slightly different, it's in a different place every time and it becomes an annoyance because I'm just trying to complete an experience what you're doing is well first of all, you're making it just have a really bad experience online so that's the first thing, it's not great. But the second thing is, because the first thing you do is just go off whatever just hit the what I think one of them comment which site it was on the other day, i think it might be Mashable or something literally has a whatever button, just whatever, I don't care, go away.

The problem is how informed are we now as a public of what, what's happening to our data - they could put anything in those cocky, I nearly said cocky, oh I did!... in those cookie policies, they could put anything in those and we would not read it, because the first thing you want to do is get rid of it. so if anything is made it worse, it's made the whole problem worse so I think unfortunately it's had completely the opposite effect of what it was trying to do similarly with GDPR.

Actually I think GDPR hasn't had the impact that I think they were expecting you to and it hasn't really made anything safer or better; we're still seeing people breach GDPR are on a daily basis and nothing's really happening because of it. I still get spammed by companies that add me to mailing list with no consent, unfortunately the law is just not clear. If you look at the seven methods by which you can add people to a mailing list, you know or collect personal data, one of those is legitimate business interests. Well what does that mean? I mean it could be anything - well my legitimate business is spamming the crap out of everyone so I legitimately had to do to my list, like business.

But you know, you know I don't really understand how we're expected to identify and work within the law, if no one understands the bloody thing in the first place. So I think, I love the sentiment behind these things, I love the fact that particularly the EU because both of these things have come out of the EU, so all these countries are working together as a whole to try and solve this problem which is great, and I think the sentiment is there, they’re all trying to do the right thing, but I think very clearly it's been implemented, possibly not by the most technical people in those countries, which is not the greatest start anyway. But also they've not really looked at what the impacts of websites working in the way to try and comply with the law, has actually changed people's experiences. Um, yeah good idea, bad implementation.

MC: I'm so pleased I asked you that, you're like, you know, you had that loaded up!

TH: Oh yeah, I was ready for that, haha. Not many people ask me that, for obvious reasons!

MC: So to round this off because we're coming to the end now, can you summarise, in context of people that are doing digital marketing - what should they be thinking about, what should be they be going to speak to their managers/ bosses/ owners about in terms of UX to make their websites do a better job? Where should they start?

TH: If you're not talking to customers, talk to customers - that's the first thing you should be doing. so you know there's all sorts of people who will suggest running audits or doing usability testing or starting some sort of crow work or whatever, the chances are particularly for running a retailer or e-comm. You're gonna be a number's focused business and you need to get some more context talk to customers and it's not just asking opinions!

So yes it's quite useful to see what people think of your product, but it's really really hard to get an accurate picture, of you know, how they're how they're genuinely feeling about products or whether it's going to change their behaviour. You know when we do our research we look at attitude and behavior separately and you know attitude is fine, that's that's the survey based stuff , what do you think of our products and you know on a scale of one to ten - which is another thing I could go into the for another half an hour but I won't - but yeah so you know that's fine and that's one thing and it gives you a sentiment. But what it doesn't give you is the behaviour - people will always talk about something very differently to what they would actually do when that thing is put in front of them.

So ideally you want to talk to those customers, but you want to be observing as they do stuff. So if that's the if that's the only thing you do, go out, talk to customers, ask them to try and do something on your web, and just watch them try and do it! That is the best place to start!

MC: Brilliant. Tom, thank you so much for taking the time this morning, before work, to come in and be on the show, I really appreciate it!

TH: Will this one actually be on the show this time?

MC: This one will go out on Monday. Yes, I promise you! so there should be people listening to this now, on Monday - that's kinda a weird thing to say!

TH: Time travel!

MC: Yes, time travel. Thank you so much Tom, really appreciate it. Thank you everyone for listening again, I'm Mark Williams cook and I'll be back in one week, on Monday the 16th of September, next time. You can get all of the write up transcription, notes and links from today's show at search.withcandour.co.uk - so if you've been interested in what me and Tom been talking about today, you can see links to the user story and some of the things we’ve been talking about today. Otherwise, have a great week and hopefully you tune in next week!

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