Event Recap: Refresh DC Speakers Offer A Good Lesson in UX and Web Design (Part 1)

Gene Crawford (@genecrawford) speaking for Refresh DC

Gene Crawford (@genecrawford) speaking for Refresh DC

On Sept. 20, Sarah Mills and I went to the Refresh DC event held at Personal’s office in DC. There was pizza (thanks, American University SOC!).  There were laughs (thanks Gene [@genecrawford] and Giovanni [@giodif]!).  There was a heck of a lot of brainpower in one cozy space (thanks, well, everyone!).

We came back with one custom Tarot deck, one web design book, and lots of UX and conceptual design knowledge richer. The cards and book were rewards for being curious and speaking in public – let me tell you, those cards were a real incentive! – but getting to network with people in our industry and getting other professionals’ opinions on pertinent topics were really valuable.

Being as new as I am, this gave me chances I don’t often have to network and learn.  Much of what got covered was info I’ve found while researching other things here at Matrix Group; hearing it reiterated by real live people and hearing questions from fellow audience members is really helping that information stick.

Gene Crawford, editor of unmatchedstyle and organizer of ConvergeSE (good grief, look at that parallax T. Rex!) spoke mainly about conversion points.  I, being the n00b I am, found out that that was where companies ask users to provide something like personal information or money – account registration, transactions, and the like.

Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Gene presented an equivalent for the purposes of conversion points and calls to action.  The baseline needs were availability and usability: Does it exist, can people reach it, and can they use it?  More important were the needs to establish confidence in the user – make a sort of contract with them which promised a certain service or behavior on your part – and convince the user to desire this transaction.

Pyramid depicting Hierarchy of User Needs

This is a slapped-together version of the graphic Gene presented at the talk. Yes, he included the Big Bang Theory’s ‘Bazinga!’

He went on to provide plenty of examples to illustrate those last two needs.  If a website wasn’t obvious and concise about what the user was expected to do, it got a poor review.  If a website gave no reason for why it was there and why the user should care, it got a poor review.

His examples of good conversion-point design reflected the current trend toward simplicity.  One of the guiding questions encapsulated most of his thesis: “What do you need from the user?”  If you only need the user to join your service and use it, and all you need to make it happen is a name and email address (and maybe some kind of verification tool – like the hated captcha!), then that’s all you should ask for.

Make it clear, make it easy, and make the user want it.

Oh, and PS: Don’t forget microcopy: Quick little instructions that are brief and powerful are way more valuable than you think!