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?

Advertisements

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!

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

 

Complexity a necessary evil in UX

You don’t have to be a UX practitioner to understand that simplicity is a good thing; no one goes around the office saying, “Alright team, let’s make this application really, really complex!”

Removing that layer of confusion to make the user’s goals easy to achieve means making things simple and clear. However, removing confusion doesn’t always mean removing complexity—it’s somewhat of a grey area. Sometimes complexity actually isn’t such a bad thing. In this article we’ll examine some of the many faces of complexity and explore the balance we need to find for successful solutions.

Is Simplicity Overrated?

Imagine looking at a sky that’s completely clear and compare that with a sunset with a variety of colors, layered with clouds, and the beams of sunlight striking the sky. One view would seem less interesting or not as photo-worthy.

Although most people would say they seek simplicity in life and products, our actions say something different. We actually enjoy, and at times prefer, complex things.

In some cultures complex products are more appealing than products that appear simple. In South Korea, for example, products like refrigerators are designed to appear more complex than non-Korean ones, even when the prices and specifications are very similar, because that complexity is equated with sophistication and value, and is thus a symbol of prosperity.

Simple vs. complex blender controls

Think about how we compare products when looking to make a purchase—we examine the features. Can this blender do the same things as this other blender, and more?

A “simple” blender might seem like it doesn’t do as much as a similarly priced one with fewer controls, making it perceptively less valuable to consumers. Even if the simplicity is intended to make the device easier to use, if it diminishes the consumer’s sense of the blender’s value and the manufacturer’s ability to sell it, then simplicity in this case is bad.

The Appearance of Complexity

In design and UX, a simple-looking approach generally receives more praise than a complex-looking one. Google is often held up as an exemplar of simplicity. Even though the back-end workings of Google are incredibly complex, a search engine’s UI inherently lends itself to simplicity; the interface doesn’t require much in the way of controls or content. Simplicity of use sometimes is confused with taking a minimalist approach in the UI design.

Comparing the context and purpose to other sites reveals more about the apparent simplicity of Google. Google is a search engine whereas Yahoo! and MSN are Web directories—two different types of tool that require two different approaches to the UI. Donald Norman explains why these other tools seem more complex than Google:

Why are Yahoo! and MSN such complex-looking places? Because their systems are easier to use. Not because they are complex, but because they simplify the life of their users by letting them see their choices on the home page: news, alternative searches, other items of interest.

The appearance of simplicity in physical products can also be deceptive. Consider ice skates or a guitar; it’s obvious from their appearance how they’re meant to be used. But it takes years to learn to use them well. Their lack of controls and few moving parts decreases their apparent complexity, but actually means they’re more complex to operate. A jump in ice skating or strumming a melody on a guitar requires a complex range of actions on the part of the user.

If your UI even vaguely resembles an airplane cockpit, yo're doing it wrong - John Gruber

As John Gruber of Daring Fireball said, “If your UI even vaguely resembles an airplane cockpit, you’re doing it wrong.” The cockpit of an airplane certainly is as complex-looking as interfaces can get. When we see an interface or product that appears complex, we assume it must be difficult to use. But to assume that a complex-looking interface means it is difficult to use disregards the goal and tasks involved that a user may require of the interface.

Presenting Information

How information is presented in the UI is an important consideration. There are two important concepts presented by Edward Tufte that relate to how we present the visual layer of interface:

Adjacent in Space vs. Stacked in Time

Adjacent in space is taking elements of an application and positioning them all on the same screen. Depending on the information and number of features an application has, it can make the screen appear more, or less, complex. An airplane cockpit is an extreme example of this approach. It makes all of the controls readily available to pilots and keeps critical readouts and important data ready at hand to help pilots make quick decisions. The adjacent in space UI approach gives more immediate power and control. It also reduces the need for navigation between screens to reach additional functionality, speeding up interactions.

Stacked in time is splitting the functionality up into several screens or layers, like a story being spread across pages in a book rather than crammed into a single long page. This approach can reduce the chance of the users making a mistake by guiding them down clear path. It also offers a gradual engagement, showing and hiding controls so only the necessary UI/information is displayed, reducing the perceptive complexity of the UI. It can allow more screen space for feedback and guidance for the user, and can allow for a more aesthetically pleasing and/or branded experience. The stacked in time approach tends to make an application less intimidating and doesn’t overwhelm the user with choices.

