MOBILE APPS NEED A ‘CAR MODE’?

This writeup is about the many popular mobile apps out there who would be so much more better, if only they were designed for context of use.

Car 1

The car is becoming a strong player in the digital ecosystem. There is a reason why Apple, Google and Microsoft are making big bets with things like CarPlay,Android Auto and Windows in the car.

Car 2

But those experiences, at least initially will be reserved for premium models and will take some time before they become mainstream.

Car 3

Designers and Engineers are striving hard to keep customers connected in this fourth dimension that is poised for a huge disruption like 2007, when the iPhone was born.

But this post is not about these new technologies. It is about the regular person who drives a regular car and has a regular smartphone.

One such person is me and I just happen to be an experience designer. I have a car. I also have a smartphone and I live a very connected digital life. There is no reason that some of these useful and popular apps can’t be enhanced with a “car mode.

First thought. Why not use voice right?

Wrong. A recent study by AAA shows the imperfections in the usual suspects like Siri, Google Voice, Cortana, etc.

So back to car mode. There are four key objectives when designing any experience that is consumed while driving.

Make it safe.

Show only relevant information.

Make it accessible and intuitive.

Make it usable in all conditions. DayTwilightNight, etc.

Some obvious scenarios

  1. You have to take a meeting on your phone. Number, Guest Code, Leader Code, Moderator Pin, Fuck you Lync… Blah Blah… you know drill and the frustrations… Solution: Tempo
  2. You need to find gas, coffee (I live in Seattle), or your favorite food chain in a new city maybe? Solution: Yelp
  3. Discover music. Skip, Switch, Like, Dislike… Solution: Pandora
  4. You are lost. Left Turn? Right Turn? Ave, Cross Street? Address? Landmark? Parking? Solution: Google Maps

Lets explore some solutions where a car mode will go a long way in making these interactions safe and useful.

  1. Tempo

Tempo, the smart calendar is a fantastic application. Must admit that I can’t live without it. I use it for the single reason that I never ever have to remember a meeting passcode ever again.

I typically attend meetings through my phone docked in the car when I’m driving to work in the morning. Legally allowed.

Now here is how it looks as a full size screenshot to say someone who designed it on Photoshop in a comfortable room with mood lighting and a stable chair.

Car 4Tempo as it might appear on a designer’s 27in display. Source.

Here is how it looks like in my hand at a typical viewing distance. Welcome to the real world Neo. What happened to contrast, viewing distance, environment, accessibility? In my car… a different story. Extremely dangerous and virtually impossible to use.

Car 5As it looks in my hand.

Now some common sense. If I turn on car mode at 8:20am, then the app knows a few things like…

  1. My next meeting is at 8:30am.
  2. Know which country I am in and knows which number to dial.
  3. I usually keep car mode on for about an hour.

So why the heck do I need to see every cool feature that the app has to offer when all I care about is my next meeting. Something that the app is already aware of!

Meet Tempo with Car Mode

Car 6Proposed design for TEMPO in car mode.

Car 7In my hand at a normal viewing distance.

Car 8In my car!

  1. Pandora with Car Mode

Advantages

  1. Pandora gets full real estate to show better and safer ads.
  2. Users experience beautiful full screen cover art and a very safe way to interact for just the bare minimum interaction if any.

Car 9Pandora Rest Mode. Tapping anywhere on the screen invokes the interact view for the user.

Car 10Pandora Car Mode. Only the controls that I care about with clear and safe touch targets.

Car 11Pandora Car Mode. Only the controls that I care about with clear and safe touch targets.

  1. Yelp

Advantages

  1. Users can set preferences on the places they usually visit. No search, no voice, no messing with controls or search results.
  2. Just 4 personalized and relevant results and safe touch targets.

Car 12Proposed design for Yelp in Car Mode.

Car 13Yelp in my car!

Conclusion

Disclaimer. I am not advocating people using anything when they drive. As we all know… people love breaking rules and I’m only addressing some approaches that can make these habits a little safe.

