Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Interaction Design, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Studies, User-centered Design

“There is no Average Joe Bloggs” – reads the copy on the billboard advertisement of an insurance company. I couldn’t agree more with this, especially in the context of designing and developing new products for end users. No matter how much I like Statistics, we just cannot apply it to all things in our personal and professional lives. While its good to be number-savvy, we need to balance the quantitative with qualitative aspects, to get it right. More so in the case of product design and development, the “law of averages” doesn’t quite contribute to the successful product development. We are all familiar with the concept of user profiles and personas used in the design and development of products. These help a great deal in understanding the real needs and goals of your target audience. In this post, I will dwell on why designing for average users is a misconception and how we can make use of user profiles and personas in developing successful products.

All customers are not users

This is the biggest notion among my clients that customers are well, users of the products. Not always true! The good thing is that both customers and users are both people, the similarities end there.  I think that “Customers” is a favourite term for Marketers whereas Designers and User Experience professionals connect better with the term “Users”. Customers are the people who purchase your products and services, while consumers or users use these. In some cases or well, most cases customers and consumers are the same. As in the case of some daily use products, white goods, FMCG, customers and users are the same i.e., people who buy your products use them as well. But in the case of high-end products, enterprise applications and productivity solutions, buyers could be different from consumers. For instance, office supplies, financial services, technology products like computers etc., the people who pay are different from those who suggest. These in turn are different from the people who decide and yes, the people who actually use the products or services could be completely different from the above groups.

First, know your Users

Knowing your users is the most important step in the approach to developing great products. By knowing your users, I mean to say that you must understand the goals and needs of the users. This understanding will help you in shaping your product or service, make it more suitable and appealing for the users. You can’t just create a product in thin air and then retro-fit it to the benefit of some people. As they say, the most important question in any business is asking “whose needs is the idea/concept/product going to solve?” . Texavi’s Unified Experience Framework has a whole phase dedicated to help you get to this. The “Know the Needs of your Users” phase has all the tools, techniques and technologies to ensure that we understand the real needs of the users. These are often unwritten, untold, unexpressed and even unknown to the very users. So, its a big challenge to get to the real needs of the users.

Know the Needs of the Users - Texavi Unified Experience Framework

 

User profiling holds the key

It doesn’t make sense to design and develop your products for all the people in the whole world. There is a danger of missing out on most people, as they think it doesn’t suit their specific needs and goals. Also, on the extreme end, it doesn’t make sense to design your products for one or two users. This argument lends weight for some people to think the middle path and rely on the law of averages. So, they think that the best path is to design and develop for average user. But hold on, what is an average user? How can you get to that person and define the characteristics of average user? The answer to this question lies in the user profiles and personas. User profiles are essentially the characteristic grouping of users based on various properties, traits and behaviours. This doesn’t mean that you are defining an average user. Instead, you are trying to understand the essential aspects of your users.  Using the profiles and personas helps the team to have a common language of understanding. This not only helps them in having a good picture of the end users, but also gives them a great affinity to the users, because of the name, form and physical characteristics.

UserProfiles_Personas_Design

Personas – archetypes not stereotypes

You might have heard of the term “persona” used in the context of marketing, research and product design. A persona is a representative user from amongst the group, but does not point to one user from within the group. It is a powerful design tool that helps the design and development teams and client relate to the target audience. Persona is not a stereotype of the users, but rather an archetype from the user group. In a persona, you give a form, a name and a picture to the representative users, so that all the team members and concerned people can relate to that person more effectively and easily.

Persona - Texavi example

 

Benefits of user profiles and personas

While there are many benefits of using the user profiles and personas in the product development life cycle, I list below a few of them that really stand out.

  • Understand the real users who you should target from amongst the many people in the population
  • Help prioritise the target segments within the groups of people
  • Know the real needs and goals of the target audience
  • Support in connecting and relating to the real needs of the users
  • Design, develop the products in a more practical and pragmatic manner
  • Evaluate and test the products, keeping the real users in mind
  • Minimise the effort, time and cost of development and rework

Hope you agree with me now that the average user is a myth and acknowledge the power of profiles and personas. Please keep writing in with your suggestions and comments. Till the next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

When I talk to my clients about developing great products that offer fantastic User Experience, many of them ask me why, when and how to go about doing it. The most frequently asked question from customers is “what is that one thing that makes or breaks great user experience?”. My consistent response to them has always been one simple word that truly wields the real power. Yes, it is “Consistency”. That is the mantra for creating great products and services that stand the test of time, offering delightful experiences to customers and users! However, this by no means is a quick-fix, short-cut approach to creating successful products and services. In this post, I shall touch upon the important role consistency plays in offering compelling experiences to your customers and users.

