Tag Archives: retail customer experience

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

It’s easy to blame stupid users for poor design

19 Apr

Wrong Way

Having started as Junior User Experience Researcher at Experience Solutions, I have been introduced to the world of user experience. As I come from a predominantly graphic design and retail background, I thought it was safe to say that I knew a lot about user experience. I don’t.

During my interview, I was asked what really ‘pissed’ me off, a hard question to answer, especially when you are trying to deem what would be appropriate.  Stupidity was my quick response. In particular, those people who do not read signs and seemingly can’t use basic technology.

 

I witnessed the most stupid mistake

I then proceeded to give an example of a particularly memorable incident I witnessed on a self-service checkout when I worked in retail. I manning the self-service machine and monitoring the checkouts when a man came up to me and told me that the machine would not accept his money. I then discovered to my horror that this was in fact because he had tried to put the coins in the wrong place, the card holder.

This seemed at the time to be an almost unforgivable mistake. I now had a queue of people waiting and a kiosk out of use. In my mind, there was no way anyone could possibly think that the card machine was the right place to put coins in. It would never have even occurred to me as an error someone would make. However, clearly I was wrong. And to be fair to that particular man, unlike him, I had been trained on the machines, and was very comfortable with new technologies such as self-service checkout systems. Now I realise, this gentleman who was now feeling stupid and embarrassed was not to blame for doing what he thought was right.

 

This is where UX comes in

In the few days I have worked as part of the team at Experience Solutions, I have learned a great deal about the responsibilities of designers when designing for their users. It is important for companies to test design ideas on real people who can give you a true insight into how people with no previous knowledge of the service, or the idea behind it will interpret what they see. Or don’t see in some cases.

Thinking back on the self-service machines, and the particular instances that used to frustrate me, I now realise that there are in fact quite a few serious design flaws that usability testing would have solved before they were released into the marketplace. The misplacing of the payment area; so that it is above the packing station and not next to the touch screen, which of course, is the main focus for the customer. If this had been redesigned after testing then maybe the card machine would not have been mistaken for the coin slot.

The note dispenser being placed underneath the scanning bay too, led to hundreds of notes just being left there as the customer forgot to pick them up, or didn’t see that part of the change being returned. Yes, there is a sign. But when it is beneath the field of vision, and focus area, will you necessarily look for it when you are in a rush to get out of the way for other customers, the shop is heaving, kids are crying, and the dog needs to be let out at home?

 

A new perspective

In my short time in this UX role, I’ve realised that placing the blame on ‘stupid’ people isn’t fair and can distract away from the real issue. We should be looking to the manufacturers and designers, and asking them why they did not thoroughly test their products with people before launch. I know that in future I personally will not be so quick to judge a person’s intellect based on how they use something that I feel is easy to us.

I’ll be keeping you all updated with my progress as I learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of user experience.

 

 

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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

Are purchase decisions harder when shopping online?

8 Oct

Are purchase decisions harder when shopping online?

 
A long time ago, I could go into a sports shop, look along the line of trainers, pick one I liked that was the right size, colour and price, pay for it and go. Recently, inspired by a growing waistline and a bundle of thirty-mumble-mumble-mumble-th birthday vouchers, I tried the same thing on Amazon – only to run into a wall of purchasing doubt.

The same brands, colours and sizes were all present. Tick boxes and drop-down menus made it easy to choose exactly what I wanted thanks to Amazon’s intuitive design. Yet, every time my cursor neared the Add to Basket button, doubt and hesitation struck. What if that one negative review means I will have wasted my money? Was that really the best price? Is there another product like this one but just a little better for the same price that has all positive reviews? Before I know it I’m trawling through more product pages with doubt growing even stronger and the chance of a quick and easy purchase has vanished.

 

Some purchase decisions rely more on reviews than others

Not all purchases online are harder, it just depends on what you’re buying. I can buy books, DVDs and games online without a thought, knowing that the price is cheap, delivery will be fast and it takes a lot of the donkey work out of buying presents.

But, go beyond these modern staples of life, and things suddenly get a lot trickier. Reviews mean more when people actually use something, be it a bike, tent, shoe or cleaning product. Reviews also come into play more when you’re unsure about what to buy, do I need one of these to fix my specific problem or should I get one of those? At that point four stars suddenly look less than perfect, three stars positively average and don’t even think about something with a two-star rating. You might not even look behind the rating to find there are only two jokey or caustic reviews from users who, possibly, brought the wrong product for them anyway.