The adjacent in space and stacked in time approaches each has its own trade-offs. In most cases placing too many elements on screen at the same time creates unnecessary complexity. Not all controls are needed at once, so they should only be presented when needed. However, a stacked in time approach also can become overwhelming to a user if not executed correctly. If the features aren’t mapped in logical paths or are split across too many layers, users might not be able to quickly find what they need. This is especially apparent on smaller screens for devices.

When Less is More… Confusing

The amount of data that needs to be presented affects the perceived complexity of applications. When creating a UI, generally speaking, having as few elements as possible on screen is usually the best approach. Simplifying UIs by removing unneeded navigation and UI elements is important to creating focus. But in some cases, it’s more important to keep a higher level of information density. As Tufte explains, “Small screens, as on traditional cell phones, show very little information per screen, which in turn leads to deep hierarchies of stacked-up thin information—too often leaving users with ‘Where am I? puzzles. Better to have users looking over material adjacent in space rather than stacked in time.”

iPhone and Windows phone information resolution comparison

This need for balance was made clear in a recent comparison of the interfaces of the iPhone and the forthcoming Windows 7 Series Phone. The Windows phone takes a more minimal approach with the UI, reducing the amount of content that can be displayed in one screen. In some cases, the Windows phone requires one or two extra steps (or taps) to get to the information, whereas the iPhone reveals it immediately because of its higher information density.

The navigation in an application should propel the user toward his goal rather than act as a barrier created just to satisfy an aesthetic requirement for a simpler-looking UI. Simplification in UI design should be focused on reducing “computer administrative debris” while keeping the focus of the interface on content and information.

Complex Tasks Are Complex

Simplicity allows many applications to be powerful. The UIs are not clouded with unnecessary controls. They are focused on specific tasks and don’t get in the way by forcing the user to do too much at once. There are some occasions, though, that the normal workflow for a particular set of users is complex. Therefore, it can be expected that the application that controls these types of tasks will be more complex.

In fact, a complex UI can sometimes be exactly what the user needs. For example, a dashboard that displays visualizations of large data sets can only ever be complex because its purpose is complex.

The cockpit analogy needs to be viewed from the perspective of a trained pilot. The complexity of this interface is necessary because the task of flying a plane is quite complex. One would not expect to be able to fly a 187,000 pound hunk of metal from one end of the globe to another with one button. Pilots would lose control of the system if it were heavily automated and the interface were highly abstracted. Removing all the controls and distilling them down too far for the sake of simplicity alone would come at a very high cost.

References

  1. Simlicity is Highly Overrated – Don Norman
  2. Google Says “More is More” – Luke Wroblewski
  3. The Truth About Google’s So Called “Simplicity” – Don Norman
  4. The Psychology of Everyday Things
  5. How Bad Is Bad? – Daring Fireball
  6. Learning from “bad” UI – 37Signals
  7. iPhone Interface Design – Edward Tufte
  8. Information Resolution on the Windows Phone 7 Series – Luke Wroblewski
  9. About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design – Alan Cooper
  10. Why is 37 Signals so arrogant? – Don Norman
Image Credits

How to handle clients with varied sense of UX

An excellent article, which explains in detail about how to handle various clients depending non their  ‘Usability and or UX’ understanding.

Project management, and UX strategy to me, these fields are inextricably linked as part of the planning phase of any project.

In this article let’s learn about how to introduce two things:

  1. A governance framework that walks through the value of UX during various stages of a project.
  2. Hurdles UX strategists face, and how to overcome them.

Experience Design Process

The following presentation outlines the various documents that can be created during the planning phase of any project. Although it’s rare that all of these documents would be required, a number of them will be useful for every project. It’s a good template to reference on every project to ensure you’re setting the project up for success.

The Experience Design Framework

With the planning phase defined, the role of a UX specialist often gets forgotten. Throughout the project lifecycle, a UX specialist can be invaluable to the success of a project. In this document, I describe how to integrate the role of a UX specialist into every phase of a project, regardless of the project management methodology used.

The UX Project Lifecycle

Clip from The UX Project Lifecycle
(Download PDF – 61kb)

External UX Hurdles

Risk-averse client

Hurdle: Risk-Adverse Client

Issue: A Risk-Adverse Client is a common issue that pops up on many projects. The client will push back on any innovative solutions, and will not want to commit to a single solution without testing, written rationale, or other 3rd party support.