Think different, but be consistent

In the constantly changing business and technology landscape that we are living in today, it is imperative that you have to stand out from the competitive me-too products and services in the crowded market place. There is a growing need for businesses and individuals to think and act different. This also works when you wish to develop a new product, concept or idea and especially with the start-ups. It is indeed the hallmark of good startups to be able to think differently from the others to cut the clutter and make their presence felt. However over a period of time, the product or service gets adopted and it gains sufficient market penetration and user acceptance. At that stage, having consistency in presentation and overall experience becomes critical for the long term success of the product.

Consistency – experience and expectations

What does consistency mean in a product development context? Does it mean repetition, cliche and mimicking the same, always and in all ways? No, on the contrary being consistent helps your users to focus on the right areas in your products so that they derive optimal usage experience. Consistency can be seen as an antidote to monotony and often the positives of being consistent far outweighs the negatives of being routine and repetitive. Do not restrict consistency to just one specific product of yours, but broad-basing it across the products in a product line would help your customers and users.  Consistency though largely is a broader concept, does vary to some extent based on the users’ culture and geography. The concept of “business” has remained the same all through the centuries. Customers and clients raise a PO (Purchase order) and vendors propose and offer their products /services and then raise an invoice/bill towards the products or services offered.  Customers then make payments to vendors against these invoices. This is a consistent way of engaging in business and doesn’t vary from country to country and also does not change with the times.

Sample this as a proof of why I think that consistency is of a great help to delivering great experience. People from across the different parts of the world have been driving cars over the last few decades. There have been a lot of  variants like petrol and diesel, differences in engine capacity and volumes.  Cars do come in different models, sizes and shapes  – sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks and so on. They also differ in the transmissions like manual and automatic. The steering wheel could be on the left or right side of the car, depending on which country you drive. However, no matter where you are driving, what type, model, size or shape of the car, the pedals for brake, clutch and accelerator (also called gas) are always in the same place and in the same order. From left to right, it will be clutch, brake and accelerator and its no doubt that this is what simplifies the driving experience for most of the car drivers in any part of the world. This is just one example of how being consistent helps the users to adopt the products quickly to their context, expectations and experiences formed.

Why be consistent?

Consistency when used in the right manner has the power of giving freedom to your users. It ensures that your users put their focus on the goal rather than the medium. I like to draw an analogy for this with the cinema screen and the projected movie. Consistency in your products is akin to audience watching the movie and enjoying themselves without getting distracted and disillusioned looking at the screen beneath the movie. It makes the experience smooth and lends flow and fluency to what the users look, learn and do within the product.

Let us look at some of the benefits of consistency

  • Is shaped on the prior experiences of users
  • Helps direct users’ attention
  • Sets the expectations of users
  • Delivers stability and safety of users, in a few instances
  • Aids users in strong brand and product association

Consistency doesn’t kill creativity

Quite a few people think that consistency kills the creativity and new ideas. I would argue that consistency doesn’t affect the innovative or imaginative thinking. Innovative product companies like Apple, Google implement consistency across their entire set of offerings. You can use standards and design principles as the basis for your product. These are the foundation based on which you should architect, design and develop the product. These are often sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Next in the order of priority are guidelines which are like rules of thumb. They are not prescriptive, but provide direction to what should be incorporated and how. But compelling user experience doesn’t stop at this level. Only when you start referring to heuristics and patterns, can the product start delivering delightful and superlative experiences to users. I drew the diagram below to bring out the main points.

Balance consistency with creativity_Texavi

 

How to incorporate consistency

In the context of product development, consistency translates into the overall user experience and not just the superficial visual design. You need to look at all the various dimensions that contribute to the overall experience and delight of users. The following diagram sums up how you can lend your product a consistent experience…

What contribute to consistent UX_Texavi

 

Through the optimal use of consistency, user should be able to feel that he/she knows:

  • What I can do with this product
  • Where I am now, where I can go from here and how I can go
  • Why something works the way it does
  • What a particular element means when it is in of a certain colour, shape and size
  • How I can press, click, tap an element to get what I want it to do

 

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, please feel free to drop in your comments to help improve the quality and usability of my blog posts. Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

For the nth time, I am mentioning this, at the risk of sounding cliched, “User Experience is not the same as Marketing”. This is more true in the context of referring to customer and user research. While some terms and activities such as profiles, personas and interviews do happen to be common to both User Experience, that does not give us a blanket permission to assume that they both are one and the same. The very use of the words “Customers” and “Users” says it all – marketing is all about customers and prospects, whereas User Experience is well, about “users”. The importance of this topic came into the fore once again, thanks to a recent conversation with one of my clients. In this post, I wish to draw the main differences between User Experience and Marketing/Sales. Hope what you read and see below, will help shatter a few myths and misconceptions out there in most people’s minds.

