Category Archives: Digital

Ryanair, their calendar and an inverted logic user experience

How many times have you had to select or enter your date of birth on a website in your life?

I bet hundreds, probably thousands of times.

It’s a very basic function, which is generally proposed with a basic calendar interface, in which you select the day, month, and year of birth (in Europe, that’s the logic) – or the month, day and year of birth (in the US, the logic is different).

I would have never, ever in my life, imagined that such a basic, standard, and common concept as DD, MM, YYYY, would have been inverted. 

Ryanair, in fact, when you check in online, will ask you to select your date of birth by first selecting a year, then a month, and then a day.


In Usability, there’s a rule. It’s a simple rule. It says: “don’t make the user think”.

“If we find something that works, we stick to it. Once we find something that works — no matter how badly — we tend not to look for a better way. We’ll use a better way if we stumble across one, but we seldom look for one.”

Which means just one thing: do not put unnecessary effort on the customer. If since forever, the logic behind selecting a date has always been DD, MM, YYYY – or MM, DD, YYYY, depending on which part of the world you live in – then why change it?

If there’s a good reason behind this decision, I’d be happy to know it!

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Localization, where are thou?

IMG_2529 IMG_2530

Evernote 3

I don’t know if everybody gets annoyed at bad localizations like me. Bad localization AND poor grammar are those things that really really make me mad. Especially in digital products. I mean: you are clearly renown, you have funds, you have the resources to make your app stand out of the crowd, you decide to localize it in N languages and you do it this bad?


What is the ultimate target of localization if not making the unfamiliar familiar?

And what is less familiar than a word in your own language with a wrong letter? I tell ya. Nothing.

A word in your own language with a wrong spelling creates that sense of étrangement – as we say in rhetoric. That is, it makes everything to the reader a little strange

How can language make such a difference in the perceived value of a digital product (app, e-commerce, etc)?

Well, by making everything in the product familiar to the buyer. A localized content is what makes the customer feel at home, comfortable and trustworthy. These feelings are – guess what – the best sediment for a fertile and long-term customer engagement.

In other words: words – allow me the repetition – are the best way to cultivate your customers’ trust.

Some examples of things that let me down about Evernote, one of my favourite apps.

Italian people will understand.

1) “In atteSSa della pagina”

2) “CoLLazione”

3) “I mie Pasti”

4) “Tocca per ritagliare le ricette e salvarNE nell’account Evernote”.

Evernote: how can i trust you if you don’t even spell the words in my language properly? 

What do I have to think about you?

1) That you use an automatic translator (bad, bad, bad).

2) That your italian localization guy does not speak italian (bad, bad, bad).

3) That you don’t really care about Italian customers. Then, why doing the localization?

Apart from this, I love your app 🙂

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Shut up, be quiet and deliver the project! (Ode to Silence)

headless chickens

All you have to do is think!

A short post about web project management.

As most of you know I’ve been sailing in the web project management ocean since some time now, and I’ve had the opportunity to see successful and unsuccessful projects. As it always happens, the bad results have taught me more than the good ones 🙂

A leitmotiv that I have identified in the unsuccessful projects I observed is the lack of balance, quiet and calm of the project manager.

Too many times projects are managed without even knowing that they are projects. Let’s make myself clear: too many times projects are managed by whoever happens to be around when the idea is discussed with the clients. Not having designed project managers to deliver projects mean that the wrong people might be in charge. What do I mean by the wrong people? Well, I just mean people with the following attitude:

1) People who never shut up, take 1 hour of silence and actually THINK.

2) People who are reactive and not proactive.

3) People who produce noise, chaos and approximation in whatever they do.

In general, people who are unable to pursue interior silence. Therefore, people who are unable to approach a project calmly and by logically analysing how the work should be broken down, what the schedule should be, who is accountable for what, what issues might arise and how much time would be needed to overcome challenges. Another detail to consider is that projects are delivered by PEOPLE. If the project manager transmits a feeling of disorder, chaos, anxiety, etc, the people involved in the project will work like headless chickens (!!!). The project manager will most likely forget about these people until the project is due. Then, when things don’t go the right way, the people will be suddenly remembered again, only to be blamed.

Oh, and let us not forget about passion and enthusiasm.

Motivation and engagement are the key factor to a high performing project with people actually having fun delivering it!

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The e-commerce Drama

The e-commerce drama







Did you study literature at school or university?

I did, and I loved it, but that was in my previous non-geek life.

Have you ever heard of the dramatic structure? That sequence of events that compose a play or a drama, a comedy or a tragedy.