Conflicting customer reviews

Negative reviews can counteract positive ones causing doubt in a purchase decision

 

Does online shopping force us to focus on the detail?

Comparisons between products can also get in the way of a buying decision. Anything complex such as a laptop can see endless variations between "similar" models, that confuse and confound someone who just wants to "do Facebook and email." Does offering users all this extra information with reviews, product descriptions, videos and price comparisons really make shopping easier? Or is it making us focus more on the detail too much? What should be a happy moment when you buy that new gadget is now one which is anxiety filled and doubt ridden, even after it arrives at your door.

A lot of ecommerce sites have copied each other assuming that adding product reviews and more information is the way to get more sales. But, if anything, it is possible that the more data available at the time of purchase, the more likely people are to compare data, focus on the detail and start their quest for the perfect product elsewhere on the web.

Perhaps online stores should encourage users to reduce their focus on data (but continue to provide this information) and instead attempt to influence a more emotional purchase decision.

 

What do you think? Are users being over informed?

 

 

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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 web-retargeting benefit or just scare users?

4 Oct

Retargeting Example  - click to see image in more detail

Retargeting example – See larger image

As part of a casual query, I once typed in my car registration into a certain site that offers to purchase absolutely any vehicle. Scoffing at their derisory offer for my motor, I went on to live a full and happy life, and part-exchanged my car for multiples more than the site offered.

However, for the next month, almost every advert I came across on any website was a reminder of how much this company, that will acquire any auto for money, would offer for my, now crushed, car. Friends have reported similar experiences on a range of shopping sites, where your previous interest in an item can haunt you like a marketing-oriented poltergeist.

This technique, known as retargeting is an online advertising model where ecommerce websites can re-connect with past website visitors to remind them of what they had looked at with the hope of stimulating a sale. If you forgot what site you were on or what exactly you were looking for, then it can prove a useful reminder. But, if you were looking for a present for a partner, or for, ahem, a sensitive medical or entertainment item, then it might come as a bit of a shock to anyone else who uses your PC.

Whilst its an obvious benefit to businesses, with some companies offering a no-conversion, no-fee model, there may be some user experience concerns which may not be fully considered when deciding to kick-off a retargeting campaign.

 

High-wire balancing act, without a net

If you want to attempt this kind of approach on your site, then you need the kind of balance that would do Man on Wire proud. Most sites that engage in the activity of retargeting use a third-party service, such as TellApart or Criteo. Over time, these services have responded to the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over retargeting and improved their user communications to make it easier for a user to understand why their shopping searches are suddenly following you around the web, and to disable them.

Why are you being shown this banner?

Explaining to users why they are being shown retargeting ads

 

Kicking off a retargeting campaign must consider user experience

If you do decide to use such a service to promote your site, you should be aware of the potential pitfalls involved in customers feeling stalked by you. Privacy is a big concern for customers and comes up again and again in our research. If customers feel like their privacy is under attack, however small "the attack" may be, they may associate negative feelings with your brand. Rather than initiate sales and inspire revisits, you may well result in negative reviews and less repeat visits.  

If you choose to use retargeting then you should enquire as to whether you can limit it to certain ranges, perhaps high value items, as no one wants to be chased across the web for a book purchase. Also, ensure a reasonable time limit is in place as well. On the whole, think about it from the user’s point of view.  

Ultimately, when it comes to adding new features that could cause even mild confusion among your user-base or site visitors, remember to treat them with kid gloves. Users do not like surprises and they hate any infringements on their perceived privacy. While the marketing spiel from a retargeting company may offer the world and massive ROI, its benefits will be countered by accepting that some users may be completely turned off by retargeting and may damage brand perception.

 

What do you think of retargeting?

 

 

 

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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

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

ShopStyle iPhone App Usability Review

26 Jan

Nicole Cook from ShopStyle recently approached us for a review of their iPhone app. Following previous user feedback they made enhancements to the app, so we thought this was a great opportunity to kick off some more regular reviews of mobile apps on our blog. Let us know if you’d like your app reviewed.

We’ve put this review together following usability testing with a mix of regular iPhone app users and novice iPhone app users, as well as an expert user experience audit.

What is ShopStyle?

ShopStyle is an application which pulls together a number of different retailers into one place, allowing users to search and browse products on one app rather than visiting different apps or websites. Users can refine their searches to see all the products from the retailers signed up to the service, saving time and effort visiting different stores. Once a product is found, users are taken to the retailer’s site to complete their purchase.

