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Category Archives: UX and Usability

How to design a great product which delivers Wow!

Great Products are a result of a design process which understands that users should get two essential values out of a product.

1. An emotional value (“Wow! I love my iPhone”)
2. A utilitarian value (“A mobile phone…wow, now I can call my friends from anywhere!”).

These are linked so closely with each other that you just can’t have one, without having at least ‘One’ other one!

Now question comes how do you deliver the Emotional and Utilitarian value? Well there are three ways (Which again are related);

Aesthetics

The product looks good, is “fun” to interact with, has smooth transition, a “clean” layout, is symmetrical, feels “professional”, and has a “cool” factor associated with it, etc.

Functionality

It just does things I really value. For example, I value that I can scan my laptop for viruses, though I find it extremely hard how to do so, but I do value that I can do this!

Usability

The way functionality is delivered. Is it effective, efficient, satisfying, and simple?

Majority of the IT companies, and now even the mobile companies focus on the utilitarian value of a product, and the functionality of the product.

They are forced to sneak in as many ‘Functionality Feature’ in a release as they can; since this is the way ‘Success’ is measured for them.

Apple never re-invented the features of a Phone! They just made the experience beautiful!

On the other hand Samsung did the opposite…adding features [primarily of very less usage] will give them success in short run…but the way experience is delivered – it’s a Steve Baby!

I mean its tough for companies too, cut throat competition, a mindset, which puts more emphasis on ‘Features’ and less on ‘Experience’; the companies are forced to follow the path!

A great product delivers a user experience that combines aesthetics, functionality and usability to meet both the user’s emotional and utilitarian needs. So next question is

How do we do it?

I would call it a ‘Fiver’

Expertise – Have in house expertise, or call upon Expert!

Techniques – Use Appropriate techniques!

Leadership and Culture – Appreciate value of UX from business point of view!

Processes – Define processes!

Perspective – Apply principles and process in the broad perspective!

And You?

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Enterprise Usability – There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’!

In our previous post we talked about ‘Enterprise Usability’, the two major points we touched upon were;

Enterprise buyers in most of the cases will never be the Users., and The Constraint faced due to Architecture. See here

Let’s talk about two other facets of Enterprise Usability and understand why it is tough to have good enterprise software which are user friendly to start with!

Think about this: How many times you as an individual have accepted the Change? Not many times, I would say!

There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’

Long time users become so engrossed in the processes they work on, that they feel any change will disrupt their way of doing business. They’re likely to be irritated, and feel bad about things they feel affect their bottom line, even if it benefits them in the long term.

Any improvement that is being made in the product is likely to affect someone who pays for your current product.

In industry there are proven ways and methods to upgrade / update the existing portion of a product, but the risk of being challenged is what makes Organization put those changes on hold for a long…very long time.

Let’s see what happens when you have a product like Microsoft Word, which is feature-heavy applications where 90% of the users utilize 10% of the product, multiplied several times over!

1

Enterprise products are the products which often try to be all things to all people instead of focusing on a specific set of primary users and a selective number of user or usage scenarios. This results in having a no specific target groups of users – Solution being generic, at the cost of Usability.

Below excerpts are from a conference where customers shared their top usability issues about enterprise software:

  • Customers perceive that the user interfaces of enterprise software are inconsistent and difficult to navigate.
  • Customers think that some functionality is missing or inappropriate to their tasks.
  • Performance problems with enterprise software are perceived to cause productivity losses to workers.
  • Preformed workflows seldom conform to actual business processes.
  • Collaboration is possible, but difficult

One major problem that becomes a bottleneck in upgrading to new version of a software is; The new could do a lot that previous versions could not; however, user would not be sure the complexity penalty of these extra functions was worth the price s/he has to pay in learning and using the new software.

These are certain points which ends up making the existence of User friendly Enterprise Software a distant dream!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in UX, UX and Usability

 

Enterprise Usability – Simple tasks must be simple, and complex ones must be possible

“Some 70% of failed CRM projects claim lack of user adoption as a primary contributor. Even successful projects cite low user adoption as a barrier to timely project completion” – As per research from Forrester.

