New signings and the user experience of running a small business…

#weeknotes S03 EP02 – week ending 13 January 2019

This was the first proper working week of the new year for me and I wanted to clear the decks of a lot of admin things – the stuff I don’t really like getting into. You know, eat a few frogs for breakfast.

For me this included my tax return and finalising the set up of my business with a change of bank – both were interesting adventures in user experience.

Despite the work of thus far I dread having to do my tax return each year. The online self-assessment seems to be mainly constructed of loops to get stuck in, dead ends and uncertainty about whether an action has been successfully completed. It took me a long time to even reach the self-assessment form as log-ins and dashboards were convoluted but once there the beta form was a much better experience than previously. The form’s now intuitive with plenty of help on the fields, and reassurance about progress as well as more helpful feedback on actions.

Self-assessment is undoubtedly a complex process with many routes through and different outcomes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes into it with a mix of trepidation and frustration, gritted teeth at just needing to get through it. And that’s before feeling whatever the result of the calculation makes me feel. There’s a huge amount to consider both empathically and procedurally and the form being wrong, or causing people to drop out into other channels, would have a massive impact on the government department as well as the individual. Making government work online is one of the most important tasks to be done in digital – improving the user experience of paying taxes may sound like an impossible ask but are making great progress in this area.

And online bank Tide has obviously also put thought into their user experience – one of the newer breed of banks it has an intuitive app with a simple sign up process (the seemingly fairly standard details, photo of ID, selfie route) but it was the arrival of the card in the post which was the really delightful experience having changed my business banking to them this week.

As well as having a portrait card design (of which there is a good article in Design Week here) it arrives in a slide out package, with a sense of a big reveal as the card construction folds out despite the understated design and elegant graphics and typography. As you remove the card the simple instruction to activate in the app is given and encouraged to explore you turn the package over to find a passive encouragement to share online – card details are on the back of the card so you’re safe to do so. There’s a little moment of delight which makes you want to share something as relatively mundane as a bank card with your online network.

If a bank can make the experience of receiving a card in the post delight and excite in this way – seamlessly linking online and offline, if can remove the uncertainty and complexity from self-assessment tax then it seems more possible than ever that other organisations – from local government through to creative businesses – can also create great experiences that connect and serve their customers. All it takes is a little bit of re-imagining, user research and understanding, and a willingness to link the process into the communications and beyond. If you’d like to talk to me about how I can help you connect to customers through content and experience you can do so here.

The other aspect of my week was travelling south for a Reckless Yes meeting to sign an artist to our label – something which is naturally a great experience! Some days business travel is a chore and a misery of delays and over-packed trains, and other days – like this week – it’s a nice bubble of time alone while in the company of strangers. I had plenty of planning time and loved seeing the skyline of London as well as the Kent countryside before making huge plans for a really exciting release. If you’d like to hear about our new signings and their releases you can sign up for our mailing list here.

What’s next?

This week includes my first coaching session of the year with Matt Essam, client work through Noble and Wild, plus finalising agreements and getting ready for a slew of announcements at Reckless Yes as well as meetings as an artist manager. Travel this week is low – and I’m glad for the time closer to home – with just a quick jaunt to Manchester in the diary.

I’m hoping to carve out some time this week to tidy up and finalise a first edit of my second novel – train journeys this week gave me thinking space to unlock some last pieces and I’m keen to get it out to beta readers and aim for that summer solstice publication date. If you’ve not checked it out and would like to my first novel The Winter Passing is available on Amazon here.