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Meryl Enerson
I am a senior consultant in the area of user experience. I look to uncover what works and what doesn't work in the digital realm - and why some products and Websites are more usable than others.
Interests: Art, design, literature, culture, media, food, nature, dogs
Recent Activity
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Times are changing, and rapidly. The need for user feedback - early and often - on projects is causing UX managers to increasingly look towards online tools and remote practices. If you’re in the market for moderated research, but want to keep your costs down, consider remote moderated user research. If you can schedule an interview with a user, you can schedule a Web session with a user, and many organizations and researchers are doing just that, providing a Web conference line for users to dial into. During the session, any number of things can happen, including: - Reviewing mockups... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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I have recently experienced firsthand the pain and aggravation the redesign of a business-critical application can cause users. Intuit recently rolled out its update to Quickbooks Online, a Web application used by many small businesses. It was a rough week. The user interface for the new application was so radically different from the previous version of Quickbooks, it took many users (including myself) by surprise. Intuit made a large number of changes to move away from some of the klugey interface features that inevitably happen when an application has outlived its original design. It was, it seemed, time. The users... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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You've just rolled out a new Website, but the results aren't what you expected. You suspect you need to tweak and fine-tune the redesign. But how do you know when your Website redesign needs further fixes or refinements? And if it does need refinement, how much do you need to do? Indicators More Work is Needed First of all, there are some common indicators that tell you something is wrong with your current Website - whenever you rolled it out (last week or last year). When any of the following are true, you definitely need to take action: Your incoming... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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This is a cautionary tale. I like using Google products, and integrating them into our business operations. It seems like such a good deal. But the downside of working with products from the search engine behemoth is that occasionally they boot you out of them as they expire products that just "aren't working" for the company (for whatever reason). When this happens to you on a personal level (like the phasing out of iGoogle), it is inconvenient or frustrating. When it impacts your business, however, it is chilling. I have previously extolled the virtues of incorporating Google custom search into... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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Pew Research has recently completed a research report and analysis of how people and organizations interact on twitter. In a nutshell, have identified six types of conversations on Twitter, which include: Tight crowds centering on shared interests (such as hobby groups), and users have strong connections Brand clusters, where popular products or celebrities are but there is little connectivity Support networks, where organizations respond to users in an outward spoke relationship Each type of interaction has a unique shape, depending on the interaction, as seen in this infographic. You might have an "aha" moment reading this, as I did -... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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I had a writing teacher who used to make us write an entire short scene using only one-syllable words. It was a painful, but eye-opening, process. Gone was the opportunity to obfuscate with complex, mellifluous language. No opportunities to expound in excruciating detail about narrative omniscience and… well, you get the idea. Big words hide important concepts, belabor the point, show your lack of confidence, and alienate or annoy your audience. When you aren’t allowed to hide behind big vocabulary words and clever metaphorical turns of phrase, your writing becomes less about showing what you know and more about sharing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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Surely the worst user experience on the Web is a security violation. Having your user ID or password stolen (not to mention the events that follow). Or is it having to remember ALL your passwords for ALL the Websites you frequent and then going around and changing them all? The Heartbleed bug has forced many Websites and Web services to send out requests for users to change their passwords. A list of likely sites affected was issued by Mashable recently. They include many major Websites, from social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube), to email providers (Google, Yahoo), and other vital... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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Not every site has a search feature, and not every site needs one. But once your site starts amassing any amount of content at all (whether through an integrated blog, a large number of pages, or different downloadable resources), search is a high value feature to add to your site. One of the best tools for running search on your site is the Google Custom Search Engine. This feature allows you to add a search feature to your Website that runs a search using all of the power of Google Search. Results are simple, but that's all many sites need.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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The major eLearning companies are using social media for promotion. It’s no surprise that a consumer-focused company like Rosetta Stone is heavily involved on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. They have big budget marketing campaigns and the social web is naturally part of their marketing mix. They have 2.1 million followers on Facebook, and have an extensive library of YouTube videos that promote their products and provide complementary information on travel for their users that are learning a language for a vacation abroad. But other eLearning companies like Blackboard, Skillsoft and CompassLearning are not only using some of these same... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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Digital tools and social media technologies have changed every company’s communication strategy. Databases enable writers and editors to maintain single-source blurbs of boilerplate and standards of particular definitions or titles. Content management systems (CMS) enable writers and editors to update content and make it live on the fly. Social media outlets make customers and users part of the conversation instantaneously. Reusable content, speed-of-light publishing, and an unmanaged multitude of voices don’t always make for successful online narratives, however. The tools alone don’t make the process work, after all – that requires teamwork, measurement, and management. Successful content creators maintain quality... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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The jury is still out on the results, but the government is using social media to try and drive enrollment on the healthcare exchanges. The focus is on getting younger people to sign up – a necessary ingredient for the success of the exchanges. The insurers are counting on younger, healthier people enrolling to reduce the risk pool. Healthcare.gov is using all of the most popular social sites to get out the message. The content is similar across their selected social sites: Facebook (310,000 Likes), Twitter (158,000 followers), YouTube (5,400 subscribers) and Google+ (126,000 followers). They seem to trying to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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I have been looking for this speech for weeks. Google, Bing, and Wikipedia were of no help. Although finally, based on a tip from a recent University of Michigan emailer, I was finally able to locate it amongst my folders and sub-folders. It is a speech given by a man named Louis Lipson (1921-1996) in 1979 a the Yale Law School graduation ceremony. It is remarkable for consisting entirely of one-syllable words. Sound impossible? Read the Louis-Lipson-Speech. Yale apparently enjoyed it, because they had him repeat it again in 1992. The speech lacks nothing, and is as inspiring as any... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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There have been a lot of cautionary tales about how what you post onf Facebook can affect your chance of getting a job or even getting into college, but it turns out that high school students are turning the tables and checking out the Facebook pages of colleges as part of their decision-making process. Although Websites and brochures can tell part of the story, Facebook can provide a deeper insight into what campus life is really like. A study from Uversity found that about two-thirds of graduating seniors from the class of 2012 used social media to research colleges. Facebook... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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Can you be buttoned-up and business-like on your Web site and then accessible and casual on your social media networks and still maintain a cohesive corporate voice and tone? Yes, most definitely. With a little strategy and planning, all of your content channels can be representative of your brand and ethos. Think of it as a variation on a theme. But, before you put fingertip to keyboard, you should define the separate purposes of your Web site and your social media outlets. Then, think about how you want them to work together. For example, your Website is your core corporate... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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What is the difference between "user experience" and "customer experience?" Are they the same thing, to be spoken of interchangeably, or is there a difference? Broadly speaking, customer experience refers to the entire interaction a customer has with your company and brand, including interactions: In-person (such as with your sales representatives) In-store point-of sale devices (such as ATMs and kiosks) Via Phone (automated IVR systems as well as Call Center conversations) On your Website (for information or transactions) Via Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Via Mobile apps Via email (email newsletters, special offers, and correspondence) Via regular mail (paper correspondence)... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
So true!