So why do intelligent, experienced, educated designers and product managers produce software that frustrates their user base?

Let’s know this for once and all;  For Enterprise users the focus is shifting from ‘In the office’ to ‘anywhere, and anytime’. With this change in trend the enterprise vendors must adapt to the user experience which can be adopted by the users.

Primary reasons for Enterprise software to be ‘So-Hard’ to use should fall under following;

1. Enterprise buyers in most of the cases will never be the Users.

2. The Constraint faced due to Architecture

3. There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’

4. No specific target groups of users – Solution being generic

Let’s take them one by one;

In order to understand #1, think it this way, In majority of the ERP solutions, people who buy the product are not the end users. This ‘Divorces’ users from any decision making capability. Majority of the time the senior management will put features, cost, and most importantly the ‘Trust and Relation’ on the vendor at the top.

There’s been no cost justification for simplifying the solution.

The customers who have been using a version 3.0 of a product will upgrade from 4.5 to 5.0 just because they don’t want to start again with another application, and the learning curve, customization, and deployment that comes with it.

Majority of the time usability problems are addressed as Complaints or as an expensive training.

Management needs to understand ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ doesn’t end at install.

Let’s talk about #2

Majority of the enterprise solutions look like the solution from 90s. And that is fine, because that is what they were supposed to be. They were designed by Software Developers and not by UI designers. The entire focus was on to utilize Computation power and not the user’s need! Let’s make it clear, it’s not the job of a developer to think about the psychology of the users on the other side of mouse!

The development team did their job, and did it well enough to stand the test of time. What it can’t do however is to test the prowess of usability.

I am not a developer, but what I understand of enterprise product’s code is; their GUI is deeply embedded in the product with workflows being hard coded. Hence it becomes tough to change or re-write the code!

One major contributor to lose of usability is; Acquisition. You end up merging not only the culture but also the architecture of several different modules. You think that this makes the offering more robust and keeps the acquired users happy. But in reality combining different architectures and technologies might result in a richer product, but it leaves the underlying code a goopy mess’, which makes it tough to comply with usability standards.

We will talk about other 2 elements and further solution in this regard in up coming posts. Thanks for reading / visiting.

Before you buy software, make sure it believes in the same things you do. Whether you realize it or not, software comes with a set of beliefs built in.Before you choose software, make sure it shares yours. – PeopleSoft Advertisement

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Product Management, Usability, UX and Usability

 

UX Principles – Top 4 for my products

While talking about UX principles, I in my product always would go for the following:

Fast : My product should response to any input that has been given by user in sub-300 millisecs

Assistive: You should always give user something to react to, don’t force them to generate their own content

Clear and concise messaging : Always, make sure you’re guiding your users to respective paths on a regular basis. People don’t want to stay on and stray around!

Simplicity: A 1% PM knows how to get 80% of the value out of any feature or project with 20% of the effort. They do so repeatedly, launching more and achieving compounding effects for the product or business.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in UX and Usability

 

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Abandonment of Shopping Cart – Part III

So far you (Part I, Part II) have been reading about Abandonment of Shopping cart – the reasons behind these abandonments and the possible impact of the same. Let’s see what we can, we should, and we shouldn’t do with a shopping cart process…and yes by seeing I meant…SEEING 🙂

With this we come to an end of three series article on abandonment of shopping cart. There are many ways you can simplify it, best is to MAKE IT SIMPLE. Someone spending money on your site, would never like to do this if s/he is not confident and / or is not presented with simple approach. So next time you look out for a shopping cart, do give these points a “Note”. 🙂 Cheers!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Productivity, UX and Usability

 

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Shopping Cart Abandonment – Part II

In the first series of this article here, we found out 10 reasons as to why people abandon the shopping cart. Let's see those reasons in detail.

Why do people abandon shopping carts?