Marketing helps build brands

I am not Philip Kotler to define what Marketing is. However, to my mind, Marketing is about the planning, activities and the outcomes related to understanding the needs of customers. The function of marketing helps organisations to create products, services and offerings to meet the needs of the existing and potential customers. And yes, marketing is about the brand that encompasses Marketing is a function of the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And of course a fifth P was later added, which stands for Positioning. But I would say why stop at 5Ps? The sixth P that I would add for Marketing is “People”.

MarketingMix_Focus on Customers_Texavi

User Experience helps create Products

Like Marketing, User Experience is also about people and understanding their needs. However, as the words have it all it is about “users” and usage experience and not customers or prospects. However the focus for UX is on the consumers of the products and services more than anything else. It tries to look at the various elements of the experience such as satisfaction speed of performing the tasks. The 5E model of User Experience focuses on Ease of use, Easy to learn, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Error-free nature of the products and services. Over the years, UX has been catering to products more than services.

User Experience_5E_Focus on Users_Texavi

Similarities between Marketing and User Experience

While most of the other disciplines help provide the perspectives internal to the organisation. These range from operations, administration, finance and other support processes etc. Whereas Marketing, Sales and User Experience offer an external perspective on the organisation, brand, products and services. Both Marketing and User Experience are cost centres. Both of these rely extensively on quantitative and qualitative data. They use similar tools and techniques such as interviews, discussions, tests, among others. Both can be used to test the concepts, ideas and new products in their early stages.  In marketing, you call it as Market Testing or test marketing, whereas in User Experience, we refer to it as User Testing.

Smiley_face_User Experience_Marketing

 

Differences in Marketing/Sales and User Experience

I give below a table with the differences between Marketing and User Experience, for your quick reference. After all, its important for me to market my User experience skills :)

Marketing vs. UserExperience - By Texavi's Unified Experience Framework

 

Hope this post is helpful to you. As always, I welcome your feedback for the improvement of the blog content and coverage.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 2013! Happy Holidays :-)

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

This post walks you through with an overview of Texavi, what we do, who we are and where we serve. You will also get to see the core services and offerings, practices and focus areas of Texavi. With this presentation, you will know how we can help you and the benefits for you, working with us.

– Team Texavi

Information Technology, Product Development, Usability Testing, User Experience, User Testing, User-centered Design

Google recently announced the official withdrawal (or some would say the unfortunate death) of  a few products which could not deliver their promise. These include but are not limited to Google Wave and Google Buzz, which failed to create the waves and the buzz in the market. Remember, these came from the stable of none other than Google, which is a leading product vendor renowned for innovation, simplicity and user experience. Why then, do you think they could not measure up and survive? I think one of the main reasons is that they failed the litmus test. And the real litmus test for your products is when they reach the real users who use them to address their needs. Popularly called as usability testing, the user testing of your product reveals a lot of insights into the success or failure of the features you have created newly or changed in your products. In this post, I wish to touch upon a few key aspects of Usability testing that you must know, but that is difficult to know!

       

Why usability testing

Usability tests help the product owners and developers to understand the performance of the product from the user’s needs, goals and tasks. It helps validate and verify the structure, layout, navigation,interaction and overall experience. Also, they help in identifying the task related details:

  • User’s goals
  • Tasks to achieve their goals
  • Time taken to perform the tasks
  • Challenges in completing the tasks
  • Breakdown areas/points in the performance tasks
  • Confusing or ambiguous areas on the interface of product
For more details on usability testing, refer to the write-up on Usability Testing at Texavi’s web site.

User testing methods – Similarities & differences

I often hear people referring the terms usability testing, user acceptance testing (aka UAT) and accessibility testing in the same vein. While all of these may be related to product, and most often involve users and/or customers, they are different in their objectives, scope, and target audience as well. In this post, I wish to dwell upon the user testing which is also known as usability testing, and bring to fore its importance and the key differences between user testing, user acceptance testing and also market testing. Usability testing is often confused and compared with UAT( User Acceptance Testing). Sometimes people do compare with several marketing related activities. I give below a table comparing and contrasting among these various methodologies. I am sure this will be a handy reference for you, when in doubt.

