Fell Swoop Blog

Thoughts and observations from our team

Giving Back to Non-profits: User Experience Design for All

At Fell Swoop we’ve been fortunate to work with incredible brands such as Facebook, Microsoft, Brooks Sports, and The New Yorker. We’re big believers in helping companies like these improve their digital products and communications with user-centered design thinking. When we help these businesses succeed, we’re doing our part to create jobs and build a stronger economy — and that’s important to us.

Meanwhile, there are many non-profit organizations — with budgets a fraction of the size of those larger companies — that face the same challenging design and communication problems. We believe in helping these organizations stand out in this complex, competitive digital world, too.

Northwest Kidney Centers

The oldest dialysis clinic in the country has helped thousands with kidney disease live fulfilling lives for more than 50 years. We helped the Northwest Kidney Centers design, build and maintain their responsive WordPress website. Through a research-driven, user-centered design process, we uncovered several approaches for better serving their end users. We started with a content strategy and information architecture that makes discoverability easy and fast. We also conducted several rounds of usability studies to ensure the site worked well and looked great across multiple devices, including desktops, tablets and smartphones.

We offered our services as an in-kind donation to Northwest Kidney Centers. This ensured the site received the same care and attention to detail as our larger, for-profit clients. The redesigned website has received positive feedback throughout the organization and from end users. Northwest Kidney Centers was so happy with the results of this effort that they featured us in last year’s annual report, a true honor.


NetHope connects leading technology companies in the for-profit sector to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that tackle challenges throughout the world. For example, facilitating cellular connectivity for millions of Syrian refugees residing in refugee camps is the sort of important work NetHope does every day. NetHope needed an updated website to share its mission and work with potential NGO and technology partners. Fell Swoop assisted with design, development and maintenance of a CMS-driven responsive website. The results have been praised by the NetHope team and their partners, and we were thrilled to make it financially possible for them.

How Can We Help You

Fell Swoop firmly believes in the power of user-centered design to provide exceptional experiences for digital products and communications. More importantly, we think big brands shouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from our expertise. That’s why we reserve a portion of our time every year to dedicate to non-profit causes such as Northwest Kidney Centers and NetHope. We consider ourselves fortunate to have these opportunities and look forward to helping many more non-profits deliver great user experiences in the future.

There are no satellites.
Why technology marketing websites need to focus on the basics.


What’s so unique about marketing websites for technology companies? A lot. While the technology industry is hot, and consumer demand for tech products and services is high, there are still many players doing it wrong.

Our team at Fell Swoop has been focused on helping small to large tech companies better connect with their consumers for years. We’ve worked closely with Facebook, Microsoft, Imperva and Clearwire to help hone their messaging and deliver useful, usable, and creatively inspired website designs that deliver results. Over the years we’ve learned a few basic principles that help improve lead generation, conversion, and overall customer satisfaction.

Start with the basics, don’t assume that your end users understand your technology.

Years ago I was working on Clearwire’s consumer marketing website clear.com and they were offering internet services with WIMAX technology. This technology is essentially a tower based wireless network – just like what consumers are used to with cell phones today – but at the time, the idea of connecting to the internet wirelessly was still relatively new. During User Research Studies we repeatedly heard target customers refer to Clearwire’s ‘satellites’ as the technology connecting them to the internet – there was no mention of satellites on the website we were testing, but more than one consumer made this assumption. In fact, there was no mention of how the technology worked at all, which led to confusion for consumers and customers – as well as false assumptions.

Through this research we discovered that we needed to start with the basics and include something equivalent to an airline safety card on the website. The role of this illustration (pictured above) was to clearly explain how the technology worked. After launching this content on the website, not only did it qualitatively improve the user experience by providing more accurate information (it’s a tower, not a satellite, you are connecting to), we also saw conversion spike for traffic that viewed the educational content before making a purchase. Consumers were more confident in the technology and that trust translated to better sales.


This strategy of visually explaining Clear’s offering with simple illustrations was so successful that it was used for other products and services and even extended to offline product packaging.

Make sure you answer the most important questions consumers have.

When working with Facebook in redesigning their Facebook for Business website we also began by conducting extensive user research. The existing site was extremely detailed and offered a wealth of information – however, users felt like a few very key questions weren’t being answered such as “what does a Facebook ad cost?” and “what does a Facebook ad look like?”

Sometimes marketers focus too far down the purchasing funnel and they forget to answer the simple questions that need to addressed before consumers even consider the offering. Through this research we also uncovered which topics needed to be better addressed during the redesign and as a result, we saw an increase in the key performance indicators post-launch. This was in large part due to the fact that we answered those basic consideration questions up front.

