Monthly Archives: July 2010

Using Twitter for excellent customer service

I have been busily packing up my life into boxes in preparation for placing them into storage before I head overseas for a few months sabbatical.  Inevitably, I packed something I now needed, the manual to the washing machine so I could check how to drain it properly.  I had no clue which of the 20 or so sealed boxes it was in and certainly didn’t want to open them all to find it.

I turned to Google to try to find the manual, with no success.  I then checked the website for NEC, the brand of washing machine I own and discovered that they no longer made washing machines.  The signs were not looking good.  In the footer of the site, I noticed they had prominent links to their twitter, youtube and flickr pages.  So, I decided to turn to twitter, but did not hold out much hope.

So, I tweeted them the below message at 10:27am yesterday.

Original Tweet sent to NEC Australia from Alastair Simpson

Original Tweet sent to NEC Australia from Alastair Simpson

They then replied within 2 minutes with the following message.

Initial response from NEC Australia to Alastair Simpson

Initial response from NEC Australia to Alastair Simpson

So, I sent them the model number, as per the below.

Reply from Alastair Simpson to NEC Australia

Reply from Alastair Simpson to NEC Australia

And amazingly they came back to me within 10 minutes and had even posted the manual in pdf format to their website.

NEC Australia posted the pdf brochure to their website

NEC Australia posted the pdf brochure to their website

So, I thanked them with a shout out on twitter giving them a little bit of free PR and was a very happy customer indeed.

NEC Australia got some free PR out of providing excellent customer service

NEC Australia got some free PR out of providing excellent customer service

The experience was almost instant, approximately 10 minutes from first to last tweet, and was completely seamless.  Email, a contact form on a website or phone could not have bettered this excellent customer experience.

NEC do not even manufacture washing machines anymore.  So why give such good customer service for a discontinued product?  They obviously understand how important exceptional customer service can be in engaging consumers and reinforcing their brand image within the marketplace.  Whoever is leading the marketing/customer service (Social media seems to fall into different departments at various companies) team at NEC certainly seems to be doing a great job of utilising all possible channels to engage and manage customer experience.  This is essential in todays changing digital world, where customers are turning to more and more channels of communication to engage with companies. NEC are certainly embracing this change and using it to their advantage, rather than ignoring it like many brands.

In the future, if I am faced between two equivalent products, NEC and another brand, I know where I will be spending my money based solely on this exceptional experience.

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Filed under Social media

BBC improves interaction design with subtle visual cues

The BBC have been gradually upgrading the design and visual interaction of their pages over the last 12 months.  The latest upgrade is very subtle but is a great improvement to the design and usability of the pages.

Within a deep page of the BBC site if you want to get to the homepage or a high level category, you can access these using the horizontal navigation bar pictured at the top of the page in black below.


BBC inner page

BBC navigation


However, when you hover over the categories the tab is highlighted in grey to visually indicate you can click it.  This is very subtle but a really nice improvement to the design and interaction on the site.


BBC Navigation On Hover

BBC Navigation On Hover


Likewise, on the homepage you have been able to personalise the news modules that appear to suit your preferences for some time.  However, unless you hovered over the header of a particular module (Sport for example) and noticed the 4 way arrow cursor, you would never really know about this great feature.


BBC Homepage

BBC Homepage with news modules


To help draw attention to this, the BBC have added a highlighted box around the area on hover.  This helps draw your attention to it as you scroll around the page and will give you a better visual cue that it can be dragged and dropped to a different position.  Again subtle, but a really big improvement to help aid the interaction and draw attention to the feature.


BBC Homepage On Hover

Visual cues on hover help draw attention to the customisable sections of the BBC homepage



Subtle design cues combined with an excellent implementation of the interaction design can really help deliver an exceptional user experience.

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Filed under User Experience Design

Primary Actions Its Not Hard!


When designing a web form or landing page, there are usually different paths a user can take through the form or from the landing page.  Usually the typical path a user wants to achieve through a form is completion, so primary actions on these pages are things like “next”, “save” or “continue”.  Secondary actions are things like “Back”.  From a landing page the user probably wants to “Add to cart” or “Buy Now” as the primary action.  Visually distinguishing primary actions to make them obvious should now be common practise thanks to excellent work by Luke Wrobleski in web form design and commonly used design patterns, but why do so many websites continue to get it wrong?

Primary actions on ecommerce sites

I recently saw Paul Robinson, the Marketing and Communications Manager at the ABC present at webtrends.  He talked about some of the AB and multi-variant testing they had undertaken to optimise their landing / product pages on the ABC ecommerce shopping site.  One of the best increases in CTR came from changing the design of the page so that “Buy Now” was the only button on the page.  Other secondary actions, “Add to wishlist” and “Tell a friend”, were turned into links, screenshot below.  This yielded a 10% increase in the click through rate (CTR) on the Buy Now button.  Pretty impressive for such a small change and shows the importance of AB Testing, as well as visually distinguishing the primary action.

ABC Product page call to action

ABC Shop with visually distinguished button as the primary action

As I started to think about my experiences on the web I realised that many sites break this design pattern and make users unnecessarily think about the primary actions on a page.

Don’t make me think!

Compare the above example to my online bank.  When I am submitting a payment this is the screen I am presented with on my iphone and on the standard desktop version.

NAB Online Iphone Banking

Iphone: NAB online banking does not visually distinguish between primary and secondary actions.

Desktop: Primary and secondary actions are visually identical, making it easier to accidentally click the wrong button

Desktop: Primary and secondary actions are visually identical, making it easier to accidentally click the wrong button

Both buttons are identical and I need to read and parse the information before I can confirm which one to click.  I am sure many users have accidentally clicked “Back” or “Cancel” and either been frustrated with their experience, or worse missed payments and been charged a late payment fee if they didn’t realise they had made a mistake.

Gmail is the same, the only indication of the primary action is the bolder text on the button, which I do not think is enough.

gmail primary action not obvious

The primary action of send is not obvious in gmail

It certainly is not hard to visually distinguish between primary and secondary actions using either colour, or by using buttons and text links as the online business directory hotfrog have done below (Note; Author works for Catch who publish HotFrog) .

Hotfrog Add your business primary actions

Visually distinguished primary and secondary actions

I suspect the only reason sites are designed with two identical looking buttons is so they are symmetrical and look visually attractive on the page.  However, it just creates potential problems for users by putting doubt in their mind over which button to click.


Make it obvious and easy for users to know where to go next and don’t make them process unnecessary information.  Remove any ambiguity from your web pages for users by visually distinguishing primary and secondary actions.  It may not only lead to increased CTR on landing pages, but also higher completion rates in web forms and shopping cart processes, as well as happier users.

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Filed under User Experience Design