Overcoming: The easiest way to overcome this is through upfront stakeholder interviews. If you detect a Risk-Adverse Client, you will need to probe for the root cause of their fear, and may need to perform upfront research or user testing to help assuage the client’s fear. Doing this upfront will do two things: 1) it’ll show you’re taking the client’s concerns seriously 2) it’ll prevent fears from inhibiting innovation further down the project pipeline.


New World Client

Hurdle: New World Client

Issue: It’s said that in 1492 when Columbus came to America, the native inhabitants were able to look out over the ocean, full of ships, and see nothing but water. They had never seen ships before; in fact, they’d couldn’t even dream of such things. The only way they knew a contingent was on approach was because of the ripples the ships caused in the ocean.

This is the same issue that New World Clients have. It’s known as perceptual blindness, and it’s contested whether or not it actually exists. In this case, New World Clients might push back or make unusual requests because they’re used to having things look, feel, and behave in a certain way and don’t know any other way to think.

Overcoming: Just like the first person to spot the ripples in the water, you need to get the New World Client to see that something new and important is on its way. Show them examples, prototypes, or any other materials that illustrate that what you’re proposing is right. New World Clients need special attention, but much of the attention should be given during the onboarding process.


Big-Eyed Client

Hurdle: Big-Eyed Client

Issue: Think kid in a candy store. The Big-Eyed Client wants everything, every feature you could name. A great indicator that you might have a Big-Eyed Client is vendor-itis; if your client has more than five vendors providing niche services on a single site, there’s a good chance you have a Big-Eyed Client. These clients will push for as many features as possible, regardless of the impact on user experience.

Overcoming: Again, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. In this case, prioritization and focus are key to reining in a Big-Eyed Client. This can be done in a number of ways: by prioritizing user flows, scenarios, user stories, or a feature list. Adaptive Path recounts this process in detail here starting on slide 52


Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Hurdle: Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Issue: This is an example of the Highest Paid Persons Opinion (HIPPO) effect, where a misinformed UX advocate holds an elevated position within an organization and can influence everyone else simply by offering his opinion. In many cases this type of client will offer outdated or misinterpreted information he’s read or heard from others. No client wants to create problems for the user; the Fox-in-the-Hen-House client believes what he’s saying is true, and will benefit the user.

Overcoming: Don’t argue a specific issue—you’ll never win. Even if you end up winning the issue at hand, you’ll have built animosity between yourself and the client. Instead, focus on imbuing the wisdom that a single solution isn’t right all the time, and that different contexts require adapting and manipulating solutions to improve an experience. Even banner ads worked until we realized users were developing banner blindness.


Can That Be Done Client

Hurdle: “Can That Be Done?” Client

Issue: In many (if not most) organizations, the client contact you’ll be interacting with will not be familiar with technological constraints. Additionally, he may not be familiar with emerging conventions and new types of tools and technology that are available. The issue this type of client will often create is one of hesitation; he’ll want to pass every innovative idea past their IT department. As we all know, IT departments can be the place where innovative ideas die.

Overcoming: Being able to navigate the pitfalls of an IT department is a skill few people possess. However, if you have access to a seasoned developer (or better, can develop a relationship with one of the developers within the IT department), you can utilize that person to communicate how a solution could be implemented.


Too Many Chefs Client

Hurdle: Too Many Chefs Client

Issue: When working with clients that are part of larger organizations, there may be a lot of stakeholders, all looking out for their own interests. In many cases, these varying interests conflict with one another, and prioritization of these interests becomes unmanageable.

Overcoming: Rather than trying to accommodate everyone, it’s best to take a two-step approach to preventing this issue:

  1. Produce a comprehensive content inventory either by auditing the existing site/app, or by developing a new one. This will help identify all the potential stakeholders. Tip: Add a responsibility column to your content inventory and get the client to fill it in. This should outline the business owner of each piece of content that will be created.
  2. Facilitate a prioritization breakout session with representation from all stakeholders to determine whose content will be considered mandatory on all shared content pages and modules.

Astronaut Client

Hurdle: Astronaut Client

Issue: The Astronaut Client is a visionary; he doesn’t want to get bogged down in details and knows what he wants when he sees it. This type of client, while open to innovation, is often only open to innovative ideas that mesh with his perception of his vision. A big issue I’ve run into with Astronaut Clients is that they often don’t want to review planning documents, but will reserve feedback for visual design.