Balance your marketing goals with user needs.

Marketing websites must balance the brand message you wish to push out against the core information end users are looking to pull in. On occasion I see marketing teams more concerned with building content that will elevate their brand at the expense of uncovering key insights that will help them proactively deliver information to consumers. When working with large enterprise software companies I’ve witnessed stakeholders prioritize brand building videos while burying FAQ content – even though user research indicates that the most important questions users have are answered in FAQs. This is all well and good if brand building is your number one priority, but if customer experience and customer service is also a top priority (and it should be) – you need strive for a balance.

Three tips for involving your broader company in a website redesign.

A few weeks ago during a website redesign pitch, one of our prospective clients posed an important question: “We have hundreds of people that work for our organization that care deeply about the design of our website. How will you involve the staff and ensure that they are part of the process?” The question speaks to a thorny reality of the process—managing key stakeholders and their teams is tricky, yet essential.

Our answer outlined three major tips for involving all in a productive way:

Start by educating the broader team about user-centered design

In my experience, tension about internal change comes from stakeholders putting too much weight on their own needs and opinions and not giving enough thought to the needs of end users. One way to build solidarity across internal teams is to communicate research-driven details about the website’s target users. Personas, or fictitious characters that represent broad user groups, are a great tool for encouraging your staff to empathize with a large group of otherwise nameless, faceless “end users.”

At the onset of a redesign project, call a companywide meeting or publish an internal website that shares the details of these personas and the objectives of the redesign. Make sure your entire staff is informed up front about the change that is coming. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and provide input before design begins.

Present design options after usability research has been conducted

While key project stakeholders should see a design evolve from day one, it’s not a good idea to broadly share designs to your entire staff before validating the designs through usability testing. By sharing design solutions after usability testing has been conducted, you’re putting the focus on satisfying user needs with the redesign. This makes it less likely for staff to get hung up on what they like or dislike due to personal taste.

People fear change—prepare your staff for the backlash

People don’t like change. No matter how great your redesigned website may be, it’ll encounter criticism, and a lot of it. There will most likely be a portion of your end user base that is unhappy with the redesign, and of course they’ll be the most vocal group—for example, when we redesigned People Magazine’s homepage, dozens of comments from site visitors proclaimed their, shall we say, lack of approval for the redesign. It didn’t matter that we had conducted user research and testing and received positive feedback during the design phase—those at the front lines receiving these comments were upset. Fast forward a year later. The redesigned homepage is doing great, end users love it, and engagement is strong. The project is considered a success. Were all those readers that left negative comments wrong? No, they just didn’t like change. The executive leadership at People Magazine understood this and were patient through the transition.

So, prepare your teams that there may be a backlash. That way, they won’t become demoralized when the inevitable complaints come rolling in.

Follow these three tips, and you’re much more likely to have a website redesign that rolls out with results that match expectations, and keeps internal and external audiences satisfied.

Three reasons marketers are failing to connect with their customers—and how they can succeed

Over the course of my two decades in the digital agency world, I have rarely seen marketing leaders identify the core questions and needs that creatives at the agencies they partner with must address to connect to their audiences. For this reason, many creative campaigns fall flat.

What’s the cure? User-centered marketing. Applying the principles of user-centered design to marketing efforts allows you to fully understand the unique needs and goals your target customers have in relation to your products and services. By doing so, you’ll give your agencies and partners a cohesive and informed approach for them to create successful campaigns that resonate with customer needs and sensibilities.

How do you know if you’re suffering from a lack of user-centered marketing and what do you do about it?

You don’t know the core questions your target customers are asking about your product or service

I’ve seen it time and time again. A large enterprise client has developed a robust marketing communications website. There are literally hundreds of pages of content, yet the site is not converting on KPIs.

An example: last year, Fell Swoop conducted a website audit for a large, Fortune 100 client. As part of our assessment we conducted research interviews to truly understand the needs of the customers. Through our research we discovered that two very simple, yet essential customer questions were not being answered: “How much does it cost?” and “What does it look like?” You might think it impossible to miss these questions, but it wasn’t. While the client team responsible for the website was intelligent, experienced, and skilled, they did not practice user-centered marketing and get to understand what questions their target customers had about their products and services. After redesigning the site and better addressing these two questions, the site’s performance against their KPIs improved significantly.

Solution: Seek to understand your customers’ needs through research. Interviews, surveys and usability studies are powerful tools for gaining insights.

