Survival of the fittest on the web

Like every other morning, the spider named User Z, woke up with a feeling of despair and a desperate need of a cigarette. He had been trying to stop smoking grass for several weeks now and nothing seemed to help. Every day the craving for a cigarette was too hard for him to resist. His mother told him she would send someone to help him.

As he lifted his sleepy head this particular morning, he noticed two new bugs stuck in his web. One of them was clearly a grass hopper with shimmering green color and strong legs. The other one was impossible to tell from its appearance. It looked extremely fat and had several layers of something fuzzy all over its body.

The spider approached the fat bug first.

– Please don’t eat me! The bug yelled.
– Why not? The spider said and felt how empty his stomach was.
– I am from the stop smoking grass authority!

The spider looked at him and frowned. So this was the help mummy offered him?

– Are you the answer to my prayers? The spider said in a sarcastic tone of voice. What kind of a bug are you anyway?
– I am grasshopper, can’t you tell?!
– A grasshopper? Really? Excuse me for saying so, but you look a bit too fat to be a grasshopper. Are you even capable of producing a jump with that giant body?
-Well, no, not right now I guess… You see, I keep getting these layers on top of me all the time, and when a new one lands in my lap, the old one is still there.
– That sounds heavy and a bit unnecessary to carry around with, the spider said, what are these layers made of?
– They are made of content, the bug said.
– Content about what?
– Well, I´ve got content about our authority and what we do, statistics about how many smokers there are, information about the health risks with smoking grass and lots of content about how to stop smoking. And some news about what happens within the authority.

The spider looked at him and nodded slowly.
– Ha ha, I told you, you wouldn’t eat me! The bug said victorious.

But the spider thought of his mother and how she could even believe that this bug would help him stop smoking.
– I am really in need of a cigarette right now and neither you nor my mother have convinced me to stop smoking.
– But all the information you need is in here, the bug said and pointed at his giant belly. For you to use, not to eat!
– Uhum, the spider said.

– Let me ask you one final question: What makes you satisfied? When do you feel that you have succeeded?

– Let me think, the bug said and went silent for a while.
– Well… I guess I am satisfied when all my content is accurate and up to date. And the rest of this obsolete content layers are deleted from my body. Then I will be able to jump again, he said.

The spider yawned and turned his attention to the other bug, the beautiful grasshopper to his left.

– Eating me won’t help you stop smoking, but saving me will, the grasshopper said in a calm voice.
– And why is that? The spider said.
– Because I am your stop smoking grass hopper buddy. I will only be satisfied when you have stopped smoking.
– And how would you be able to do that? The spider said and thought about all these prior weeks of failure.
– I have done it before to many spiders with the same need as you have. I know what you are going through, what your flaws are and how difficult you think this is. If you fail I will be there to get you back on track. And when your need is fulfilled, I will be satisfied and that will make my legs even stronger than before and I will be able to jump higher and quicker than all the other grass hoppers.

The spider looked at him. This little bug did have point.

– So, if I set you free now I guess you will jump away from here as quickly as possible, right?
– No, that would be devastating! I never turn my back on a user spider. I would stay and learn more about your needs. Your involvement is absolutely necessary and it will make me transform into the quickest, most beautiful grass hopper in the world. Then no one will catch me, but everyone would turn to me for help and tell their friends about me. I would live forever.

The spider turned his head to the right and starred at the fat bug from the authority with a name he already had forgotten. A loud rumbling was heard from the spider’s stomach. He opened his mouth and in a bit of second he swallowed the fat bug.

With a burp he turned his attention to the grasshopper beside him.

– When do we start?
The grasshopper answered him with a big smile:
– We just did!

No one needs “content” per see, even though it is accurate and constantly updated. That is just the basic step in the pyramid of successful web realization. To be the best “bug” in your field, you need to constantly adapt to new conditions in the environment and only be satisfied when the needs of your users are fulfilled.  To make that happen you have to study their behavior in real life as well as on the web; get to know their goals, flaws and difficulties in reaching their goals. On the web you are their intelligent servant and without them you have no right to exist.

Picture cred to

Designing for simplicity – The Kids’ Calender example

In January 2013 I received a calender designed specifically for children called Barnens kalender.  It was supposed to help children understand how many days it was left until their birthday, until school was over or until next Saturday.

