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The State of UX for 2018

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When 2017 is almost over it’s time to look ahead and predict how the digital experience will evolve over the next 12 months.

In this article, I’ll overview the most significant changes in the digital world which we saw during 2017 and the trends we should be aware of to stay ahead of the curve in design and development in 2018.

1. Simpler Navigation

Navigation experience was a hot topic among many designers during 2017. Designers strive to create an effortless experience and navigation plays a key role in that.

Linear Navigation

In the attempt to simplify navigation experience many apps and website focus on creating linear (or step-by-step) navigation experience. Apps and services which utilize this type of navigation put users in linear user flow when each next step looks like a logical continuation of the previous one. This type of navigation is especially good for goal-driven apps (such as Uber) and e-commerce websites (e.g., Amazon, Best Buy) where users have a goal they want to accomplish.

Voice User Interfaces

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) become a good alternative to graphical users interfaces. Significant improvement of natural language process made it possible to use voice commands for different purposes.

A significant percentage of young generation use voice commands to interact with interfaces

In coming year voice interfaces will be used not only in mobile devices but as a way of interaction with IoT and Smart Home systems. Soon we’ll have even more advanced speech recognition patterns that will improve our interactions with systems.

2. Decluttering and Improving Comprehension

Removing visual clutter and improving comprehension is a popular goal among many UX designers today. Designers remove irrelevant information (noise) and prioritize relevant information (signal) by putting content first and elaborating clear visual language.

Content First

Content first design approach is directly related to minimalism in design. In the attempt to create more with fewer designers remove all unnecessary elements of the interface and focus on what’s really important — content and functionality. Interfaces have more whitespace between different elements and limited numbers of decorative items. The downside of this approach is that interfaces sometimes look too neutral.

Instagram for iOS (2015 vs. 2017)

Clear Visual Language

We all know that strong visual hierarchy makes it easier for users to interact with a product. In the context of websites and mobile apps, strong visual hierarchy means clear viewing order for the visual elements on a screen. Strong visual signifiers (such as contrasting colors for call-to-action buttons) combined with minimalist layouts can create a really easy-to-use experience.

Submit button has a contrasting color. Image credits: Airbnb

Large Headlines

Large headlines is a lot more whitespace and large typography for headers. Large headlines provide two major benefits for users: they make text both easier to notice and easier to read.

Apple uses bold headlines in iOS 11.

3. Using Animation For Different Purposes

Animation is quickly becoming a natural part of user interfaces. There are two particular types of animation that play a significant role in UX design — functional and delightful animations.

Functional Animation

Functional animation is a type of animation that brings clarity to the user interface. This type of animation is used to simplify the process of interaction with products. With the release of iPhone X and it’s gesture-driven interactions animation will be used to describe complex transitions and spatial relationships.

Functional animation can make complex transitions easy to follow for users. Image credits: Jae-seong, Jeong

Delightful Animation

In the attempt to create a more human experience, many app creators incorporated delightful details into user flow. Such elements don’t have any functional purpose; they are used to create an emotional connection with users.

Using animation to rate the experience. Image credits: Andy Orsow

4. The Dominance Of Videos

2017 saw a surge in the popularity of video as a content marketing format. According to Hubspot, 78% of people watch videos online every week, and 55% watch videos online every day.

Video Content For Short Attention Span

The average human attention span had fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds. Marketers are adapting all content (including videos) for short attention span — formats like 360-degree videos and Facebook Live were created as a result of such adaptation.

Video As Welcome Message On Homepage

Video has an opportunity to engage users right from the start. That’s why so many websites using video as a welcome message. Companies like Tesla not just introduce the visitors to a product, they tell a story about the product with the use of video. This will help to create a more memorable experience.

5. Emotionally Intelligent Design

The human-machine relationship was always more emotional than rational. We are happy when technology helps us achieve our goal and quickly become angry with our computers when something goes wrong.

In 2017 we saw a turn towards emotionally intelligent design. Emotional design is focussed on cultivating positive emotion by understanding how users interact with technology and what feelings they have.

Failure Mapping

For a long time, designers create experience only for the ideal user journey. In 2017 many designers realized that creating an experience for the non-ideal user journey is equally important.

Failure mapping is about finding situations when users might interact with the product in a way that causes a negative outcome. Designers try to build a better understanding of situations where a user may try to use something ‘wrong.’ By building an understanding of scenarios that can cause failure, designers attempt to design for ‘graceful failure.’ This allows to deliver a humanized response to an otherwise awkward moment for any user.

One great example of failure mapping can be found in Slack. If you’ve half-written a message in a channel and leave, you’ll get a little pencil icon telling you that you’re not quite finished.

Pencil icon means you started typing a message but left the channel before sending it.

More Microinteractions In Mobile Apps

Microinteractions on mobile devices are quickly becoming a lot more device-specific. They are used to increase simplicity in digital experiences. Paired with simple gestures and subtle, visual feedback they become part of the natural way we interact with our products and services.

Visual feedback in Instagram Stories

Conversational interfaces

Chatbots and conversational user interfaces (CUI) became trendy in 2016. The rise of chatbots and smart assistants will continue to grow. One important difference between CUI and traditional GUIs is the way users feel about interacting with product — conversational interfaces make interaction feel more human. That’s why conversational bots such as Zo and Xiaoice are so popular among users.

Image credits: EJ Hassenfratz

6. Content Is Even More Important Than Ever

Content is king. Content is the reason why people use our apps and visit our sites. During 2017 we saw two major trends that are directly related to the way we interact with content.

Facebook Become a Destination For Content

In 2017, Facebook became one of the most important services for the consumption of content. It’s no longer just a jump-off point; it’s a powerful hub for the news and information.

Big Companies Will Help Us With Content Credibility

Content credibility is a serious problem today. Millions of pieces of content are created every minute and it usually hard to tell the difference between facts and fiction. According to a study by Stanford University, a high percentage of users cannot distinguish truth from lie on their newsfeeds. The problem of content credibility was especially noticeable during the 2016 presidential election campaign in the US, which proved that lies spread faster than the truth.

Fortunately, big companies like Google and Facebook realize this problem and have already begun testing fact-checking features that help users discern fact from fiction.

7. Wearables As Replacement For Mobile Phones

With the release of Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular, a lot of people see the beginning of the new era for connected devices. Finally, it’s possible to use smartwatch as a replacement for a mobile phone. Why would you need to carry a heavy brick in your pocket if you can have a powerful computer on your wrist? It’s clear that we see a new segment of devices that after a while will have its own target audience.

Image credits: Engaged

8. Simpler Authentication

The combination of login and password (also known as “credentials”) is de-facto standard information required by apps and devices for a sign-in procedure. We all know how outdated it is. Hopefully, we see significant progress in this field during previous years. In the coming year, we’ll have a few notable changes.

Using Smart Ways Of Authentication

When people forget passwords in most cases, they try to reset them. While reset option is a mandatory requirement for good sign in form, it still has one significant problem — users will need to do a lot of extra actions in order to log in into account (e.g. click “Reset password” link, check inbox for a message with reset link, click the link and create a new password). In the attempt to simplify the process, many apps and websites incorporated creative ways of login — such as temporary passwords ( the one-time password that will be sent to you):

Ebay texting one-time password on the phone number assigned to your account.

Or even replace the login/password combination altogether:

Medium and it’s “magic link”

Biometric Authentication

A lot of devices today use different ways of biometric authentication as a replacement for passwords. In 2018 we’ll see a more exciting way of login to our devices and apps. We’ll use one most the most protected and at the same time easy to use object — our faces. Face ID which became available for iPhone X users has the opportunity to become the most natural way of authentication in the coming year.

