Issue 1 \\ Move Fast And Fix Things

Issue 1 \\ Move Fast And Fix Things

User Experience Design is humbling work. No matter how much research you’ve done, or how elegant your design, people will still struggle with the things you make. UX, when done right, is a journey to get ever closer to a simple, functional solution. But try as you might, you never quite arrive at perfection. But for us, that’s what we love about design. We can always improve. Our job is never done.

In our first newsletter, we share with you a couple of stories about our quest to make better things in a better way. Design Researcher Jenn Downs files off the edges of a key section of MailChimp through usability testing that quantifies failure rates and turns them into time saved for users. Designer and Researcher Gregg Bernstein explains why Terms of Service are an important part of the user experience.

Filing Off the Edges and Shaving Off Seconds

by Jenn Downs
Sending a beautiful email without anyone to read it kind of defeats the purpose of the email. Getting subscribers into MailChimp is a critical step; some folks use our sign-up forms, while others import data from a spreadsheet or other file type. For these latter folks, we’ve known for a while about small issues in the file import process. However, when we took a closer look we realized how all of those small issues snowball into a pretty rough overall experience.

Back in December of 2012, we were in the midst of a large study of list behaviors. A part of this study called for users to import a list. We didn’t impose any rules on how to import this list, or define what fields to import; we just wanted to see how people would complete this common task as part of our study of general list behaviors. To evaluate list imports, we set up a test list with a large number of fields (28 to be exact), and asked 5 of our users to import it into one of our testing accounts. 

After our testers imported their list, they began the process of matching the fields from their file to MailChimp. We noticed that the active fields our users were currently editing weren't centered on screen like we'd intended; the field they were editing slid off screen. After every couple of field edits, our users would have to pull the field they were working on back into focus.
Watch some footage before the improvements
This, of course, was highly annoying. Some users made it all the way through the import, taking 3 or more minutes to complete the task. Others started looking for a way out, and they would find the "skip unnamed columns" button and forgo importing all the columns on their list to save time. Those users got about halfway through the 28 fields at about 1 minute and 30 seconds, so we estimate they could have gotten through in about 3 minutes.
After analyzing these tests, I talked with Jason Beaird, one of the front-end developers in the MailChimp UX team, about my findings. We worked together to make some changes to the list matching process, including fixing the field focus and preemptively naming the columns as we could based on information imported from the user’s lists.
Watch some footage after the improvements
After the changes went live, we did follow-up tests with a new set of 5 users. The results were pretty amazing: all of the test subjects completed the list mapping process (with all 28 fields) in an average of 2 minutes—a whole minute less than the previous version! People didn't look for a way out because the experience wasn't as frustrating; every user sailed through the process and completed the task. Some even stopped to learn the keyboard shortcuts and still made it through in a shorter amount of time.  
This is the sort of UX work that’s hard to initiate from user feedback. No one asks for a 60 second time savings in a workflow. But users do complain of being frustrated or confused in select areas of an application. As UX researchers and designers we have to read between the lines to find patterns of frustration and know when to dig deep into an issue. When we dig deeper we find the places where we need to file off the edges and make the small improvements that make the user experience even better.
Are you a MailChimp user with feedback for how we can improve? We’d love to hear from you. You could even participate in one of our future usability studies

The UX of Terms of Service

by Gregg Bernstein
MailChimp recently launched a new suite of privacy and usage documents. Valerie Danin, MailChimp’s General Counsel and Privacy Officer, does a swell job of explaining what we did and why on our blog, but I’d like to briefly touch on the UX side of terms of service.
Our new, beautiful legal page

A couple of years ago, I examined the state of software privacy and terms as part of my Master’s thesis. Long story short: things didn’t look so good. Terms are meant to be read, but they’re presented in a way that makes reading difficult. I used Apple as an example in my research, but my conclusions are applicable universally: put the same amount of consideration into the terms as you would any other user-facing element.

We have compendiums of typographic, human-computer interaction, and design best practice at our disposal. For some reason, this body of knowledge never finds its way over to legal documents. Having transitioned from theory to practice, I can see the balance between wanting to serve the user and the need to protect the vendor from litigation.

Thankfully, MailChimp’s content strategist, Kate Kiefer-Lee, and Valerie Danin, our attorney, were willing to work toward a solution that satisfied everyone (and hopefully that includes our users). As we developed the various legal documents for MailChimpTinyLetter, and Mandrill, I set four overarching UX goals to guide us:

Maintain legibility

Avoiding the trappings of typical legalese, we don't capitalize entire paragraphs; we set our type large enough to be read comfortably; and we imposed hierarchy by generously spacing paragraphs and using bullets and numerals.

Use plain(ish) language

We wrote the terms as if they were meant for other humans to read.

Chunk the content

By organizing the content into intuitive groupings, we imposed hierarchy on the legal documents. The reader is able to refer back to specific sections, rather than searching through an entire body of text. It’s one of those things that doesn’t add much at first glance, but becomes very handy when a task, such as determining who owns your content, is at hand. [You own your content, of course.]

Split content across multiple pages

We had already separated our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Copyright Policy. We further separated our Acceptable Use and API Use policies for ease of reference and navigation. Taking things a bit further, we created an entire Legal landing page, which serves as a hub for all MailChimp things legal.

In the end, I think we transitioned a suite of documents that looked unreadable into something inviting and accessible. I realize that only a small number of visitors to any website read the Terms. Now, however, we’ve considered that small number and improved the experience.

UX Around The Web

Ask Us Anything

We want this newsletter to be a dialogue as well as an outlet. If you have any questions for our team about design, email, user testing, coffee, mobile, music, personas, or even Fabio's fantastic facial hair. Send them in. Seriously, hit reply and ask us anything. We'll try to answer every email and we're hoping to have some conversations to share here in future newsletters.
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