The Real Mobile User Journey

I’ve been part of an agency specialising in responsive design since 2011/12. One of the common misconceptions we’ve seen is that getting a site to work on mobile is as simple as

  • Rendering the page on a small screen
  • Shrinking buttons and CTAs
  • Resizing imagery

The more savvy of you may realise that’s far too simple. For instance, what about:

  • Text and emphasis selection? Italics, for instance, can be difficult to read on small screens

But there is more to consider. A mobile isn’t just a smaller screen. Its a device that is inherently different to a desktop and as such will have entirely different use cases in different scenarios. All of which place different demands on a user.

The mobile is a device that removes the barrier between the digital and physical world. It therefore interacts with, and is interacted by, the user’s environment far more than a desktop computer.

Mobile users have far more stimuli competing for their attention. Some of them are not critically important – a billboard on the side of a passing bus, a man walking down the street who looks like a user’s friend – but some are unavoidable. For instance, someone calling the mobile phone the user is browsing on. A WhatsApp notification. The bus they are travelling on braking sharply.

The inhernet physicality of the mobile device represents a unique user journey that needs to be considered when designing for mobile. A mobile user may be more easily and completely distracted from your website. So, what happens when they’ve responded to the Facebook chathead that’s appeared over their screen and they return to your site? Will they remember where they were in your checkout, what they were filling out and why? Will they feel inclined to continue filling out a 10-field form just to access your sale preview site? When the raindrops from the bad weather are messing up their touchscreen? Will they want you to send them your leadgen whitepaper as a PDF that renders badly in the browser – or would they rather you sent it as a link to their email for later reference?

Mobile usability should consider the user journey that users have on your site, within other apps in the mobile ecosystem, and also the journey that they are experiencing within the physical world at the same time. Good mobile design has much to consider – but that’s why it is a difficult discipline with few specialists.

What Scottish Independence Will Mean for Online Retailers

I’ve been thinking about what Scottish independence would mean for online retailers and digital marketers such as myself.

Personally I’m 100% in favour of keeping the union (for various reasons which I won’t get into here). But if Scotland votes for devolution then there will be consequences for online marketers and businesses:

  • Any geo-targeting will need updating. This will include on any tools such as Adwords, Webmaster Tools, Qubit etc.
  • Any ad copy & site promotion referencing the UK may need changing. e.g. An Adwords ad promoting ‘Free UK Delivery’ may need updating, or for an alternative ad to be launched in Scotland.
  • Related to the above, delivery costs and the value proposition may need to be looked at.
  • Scottish-specific businesses may want a different TLD; a is no longer appropriate to shoppers based outside the UK.
  • Checkouts & address books will need updating to include Scotland as a different location than UK. Managing this for existing addresses may prove difficult.
  • A new currency will likely need adding to checkouts.
  • VAT and other costs will need to be considered by retailers; an independent Scotland will have powers to set these of their own accord. In fact, this might even be possible with DEVO MAX (maximum devolution yet not full independence).

Obviously the time frames for devolution, if its voted for, will give us all time to adapt. And whatever changes we have to make to the above will largely depend on what the third-party stakeholders such as delivery companies, payment gateways and advertising platforms decide.

But its worth our planning ahead now for what may be a more significant change than some of us had expected.

Pescetarian Escapades

So my latest shopping bag is solely pescetarian. No meat or poultry. Two reasons why:

1. I’m a complete hypocrite. When I watch a video of a slaughterhouse I find it very sad, horrific even. I wanted to buy a lobster but wasn’t comfortable with killing it. If I’m not OK to kill a creature myself, why am I OK with someone else doing it for me?

2. There’s a whole load of other foods, herbs and spices that I’d like to experiment with. Too often I make steak, burgers, chicken – the easy choices that I can cook by heart. Creatively I’ve often found that restricting options opens up new opportunities – I’m thinking the same here.

Even in spite of the first point, this isn’t a moral point for me. Its a fortnight experiment and I’m still going to probably buy meat if I’m out at a meal, wedding or other event. It’s just a personal decision – as much about trying to reduce my hypocrisy as my carbon footprint.

If you’re fine with eating creatures that someone else kills, or even killing those animals yourself, then fine. My personal feeling is that my own hypocrisy is uncomfortable – to me. So like I say, personal rather than moral. And an experiment. Let’s see how it goes!

