Tag Archives: new technology

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?

Read more

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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

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?

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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

Don't stand still while your users evolve

22 Sep

Using our sat nav on the way to see a client the other day, we wondered why the touchscreen seemed less responsive than normal. After some thought, we realised that it wasn’t the sat nav that had changed, instead we had become accustomed to the fast and highly responsive iPhone touch screen interface and have now come to expect everything to work like that.

user expectations evolve
Evolution of Apple mice from 1984 to 2009

 

User expectations are always changing

As new technology arrives in users hands, their expectations are raised. When technology evolves, they get used to new functionality and use their new found learning to form expectations. When using a new website, or one they haven’t used for a while, they bring with them their learning and expectations from other sites and expect the new site to behave in the same way. In usability testing, we regularly hear users saying that they expected the search function to make suggestions while typing, just like Google does. Or, that they expect to be able to quickly filter the products shown on a page just like they can on Asos.com.

Unfortunately for websites with smaller budgets, users will judge their experience on your website against the big players. They don’t see the level of cost or complexity involved in a new widget on facebook, and why should they? They expect your site to work in a similar way and when it doesn’t, they feel frustrated. Of course, its not always possible to accommodate user expectations but understanding that your users are constantly evolving is important.

 

User research is never done, it’s just a snapshot in time

Sorry if this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but usability or user experience is never done. Last year’s usability test is not likely to be valid this year. The user profiles you created two years ago are most likely out of date now. That survey you did 6 months ago, it might not be relevant anymore. With the rapid and relentless advancement of Web technology, it is just not a viable option to assume that your users are the same as they were before. Any user research or customer insight work should be seen as a snapshot in time and not a complete picture.

Like a winning football team, you can’t rely on last year’s squad to win the title this year. The bar has been raised, the competition is getting better, and the fans’ expectations are now even higher. Your website should never be 100% complete, but rather than making decisions on an ageing snapshot of user understanding, check in with your users via regular interactions on a more frequent basis to remain in touch with evolving user needs to stay ahead of the game.

 

How have your user’s needs and expectations changed?

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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

Advancing Website Technology vs. Declining User Ability

14 Sep

Take a look at this picture, it goes some way to explaining why usability has never been more important and will become increasingly so in the future. But what do the lines mean and what can we do in practice to ensure our sites take account of these changes?

why usability is important

The growth of the internet has brought less technical users

In its early years, the Internet was used largely by people who knew the ins and outs of computers, interfaces, controls and so on. They were conversant with how the Web worked and were passionate about technology in general. Now, however, people of all ages and levels of experience are jumping online who have significantly less interest in the Web for what it is, they just want to get stuff done more conveniently and just expect things to work.

So, you can see the average level of user ability has declined to the point where you can now assume a sizeable portion of visitors to your site will be novices or beginners to this whole web thingy. However, as the amount of what you can do with a website has risen, so has the complexity of interfaces and the level of interaction required to use them. With the massive growth in online content, websites can be a maze of pages for users to navigate which can pose a challenge to some.

Finally, there is the stratospheric growth in Internet use. Whereas once, it was something users looked at in the evening – ever mindful of those creeping phone bills, now it is always on, accessed over multiple devices and by all members of the family. It’s near impossible to complete everyday tasks without using the Web in some way. Buying weekly groceries, confirming an appointment at the hospital, paying bills, buying car tax can all be completed online compared to only a few years ago.Many organisations such as the NHS and HMRC are actively encouraging people to go online instead of taking up valuable staff time.

 

Improving usability is here to stay

So, good usability on a site and a rewarding user experience are here to stay and increasingly important to attract and keep visitors. Good user experience can only be created based on observing users and interpreting data, not some magical insight from the site owner, the sheer dynamism of your designers or by copying competitor sites. Examining what users do and why they do it is the key, as we discussed here, Design your website on what users do not what they say while getting a good set of profiles of your typical users is also important.
Ultimately, you need to consider the core design issues; what the user’s goal is, and what they want to achieve on the site, get that right and you have won half the battle.

 

The complexity of Web technology is likely to keep increasing

Looking at those lines, the remaining potential user base can only lower the level of general user ability, while boosting the growth curve. Whilst Web technology and Internet-enabled devices look like they will remain on a steep development curve to increase the gap between user abilities and interface complexity.  The importance of good usability and seamless user experience is only likely to increase and this is evident in the sheer number of web design resources citing user experience as an accepted discipline alongside the more established ones of design, development and search engine marketing. It is important that usability can remain integrated into the design process for future website and gadget innovation to ensure the complexity gap doesn’t grow even further. Which moves us on to the next question, Will your site benefit from exposure to a wider, potentially global audience and how do you think you would go about attracting them?

 

 

Related services: usability testing & information architecture

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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?

 

 

Liked this article?

Get more usability insights straight to your inbox

  • We promise no spam, just straight up great insights from our UX experts!

 

 

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