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Service Design

Every service you use has been designed. A team of people have decided how you will interact, what information you will have at what point. This section deals with how to make better design decisions to satisfy the needs of service users.

User adoption is the key to innovation success

20 Nov

User adoption is the key to innovation success
 
New technology is everywhere. It seems every other advert I see is selling the benefits of a new gadget, website or online service. There is a steady stream of innovative new ideas from companies desperate to launch the next big thing. In many cases it appears the technology leads the way. The shiny new features are the main focus of the adverts and sales materials with the occasional nod towards ‘easy to use’. But what makes the difference between an innovative new project being a success or a failure? What role does user experience (UX) play?

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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 after-sales anti-complaints process

29 Jun

It’s a well known fact that us Brits hate to complain. Instead, we like to keep quiet, seethe internally, and then vote with our feet and never use the service again. But there are occasions where you know you need to complain to get something done about the poor experience you’ve had. You might need to get a refund, get an answer to a problem, or get someone to do something about your situation.

So you’re feeling angry, frustrated, and probably stressed that you now have another item to deal with on your growing to do list. Faced with the daunting task of having to contact a company to complain, the last thing you need is a tough time finding a way to complain. Enter the anti-complaint process. Where companies make it very hard for you to complain.

So how does a company employing the ‘anti-complaint process’ operate? It’s pretty simple really. The company offers several pathways which appear to lead you to somewhere to get help, but in reality they lead you to FAQs, a generic helpdesk email, or a generic phone number offering no option to speak with customer services or customer complaints.

The Comet complaints process

Consider the example I had recently where Comet had come to install a washing machine I purchased from them. During the installation a water pipe was damaged which caused a leak. We ended up with no running water (and no working washing machine). Naturally I wasn’t pleased so sought out a way to contact customer service or complaints on their website.

After finding a generic contact number to call I was routed through to the Installations team. Unfortunately they could not help me and said instead I would need to submit a complaint. I asked for the complaints team number but was told there wasn’t one and instead all complaints were done in a complaints section on the website.

 

 

Eventually I found an a way to enter a complaint but this was difficult to find as there was no ‘complaints’ section. It also gave very little confidence that the enquiry would be dealt with in a timely manner, or any information on what team the enquiry was even going to.

The Google Adwords complaints process

Another example I noticed recently was on the Google Adwords site. Our site was hacked and resulted in Google suspending our Adwords account until we cleared the problem and asked them to review. The process had taken 9 days with no feedback from Google so I wanted to escalate my issue to customer services or complaints to get a response. I called Google and was told that there was no customer services or customer complaints department to speak to, and again I had to complete the complaints form on the website.

Although I found the form eventually, had I not been told that there was a complaint form I would never have been able to find it.

In both examples the companies had made it difficult to make a complaint. It could be argued that they had simply prioritised other more common user journeys instead, however one of the common reasons to make contact with a company is to speak with customer services regarding a problem with an order or your account. In both examples these journeys were made difficult. Whether they were made deliberately difficult is up for debate. The sceptic in me believes they are: the harder it is to complain, the less complaints they receive, the less staff they need to deal with complaints, so the more money they save. But if they are by accident, it shows they place little value on the after sales customer experience.

Customers who have paid for a service should be happy with their experience. In our research we find that users place equal importance on the after sales experience as the pre-sales experience. When things go wrong, if customers are forced to work hard to even talk to someone they will feel cheated and unimportant. If a company is unable to allow users to speak to someone directly using a complaints number, then the least they should do is allow users to access complaints contact forms easily on their website.

The John Lewis complaints process

As you might imagine with their great reputation for customer service, John Lewis offer a very good example of how to do this properly.

 

 

 

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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

3 of my biggest Bugbears – because users were ignored

25 May

“In medieval England, the Bugbear was depicted as a creepy bear that lurked in the woods to scare children” – Wikipedia, May 2011

 

Hand dryer

I’m generally a pretty happy go lucky chap, but even I have moments when certain things irritate me. I call these my Bugbears. They are reoffending irritants, and I should really know better than to lower myself into a rage every time I encounter them.

In an attempt to better understand my Bugbears, I have realised that they are irritating and frustrating because someone in the chain of development has not thought about the user. Or more accurately, has thought about the user but has chosen to ignore them.

Let me share three of my bugbears:

 

1. Hand dryers that don’t dry hands

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. After going to the loo in a service station, restaurant, cinema, etc, you (I hope) thoroughly wash your hands, amble to the hand dryer and place your dripping wet hands under the machine, only to be greeted with a meek outflow of air. It’s like the machine has a little fairy inside blowing on your hands. After a few seconds you realise that this isn’t going to work, and walk out wiping your hands on your trousers, or covertly drying them in your pockets.

I don’t believe that the manufacturer has tested these and thought, “you know what, these dry my hands really well”. And I don’t believe the buyer has tried the hand dryer and thought, “my customers are going to love these hand dryers”. I imagine what they have thought is, “hmm, these hand dryers are pretty crap, but they are cheap, and I’m sure the users won’t mind”.

Well, they do mind! At least I do. Isn’t it bliss to see a Dyson Airblade or a World Dryer Airforce hanging on the wall?

 

2. Coffee full to the brim

I love my coffee. Judging by the number of Costas, Neros, Starbucks, etc, there are these days I’m sure a lot of people do to. I generally order an Americano with hot milk. When I’m taking my coffee away, the Barista has the job of topping up the coffee with the hot milk. Now, the fact I’ve ordered a take away suggests I’m walking off somewhere with my coffee in hand, so how come the Barista tops up the coffee to the brim of the cup, then squeezes on a lid?