Engage and test with users early

Defects and mistakes are like cubs, the younger you catch them, the better and quicker, you are at taming them. The later they are identified and closed in the product life cycle, they will turn into wild tigers and pounce upon the functionality, resulting in the failure of the products.  Same with usability testing as well. UT can be done at various phases, across the development cycle of the product. Most product companies do realize the importance of involving users in the product development, but often this realization dawns upon them much later  than required. There is not much use in testing the product with users, after it is all set to be delivered in a few days. You really cannot do much to rectify the defects identified, as the time to fix is less and the pressure to deliver is more.

So, a smarter step is to start testing the product earlier in the cycle for the user experience. This would help immensely with ample time to fix the defects and ensuring that they don’t grow too  big  to solve, much like taming the younger cubs. There is  a second advantage to testing early, and that is to enable users to have a go at the product early on and this gives them a feeling of getting engaged with the product development. This in turn makes them feel that they do have a stake in the product and that they are being cared for and listened to. Another big advantage with the early testing is to do with the development team’s readiness to accept the changes and make them quickly. This is because they did not put in a great effort to churn out the artefact and so, they are far more willing to accept changes and rework, as compared to the later stages.

Secret of success – test more!

Testing early does help in identifying and resolving the defects to settle down, but it does not mean that there will be absolutely no defects coming later into the product. Well, the fact remains that the numbers might be minimized thanks due to the early testing, but still defects and erratic decisions do seep in due to various other factors. The only way to ensure that these are identified and resolved asap is by testing more of the product with the users.  Most people have this question hovering in their mind as to how much of the product really needs to be tested with users. Well, the more the merrier. The more areas, functionality, modules and dimensions you test in your product, the better for you and your product.

Note that what you are going to test for, differ from time to time, and the level of completeness of the artefact. For instance during the early stages when you test the wireframes with your users, you might be looking for an assessment of the broad level concepts. As you move on into the product life cycle and test a complete, fully functional module of the product,  you might be looking up to users for validating the interaction, information architecture etc. I give below the  the areas you can focus on while testing the product at various stages in the life cycle.

Hope this post helped you in getting the facts right about usability testing. Don’t hesitate to write back your comments/queries. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

As you all know, during the recently held “Lets talk iPhone” event, Apple officially announced the launch of  iPhone4S, iOS5 and iCloud. While it was a disappointment to some people who were expecting the big upgrade to iPhone4, that’s beside the point I want to make in this post. Rewind to April2010, when Apple first launched iPad, as the first ever consumer Tablet in the market. There was a knee-jerk reaction from lot of people, who rejected Apple’s new Tablet concept. There were more naysayers who expressed that they didn’t find any use for it and that the iPad was just a “glorified and bigger iPhone which can’t be used for calls”.  Its everybody’s knowledge how that perception and reactions changed drastically over a period of time. Apple created the undisputed benchmark and a leader in the Tablets market, with many more companies bucking the trend and releasing their me-too versions. In this post, let us look at what it takes to create great products by managing users’ reactions and how you can better define the product.

Great products vs. good products

Some times, you would have come across products that not only have features and functionality to help you do the mundane tasks, but also fit in very well into your life and work. Discerning readers like you are very well aware that there is a difference between great products and good products. Great products differ in that they offer rich context, enable users to realize their goals and enchant them satisfying their implicit and unmet needs. These often go beyond the briefing and provide more than just nice features. Its true that not all products are created with this intent and that they gain users’ acceptance slowly over time.

iPhone and iPad

How users relate and adopt to new products

I have seen an almost pattern-like behavior from users on how they react to products launched as groundbreaking new concepts which go on to become a huge success. I call this the 5A model of User reactions to new products. It starts with an almost hatred like feeling towards the new product. This is because users develop habits with the existing products and are happy using them the way they are. They perceive the new product as a change and a potential threat to their comfort. This could be because of the innate behavior of aversion to change and anything new. Then over time, due to various factors, both external and internal, customers tend to develop an acquired taste for the product.

The 5A model for product adoption

The perceptions and reactions of users to new products almost always follows a gradual progression of steps leading to great adoration for the products. I am not sure if anybody has patented this model already, but these terms came to my mind 3 months ago, when I was working on a new concept product for one of my clients.