By Jatin Shah

UX Architect

 

Advantages of Digital Media Marketing

Digital Media Marketing Is Not A Choice Anymore

Businesses stopped having a choice, a long time back, on whether to adopt digital media marketing or go on with conventional marketing a long time back. It is either digital marketeer or an extinct marketeer.  To understand the importance of digital marketing, let’s understand what the world of business looked like prior to the advent of digital marketing. Rather than giving you stats like how many internet/ Facebook/Twitter/ Quora users we have, which are there in abundance on internet, I’ll give you an insight on what you can do with that information for your business.

A Glimpse Into Conventional Marketing

A generation ago, prior to the invasion of computers and mobile devices, our experiences were limited to the offline world. Marketing was all about advertisements in magazines, newspapers, mailings, telemarketing, radio, billboards and television. It is rightly called ‘interruption’ marketing. If you clearly see, the common thread in all of the aforesaid marketing channels is that they are all one way. In conventional marketing, businesses communicated to the potential customer irrespective of whether the customer want to hear about your product or not. It was all advertising clutter. And the scenario was all noisy. Everyone tried to get a customer’s attention. You, as a business, had to reach out to the maximum people out their amongst all that noise in the hope that sooner or later someone would be interested in buying your product or take your service. There was no way you could measure your reach and ROI on your marketing efforts. Sounds difficult to be in business 20 years back?

The New Marketing Landscape

Things changed for good. Our experience landscape changed to online, ever connected world. ‘Internet technologies and social media have enhanced our online experiences.’ We enjoy internet surfing, video, audio and pictures from our laptop screens just as much as we enjoyed it offline. Today our buying decisions are heavily influenced by the opinions and recommendations of our friends and social network online. More than we interact with our friends and family offline, we live with them in the online world. As Mari Smith rightly pointed out, that ‘the gadgets our friends use, the brands they wear encourage us to think positively or negatively about ourselves and others.’

Marketing landscape completely changed with the way people started interacting with each other. With the emergence of internet and plethora of websites, rose the banner advertising business. Sites could now devote a certain amount of space to banners to generate revenue. With Google emerging the most powerful search engine in late 90s, it launched an impression-based advertising business in 2000 and from there evolved the click-through advertising, which is one of  the major techniques in digital media marketing till date.

With Google Adwords, click-through advertising, and number of social networks, internet marketing was revolutionized. Overall, digital marketing is the norm of present marketing world and is here to stay.

As a business, you need to think on the lines of how you should formulate a long-term strategy to give digital media, particularly social media a competitive advantage. You would be surprised to know that only 5% of the world’s best brands are doing social media right! So you still have lot to reap.

Benefits of Digital Media Marketing

By now you might have got the idea on how marketing changed over the decades and that you, as a business, need to think seriously on a digital media marketing budget as part of your overall marketing spend.

Let’s quickly look at the benefits of digital media marketing:

1. Wide Reach & Measurement

Consider this: On an average, people spend eight hours of their every day online. And we have three billion users of internet as of 2014 (source: internetlivestats.com)! Imagine the global reach that internet has.

If done right, digital media marketing can do wonders for your business. And you can measure the source of all yours leads and effectiveness of your online campaigns like never before.

2. Greater Customer Appeal

Online marketing gives you a range of options to reach and attract your specific target audience. Your marketing success totally depends on the technique you employ and the budget you spend.

3. Increased Customer Engagement

With digital marketing, you can encourage your prospects to take the action you want them to take unlike before where businesses totally depended on the prospect customer to take the action. It’s a two-way communication.

4. Brand Development

You can develop and manage your brand reputation by taking the right actions to provide value to your customer. Your actions online has direct and immediate impact on the way your business is perceived in public. The ability to monitor online mentions of a company name or particular product or service gives companies the opportunity to respond to negative attitudes, invalidate false humor and separate myth from fact.

5. Cost & ROI

Digital Marketing is one of the most cost effective way of marketing. Reason being – reach and measurement. There is no other form of marketing that can so precisely measure where your leads are coming from and what actions users take when they are on your website. Web analytics help you measure it all .