The idea with “Barnens kalender” was as simple as it was ingenious.

The solution was a large poster that fitted perfectly on the refrigerator door with every day of the year in a squiggly path.

For an adult it was understandable but for a child it was obvious.

I must admit I was a bit sceptical to the calender at first. It arrived with lots of stickers that the children were supposed to attach to specific dates, making it visible to them  when important things occurred during the year.

I thought: “Well… my children will love to put up lots of stickers on the fridge, but the calender itself will soon be abandoned and forgotten.”

I couldn’t be more wrong.

The children loved the calender. Every morning they ran down the stairs to the kitchen, fighting about whose turn it was to move the marker to the next day.

One day at breakfast, my youngest son said:

– On Friday its uncle Per’s birthday.
– Is it? I said surprised since I myself didn’t have a clue about it.
– Yes, I saw it in the calender, he said with a proud voice.

At that point I realised that the calender was magical. It really made it  easy for my children to understand what day it was today, what happens this week and how long they had to wait until Santa came to visit.


In January 2014 we received the next year’s calender for kids. Both the children and I were thrilled when we got it. A fresh year to fill with stickers that would make it easier for everyone to keep track of things that happened.

This year, the calender had been made even simpler.

It was not tied to a specific year any longer. So now, it could be used year after year. It was translated into english, now called the Kids’ Calender, so it could easily be used everywhere and not just in Sweden.

As a consequence and due to price issues, the weekdays had to be eliminated and replaced with a colour mark where each day of the week had a specific color.

Of course, my children noticed it at once.

–  There are no weekdays in this calender, my oldest son said in a disappointed voice.
–  Well, that is not so important, is it? Come on, let´s put up the stickers for this year! I said eager to get the same great experience from this calender as we got from the ealier one.

The children sat down for one hour and put up stickers for all of the events occuring this year. The sticker for uncle Per’s birthday was placed on the same date as it was in the earlier calender.

This year, there was no fighting in the kitchen about whose turn it was to move the marker. In fact, after a few days, no one even moved the marker at all.

My youngest son said to me one day:

–  What day is it today, mum?
–  Look in the kids calender, I said.
–  Well… I cant tell anymore from the calender… I don’t remember if we moved the marker yesterday or not… and since I don’t see any weekdays anymore it is impossible for me to know whether it is the 23rd or the 24th of March.
–  Actually, it is the 25th of March, I told him and moved the marker in the calender.

As my fingers slipped across the 24th of March I noticed what we had forgotten.
– Ah, yesterday was uncle Per’s birthday!

When you design and develop solutions, there will always be price and time issues that interfere with your vision of what you want to achieve. As a consequence,  you will need to do sacrificies on the way. Never sacrifice the features essential to the experience of pure simplicity in your solution.

A calender made of shiny paper with a jungle theme filled with lots of dangerous animals, but without week days, will not make it easier for children to understand what day it is. If the simplicity is lost, it doesn’t matter if the context around it is the most beautiful one on earth.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein.

PS. The company behind the Kids’ Calender, Månster Design, now told me that if the calender will be redesigned, the weekdays will be back. Together with the fighting in my kitchen, I guess. 🙂

Ny spännande sagokalender från Storytella

I årets sagokalender får vi följa med tvillingarna Axel och Sofia på en resa som sträcker sig 1000 år tillbaka i tiden. Det hela tar sin början i en felparkerad bil som står framför infarten till Axel och Sofias hus. Med hjälp av den magiska kameran som tar kort på saker som hänt förr i tiden, lyckas de lösa Mysteriet med den gråtande statyn.

På Storytella finns även två andra kalendrar att beställa.

All information och hur du beställer hittar du nu på

How to engage the “I’ll do it later” user

The “Voicemail vs SMS” example

In the middle of a meeting at work, I noticed a missed call from my mother.” You have one new message. Please dial 222 to listen to your message.”

Alright, later, I thought and continued discussing with my colleagues. After the meeting a few of us headed directly to the next meeting.

As I stepped into the room I discovered yet another new message, this time from my dad. I clicked on the message:

”We are standing first in line to buy tickets to that Christmas concert we talked about earlier. The queue here is enormous. Shall we buy tickets to you as well? Mummy tried to call you and left a message earlier about this.”

