The Wearables

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A morning like any other, my wife and I set out on our daily run. Standing at the apartment gate doing a couple of stretches, from across the street we hear a strained “Sar! Sar!” (A localization of Sir). Looking up I saw Ravi – who irons our clothes – walk briskly across the street, with a big grin on his face. He came up to us and shows us a rather large watch on his wrist. “See Saar, I’ve got a watch like yours, I can make calls from it!” My wife and I looked at each other and I had to break it to Ravi that our watches didn’t have the feature to make calls or send messages, but only told the time and distance, speed and so on. Ravi looked quizzically at us like there was something wrong with us – almost like what’s the point of wearing that fat watch if it’s only going to tell you the time (never mind all the other features that are crucial to runners)! That said we quickly got going on our run, and left Ravi staring at his watch with wonder.

In the mid 1980s, I sat glued to the television as it roared “Atomic Punch”… “Rocket Missiles”, Johnny Sakko screamed orders into his watch while his Giant Robot obeyed his commands. On Sundays, Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise spoke to his watch “Beam me up, Scotty”.

The concept of wearable devices has existed for decades. Devices such as hearing aids have been around for even longer. Recently, we’ve see the emergence of Google glass, (rumors of) iWatch, bluetooth ring, Samsung galaxy gear and so on. This is just the beginning of a more internet-connected world, where all wearable devices will be able to interact and share information with each other.

What probably draws us to wearable devices is its simplicity – taking an everyday object and enhancing its features. We’re already familiar with all kinds of devices, so they don’t seem like something extra that we need to carry around. If you were to carry two or even three mobiles you would think twice.  The technology used is still in its infancy no one has really come up with that one gadget that attracts the masses. They are still more tech gadgets than fashion accessories (though this is currently changing).

At present there has been an explosion of fitness and health bands and this will continue to be on the rise for a while. It is contagious – when I run, I’m constantly looking at my watch, what pace am I currently at? Is it too slow? Should I be running faster? And when I happen to forget it, the same questions keep popping into my mind – I do miss it. We’ve turned into a generation obsessing about calories burnt, heart rate, blood pressure – rightly so with all the stress and poisons we live with and breathe in. My parents, being diabetic would benefit from reminders to take their medication – a smart phone would solve this if they remembered to carry it with them, hence wearable device would make it that much more easier. There are infinite possibilities for creating health related gadgets – but why restrict it to humans? Our pets could also benefit. Most of the time we have no idea how our pets are feeling – if a ‘wearable’ collar could communicate with our phones about how a pet was doing, the data could be sent to the vet and help with diagnosis if the situation arises.  

Samsung has already built a ‘Smart Home’ prototype, where users manage all their connected devices from a single application. The fashion industry has also started to embrace this technology. Francesca Rosella of CuteCircuit gave her models the power to customize their outfits with a swipe of their iPods, which caused the garments to do things like shimmer, change color, and even play video. Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak comes instantly to mind – Hyperstealth, a successful Canadian camouflage design company has come up with Quantum Stealth, a material that renders the target completely invisible by bending light waves around the target – imagine being able to enhance this with smart devices.

Going back to Ravi staring at his watch – wearables are penetrating a larger audience, they will become more affordable and are almost certainly going to change our lives in the years to come.

Thanks for listening.

Athreya Chidambi

Best Practices & Tools for Nailing Customer Experience

“To compete in today’s business world, you must be available, relevant and responsive – all the time.Your customers expect nothing less.” – Shep Hyken – Author of “The Amazement Revolution”

We are happy to share that we hosted a webinar on “The Best Practices & Tools for Nailing Customer Experience” for our US and UK based audience on the 25th and 26th of February this year. This was our first offering and we hope to continue with a series of webinars that are informative, engaging and useful for our clients, and followers.

The webinar was run by our UX champions, Mohan Krishnaraj, Sr. Director of UX and Justin Hamacher, Director of UX. We had a great turnout and the participants enjoyed the discussion which ended with a Q&A session. The conversation revolved around defining customer experience strategy, responsive web design, accessibility, analytics and user research. We wanted our audience to leave with a thought on how to create the future of an effortless customer experience.

In today’s competitive world, companies are certainly thinking about the benefits that come with giving their customers a memorable experience, to entice them to come back for more. The truth is that, this is not a simple process, but  a complex and well thought out strategy that includes many pieces that all fit in to make one unique and effective customer experience.

Our webinar touched on the benefits of having a responsive web presence. According to Mohan Krishnaraj, “A company can create deeper relationships with its customers if it is responsive, available, relevant and accessible. If companies are not using responsive web design, they are doing it wrong.” It’s the perfect time to work on cohesive designs across an array of ever-increasing screens.

As mobile traffic continues to surge, it is essential for marketers to include responsive web design in the multi-screen era we live in. It is necessary to conquer device proliferation and acquire new age customers. Responsive design offers customers an optimal viewing experience across various platforms, allowing businesses to be in front of customers at every step of their online journey.