Here is a graph that clearly shows that inbound marketing costs less than outbound marketing.

nd marketing vs outbound marketing

Source: Hubspot

It would be equally enriching to know your opinions/experiences/ queries in your comments.

Author: Prerna Singh,
            Assistant Manager: Digital Marketing

Glimpse with ASP.NET

glimpse-with-asp-net-header

The moment I say Glimpse with asp.net, .Net developers might start thinking that I am talking about some features of Asp.net. But I am actually talking about “Glimpse” – an open source tool that helps in web debugging and diagnosing Asp.net 4.0 applications.

Why Glimpse:

Glimpse provides information such as:

  • Action called
  • Time taken to execute the method
  • Time taken to execute an SQL script etc.

You folks might have already used web debugging tools like Fiddler or even browser debugging tools like Firebug, Chrome F12 developer tools etc. Fiddler would just provide you with details of the web traffic such as HTTP Request, HTTP Response etc. The significant difference between these tools and Glimpse is that Glimpse runs on the server side while all the other developer tools run on client side. Glimpse could also be used in a production environment as a profiling tool to get a Timeline view of what’s happening in the server.

Adding Glimpse to your project is pretty simple. You can add this through a Nuget package manager as shown below:

glimpse-with-asp-net-picture1

You can also install this through the Package Manager Console using the commands given below:

Install-package Glimpse.MVC2

Install-package Glimpse.EF4.3

It is important to select the right Nuget packages for your project types. For example, you should select Glimpse.MVC2 if your project type is MVC2. There are also a lot of plugins available from the community that you can use Glimpse with.

Glimpse could be used with multiple web frameworks, such as Webforms, MVC, ADO, Entity Framework etc. Glimpse.Asp.net’s latest version is 1.9.0.

One more significant aspect of Glimpse is that it can provide server details, timing details about the action methods and also help in debugging callbacks.

Once you have installed Glimpse through Nuget, you can start using it by turning on Glimpse through Glimpse.axd (HTTP handler file) as shown below:

glimpse-with-asp-net-picture2

You can also configure the tabs as shown in the above screen shot.

Once you turn Glimpse on, you can find Glimpse at the bottom right of the page as shown below:

glimpse-with-asp-net-picture3

Glimpse provides the timing for each server side activity and displays it visually as shown below:
glimpse-with-asp-net-picture4

Once you add Glimpse into your project, this internally adds Glimpse related configuration settings into the web.config. You can use these settings to remove tabs and also for security policies.

There are plenty of other uses from Glimpse like Route Debugging, Tracing etc. But I would like you to explore this yourself by trying Glimpse. And don’t forget to share them with us through the ‘Comments’ section below!

References:
http://getglimpse.com/Docs/

What this store did to their customer’s enquiry was absolute genius! A lesson in customer experience for everyone!

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Let me tell you the story about Lily.

One day, Lily Robinson, three and a half year old, was walking around the aisles of Sainsbury’s super market with her mother. When her mother picked up some tiger bread, a popular brand of bread, Lily had a question which comes naturally owing to the curiosity of a kid.

She asked her mom, “Why is this called tiger bread? This looks like a giraffe bread to me.”
Lily was referring to the patterns baked on the bread, which in fact resembled the pattern on a giraffe than that of a tiger. Her mom said, “Maybe you should ask them.” And she did. She wrote a letter, presumably with the help of her mom, to the 145 year old, £798M super market chain of 1200 stores.

“Why is tiger bread called tiger bread? It should be called giraffe bread. Love from Lily Robinson age 3 and 1/2″.

a-lesson-in-customer-experience-for-everyone-lilly-letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this letter probably wouldn’t raise more than a couple of chuckles before it went into some file of the corporation.

But Chris King, from Sainsbury’s customer service thought it was a brilliant idea. He wrote back to her.

a-lesson-in-customer-experience-for-everyone-sainsburys-letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?” He went on to explain, “It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.”