I texted: “Do that! Thanks dad!” and sent my message.

Later that evening my mother called me.
“How come you only reply to messages that your father sends and not to mine?” she said and sounded both hurt and disappointed.

”The answer is simple”, I said.
“When you leave a message on my voice mail the following happens:
– First I have to click on the message on my phone.
– Then I have to call my voice mail.
– Then I have to listen to that monotone voice telling me I have two new messages, where the first one was obsolete a long time ago.
– Then I have to listen to the date and time of the message.
– Then I have to listen to directions on how to erase the message.
– And then, finally, your message is played.

When daddy sends a text message, his question is stated directly in the message. It might have taken him longer time to prepare his message then it took for you to say yours at my voice mail but his message had no extra steps on the way. That´s why!“

If you want someone, who is engaged in a million other things at the same time, to pay attention to your specific request or product, you need to do the dirty work. You need to make it as simple as possible for the receiver. No extra clicks, no extra information.
Just to the point.

The “Mummy, come and play a game” example

– I know you are going to say no to this question but I’ll ask it anyway, my son said to my one day after school when I had my arms full of dirty laundry on my way to the washing machine.
– Do you want to play Monopoly with me? he asked.

I sighed and starred at the laundry and at the fridge filled with all the food I had to prepare for dinner. And at my phone and that precious time just to sit down and catch up on my internet errands.

– Not right now honey, but maybe later, I answered.
– That means no, he said with a disappointed voice. You always say Later and that always means Never.
– I will play Monopoly with you, I promise, but not today. You know, that game takes hours to play and I don’t have that time right now, honey.

My son grabbed a pile of playing cards and said.

– What if we play one game of Go Fish? That only takes ten minutes.

I looked at the clock on the wall.

– Alright. Let´s do it!

We ended up playing Go Fish for one hour. Afterwards my son said to me:
– Mummy, lets buy more of these easy games that are quick to play.
– Why do you want that, my son?
– Because then you engage in them.

When the barrier to engagement is low, it is more likely that you say yes to something right away instead of putting it on your “do it later debt list”. And as my clever son told me, most often Later turns to Never…

Can you afford that to happen?

Don’t ruin your website with the Never Asked Questions

“This is our brand new website”, the vice president of company ABC said with pride in his voice. “It states what we do here in the authority. What we do, who we are and what we stand for. Our website is totally transparent. We don’t hide anything from our citizens here. Everything is disclosed.”

The new consultant nodded slowly and pointed at different areas on the screen using a red Laser Pointer.

“Do you often get questions about this content?”

He turned his attention directly to the vice president.

“No, not so often, no..”, the vice president said. “It is not like that our clients go around asking about it, but we still need to show it… I mean, this is what we stand for and what if someone is looking for this piece of information and they can´t find it?”

“Well I guess they probably try to call you if they needed the information?”

“That might be a bit of a problem. You see, our Customer Service is flooded with calls from people having lots of questions all day long. If we would remove that information from our website, there would be even more people calling us than before. That is, no one would be able to get a quick answer from us.”

The vice president studied the consultant. He seemed to take notes on everything said in the room. He seemed ambitious, that was a good sign. Much better than his lazy precursors. Maybe this one finally was their guy.

“Mmhm”, the consultant murmured while drawing something on his paper. “And what about those people you mentioned having a lot of questions? Have you deleted the information they need or why do they keep calling you all the time?”

“Of course we haven’t”, the vice president said. “Since we get so many recurrent questions we decided they needed special attention on our website. We call it Frequently Asked Questions”, he said spelling it out loudly in the room. “You see, we always direct the ones calling us to this part of our website.”

The vice president pointed at the top question in the Frequently Asked Question column on the screen.

“This is my favorite question: What are your opening hours?. We decided to put that one on top of the list since Customer Service complained about all the questions they got on opening hours.”

The consultant added something on his paper and cleared his throat.

“Alright, folks. This is what I, and probably the main part of your clients, see when they visit your website”, he said and placed his paper on the middle of the table.

“This will be exciting”; the vice president said eager and removed his glassed. “Ok, there´s our logo on top and the Frequently Asked Questions… I am with you so far; he said and looked at the paper sketch.

“But what does NA stand for?”

The consultant took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. It looked as if he was counting to ten quietly to himself before answering.

