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

 

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

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

the-most-important-skill-to-become-asuccessful-user-experience-designer-thumbnail1

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?”

enabling-people-with-low-vision-to-access-android-smartphones-pic20

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

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

 

 

Disseminating UX Research Data and Information: Bridging the Research to Design Gap

One of the major quandaries for a UX researcher is determining the most effective way of disseminating UX research results to a project team. This is particularly true for UX researchers who focus on qualitative research, where identifying contextual issues requires broad and varied descriptive tools.  This process of ensuring research findings are heard and understood, can also be time consuming; as translating a text-based analysis to visual formats is complex, and often outside the skillset of researchers who have trained in the social sciences, not design or data visualization.

However, the technology industry is known for its fast pace, and learning to identify appropriate ways of disseminating information to a project team and stakeholders is a must for UX researchers. Moreover, isn’t relationship building and communication strategies what UX research is all about? It should be impossible for us to ignore the contextual issues and character traits that prevent people from reading, or being interested in, full written reports. It is simply part of our job.

So, how does a project team achieve a common understanding of users and their context? Below, I have listed a few general examples of methods used at Aditi for disseminating such information.

  • Frequent or strategic presentations – Making sure to present analysis and findings as the project moves along. This keeps everyone on the same page, starts to ingrain some key ideas, starts conversations, builds trust with the client, and does not overwhelm.
  • Co-workingPlacing project teams in the same space, so after overarching findings have been presented, the UX researcher is consistently present to answer questions and engage in conversations. This allows for even minor design decisions to be backed by research findings.
  • Data Visualizations and Information GraphicsQuantifying qualitative data or visualizing qualitative information in a way that is easily and quickly consumed. These can be posted on walls in the workplace or included in final presentations or reports.
  • Final Report and PresentationWhile this is standard, it is important to remember that an engaging final report and presentation that shows the full picture of the problem space and how a project can best serve its user populations is an important piece of UX research.  

While many can see the value of above activities anecdotally, UX research would do well to add further formalized activities or guidelines for choosing activities to their UX research toolkit. This would help to ensure creative understanding had been reached, and begin to build a dialogue surrounding which activities work best for certain projects, industries, teams, and companies.

For one example of research working to set guidelines for research to design activities, see this article.

Kristina Krause

UX Researcher

Aditi Litehouse