The dear old Aristotle, for instance, viewed the plot structure as divided into three parts: protasis, epitasis and catastrophe. Horace, instead, stated in his Ars Poetica that each dramatic play should have a 5-act structure.

For reasons of convenience, we will use Gustav Freytag’s study of the 5-act dramatic structure:  Die Technik des Dramas. Freytag stated that a drama is divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and dénouement, (resolution ou catastrophe).

Yes, but how is this related to the online customer journey?

Well, this is the fun part!

1) EXPOSITION: background information needed to properly understand the story –> HOME PAGE: here is who we are, this is what we sell, here is the context in which we act, this is our identity.

2) RISING ACTION: you have a target but some conflicts arise –> CATEGORY PAGE: you want to find a v-neck warm and cosy black coat. You filter the coats macro category by inserting your preferences: it has to be a size 12, it has to be black, and it has to be long. Gosh, no results. You broaden your search criteria: ok, I’ll be ok if it’s a size 12 and black, but not long. You think about it and …

3) CLIMAX:  the turning point, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs –> ADD TO CART: yes, you thought about it, you sent the product page’s link to your friend on Skype and she agrees that this is the right coat for you. Good choice! The product page details say this is the last item left: you feel blessed by the God of the World Wide Web and have doubts no more! You do THE action, you click on the add to cart button.

4) FALLING ACTION (or ANTI-CLIMAX): it might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome is in doubt. –> CHECKOUT: umpf, you have to create an account. Umpf, there are so many fields to fill in, but yes, it’s so worth it that you do it fast. Umpf, credit card number. Where is the credit card? Will it be safe? Gosh, it’s 300£, is it a wise expense? At the end of the day the sales will start just in a couple of months. Do I really need this? Oh, whatever, it’s been a hard week, I worked hard, I deserve this coat. I need it. It’s so cold outside …

5) DÉNOUEMENT (RESOLUTION): The issues are resolved, creating for the character a sense of catharsis, all the tensions are released. –> DELIVERY: Oh my God this coat is amazing. It is amazing!  The delivery was super fast, and the fabric is so soft and it fits me perfectly! I’m so happy I spent only 300£ for it. My friends are going to love it, I can’t wait to wear it 🙂

6) DÉNOUEMENT (CATASTROPHE): The bitter end. The story ends with the death of the character, a sense of injustice and unfairness affects everything. –> FAULTY/WRONG ITEM:  Oh my God this coat is amazing. It is amazing. The delivery was super fast, and the fabric is so soft and it fits me perfectly! Wait … what is this? Is this a hole? Is this a hole? Jaysus, (the character is Irish) this is a big, huge, irreparable hole! Right under the arm’s seam! Noooo this is so unfair! I spent £300 for this … I even removed the label and washed it. They are never going to refund it … I am never ever shopping online again!


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Things I saw @ Dublin Web Summit

The Dublin Web Summit 2012 was an event I, digital lover (and ecommercerockstar), could not miss.

Dublin Web Summit

View from the summit of the Summit!










On the 17th and 18th of October over 250 startups from 50+ countries, 4000 attendees and hundreds of investors, media and speakers attended the Summit. I was selected as a member of the Live Team: a bunch of geeks twitting about the cool things they were seeing all day 🙂 Lucky for me I was with my mate The Pencil : the best geek company ever! We had so much fun and are still overwhelmed by the over-stimulation of our digital souls. 

What did we learn? Oh, so many things, but let’s just focus on a couple of them.

We met companies like Coder Dojo ( who teach children how to code in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc. And these 12 year-old kids speak about the cloud based apps for iPhone they coded in JavaScript when they were 10 – and they seem amused!

I learnt that there are companies like IFWERANTHEWORLD (, founded by the visionary business woman Cindy Gallop, whose aim was to create a pool of good intentions (human & business) that can be translated into actions! Take a look and state your own good intention: the website will suggest microactions to take in order to accomplish it, while encouraging interaction with the other members. It’s another great example of how the web 2.0 can change the world and sure, I’m gonna be part of it!

I heard about the e-commerce revolution, with referents from Lyst (, Beachmint (, AHAlife (, Wrapp ( and ILWYW ( This e-commerce is social, behavioural, one to one. The shop changes according to the shopper, how cool is that? It’s like pay per view but it’s e-commerce and it’s free!

And last, but not least, I met rockstars like Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mind Candy, who I will refer to from now as a Digital Rolling Stone. I also managed to hear the speech of this amazing woman, Victoria Ransom, CEO of Wildfire. A couple of years ago she created her startup Wildfire, which she managed to get profitable after a year, and now she’s just sold it to Google for 300 million dollars. And she wears flat shoes. Which means I can make it in this world too!