The Problem With Magaluf Girl

I have just read The Sun’s expose of ‘Magaluf Girl. Magaluf Girl is a teenage girl who performed oral sex on 20-odd men in a resort nightclub in order to win a prize.

Shocking? Yes. But not for the reasons you might expect.

The girl was ‘mamading’, a competition organised by the Carnage Magaluf promoters. In the competition a participant – usually a girl – has to perform a set amount of challenges in a given time. These challenges are often sexual in nature. Magaluf Girl was promised a holiday if she won.

The girl’s subsequent attempts to win the competition saw her walk around the club, and drop to her knees every few seconds to take a different man’s penis in her mouth. The crowd cheered. The DJ baited her on. Someone filmed it on a mobile phone. The Sun published it. The girl completed the challenge. The ‘holiday’ was actually the name of a bottle of cava she won.

Whatever this girl chooses to do with her body is, in my mind, her business. I can’t understand why you’d ever want to give 24 blow jobs in a couple of minutes but hey, one of the costs of equality and respect is that you get to do things I wouldn’t want to.

I don’t particularly blame the men involved either. I can’t understand why they wanted to put their penises in the mouth of a girl doing something like this any more than why the girl wanted to do this, but I can see how things may have got out of hand in the context of a huge binge drinking session, loud music, testosterone, peer pressure and – importantly – consent.

So what, then, do I find shocking about this? Simply, that it shows the extent to which we have devalued and degraded female sexuality. The two biggest culprits being Carnage Magaluf and The Sun.

I can’t ever imagine sitting around an office thinking up a new event for a client and saying

‘Yes. Blow jobs. We’ll get these girls drunk and then have them perform blow jobs for prizes. But the prizes won’t be what we promise them. They’ll be joke prizes. That will be good fun. Top banter.’

You have to be pretty fucked up to think of that as a good idea.

But hey, it’s all fun and games in a world in which the information a woman can use to make decisions about her sexual behaviour need not be right. And it’s absolutely fine to have that as part of your business model.

Just like its fine for The Sun to deride a girl for doing what she wanted to do with her own body, all within the law. And it’s fine to show her face to millions of people without her permission.

This is the same newspaper that wouldn’t print pictures of the Duchess of York topless on a beach. But they will show a girl perfoming oral sex. And they’ll deride a woman for being openly sexual but show topless women on only the third page of their daily paper.

Run that by me again? Oh right: it’s because women aren’t allowed to be in control of their own sexuality. That old chestnut.

Doing something that neither I nor the editors of The Sun would want to do doesn’t make something morally wrong. They aren’t the arbiters of female sexual morality that they might like to think they are.

Both men and women should have the right to do what they want with their bodies – provided it is legal and with consent.

For me, the real shocker of this story is the birth of slut shaming at an industrial level. Ultimately, I feel sorry for Magaluf Girl. She’s been exploited for money by both the promoters and The Sun.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Some time ago I wrote about my long-term view on recovering from chronic injuries. Today I took part in my first running race for over five years.

It was the Pudsey 10km Challenge. Now, normally I’d scoff at a 10K. If you’re running 7, 8, 10 miles in training then what’s the challenge of running 6.2?

Pudsey’s answer to that question is hills. Big hills. In particular, 3 horribly nasty ones – one of which lasts around 1.5km in itself. Climb the hills, hurt the calves. Plunge the descents, knacker the quads. 800ft of ascent, up mud and down rocks, in only 6 miles.

As a designated flatlander this was all new, unexpected and bafflingly difficult. In 24 degrees heat and clear skies. By the second mile I was more in the red than Northern Rock.

Happily, I dug deep and got round the course inside my target time, coming in 252nd out of 408 entrants. So, by no means some glorious Rocky-esque success but in my own remodified modest view, and with an eye on the long-term, one I am very happy with.

You finish where you deserve to. There were 251 people in that race alone who were better than me. But I got round. And now I have a base upon which to build.

It was great to be out there again, after pulling out of, and missing, too many events in the last few years. To beat my target and finish ahead of lots of club runners was great. This was never an event for me to be at the sharp end of. This was purely just practice and the thrill of an event. Mission accomplished.

On The Rob

My apparently glacial middle-class existence was shattered today; leading me plunging through barriers I never knew existed and thrusting me into a decadent life of crime.

As mixed as those metaphors may be, they weren’t as mixed as the fruit salad I saw the woman in Sainsbury’s steal. Brazenly browsing the aisle, past the cream slices but not yet into the fizzy pop, she plucked an item that I could only define by its subsequent absence on the shelf, and placed it inside her coat.

