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December 14, 2009

The Fry Client Holiday Gift Guide

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The Swiss Colony Super Santa Gift Basket

Vera Bradley Large Duffel

Ann Taylor's Featured Gift

Lane Bryant Textured Metal Bib Necklace

Hastings Twilight Book

First Ascent Cloud Layer Fleece

Express' Gift the Look

Advance Auto Part's Holiday Gift Guide

The Children's Place

Godiva Foil-Wrapped Milk Chocolate Santas

‘Tis the season for some shopping. Even if you were one of the many who took advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales I’m sure you are not done checking everyone off your list just yet.

Our clients carry a wide variety of great products and highlighted here are a few of their featured holiday products and specials. No matter who you are buying for you are bound to find something here for someone on your list.

The One Who Has Everything

Indulge them with petite fours, wine baskets, sacks o’ pistachios and other various delicacies from The Swiss Colony. Order by December 15th to take advantage of the early bird discounts on a selection of popular products such as the Super Santa Gift Basket which comes with candy cane cocoa, peppermint balls, Scottish biscuits, gourmet coffee and more.

The Fashion Conscious

Ann Taylor has a featured gift which was a lovely Starburst Brooch for $50 one day last week and $50 off Cashmere Ruffle Front Cardigan another day this week. See what today’s featured gift is and browse their many Perfect Presents. Don’t forget to spend at least $150 to get free shipping.

For the friend or family member who is always toting things around the ever popular Vera Bradley duffel bag is the thing for them. Available in a variety of designs and sizes (large, small and rolling); select designs are currently on sale. Pick up some accompanying accessories like the new turn lock wallet.

Lane Bryant has some great 12 Days of Christmas Deals including $25 off your purchase, free shipping on any order of $75 or more and buy two get one free on all Cacique bras. So load up your cart with some of the new arrivals from their icon collection and don’t forget to add some new jewelry, most of which is buy one get one 50% off.

The Music, Book or Game Lover

If someone on your list is intrigued by all the current Twilight hooplah head to Hastings to get them a book, CD, calendar, shirt or collectible. For a broader selection of holiday gifts check out Hasting’s Christmas Gift section and take advantage of some timely offers such as an extra 30% off select gifts and an extra 20% off action figures purchased by December 19.

The Winter Outdoors(wo)man

Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent site, a new line of outdoor gear built by some of the world’s best mountain guides, brings you The Guides’ Guide on Gifts: 5 Sure-Fire Favorites ranging from the #1 Downlight Sweater to the #5 Multi-Fidget. If someone on your list is going to be spending a lot of time outdoors this winter you’ll find the perfect gift for them here. The #2 Cloud Layer Fleece is currently on sale and you can also get free shipping on orders over $100 with the code EBHOLIDAY through December 24th (also valid at Eddiebauer.com).

The Youthful Trend Setter

For that fashionable trend setter explore Express’ “Gift the Look” for her and him. Don’t forget to take advantage of their 25%-50% off outerwear for her and him and buy one, get one pair of jeans for 50% off for her and him.

The Automotive Enthusiast

Advance Auto Parts is the place to find the perfect gift for that auto enthusiast in your life. Take advantage of their featured offers such as a $119 TomTom Navigation System, $49.99 PEAK 2.4” Back Up Camera and more savings on great gadgets, tools and other auto oriented gifts in their Holiday Gift Guide.

The Little One

Find gifts for kids of all ages at The Children’s Place where you pay $5 for shipping on every order everyday, and free shipping if you purchase a gift card as part of your order. Browse their Coolest Presents (ever!) to find all sorts of great hats, gloves and jackets for those kids on your list.

For Everyone

Godiva is the place to turn for that little something to make your loved one or friend smile. Stock up on stocking stuffers and Hanukkah gifts like the cute (and tasty) Foil-Wrapped Milk Chocolate Santa and new Candy Cane Truffles. Take advantage of free standard shipping on shipments of $50 or more by entering MERRY at checkout.

Happy holidays and happy shopping!

Product availability and promotions cannot be guaranteed so take advantage of them quickly!