You don’t know the language your customers use to ask their questions

Marketers often take it for granted that the words, phrases, and terms they use will be clearly understood by customers, but that’s often not the case. Industry insiders know their business too well—they’ve been living and breathing it. They just can’t see their business with the fresh eyes that a target customer might. Truth is, it’s not enough to understand the questions and needs your target customers have—it’s also critical to understand the language they will use to formulate those questions.

There are research methods and forums for gathering insights into the language customers use and understand. Focus groups, when expertly moderated, can reveal language through conversation amongst the study participants. Journaling studies where participants provide written thoughts and notes over a longer period of time can also reveal valuable insights.

Marketing today is about having a conversation with your customers. If you don’t speak their language, how can you connect?

Solution: Use focus groups, customer interviews and journaling studies to gather insights into the terms and phrases your customers use to express their questions and search for their answers.

You don’t know why an ad, campaign or website does or does not work

We are awash in “big-data” these days, which means we definitely know if something does or does not work. You can clearly see when your ad doesn’t receive clicks or your buy flow doesn’t have a good conversion rate. However, the knowledge we’re seriously lacking is why a campaign, feature, or content piece has failed.

At the core of solving this problem is leveraging quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Quantitative tools, or “quant” for short, provides us with the raw data—the numbers. We can see which social campaigns are gaining traction or which newsletter subject lines garner the best open-rate. While assumptions can be made about the quantitative results of a campaign, it’s often unclear what’s really driving the success, and without truly understanding the why it’s difficult to repeat success.

In comes qualitative research. This is where in-depth interviews, focus groups, contextual inquiry, and other forms of deep and thorough research can illuminate what’s really going on. By working closely with prospective customers and testing creative campaigns, ads, buy flows, and other collateral, insights emerge—why, say, a subject line actually works or why a Twitter post received a high-level of engagement.

Solution: Use quantitative data as a true test of what is happening with your campaigns, but use qualitative testing and research to understand why it’s happening.

Know. Your. Customer.

Ultimately, what drives all these points is the importance of truly knowing your prospective and existing customers. By applying user-centered marketing, you’re on the path to successful marketing efforts that connect. And succeed.

Twitter Topics – a new lens to help manage the noise

Last month, Geekwire was kind enough to publish my guest post critiquing Twitter’s recently launched “Moments” offering, an attempt by the company to broaden its appeal for new users. You can read the full post here, but to summarize, I found the feature somewhat lacking. While it has its virtues— a visually engaging design, effective use of short-form video, and curation to surface the most news-worthy content— I don’t believe it will attract the new users Twitter needs. There are just too many competing alternatives.

A solution that scales

A more effective solution to Twitter’s growth problems would be one that scales both in broadening appeal and in reducing the cost of production. Perhaps Twitter’s biggest asset is that virtually all of the content on the internet flows through its platform. Equally important, Twitter has all the markers to construct an exceptional algorithm to determine the best content for users across a broad spectrum of interests. Imagine a Twitter that knows your interests and then applies likes, retweets, follower counts, velocity, and other data points to bubble up the best content, personalized for you, on every visit. Such an offering could truly deliver on the promise of the best of Twitter, but in a way that leverages Twitter’s assets, scales beautifully, and creates a uniquely valuable experience.

As UX professionals and Twitter users, we couldn’t stop at such wishful thinking. So, we challenged our UX team to design a new lens for Twitter—one that would put personalization in the hands of Twitter users and be of sufficient appeal to address Twitter’s anemic user growth. Naturally, we wanted to involve users in the design process. So, to inform our thinking, we started with a survey of Twitter users.

Surveying the Twittersphere

Most of our respondents were long-standing Twitter users, on the platform for at least two years, and checking Twitter multiple times a day. While many lauded Twitter for its speed and network effects, even the most ardent fans did not rank it highly for helping them find high quality content of interest on a consistent basis. The most common theme echoed our own experiences—managing the noise. Armed with user data our vision started to take shape. Enter our solution ‘Twitter Topics’ —a new offering intended to empower the community to define what interests them.

What interests you?

We started our design exploration with what’s undoubtedly one of Twitter’s most important pages in attracting new users: the logged out homepage. We integrated a simple “What interests you?” search field into the body of the page to engage new users. Twitter has already been working to broaden its appeal by curating content on their signed out homepage. With this exercise, we’re proposing they go further, letting users tailor their homepage to their interests without having to create an account first.

In this new search field, as you type your interests, you’re given suggestions for matching topics, powered by hashtags, and a count of follows to help you find the best term. By adding this feature, pre-selected topics are instantly replaced with those you care about. In addition, Twitter could similarly enable users to follow Moments too—imagine a new Twitter homepage comprised of the news and content across the topics that interest you.