“NA stands for Never Asked. That is, content that no one really needs.  And you seem to have filled nearly all you website with this NA-content.”

The vice president glanced anxiously at the only woman in the room.

“That was not a nice thing to say”, he said anxiously, “Martha here and her staff has been working day and night now for weeks to get all the content in place. And now you tell her that no one needs this? That she did all this work for nothing?”

The consultant nodded slowly.

“So you suggest we should emphasize more on the Frequently asked questions then? Make them bigger? Maybe put all our content in here?

“No. That is definitely not the answer.”,  the consultant said with a determined voice. “You have missunderstood the whole point of a website. Shut it down and we would all be better of.”

At that exact moment Martha started sobbing at the back of the room. At the front of the room the vice president started thinking about ways to end the contract with the consultant earlier than agreed. Much earlier actually.

Is Never Asked content blocking your users from finding answers on your website? Is your website a replica of your company? Are the frequently asked questions growing?

Then maybe you need to reconsider your content strategy:

  • Be aware of your users frequently asked questions.
  • Use your website to provide the answers. No one is looking for a question.
  • Your company is not the same thing as your website. Don’t sprinkle it with content Never Asked. That information can still be derived from customer service and other channels

PS.  If your users find what they are looking for right away, they don’t need to ask you the same questions over and over again.

Why your product needs a story

It was the end of November last year and I decided to get an advent calendar for my children. I stared at the calendars available in the store, with calendar windows containing different Christmas motifs inside. To be honest, they seemed a bit boring. I wanted to give my children something else, something they would remember.

I went down to the local toy store and decided I would try out a present calendar with 24 different things, one for each day. The store had lots of things. Useless things that no one really needs. Things that would be forgotten one minute after they got opened. If I was to buy these things for my children, would they appreciate it? And which things would I pick? I started to come up with arguments of why they would need the different things but gave up when I reached the fifth one. Nothing seemed really exiting to give or to get. There was something missing.  Something to connect the things and make them meaningful. They needed context. They needed a story.

I returned home and started writing a story in 24 parts. A story containing a mystery and different clues leading up to the solution in the end. When I was done I went back to the toy store. But this time I didn’t look for 24 meaningless things to wrap in a present calendar. This time I looked for  clues relevant to the story I had written. The story would raise the gifts and make them important and special.

It turned out my children loved the calendar and its selected clues. They got engaged in the story and longed for the next part. And now, one year later, they still remember the story and which clues they got as presents.

This year a few of my friends asked me if I could share my Christmas story with them so that they could tell it to their children. I published information about it at storytella.seand spread the word through viral channels such as Facebook and Twitter. To my surprise, 25 different people ordered my story in the first week. Many of them are people I don’t know.

Storytelling is a powerful tool that can connect your product to a context and give it purpose. An underlying story makes it easier to remember the products and associate them with certain feelings and attributes.

Minimize waste, are you designing for needs or wants?

Molly sat in the waiting room with dental phobia and a tremendous toothache. She was lucky she got an appointment so early to this coveted dentist. He had a reputation of always being on the clients’ side; stating that the client was always right no matter what. If he couldn’t fix her toothache in a way that she would be pleased with, then who could?

The door to the dentist´s surgery room opened. A man wearing a white coat announced her turn. She recognized him from all the pictures she found when googling his name prior to the visit. With a firm grip of the plastic bag she had kept in her lap, she got up from the chair and approached him.

– I see you brought something today, he said and glanced at her bag.
– Yes, Molly said and opened it.
– This is an expensive drill that my father bought a few years ago when he had toothache after a recommendation from his dentist. It worked really well to cure his pain so I would very much appreciate it if you could use it today. And hopefully it will be less expensive as well, since I bring my own equipment?

The dentist studied the drill for a second.

– Hmm, he said slowly, it might be cheaper for you, yes, but I cannot say for sure what the price will be in this state of time. What I can promise you though, is that we can use it. You are the best one to know what you want in this situation and if this is important to you, then it is important to us as well, he continued and gave her a comforting smile.

Relieved by his words she entered the surgery room and closed the door behind her.

