Archive | July, 2010

Does my iPad look big in this? How gadgets will shape the future of online retail

29 Jul

It is fair to say that the Web has changed shopping in some major ways over the years. From the initial rush to provide bricks and mortar stores with a wider profile and client base, to the monsters of Amazon and eBay, shopping has changed forever, and will continue to evolve.

The current problem is the static nature of e-commerce where most online stores use pictures and some descriptive text. That can be fine for books and boxed product, but there are many product types where a more immersive, higher fidelity experience is required.

Despite some high-profile attempts to change that (Boo.com, anyone?), it has taken longer for the hardware and the marketeers to catch up. But now shopping is ready to move to the next level, changing the user experience forever.

iPad Shopping Mock Up from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Who says the pictures in your catalog  have to stand still?

New technology can make a big difference to user experience

As you can see, when selling clothes, having the ability to see how a dress hangs, how it floats or flows or how the cut of jeans looks can really help make up a buyer’s mind. Our usability research shows that online shoppers really want to see the product in the same way they can in a physical store. While this is only a mock-up, it won’t be too long before online retailers catch on to providing the kind of experience shoppers are hoping for.

It will also only be another couple of development steps to reach the point where an avatar of the buyer’s proportions can be used to show how the clothes will fit you and the exact size you would need to order.

Stores like Gap are already preparing tightly integrated apps for Apple’s iPad and the portable, instant-on nature of tablets and smartphones means that shoppers will be able to buy on a whim, just as they do when perusing the high street.

Retailers must remain focused on user needs and not just cool new features

User experience designers will need to work very closely with media creators to make their store look just as good as the top apps. Just as shoppers wouldn’t buy from a tatty, grubby store, they won’t buy from a poor-looking website.

Navigation will play a key part in designing a successful site where buyers will want to go freely from the dress, to the belt, to accessories (appropriate to the main item) without meandering through menus or hordes of unsuitable items. Retailers will need to remain focused on usability and information architecture and be careful not to get too carried away with exciting new technology.

Improving the user experience without overcomplicating things will take great effort. Portable devices like the iPad will provide experiences better suited to natural browsing but retailers will need to be careful not to get carried away with the technical capabilities and ‘whats cool’ and keep focusing on what users really need from the experience.

Have you seen any good examples of what online retail will look like?

Related service: e-commerce usability

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

The future of user experience design when your computer "sees" you?

23 Jul

In 2006, the face of video gaming changed when Nintendo introduced its Wii console. This allowed the machine to sense the player’s input as they moved the controller around. Suddenly, players could jump, wave, bat, swordfight and perform many other actions through motion sensing technology. More importantly, it helped the public get used to the idea of a computer sensing their actions.

Now, Sony has unveiled a higher-fidelity equivalent called Move, while Microsoft unveiled its Kinect gadget for the Xbox 360. Kinect is of particular interest as it has a camera and infra-red sensor that monitors the user’s actions. Without any kind of controller, users can interact with games via gestures and motion.

Beyond games and novelties, this technology, with software developed by PrimeSense, an Israeli company,  will soon be flooding into television sets, computers and public kiosks. At its simplest, end users can interact with systems via hand and arm movements. But, with a little effort and further refinement in fidelity, developers can use the cameras and clever software to focus on where the user is looking, or it could be trained to focus on the face, looking for emotional cues.

This information can be fed back to system designers (be it interactive menus, websites, kiosks or banking ATMs) to help them design better systems, interfaces and improve user experience. Mixing the two ideas, if users are observed to ignore one part of a website, then designers will learn this through feedback and can work on enhancing that area through visual design. If sensors detect confusion in people reading part of a site or document, then what they are looking at can be highlighted and checked for clarity. This has some fascinating implications for the future of user centred design.

In the not too distant future, banking systems can check for honesty in customers withdrawing money (think having Tom Roth’s character from Lie To Me in every ATM) to detect card fraud. At a more practical level, interface designers can have a field day building systems with all sorts of practical feedback loops, as David Leggett’s UX Booth article demonstrates.

Tim Roth - Lie to me

So, without getting all 1984 on us, what do you expect from advances in this technology that could assist user experience development, interface and site design?

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Design your website on what users do, not what they say

15 Jul

observing people using your website

 

When our clients observe usability tests we are careful to encourage them not to focus too much on what users say and instead look at what they do. On many occasions users will tell us that they liked a website, and found it easy to use. But just the opposite was true from our observations. They struggled to use the site and spent a long time being confused when making navigation decisions.

Why does this happen? If you’re asked why you did something (why did you select the button on the bottom right instead of the button on the bottom left), you will probably find a very reasonable answer you believe to be correct (the button on the right is red, and that’s my favourite colour).

Rather than saying “I’m not sure” we have a tendency to formulate credible scenarios to articulate why, but this will often not be the real reason. This phenomenon is known in psychology as ‘confabulation’. Psychologists believe that much of our behaviour is driven by our unconscious which, by definition, is something we are not aware of.