Craig Federighi demonstrates Face ID during WWDC 2017

Two-Factor Authentication

The rise of cyber attacks that are focussed on collecting user data force companies to think about security in their apps. 2-factor authentication (or 2FA) is quickly becoming the default way authentication for many services. It adds an extra layer of protection that can significantly reduce the probability of the data theft from user devices.

Image credit: MIT

9. More Personalization

More and more companies incorporate techniques and technologies that allow them to deliver personalized content for their uses. According to Gartner, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.

Machine Learning

Significant progress in the field of machine learning made it possible for many companies to utilize the algorithms in their apps and services to deliver content tailored to the needs and wants of their users. The best examples of personalization can be found on Amazon, Spotify and Netflix services.

Netflix analyses the user’s interest to recommend the series that might be interesting for them

Netflix shares the details of machine learning technologies that it uses to provide personalized content.

Location Awareness For Mobile Apps

Since mobile devices are travel with users, the apps installed on the devices can use location data to provide a content which is relevant to user’s location. This make services more responsive to the environments around them. Some apps like Uber have already utilized this property to reduce the number of actions required from the user’s side. In 2018 we’ll see more apps use those capabilities to make the experience better.

UberEat service

10. The Rise Of Cashless Payments

Cashless payments become a trend, and the number of people who use this method of payment almost doubled in 2017. According to a report by Juniper Research, the number of Apple Pay and Android Pay users will be 86 and 24 million by the end of the year, respectively.

In comparison with credit cards, both Android Pay and Apple Pay are the much safer payment option for payment proceeding. No wonder why people prefer to use them.

Image credits: Daily Express

What does it mean for designers and developers? This means that in 2018 we’ll have to provide Apple Pay/Android Pay as a default option for our products (both offline and online).

Using Android Pay for online payment

11. Augmented Reality Is a New Big Thing

2018 will be a year of augmented reality. A lot of people will use their mobile phone or tablet as a lens into a virtual world.

Google Lens

Google Lens is an AR app that available in Google Assistant on both Pixel and Pixel 2 phones which allows users to point a camera at the world and get answers. The good news is that you no longer have to fire up Google Photos if you want to use Lens to glean information from the world around you. You can tap a camera button while using the AI helper and it’ll perform a search when you take a photo.

Google Lens is designed to bringing up relevant information using visual analysis. Image credits: Engadget

More AR Apps Which Solves Real-Life Problems

Unlike VR which still is a prerogative of enthusiast and early adopters, AR is fastly becoming a technology that delivers real value for people who use it. This year we saw a few great apps such as Ikea AR app that helps you redesign your living room:

By being able to place virtual objects next to physical objects, you open up a world of possibilities to their customers

Or AR Measure which makes it possible to measure the real-world objects without a traditional physical measurement tape:

Create Apps Will Be Easier With AR Kits from Apple and Google

2017 was a Both Apple and Google released their mobile AR platforms – AR Kit and AR Core. These platforms are high-level APIs which provide a simple interface to a robust set of features. And the great thing is that platforms are supported by millions of existing devices.

Mobile AR platforms allow seamlessly integrate virtual objects in physical reality.

12. VR Is Still a Fad

A lot of people say that VR is going to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, 2018 won’t be a year when we’ll have VR in every house. The platform should fight a lot of challenges before it is widely available for people. Despite that, in 2018 we’ll see a few significant change that will bring VR a bit closer.

VR Devices Will Be More Affordable

Making the VR devices more affordable for people is the #1 goal for many hardware developers. Just a few months ago, both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive significantly reduced the price of VR devices. The rise of low-budget devices such as Google Daydream will introduce the technology for a mass segment of users.

VR and Unity 3D

In coming year VR is still will be used primarily for entertainment. This means that creators will utilize the Unity’s 3D game development platform when crafting stimulating experience for intense gamers. We can expect the significant progress of this platform for VR developers – we can expect more tools like Unity’s VR Editor in 2018.

VR in a Browser

Mozilla’s WebVR has the opportunity to become the next big thing in the field of VR. There are some reasons for that. First, it’s the most affordable technology (uses with Google Cardboard and GearVR can use it). Second, developers can use the same programming languages to create the apps for WebVR (no need to learn a new language, you can create VR apps using JavaScript). Last but not least, WebVR to use the apps and services without installation, you simply open the link and you’re in VR.

A-Painter allows you to paint in VR in your browser

Bonus: Changes In The Way We Design Products In 2018

Today designers and developers use modern methodologies such as Agile and Lean UX design which allow them to iterate fast and create products that satisfy the needs and wants of their users. In 2018 we’ll see a few significant changes in product design.

From MVP to MLP

Today a lot of companies are focussed on creating MVP (or Minimum Viable Product) to prove the concept they work on. It’s clear that MVP won’t be enough for 2018. Tomorrow’s designs will embrace an MLP — Minimum Loveable Product — experience the combines both great usability and perfect user experience needed to convert visitors into customers. MLP allows much easier to convey stakeholders and first-time users to accept the product.

Image credits: Laurence McCahill

Merging of UX and service design

There’s a huge probability that UX Design and Service Design will finally come together in 2018. Since more and more services are delivered digitally, these two fields will start to merge.

Image credits: Satu Kyröläinen

Conclusion

As with any trends, some trends mentioned above will go, while some will stay. But to create the great user experience, it’s important to remember the global goal of designer — make people’s lives better.

Removing The Mystery Of UX Design

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This article is an entry level of UX design, written for UX designers.

UX design is about developing products that are both usable and user-centric. The “design” aspect focuses on how the ease of use and efficiency for a user’s interaction with a product can be improved. The question you probably often ask yourself, though, is how it all works in practice? What do real-life UX design processes actually look like?

In this article, I want to show you how to start a UX design project. The article will give you a taste of the techniques used by UX designers when working on designing or redesigning a product, as well as show you the order in which specific UX steps should be taken. We’ll touch on subjects such as User Research, Design, and Testing.

Before Project Starts

To craft good user experience both the business context and project objectives must be clearly understood. Before starting any design project it’s important to create a strategy. A strategy will shape the goals of the project—what the business is hoping to achieve with the project and how its success should be measured.

Value Proposition

Value proposition is a process of mapping out the key aspects of the product: what it is, who it is for and when/where it will be used. Value proposition helps the team narrow down and create consensus around what the product will be.

UX designers create a document to communicate a value proposition which contains the following information:

  • Key business objectives
  • UX attributes that will influence the success (both directly and indirectly) of the key objectives and desired outcomes
  • Desired state of these UX attributes
  • A list of activities and design work that can be done to improve the state of the UX
Value proposition of UX should be directly associated with key business objectives. Image credits: uxmag

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

KPIs help inform design decisions along the way and measure results of the UX efforts.
Usually, UX designers conduct a series of interviews with stakeholders to define KPIs.

Same as for value proposition, the key is to connect your KPIs to your business objectives. A few common examples of KPIs:

  • Conversion (sales / visits)
  • Bounce rate (e.g. basket abandonment for e-commerce site)
  • Average order value
  • Total number of sales

UX Design Process Explained

Once UX designer has a clear idea of a product definition and how it might fit into the current market, s/he moves into user-centric modelling. Although there are no hard and fast rules to this process, UX design generally occurs in the following five stages:

Value proposition of UX should be directly associated with key business objectives. Image credits: Usability Geek

Step 1: User Research

Dieter Rams once said, “You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people”. A great product experience starts with a good understanding of your users. That’s why user research is every UX designer’s starting point for a UX design project. User research has to come first in the UX design process because without it, designer’s work can only be based on their own experiences and assumptions.

“Good user research is key to designing a great user experience. Designing without good user research is like building a house without solid foundations – your design will soon start to crumble and will eventually fall apart.” – Neil Turner (Uxforthemasses)

Research phase is probably the most variable between projects. What is involved In user research:

Interviews

Interview is an in-depth one-on-one discussion between an interviewer and a user from the target audience. Interview should be designed to discover the underlying needs and requirements of the user when using your product. This technique is especially useful when the target audience is new or unknown to the team.