Two hours later she opened it again, slowly stepping out into the waiting room. Several parts of her mouth ached after the surgery. The new dental plate in her upper jaw made it difficult to press the teeth towards each other and the wound from the corner of the mouth bled constantly. In spite of the surgery wounds, the toothache was gone. It really was! The bill got quite a bit more expensive than she had calculated with, but that was probably a reasonably price considering all that had to be done.

Molly spotted a frightened client starring at her in the waiting room.

– There is no need to be afraid, she mumbled trough her dental plate.
– What did he do to you? the woman whispered.
– He just repaired a hole that ached a lot, she said and tried to smile.

The woman looked skeptically at her.
– And what’s with the other stuff?
– Oh, you mean this? Molly said while pointing at the dental plate and the wound.
– They are circumstances that appeared in order to be able to use the drill properly.
– What are you saying? He did all of this BECAUSE OF A DRILL? the woman yelled upset while her face turned purple.

– Exactly. I wanted him to use a certain drill that I brought since I knew it worked. He then needed to do some medical interventions on a few other teeth and accidently he hit the corner of the mouth. But the drill worked!

Surely you wouldn’t approach your dentist or your brain surgeon telling them what instrument they should use to cure you. That would be a waste of time and a high risk. You probably know less about the procedures of solving your problem than they do. What you do know though, is the nature of your problem, the reason why you came to them for help.

When we create solutions for the web, we sometimes face customers telling us to include a certain product or technique they have invested in, often purposed for another intention. What help would you give to this kind of issue?

“Yes, of course we can do a solution based on what you want” or
“No, this is not the best way to solve your problem”? 

Web editors 2.0: From word count to conversion hunt

Lesley glanced at the new guy in the corridor. He had a very strange way of making an entrance on his first day. Instead of polishing the web editor-sign outside his door; the sign that all the web editors had outside their rooms; the sign that everyone polished on their first day, he just put it away. This wasn’t exactly company policy. And this particular day company policies mattered more than ever before.

In less than five minutes the new head of online services was expected at the office. Rumors had it there were some changes ahead and they were not of the positive kind.

Lesley sat down on his chair and opened a new document in Microsoft Word. He had some writing to do today, like every other day. He looked at the diploma hanging on the wall stating he was the most productive editor this year with a rate of 50 articles per month. And next to his diploma the words “All news are good news” printed on extra thick paper.

He started writing today’s first sentence when he heard the door bell ring. This was it! He pushed himself out of his chair and stomped outside into the corridor.

He noticed that the new guy had placed a hand written sign with the letters “C H” outside his door. Probably his initials, Lesley thought. How pathetic. Everyone had their whole name written on the door, not just some silly abbreviation that no one could remember or understand. Clarity was one of the core values in this company.

Outside the office door stood a short man with a grave look in his face. He looked like the type that never smiled.

Lesley took a deep breath, put on his best smile and opened:
“You must be the new head of online services?”

The short man nodded and stepped into the office corridor.
“That’s correct. I am Stanley, he said and shook Lesley’s hand firmly. And you are?”
“Lesley. I am one of the web editors.”

In the corner of his eye he spotted the new guy, Mr. “C H” approaching them.

“Well… actually I am the editor here”, Lesley continued with a loud voice.
“And why is that?”

The head of online services seemed a bit more interested.

“You see, I have the highest production rate for web articles here this year!” he yelled proudly.
“Aha, good for you”, the head of online services said before he turned his attention to the new guy standing next to him.

“And who do we have here?”
“I am Stephen”,  the new guy said and reached out his hand.
“And you are also one of the web editors, I guess?”

Lesley starred at this Stephen guy.
How the hell did he pass the recruitment process? Without having a clue of what he was supposed to be working with.

“I am a conversion hunter”,  Stephen said with a clear voice and pointed at the wrinkled piece of paper with the letters “C H” outside his door. “Eager to maximize output of this website and get the highest conversion rate this year.”

“Aha, good for us!” the new head of online services said, and finally he smiled.

Are you focused on bringing lots of words to your website or lots of value to your business?

Responsive design – what you see is what you get

Jenny stared at the man in the dark glasses sitting 2 inches away from his computer. He was the first visually impaired person on the usability test for the new website they were developing. The only thing visible on his screen was a giant Home button and the upper left corner of a picture. It was the picture the team had chosen with great concern.

– Well, this looks like a nice site, he said and clicked on the Home button.