 

Avoid asking people to explain why they did something

When conducting usability research it is important to try to remain focused on observing real behaviour by looking at how users complete a task, where they seem to get confused, what practical barriers stop them from completing their task and so on.

Choosing the right method in user research is important and some methods are better than others to understand how to improve your website’s usability. Surveys and focus groups can be incredibly useful to gain insight into users but are not the best method to retrospectively ask why users behaved the way they did.

Similarly, eye tracking research often uses a method called ‘retrospective think aloud’ where participants are shown their gaze patterns after using a website and asked what they were looking at and why they used the site in the way they did. This is a fantastic tool in the right circumstances but, if it is so easy for us humans to unknowingly make up reasons for our behaviour. Can we rely on the retrospective feedback users give us when we’re making key design decisions?

 

When making key design decisions you should observe people using the website

Although we will never really know what unconscious urges can influence users to click one thing over another, by being alongside them while they experience a website, a usability test will provide a time sensitive and clearer insight into which areas of the site cause confusion and which areas work well in supporting user decision making.

We will never ignore what users say, but we are aware of the effects of ‘false memories’ and will use observations of their behaviour to interpret what users say during a test. So, use eye tracking to review your website and you’ll get some great insight, but make sure you use the findings to run a typical usability test, this will validate the findings and ensure you really know why users make the decisions they do.

Have you observed people using your website?

Related services: Usability testing & e-commerce usability

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Where to advertise ‘Free Delivery’ on your eCommerce website

6 Jul

free delivery banner example

A recent report from the Royal Mail reports that 82% of online shoppers said that free delivery would encourage their use of a website.

This makes sense, but before you rush out and start advertising ‘Free Delivery’ all over your website, it is important to look at how best to promote this.

When usability testing eCommerce websites we often observe users completely ignoring large ‘Free Delivery’ banner adverts, and still getting confused when they are looking for delivery information. This is due to banner blindness, where users discount anything that looks like an advert in the corner of their eye. So how do eRetailers combat this?

First, look at the user journeys to understand where in the process they will need information about free delivery. There are often multiple points in a process where your customer will ask themselves about delivery charges. This may differ on a variety of websites but typically this will include:

  • Pricing – include ‘Free Delivery’ where ever you quote a price. This will remove the need for users to ask how much delivery will be
  • Product detail page – explain that delivery is free when users are reading about a product and considering their purchase
  • Delivery page – for users who are specifically looking for delivery information, ensure there is a dedicated page to reiterate that delivery is free

play.com free delivery
www.play.com provides ‘Free Delivery’ message with all pricing

The above tips will provide a starting point to encouraging your users to buy from you. However, observing your users interacting with your website continues to be the best way to establish where in the user journey the Free Delivery should be mentioned, and to establish what other barriers are a cause of cart abandonment for your users.

How well are you promoting Free Delivery, and do your users see it?

 

Related services: e-commerce usability & usability testing

 

 

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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael

Designing fun into everyday interactions

1 Jul

We’ve all had days where things get on top of us. We’ve not been sleeping well, we’ve had an argument with someone we care about, and our football team has just lost (or been kicked out of the World Cup!!). Things seem bleak. Most of us rely on our own ability to lift our spirits, sometimes we get a boost from other people. Wouldn’t it be great if your toaster made you smile, or the ticket machine at the train station gave you a chuckle, or even a bin you just put your rubbish in?

There are some fantastic examples of how everyday experiences can be made more fun on the Fun Theory website. They have run a competition to change people’s behaviour with fun. The addition of a little fun has some interesting effects. We’ve selected a few of our favourite videos.

How to make walking up stairs more fun that using an escalator

How to make it more fun to drive slower

How to make it enjoyable to throw rubbish away

As designers we are capable of affecting emotion when someone interacts with our creation.  When we design a website the foundation of it must be useful and usable but once this is in place adding a little fun can make a huge difference. In the examples above from The Fun Theory website much of the behaviour change is likely to be temporary due to the novelty factor. But if you take the focus away from changing behaviour and instead place it upon improving the experience there are plenty of opportunities for fun.

Xero check that you are human

How to make the mundane a little more fun

Taking some of the mundane aspects of the web and turning them into short but enjoyable experiences can be the difference between a first time user and a regular user. We found this example from Xero which turns something we have come to expect to be annoying into something that is simple and fun.  Instead of asking users to repeat meaningless words or decipher weird images to extract letters and numbers Xero provides a simple Noughts and Crosses concept. Users just need to place an X to make three in a row. The trick with designing fun into interaction is to spot opportunities which don’t add any further time or barriers to the user journey whilst bringing a short lived smile to the face of the user.

We hope to see much more examples of fun on the web soon. Have you seen any good examples you can share with us?

Related service: Interaction Design

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees