04 December, 2015

4 Common UX Challenges and How to Find Them

User Experience design is all about getting people to use our products. We’re not so much concerned with people buying our products, that’s sales and marketing’s focus, we’re concerned with the way that people adopt our products into their lives. We want to create lasting relationships that create brand loyalty, repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations.

There are four areas of user perception that can encourage or discourage adoption of our products. Let’s take a look at each of them and how we might be able to examine them in our UX research:

Perception of Value

In order for customers to adopt a product; they need to see the value in that product. Products can deliver positive impacts but if they’re not seen to deliver positive impacts; the perception of value is low or non-existent.

It’s also possible to produce products without such an impact that customer’s perceive to have value anyway. The entire homeopathic health industry relies on this to generate billions in revenue each year. Sugar pills are sugar pills and their benefits are pure placebo (there are much cheaper ways to buy sugar than through a homeopathic practitioner) but customers of homeopaths perceive a benefit and thus keep buying that sugar at incredibly inflated prices.

We begin examining the perception of value with the product’s value proposition. If the value cannot be clearly articulated in house – it seems unlikely that it’s going to be easy for a user to articulate the value. We can test that by seeing if, after reviewing our marketing material or website, the potential user can articular the value.

Then we need to examine two other perceptions – the first is the question of utility; “Is this product useful to you?” but we should also remember that people buy plenty of things that aren’t useful so much as they are enjoyable (think computer games or novelty products) and we should ask; “Is this product fun to use?” too.

Level of Certainty

We move on from perception of value to the level of certainty that our product delivers on its perceived value. Is it as fun or as useful as it appears to be at first glance? More importantly do customers believe that you can deliver on that perceived value before they even touch the product?

New technologies can often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Driverless cars, which are currently in development, may sound fantastic but the true test of their staying power will be – do people trust cars to drive them from A to B in a safe and reliable manner?

If the level of certainty when responding to that question is low… there’s a major mountain to climb to convince people to become users in the first place. A lack of user confidence in the product is going to be a huge barrier to their adopting that product.

For driverless cars that certainty may come from the power of the brands developing them – people tend to trust names like Google because they see them as capable of delivering technologically advanced solutions, they might be less trusting if the driverless car came from a brand new startup with no track record in the market.

You can measure the level of certainty by asking your users what they think the chances of a successful product are, or what problems they anticipate with a product.

Is the Product Accessible?
Accessibility is a measure of two separate components. The first is convenience, how convenient is the product to use? Why are bicycles so unpopular for short journeys – when it’s clear they’re so easy to use for this purpose? Well, there’s the weather, the lack of bicycle parking in many places, the behaviour of other drivers, the likelihood of theft, etc. it turns out that while bicycles have usability in spades – they often lack convenience.

The second component is usability and that’s something that most UX designers will be intimately familiar with. Usability is a part of UX rather than the whole of it but we all know that if a product is hard to use – adoption is hard to win.

It’s important to examine both convenience and usability during testing and to measure them as early as possible. An inaccessible product won’t find it easy to keep users in the long-term.

Does the Product Engender Trust?

Users are concerned for their safety, their privacy, their financial security, etc. If your product raises concerns – you need to work out how to address these with your users in order to get them to adopt the product. You cannot ignore the need for users to trust a service, you need to bridge the gap.

For example, internet banking still has large amounts of resistance, despite its convenience because in many places – people aren’t convinced of the security aspects of the system. They may not have their own computers at home and working in an internet cafĂ© can leave someone quite apprehensive about accessing their financial accounts.

Or imagine that you want to use geo-locations in a mobile application. Will you users be OK with you sharing that data with others? If not, how can you ensure that data is held securely without impinging on functionality?

There are many ways that a user may not trust a product and the UX researcher’s job is to work out where these pain points lay.

You may also want to ensure that you under-promise and over-deliver in your marketing materials rather than vice-versa. There’s no quicker way to kill someone’s trust than to promise something that seems “too good to be true”.  Again you can test marketing collateral with users before you put it out in the wider world.