Jokes aside, it was weird. Weirder still was that I didn’t do anything about it.

Firstly, I think she was stealing. I’m not sure. I didn’t see her take the item off the shelf and put it in her pocket. Officer. But you know when you get that vibe that something just happened that you weren’t supposed to see? Yeah. I got that.

But there was enough doubt in my head though to not want to tell anyone, lest I got it wrong. What if SWAT descended through the ceiling, abseiling ropes on the attack, only to find she’d just been putting her phone back in her pocket?

Secondly, there was a child with her. I guess it was her child (unless she stole that too, and that would be on an altogether different level of crime indeed). And if she was stealing, and it was her child, then maybe I perceive that differently. Stealing a treat for your child is different, on the moral scale, to stealing diamonds and flogging them to drug dealers, no?

I live in the city and see so much wealth, and so much poverty. You realize the fine dividing line between these apparently disparate groups. You understand that sometimes people need a little help.

Thirdly, the security guard. It was only when I got home that I thought maybe I’ve screwed him over by not telling him. Maybe his bosses will ask him why he didn’t apprehend the woman? Why are thefts in the store up?


Whilst this is undoubtedly a prime example of middle-class liberal white guilt (probably sponsored by The Guardian and a bespoke farm marmalade, extra chunky), two things about the whole thing fascinate me.

One, that the brain can size up a situation and extrapolate such depth from what was a glance of under one second in duration. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not; you could certainly go crazy by over thinking things.

Two, that all people sit within a certain implied structure of social behaviour. This behaviour set is pretty much imposed on us. No-one really wants to stick their head above the parapet and stand out.

A similar thing happened to me a few weeks back. Walking through town I notice a man walking towards me. An odd angle. Something seemed off. My girlfriend pulls me quietly, but markedly, away. She tells me that the guy was about to pick pocket me.

Looking at him as he walks past me, I see he’s wearing a walky-talky. He’s presumably pretty pro as a thief, and working in tandem with some form of spotter. Yet I don’t say anything. Why? I mean, of all the situations, surely that is the one to shout: “HEY EVERYONE, THIS GUY IS A THIEF. WATCH YOUR BAGS.” No?

But you feel that implied behavioural structure. Flip that situation around and if someone started shouting that, I’d probably just think they were a crazy shouting man.

People are weird creatures, myself included.

Virtual Pageviews for Modals via Google Tag Manager

If you want to track views of lightboxes or modals as virtual pageviews in Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager, it can be quite a confusing process. Here is how I do it.

Why This Guide?

Whilst Google Tag Manager is undoubtedly a good tool, it sits at an intersection between developers, marketers and analytics guys. I’m in the latter two camps; Google Tag Manager speaks in the language of the former camp. Furthermore, most of the guides I saw focused on setting up events rather than virtual pageviews, or on pages that had single clickable elements on them.

This guide is for pages with multiple clickable elements (e.g. a product page that has ‘Add to Bag’ and ‘Reserve in Store’ buttons) of which only one is to be tracked. We want to track these as virtual pageviews, not events, because we can use virtual pageviews in a conversion funnel.

So How Do I Do It?

We’ll need to set up two different tags that work together. It is best to test this set up in UAT rather than on the live site, as it aids the debugging process (discussed later).

Tag 1. The click listener.

This is the straightforward bit. Set up a new tag of the tag type ‘click listener’. Set up the firing rule for ‘all pages’ (this will probably be the condition {{url}} matches RegEx .* ).

What this means: You’ve just set up a tag that listens for clicks on all pages.

Tag 2. The virtual pageview.

This is a bit more involved but still straightforward if you follow these steps.

  1. Set up a new tag of the classic (or Universal) Google Analytics type. Use whichever type relates to your GA set up (classic or Universal).
  2. Set this up with the Track Type ‘Page View’, and under ‘More Settings’ specify the virtual page path you want to be sent to Google Analytics.
  3. You need to now set up a rule that will see the virtual pageview sent whenever the conditions of the rule are met.

To do this you set up a single rule consisting of two conditions. Those conditions are:

  1. {{event}} contains
  2. {{element classes}} contains (whatever the element class of your button is). You can find this out by highlighting the button the page, right-clicking and choosing ‘Inspect Element’. Elements are just a posh word for ‘things’ – don’t get too worried about the terminology.