  1. Aversion
  2. Acceptance
  3. Admiration
  4. Aspiration
  5. Adoration

I observed this model applicable to many successful products, tracing back to the times of their launch, how they changed with marketing, alignment to business and better product definition.  One of the most successful product companies, Apple and its successful creation, the iPad are not an exception to this model, as we discussed above.

Ask what you are creating

The trickiest thing in developing new products is in understanding, defining and communicating what your product is and what it can do. Most products fail, not because they are designed badly or implemented in a technically incorrect way. They fail because the product vendors could not communicate the purpose and benefits of the product clearly to the customers and users. Or worse still, products are hit the hardest, when the product owners themselves are not clear about the vision and definition of their product.

How to define your new product

Innovation and thinking differently often help you in defining your product, which is a first step in paving the way for its success. The standing example for a successful application of innovation with thinking big is Metamorphosi which changed the way lamps and lighting are created.

Lighting Solution, not just a lamp  Metamorfosi_lighting_solution

While every other player in this market thinks of creating better and attractive table lamps, Artemide realized that they are not merely creating lamps, but helping keep people in better mood through their lighting. So, they decided their product definition as not just as a lamp, but a ‘lighting solution’! Small wonder that Artemide and Metamorfosi are equated to innovation in the home decor segment that triggered many admirers, followers and copy cats too, all around the world.

New product development checklist

The critical success factor in the product development is having a clear vision, direction and purpose for the product or application, that you are creating. You need to define the scope, intent and content of your product, which help in translating the vision into the product design, development and delivery. It is often necessary to go beyond the immediate form and name of the product under description. Do not get attached to, nor be limited by the physical aspects of your product. I always do a check with the following parameters to decide how well we are doing and whether we are on the right path. I use these as a definitive check list to assess the potential success of your product or concept.

  • Business viability
  • Technical feasibility
  • Product usability
  • Resource availability
  • Consistent Quality

The above factors play a decisive and definitive role in the assessment of your product’s potential and performance. Do not underestimate the potential of validating your product against this check list. This would give you a very good measure of how your product is faring and in what direction it is heading to. You can then take necessary course correction and take preventive steps to steer your product back on track. We can talk in detail about applying each of these in the context of your new product, in a separate blog post.

Hope you found this post informative and usable. Happy Diwali to all my Indian friends and followers. Until next post, ciao!

 

Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

After all these years of my experience in engineering software products and applications, I realized that there is one phrase that I tend to hate the most. No, its not “Give me a ballpark estimate” or “I need this delivered by e.o.d. today”, though these come close enough to be 1st and 2nd  runners-up :). The one I am referring to is “Let users figure it out”. It is a nemesis to developing successful products, often resulting in a shoddy product.  The “Figure-it-out” syndrome as what I call it,  could be an evil for product development which can be as bad as, if not worse than Featuritis. The plausible cure for this syndrome is when the product is made easy to use for those people who are using it for the first time. In this post, I touch upon the ease of learning and use and give some tips about making your products a breeze for your users.

Easy to learn and use

Let us be honest, how many of us got trained on using the ATM card to withdraw money from a cash machine? At the least, how many went through the user manual, supplied? Popularly known as Any Time Money, the Automatic Teller Machine was conceptualized and designed so that users from different segments can get to use it with little or no effort. This is a classic case of designing a product which is not just easy to use, but also easy to learn for new users as well. Easy to learn and use a product is a critical yardstick to measure its success and is often ignored to a large extent for various reasons. Lacking this, a product might become a nightmare and the product or feature puts off not only novice users but also some experienced users, some times.

New user scared of technology product :)

But then it has the ‘user manual’

Training, setup guides, user manuals, glossary, help docs and other such documents are meant to support the new users in coming to grips with the product. Like a site map which provides a clear guide on how a web site is structured, most of the above artifacts are meant to make it really easy for the users. But then, there is a view prevalent among the Design community that site map comes handy only when a web site is not usable by itself. In other words, only when users are confused, puzzled and left with no option, that they would look at a site map. So is the case with the supporting documents and help guides that I mentioned above. No matter how effective and efficient your technical writing team is, your documentation goes often into the dust bin. The golden rule is ‘Customers and users don’t read user manuals!‘. Bear in mind that these are good supporting aids but they can never replace a well-designed product.