Overcoming: A standard onboarding procedure should address this issue. The client should either be educated on the process they’ll be asked to run through, or asked to provide a proxy who can review and provide approval to elements the Astronaut Client doesn’t want to review.


Proxy Client

Hurdle: Proxy Client

Issue: A proxy client is generally a person who’s selected to represent the interest of another stakeholder because that stakeholder is too busy or unavailable to interface with you directly. This is an example of “broken telephone,” where an opportunity exists for the proxy client to misinterpret direction from the stakeholder due to a lack of background information.

Overcoming: Strong relationship management skills are required to overcome this issue. The easiest way to work with a Proxy Client is to ensure regular reviews are scheduled with all vested interests. When that is impossible, a governance document may need to be created to have some documentation on what elements the Proxy Client can approve, and what elements the Proxy will take back to the stakeholder for approval. Tip: Never allow the Proxy Client to present your work to the stakeholder. Whenever possible, present your own work.

Summary

If you use the Experience Design Framework, and follow the process laid out in the UX project lifecycle, you’ll experience far fewer hurdles. If you’re not able to do this for whatever reason, you’re likely to face some of these hurdles.

You’re now equipped with the tools you’ll need to combat the hurdles you may face from these types of clients. That said, you may face combination clients who have traits from several of the above types. If this is the case, you need to consider both your well being and your organization’s well being.

Ask yourself, “Is this work going to be worth the education and relationship management required to transform this client?” I’ve phrased this question deliberately, because I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to simply capitulate to every client whim, and you wouldn’t want to invest in a client that isn’t willing to produce quality work.

If it is worth the time and effort required, you may need to schedule an education session. Earlier this year I was hired as a consultant for a major Canadian financial institution where I was able to conduct such a workshop. It uncovered major organizational issues that couldn’t be corrected immediately, but caused stakeholders to be cognizant of their potential biases. These issues were also documented and raised to the corporate HR lead and the executive team. I was also invited to give a high-level presentation to the board of directors, who will be considering several proposals my team made.

This is all to say, if you’re a digital shop who’s working with a client, you have options to make your relationship much more valuable and fun. If you’re a marketer, consider hiring an agency that is capable of offering you the direction you need. If you’re hearing “yes” to all your ideas, or are being required to provide more direction that you believe should be required, you probably have an agency that doesn’t understand the nuances of UX strategy. If this is the case, consider hiring your own consultant to provide the project with guidance, or consider finding an alternate agency that can.

Designing Applications for Kids…Mobile Apps…

This is an amazing article which talks about ‘Designing Apps for Kids’; a great insight by UX Magazine.

Here are some suggestions for designing and devising apps for children to help ensure the apps are correctly used by preventing some common design issues.

THE SPLASH SCREEN

Kids at preschoolers (ages two to five), do not quite grasp the concept of patience, especially when it comes to digital devices.

A splash screen that takes more than ten seconds to load will give rise to comments from kids such as, “Mommy, it doesn’t work.” They will get frustrated and lose their patience the first time they use the app.

Splash screen

The Splash Screen for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Even though The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an amazing app for young audiences, it takes between 24 and 28 seconds to load. But the soothing splash screen music keeps kids calm while the app finishes loading.

A splash screen is certainly necessary, as the app content needs to load before it can launch. But we should offer alternatives to this loading process to entertain kids while the app is loading; a puzzle or perhaps an animation could fill out this “waiting” process.

THE HOME SCREEN

An app’s home screen is generally not useful for children between one and three years of age (this changes from age four onwards). These children cannot read or write and do not yet know how to make the best decision when presented with several options.

In a usability tests we have noticed, for instance, that if a child wants to restart or resume a game, story, or activity, the child will not tap on the back button, which is designed to resume the game or revert back to the home screen. The majority of children press on the iPad’s or iPhone’s home button, causing the app to exit, and then look for its icon and launch it all over again.

This means that apps aimed at children between one and three years of age should immediately launch when they are opened, with no home screen or any other interstitial screens.

Kids Song Machine

Kids Song Machine: A clear example of a simple and straightforward start screen.

For an app aimed at children aged three and above with different options to choose from, a plain and simple start screen can be used.

It is best to use very few buttons (three or four at most), maximize the size of the target tappable areas, and create the sensation of clicking so it feels like they are physically clicking on the buttons, which can help prevent possible mis-taps.

Alpha Writer

AlphaWriter by Montessorium home screen only has two large tappable areas with clear, concise, and meaningful drawings for children from ages four and over.