December 07, 2009

The Worry Tank

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My favorite New Yorker cartoon is called The Worry Tank. it shows a group of colleagues gathered around a conference table, looks of pure horror and anxiety on their faces. it's obvious they're getting ready to pull the trigger on a big business decision and are panicked: "What happens if it works...all too well?" "What if it doesn't work?" "What if it all blows up in our faces?" "What if somebody sues?" "What happens ten years down the line? Then what?" 

I keep a dog-eared copy of that cartoon in my desk and occasionally pull it out and laugh because I've spent my own time in The Worry Tank. And I would hazard a guess, a lot of us have. 

I remember one time "in the tank" quite well, because it was the time I also learned how to get out of the "Worry Tank" and into action...

It was one of my first web site design projects back when I worked for a newspaper. (Remember those?) The year, 1999. I was part of a team tasked with creating a new web site to expand our company’s customer base and generate new revenue streams. Our executive team had given us carte blanche (heady days, 1999) to do research on the industry and our current and potential customer base, then come back to present our recommended project roadmap.

We were excited. We loved the exercises inherent in creating and disseminating effective online surveys, ethnographic interviews, usability testing and card sorting. We thrived on staying current with industry trends, where online was and where it was going. We thrilled with each and every new finding the data told us. We were…yeah, we were geeks (yeah, still am). We gathered a LOT of data (carte blanche, remember?).

About a week before our formal presentation to the executive committee, our team was in the conference room for our weekly meeting to pull together final recommendations and project roadmap.

As we sat at that conference table, looking over the reams of data we had collected, reviewing the resulting analysis and findings, discussing all of the great opportunities within our reach once we picked a direction and made our list of priorities, we started to panic. We were about give a major presentation to our executive committee on a future direction for our company they were willing to invest significant time, money and resources in. What happens if we make the wrong recommendations? What happens if the research is wrong? What happens…if it works *really* well?

Alas, we found ourselves in…. The Worry Tank.

What we realized that day, after we breathed into a few paper bags and talked ourselves down off the ledge, is we had reached a critical mass of information. We had done all the leg work. We had all the data. The roadmap was right there in front of us. But we were letting ourselves get bogged down in all the information we had.

So where to begin?

What is your Project Goal?

What is the goal of this project? Seems like a simple question to answer, but sit a group of stakeholders down in a room and you’re bound to get different answers. At Fry, one of the steps during the Project Kick-off is meeting with all of the stakeholders involved to ensure that everyone involved agree on the Project Goal before we move forward.

Back in 1999, my project team started ahead of the game. We knew what the goal was; to expand our customer base and generate new revenue. We hit The Worry Tank once we got all the data in front of us. What did we do next? How did we determine which direction was the right one?

Find Your Top 3

There are many ways to gather information, research and data about your site, your customers, your competitors. But once you gather it all together, now what? How do you sort through it all? What are your 3 most important recommendations?

I recently finished a checkout redesign project for one of our clients. The Project Goal? Decrease their shopping cart abandonment. We had access to their analytics so we knew where the problems were happening; we had the industry and competitor research, and we also did some usability testing. Now was the time to sit down, review the data and present recommendations to the client on the changes we would be making to their checkout.

I sat down to review the research. As I did, themes started filtering to the top. And as I continued to review, it became easier to then prioritize those themes into my Top 3 recommendations on changes we needed to make to their checkout flow to improve it. Sure, there were more than 3 themes that came out of the research, but when it came down to it, those top 3 accounted for about 75% of the feedback we received that impacted our goal and, once addressed, we were confident would result in a decrease in their shopping cart abandonment.

Step away from the spreadsheets

Analysis Paralysis. You’ve either felt that paralyzing fear or you’ve seen it in action and wanted to grab the person experiencing it and shake them until they made a decision. The Top 3 is great, but inevitably, some great opportunities and new (potential) projects will be left as you move forward, and it’s easy to get sidetracked or paralyzed.