With their account created users can proceed to their new customized topic dashboard, curated by user data. The topics themselves are organized in a fashion that places the topic with the most timely and valuable content toward the top. Within each topic the best content is bubbled up in a clear hierarchy. New suggested followers are similarly elevated within each topic area.


Each topic has its own page where users can immerse themselves in deeper content from Tweets and Vines, to live broadcasts on Periscope, to events near them. Each topic can also be managed in-situ via the gear icon or expanded as users drill down to see more. And, of course, they can share their thoughts via their own Tweets.


While presenting our designs in a desktop context gives us a large palette to showcase our work, we’d be negligent if we didn’t also consider how Topics might reduce when in app form.


Twitter Topics is arguably a pivot on Twitter Moments. It’s an extension of the notion that Twitter is an interests-based network, as coined by Daniel Rakhamimov, but builds on Moments in three ways:

  1. The community should define what interests them.
  2. Twitter should enable users to save their interests for future visits.
  3. Twitter should curate and package the best content for each returning visit.

Is Twitter Topics alone enough to save Twitter? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, a similar offering could go a long way to harnessing the power of Twitter without alienating the base and broadening the appeal for a new audience.


Twitter Topics was a collaboration of three Fell Swoopers including: Director of Strategy & Analytics, Alex Berg, User Experience Designer, Rich Robinson, and Visual Designer, Chelsea Xavier.


Three things bike racing has taught me about digital product design


As everyone around the office knows, I’m a cycling addict. While I’ve been riding a road bike seriously for about five years, 2015 was my first season of amateur road racing and I learned a ton—especially how to heal up after crashes. What’s so valuable about learning new things is that you can use your newfound skill as a lens to view other aspects of your life with a fresh perspective, and my experience with bike racing has informed my thinking about digital design in a number of ways.

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.

If you’ve ever seen a bike race on TV, you may have seen a huge pack of riders clustered together riding in what’s called a peloton. It can oftentimes look unorganized but it’s far from it. There are riders strategically jockeying for position within the peloton constantly, and it’s easy to sit in a good position in the peloton and get comfortable only to realize too late that everyone is moving around you gaining a better position. Before you know it you’re at the back of the pack, or worse, left behind. To keep a good position, it’s essential to be moving forward and proactively retaining your position in the pack.

The same goes for digital product design. Last week I met with a client that we did some product design work for roughly three years ago. He’s interested in tuning up the design—the problem is though he’s already at the back of the pack because in the interim he hasn’t been “moving forward” consistently. As a result, it will take more work to get the product to a more contemporary state, and more significant changes that are expensive and challenging to roll out. A safer strategy would be to constantly work on improving product design and user experience, steadily moving forward to avoid losing ground to your competitors.

Drafting saves you 20% of your energy.

In bike racing, drafting is a critical technique for staying in a good position while conserving energy. It’s commonly known that when you’re right on another rider’s wheel you’re moving at the same speed but using nearly 20% less energy. This can be a critical strategy for maintaining a good positioning, running an efficient pace line through good teamwork, or chasing down an attack.

In product design, we don’t see nearly enough drafting. It’s 2016 and there are so many well established user interface patterns and product strategies that can be leveraged when making product decisions. However, we see product designers, to use a cycling phrase, “go into the wind by themselves,” which leads to wasted time and money. The key is to remember that we can make great progress with less effort if we’re willing to follow the lead of the pack in some cases. Going it alone at the wrong time doesn’t often lead to success.

When done well, it’s a team sport.

To the untrained spectator and often even the newbie road racer, bike racing can be confused for a solo sport. The truth is, the most successful racers out there have a strong team that has honed collaboration and teamwork to hold a good position and win a race.

Product design can often be confused for a solo endeavor as well. There are far too many individuals or small startup teams working in a vacuum. These teams often neglect to involve end users in the design process and don’t bring in enough collaborators to make a winning product. Teamwork is essential for product success. Involving customers, end users, colleagues and other expert agencies and consultants can give you the edge in the market. Steve Jobs didn’t do it on his own—you don’t need to either.

By the way, we sponsor a racing team—learn more about it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fell-Swoop-Racing-Team-155126361498026/.

Hello 2016!

Like most small businesses, at the beginning of a new year we assess what we’ve done in the past year and what we’re aiming to do in the one ahead. It pleases me to report that 2015 was special for Fell Swoop. We stayed focused on providing great client service, and in turn retained existing clients, brought in new ones, and exceeded our revenue projections. We also welcomed lots of new faces to fill a lot of new chairs in our new office in Pioneer Square (that’s a lot of new, huh?). All of this is a product of learning how to work better at being a team working together instead of a bunch of people in a room.

