Tag Archives: user experience

Designing better user experience

Have you ever had a poor user experience and thought to yourself, that you can improve this?   I usually keep a log of bad user experiences and make notes on how to improve design.  Here is a very interesting blog post by design firm, Adaptive Path. This sort of design thinking can be done by anyone.

The posting discussed five user experiences from visiting nursing homes; buying a car; making parking garages more people friendly; receiving medical care and improving personal energy consumption.

If I were to think of an example, it would be to redesign human interactions between sales staff and service staff at an automotive dealership.  Much too often, there is a strong emphasis on customer service for new or pre-owned vehicle sales.  The sales person has a vested interest to ensure that the customer receives the best service as possible in order to make a sale and make some commission off the transaction.  What happens to the after sales experience?

Automotive dealerships make more profit margin off the servicing of a vehicle than the selling of one.  It would make sense that the after-sales experience for the customer be enhanced, right?

Does the service advisor and technician know you as the customer?  I feel there is a huge contrast between the customer service from the sales staff versus the service staff.  Ensuring that loyal customers are willing to stay with the brand is easier than trying to conquest new ones.  Personal relationships drive customer loyalty.

If a customer were to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle, I would let the customer choose their Service Advisor and Service Technician.  Websites and communities such as Yelp.com, where users rate and provide user-generated feedback on various facets of Dealership service would be essential.  Those two people along with the Sales Consultant are accountable for all service related issues for the duration of the ownership of the vehicle.  Follow-ups and reminders would be done by the three, as well as contributing to any discussions in an owner support forum provided by the Dealership.  A relationship would be forged between the owner and the three people.

Do you have any experiences to share?  Please share them and discuss how to make them better.  Let’s get a discussion started.

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Ethnography and its uses in business

As we are becoming more of a mass customization and transformation-based economy, more and more business are looking to use ethnography in designing better customer experiences. In this article, Procter and Gamble, Google, and others are doing it.

For Google, it involves observing and videotaping how people search online.  A success story was when they observed how difficult it was to search for keywords for Chinese consumers.  A tool called “Google Suggest” was created, when a user types a few characters, the search engine suggests alternate or possible completed key terms.

For Procter & Gamble, Managers and even Senior Managers engage in “immersion research,” in order to spend time with consumers in their natural habitat – their home.  They try to understand what their customers’ aspirations, desires and needs are, as well as what the role of their products are in the consumers’ daily lives.  An example was when P&G launched a laundry detergent and it failed because of a lack of empathy for its Mexican consumers.  Using ethnography, a key insight was derived when they discovered the importance of seeing the laundry detergent’s foam to Mexican consumers, which their product lacked.

The case for developing empathy for customers is clear.  What are some methods of developing empathy for them?  According to this article, using ethnography to better understand the consumer is key.

In conducting an ethnography, watch their behavior around their natural habitat. What artifacts do they use?  How do they go about their daily chores? Why would the customers engage with a particular experience? How they go about engaging in this?

Pay close attention to the language they use.  People speak in metaphors.  Metaphors reveal much about the person’s attitudes and mood.  For example, some customers may view retirement as the beginning of a journey, and viewing everyday is living life to the fullest versus viewing retirement as the ending of a journey.  When conducting ethnography, try to videotape, voice record or even take photos.

When conducting these studies, there will be multiple personas that can be classified demographically and psychographically.  These can be utilized by two purposes.  One is to present these to the client or marketing department, so that the client and the marketing department understand who their target consumers are.  The other is to humanize the customers.  Give these personas names, behaviors and motivations, demographic information, identification of what keeps the consumer up at night, and statement about the person’s personality in their voice (e.g. “I’m a detail-oriented person, who appreciates and loves intricate designs”)

Currently, I’m involved in an ethnographic study.  Because of the economic downturn, many people are being laid-off.  My study is about what motivates and inspires people that are unemployed or under-employed while job searching.

What creates great mobile phone user experiences?

As I had mentioned in earlier posts about mobile phone technologies here and here, this is a discussion about designing user experience to become consumer friendly.

Highlights include:

Products/Services were created from human needs.  For example, with Twitter, there is the need for continuous status updates.

Mobile phone manufacturers need to be able to control all processes in the value chain in order to create effective user experiences.  For example, with the iPhone, the user interface, core applications, industrial design are all completely seamless.  This creates consistency in all facets of the user experience.

Creating user loyalty seems to be more difficult for the carriers versus the mobile phone manufacturers.  This is maybe resultant from the pervasive short-term outlook, as carriers are capital intensive, and cash flows can vary monthly.  Whereas, in order to create effective user experience, it typically takes a longer time and requires a long-term outlook.

Carriers are somewhat at fault for not emphasizing user experience when purchasing handsets from the manufacturers.  They have a tremendous influence because of their purchasing power as well as their proximity to the consumer’s purchasing cycle.  Mobile phone manufacturers (e.g. Apple, RIM) that have strong competencies in software design and development have an edge versus ones that do not because of the challenges fraught from the design and development of user friendly software.  Mobile phones have changed its function from consumption-based to now creation-based (e.g. Flickr, Twitter, camera phones, etc.).

Other ideas to create a good user experience would be to capitalize on current technology that the user already understands.  For example, Twitter already uses technology that is SMS-based.  Many start-ups fall into the mistake of creating a handset or an application that have a gorgeous user interface however, because of the novelty of this interface, users do not know how to use this.

Examples of good user experience include:  single-devices that perform one task well, in other words, with simplicity; having some software that is multi-platform compatible (able to use on mobile phones, PC, etc.); being able to pay and receive alerts through SMS, finding existing technologies that function well in other parts of the world and importing this to other areas of the world that this technology is a novelty (e.g. public transportation payment systems through SMS).

I think to create a good user experience for the mobile phone requires ameliorating the daily lives of people.  Being able to pay for parking, public transportation, at convenience stores, fast food places with a mobile phone would be ideal.  When more people use an application or platform, the margin of utility increases.  As someone in the video mentioned, taking an application or platform that is widely used, and spawning new technology that makes people’s daily life better would be ideal. Mobile phone manufacturers not only need to have influence and control over the value chain, but it would be best if it can work in sync with the mobile phone carrier to oversee and control the user experience.  This partnership may change the short term view from the carrier, and the same time bring awareness and consumer insights delivered from the short term view to the manufacturer and making the user interface better.