When working with a client, inevitably, during one of our presentations or reviews someone will come up with a really great idea based on our findings that gets everyone in the room excited. This can lead to hesitation, second guessing and sidetrack the project team. It’s hard, but we have to remember the original Project Goal, and steer the project team back to on track to get the project moving forward again. (Having said that, though, who’s to say you can’t prep those other interesting findings and opportunities into, say, Phase 2? Or even your next project? )

Do something!

Pull the trigger. Make a move. Make something happen. In past positions, I don’t know how many meetings I’ve been in where a team comes in and presents research findings and next steps that gets everyone excited. Great energy in the room, everyone’s on board, loves and agrees on the goal, direction and roadmap….and then I never hear about it again.

At Fry we work with some great Project and Program Managers that keep our team on track. They keep us all moving forward, even if sometimes it makes them look like the bad guys. In the end, what’s the better outcome, having a bunch of really cool data and a long list of to-dos? Or having a launched site that’s generating revenue and has achieved the Project Goal?

Since that time “in the tank,” I’ve used these steps in just about every size and shape of project I’ve been on from checkout redesigns to launching micro-sites or promotional campaigns.

As for that site from 1999? Luckily, we made it out of The Worry Tank. We had our goal. We narrowed and quantified our top 3 recommendations. We nailed the presentation and got executive buy-in. We built and launched the site. We met and surpassed our business goals (and even won a national award or two along the way).

As for that Checkout Redesign? One of the coolest parts of our jobs in the User Experience Group is because we base our recommendations on quantifiable data, it’s easy for us to go back post-launch and do another measurement to see what kind of impact we’ve had. We did that a year later for this client. And saw a significant drop in their shopping cart abandonment.

Nancy Tomaro is an Information Architect in Fry's User Experience Group. 

December 01, 2009

Tales from the Field: A Mobile Love-Hate Story

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“I love my smartphone. I was reluctant to get one, but now I can’t imagine living without it. With my other phone, which wasn’t a smartphone, I wasn’t as attentive to it. I’d forget to charge it or leave it at home. But with my smartphone, I always have it charged and I always have it with me.”

“I hate when a mobile site or an app takes forever to load. I don’t expect it to be as fast as a Web site right now, but I do expect it to be faster than making a phone call.”

It’s hard to read any technology or retail trade publication – online or print – without seeing mention of mobile: mobile penetration expanding, mobile ad spending increasing, mobile presence ever more pressing, and the list goes on. Mobile has definitively moved from farm team to World Series champion and, at this time, only seems held back by itself.

I have a love-hate relationship with mobile experiences and my smartphone. A lot of my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feelings about the experiences come down to this:  how it empowers me to do some things and how it holds me back from doing other things.

Wanting to know if my own experiences were an anomaly or a norm, I hit the streets and the phone to interview 25 people. The interviews centered on what people love about mobile site and app experiences as well as what they hate about them. Together the following trends shape both a mindset and a lens that you can use when crafting your mobile experience story.

The Love Story

“I love that everything on my smartphone is interconnected: email, phone, music, videos, camera, Web, and apps. It’s centralized in one device and it’s mobile.”

The Oracle of Mobile

While the ancient Greeks had the Oracle of Delphi, we have the Oracle of Mobile. We need only to reach into our pockets, pull out our mobile devices, and connect to the mobile site or app to ask whatever questions we have. Seen as “my mini laptop”, “my savior”, or “my lifeline”, the connection to a mobile site or app is one of spontaneous utility and convenience. Utility and convenience are perceived to be easily consumed content – rather than a full online Web site – that solve “my real problems” in a timely fashion. Mobile sites and apps fulfill curious consumers’ desires to know more and empower spontaneous consumers’ desires to get it now. As one person described, the mobile site and app experience is like “the Swiss Army Knife” of experiences:  ready and able to solve any issue, at any time, and in any context.

Favorite mobile site and app experiences noted: ESPN, Redlaser (barcode scanner and price checker), New York Times, Amazon, K&L Wines, eBay, Wikitude, Yelp, Zagat, and Whole Foods.

Wikitude uses augmented-reality to identify and describe places of interest.