When starting a new project, you actually need to talk to people from your target group.

Online surveys

An online survey is a questionnaire consisting of a set of very precise questions sent to a sample of your target audience over the internet. The length and format of an online survey can vary from project to project.

Interviews and online survey can work together. Before you start writing questions for your online survey, take the time to conduct a few interviews to fully understand the user’s problem space. This will help inform your survey questions.

Surveys are used to validate the assumptions that designers make about a product. Image credits: Usability Geek

There are many tools available for running surveys, ranging from lightweight and inexpensive tools right through to specialist market research tools. For most UX applications simple surveys tools such as Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or Wufoo should offer adequate functionality to create surveys.

Competitive analysis

Evaluating the competition is one way to determine where a designed product stands, and what potential markets it can break into. When conducting a competitive analysis, UX designer evaluates a competing product’s usability, interaction design, and unique features, to see how their own product stacks up. Competitive analysis is especially important when designers are building an entirely new product that hasn’t entered the market yet. A competitive analysis gives insight into what competitors are doing right, and what difficulties they face, leaving opportunities available.

Research the competitors, get information about features, advantages and disadvantages Image credits: xtensio

Step 2: Analyze & Define

The aim of the Analyze & Define phase is to draw insights from data collected during the User Research phase. This step is clearly the ideation part of the process.

Persona

When a designer has finished a user research and know what users need and what they expect, s/he can summarize those findings into user personas. Personas are fictional characters which are used as a representation of a real audience and their behaviours. The purpose of personas is to create reliable representations of target audience segments for reference (UX designers build a product based on personas). Personas make it easier for designers to create empathy with users throughout the design process.

Persona’s template by romanpichler

User Stories

Once UX designer has a clear idea of who might use a product, it’s time to map out how they might use it. Every user has a goal to achieve, UX designer needs to define each step that the user will go through to get to the final goal. These steps will shape a user story. Good user story must clarify the specific type of user, describe the task with comparable detail, and clarify on the context in which work must be done.

Each individual action needs a corresponding user story. Image credits: UXPin

Step 3: Design

The premise of the Design is to create a product which will be tested with real users. This product may be represented by paper or interactive prototypes, interactive wireframes, or semi-functioning prototypes. The Design phase of a UX project should be collaborative (involving input and ideas from all team members) and iterative.

Information Architecture

Navigation is a make or break aspect of the user experience of a site/app. Each person who’ll get lost navigating through a site is going to have a bad experience of that product. To avoid these scenarios, UX designers perform a process called Information Architecture (IA). The purpose of IA is to organize the content on a site so that users can find exactly what they need to perform the task they want and to reach their goal.

The outcome of IA process varies based on the type of a project. If UX designer is creating a website, s/he’ll create a sitemap during this step. Sitemap is one of the most iconic IA deliverables, consists of a diagram of the website’s pages organized hierarchically.

Sitemaps are a hierarchical diagram showing the structure of a website or application. It makes it easy to visualize the basic structure and navigation of a website.Image credits: kristenjoybaker

Card sorting is one of the most popular UX techniques used for creating IA. During card sorting session, users organize topics from content within an app/website into groups that make sense to them.

Organizing the hierarchy of the content using card sorting technique. Image credits: Zurb

Brainstorming and sketching

Brainstorming is the most frequently practiced form of ideation. Brainstorming helps to generate constraint-free ideas that respond to a given creative brief. The intention of brainstorming is to leverage the collective thinking of the group, by engaging with each other, listening, and building on other ideas.

Brainstorming relies on a group of people coming together with their prior knowledge and research in order to gather ideas for solving the stated problem. Image credits: Tubik Studio

Brainstorming work in tandem with sketching. Sketching is the easiest way of visualizing ideas.All you need is just pen and paper. Sketching allows designers to visualize a broad range of design solutions before deciding which one to stick with. I haven’t met a single designer who doesn’t use quick sketching or some other paper prototyping form at the early stage of a design process.

Whiteboard sketches. Image credits: Dribbble
Sketches bring ideas to life. Image credits:webdesignerdepot

Wireframing

Wireframes are the “blueprint for design.” A wireframe represents the page structure, as well as its hierarchy and key elements. Wireframes tie together the underlying conceptual structure (information architecture) with the visible part of design (visual design). The process of wireframing helps designers uncover different methods for representing content and information as well as prioritizing that content in according to the user’s goals.

Wireframes aren’t supposed to represent the visual design or contact graphic elements. They should be quick, cheap, and simple to create.

Wireframe can be a quick sketch on scratch paper. Image credits: UXPin

User Flow

User Flow is the path a user follows through an application. The flow doesn’t have to be linear, it can branch out in a non-linear path. User flows are helpful in hashing out complex flows before prototyping a product. Creating users flows will help the designer think about what happens to the user before & after they visit a particular page.

37 Signals created a helpful shorthand for User Flows which you might consider during crafting your own flow.

Shorthand for User flows

Prototyping

A prototype is a simulation of the final product. Basically, it’s a version of a product that takes designer as close as possible to a good representation of an app/website and its user interface before any coding has begun. Prototype makes it possible to test the product — see how the overall design works and fix any inconsistencies.

Prototypes can be either low-fidelity or high-fidelity. Lo-fi prototypes help you focus on creating the smoothest flows for users to accomplish their goals.

Low-fidelity prototyping a quick way to validate a product before fully developing it. Image credit: Smartlogic
The user flows are the heart of your prototype. Image credits: Flickr

While high-fidelity prototype can be a fully-interactive version of a product.

High-fidelity interactive prototype. Image credits: prototypr

An interactive prototype has functional animations and microinteractions which are used to build meaning behind about the spatial relationships, functionality, and intention of the system.

Animated feedback in high-fidelity interactive prototype. Image credit: Dribbble

Animation can contribute heavily to the user experience if used correctly. Both functional and delightful animations can be used to deliver a feedback:

Animated microinteraction (notification trigger). Image credits: Dribbble
Animated microinteraction (floating labels). Image credits: Matt D. Smith

Step 4: Testing

The premise of the Testing phase is to put ideas in front of users, get their feedback, and refine the design. It’s important to understand that the earlier you test, the easier it is to make changes and thus the greater impact the testing has on the eventual quality of the product.

Usability Testing

Usability testing is usually a one-to-one, moderated in-person usability session. The purpose of in-person usability testing is to identify problems or issues the user has while interacting with a product. Test participant performs tasks using a product while the UX designer observes and taking notes. When conducting usability testing it’s crucial you observe the actions the user takes without intruding on their actions or decisions.

Testing doesn’t need not be either time consuming or expensive. Jakob Nielsen’s research has found that testing with 5 users generally unveils 85% of usability problems.

A/B Testing

A/B Testing (also known as split testing) is a form of quantitative analysis comparing two different versions of a product (e.g. two different types of landing pages). A/B testing makes it easier for UX designer to test hypotheses about design. A/B testing helps if you already have a product/service and need to improve it.

A/B testing is comparing two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. Image credits: vwo

Accessibility Analysis

Accessibility enables people with disabilities to perceive and interact with a product. A well-designed product is accessible to users of all abilities, including those with low vision, blindness, hearing impairments or motor impairments.

Accessibility analysis checks that a product can be used by everyone, including users with special needs. W3C guidelines define a basic set of accessibility rules. By following these rules UX design increases changes that all users are satisfied. It’s possible to use an automated tool to regularly test your service’s accessibility. One of the popular automated tools is WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool)

Step 5: Measuring

Unlike any other discipline, UX designer’s work doesn’t stop with releasing a product. UX is an ongoing process that continues for as long as a product will be used by people. UX designers should continually measure product performance to see if it meets user satisfaction and if any improvements can be made.