Ensuring that users adopt our products for long-term use is part of designing a great user experience. The four areas discussed above are critical for this. Fortunately, they’re all things we can examine in our research and resolve before we go to market – as long as we’re looking for them in the first place.

04 August, 2015

UX Principles for designing Virtual Reality

1. Everything Should Be Reactive.

Every interactive object should respond to any casual movement. For example, if something is a button, any casual touch should provoke movement, even if that movement does not result in the button being fully pushed. When this happens, the haptic response of the object coincides with a mental model, allowing people to move their muscles to interact with objects. When designing a button: use a shadow from the hand to indicate where the user’s hand is in relation to button, create a glow from the button that can be reflected on the hand to help understand the relationship, use sound to indicate when the button has been pressed (“click”)

2. Restrict Motions to Interaction

The display should respond to the user’s movements at all times, without exception. Even in menus, when the game is paused, or during cut scenes, users should be able to look around. Avoiding Simulator Sickness and slowness is the key part of improving the UX in Virtual Reality Applications. Do not instigate any movement without user input. Reduce neck strain with experiences that reward a significant degree of looking around. Try to restrict movement in the periphery.

3. Text and Image Legibility

Bigger, brighter and bold texts should be used to indicate widgets. Images should be realistic and appealing to the user. The mind of the user is going to be entirely mapped into the virtual reality for a prolonged amount of time. Texts should be readable and legible for unstrained viewing of the user. Brighter and vivid the colors are, more involved the users will be.

4. Ergonomics

Designing based on how the human body works is an essential to bringing any new interface to life. Our bodies tend to move in arcs, rather than straight lines, so it’s important to compensate by allowing for arcs in 3D space.

5. Sound Effect

Sound is an essential aspect of truly immersive VR. Combined with hand tracking and visual feedback, it can be used to create the “illusion” of tactile sensation. It can also be very effective in communicating the success or failure of interactions.

Google’s Design Guidelines for Virtual Reality

Google has listed some key principles involving physiological and ergonomics  consideration to be noted while designing for Apps that can run on Google Cardboard. They are pretty much straight-forward for the designers to understand. 

  1. Using a Reticle
  2. UI Depth & Eye Strain
  3. Using Constant Velocity
  4. Keeping the User Grounded
  5. Maintaining Head Tracking
  6. Guiding with Light
  7. Leveraging Scale
  8. Spatial Audio
  9. Gaze Cues
  10. Make it Beautiful

Should UX Designers start learning about Virtual Reality?

When the Technology giants Facebook, Google and Microsoft are spending a huge amount of money in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, they are definitely the potential areas of development and future. UX Designers should definitely start practicing and start adapting the principles of Virtual Reality during the design process. User Experience will play a major role in the success of this entire concept as this is going to have a emotional bonding with the users throughout the journey. 

It’s especially exciting to work in experience design right now. The problems are all new — we’re not bound by old interaction models. We can and will fail, but the successes will change how we experience the world.

28 April, 2015

How to Improve Website Usability: Top Guidelines

Who said it is that easy to design, craft and maintain great websites that are both beautiful and effective? Surely, there is a million ways to do that, but also a million ways to fail.

Let's see what to do to achieve the desired result!

Generally, websites come in 3 types:

1. The main feature of the 1st type is a creative and stunning design. Websites like this will make you say “Wow”. But, unfortunately, sometimes, they have nothing more to offer.

2. Websites of this type may lack in creativity and design, but they will give you what you’re looking for in less than a minute! Don’t you agree that’s a good reason to close your eyes on the fact they don’t attract you visually?

3. And here go the winning ones. Websites, creators of which managed to combine usability and eye-catching design. The best type, especially from a marketing perspective. Websites like this will keep users coming back again. In short: they work.

BUT: Who actually should be the winner in this everlasting battle of Usability vs Creativity? To answer this question you should go deep in user’s psychology.

Good-looking websites cost nothing if they don’t help to get leads, increase conversion, or sell.

You should do something more than just causing aesthetic pleasure to your users, if you want them to come back, not to just admire and leave. (Surely, not counting the case when what you provide is design service or anything related).
Hence, if your aim is to keep users coming back and staying loyal, you should consider the key principles of good website usability and user-centred design. This means focusing on users’ needs, providing them with products that are efficient and easy to use. If your website meets these requirements, you’ll gain trust. Simple, isn’t it? Also note that usability is not user-experience, though is correlated with it. The latter is about the positive feelings of the user. Nevertheless, making the website easy-to-use will make users happy, thus leading to better UX.
So let us start with simple key principles on increasing usability.

#1. Don’t Make Users Think

We didn’t invent a new bicycle. This is the most important usability rule, formulated by Steve Krug. (BTW, his famous book ''Don't Make Me Think!'' served as an inspiration for this post.)

The idea here is to make the web-page understandable on intuitive level, without conscious reasoning. Users should guess where to click and where to navigate to get what they want instinctively, without much thinking.

This is what inevitably makes them feel happy about your website. As an epic example we picked the website of MailChimp
Focused on simplicity and perfectly usable, it proves that to succeed you don’t have to do anything groundbreaking. The right things in the right places (where users expect them to be) make it all.

Another thing which is amazing about this website is that it sets the users free of such an awful thing like "Paradox of choice". So, we are slightly going to the next must-know principle.

#2. Avoid "The Paradox of Choice"

When somebody is faced with too many options, he/she can end up not making a decision or just choosing something already familiar. This paradox can be faced not only on web-pages offering too many options but anywhere in life, for example in a cafe with a broad menu. Paradox of choice can really annoy and make users leave or look for other more familiar options somewhere else.

To set users free of struggling to decide where to click on the website, MailChimp made it maximally easy.

Note, that only the essential options are offered and the right emphasises are made on call-to-actions, like SIGN-UP-FREE. The secondary options can be found in MORE, preventing the users of being paralysed by too many suggested options.

#3. Give Users What They Need Right Away

Users, navigating on the web-site, usually behave themselves just like in an ordinary store, where buyers don’t examine absolutely everything in details, they are just looking for the exact things they need. Similarly users are not reading, but just scanning the website. As soon as something matches their requirement, they are ready to click.

Lesson learned: Don’t make users think “This looks like too much reading.’’

Go visual to meet the needs of speed readers.

Here’s a good example of nicely visualized Pricing Plans of Bang2Joom .
Without making hard efforts the user can learn the advantages of each pricing plan, choosing the most suitable. No need to read extra texts and to try to compare. Everything is clean and simple!

#4 Include "SEARCH"

BUT: do it with caution if your website has limited content which isn’t frequently updated.

It’s better not to have SEARCH form, than to disappoint the user, who didn’t find what he/she was looking for.
However, in case of the websites with a lot of different content, like Wikipedia , SEARCH form is a must.
In addition, check the best-practice for Search Form:
  • Search-box is set up on all the pages, not only the home-page.
  • Search box is long, just like on Google, in order to make it easy for users to review or edit what they typed.
  • Search should have logic. Offer your users an autofill for similar common searches. Besides, if users search the word "help", you may additionally offer some "Recommended Results" to support the users in need.
Apple’s website is one of the best examples of this practice.

#5 Know Your User

Young geeks love to explore new things. A bit complicated website, in case of a good content, may seem extremely interesting for youngsters. They may even love the challenge of discovering its options with curiosity while navigating through it. Just take a look onGamestop. There was a time I spent hours on this website and never even considered the fact that it is a little bit difficult to navigate through.
In case of adults, situation is not the same. They are more conservative. They love simplicity and are getting used to new things with unwillingness sometimes.
Hence, keeping the target auditory in mind while designing the website is essential.

Take Google for an example. Its users' age groups are extremely broad, but no one actually faces difficulties due to the right balance between simplicity and functionality.

Now let’s go through some more quick tips as a bonus!

  • Always consider "Banner Blindness" - the fact, that users usually ignore anything that looks like an advertisement. They notice ads, but still ignore it. Try to avoid any elements on website, which look like an ad (for example, boxes of info on the right of the page).
  • If you require registration, value the time of users. Minimize the number of fields to be filled, leaving the essential ones.
  • Allow to UNSUBSCRIBE with one click. (And try to craft such valuable content, so that your users never even know, that UNSUBSCRIPTION was that easy).
  • Never forget mobile users. Go responsive!
  • Don’t make users use browser’s features to navigate. If they need to go “Back”, let them do it with using the option on the website, not on browser.
  • Match the design and the content.
  • Emphasize links. Never expect users to search for them hovering on words till the cursor changes to a pointer.
Hopefully, you’re now armed and willing to start improving your website usability to make visitors have a much more enjoyable experience browsing it next time.
Just keep in mind that these principles don’t pretend to be one-size-fits-all rules. Everything depends on details.

Summing up, we left one thing that actually works in any case. The last, but the most important one.

#6 Test!

Testing - this is the key to your next project success. As said above, there is a million of ways to design, build and maintain a great website! Just try to find yours. And, after taking any actions, be sure to check the efficiency and improve your strategy to achieve the better results! Good luck!
/Note: This article was originally published on Bang2Joom's Blog/

Lessons in Hospitality and User Experience Design

My team and I traveled to a satellite office this past week. Like many companies, our company has a list of preferred hotels that it recommends employees stay at when traveling for business. For the first time, I booked a hotel not included in this list. Ignoring the adage of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I decided to give the new Hyatt Place in town a chance. One by one, my teammates followed suit, until all seven of us were staying at Hyatt Place. Primed by positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, and the beautiful, high-definition website photos, I walked in through the automatic doors with high expectations.

Act like you want to help me.

After checking in and settling into my room — suitcase unpacked, HBO movie on the television — I decided I needed a shower to wash away the long travel day. That was when things began to fall apart. After three or four unsuccessful attempts to turn on the shower, I phoned the lobby. No one answered my first call. On my second attempt, the front desk answered with a hurried:
“Um, yes.”
“Oh, hi. I think my shower is broken.”
“Um, fine, I’ll send someone up.”
This threw me off. First, I’d expected to be greeted with a professional welcome, a rendition of the standard but comforting, “My name’s Jennifer, how can I help you?” Second, I’d expected some form of an apology for the inconvenience.
When designing an e-commerce website for an information design class, we were instructed to be careful to ensure that the path to finding help was frictionless, and that entry points were plentiful. I should never be at a loss for where to turn for help, nor should I be made to feel like I’m inconveniencing you when I ask for it. This design principle extends beyond e-commerce, into any experience that involves a user interacting with a product or a service.
The above can be broken down into three simple guidelines:
  1. Make it easy for me to find help.
  2. Apologize for the fact that I need help.
  3. Do not convey that my cries for help — however exaggerated — are insignificant. The need that the user is expressing is coming from some place, regardless of whether it’s ‘right,’ and that place needs to be traced and surveyed.
Hyatt Place struck out on all three.

Take me where I want to go.

Minutes later, I opened the door to a woman dressed in the hotel’s signature seasonal red. I described what was happening and, uncertainly, she asked if she could take a look at my shower. Once there, she began fiddling with the shower, retracing the movements that I had just gone through and aimlessly pulling on handles and pushing on buttons. At one point, she began turning the temperature control from hot to cold and then from cold to hot again:
“So, this just turns it on?”
Cue sinking feeling. This was not the right path to solving my problem.
Everyone has had the experience of calling customer service and being bounced from one person to another, with an eternity of hold music in between. It is an experience of surreal, sublime torture; panic expands in your heart as you wait, listening to Sheryl Crowe and thinking “is this really my life?”
When a user needs to solve a problem, there is nothing worse than following a series of misplaced signs into a labyrinth, past mirages and promises that never materialize. There is nothing like the blood-pressure-raising frustration that comes with reliving a Groundhog’s Day of the same conversations and the same steps, yet no closer to solving your problem. This is an insult to my time. More than anything else does, this tells me — in the loudest of volumes — that you don’t care.

If the first impression isn’t a good one, do everything you can to ensure that the second one is.