Oh, and we didn’t have to queue for the lady’s toilet. What do you think this means?

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The glass ceiling myth in the web 2.0 era

I really need to share with you, my beloved readers, something that a dear colleague of mine shared with me yesterday, and that really impacted my way of thinking and doing projects for the future.

The speaker is the enlightening Cindy Gallop, whose motto is “why walk if you can gallop?”. Smart girl. Very smart girl. I wish I had such a surname!

In the video I’m about to show you, she says very inspiring things about how we relate to our work, revealing that we can, we should, we must set the boundaries we want and work the way we want, doing what we love, so that it will never feel as work but as a blessing, a miracle, the dream of being paid for doing something that is not a huge sacrifice.

Also, she mentions a very true quote: “there is no such thing as a glass ceiling: there’s just a thick layer of men” .

Every woman working in the digital world can confirm this. Most of the times when I attend web or digital events I feel like an outsider, it seems to me that it is so much a men thing. Geeks (like me) drinking beer and talking all the time of, jquery, CSS and other super interesting (!) programming things. The ones with whom I can relate the most are the usability experts: usability requires intuition, attention to detail and big picture at the same time (many female friends of mine would define these characteristics as feminine: I don’t want to be too provocative, though. At least not for now!).

Anyway, here is the inspiring, enlightening, life-changing video of Cindy Gallop. Enjoy it, understand it, process it, share it, do it!

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How do colors affect purchases?

A cognitive approach to e-commerce, by Kissmetrics.


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Give me error messages! I want error messages!

Again on contact forms: Is there anything more annoying than not being able to fill in a form and getting an error symbol without any explanations?

To all the web designers out there: error symbols are NOT self explaining. Please add a short explanation, so that your user is able to understand what is going wrong. Here I have to reproach WordPress for inspiring me about this: I was trying to upload a video and just couldn’t manage to complete the task because there was absolutely no clue in the form about what the problem really was. The url format? The link? How am I supposed to know that? Take a look:


Also, please try to order the fields control hierarchically; which means, If I’m filling a form and maybe I am already registered, it is pointless to block me 2 times with error messages such as: “password too short” or “invalid date format” and then, after all has been sorted out, tell me “email already registered”. If you know that my email is already registered, say it in the very first moment!

The internet should be a better place …

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Life is already too hard to be trapped into a tricky shopping experience!

I will never say it enough: online shopping is supposed to be EASY!

Life is already too hard to be trapped into a tricky shopping experience.

This video from Google Analytics explains to all those companies who just don’t care about their online shopping experience how their customers are actually treated!

Love your customers, and they will (most likely) love you back!

Ignore them, cheat them, give them too many captchas, and they will just leave (and probably go to your competitor).

Check-it out!

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The Anatomy of the Perfect Contact Form

Very interesting article on Shoot the hippo about contact forms: The Anatomy of the Perfect Contact Form

The suggestions stress how important it is to guide the customer in every online process without being too invasive.

Personally, I think most of the suggestions here are useful, the only “con” I find is that I would probably reduce the background noise of this page: it seems to me a little bit too “busy”.

But again, the breadcrumb is perfect, the form validation is working fine, the “customer’s feedback” on the right makes the website perceived as trustworthy and the notice tells you how long you will have to wait to have an answer. Also, there form is very short, only the necessary data are required!

It is indeed very efficient.

This enlightening article suggests:

1) Progress Bar – Show people where they are at in the process

2) Clear heading:

  • Include a call to action ‘fill out the form below’.

  • Include a reference to it being easy ‘simple’.

  • Be approachable ‘please’

  • State what will happen when the form is sent ‘our team will call you back’

3) Reasure your visitors – Explanation  State why you need the information and that you will never share it

4) Use oversize, colour form fields with field descriptions in the fields

5) Use inline errors – or rather inline congratulations! Reward with a lovely tick for each success

6) Terms and Conditions – If you have to have terms and conditions then make it easy

7) Security logos – Demonstrate that the page/ information is secure

8) Oversize me! Use an oversize button that describes what happens when the form is completed. Use this opportunity to remind people that you are great ‘to the experts’

9) What happens next? Explain when people should expect a response

10) What’s the product? Add an image or description about the product or service that the person is enquiring about to remind them that they are in the right place

11) Testimonial: Present a testimonial on the contact page to remind people that other people think you are great

12) State your services to remind people that they are filling out the correct form.

13) Show your physical address and demonstrate that you are real and reputable!

I couldn’t agree more!

Thank you so much Tom Bowden for sharing your precious knowledge!

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