The ‘Figure it out’ syndrome

Whether its the apathy towards customers and users, or the need for speed in delivering the product to market, the figure-it-out tendency gains ground with the product development team. You don’t suddenly wake up one fine morning with the syndrome. It gets built up over time and plagues your product and users to no end. Here are the factors that can potentially contribute to it…lack of empathy and concern for users, a frog-in-a-well approach. Also, an unwritten but strictly-followed preference attached to functionality and technology over user experience tilts the scales against making the product intuitive.

Don’t undermine the impact of this syndrome, it could be long term, deep cut and manifold. It affects not just the product creators – the stakeholders and the development team but also the product consumers. For the creators, due to the relatively short-sighted  aspects of their planning and execution, there will be heavy overheads of customer-reported defects leading almost to a total rejection of the product by the users.  Some of the products tend to be so overly complicated for new users that they instantly give up and return them or pass on to others. There are umpteen examples of products which flopped not for their technological maneuvers, nor for their functional richness but merely because they are rather too complicated for users to start using it.

Steps for ease of learning and use

The first step in making your products easy to learn and use, is to know your users. There is an oft quoted saying in the User Experience industry that tells it all – “Know thy user and you are not your user”.  The next step is to design and develop the product in such a way that it is intuitive and clear for users. Cluttered and dense interfaces, confusing controls, unclear messages, lack of help when needed- all of these make it hard for your new users.  As Steve Krug puts it in his book, ‘Don’t make me think’, the moment you let your users start thinking about how to use any feature or functionality, you start to lose the user ‘s interest.  Also, there should be a flow that lets users feel immersed when doing a task. This would make them not only feel that they accomplished the task but also delighted. I would equate this to the concept of flow as explained by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic book on psychology – “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”.

yes, don't make them think   Let there be a flow with the tasks in your product

Who are you creating the product for

To be able to design your product better for ease of learning and use, you need to clearly identify who you are creating the product for. Going back to the ATM card example which we discussed above, the product was intended to be used by the larger number of users with little or no literacy, who would have never seen, leave alone using a computer before in their life. It was designed and developed knowing fully well that it needs to work with all the users with different backgrounds and literacy levels.

Atm machine in use   Monk using ATM machine

The beauty of the ATM product lies in that they cleverly disguised a computer into the machine. Without users’ knowledge, they are actually using a computer and its all made so much of a breeze to use it. No wonder, the concept and product caught up and it has changed the very definition of  ‘banking’ on a global scale.  Another case in point is Intuit’s QuickBooks. While every other accounting product in the market was geared towards the accountants and qualified book keeping professionals, Intuit understood that there is a huge demand for a simplified accounting product for the non-accountants and novices. They launched QuickBooks with the sole focus on this segment of users and today it is the most successful product in that segment, popular for its ease of use among new and expert users, as well.    

QuickBooks - Accounting made simple for non-accountants

Expertise and experience make a big difference

I would suggest that you classify your existing and/or potential users, based on the following:

  • Demographics
  • Education and computer literacy
  • Professional
  • Psycho-graphic (attitudes, likes and behaviors)
  • Tasks and scenarios

More importantly, to make your product easy to use, you must first profile your users based on the product usage experience. The following is a typical way of classifying the user groups, but you can adapt this and modify it to suit your needs.

  • Novice /beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Advance
  • Expert/experience

Specify your target

Now that you had a considerable start in the path of creating a great product, you now need to ensure that you have the right pick. The list below will help you in approaching the product definition in a structured way.
  • Identify the composition and distribution of your existing and proposed user base
  • Have a clear markup of the proportion of new users vis-a-vis advanced or expert users
  • Specify which of the above user types you will target with the product
  • This is applicable equally to the features and functionality and not only to the entire product

Here is how you can make IT easy

Beside the above suggestions from my experience, I offer a few other tips below to do a quick check on how effective your product or feature in the scale of ease of learning and use. You might use these as guidelines during the design and development of the product or as checkpoints to validate the features and functionality in your product. I am classifying them into the typical buckets of user experience, so that its easy to assess them individually.

Functionality

  • What can I do with this product?
  • What do I need to do, so that I can achieve my goals?

Navigation

  • Where am I now?
  • Where can I go from here?

Interaction

  • What should I do to make this work?
  • How responsive is it to my inputs?

Presentation

  • Does this look pleasing to my eyes?
  • Am I distorting anything to make it appear what it is not?

Help

  • Can I get help when I need?
  • Is help provided when I require it?

As always, hope you find this post informative and useful. Please do give me your feedback. Until next post, ciao!

