AMA with Matt Isherwood, ecommerce UX consultant, instructor and author
Matt Isherwood is a UX consultant who helps ecommerce sites improve their design via evidence (not assumptions). Unlike other consultants, he specialises in working with growing startups.
He has over 10 years experience as a UX designer, including at the BBC, onefinestay, and have since consulted with a range of growing businesses.
Matt’s also taught UX design workshops for four years with General Assembly, and has written the book Designing Ecommerce Websites, which is the only book covering UX design for ecommerce, and an Amazon bestseller. You can connect with Matt via Twitter: @ishmatt.
Here are the highlights from his one-hour chat…
Have you ever used the JTBD (Jobs to be done) framework for research before? [Bruce]
Not a great deal. I’m usually working with sites who already have a pretty clear idea about what the job is to be done. I like the idea but I think I agree with Jared Spool’s recent take on it.
What are the tech or design trends that you are most excited about? [Christophe]
Voice is interesting as it’s certainly growing but I still find Alexa super clunky. As Benedict Evans said recently it’s like having to memorise the command line as you have to say things in a specific way or it errors! There will be cases (like re-ordering) where it will save time but hard to keep lots in your head at once in the way a visual solution does.
I recently was asked by a company about how to deal with UX for ecommerce VR. They had basically built a shop in virtual reality that the user had to walk around which felt like a massive step backwards from a long list of products you can quickly filter and search!
What do you find works to get buy-in for UX in general and accessibility in particular? [David]
Showing stakeholders real user research! That’s always pretty powerful if they haven’t seen it before. Involving them in the research process from the beginning and bringing them along for the journey really helps. In terms of accessibility actually being able to show how people struggle with a site through user testing vids can be powerful.
How have you harnessed the power of customer service teams to improve UX in the companies you’ve worked in? And how do you think other business can do this going forward? [Clare]
Probably not as much as I should when freelancing (time constraints) but when I was full time I found customer service teams to be really powerful. They are often an amazing source for how people are actually using products and have come across lots of bugs so interviewing them before designing is key. It’s as simple as that really, I think businesses just need to remember they’re an amazing resource to blend into their project research.
How do you convince biz folks that things like “3 clicks away” and “we want it above the fold” are myths that no longer apply? [Mike]
It can be tough! Education is mainly the way – they usually have only read one or two things on design so you need to try and aim to give them more material. There’s some truth in the statements (like a lot of landing pages certainly don’t get much action below the fold) so it’s a case of building on them. I try by sending over links to serious looking studies or NNGroup articles to back up things I say in emails. Likelihood is they have nothing to back up their claims!
I’m starting as a fresher UX designer at a design agency, can you tell me what seniors expect from me and are there any books I should read? [Sanket]
In terms of what seniors expect:
- for you to listen carefully, and hopefully ask sensible questions
- for you to be willing to go a bit above and beyond in terms of trying ideas out
- for you to be able to back up your design decisions with research, no matter how small you should be able to show that it’s based on facts not just guesswork!
Working on enterprise ecommerce, that spans many languages and are very complex, how do you manage consistency across a UX design team? [Helen]
Yeah, tough one! To start with you need a style guide that everyone understands. Creating nice online documentation for it can make a difference. Then it might be worth having someone who polices this and owns the style guide (pick someone who is particularly anal and cares about finessing pixels!). When I worked at the BBC there was a whole team who oversaw the GEL (Global Experience Language) and decided what was right to go in and what wasn’t.
From a career (or freelance) perspective, how important is a UX portfolio and what does that look like? [Patrick]
So I think a portfolio can be important in the sense that you need to be able to talk about what you’ve done before in interviews. A good portfolio tells a story of the problem and how you solved it but it doesn’t need to have many things. Better to have 3 good projects rather than 10 average ones. When I was full time and interviewing designers I’d usually pick just one and talk to them about that in detail as it’s easier to try and get to grips with how they work over one case study.
And saying all that I haven’t had a portfolio in all the time I’ve been freelancing! I write articles instead. I’ve written more about my approach here: https://mattish.com/blog/post/why-i-dont-have-a-portfolio
What is the process or steps to get the desire output (for example, redesigning the old website to new website or adding new functionality?) [Tapan]
There are many ways to go about this. I’d say the right way is to gather evidence of what your current site is doing so you know what needs improving. I’ve written about a framework for this here: https://mattish.com/blog/post/an-evidence-based-design-framework and I’ve also created an online course around my process for this: https://mattish.com/evidence/course/
Do you have any routine to perfect your craft ? How do you keep growing as a designer ? [Christophe]
As a UX designer I think you probably grow the most by observing users and understanding what real people actually do. Nothing like a dose of reality for putting your assumptions and flashy designs to the test! So make sure you’re always making time for doing user testing or watching visitor/session recordings. Also reading about technology and society is good for inspiration.
What are the most important steps a beginner UX has to take in order to fully get into the industry? [Sandra]
Getting a job would be the way to consider yourself in the industry I guess! So whatever it takes to do that – the main thing is being able to understand user needs and pains and show how you can design to solve for them. That might mean doing side projects and personal projects so you can showcase your skills through them.
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When he’s not searching for the perfect hashtag or emoji, he trawls the web for the next guest host of UX Chat on Twitter or AMA on Slack. He loves to keep his finger on the pulse of the online UX community, and his passion and knowledge of UX has grown that if UX Marketer were a job title, he’d happily own that.