‘Pimp my furniture’ by Ikea

I’m loving the new “thisismykea” website. It’s a site where you can personalise your Ikea furniture by adding a design from a number of artists and brands.

The website itself is slick with a really clear layout, a bold hero slot for the main messaging, and very clear call 1,2,3 steps on how to personalise your ikea furniture.

There’s a really clear message about why the site has been set up and I have to say it’s a really great concept. Here’s the main idea behind the site from Ikea

“  Don’t we all just love and hate Ikea at the same time?! We love the well-designed furniture. But we don’t like the fact that we see the same Ikea interior everywhere around us. We came up with the idea to make your Ikea more beautiful, unique and personal…”

This is a brutally honest assessment of the problems with becoming a popular and mass market provider. Everyone has the same thing, it loses it’s uniqueness and frankly it’s appeal. What Ikea have done is admit that this can be a problem and have come up with such a creative solution.

There’s some unique and beautiful designs to add to your furniture and once you’ve ‘pimped up’ your furniture you can upload a photo of it for others to see the imapct of the design and to make comment/ vote.

There’s step by step visual instructions and guidance, for example on how you can apply a specific artwork print to your  Ikea furniture. I love the staff section where they pick their favourite pieces of work, you can rate designs, submit your own designs and even make money from having your designs sold to Ikea customers.

The global navigation is well presented and I love the use of furniture icons with moving parts on hover. I didn’t get the colour choice boxes under the Explore the designs heading though – perhaps they were purely aesthetic !

My only two gripes are 1) The overly active hero panel – it takes a while to orient yourself when the main message refreshes  and it’s not immediately clear how to get it back if are reading it. There is some navigation within the hero panel however this isn’t particularly clear. Personally I’d make the user in control of this panel, ie only change it when the custonmer wants it to change and allow them to do this by having clear next and previous options.

My second gripe is that some of the photographs of the designed furniture aren’t always that clear – I appreciate these aren’t real photographs but superimposed however a few actual real photographs and different angles of the furniture with the designs would help with this.

Overall though these are minor arguably picky details. It’s a really great concept and a very well designed website. Well done Ikea.

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Natural History Museum – website saved by the Customer Contact Centre

I’m taking my son and his uncle to the Natural History Museum this weekend and as my son is completely ‘Dinosaur- mad’ I decided to book tickets online for the Age of the Dinosaur Museum. Now, the museum is free but the exhibition has a charge. The full amount, including booking fee would have amounted to £27.50 – however you can uncheck a box to not pay a voluntary donation (saving yourself just under £3) I know it’s not a lot but times are tight and considering there’s also a £1.50 booking fee and the fact I was paying for my uncle I thought why not – I’ll uncheck the box. However, then I couldn’t proceed. The transaction would work if I left the donate box checked, however this was now a principle thing – I wasn’t going to pay a donation just because the site wasn’t allowing me to avoid it. Alas, I tried over several days and on different browsers and was about to give up and just buy some tickets over the phone when I saw an email addreess to contact.

Now, I have very low expectations of email service given past performance of some other providers ( in fact most companies and amazingly smaller and self employed buisnesses). However, on this occassion I received a response – admittedly it took a whole day and a weekend to recive something but a really helpful and apolgetic email with several suggestions, one being that unfortunately when you uncheck the donation box it clears your ticket selection and you have to try again. Aha, that was it. I went back in and completed the purchase – feeling happier and saving myself £2.60. Good site – or rather good use of email response.

However, it shouldn’t be like this – Firstly the application process should never have gone live with this apprent blip. Secondly, where was the error handling – all I got was a next page telling me my transaction hadn’t been successful. It’s a good job I peresevered and knew my son really wanted to go to this event – I think they could have lost a customer very easily if this wasn’t the case.

Any how, now looking forward very much to the Age of the Dinosaurs experience !