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Blogging Blues at User Experience Monitor
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I had a boss many years ago who wouldn’t review anything until it was in near publishable form - with design and graphics almost complete. This often meant that by the time he did a first edit on the content of a report or a white paper or a presentation, the entire production team had already put in hours and hours of design and build time, hoping that he wouldn’t make a lot of changes. But he always did make changes. In one case, the team wasted so much time pushing a report through production with initial copy that the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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I hear from a lot of Website and product managers who express an interest in "improving" the look and feel, navigation or customer engagement of their Websites, without a clear concept of what their current metrics are. My question always is, how can you know what you're improving unless you know where you are now? The short answer is, you can't. Survey Monkey did a thoughtful article recently on benchmarking (and benchmarking surveys). They define benchmarking as setting the standard for a business, so you know when you make improvements (or go downhill). It can also be the standard for... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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You can’t always keep your Web content short and sweet. Some of your narratives are going to take longer form: case studies, white papers, e-books, presentations, conference proceedings, and other long form narratives can help build your brand, sell your services, and be valuable take-aways for your users. Writing longer narratives for the Web requires a special approach: you need to engage your user for a longer period of time while competing with their desire for instant gratification. How can you write in a way that keeps them focused for the long haul? Summarize – state up front what your... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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2013 was the year of Performance Boo-Boos in user experience. August was a particularly tough month with Amazon and The New York Times Websites both going down, at least temporarily and we will all probably long remember (some more than others) the disastrous rollout in October of the various Healthcare.gov Websites. Performance is a critical component of the user / customer experience. It is not always the most talked about in user experience circles, however, and minor glitches are often ignored or discounted in usability testing, because tests are often run with rough prototypes and staging servers, where performance issues... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2014 at User Experience Monitor
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I will make a confession: as a writer, I prefer to write new work. It’s more fun and more exciting to create something fresh. But, as a Web content writer, I recognize the need to edit my existing work. Whether it is updating old content on your company’s Web site, responding to the comments on your blog, or managing themes and memes in your social media streams, you must return to the pages that you’ve built and update them. Otherwise, unmaintained and out of mind, these neglected content components start to rust, dragging down the rest of your site and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at User Experience Monitor
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One of the most critical steps in redesigning any website - whatever the content and whatever the size - is planning the information architecture. The top level and secondary navigational options on your website need to be right for your information, or your users won't be able to find what they're looking for. And when they can't find what they're looking for, everybody loses - your information doesn't get find its audience, the users don't buy what you want them to buy - and it's costly and time-consuming to fix after the site is complete. Although you may think you... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2013 at User Experience Monitor
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In this age of content strategy marketing and organizational storytelling, very few Web sites provide “just the facts, ma’am.” This is a good thing, because humans love a good story. A memorable story can elevate your company by creating camaraderie among your customers, helping you stand out from your competitors. There’s nothing wrong with using clever, compelling language to sell a product or service, as long as you take an authentic approach, as well as an entertaining one. A good solution is to combine information with narrative. Information comprises the facts, data, and statistics about your organization: what do you... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2013 at User Experience Monitor
It can seem daunting to launch a business blog. We’ve written about the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media benefits, but taking that first step is hard for most people. Not only are workday schedules and responsibilities already full, but writing for an external audience is not something most of us feel qualified to do. Let’s start with the positives – most of us know about our company and our products, and are comfortable talking about them to others. We also have some good industry knowledge and keep up on the latest trends. Well, writing a blog is just... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2013 at User Experience Monitor
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Time and time again I find myself (and my projects) coming back to the same core principle for improving the user experience on information Websites, Web apps, and the like. That principle is: Simplify. Three areas where simplifying can help are in: Language Visuals Navigation Simplify Language I came across a great article in New Scientist about technical writing and simplicity. The author points to a set of 1,000 common English language words, and challenges scientists to use these in explaining technical concepts. The same can be said for any Website or Web-based application. I can't count the number of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2013 at User Experience Monitor