What this means: the virtual pageview will be sent to Google Analytics whenever your click listener tag fires on an element that has the specified element class.


Now preview and debug the site. Keep Google Analytics’ real-time reports open and track your progress – you want to check that GA is recording the virtual pageview at the right moment. If you’re doing this in UAT it will be easier to see the impact your specific behaviour is having because it won’t be confused with other site users.

You can also use the Google Tag Manager debug pane to check tags are being fired at the correct times. If you aren’t familiar with code it may take you some time to identify the specific element class of your button and you might find your virtual pageview tag is firing too readily, or not at all. Remember that the class has to be as specific as possible here – that of the button itself, not of the page, div or wrapper surrounding it.

Remember that with any amend you make to the Tag Manager set up you’ll need to re-preview and debug it.


Play around with it and you’ll get there. Let me know if you have any other questions, and if you’ve found this helpful, take a look at my other articles about ecommerce and digital marketing.


Big Data and a Bigger Picture

‘Mate…I don’t know why they’re making us do this.’

So said the Carphone Warehouse sales rep as I tried to buy a new phone. Unbeknownst to me, last Saturday was the same day Carphone’s top brass had decided to roll out their ‘paperless printing’ process: contracts were to be specified, signed, sold and delivered electronically.

But all was not well. The technology was malfunctioning. The infrastructure creaking. 40 minutes’ spent waiting around just to complete an order.

Chatting to the manager revealed the fallacy of the new system. Carphone is a destination store: people visit once or twice and browse the different online stores and only sit down with the rep when they know what they want. Their customers want quick, easy transactions.

Carphone have instead decided to task sales reps with asking for customers’ contact details before they have even shown clear interest in buying. Reps are reluctant to ask this for fear of scaring customers away.

Customers are then entered in to a workflow that requires they specify their old phone model, how they use their phone, what their leisure pursuits are and so on. If reps don’t ask this, they can be docked pay. My rep – who was absolutely fantastic, by the way – didn’t want to burden me with this.

Big data is a hot topic and we always ask clients to consider the value of data they collect. Often we encourage clients to invest in gathering data as it can lead to more effective marketing down the line: that’s why Tesco pay a penny on the pound for Clubcard.

But there are times when an appetite for data is to the detriment of the customer experience. When it leads to abandoned carts and lost sales. Is the data that valuable?

We see this all the time with online checkouts. Checkouts that demand 2 or more phone numbers. Checkouts that try to trick users into signing up for mailing lists. Checkouts that are fiddly and time-consuming. All of these cause users to abandon carts and leave money on the table.

The same happened with Carphone Warehouse: I left the deal there before visiting competitors’ stores to compare deals. And the data we’d filled in in the laborious early stages of the workflow were just default, inaccurate information we’d plugged in just to speed things up.

Not only had the deal been compromised, but the data that the deal had been compromised for wasn’t even accurate.

Of course, gathering data is important for Carphone’s future plans. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be gathering it. But I am absolutely questioning the point at which they are asking for it and the depth they are asking for. I’m also questioning the logic of rolling out a new system on your highest footfall day.

There is big data and there is the big picture. Don’t compromise the latter in pursuit of the former.

Everyday Sexism: No Tables Were Turned

I watched Leah Green’s video on The Guardian website yesterday. It sought to ‘turn the tables on everyday sexism’ by having the young, very female Ms Green shout sexist phrases at men.

Except it didn’t work.

Driving along in a van. Beep Beep. ‘Get your arse out mate!’ Outside a pub. Two old men. ‘Have you ever kissed each other?’ In a shopping precinct. A lone male. Lunchtime sunshine. ‘Will you go home with me?’.  Her efforts were met mostly with bewilderment. A failure, but not of her own doing.

The issue is not what she said or how she did it, but the societal context in which she had to do it. Put simply: ask a bunch of gym-boy twenty-something ‘lads’ how they manicure their pubic hair and they won’t feel shocked, ashamed, or intimidated.

Those men have never existed in a society that sets out so vindictively to target their insecurities in order to sell them products and force them into conformity. As a man, I have not had great cause to think about my pubic hair situation. For women it is a very different story. There is a pressure on them to not just do something, but to do it whatever the right way may be at that time. It’s a personal question to a woman because it’s a personal issue. To men, it isn’t even an issue at all – and so it cannot be personal. And without it being personal, the question won’t be perceived as intrusive.