The result is me arriving at my destination with wet, burnt fingers, coffee smudges on my shoes, and a coffee cup and lid that do not look healthy.

All the Barista has to do when they’ve topped up the coffee is pour a little away. Surely they look at the full cup and realise that it is not possible to walk this anywhere without spilling it? But they still carry on and pop a lid on. To all you Baristas, just think about the user experience when you top up a cup. I won’t ask for a discount because you pour a little away to save my fingers and my shoes!

I shouldn’t have to ask the Barista to pour a little out for me!

 

3. Ticket machines that don’t give change

I don’t really need to explain this one. Regardless of what they say, there is only one reason why a council would install non-change giving ticket machines in public car parks, and then charge tariffs like £1.30, or £2.80. When the decision makers sat around the meeting room table discussing which ticket machines to install, surely someone in the room raised the point that customers will be pretty pissed off at not getting change. I’m sure this was even discussed. But the user experience was not considered important enough over making free money.

So you see, these Bugbears exist because common sense user experience practice has been ignored somewhere along the development or delivery process. All it takes is for someone in the decision making process to champion the user and maybe we can rid the world of Bugbears!

What are your Bugbears, and are they because the user experience has been ignored?

 

 

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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

Pukka miss an opportunity to design a great customer experience

7 Feb

Pukka teas are a brand that’s easy to like. They present themselves as a healthy, organic company. They have a nice overall feel, they have good quality products, their packaging is appealing, their website is…well, ok.

 

Pukka Customer Experience

 

So, over the years while I’ve been a customer, I’ve found a few teas that I really like. But I have tried some that I don’t like so much too. I know they have quite a big range so every time I see their invitation for free samples on the inside of their box I think “one day I should do that”. I can try out a bunch of different teas, and expand my horizons a little. Pukka get more money from me and everyone’s happy. Every time I found myself in the supermarket to buy some new teas I looked at their range, hungry to try something new but wary of buying a whole box if I didn’t like the taste. And every time I would kick myself for not filling in that free sample form!

 

My goal was clear: Broaden taste horizons by sampling different teas without having to commit to a whole box in case I didn’t like them

So after lots of times telling myself I should, 2 weeks ago I finally did. I went to the website and filled in the form with anticipation. Then after completely forgetting about it, this weekend I received a small package in my letter box.

Pukka Service Design 1Pukka Service Design 2

 

Excited when I saw it was from Pukka, my next thought was it looked a little small. I opened it up to find 2 free tea bags, both of which I had tried before. Excitement turned to disappointment, which then turned to anger. I’d wasted my efforts in filling out the form and telling myself off every time I hadn’t filled in the form.

 

Pukka Customer Journey

 

Pukka could turn customers into brand advocates
Pukka had an opportunity to turn me from a regular customer to a loyal customer who spends more money with them and who will potentially go on to become an advocate to recommend the free samples to their friends. Allowing Pukka to grow their customer base and increase their customer data capture from their free samples form. Instead they offer a sub standard customer experience, leaving me frustrated and much less likely to fully engage with the brand further. Although they haven’t done enough to stop me from being a customer altogether, its unlikely I’ll ever try out the other options in their range and will just stick to what I know until I find an alternative brand which interests me more.

 

Cost to send tea samples vs. benefit of delighting customers
If the issue is one of cost in sending out a bunch of free samples then there are different ways to look at it. One would be to give customers the option to indicate which teas they have tried and which they haven’t. Alternatively Pukka could look at the opportunity to create loyal customers or customer advocates who will bring them more customers. They may decide that the cost associated with sending a larger number of free samples is worth it to acquire new customers and larger purchases from repeat customers.

 

Pukka took an opportunity to delight and instead replaced it with one which frustrated and angered. Are you making the most of your opportunities to delight your customers?

 

 

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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

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

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

Three questions every designer should ask themselves

28 Jun

3 questions every designer should ask themselves

Back when I was in tech support, I used to get calls from friends and family asking me how to fix their computer issues. Now, I get asked to cast an eye over a website, a blog or a design concept. The truth is that there’s no secret usability voodoo involved when doing these ad hoc reviews. It’s a simple case of asking them three straight forward questions. But when I do, I am often answered by silence while they think about their answer, as it is not something they have really considered.


Once they’ve answered the three questions, I’m in a much better position to review the design and advise on the best way to improve them. The three simple questions you should ask yourself when designing anything:

Who is the typical user?

You need to know enough detail to get into their head. To empathise with them and see the world through their eyes. You don’t necessarily need demographics such as age, sex, or income. But you do need to be able to picture a stereotypical user.

What is their goal?

Now you have a typical user in mind think carefully about what their objective in using the site is. What is their number one reason for being there? Are they desperately trying to find a present for their mum? Are they trying to decipher all the technical speak to decide which camera to buy? Understanding their goal allows you to focus specifically on helping them find what their looking for quickly and easily. All the rest of the stuff can be de-emphasised.

What do you want them to do?

It is your businesses, so you lead the way, but make sure you bear in mind what users are trying to achieve. A lot of websites are too busy pushing their own agenda to help users reach their goals. Instead, look for opportunities to link your goal with their goal. For example, help users find the product they want first and then persuade them to sign-up to your newsletter.

If you get stuck during the design process, or want to review something to see how well it works, consider these questions and you’ll see how useful they can be.

The simple fact is that, as a designer, your role is to influence behaviour. To do so, you must understand who you are influencing, what you want them to do, and what it is that they want to do. Successful websites are those that align their business goals with the goals of their users. If you are designing anything without some idea of how to answer the three questions above, you’ll most likely end up with an ineffective design.

 

What questions do you think designers should consider?

Related service: User Journey 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