Metrics Analysis

Numbers provided by an analytics tool tell designers about how the user interacts with a product: clicks, session time, search queries etc. Metrics analysis and usability testing work great together because metrics can “uncover the unexpected”, surfacing behaviours that are not explicit in user tests.

Analytics tools such as Google Analytics can offer quantitative results about what is happening on your site.

User Feedback

Metrics analysis helps UX designer to understand what is happening on a site/in an app. But when it comes to uncovering why, the true value lies in collecting qualitative data.

User feedback allows UX designer to discover the reasons behind the actions that analytics tools show. With an option to leave feedback, users can effortlessly report anything that’s causing the friction. This feedback item can then be labelled and filtered directly to UX designer’s mailbox.

With an option to leave feedback, users can effortlessly report anything that’s causing the friction.

Conclusion

While we’ve described the most common UX design methods and deliverables that can help the design process, it’s important to understand that each project is different and it’s often important to adapt the techniques to your own needs (in other words, you don’t need to follow them like textbook examples).

Voice Interfaces: New Era Of Human-Computer-Interactions

By | ai, interaction design, user experience, voice | No Comments

Voice interaction is the ability to speak to your devices, have them proceed your request and act upon whatever you’re asking them. Today voice user interfaces are everywhere: we can them in smartphones, TVs, smart homes and a range of other products. The rapid development of voice interaction capabilities in our daily lives makes it clear that this technology will soon become an expected offering as either an alternative or even a full replacement to, traditional graphical user interfaces.

According to Gartner, by 2018, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will happen through conversations with voice-based systems.

Amazon Echo
Apple’s Siri, Amazon Echo and Google Now, which have been available for a few years, prove that this technology is no longer in its infancy.

Voice interaction is the next great leap forward in UX design.

In this post, we’re going to explain why voice interfaces will be the next big thing and what does this trend actually mean for designers of the user experience.

What Are Driving Forces Behind Voice Interaction

Before we dive into the specific implications of voice interaction systems or design aspects for them, it’s important to understand what’s lead to rapid adoption of this new interaction medium:

Technology is Ready

It’s clear that improvements in natural language processing have set the stage for a revolution. In 2016 we saw a significant breakthrough in natural language processing, and we’ve reached a point where advances in computer processing power can make speech recognition and interaction a viable alternative to visual interfaces. Another important thing is a number of devices that support voice interaction – today almost a 1/3 of the global population is carrying powerful computers that can be used for voice interaction in their pocket, and it’s easy to predict that a majority of them are ready to adopt voice interfaces as their input method of choice.

Mobile app and voice input
Image credit: Samsung

Natural Means Of Interaction

People associate voice with communication with other people rather than with technology. This means that voice interaction systems can be a more natural way of interaction for the majority of users.

Voice interaction chart
Image credit: Google Mobile Voice Survey 2014

People Want a Frictionless Experience

To interact with a voice interaction system all users need to do is to simply speak to the devices and be understood. In comparison with graphic user interfaces (GUI) where users have to learn how to interact with a system, voice interaction systems can significantly reduce the learning curve.

Windows 10
Even the most advanced graphical user interface still requires humans to learn a computer’s language.

Opportunities For Business

Adding Personality To Branded Content

Companies can leverage the medium of voice interaction as an extension of their personalities. Gender, tone, accent and pace of speech can be used by experience designers to craft a particular customer experience with their brand. For example, kids may finally get to talk directly to their favourite cartoon characters.
Branding

Make Experience More Personalization

Using voice-based system it’s possible to create a deeper personal connection to the system. Even today if you look at the online reviews for Amazon’s Echo speaker, it’s clear that some people establish a close bond with their device in a way that more resembles a pet than a product.

Samantha from Her
Samantha from Her

Voice Interfaces Aren’t a New Direction, They Just a New Step In UX Design

If you are new to designing voice user interfaces, you may quickly find yourself unsure of how to create great user experiences because voice interaction represents the biggest UX challenge since the birth of the iPhone. They are very different from graphical user interfaces and designers cannot apply the same design guidelines and paradigms. But while designing for voice differs from traditional UX, classic usability principles are still critical to the quality of the user experience.

Understand The Basics Of Human Communication

To design great voice user interfaces, you must handle the expectations users have from their experience with everyday conversations. And for that, we must understand the principles that govern human communication: how people naturally communicate with their voices.

Understand User’s Intent

Voice-based interactions between a user and a machine can lead (potentially) to infinite possibilities of commands from a user. While designers may not be able to predict every possible user command, they need to at least design an infrastructure that is contextually driven. For that, it’s important to start with a use case (a reason for interacting in the first place) and try to anticipate users intent at each point in the conversation (to shape the appropriate response).

User Intent
The processing flow of a comprehensive speech interface. Image credit: API

Provide Users With Information About What They Can Do

While on a graphical user interface, a designer can clearly show users what options they can choose from, it’s impossible to do this on a voice interface. In voice user interfaces, it’s almost impossible to create visual affordances. Consequently, looking at a device that supports voice interaction, users will have no clear indications of what the interface can do or what their options are. Therefore, it’s still possible to provide the user with the options for interaction. For example, if you design a weather app you can make it say: “You can ask for today’s weather or a forecast on this weekend.”

Limit the Amount Of Information

While with graphic user interfaces you can present a lot of different options, with verbal content, you need to keep the information brief so that the user does not become confused or overwhelmed. It’s recommended that you don’t list more than 3 different options for an interaction.

Craft Meaningful Error Messaging

Error handling is an essential component of designing thoughtful voice interactions. The wide variation in potential responses places much more emphasis on the importance of crafting meaningful error messaging that can steer the conversation with the user back on track if something goes wrong.

Use Visual Feedback

It’s recommended to use some form of visual feedback to let the user know that the system is ready and listening. Amazon’s Echo is a good example of this: on hearing a user say ‘Alexa’, the bluish light swirls around the top rim of the device, signalling that Alexa’s ‘all ears.’

User Input and Amazon Echo
Image credit: thewirecutter

Conclusion

Voice is the next big platform – it represents the new pinnacle of intuitive interfaces that make the use of technology more natural for people. Properly designed voice interfaces lead users to accomplish tasks with as little confusion and barriers as possible. And the good news is that UX designers already possess the skills they need to design effectively for voice.

10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital Landscape

10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital Landscape

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Having a professional business presence online isn’t optional anymore for most businesses, even if they rely heavily on referrals. A consistent, strong digital brand that clearly gets your purpose across while also presenting the business in the best way possible will help grow your sales and influence, no matter the industry.

Below are 10 areas to focus on to build up your digital branding landscape and make sure it’s useful and professional.

10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital LandscapeFix The Easy Stuff

If your brand already has a digital presence, it is easy to overlook what has already been done, thinking that it doesn’t need to monitored. However, changes over the years to logos, phone numbers, addresses, and even team members need to be updated online as soon as they happen. Your first priority should always be the goal of customers getting ahold of your company easily, so set reminders to check all profile information, contact forms, and lead generation sequences. Many times, updates in third-party tools (especially if they are using APIs) can lead to something breaking, and if those little things aren’t checked regularly, no one knows they happened.

Post Regularly

Even if your customers aren’t on social media in a business sense, they are likely using at least Facebook in a personal sense. According to Pew Research Center, 79 percent of all adults in the United States use Facebook. If you think your business won’t cater to social media, think of it as a yellow page listing that people may end up looking for online.

Post at least once a month (ideally, you’d want to post every day) so your last update isn’t something from years ago. For many users, even subconsciously, that is a sign that the business doesn’t care about their online presence. This could be a reflection of how they care about their customers.

In addition, there are targeted ad campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin that allow you to target audiences by age, interests, and location. Think past where your audience is at during business hours and look to where they may be spending their free time online.