(Let’s also not forget the physical context. A lone female asking a bunch of men is not threatening. The tables turned would be extremely so.)

This absence of context is probably most obvious when she attempts to solicit a man on the street. After some confusion, he agrees to go home with her. To his young male friends he will likely be a ‘legend’ or ‘hero’ (and I did chuckle that he’d only sleep with her after he’d visited the bank).

But if a girl were to similarly acquiesce to a man’s enquiry, she would be an unequivocal slut, ripe for shaming by all and sundry. Society does not afford women the freedom of men in this respect.

I heard some teenage boys trying to wolf-whistle at businesswomen on the way home from the office today. It was pathetic. Stripped of all context, it was just a noise they were (badly) making. But the context gave it more weight: young boys asserting themselves over grown women with impunity. It must be hard to live with.

I’m not criticising what Leah Green set out to do. But without the context of a society that has criticised, oppressed and distorted women, her sexist remarks were not scary, offensive, intrusive or shocking. They’re just words.

Maybe if we could change our wider society then the insults of sexist men would become just words, too.

Response to Alex Proud’s article

I read and enjoyed Alex Proud’s article on The Telegraph about ‘cool London’ being dead. Alex envisages a scenario in which disenfranchised ‘cool’ Londoners visit friends in other cities and decide to relocate there; one in which ‘London’s craven fealty to the ghastly rich will finally accomplish what no government policy ever has and rejuvenate our provincial cities.’

I can’t speak for London but I can speak for Newcastle and Leeds, two cities mentioned by Alex in which I have lived and contributed to the arts scenes. I would very much enjoy the above scenario happening. But that doesn’t mean I think it ever will.

Just as there are fewer feelings more satisfying than getting tickets to a sold-out event, for a town or city to foster a cultural scene that feels vibrant, relevant and worthwhile – all the things needed for such a scene to persist and develop over time – residents of said town or city need to feel a sense of ’everyone wants a part of what we have created here.’

That feeling can keep the cultural network of artists, musicians, writers and promoters going even when money is scarce. But there are reasons why artistic scenes don’t flourish across the country as readily as they used to.

That sense of ‘everyone wanting a part of our scene’ rests primarily on two precepts. Firstly, that the scene can be focused on a single cultural center. Many of the, typically independent, venues and spaces that historically formed hubs for the creative movements have gone to the wall in recent years, making it harder for a scene to become anchored to a specific place.

Furthermore, the drivers of new cultural movements are often the young: individuals with time and energy to burn. But young people are moving around this country far more now than ever before, whether leaving home aged 18 to go to University, or leaving their University cities three years later when the pull of London jobs inevitably becomes too great.

A scene needs time to grow roots, but the transitory lives of our younger people and the persistent growing necessity of economic migration towards our capital work against this.

Secondly, for such a scene to persist it needs other people wanting to be a part of them. Musically-speaking, we’ve had Merseybeat, Madchester, Northern Soul, post-Radiohead Oxford and the dance scene in Liverpool.

They only became significant and persistent when other people – outsiders – wanted to be a part of them. The stakeholders of such cultural scenes are almost entirely dependent on the makers and breakers within the industry and media to create the publicity required to start building an audience and generating interest.

When I think of my time in the Newcastle music scene, from 2006-9, I was privileged to see so many great bands and musicians. Richard Dawson. Paul Jeans. Uncle Monty. Spies. Minotaurs. Molek. B>E>A>K. It was a scene. It was cool. But it never persisted and so you’ll have never heard of any of these artists. No A&R people came North. No industry people bothered to watch our bands; no media folk reviewed us. After three or four years of being without money, support or interest, no-one cared about a ‘scene’: we just cared about paying our bills.

It was cool, it was brilliant, it was fleeting. Had a few labels dared to send their people north of Watford it might have stuck around. Our group of musical friends may have become ‘a scene’. Newcastle may have even been ‘cool’. But that never happened. With the jobs and industry, media interest and hype being predominantly focused on the capital, artists, musicians and writers outside of London will always run out of steam. Run out of fight.

The artists I knew wanted, ideally, money. They would have settled for excitement. Meritocratically, they deserved both. But the system they needed to help facilitate either for them was not interested in paying them a visit. The artists gave up and the scene died. The same thing will have happened in lots of different UK towns and cities since: I’m sure you will have your own examples.

Cities die culturally without scenes. Scenes die without artists. Artists die without money or recognition.