He included a gift card and signed off the letter, “Chris King (age 27 & 1/3)”

Her mom, put the letters on her blog and in couple of weeks, it struck a chord with many and went viral. There was a facebook page set up, Chris King was celebrated as a legend and the internet stood by the logic of this three year old. In a couple of months, owing to the ‘overwhelming response from its customers’, the 145 year old corporation, changed the name of tiger bread to giraffe bread.

a-lesson-in-customer-experience-for-everyone-supermarket

This story speaks volumes of how Sainsbury’s treats its customers and also exemplifies how each customer deserves to be treated. Unfortunately, not in our everyday lives we come across such incidents where the customer is valued and considered as the pivot point in a business.

a-lesson-in-customer-experience-for-everyone-lili-giraffe

Forget listening to the customers, can you even find where the bread section is in a supermarket without walking around the place three times and asking someone in vain?
We hear or even have gone through nightmarish experiences with these business establishments.

In this age of the customer, where they demand customized, individual care, it is absolutely impossible for any business to sustain unless they start listening to its customers.

Always remember, the customer is king!

By Harikrishnan Menon

The “Designer” Vocabulary

A look at the language of communicating a design today in a connected world.

Designer Expectations

Recently I found a very interesting post titled “Designers Who Don’t Talk Like Designers Get Hired”. The particular paragraph in question was:

“Many designers talk to businesses from a designer’s perspective. This results in lost contracts, poor communication, and feeling as though design is unappreciated by the client. It turns out that by learning to take a business perspective, designers can win more contracts, earn more from their work, and be more valued.”

There were some interesting debates and opinions within our design team about the tone and content of that post.

Personally, I thought the author was making a valid point albeit what appears to be a generalizing statement about the design community at large.

This brought us to the point of this topic which is, how do we define a designer today? What really are mindsets and skill sets of people with specific roles like user researcher, interaction designervisual designer,user experience designercustomer experience designercontent designer, front end designer, etc.

What language should any of these above designers speak? Should they be aware of the skillsets of each other? Is it about being a jack of all trades or a master of all?

To me, everything boils down to the simple fact that a designer today is mostly supporting three goals.

Fact: Like it or not, in most cases, the business is in it to make money by:

By selling a product or products… to make money. Example: Amazon
Providing a service… to make money. Example: Uber
Making systems efficient so that people are productive and hence enable the business… to make more money. Example: UXPin, Basecamp

Cool companies

Three examples of cool companies creating great experiences to make more money. AmazonUber and Basecamp.

Understanding how these goals trickle down to the smallest detail is I think, the big part in anything we design… including how we communicate the design or the approach.

Without undermining the importance of aesthetics in any way, I think using the right vocabulary to communicate a design to a business is extremely important. It is the “why’s” and “as a result of which…” in the conversation.

The dialogue really is about things like why the color, why the layout, why the SVG or why that size?

Should a designer only be communicating in the language of aesthetics? What is the real design problem?

  1. Am I, as a designer making choices that make 5 secs of someones time productive?
  2. Am I, as a designer making choices about how those choices affect the performance of the experience? Is it a designer’s problem?
  3. Am I, as a designer worrying about the perception of everything on the screen as perceived by the user?
  4. Am I, as a designer worrying about where and how the solution is going to be consumed?
  5. Am I, as a designer worrying about the design being scalable and future proof?

Do I as a designer understand the business? Do I need to understand the business?

In the end, I think as designers we need to clearly justify the reasoning behind our designs in a language of ‘gains’. What do you as a business gain by me as a designer communicating a design choice. It is about me as a designer understanding all aspects of a user centered design process and using that insight to support a design decision or approach.

The fact that things have to be aesthetically neat and current are prerequisites to me. There is tremendous effort in visual research and design but they are not value adds. You have to do it. To communicate a design solution just on the basis of aesthetics is not the right way in my opinion.

To support the original article that led to this post, It’s almost like me applying for a chef position in a restaurant with the leading line in my resume that says I cook really well.