The Settings

This is recommended settings buttons, as children often tap them accidentally. If an app has settings that require frequent configuration, they should be designed to be so simple that if the child accidentally changes them, it will not greatly affect the app’s performance.

The Wheels on the Bus app features a button on all screens to change the language or the song, or for kids to record their own voice. Even though children constantly touch them, these types of settings do not affect or determine the overall performance of the app. It is a good example of a non-intrusive setting.

Wheels on the Bus Settings

Settings of the Wheels on the Bus

From our perspective, settings are a function for parents, not for kids, so this is recommended to put them in the device settings panel. Configurations can be made according to each child’s needs in the Applications Installed section. The frequency of and room for error can thus be reduced.

Interaction Design for Kids

Think big! Think enormous!

Look at any child’s toy truck. It’s enormous. And look at jumbo construction sets for preschoolers for instance; there isn’t a single small piece. Between 18 months and three years of age, children develop fine motor skills, so bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to designing apps.

Kids are drawn to large objects, especially if they are simple and easy to recognize.

Abeja on ABCKit

The “A” from “Abeja” (on Spanish) feature in the Know section of ABCKit for iPad

It is also observed a two and a half year old boy call the ABCKit app for iPad, “A de Abeja,” because the first thing he would always see and select on the screen is the first letter of the alphabet in the “Know” section of the app.

Easy tasks

Creating and developing easy tasks is the key to a successful app for kids.

Audio-visual enhancements that kids need in order to interact with the app should be obvious in the majority of cases, although, the sudden discovery of hidden features prompts kids to play and arouses curiosity in older children. This sudden discovery enhances the joy that preschooler kids need once in a while to delight their curiosity in fun ways and make them notice that there still some hidden areas waiting for be discovered.

Toy Story for iPad

Toy Story for iPad

In Toy Story for iPad, small details such as the glowing light in the middle of the image give kids a clue that they can tap on the image and release new actions, such as hearing the voices of the characters or watching a short clip from the movie.

And even though designing to make tasks easy is nothing new to UX designers, in the case of children using tactile devices, ease-of-use rules and practices must be simplified and re-interpreted. When it comes to develop an app, not all of the patterns defined in guides like Touch Gesture Reference Guide can be followed. For instance, when a child holds an iPad with both hands, usually his fingers are touching one of the corners. When the child tries to tap another part of the screen to activate an action in the app (e.g., move an object, turn the page, etc) the application may ignore the action. This happens because the device interprets child’s hand holding the screen as a long tap, and does not execute the action being requested with the other hand.

There is a high probability that kids will unintentionally constantly touch the screen to hold the device, or will simply put their hands on it. Apps for kids should be much more forgiving with these types of gestures in order to function properly.

Challenge and reward

Kids respond to being praised and rewarded; positive words give them self-esteem and let them know that they are doing something well.

Games and challenges should offer positive feedback to let kids know they are moving forward. A clap, a word of appreciation, or just a smiling face indicating success will make the child happy.

Alphabet Phonics

In the ABC Alphabet Phonics for iPad app, every time kids tap on the correct letter, the app encourages them with phrases of positive reinforcement such as “Good Job” or “Awesome.”

Kids get bored with apps very quickly. Unless they feel entertained or are challenged to win a game, they just switch from one app to another.

It is very difficult for children between two and three years of age to follow a game. They expect to be guided by the app, and expect that every time they touch the screen something will happen and, in general, they have no interest in competition. Children between four and five years of age enjoy challenges, are focused, and can have a lot of patience if an activity is stimulating enough. They like the feeling of being challenged.

Children six years onward strive for perfection; their idea of fun is winning. They do not simply want to achieve the goal, they want to achieve it first, make no mistakes, and do it better than their peers—they want to be number one.

Perfect F on ABCKit

During our tests with ABCKit, kids aged five and a half and over would trace the letters again and again if they were not happy with the result.

Educational or Recreational?

As per opinion, apps for kids should be both educational and recreational; one does not exclude the other.

It is long-proven that learning should be fun for children. Fun develops the child’s innate ability to comprehend while learning because the fun enhances the natural curiosity that all kids are born with.

When children (and grownups, too!) do something for fun, they will do it a thousand times just for the joy of it, and that’s when learning happens. This is learnt and comprehend when we’re repeatedly exposed to specific stimuli and information.

Fun and learn should be always in the same context; if not, learning stops being natural (and fun), and it becomes merely teaching.