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First Direct’s Lab

First Direct have recently unveiled their new First Direct Lab on their web site – a place where they can ask customer opinion on innovation and guage whether some of the projects their Digital Team and Marketing Teams are considering are potential fads and ‘ wastes of money’  or genuinely of benefit to the customer. They are asking for feedback on QR codes and for customer opinion on their new homepage.  It’s a shame they don’t show a bit more of their homepage, ie how the design impacts on the rest of the website – if at all. It would also be interesting to hear the thinking and objectives of the redesign – share hat with your customers and they may be able to try and help you. Overall though I think it’s a great idea and I look forward to seeing other websites try the same…

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It’s all too much

There’s clever things web developers can can do website design these days to enable hard pressed marketeers to pack a lot of  content on to one homepage whilst making it appear (initially) uncluttered. I’ve seen it done well but I’ve also seen it done badly.  Take Tesco’s website which has what looks like 4 main horizontal tabs across the top of the page advertising areas of their site – Tesco Direct, Fresh Food & Groceries, Club Card and Tesco Bank. So far so good. It then appears that they have more detail on the main homepage content area (let’s call it the “Hero slot”) about Tesco Direct. There’s also direct links to some of the main parts of Tesco. Even cleverer. Then when you hover on the next tab you get more content and navigation about Fresh food and groceries – now this is quite clever and a good use of the space. However, then it all get’s a bit too much and you wonder where the UX designer was when the site was being developed. He/ she should have been shouting “NO!!, it’s all too much” quite loudly. You the discover, accidentally in my case that the tabs underneath the main “hero slot” also change the main content on the page. And rather than the original four tabs which my little head could cope with there’s an additional 6 tabs and hero slots to take in “arggh!!!!!”.  It’s too much suddenly and as I’m moving across the screen everything is changing and I realise I’m not taking in anything and it’s a feeling of claustrophbia I never thought Id feel on a modern website. I know Tescos are massive, but surely they don’t have to make every area on their homepage real estate sing and do cartwheels. My advice would be to stick to the interactive four tabs at the top, but calm down on the rest of the site and think about structuring the site and page in a more ordered manner.

Another site which adopts a similar approach is More Th>n. They have a lot of tabs or widgets advertising various insurance products and whilst the “Hero slot” stays focused on their lead product, the second hero slot further down the page changes if you click the arrow. Now at first I hadn’t realised the arrow triggered this change, so it appeared haphazard when the page changed and when it didn’t – more often than not, clicking on the tabs linked me directly to the relevant product homepage. Again, where was the UX designer when this site was developed. It’s not quite “hidden meat” but it’s pretty close.

Probably worth another post about sites who does this well in a subtle yet understanabable way – Apple strikes to mind so look out a further update on Apple and some other good examples. Views and comments as always welcomed.

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Tesco Cars.com – from mouse to your house in 4 simple steps

I have to say the latest Tesco Cars venture seems a neat idea and the website is pretty good too. This website sells second-hand cars directly from bank, lease and fleet companies meaning good savings for buyers.

There’s a well presented search box so you can find a good car for you based on manufacturer, model and price bracket and there’s also a fun lifestyle calculator that works out the best car for you. This was visually very engaging and I enjoyed playing with the sliders. My result was a Ford Focus Estate sadly , yes a family car ! that’s the exciting lifestyle I lead !

If you just want to browse you can find out a bit more about the service and read engaging testimonials and the ‘find a car’ service has some top picks which is helpful. The videos worked well and clearly explained the proposition in a clear, profesional and fun way. I felt the site performance was a bit clunky at times, however overall there’s a lot of really useful information here, and it”s well organised, structured, labelled and well presented. An attractive and engaging website and actually I’m quite tempted by the proposition.

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More on paper prototypes

Got a developer to do some paper prototyping yesterday for a calculator. An early version was drawn in a matter of minutes using hand drawn prototypes. We both found the experience useful for coming up with a creative approach and working in a collaborative way that working electronically seldom achieves.

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Paper prototyping

It’s easy to fall into a standard, templated approach when creating wireframes electronically. An approach which works well in encouraging a creative approach and also a speedy approach is called ‘Paper Prototyping; This is particularly useful when creating new websites / digital journeys. Paper prototyping means literally building a website on paper. I’ve done it recently using a ‘Sharpie’ , some A3 paper, glue and a pair of scissors. The site took an hour to build and the feedback I got was brilliant.

There’s an example here of paper prototyping in action

paper prototyping

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