Food for thought?

By Jatin Shah
UX Architect at Aditi Technologies
Twitter

Footie and Techie Meet to Create the Future of Football

The quadren1nial event that brings the world to a standstill – the ‘FIFA World Cup’ was recently held in Brazil. It was one of the most widely viewed sporting events across the world. The tournament has seen a lot of changes since its inception in 1930- in its format, the number of participating teams, rules, etc.

Moments of brilliance

In today’s day and age, like everything else, technology plays a very important role in a team’s success. Technology has evolved a lot since the first World Cup was played in 1930. From having the 1954 tournament televised for the first time, to having an estimated 26.29 billion viewers watch the 2006 tournament, to goal line technology being introduced this year, things have indeed come a long way.

Playing footie with technology

For the first time in history, the 2014 World Cup saw the use of SMAC (social media, mobility, analytics and cloud) on a large scale. All major professional clubs around the world used data analytics to help improve their team’s performance. Right from training sessions to live matches, huge chunks of data were collected and analyzed. Many top ranking clubs had tied up with software firms to analyze the data collected. Using this data, the analysts were able to provide vital statistical information to the clubs. Live matches provided billions of data points which were analyzed to gauge the team’s performance.

Mapping it all

On a typical football field, there are about 24 cameras to provide live streaming of the match (there are also player cams which allow a person watching at home to watch a particular player’s movement across the field), there are various behind the scenes cameras that capture about ten data points per player, every second. These are the ones that make the statistics visually appealing to us.

To keep the viewers glued to their television screens, TV networks have football pundits analyze the game. Typically there is a pre match analysis, half time analysis and post-match analysis, all beamed live across countries. With the help of data analysis software that has been designed to crunch the live data points, the pundits are able to seamlessly analyze the performance of key players and the team as a whole. Match stats like goals scored, total shots, shots on target, offside, fouls, yellow/red cards are pretty simple data points that one can track over the duration of the match. Other stats like total distance covered by each player and the team, player speed profiles, player movement tracing, visualized passes (attempted and converted), and heat mapping, etc. are provided by these software using real-time data measurements.

Real-time data measurements have now been adopted in the training schedules. Here, trackers and sensors are used across the training field on the goal posts, players, ball, etc. and each player is given a number of sensors. These trackers and sensors send out live data, which is analyzed in real time. One of the advantages of using data analytics is in helping reduce the risk of player injuries. The data points collected from these sessions and matches are analyzed and using these it is possible to reduce the risk of player injuries due to overload in training, etc. It is also used to help players address their weaknesses.

Apart from the above examples, data analytics is used to scout players, study opponents, analyze the season’s performance, examine players’ work rate and for many more practical applications. Betting companies also use analytics to derive the odds and predict match results. Companies like Prozone, SAP, Opta, and Kizanaro are a few that develop mapping software.

Getting mobile and social

In today’s digital age, social media and mobility too has its fair share in the future of this beautiful game. They provide the perfect platform for football clubs to reach out to their fans, keep them updated with all the latest news, match day programs, get constant feedback from fans among others. All teams have their official pages on all social networking sites giving constant updates. Match days see a lot of buzz in social media right from live match updates to posting selfies by both fans and players alike.

It’s amazing how technology binds things together and helps us get multiple perspectives of the game. Do the geeks at Aditi have anything more to add in to this? If yes, we would love to hear from you.

Below are a few things that might interest our geeky football fans:

World Cup in the Social Media:

  • More than 261,026 tweets for Pepe’s red card
  • 2 million tweets for WC opener between Brazil and Croatia
  • 1,967,657 tweets mentioning Mexico goalie Ochoa during the Brazil vs. Mexico match
  • More than 2.1 billion searches on Google related to World Cup
  • 6 million tweets, during the semifinal between Brazil & Germany – The single most discussed game ever on Twitter
  • Overall a record of 672 million tweets during the tournament
  • 6,18,715 tweets/minute during the final
  • More than 3 billion interactions on Facebook during the course of the tournament

By Pradeep Narendran

 

4 Misconceptions About UX Design and One Hard-to-Ignore TRUTH

In the increasingly design-savvy state of the world, it’s never been more important to stand out and develop a unique brand identity through UX design. While most organizations recognize the ability of UX design to be the key driver for customer conversion, they often don’t recognize how to use UX design strategically to deliver new values driven by core business metrics.