Use Consistent Branding

Good branding is more important than ever for a digital presence, because that’s all your customers have to go by. A terrible, outdated logo could reflect negatively on a business, even if it’s not a true indication of quality. Look for graphic designers through networking groups or ask your colleagues or friends for referrals.

Many graphic designers charge $800-$3000 for a branding page with logo, color scheme, and a few other materials (like letterhead and business cards). This may be a significant investment for a business, but it is always well worth it when you find the right designer. Shop around until you find a designer that could work with you on updated branding that reflects your business well.

Go Beyond Blog Posts

Think regular blog posts are enough for your brand? For many industries, content marketing has gotten so competitive that regular 600-800 word blog posts just isn’t enough. Come up with a content strategy that offers a buzz piece, like a free ebook or online course, that you can build additional content around. Getting users to download your buzz piece can help you grow your email list, which in turn can produce more revenue. After all, according to eMarketer, email beats almost every other marketing tactic when it comes to return on investment (ROI).

Think of The Target Audience

Working inside a company may give you an unfair view into what you think customers actually want. Something that your team finds interesting may not be of interest at all to the actual target customer. Create personas that you can build content for, with their needs and interests in mind.

Link to Your Other Content

Many marketers are great about developing content, but when it comes to cross-promoting it with other things they have created, it falls flat. Make sure you are always linking to applicable related blog posts in content and always end your content with a call-to-action when it makes sense. After all, content should be created to turn traffic into revenue, and without enough knowledge or a push to engage, customers will simply leave a page without making any kind of purchase on your website.

Look to Where You Can Expand

Most brands feel safe using Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, but if you find yourself stagnating on these platforms, consider where you could expand. This could mean trying new features of the platforms you already have a good following on, such as Facebook live video or Twitter polls. Or, it could mean checking out new platforms to grow your online community. Many brands still haven’t used Reddit or Snapchat to do campaigns or engage with customers. If your target demographic uses these platforms, consider trying them as well.

Have a Unique Voice

Online users of all ages and demographics are online enough to know when a brand is trying too hard. It can come off as callous, disingenuous, or just out of touch. This can often backfire tremendously. The meme How do you do, fellow kids? is now used by users as a way to call out brands that are trying to seem cool but don’t really belong.

Before engaging with your online community, make sure you know each specific platform’s slang, features, and use and you respect users’ time. Logging on to Reddit and recommending your line of bras for every woman with a bra question isn’t going to win you any new customers. Demonstrate value in a unique voice that acknowledges you are a brand without trying too hard.

Use Media Purposely

Just like with blog posts mentioned above, it used to be enough to use basic stock photography for images in content and calling it good. While this is still better than content with no images, using bad stock photos that are cheesy or don’t make sense for the actual content (e.g. they are vague or misleading), can turn users off.  Try to create custom graphics for content using tools like Pablo by Buffer, Canva, PicMonkey, or Piktochart. Even just adding your logo and content title to images goes a long way (and is better for social media).

Think Digital First

Whenever you are building a new campaign or introducing a new product or service, think of your digital strategy first, because it has the largest potential to spread. Deciding budget for paid campaigns, graphics for the promotion, and messaging can help ensure the new offering has a consistent message. This is important because online is likely where customers of most businesses are going to find out about it.

 

When it comes to a better digital branding landscape, make sure all your company’s presence online is consistent, engaging, informative, and easy-to-navigate. Focus on what you’re best at but try new things to be innovative in your industry, when it makes sense. Being proactive about a better online presence will lead to more engagement and traffic from your target audience.

What You Should Know About Internet of Things

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The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the addition of internet connectivity and other sensors to physical objects. Broadband Internet becomes more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, and more devices are being created with built-in network adapters. This movement creates a “perfect storm” for the IoT. That’s why IoT begins to move from ‘next big thing’ to something more and more of us are living with and it’s going to grow even more in coming years and eventually, most of us will use IoT technologies.

Gartner forecasts 21 billion connected things by 2020. That’s approximately four devices for every human being on the planet.

By 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT. And we, as designers, should be ready for this moment. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the increasingly connected world.

Where Can We Find IoT?

IoT isn’t just one group of devices, the term is used for a big range of connected tools, devices, and services. Technologies are infiltrating the everyday life and things around us are becoming smarter. Common categories of IoT today include:

  • Connected home technology (these are products and services that make home life easier or more pleasant, such as smart thermostats, lighting, and energy monitoring)
  • Nest smart thermostat
    Nest smart thermostat
  • Wearables (such as activity/fitness trackers and smartwatches)
  • Apple watch
    Apple Watch
  • Connected cars
  • Tesla Model S embedded system
    Tesla embedded system
  • Urban systems (such as city rental bikes and parking meters/sensors)
  • Citibike in New York
    Citibike in New York

On a broader scale, the IoT can be used to create “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for our environments (e.g. energy use). Take a look at the visual below to see what something like that can look like.
Smart cities

5 Principles To Remember When Designing for IoT

Design is the critical component that bridges IoT technology’s potential with meeting real human needs. And it’s not surprise that IoT is a hot topic for designers today – it opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges. While there are a huge array of things to consider while developing a IoT product, you’ll be more likely to gain traction if you keep following 5 principles in mind:

1. Design IoT Only If It Enhance User Experience

Just because something can be connected to the internet doesn’t mean it should be. IoT design requires a sharp focus on user needs because IOT products succeed only when they solve real problems and make users’ lives easier. Thus, if you want to connect something to the internet, you should have a clear answer on the question “Why do I want to do it?” User research should be a critical early step in any solid IoT UX project. Using insights gained from your research can help you explore the interaction contexts well before your team is burning hours designing or developing.

Making the ‘thing’ an IoT make sense only if it solves a real problem for the user. If connecting a product to the internet doesn’t enhance the experience, then don’t do it.

2. Create Good Onboarding

In the world of IoT getting your users up and running isn’t as simple as in a world of web or mobile apps. In addition to account creation, IoT devices usually require a proper configuration. Without a good onboarding experience, the setup phase might be really hard for the first-time users and there is a great possibility of user frustration or failure. That’s successful IoT product (like Nest) have set a relatively high bar for onboarding.

3. Prevent Glitching

Everyone experience occasional glitches in digital products. One common example is slow loading time on websites. Of course, it’s definitely frustrating when loading takes ages, but we are used to this. By contrast, we won’t expect real-world objects respond to us with glitches. When we turn off the lights in our room, we expect an immediate response. However, when we interact with a physical device over the internet (e.g. smart lighting system), that interaction might have the same latency issues as the website. So there’s the potential for delays in response. This could make the real world start to feel broken. Just imagine if you turned your lights off and they took two minutes to respond or failed to come on at all. As a designer, you should prevent all possible situations that can lead to glitch.

4. Make Sure It Works Locally

When designing for IoT, don’t assume always-on internet connectivity. In real life, IoT devices are often intermittently connected. Thus, it’s good to design for no internet connectivity at first, and see how much functionality can be done locally. Also, UX designers have to ensure that important functions (e.g. home security alarms for IoT Smart home system) continue to work properly when some devices go offline.

5. Design For Security and Data Privacy From the Outset

Security is a big issue. Recent high-profile hacks have raised the spectre of IoT-related security risks. More and more users are examining IoT devices for information about security. These consumers may be increasingly cautious about exposing personal information, especially when it is connected to physical spaces (such a local Wifi network) in their homes. Users might have questions like “Will someone be able to hack into my fridge and thereby get access to my entire network?” It’s your job, as a designer, to alleviate such fears. Always help users understand the security of your service by providing this information upfront.

Conclusion

A new generation of IoT is going to enhance our lives dramatically. We will spend less time on monotonous, boring tasks and will have more time to do what’s really important – like spending more time with our family or friends. I really hope the principles mentioned above help get your IoT effort aimed in the right direction.