Unsurprisingly, she was unable to fix the shower. Instead, she decided to put me in another room. I agreed amiably, though mildly annoyed at having to re-pack and re-locate.
Thankfully, the second room was just across the hall. However, I noticed immediately that the room was frighteningly cold — despite the thermostat’s 75°F setting. I asked whether the heat was working and she assured me that it was, but would take a couple minutes to heat up.
Thirty minutes later, it was still cold. I once again phoned the lobby.
“I don’t think the heat is working.”
“It takes time…it’ll take at least half an hour.”
“Ok, thanks.”
Another thirty minutes passed. Still cold. It was now almost midnight and I was beginning to feel desperate for sleep before our first day at the office.
This was strike two. When a user first encounters a snafu in their experience — an error message, a broken interaction, a page that takes too many seconds to load — the situation is still salvageable. There’s a second chance waiting to be taken. It would be foolish to miss or misuse this opportunity to remedy the relationship. Whether it’s ensuring that the rest of the experience is impeccable or demonstrating a little extra TLC — a strategy that Lyft and Uber have mastered — the objective is to kiss and make up. How can I stay mad at a company that not only refunded my ride and ensured that I would never get the same driver again, but also added $5 credit to my account?

Devil (and delight) in the details.

The fun wasn’t quite over yet.
Get the basics right. A teammate mentioned that after returning to her room that evening, she’d noticed a towel strewn on the floor. When I returned to mine, I saw that the pajamas that I’d folded on my bed were inexplicably left on the television stand. My 3/4 empty shampoo and conditioner had not been replenished. My bathtub had been sloppily cleaned, and a clump of hair (mine, I hope) remained in the center. These are the ABCs of hospitality; I’m not sure you can get anymore fundamental than clean towels. There are similar basics in web and app design — a (largely) error-free experience, an onboarding experience that sets expectations, orients and guides you, familiar design patterns, and an effortless way to contact support — that are the foundation of the user experience.
The delight of everyday things. In the words of designer John Maeda“When a small, unassuming object exceeds our expectations, we are not only surprised but pleased.” This is the philosophy behind ‘delightful’ moments, such as those documented in Little Big Details. In the hospitality industry, the possibilities for easter eggs are endless. At the Dylan in Dublin, Ireland, guests receive chocolate truffles from a local chocolatier and bottles of water every evening. My travel companion and I would sometimes skip dessert in anticipation of the truffles. “I’m so looking forward to those chocolates!” She once exclaimed laughingly during a cab ride home after dinner. Similarly, at The Element in Omaha, trays of fruit, disposable headphones, magazines, and towels welcome you at the the fitness center, silently saying, “we’re here to take care of you.” Such gestures create the impression of not only warmth and welcome, but also luxury and leisure. Isn’t that how a hotel stay is supposed to feel?

Find a sustainable solution.

It was my third call (fourth if you count the time no one picked up) to the lobby and I was beginning to feel frustrated.
“So…it’s still cold here.”
“Oh…so what do you want to do? I can have my security guard bring you blankets?”
Blankets. Was this the solution we were looking for, an ingenious old-school solution to a unnecessarily technological new-world problem?
“I didn’t think you’d want to move again…” she went on.
What I didn’t want was to continue to follow a winding rabbit hole wildly chasing the baseline amenities necessary for a pleasant week-long stay. I wanted to settle into a room that worked — shower, heat, the whole shebang — once and for all.
Unless absolutely necessary, the answer shouldn’t be a bandaid solution. In the age of minimum viable products and failing fast, it’s easy for ‘this will do’ to become the default. To be sure, there are times when workarounds are necessary, as work behind-the-scenes moves toward the right answer, the final answer. But, careful to avoid becoming a patchwork, Frankensteinian version of yourself.
One of the enduring lessons in product management is that trade-offs are an emblem of creating. Think about problems in terms of their importance and urgency, and about solutions in terms of feasibility and effort. In the end, I accepted the blankets, because, well, at 1am, the ease of the solution was perfect for the urgency of the situation