Archive | November, 2011

Augmented reality – good experience or gimmick?

24 Nov

Tesco recently released details of a new feature to their online offering. This feature allows users to view a product in 3D, using augmented reality, as if they are holding it in their hands. Sounds great huh?

The objective here is to help online shoppers make a buying decision. The example Tesco gives is of a busy mum who is looking to buy a new TV, and needs to ensure it will fit well in the living room, and will have enough ports for her kids’ gaming machines.

However, there are a number of flaws with the process that result in a poor user experience:

  • Firstly, there is a process:
    • Accept Active X
    • Download and install a plug-in
    • Accept the licence
    • Have a ‘marker’ to hand – or print one out
    • Ensure I have a webcam, and it is on
    • Hold up the marker to the webcam
  • Finally, I can look at something. However, the 3d image is poor quality
  • Holding it in the palm of your hand does not really allow you to envisage how it will look in your living room

So let’s look at some of these:

You have to download a plug in to your machine

Users are now familiar with shopping online, using websites without the need to download external software to run. By including a requirement to download something Tesco has added a step in the process that users are not expecting, and many are likely to be uncomfortable with.

You need to have a specific physical item in your hand

Now the user has downloaded the plug-in they now have to have a physical item in their hand. This can be something you already own, but if not you can print this out. This is another stage in the process that users are unfamiliar with. The perceived hassle for an unknown gain plays a big part in usability. Forms are normally the biggest culprit, but we imagine that this step will prove too much for most users.

The 3d image is poor quality

So now the user has gotten through the process they are now ready to view the product in the palm of their hand. Disappointingly, the quality of the product graphics is poor and doesn’t really do the product justice. The user can’t really imagine a TV sitting in the corner of the living room when it is sat in the palm of their hand. Ok, the user can look at the ports on the back of the TV, but they may be left wanting a quality image of the TV to validate the pixelated version they’re looking at.

So, what do users need?

When we’ve tested retail websites the product information pages are often key to the user making a buying decision. Imagery is often poor, leaving users guessing or unsure. At this point many users will leave the site and try elsewhere until they are satisfied enough to buy it (from a different website).

This new augmented reality feature from Tesco is clearly looking to solve this problem. But the user research we’ve done has shown that by simply providing images of the product from different angles, with an option to enlarge the image, works perfectly for users. 3D images with rotations and video are sometimes available too and with better image quality than the augmented reality solution.

I’m very interested to see how successful this is, but it looks to me that gimmick and technology has been prioritised ahead of usability and the user experience.  Is this trying to solve a problem that already has a perfectly acceptable solution?



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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 – Our review

11 Nov

What is it?

The Click Test is a simple and quick test that allows you to upload an image (that image can contain one or two versions of a design for viewers to choose from) and ask the viewer a question which can be answered by them clicking on a certain part of the design. It’s part of a suite of tools offered by the UsabilityHub (we’ll review the other tools later).

A good example for how would work is if you were to upload a screenshot of a homepage you are designing and asking the viewer to click on where they think they would find the contact details. You don’t have to just use it for web designs though, in the example below it is being used to determine which picture the majority thinks best represents the description.

Example of

A screenshot of the tool in action where users are invited to click the option they feel works best


What are the advantages of using

The is simple and can be very useful when trying to answer basic questions about interface design. If you need a quick response to confirm a suspicion then the click test only takes a minute to load and is free if you collect ‘Karma points’ by completing a few of the other tests that members have uploaded i.e. you complete 2 random Click Tests on the site you earn 2 Karma points, which in turn allows you to have 2 people take your test. For those of us in a hurry, or who need a large amount of people to fill out the tests, there is also the option to purchase karma points or to simply email a URL to existing contacts.

The results start being collected instantly and due to the popular nature of the site and the random order tests are given to viewers, you are bound to start collecting results within the hour. Every time we have used the Click Test we have only had to wait a day to collect the desired amount of results we wanted.

The results come in three different forms; a plasma map, heat map, and a click map;

Snapshot of the result maps

A snapshot of the results for choosing a colour scheme (plasma, heat, & click test from left to right)

We found the click map the most useful as it shows clearly how many people clicked on what graph (in the above example), nonetheless the other maps are visually pleasing and with a higher volume of participants and a different sort of test could prove just as useful!

What are the limitations of using

Questions that are more complex might not be as reliable, as the tests are meant to be quick, and determining how much time someone spent reading the question and thinking about the answer is near impossible. This brings me to the main problem that the click test has, and in fact all small, short tests online. You cannot tell whether the answers you are being given are true as people may be participating in the test to earn Karma points and so not really taking notice of the test questions and just clicking anywhere to complete it.

Another issue that comes with allowing anyone to partake in your test is that other than people you can recruit yourself, you do not know whose opinion you are taking note of which may be detrimental to your design.

In addition, the tool only records one click, the last click a viewer makes on the page before finishing. This means the questions are limited as you need to only have one answer in order for the test to work. We found this out the hard way by uploading a test that required the viewer to click on the ‘two best colour schemes’. However when we checked to see how the results were doing we discovered that only one click had been recorded for each individual who had participated.

When should I use it?

So far we’ve found it to be a useful tool to get opinions on basic design elements such as colour scheme choice and chart style. But we haven’t relied upon this data alone. We’ve used it to guide decisions, and have then followed up with face to face user feedback before making a final call. By all means use it to test web designs and guide any other design decisions that will fit into a one click answer question, but don’t let it be the only result that you use to make a final decision.

If you can think of anything else you would like us to cover in future reviews please get in touch!



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Samantha Harvey

About Samantha Harvey

Sam recently graduated from Visual Communication. She joined our team in April 2011 and has been conducting user research and has been making sure our user interfaces follow good design principles. She's keen to point out our poor selection of fonts... er I mean typography (sorry Sam). Follow Samantha on twitter @samharvey_ux