There are many reasons behind cart abandonment, but I feel that the majority of people do so for one of four major reasons, with other issues sprouting from those.

Comparison shopping

It’s not unusual for consumers to go right through the buying process to the checkout stage to get a true indication of what their purchase will cost including tax and shipping. They may repeat this process on many sites before making a purchase.

Confusion

This is a major issue. Consumers may be confused at how the process works, about added costs such as shipping or distracted by other elements on the pages.

Impatience

Too many checkout pages, shopping cart pages that load slowly, sites that require registration before purchase or requests for too much non-purchase related information can send potential customers scurrying away.

Fear

The consumer is about to hand over their credit card details to a complete stranger, and if they have any degree of common sense, they’ll be wary. Anything that seems a little out of the ordinary or order forms that ask for too much personal information may scare them away.

Minimizing shopping cart abandonment

Before putting any of these suggestions into action; you first need to think about the type of clients you cater to.

For example, the “me” generation wants everything now, skimming over information; whereas older shoppers may take the time to read everything on the cart pages and expect to be assured that it’s safe to do business with you.

Shopping cart software

If your cart software is more than a couple of years old, chances are it’s missing a lot of the features that are standard these days that shoppers expect. Like any online technology, carts have come a long way. For example, some shopping carts allow you to grab the email contact details of the customer early on in the checkout process, which then allows you to follow up with the person should he/she abandon the cart.

If your shopping cart is a bit dated, perhaps it’s time to update your current software, or move over to a new product.

Security – SSL

From time to time, I still see carts order forms requesting credit card details without a secure connection. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a crucial element of any ecommerce transaction and is indicated by a https:// address and associated lock icons in browsers.

Also tell your clients about the security measures you have in place, either via a scrolling text box on checkout pages so that it doesn’t take up too much space, or a page dedicated to ecommerce security that is easily accessible from any page on your site.

Security warnings and errors

It’s really important to test your cart and checkout process in Firefox *and* Internet Explorer as they handle security issues differently. On a secure page, i.e. one beginning with https://, Internet Explorer is far more fussier. If one of the elements on the page such as an image isn’t referenced via a https: address; Internet Explorer will throw up an ominous message stating that one or more elements are not secure. Even if it’s just an image that’s causing the problem, it’s enough to scare off wary customers and they are very likely to abandon the shopping cart. Firefox on the other hand just ignores such issues. So if you’re a Firefox users, your site may be experiencing this problem and you wouldn’t be aware of it.

Third party verification seals

Big and small, well known and unknown retailers experience the same issues of jittery shoppers, which contributes to increased shopping cart abandonment rates. It’s been demonstrated that display of a third party verification seal can greatly increase retention and conversion rates.

Request for information

The checkout process might seem like an excellent place to gather demographics through survey-type questions, but it may scare some shoppers away. A “where did you hear about us” question is probably fine, but use a drop-down selection of answers to keep things moving along.

Clear, friendly navigation

Nothing irks me more in a checkout session than a cart that doesn’t allow me to back track to any stage of the process. If your shopping cart checkout process is multi-page, place links to each section top and bottom of the pages. It’s also good practice in a multi-page process to give clients a progress indicator.

Images of products, linking to information.

It doesn’t hurt to have a thumbnail of the product the client is purchasing in the checkout pages; but make it bandwidth friendly. The image should link to a new window with summary information about the product. The use of images can help maintain orientation and ensure the client the product they want is the one they are ordering.

Live help

Consider implementing live chat software. A live help feature on your cart pages may encourage clients who are confused to ask for assistance, thus helping you to close more sales.

Of course, never dive in and offer to assist someone during a checkout process; you may scare them away. Let the client initiate the chat.

Phone assistance and ordering

This is particularly helpful with big ticket items. No matter how simple your cart is, some folks just won’t get it. No matter what you do to show you’re a legit business, some still won’t trust. This is where offering a phone number for ordering can help and VoIP (Voice Over IP) allows you to set up phone ordering numbers around the world at minimal cost.