Having overseen UX design-led business transformation at several organizations, here’s my take on the common misconceptions about UX design that can derail you from maximizing its impact on business outcomes.

Misconception #1: UX Design = Design Thinking

In the design world, UX design and design thinking are often considered synonyms. But in reality, design thinking is just an integrative thinking process that involves approaching problems in the right way. When you get the design thinking right, it doesn’t directly translate to getting the design right. UX Design is a much broader process that begins with understanding the business model, performing user research, and designing the service to fit into the users’ lives in a meaningful way.

Design thinking is all about examining and exploiting opposing ideas and constraints to understand the needs of the audience. For instance, a leading bank took a human-centered approach in designing their loyalty program. They even went an extra mile to exempt a loyal customer from being charged for a bounced check. In this sense, solving a complex customer loyalty problem with empathy is design thinking.

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SOURCE: WHITE PAPER – CHANGING THE STORIES BANK CUSTOMERS TELL THEMSELVES BY WWW.MCORPCONSULTING.COM

While better use of design thinking methods is useful for any company to solve its largest problems, design thinking will not, in and of itself, drive better design.

Misconception #2: Enabling Better UX is the Design Team’s Job

By creating a design-centric culture and by hiring design-centric marketers, engineers, product managers, etc., the design team can rely on the larger team, which serves as an extended UX arm. This holistic design-centric team is aligned with UX needs and can easily get started with the build process on their own, rather than waiting for the core design team to initiate the mock-up first. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better than any individual designer or design team can provide.

With the increased popularity of agile methodology, it has left most organizations to wonder if Agile + UX work at all. When companies adopt an agile development environment, UX teams often feel like they just lost their seat at the table. It’s never easy to change, but when you design your agile process to explicitly include UX as a key component and assign a champion to it, you can have the impact on design you always wanted.

“Everybody at Apple is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers.” – Ex-UX Designer at Apple.

Misconception #3: All Fancy New Tech Compliments Design

Anything that requires users to learn new and complex tasks to perform a desired action has little or no chance of adoption. Period.

Tempted by the new technology, numerous app makers have attempted to blend fancy tech with design, making actions extremely difficult to master. The result? A  drop in app and product popularity. Iconic examples of design failures in an attempt to get too cool with technology are the Gesture control TV remote controls, the seldom used Samsung Eye-ball tracking feature, and the fascinating Google Glass. While the idea of the new tech was attractive, the use of these were too complex for the audience.

Misconception #4: Optimized Design Leads the User to the Outcome You Envision

It’s often considered best to overly question user behavior and direct them to the outcome you desire, but redirecting the user who is repeatedly going off the rails with an intention is useless. For example, there is nothing more annoying than mobile websites with “Download Our App” messages every other second before you’ve even had a chance to read what the app can do for you. If users deviate from your intended path, it is absolutely fine to bring them back on track, but if they do it repeatedly, it’s probably intentional. And you should stop badgering them, and learn from their preference.

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The Truth: UX Design Has an Incredible Impact on the Company’s Top and Bottom-Line

Any organization that moves beyond an ad-hoc user-centric mindset to a sustained and centralized UX practice will find that a successful UX design has an incredible impact on their top-line and bottom-line. By institutionalizing UX, every team learns to communicate problems, rather than devising abrupt solutions; every engineer will explore and anticipate additional use cases and will communicate the best technical solution; every visual designer will learn to think beyond the visuals and will consider how it works and behaves.

A disappointed customer will not patronize with your business again if there is a mismatch between what the customer initially sees from the design team and the final output from the development team.  While the QA team acts as a middleman to ensure the output is as promised, it can never be a reality when the QA team has no design DNA. It is only with a design-centric culture that any organization can bridge the customer expectation vs experience divide.