The Good

  • Saves users time searching through different retail sites for products
  • Good categorisation of products
  • Users can quickly mark an item as a ‘favourite’ to build a list of items they can look at in more detail later while they browse
  • Users can discover products from brands and websites they may not have heard of or would not have found on the web
  • Very visual way to browse through products which supports users high street shopping behaviour of flicking through clothes racks
  • Refine options show how many items match the search criteria

The Bad

  • Loading times can be slow as the app downloads lots of images in one go
  • Even when users have refined their search criteria, there can still be a lot of items to scroll through.
  • Some of the prices in the app are not accurate when clicking through to the website
  • Prices are excluding delivery so it’s difficult for users to get an accurate view of how much they are likely to spend, instead users have to visit the website and find delivery costs and returns policy information
  • When scrolling through a number of items it is difficult for users to tell how many more items are left as there is no scroll bar
  • Refining options can be a little clunky if users want to refine a number of different items at once
  • Accessing product information is a little unclear
  • Some product images include model shots and other don’t which can give users a slightly disjointed experience

Our Top 3 Usability Improvements

  • Limit the number of images loaded at one time –  Because the app is so image heavy, it can take a while to download all the images when users are on the move.  Flickr deals with this by downloading 40 thumbnails and then users can ‘load 40 more’ which allows the application to load a smaller number of images quickly

  • Give users more control over filtering and sorting by price – Most users are price conscious and therefore rely upon price filters when searching for suitable products. With ShopStyle, users are forced to select a predefined price category when refining by price. Users however, want to search between their own minimum and maximum criteria e.g. John is willing to spend between £45 and £60 on a pair of jeans but has to search through a selection of jeans priced from £25 to £100. In addition, users need the ability to sort the results returned. We feel that allowing users to sort by price would be very useful for users.

  • Improve button placement - When users wanted to refine their searches by more than one criteria users tended to select the filter, then click ‘Done’, which took them back to the products listing. They would then realise they needed to go back to ‘Refine’ to add another criteria. We feel that this problem could be solved by improving  button placement and labels. Bringing the two options closer together and labelling them ‘Refine more’ & ‘Done’.

Other Usability Improvements

  • Add a scroll bar to searches
  • Improve navigation options to make it clearer how to move left and right, and how to see product information
  • Add a feature to allow users to compare details of the items listed in their ‘favourites’
  • Allow users to save their personal preferences such as their shoe size, waist size etc. to provide personalised searches
  • Add user ratings to searches and encourage users to add their own ratings to products
  • Allow users to filter results by stores offering free delivery

Conclusion

Overall, we found the ShopStyle app offered users a good experience and users found the app to be extremely useful to them. The app does have some usability issues but none are showstoppers. Despite this, we feel that the improvements we recommend above will make significant enhancements to the overall experience and will become more important as more and more retailers sign up to ShopStyle. We look forward to seeing the improved version

Do you have an app you’d like us to review?

Related services: Usability testing & iphone app 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

Weekly usability checklist

18 Sep

usability-checklist-image

For many in the retail industry a regular shop walkthrough is an essential part of the manager’s role to ensure the environment is clean, the products are in the right places, and the shelves are stocked. Do you do the same checks on your website?

Your website is just like a retailer’s shop floor, it’s your front of house. How much time do you spend reviewing your website in a week? How often do your staff, or other team members, spend on the website every week? Ask them. You may be shocked to find that no-one is regularly checking the site. What are you waiting for? Customers to complain? Sales to drop? Traffic to plummet?

Stop waiting and start implementing a set of regular and very simple tasks to ensure that your site is checked on a weekly basis. Websites grow organically and although there’s no substitute for regular usability testing, there are methods you and your team can do adopt to keep a check on your site to ensure usability issues don’t develop as the site grows. After we work with a client to improve the usability of their website we provide them with a checklist to use which helps them maintain usability, you can download it here for free.

pdf-icon1Download our Weekly Usability Checklist for you and your team to maintain good usability on your site. Feel free to pass it on to colleagues

Some of these may seem overly simplistic, but many companies are not carrying out these fundamental checks on a regular basis. If you and your staff were to spend 10 minutes a day or an hour a week just running through some of these simple checks you can be confident that you are keeping your front of house in check and giving your site visitors no encouragement to go back to Google to visit your competitors

Are you keeping your site in check?

Related services: Usability testing, and User experience audit

 

 

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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