Responsive design not only makes your website look attractive and device-friendly, it also makes it accessible and structured without clumsy zooming or shrinking. It helps companies increase conversions, transactions and revenue, and this webinar helped all the participants develop these skills. We’re excited about the success of the webinar and plan to continue our series of webinars in the future.

Watch the webinar here

 

 

EMAIL DESIGN BEST PRACTICES

144.8 billion emails are written everyday, many of which go straight to the trash for one reason or another – an unfamiliar sender, spammy subject, habit…we know the drill.

And while it is the subject of the email that largely determines if it will be opened, it is the designer’s magic that has to captivate the reader once they’ve opened the email. If the copy is enticing and the design comforting, they might just hover over that big, beautiful call to action and click (or tap). #success

Ahead is a basic guide to email design best practices, aimed at those of you who might otherwise stare into the empty pixeled abyss for too long.

1. Ins and Outs of Inboxes 

To start, consider your audience and identify the top email clients on desktop, tablet and smart phones. Focus on designing for the top 3-5 for each form factor.

Did you know that mobile now accounts for the majority of email opens, with a 51% share? To get an idea of the email client market share, Litmus has calculated 323 million opens in February 2014.

For a breakdown of the CSS support for all popular mobile, web and desktop emails clients, refer this handy matrix:

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2. Copy/Paste

Email copy should be in its final stages before you begin wireframing, as it’s necessary to consider a headline, body copy and Call to Action (CTA) while determining layout and imagery.

Copy Review Checklist:

  • An attractive subject line. Keep it short and snappy. Avoid ALL CAPS, color, or excessive punctuation!!! Avoid words that express spam-like content (Free, Money Back Offer, Guarantee, Clearance, Subscribe, Win, etc.)
  • CTA: Relevant. Actionable. Forceful. Targeted. Your audience is likely scanning the majority of the email, so avoid vague CTAs such as “Click here” or “Confirm”. Instead, directly tell the recipient what to do and what to expect, for instance, “Confirm your email address”.
  • Short & Concise: When it comes to copy, less is more, as long as you have covered the most important details. If there is a lot to cover, bulleted lists allow your readers to scan quickly and take action if needed.
  • Left-aligned text. Likely due to western reading patterns, eye-tracking research suggests that users’ attention is focused on the left side of email content. Secondly, some operating systems, like android, will not scale content to fit the screen, displaying only the left half of an email. Lastly, ergonomically speaking, users find it easiest to interact with elements in the bottom left/middle of their mobile screen.

3. Responsive? Adaptive?

Users expect a consistent experience across form factors, and since email content is typically lightweight, responsive is the way to go. Using one set of code streamlines and simplifies development.

That said, avoid rasterizing text within banners or critical links. We all know images often fail to load, which means the message fails, too. In responsive solutions, text will need to resize for varying devices and form factors. Your safe bet: place text over solid color to ensure proportionate scaling. Standard responsive breakpoints are 320px, 480px, and 640px.

4. Grid + Wireframe = Love

If you’re new to email design, sketch possible layouts before diving into Photoshop* or Illustrator. It’s best to share wireframes with your developers first, as they may request adjustments for optimal coding and rendering. Consider layouts for both mobile and desktop designs, then, if time allows, create responsive html prototype templates.

Remember to keep it simple. The more complex your email design, the more likely is it to fail on one of the popular clients with poor standards support. If you’re not responsible for coding your design, it’s still helpful to be familiar with the process.

*I use Photoshop since graphics are pixel based and our developers seem most comfortable working within this format. It’s nice to ask beforehand.

5. Friendly Layouts & Design Elements

It’s often easy to forget the intention or purpose of your design and focus instead on what looks best. Below are a few simple guidelines to reference while formatting to make sure your email meets usability standards.

 First Comes Mobile:

  • Single Column Grid: 320-500px. Keep important information within the upper portion of the email.
  • Body Copy: 13-16 pixel height. Keep this in mind while styling text as anything smaller will resize automatically and disrupt your careful formatting. This size also ensures readability for small screen sizes.
  • Headlines:22px
  • Large Links & Buttons:44 by 44px. Don’t punish fat fingers. Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines recommend this as the minimum ‘tappable’ area.
  • Images:< 20KBeach. Loading large images eats up mobile data.
  • Overall size:< 100K. Gmail, for instance, will load up to 102K, then cut off the remaining content with a few variations, depending on the device.

Then Comes Desktop

  • Ideal width: 600-650px – No one likes a horizontal scrolling email. Also, most email clients are optimized to viewing emails of this width.

6. Mind Your Manners

Proper Photoshop etiquette is the key to happy coders and efficiency. You’d pick up the dirty laundry before inviting company over, right? The do’s and do not’s of Photoshop:

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7. Be Inspired

Now that you’ve got a handle on best practices, it’s time to get the creative ball rolling. I like to start the process by browsing other well-designed solutions.

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Happy designing,

Callie Hilpert