Design has an inherent value in developing empathy and creating experiences that truly matter to customers, thereby increasing their lifetime value and translating to business results. When design is effectively integrated with business vision, strategy, engineering, etc., it serves as an influential force that helps businesses stay closer to customers, and in return, you can monetize customers for the great experience delivered.

What other common misconceptions about UX design have you encountered? Share them in the comments below the slideshare!

Slideshare Image

Go to Slideshare

By Mohan Krishnaraj

The Most Important Skill to Become a Successful User Experience Designer

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Many people, from different backgrounds, non-designers, non-technical folks, ask me sometimes – Can I become a user experience professional?

This made me think, what is the most important skill one would need to become a successful user experience professional?  Is it a Master’s degree in UX or IX from a reputed institute? Or deep knowledge about the principles of UX?  Excellent design skills? Communication? Technical expertise? All of the above?

I think none of them matter beyond a point. Of course, they would help, but none of them, in my opinion, qualifies to be the most important skill you would need to become a great UX designer.

The number one skill to be a successful user experience designer is what I call empathetic UX mindset.

Let me explain.

For example, consider the compose screen of any email application, say Gmail.

If you ask a develthe-most-important-skill-to-become-a-successful-user-experience-designer-screenshotoper to tell you about this screen, he might probably say something like, “You know, it’s a layover, with two text boxes and a large edit box. In the bottom bar there are a couple of icons and a “send” button. When the user presses ‘send,’ the data is validated and submitted to the server.”

If you ask the same question to a designer, he would say “I love the minimal design in this, see how neatly they have arranged the textboxes and the message field. And they have used the blue color for the send button, which is a universally accepted color without any negative implications! Brilliant, no?”

If you ask someone from the business side, they would say something like “We need to send the data through the algorithm to pick up relevant keywords, so that we can show matching ads and increase revenue.”

There is no problem with any one the above responses, they all are genuine and true.

But, if you see the same interface from a user’s perspective, say a 50 year old dad, he would say, “My daughter has gone abroad for an assignment, it has been three days we spoke to her over the phone, but you know it is very costly from here. And maybe she is busy and we don’t want to call and trouble her every time. She, before leaving, taught me how to use this email thing and I am trying to send an email to her from me and her mother.” Her mom would add, “Can we send her those photos of Pintu too?”

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You go beyond text boxes, colors and technical words. All you see and hear are emotions. Nervousness of using the app for the first time. Eagerness to communicate with their dear one. Love and affection.

The most important skill you require, my friends, to become a successful user experience designer, is the ability to understand that elderly couple. And thousands of others like them. Everything else will fall in line, when you make it your responsibility to make sure they are able to use the application without any difficulties.

If you walk a mile in their shoes, see the product through their eyes, empathize with the user – that makes the winning difference more than any other skill you might have.

When you step outside your technical boundaries, forget the rigid business needs and become your user, only then do you become a successful user experience designer.

And your user will thank you for that.

By Harikrishnan Menon

How to Read Customer Support Reports for Usability

In any usareading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-blog-thumbnailbility study conducted in an organization, the focus is on conducting user tests to gauge the workability of the product. But customer support reports give an entirely different picture.

We have all called customer support at some point seeking their assistance for product or services that we are using. The call could be related to a bank account, purchase order, missing luggage, changing mobile plans, etc. The common thread in all these is the understanding of customers’ problems, solving them & keeping a record of it. Customer support is one division within an organization that interacts most frequently with its customers. And for a usability consultant, that’s a knowledge bank out there to understand its users. The key advantage of looking into customer support data is that usability enhancements can be done at any part of product life-cycle & don’t cost anything extra.