Wikitude Example:


Engaging mobile consumers in a way that inspires and entertains them strikes a love chord, which often leads mobile consumers to share their experiences more often. Apps, in particular, maximize the core features of the smartphone itself such as camera, GPS, SMS, Web, video, and email to deliver a more robust and compelling mobile experience than mobile sites. Additionally, mobile consumers note that apps generally are more adept at enabling personalized experiences, such as the ability to tag my favorites and add notes.

Favorite mobile site and app experiences noted: Pandora (music), Ben Color Capture, mobiQpons (location-based coupons), Shazam (song recognition), and Walmart.

Ben Color Capture is Benjamin Moore's paint swatch match that inspires mobile consumers to find color swatches in pictures they've taken.

Ben Color Capture Example:


The Hate Story

“Because my favorite news site takes forever to load, I go to another news source now.”

 “Ads. Twitter has ads and I sometimes really hate them for that.”

Too Much Time on My Hands

When mobile sites or apps aren’t perceived as fast enough, it undermines a fundamental expectation mobile consumers have for mobile sites or apps: that they are instantaneous and immediately accessible. While many mobile consumers currently view load times as an issue with their coverage or their carrier, most said within the next several months they would likely blame the mobile site for any delays as devices continue to offer more memory and carriers move to faster networks.

Ads are often viewed as impeding the mobile experience because they either delay mobile consumers getting to content or take them out of the mobile site or app entirely. The brand bears the brunt of this because mobile consumers feel they are no longer in control of their experience.

The pragmatic mobile consumer also is more conscious of the mobile site being device-aware in order to provide the best format for easy content consumption. Ill-fitted format, deep menus, or needing to press multiple buttons to get to information were called out as detrimental experiences.

Finally, several mobile consumers found the brand experience diminished when the brand failed to recognize and give them access to their account from the online Web site channel to mobile channel.

What Does This Mean to Brands & the Mobile Experience Story?

Mobile experiences are not and should not be online Web experiences. Don’t take your full online Web site and make it mobile. Instead, boil the experience down to a “snackable”, relevant, and tailored point of view. The key to producing “to the point” content is determining definitively “what is the point” for the mobile experience story. Be fierce in focusing on what your mobile consumers want to drive your mobile brand experience rather than vice versa. And, remember to consider all the features the smartphone has to offer in the experience.

Function 60%, Form 40%. Focus on function and usability even more than you do on an online Web site. Mobile consumers know quickly the value of a mobile site or app and simple navigation, clean design, and shallow structures will mitigate pogo-sticking and abandonment. Also, consider how the mobile consumer will interact with your content – by rollerball or touch, in a vertical or horizontal presentation – when designing interaction elements.

Time matters, make each second meaningful. According to a recent survey conducted for Gomez Inc., 2 out of 3 consumers said they had had issues when trying to access a Web site on their phones. Of those consumers, nearly 75% said slow load times was the biggest issue and over 60% said they were unlikely to revisit the site they had trouble accessing but 40% would visit a competitors. As such, test early, test often, test literal load times, and test perceived load times. [1]

Market smartly. Use ad dollars to hone in on the targeted, personalized capabilities mobile sites and apps afford in order to keep mobile consumers in a relevant and timely context.

Know consumers across channels and remember preferences. Leverage account data and remember preferences from the online channel to mobile channel or app to mobile site. This will save mobile consumers time with forms, browsing, and specific tasks as well as create a more customized experience. It furthermore will let mobile consumers know you’re always there, wherever they want to find you.

A mobile consumer who recently got a smartphone offered the best advice for brands and mobile carriers: “Everyone knows mobile is the future. That it is already here. We all have our Willy Wonka golden tickets and are standing at the gates. Now, let us in!”

It's time to open those gates and let the magic begin.


[1] Gomez Inc., “Why the Mobile Web is Disappointing End-Users: A study of consumers’ mobile web experiences conducted by Equation Research on behalf of Gomez, Inc.”

Dana Hawes-Davis is a Sr. Information Architect in Fry's User Experience Group.