We’re excited to be where we are—and in 2016 we want to build on it.

What’s next?

Simple—produce great work. Well, maybe not so simple, but it’s what makes us thrive as passionate professionals and provide world-class service to our clients.

What does great work mean to us? Making something we are personally proud of, that we would feel comfortable showing during a sales meeting to a room full of potential clients. Great work accomplishes real-world goals for world-class brands, and doing great work attracts the best people to work at Fell Swoop as we grow, those that embody our values of collaboration and empathy, honesty and flexibility, and self-motivation and drama-free. And who bring their A-game every day.

In some ways, we’ve achieved these goals. We’re working with world-class brands such as The New Yorker, Facebook and Microsoft Windows, but there is always room for improvement. In thinking through and evolving our values, we’ve been inspired by Netflix’s stellar Culture & Responsibility slide deck. Clear as a bell with no punches pulled and more than a little bit revolutionary, we recommend it for everyone who wants to do better work, be better to each other in the workplace, and reward each other properly for it.

In 2016, I’ll be working hard to ensure that Fell Swoop is a place that makes these goals happen for our team, and make it a place where we make amazing things—world-class things—happen for our clients.

Happy new year!

So many devices, so little time—find your match with the Windows 10 Instagram Device Matchmaker

With the release of Windows 10 and the changes brought about by Satya Nadella, Microsoft has become a place of innovation both in software and hardware. They have a family of lauded devices consisting of tablets, notebooks, gaming consoles, and more, yet picking the right device can be daunting—until now.

Our social team thought it would be cool to use the flexible, evolving platform of Instagram to create an interactive tool that clearly shows off what makes each Microsoft Windows 10 device special. And great.

We came up with the Instagram Device Matchmaker.


In designing the matchmaker, we wanted to explore Instagram’s functionality to structure a compelling, useful journey—a story, even—for consumers. Using the style of Choose Your Own Adventure, the matchmaker guides users through a series of questions to arrive them at the best device, with each question informed by previous answers:

What would you like more time for?


Friends would describe you as:


How do you spend your tech time?


What’s your dream office?


From answering these questions, the matchmaker gives you one of five choices: Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Xbox One, Lumia, or Microsoft Band.


To try the matchmaker, follow the Windows Instagram handle @Windows.

Staff Profile: Diane Mower

To help you get to know Fell Swoop, we’re introducing a series profiling members of the team.

First up is Diane Mower, Associate Designer.

What do you enjoy about working at Fell Swoop?

The leadership team is good at keeping in touch with people and making sure they have what they need to grow. For example, at other agencies you decide what you want training in and you pitch that to the higher-ups who may or may not pay for it. At Fell Swoop, the leadership team puts those opportunities in front of us during work hours, with topics applicable to just about everyone such as HTML and presentation skills.

What is your life outside of Fell Swoop like?

I’ve been pretty big into the dance scene in Seattle. There’s a great community, such as Cornish, Century Ballroom, and Velocity Dance Center. I started taking classes at Velocity about nine years ago—primarily modern—and these days I take house and urban. I know I can’t learn every move right away, so when I start accomplishing things, I have a better appreciation for what I’m doing.

How did you come to Fell Swoop and how has it changed?

I was introduced to Matt Dente for a freelance project. This was back in 2009, I think. I later joined officially in 2012. The biggest change is our location—it’s much better. The atmosphere of the office is nice because of our new setup. Back in 2012, we were more bare bones. We focused on building the right team, rather than bringing in deluxe, flashy toys.

You’re one of our office bakers. Do you bake a lot?

I love to bake. I also have a really good cookbook from the Macrina Bakery, so I feel like I’m cheating when I bake. I’d like to take a class about presentation baking because sometimes things come out looking a little funny, like the brownies I made that caved in the middle. (Ed. note: the brownies were 100 percent delicious.)

What else?

I like art projects. I used to do stained glass for a while. I made a few pieces for my house. Stained glass is tricky. Soldering is hard, plus cutting glass. It’s a little scary. It takes a long time to do one piece, but I liked it.

How is Fell Swoop different from other agencies?

We share the same ideals at Fell Swoop. When a CEO hasn’t done a job from the ground up, he or she has a tendency to be blind to what a designer, production assistant, or others might go through. Matt, Ryan, and Diane had that background; they started at the beginning, so they understand what it’s like.