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Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

We keep hearing a lot about the terms User Experience, Usability etc., being tossed around to talk about the products that are used in our daily life. These are increasingly related specifically to the technical products, devices, electronics,web sites and web applications.   To be honest and brutally frank about this, I was never taught all through my education about ‘usable’ and ‘usability’. Not only these, even my formal education did not dwell much upon ‘users’ and their needs. And I guess, this is true with most of you too.

Its true that we were taught about how to design great products and how to know our customers’ needs and satisfy them with our offerings. In this post, I wish to discuss some key aspects as to how we can deliver delightful user experiences, not just create products and services.

It lies in the details

Small things and details make up great user experience but  user experience is not a small thing.  Pay attention to the details and you are contributing to the delight of your users. It is often  the attention to the details or lack of it that makes a product a huge success or a super flop.

Take the case of Jabulani, the football used in the 2010 FIFA World cup held in South Africa.  Some players complained that the ball was not behaving in the way it should when hitting from afar and that they could not predict the path of the ball when in air.  Their contention was that perhaps it was not designed considering the altitude, pressure and the context of the stadiums in South Africa.  It could potentially be a  case of not getting into the details such as the usage context, which led to frustration among users.

 

A small exercise for you!

I don’t want to write too many details about this point :-) Instead, I want you to try it out yourself and experience the difference!

Follow the steps in the order I give below:

  • Open a browser window of each of the following:
    • Internet Explorer
    • Apple Safari
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • Google Chrome
  • Press CTRL+N keys or Go to File menu and select New
  • Compare what you see with each of the results

Here is the key for those who don’t have the time to do the exercise…Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and Google each have come up with different browsers and different browser versions updated to suit users’ needs. We are not trying to look at the pros and cons of these, but the essence is to understand how much they care for their users and how much attention they pay to details. These are not the only measure of user experience or  efficiency of any browser, nor can we assess them comprehensively with this particular feature alone. But this shows you how much importance they give to users and their needs.

Let us observe how opening a new browser window works across these different browsers:

Internet Explorer opens a new window with the current site opened by default. It is almost as good as Copy feature. Copy the same window is not what you needed, but you expected a new window to be opened. Also, add to this the time it takes to open it, because it needs to load all the elements of the current page. It opens the window with exactly the same size as the previous window and you cannot see that its opened in the first place.

Now compare this with what Google Chrome or Apple Safari does. These open new (literally) browser window and this is not the copy of the current window, but a new browser window. Also the new window is slightly different in size compared to the previous one and you can see very clearly that a new browser window is now opened. I have illustrated these different options with a few images, so you can see the difference clearly.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Google Chrome

Apple Safari

Mozilla Firefox

Business Analysis, Life, User Experience, User-centered Design

10.4  Saeed Ajmal to Tendulkar, no run, lbw! Ian Gould raises the finger and Tendulkar wants a review. There’s only one review left. That pitches in line, hits him in line but the replays show that it is likely to miss leg stump. And listen to that roar in Mohali. That looked close. Tendulkar bats on …

The above was an excerpt from www.espncricinfo.com on the commentary of India vs. Pakistan cricket match. It was the crucial do-or-die semifinal match in the Cricket World Cup 2011 played at Mohali, on 30-Mar-2011. A billion hearts would have skipped beat but thanks to UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) which uses the predictive ball movement technology, the God gets a breather and so do the billion fans around the world. And at the end, India won the match with Tendulkar scoring invaluable 85 runs, contributing to India’s victory!

To use or not to use

There has been a perennial debate about use of technology in sports and games, especially in popular ones such as Football, Cricket and Tennis. Most recently in Cricket the UDRS and Hawk-Eye technologies came under the scanner and ignited the debate. While there are a few who would argue against it, some people do favor the use of technology. I, for one, would not take sides and certainly not in this post. I wish to touch upon how technology and more so, better user experience have brought about changes in the way sport, particularly Cricket, is being played and viewed over the last few decades.

 

For the sake of clarity and simplicity, I would like to classify my thoughts on usage of technology and usability into two different perspectives – one that dwells on their usage while the game is played – to help players play better and umpires take decisions effectively. And the other perspective touches upon the perspective as to  how technology has evolved to help show the games to spectators and audiences in a better way, enhancing their viewing experiences of the game.

The evolution of  Gentlemen’s game

There has been a sea change in the way the game has been played and viewed over the last few centuries. From the days when it was played only by men, the ‘Gentlemen’s game’ had undergone quite a few modifications in the rules, format and duration of play.