Friendly error handling

It’s very frustrating to complete a cart session, all the way through to submitting the order form, only to be told “you moron, your postcode is invalid!” OK, it’s an exaggeration, but developers aren’t known for using subtlety in error messages :).

Ensure the software you are using has friendly, descriptive error messages and that when an error is detected, that the client does not have to start the ordering process all over again. They should be able to fix the error and pick up from where they left off.

Distractions

A cart is not the place to have banners for other sites :). Other distractions such as flashing, whirring, spinning or buzzing elements should be terminated with extreme prejudice, unless they directly relate to the purchase – such as an error message or upsell/cross-sell offer.

Live Chat Software

– Boosts sales, a great marketing tool –
– Helps to reassure your visitors –
– Makes ecommerce more “human” –
– Track visitors on your site in real time –

Added costs

As early as possible in the ordering process, the client should be made aware of *all* costs. Slipping an added fee in at the last moment or having low product prices then a whopping shipping charge is not clever; it’s just bad business. Aside from the sticker shock it will induce, it also smells of trickery the customer may wonder what other nasty surprises may be in store when doing business with you.

Keep it simple

Anything and everything in your cart process should be as simple as possible. If it’s not absolutely necessary to the purchase or doesn’t provide the client with important information that *they* need, turf it.

Currency conversion

It’s important to remember that the US dollar is not the only currency in the world. While it has pretty much global acceptance, converting currency can be a mathematical nightmare for some. Even if you can only accept US funds via your payment gateway arrangements, at least provide a currency converter feature to save your non-US clients the effort of making the calculation.

Transparency and reassurance

So many online businesses try to hide who they are – their about pages do nothing but say “we’re the best”. This does nothing to assuage the fears of online shoppers. A person may be halfway through the checkout process and think “hrm, who are these guys anyway?”. There should be a link to a contact and about/company profile page easily accessible from the cart and the profile page should be more than just puffery – it needs to contain solid information about your company focused on reassuring your visitors.

Get others to test your cart

Once we are familiar with our own software, it’s very hard to be objective as to how easy it is for a first time visitor to use, as we become “store blind”. Enlist the help of colleagues, staff, friends and family – ask them to test your cart and to be brutally honest. Analytics software can also help indicate a common point where consumers are abandoning their purchases.

Like most ecommerce merchants, you’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash in building and promoting your site – I hope some of these tips help you in boosting your profits!

In third article of this series we will see the entire concept in a beautiful infographic.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Product Reviews, UX and Usability

 

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Shopping Cart Abandonment

Shopping card abandonment, a dreaded word.

The problem of selling online takes many forms. First you must build it before they come. Then you must find ways to drive customers to the site. Then you must merchandise your products and make it easy and desirable to buy. And finally, you must close the sale. The bane of all ecommerce sites is the abandoned shopping cart, the incompleted transaction. Studies estimate that up to 75% of all shopping carts are abandoned before the sale is closed. All that effort and money, and you failed to close the sale. A study by a leading Customer Experience Management (CEM) research firm offers valuable insight into why. They evaluated the experiences of 719 consumers as they used shopping carts on ecommerce sites. According to the study, the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment, and the percentage of consumers citing each as a reason, are:

  1. High shipping prices (72%)
  2. Comparison shopping or browsing (61%)
  3. Changed mind (56%)
  4. Saving items for later purchase (51%)
  5. Total cost of items is too high (43%)
  6. Checkout process is too long (41%)
  7. Checkout requires too much personal information (35%)
  8. Site requires registration before purchase (34%)
  9. Site is unstable or unreliable (31%)
  10. Checkout process is confusing (27%)

What is Shopping Cart Abandonment?
A visitor enters the check out process and leaves before completing the checkout process. Shopping cart abandonment suggests a loss of orders & in turn is a loss to your business. If you have higher shopping cart abandon rate, it suggests a lower conversion rate and you will have to work harder to achieve your business goals.

Let’s discuss about these in series II of this article.

 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Product Marketing, UX and Usability

 

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