What You Should Know About VR

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In the last few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion in virtual reality (VR) devices and apps for them. VR is emerging as a new medium with the potential of having as strong an impact as radio or television did in the past century. According to the Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs:
“We expect virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today”

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift is the first high-end virtual reality headset sold on the retail market.

With the increasing popularity of VR, a design is evolving to incorporate its requirements and new capabilities.

Where Can We Use VR

VR is giving birth to an entirely new arena for entertainment, education, collaboration, communication and marketing. The following are some general categories that will merge with VR:

Gaming

All types of entertainment activities can be amplified with the integration of VR. VR makes it possible to put your users into a 100% designed space with predetermined tasks while giving the user total control of moving, exploring and learning within this space.
VR for gaming

Learning

VR can have tremendous implications for education — education can be both more engaging and effective. VR can be used for educational classes, labs and demonstrations. To make education experience truly immersive, designers should consider how users may interact with objects.

VR for learning
Microsoft Hololens for medical education

Training

Using VR, training simulations for professionals like drivers, pilots, doctors and police officers can become more accurate, complex and cost-effective.

VR for training
Image credit: Wareable

Big companies like Toyota see the educational potential of VR. The latest training simulator from Toyota – TeenDrive365 system – is focussed on teaching new drivers about the risks associated with distracted driving.

VR for training
Toyota driving simulator.The driver is in a fully immersive virtual environment – and that includes passengers, traffic, buildings and roadway obstacles.

Prototyping

VR can greatly enhance prototyping and testing phases for engineers, with all types of projects from a handstick design to new car designs.

VR for training
The hologram and the object on the screen are synchronized and this makes spatial application part of the production pipeline, not just an isolated island. Image credit: Solidsmack

Communication

Communicating will drastically change with the help of VR. VR makes it possible to create a brand new experience for video conferencing services, such as Skype.

VR for communication
Remote collaboration using avatars.

Shopping

VR makes it possible to blend the online and offline shopping together. Instead of looking at a 2D image of an object online, shoppers in VR will have the ability to pick up an object and look at it in detail. Alibaba Group, Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, divided into virtual reality later last year.

VR for training
Alibaba’s VR shopping. Buy+ technology allows customers to browse 3D images of products and make real-time payment in a virtual mall as if they were shopping in the real store.

Creating VR Experience

Creating a VR experience is much more complex than traditional 2D experiences, which presents designers with a whole new set of challenges. There are currently 4 core considerations for the design of virtual reality experiences:

1. Make Sure Users Don’t Get Motion Sickness

The most important quality to creating any successful UX design is ensuring that users are comfortable throughout the experience. This is especially true in the context of VR experience. Motion sickness (when physical and visual motion cues give a user adverse information) is one of the most common problems of VR experiences. Humans evolved to be very sensitive to vestibular ocular disparities (disparity between the movement and what we’re seeing). So reducing motion sickness is very important for VR systems. The keys to preventing users from getting motion sick while using VR are

  • Always maintain head tracking. VR software should constantly track the user’s head and eye movements, allowing the images to change with every new perspective.
  • Prevent performance degradation. If the system freezes even for a split second that’s going to trigger a lot of motion sickness.

2. Develop Easy-To-Use Controls And Menus

Same as for traditional UI interfaces navigational menus and other controls should be easily accessible and user-friendly. Unfortunately, there’s no universally accepted way to designing menus for VR interfaces. This is a challenge that designers are still working on. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t transfer existing (2D) practices to 3D. It’s absolutely possible to place the menus on the user’s VR hands. One of such menu interfaces is Hovercast. All menu actions – including navigation between levels – are controlled by simple hand movements and reliable gestures.

VR navigation menu
Hovercast is 2D menu interface for VR environment. Hovercast radiates from the palm of your hand and you can interact with menu items using the index finger of your opposite hand.

3. Ensure Text Is Readable

All text elements should be clear and easily legible, preventing eye strain. The resolution of the VR headset is pretty bad. Because of the display’s resolution, all UI elements in VR will look pixelated. This means that text will be difficult to read. But you can avoid this by using big text blocks.

VR text
Consider the readability for different text section in this VR game. Instructions are almost unreadable. Image credit: Mozilla

4. Use Sound To Create Immersive Experience

As designers, we often don’t think about sound and audio. When we do that we miss an opportunity to communicate more information through a different set of senses. When we have audio sources attached to the objects we create much more realistic environment — if you’re telling a brain that it can see the object and it can hear the object then the object must be real. Try to build a mental image of the environment via sound:

  • Introducing the user to the environment via soundscapes. The audio can be used to give the user the illusion of being in the middle of a particular environment.
  • Guiding the user with sound. By applying positional audio and 3D audio effects to VR, the user will know the direction in which certain sounds originated in relation to where they are.
VR sound
Music and high-quality sound effects are a pivotal feature to encourage experience immersion. Image credit: Google

Conclusion

The possibilities for VR are endless. Soon, all types of companies will be seeking to extend their brand presences into this space. I hope I’ve made the VR space a bit less scary with this article and inspired you to start designing for VR your project.

Things To Remember When Designing For Augmented Reality

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Augmented Reality (AR) is changing how we interact with the world around us. Over the past several years, AR technology established a strong foundation in media, marketing, education, games and many other industries. This happened because computing hardware has finally advanced to the point where it’s become capable for AR platform. Today, AR prompting many brands to explore this strange new world for the first time.

What is AR?

AR technology incorporates real-time inputs from the existing world to create an output that combines both real-world data and some computer-generated elements which are based on those real-world inputs.

The concept of AR is not a new one. The term was first introduced in 1992 by researcher Tom Caudell to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. And AR isn’t rare. A frequently overlooked, yet widespread example of AR is the automobile parking assistance system.

Rear parking assist with the rear-facing camera.
Rear parking assist with the rear-facing camera. The vehicle’s computer calculates the vehicle’s distance from surrounding obstacles, and, based on the steering wheel’s position, determines the vehicle’s trajectory.

However, only after popular apps PokemonGO and SnapChat were released and adopted by users the term “augmented reality” got into the spotlight.

PokemonGo.
PokemonGo

How AR Will Change Brand Experiences

There is a distinct advantage for AR to be accepted sooner and on a wider basis than VR, particularly in the commercial sector. While Virtual Reality (VR) gets a lot of talk because of how cool this technology for entertainment, AR is going to truly impact the way we work and live. AR forecasted to be a $150 billion dollar industry by 2020.

[Tweet “AR creates an opportunity for brands to build new digital pathways to tell stories and engage with users”] in a way that’s never before been possible. Here are 3 ways that businesses will be able exploit AR and its associated technologies in the near future.

Guidance

Even the most capable professional can run into situations where they need a helping hand from someone, and it’s here that AR technology could come in handy. For example, AR app makes it possible for doctors to navigate the innards of the patient to effectively and efficiently complete the surgery.

The surgeons used the augmented reality app through an iPad
The surgeons used the augmented reality app through an iPad

Design Visualization

In terms of design visualisation, AR is creating some breathtaking possibilities. It merges the virtual and the real world — adding virtual overlays directly into the view of headset-wearers, or inserting these digital add-ons into video captured on a phone screen. As AR technologies become more refined, users will be able to preview their designs and experiences in real-world spaces. One such example is this spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen, in which virtual layouts of a car interior are projected onto a full-size model of a car dashboard.

spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen
Spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen

Training and Education

When it comes to training and education, AR has a lot of promise. Unlike a real-world training scenario, a trainee can play through an AR situation as many times as they need to understand a concept or a procedure. This will create deeper learning opportunities where students are in the flow of learning.

Training using AR
Image credit: Columbia University

How to Design For AR?