Now the screen showed the Home button and the upper left corner of another picture. How was he to know whether this was a nice site or not? With the zooming level he used he missed the whole message. All their thoughts about how each page would be experienced from a user perspective were lost.

– Let’s see what we have here, he said and scrolled downwards and then horizontally to the right. Jenny noticed he just missed the search field right above.

– What if you try to zoom out a bit to see the rest of the page? she suggested eager to help him.

-Aha, you mean there’s more than this? he said with a doubtful voice and turned his head towards her.

– Sorry, just a nearly-blind-man-joke, he continued with a laugh. There is no use for me to zoom out. The text gets too small then and impossible for me to read.

Most certainly he would never return to this site again. Why would he? It would take him ages to just find the search box.

On her way back to the office she decided to try and find a place open for vaccination prior to her trip to Africa next month.

She picked up her phone and googled “vaccination yellow Fever”. The first hit sounded like a vaccination centre. She clicked on it.

“Sorry, but the page you are looking for doesn´t exist in this mobile version. Would you like to visit our full website version instead?”

Would I? No idea. I want a vaccine against yellow Fever, she frowned and clicked on the link for the full website version.

At the full website version of the vaccination centre, the text was so small she had to zoom in a lot. In fact, the only thing she saw on her mobile screen after zooming in was a home button and the upper left corner of a picture.

-Hmm, let’s see here… Where would I find the information about opening hours? Is it further down? To the right? Further down to the right? She swiped downwards and horizontally.

-Alright, this will get me nowhere and will take me forever, she said angrily to herself.

Her words from earlier today echoed in her head:
“What if you try to zoom out a bit to see the rest of the page?”

– The text gets to small then and impossible for me to read, she answered herself and stared at her phone showing a glimpse of a full website version.


How much of your message gets through to your visitors? Some argue that a mobile version showing a selection of your content with links to the full website is the way to go. But the cross-linking and zooming will disrupt the user’s journey to his answer. With a separate mobile version you may also end up with one extra content baby to feed and take care of.

Why only provide some of your content in excellent vision?

Be responsive. Give your users a full and satisfactory experience no matter what device or tools they need.

User scenarios – a powerful tool for higher conversion rates

What would you call the story of a user who wants to perform a task and fails? Some call it user scenarios but for me they are best describes as “situationas”. Situationas (or user scenarios) are stories that express user needs in a context. Whereas personas are focused on characteristics of users, situationas focuses on characteristics of user situations. It consists of three integral parts:

Who needs to do what and how well they are performing it today.

The situationa of Lisa below tells you nothing about who she is married to, what her interests are or where she lives. It only focuses on what she is trying to complete in her current situation.

Lisa needs to place reviews on remaining students
Lisa is in a hurry when she logs on to the school web. She clicks on the heading “class list” and sees the names of all the students in her class. The list view doesn’t say if a review has been placed or not. She clicks on the name Alice and sees that she has already given her a review. She continues to Oliver. After clicking on his name, she writes a short review about his achievements before its time to head back for class. On her way back to the classroom she realizes that she once again forgot to specify that the review concerned “fall 2011” which means Oliver parents will not find the review where they expect to find it.

Situationas can be effective when:

  • You need to visualize and explain why and where your website isn’t meeting your users goals
  • You or other members of your team need to decide how to improve your website in a way that increases conversion rate

You might argue and say that this sounds just like a use case or a user story. A user story tells you who wants to do what and why. A use case visualizes the steps necessary for a user to complete a goal. A situationa on the other hand helps visualizing obstacles present on the actual path your visitors take on your site today. These obstacles might be known to the ones performing user tests or analyzing web statistics. It is what you do next that is crucial. Do you come up with a solution to the obstacles right away or visualize the them to other team members or clients? By telling the story of your user’s situation you will include more people, more brains 🙂 in coming up with the best solution.

Consider the example below when two team members discuss a certain feature they are about to develop:

“Why are we placing an icon here?” “Lisa needs to see who she has reviewed on an aggregated level” versus “No idea. Maybe someone decided that icons look nice on this site”.

Which case would you rather solve?

By combining user scenarios (or situationas :-), user stories and use cases, you’ll get powerful tools for understanding the nature of the user needs, the reason why they want to perform a task and how to design the quickest path to complete the task without obstacles.