I cannot recollect the days when technology started making in-roads into the game of Cricket. I don’t intend to trace that in this post any way. Technology and usability had made their presence felt as the game transitioned from white-flannels to fully logo-ed colored jerseys, red cherry balls to white balls, 5-days test matches to one-day matches and now the popular 4-hour Twenty-20 games.

All through these transitions, technology and the better use of it only enhanced the playing of the game and made viewing the game a pleasure too! Well, there are some things which neither technology nor usability could help change, one of them being ‘sledging’ and the other one ‘match fixing’  :-)

Playing the game

First, let us look at how technology in the game had evolved over the years and how it helped play the game better. By and large, these technological advances helped umpires and referees take the right decisions in the most tricky or difficult situations. Often times, there were quite a few fumbles and mumbles in deciding run-outs, leg-before-wickets and stump-outs, because they required the umpires to look at the instance of the ball and bat from awkward angles.

Using multiple cameras in different positions definitely helped umpires view the same ball from  For instance, the stump-vision technology with the cameras fitted into the wickets helped with a newer perspective and helped them get to the other and often impossible side of the moment.  The same applies to the now controversial Umpire Decision Review System a.k.a UDRS. Of course, this system makes use of the Hawk-eye technology to predict the potential movement of the ball, based on the point of pitching.

And then add to this list other not-so high-tech stuff but which turned out to be a hit. One of the popular items is especially in the Twenty-20 matches, Microphone attached to the players, and sometimes umpires while the game is on. The idea is to have an interactive chat on their views and opinions, which will add some zing to the spectators interest in the game.

Viewing the game

A few years back, I could remember seeing the score only at the end of the over. But over the years, score is being displayed always-on. Also it used to take quite a while to re-play the previous deliveries of the ball. They used to only show replays for important deliveries such as a boundary or a wicket. But again, advancement in technology made more usable and pleasurable viewing of the game. Now if you miss a ball, you don’t have to worry too much. Thanks to the multiple cameras across the ground, now for every ball delivered, we have instant re-plays. Also, these replay not just in one angle, but multiple angles, and multiple formats and speeds to help get a better view of the same delivery.

Besides the above, more recently ultra-motion cameras provide that super slow motion videos of ball delivery, impact with the bat and subsequently its motion. These offer some stunning moments of the game for viewers – whether its that unbelievable catch by the fielder or the unimaginable angling of the bat by the batsman to score that cheeky shot. Also, speed guns are deployed to help determine the speed of the bowler’s  delivery which help show the speed of the ball almost instantaneously.

Cricket had been predominantly filled up with figures and statistics. This might be challenging for a lot of fans and sports personnel to follow, remember, analyze, interpret these mere numbers. To help reach out to these key users and stakeholders, technology and user experience had been pressed to better use. To help make sense of the raw numbers,statistics and unfathomable analyses, a smarter option was made available, that of  charts, graphs and other types of info-graphics.

Most of these widgets (short form for What-I-do-is-what-I-get) are helpful in the analysis of the game and the teams’ scores. These graphic  elements are used to compare and contrast the performance and progress of the players and teams as well.  Some of the widgets offer exceptional interaction and experience providing an easy-to-understand way of representing the otherwise mundane figures.

 

Not every widget is used in the same way to do the same thing. Each of them has a unique purpose, and usage mechanism. Some of the elements like the Wagon wheel, and Spider are used primarily to analyze the batting performance of the teams. A few others  such as the Manhattan and worm are used to analyze the scores of the teams, whereas some others such as bar diagrams and pie-charts are used to help present the bowling related figures in a better way.

A look at the above indicate that usage of technology and usability of it only helped enhance the experience of playing and viewing the games. With more ways of interaction such as the Mobil phones, Touch screens and Tablets coming in our way, I expect this to improve the experience of  sports and games. There is no doubt that these will help the players,umpires and referees focus on what they should do (i.e., play the game, enjoy and entertain) and leave the rest to technology. And, for the viewers and sports-admirers, it will only make their experiences more fun, immersive and delightful!

Disclaimer: Some of the images used in this post have been taken from live feeds from Espncricinfo.com, Ndtvcricket.com and so the copyrights for these belong to the respective owners. Also, a few images have been taken courtesy other sites. The author of this blog post, and Texavi Innovative Solutions do not own any copyrights for the images used and the copyrights are attributed to their respective owners.

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