Since there are no established UX best practices for AR yet, I’d like to share my own personal approach to UX in AR apps.

1. AR use-case needs to be evaluated

The concept of “measure twice, cut once” is especially important in building AR apps. Before diving in, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to pursue this type of medium and what outcome would you like to have. Keep in mind following moments:

  • AR experiences are powerful, but they should tie back to clear business objectives. AR shouldn’t be added on top of a planned app just because it’s trendy technology — that’s almost a sure way to create a poor UX. Rather, the desired functionality needs to be evaluated to fit with the experience that the AR display medium can offer.
  • If you’re going to design an AR experience, you should invest heavily in user research. Spend some time really getting your target audience and not just how that you would perform a specific task using a software, get to know how they’ll do something in real-world without any kind of devices.

2. Consider the environment in which the product will be used

Since AR apps are grounded in reality, the environment affects AR design significantly. For example, in private environment (home, work) you can count on long user sessions and complex interaction model – the whole body can be involved in the interaction, as well as specific devices (such as head mounted display) can be used for manipulation (see Microsoft Hololens example below).
Microsoft Hololens
But in public environments (e.g. outdoors), it’s important to focus on short user sessions. Because regardless of how much people might enjoy AR experience, they won’t want to walk around with their hands up, holding a device for an extended period of time.

AR using iPad
Thus, when designing augmented reality apps, you first need to research environmental conditions in which the service will be used and how it effects on the user:

  • Identify interaction scenarios upfront even before specifying technical requirements for the project.
  • Collect all the details of the physical environment to be augmented.The more environmental conditions you’ll test before building a product, the better.

3. Make the interaction with AR app simple

In order for AR to be usable, it must be quick and simple. AR is really about designing layers of added value that reduce the time to complete simple tasks. Keep in mind that people are seeking out experiences, not technologies and they’ll technology that isn’t friendly to use. No one will use AR apps or tools if they take just as long or longer than the conventional way of doing something. Thus, when design your AR solution I recommend the following approach:
Go to the context of the area that you’re going to be performing the task (e.g. a specific room, a real-world device, etc)
Think through the each step that you use to accomplish the task.
Record each of those steps down
This information will help you conduct a task analysis. This analysis will help you make things more natural for the users.

Google Translate and AR
Google Translate app uses the phone’s built-in camera to translates the captured text into another language. This example perfectly illustrates the value that AR technology can provide.

Conclusion

AR has seen massive success in recent years and as more technologies take advantage of this growing trend, AR will grow to encompass much more than it does now. The most important things to consider when designing AR experience is users’ goals and contexts of use. AR apps should be easy to use and shouldn’t hinder users.

Conversational Interfaces

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You may have heard that “conversational interfaces” (interfaces that mimics chatting with a real human) are the new hot trend in digital product design. Several factors are contributing to this phenomenon:

  • With the advent of WhatsApp, Slack or Facebook Messenger the way we exchange information changed irreversibly. According to Business Insider, we are now spending more time in messaging apps than on social networks.
  • Artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology are progressing rapidly. Major technology players including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon placed huge bets on this type of interfaces, leveraging big data and machine learning to get as close to human intelligence as possible.

This represents an interesting shift in how we think about user experiences and interactions, more as a text/voice based ‘conversation’ that helps us to achieve our goals. In this article, we’ll examine all major aspects of conversational interfaces in the context of chatbots.

5 Basic Principles of Conversational Interfaces

1. Be specific about chatbot purpose

Unless you develop a bot like Facebook M, it’s always better to deploy a specialized, purpose-driven bot to engage your target audience. Don’t try to design your chatbot to do everything all at once. Instead, identify the core use cases for your chatbot based on user’s goals and focus on achieving domain mastery.
Faceboom M

2. Mimic natural conversation

Keep in mind that when the conversation is the interface, experience design is all about crafting the right words: bots must use and understand natural language. A vocabulary that’s limited to only a handful of generic answers will immediately destroy an illusion of real conversation and leave users feeling frustrated. Nobody want to participate in chats muffed by pre-determined answers.
Conversation flow with Hi Poncho chatboat
An early version of the weather chatbot Hi Poncho struggled to provide any meaningful information due to a limited understanding of natural language. Image credit: Gizmodo

3. Make it clear what options are available for user

In traditional GUIs, what you see is what you get. However, with conversational interfaces, the paths that the user can take are virtually infinite. For conversational interfaces, users should know what paths are available for them. If you app is complex and has a few main routes, you can use an onboarding process to show the users what’s available.
Onboarding experience in Kia Niro
Kia Niro using the carousel to explain how to use a chatbot. Image credit: Sabre Labs

4. Avoid lengthy messages

Lengthy messages look like text paragraphs. People don’t speak in paragraphs, we speak using single sentences. You should plan for no more than 90 characters per message (around three lines on mobile). Anything more than three lines of text seemed to activate the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) response in users.
Too long sentences in KAYAK
Kayak chatbot hits the users with 4 opening messages, totaling nearly 750 characters. Most users glazed right over when they saw the wall of opening messages.

5. Animating the conversation

Animation can take the chatbot user experience to the next level, making the interactions more natural and pleasurable for user. Simple typing indicators can be used as an equivalent to phatic expression in speaking, making the conversation flow smooth.
Chatbot and animation
Typing animation via Buzzfeed

Best of the Best

Conversational interfaces open lots of new possibilities how you can interact with users. Below are two popular apps that successfully embraced the new paradigm of conversational UX:

Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s pizza allows “conversational ordering” via Facebook Messenger. Customers add Domino’s pizza as a friend via Facebook, set up the basics of their account, and can then “reorder their favorites” or ask for the latest deals.
Domino's pizza chatbot
Domino’s Pizza via Techcrunch

Duolingo

Duolingo is a language learning platform which uses gamification and personalization to make learning a new language effective. Last year Duolingo introduced Bots. This feature allows users to practice language skills by texting with a ‘Bot,’ which takes on different topics as a way to explore a range of conversations, such as going to a restaurant, going through border checks, or ordering a taxi.
Domino's pizza chatbot

Conclusion

Whether you love them or hate them, conversational interfaces have started making a significant impact in communication. Of course, most of them today have certain limitations and they don’t have human-like conversations perfectly that’s why it’s so important to follow basic principles of conversational interfaces  mentioned above. But in the near future, continuous advancement in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies will fill this gap and we will see AI-powered chatbots which will have human-like conversation.

Product Launch Faver!

By | Fashion, product launch, Social, user experience | No Comments

Transforming the Social Shopping Experience

Choosing the ideal gift for a millennial is a challenging process, in particular when you’re a millennial yourself and you’ve no idea where to begin looking. Luckily, we have some top advice to help you find what you’re looking for.

Before you’ve started shopping, think of what the person could like or need. If it’s a friend who likes to read, go for the bestseller of a popular writer. If it’s a family member who needs to rest from work, buy them a travel voucher.

The ideas are endless!

Buying gifts online

 

We can all agree that online shopping is more convenient than browsing through multiple real-word stores, but that doesn’t make it completely stress free.

In fact, inexperienced shoppers may end up wasting more time, money, and effort ordering their loved ones’ presents from home.

Why is gift-shopping so stressful?

Factor 1: Trustworthy sellers

On the high street, we can tell what’s popular, and which stores we can trust. However, it’s a lot harder to tell which sellers are reputable when we shop online. We rely on customer reviews to make our decisions, despite not all reviews being as genuine or impartial as they might make themselves out to be.

Factor 2: Too much choice

Online shopping puts unlimited choice at our fingertips, and this can make it difficult to know where to start. When browsing a physical store, we might stumble upon products we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. This method of discovery has been almost completely lost in the digital age.

Factor 3: The chance that they won’t like the gift

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if the person we’re buying for will genuinely like what we’ve bought for them. Wishlists are the surefire solution, but they’re rarely public or easy to find, and that’s only if your intended recipient has put one together at all.