Usability Study Input Area
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Not all parts of customer support data will be useful for a usability study. It needs careful filtering of data to drill down to issues reported by customers on usage of product. It could be related to incomplete transactions, error scenarios, unsuccessful operations or difficulty in understanding product in itself. These reports give a clear picture as to where the application is failing with users. Sometimes, customer support executives walk customers through the whole process and help them finish it step by step. This is when we know the product’s not working with users & needs immediate attention. Most companies are opting to record conversations between customer support staff & customers for quality monitoring purposes. This enables us to listen to actual conversations & underline customer needs. Possible usability solutions could include fixing navigational flow, making cosmetic design changes, adding usable features etc.

Usability experts will then jot down these issues and give them priority & severity ratings. It’s also a good practice to check if the issue has been reported in any other study such as user testing, surveys etc.

Usability Issues Categorization
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Customer Support Data Sources

An organization will have one or more support systems in place to assist customer on their products or services. And these are the places to look for usability roadblocks.

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Customer Support Data Consumption

The data from customer support not only benefits usability studies, but has been regularly consumed by various departments of an organization. Examples would include identifying incorrect product details (content management division),fixing  system errors (development teams) and recording system bugs (quality assurance team).

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Case Study

In May last year, while working in the Las Vegas office of our customer, I happened to meet employees of a popular e-commerce site whose office was just a few yards away. During the conversation, I got to learn about their customer first culture. They take customers so seriously that all new joiners work for Customer Support for a few weeks before being added to their respective departments. That’s part of their induction program. Hearing this gave me goose bumps!

Bottom Line

Good usability practices will help cut down costs on customer support and gain customer confidence.

By Balachandra Shetty

They said the line needs to be straight. But i asked ‘Why’?

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Amidst all the number crunching days and being a science buff, I almost forgot the childhood winter holidays spent in ‘art competitions’ with my siblings.  Being competitive by nature, my focus always on finishing first, through shortcuts such as avoiding intricate details and taking the easy route (eg: Drawing a mermaid facing backwards as I could not draw faces). I was always happy to be the first to finish. But, looking back, I realize I failed to appreciate the joy that my siblings got from just doing a good job of the painting rather than finishing first!

I still remember how my brother and sister with their constant movement of pencil on a simple curve of the nose, taking their time to draw out each strand of the mermaid’s hair. They even seemed to enjoy every single mistake they made – the rework, erasing and drawing again, to perfectly lay out their thoughts and feelings on the paper with their beautiful fingers dancing to some silent music.

After almost over a decade lost in numbers, logic, rationality, sensible readings and debates which I adore a lot, joining Aditi has brought me back to a place where I can keenly observe some of the creative inspiring lot. I only hope I can make up for what I missed during my childhood winter holidays out of naive ignorance. People in my office are barely seen seated or glued to their seats; but once something catches their attention, they will deep dive and will not move till they are satisfied with their outcome. Delivery timelines or client deadlines don’t rattle them, but a wrong stroke on a wall painting or a muddled color contrast or imprecise alignment gets them all restive and they crib pretty blatantly about it. Mind you, these people don’t come under the “self-claimed artist” category. The ones that force you to visit their blogs, photography Facebook pages or websites and demand appreciation usually by forcing you to hit that insignificant “like” icon.

Coming back to my colleagues and their subtle problems with “discipline in presentation” which I love to mock at, who I think are real artists. They never fish for compliments; in fact, they are uncomfortable when you happen to like their work, and they are shy and very possessive of their creations. They are way too critical about their work and rest only when they are satisfied about their own critical comments.

They enjoy every extra effort spent in bringing out the minute details which are quite often casually ignored by the likes of me. They iterate and reiterate their thought process, and the end result is often an impeccable product oozing out with loads of creativity.  But the creators are often still dissatisfied! Maybe, that is how being creative feels, always being unsatisfied, living in one world and trying to capture a different world.

And for me, I still love my reliable numbers and will always continue to do so, but I sure have started observing and admiring the lost souls, so clear sometimes and completely blurred sometimes.

If you appreciate the finer points in design and if you believe you’re downright whacko creative, we would love to meet you! Interested in catching up with us over a cuppa?

By Mitali Shekhawat