The social product discovery tool of the future: Faver has transformed e-commerce

What is Faver? Faver is a web application designed for desktop and mobile usage; somewhere you can ‘fave’ products that you like the look of. Once a product is faved, this information enters the Faver database, and the system automatically updates a ‘Suggestions’ page where you can browse countless personalized recommendations. Most importantly, Faver is a social application, which means you can also see everything your Facebook friends have faved, and the suggestions they’ve received based on those.

ecommerce

In addition to faving products, customers can also create wishlists and recommend products to other friends. This is how Faver can inspire people and help them pick gifts more confidently, especially when buying for close friends and family. All it takes is to log into Faver with Facebook Connect.

Why use Faver?

It’s truly a one-stop-shop for all types of products. Their database currently lists millions of products from stores ranging from local independents to the likes of Amazon, so there’s very little chance you won’t find the product you’re looking for. Faver has been designed with the user in mind and it really shows.

social shopping

Faver knows that shopping is something we should enjoy, and not feel tired from. It will give you more ideas than you can possibly think of. Faver is an intelligent system that bases results on your preferences, and will relate future suggestions to what you’ve faved. Even as other users fave products, your suggestions will update as a result of what Faver has learned.

womens clothing

It is a universal gift list. You can create your own lists of favorite products and share them with as many people you want.

The concept of social shopping explained

By social shopping, retail experts usually refer to services that combine e-commerce with social media, and take into account all critical aspects of online networking (friends, comments, groups, communities, voting, tags, forums, and so on) to help the shopper make the right decision.

On social shopping websites, users can share the product they like, and engage other users in productive discussions.

Just few years ago, social shopping came down to the product actually being displayed on the internet (Twitter handle, Facebook fan page, or sharing buttons on e- stores), but it has advanced to a social interaction experience reminiscent of real-life shopping and communicating with the vendor.

In fact, there are many buyers led by their fundamental desire to interact and reassure themselves that they are making the right decision, whom would agree that social shopping is just as rewarding as traditional shopping, and perhaps even more personalized.

The way social shopping functions nowadays, customers have access to specific product feeds designed for them, but can also participate in collective shopping to make sure they are making the best purchase decision.

Why is social shopping so popular?

Put it this way, social shopping helped solve a huge retail problem: it helped indecisive buyers find the right products for themselves or for the people they love, and did so because of enabling retailers to make the right suggestions for each of them. While this would take days in conventional shopping practices, it’s now instant and automated on the web.

The aspect which helps engagement the most is the fact that people share experiences, and rely on each other to appreciate the value of a product before they’ve bought it.

This isn’t new – prior to internet technology, we used to ask friends and family to exchange options about the product, however now that we’re connected with thousands of social media users, we can ask literally everyone!

Obviously, we’ll still be expected to rely on our own judgment, but we can all agree that making a purchase decision is way easier with the input of impartial people. Alongside  Faver, we can consider the choices of our friends and connections, and use the vacant-eye model to get inspired.

 

Agile and Lean UX

By | Agile, user experience | No Comments

The User Experience Design field is filled with an exciting amalgamation of key terms, buzz words, and terminologies – UX, IA, CX, UCD, IxD, agile UX, lean UX, strategic UX, guerrilla research, emotional design etc.

In fact, there are so many of these curious acronyms and phrases that it can be easy to get confused.

The reality is that some of these terms distinguish essential processes, so they are important to know. Then, on the other hand, some are just industry buzz words or phrases designed to say something about the people who invented them.

Agile UX vs. Lean UX

Agile UX

The appearance of ‘agile UX’ occurred shortly after the emergence of ‘lean UX’ and plenty of designers (even the experts) got the two mixed up for a while. The difficulty is that both phrases indicate a robust relationship of design within the overarching process of product development. Both agile and lean UX are concerned with speeding up designs. They both match the diverse perspective of contemporary UX design resources. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish the two as well. Within common or garden tech discussions, most experts use the terms interchangeably, but are they the same thing?

The Emergence of Lean UX

Lean UX

Unlike agile UX methods, the lean counterpart is derived from start-up industries.

The lean UX definition states that the primary emphasis is on helping companies deliver products as fast as possible – sales have to mount up fast if a very young venture is to grow and prosper.

To achieve this, data has to be collected and function as the foundation for a series of iterations of the product.

The objective is to create a minimum ‘workable’ product and get it out to customers as fast as possible.

The steps involved ordinarily include pushing the earliest iteration out very quickly indeed, in order to determine whether there is a demand for it. Following this, actions are taken to move the product towards a much more rounded and comprehensive iteration.

The standard learn development framework assesses projects during the entire development operation. It emphasizes perpetual measurements and consistent learning cycles (create-measure-observe).

Following Lean Operations

Software development process

The first stage of the lean operation is always a theory – in other words, you have to state what you expect will happen.

Then, the minimum viable product is built as a way to assess the legitimacy of the theory. Thirdly, a test is carried out on this product and the theory is either confirmed or rejected.

The fourth stage is gathering feedback from users via UX research methods. After this, the stages are either carried out again or, if necessary, a new theory is generated and the stages are restarted.

Agile Development Techniques

agile

The value of user experience is broadly realized by pretty much all development sectors. However, the industry based acceptance of agile UX standards has been a little more sluggish.

It is consistently increasing though, despite the fact that the quick fire and loose perspective of agile development poses problems for development experts within large scale companies.

This is because it commonly exists in opposition to the conventional techniques already in use; including those inherent within UX design rotations.

Nevertheless, the growing acceptance of agile development is based in the very creation of software.

Historically, design has not always been as highly regarded as it is now and software suffered the most at the hands of this disregard.

In fact, very little focus was ever afforded to the end user – software creation was only concerned with providing outcomes, even if they turned out to be unattractive or impractical.

Agile methodology

The typical agile development expert believes that up front scheduling can be out to one side and, probably, just handled as the work goes on.

Yet, even for agile UX methods, it is essential to have a clear insight into the objectives and needs of a project, both in terms of imminent launch and future ambitions (though these may fluctuate over time).

Plus, UX should also be made an important aspect of functional planning. The expert has to be aware of its relationship to the market, be able to generate high level usage prospects, and fully understand the inherent corporate entity forms. If possible, they should also carry out research among prospective users.

 

Agile followers and standards:

– Individuals and communications before operations and resources

– Viable software before detailed documentation

– Client interactions before contract discussions

– Reacting to alterations before adhering to schedules

 

Ultimately, lean UX needs to be an adaptable operation. My recommendation is close in nature to the one I would offer when building a minimum workable product; implement the smallest number of resources needed to secure the pivot or persevere point.

 

The following are resources are useful:

– Conditional personas (correct dimensions)

– Persona map

– Presumptions (with the most hazardous marked)

– Design studio

– Written prototypes (initial phases)

– Digital prototypes (HTML is ideal)

– Guerrilla design analysis (usability tests)

– Colocation where possible

Making the Right Choice for You

Lean and Agile UX standards

Essentially, agile and lean UX are two different perspectives on the modified design process, tailored to match the way in which customers and users want their products and services to be provided. The lean agile UX process offers two sides of the same design coin, so to speak.

Whilst the words are, commonly, used interchangeably, they end in slightly different ways. For instance, agile UX creates a more refined result, but lean UX creates a series of product iterations which gradually reach a refined result.

Ultimately, agile and lean UX have the same end result, but they reach it via different processes.

To pick the right option for your internet projects, you need to work out which is the most suited to the desired final outcome.

If you have the time and resources to run through multiple iterations (for example, the project is only a side or ‘add on’ venture), opt for lean UX. If you feel like the project requires an ‘instantly’ refined outcome, opt for agile UX methods.