Posts in Category "Thinking out LOUD"

Insert your card. A walk-up UX fairy tale of yore.

It’s 8:58 PM on a balmy Friday night and the local wine merchant is about to roll down the steel cage door. Why is always at these little Friday night soirees that no one ever brings enough imbibe to keep the silver tongues dancing?

Andrea’s breath leaves a trail of whispered steam that plots her hurried pace to the limited vintage selection down the corner. As she hurries towards the hopeful neon, she contemplates whether uncorking a few screwtops might just elevate the priority of adequate resourcing for the next informal meeting of the minds.

Once in the store, her years of amateur sommelier practice pay off and in no time she hoists her well stocked basket in front of the cashier, proudly presenting a couple hefty Riojas balanced by her favorite wispy Bordeaux, the instantly classic and far too expensive ’82 Lafite. ’83 was just not the same.

$108.49.

Her wallet is already in her hand and she quickly pulls 5 crisp twenties and sets them on the counter as she unsnaps the change compartment…empty. A quick glance at the new girl behind the counter gives no glimmer of recognition and in despair she starts to prioritize Spain over France, lining up the soldiers to choose one to fall first.

The clerk doesn’t skip a beat. Reaching her hand beside the register, she whips out a strange telephone like device and hands it to Andrea. “We take debit.”

“What? Debit?”

Then it hits her. Somewhere in the retsina-accompanied fog of her Friday night glow she remembers the quick scan she took over a pamphlet in the bank scant weeks ago. Diving into the card section of her Ferragamo wallet, she procures the mag-striped novelty that she has just started using to deposit her paycheques and hands it to the clerk.

Swipe.

Tap tap tap.

She takes it back from the clerk and squints at the screen.

ENTER YOUR PIN.

She assesses the clerk’s helpfulness and clips the support request down to, “…same as the bank machine?” As if expecting this, the clerk nods quickly and looks down at the machine.

They stand facing each other, engaged in this strange new transaction as it starts to move ahead quickly.

APPROVE PURCHASE? 108.49

Yes.

CHOOSE ACCOUNT.

Chequing.

THANK YOU.

She hands it back to the clerk and the chatter of the miniature matrix plays a strange harmony to the crinkling of plastic bags encasing the precious guarantee that great friends and good conversation will ensue for a few more hours.

FREEZE.

I single plastic card falls to a well worn counter, the bounces echoing in the eery silence of a wine shop frozen in time.

What just happened?

The world changed in an instant. A cultural and practical change on this level that has such profound implications on how we manage (if you believe that rampant consumerism is a form of managing) our financial systems and status is predicated by only a few significant phenomena, such as banks, money, RRSPs and other instruments of investment and preservation. But lets ponder for a moment the complexity of those instruments and the apparent simplicity of the much more sophisticated system that chattered and tapped and quietly streamed the transaction across the web-i-verse.

Do you take this for granted? Yup.

Should you? Yup.

Why? Recently the topic of walk up UX has been floating in the hallowed XD and enterprise halls at Adobe. The term itself is kind of walk-up, right? I think you instantly grok what it means and why it matters.

And while this mundane and antiquated example of boring old-people technology is well behind us, what is interesting is that it has persisted through generations of PC form factors, mobile phone types, fundamental shifts in network and networked technology and it still works just as good as it did when it launched. Will Square replace it forever? Will the bank and payment machines of the future do away with the bulky terminals and the oft too long wait for a 56K phone line connection to take us screaming into consumer bliss.

What won’t change is that a great user experience that makes sense the first time you experience it, and a value proposition that inspires you to finish the task, will never go out of style. That’s walk-up UX.

In a recent discussion on IXDA, an energetic thread on the user experiences that changed the world popped up and interestingly almost all of them had great walk-up UX. Interac and debit appeared a few times on the list, and more recently in banking the PNC Virtual Wallet was mentioned a few times as well. The other thing that was notable was that many of them had little or no UI such as QR codes, EZPass, DropBox and RFID, while others had much more sophisticated and complex UIs, such as Skype, Traktor, PayPal and ZipCar. This indicates, and should come as no surprise, that the user interface is pretty much an open book in terms of complexity and sophistication and a great user experience ensues either way. But that’ another story.

It was a great party.

Note: I know finding an ’82 Lafite at your local wine shop is not realistic but it’s an aspirational fairy tale.

User-centric: how much UX is too much UX?

Originally posted on the @bitpakkit UX/Customer Experience blog. This is part of an enterprise UX and architecture whitepaper that a few folks at Adobe have been working on for release soon. This particular part has been removed from that paper in the ‘edit’ process. I share here because I feel it is worth sharing and since I claim some part of the credit for this along with Craig Randall, Marcel Boucher, Rob Pinkerton and others.

Consumers need or expect a compelling experience across devices, channels and, in some cases, on and off-line. Design and experiential symphony are the new competitive battleground in modern commerce. For business managers, this represents a new method for acquiring customers…or a threat if they lose customers to competitors providing a better experience. The company who provides the best sales or service experience will grow.

Today, most user interface re-design efforts amount to applying lipstick on a pig. This is because it is either a pure design function (aesthetics) or because it is left to developers and technical teams to ‘skin’ the application based on data or functional requirements. There are important differences between UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). UI is about chrome (frosting); UX is about interaction (cake). Better together, the properly layered and frosted cake symbolizes both the unique innovation and the repeatable approach to delivering sweet experiences.

Efforts to link existing systems to provide comprehensive data integration are valuable, but have less to do with customer experience on the front end than with transactional automation on the back end. Such strategies may prove useful for improving customer service through existing systems but even then you might consider integrating information where it is used, in and by the client application or browser. User-centric technologies are designed to induce customer participation from an evolving consumer who wants to modify, create, and respond to product and service offerings in-context and at non-traditional intersections in the customer communications model. Businesses that can reach these customers through experience will grow their customer base and increase revenue opportunity. Unforgiving users will create new business opportunities as well. Customers disappointed with experience will seek new firms for their business.

Performance and blended environments
Personal computing environments are outperforming workplace computing environments. Employees and consumers mix and match their own blended IT environments to optimize performance – and challenge the traditional role of IT. To the business manager, this represents an opportunity to harness employee productivity outside the traditional workplace environment and to reach customers through new touch points. User-centric computing enables telecommuting, personalized workspaces and hour access for employees allowing them to work the way they want to work and increases productivity, loyalty and contribution. To access the participatory customer, there are new opportunities to communicate online, offline, on mobile, and securely through traditionally unsecured channels. Such access provides opportunities for constant contextual analysis and delivery of services based on improved customer insight.

User-centric computing can turn amateurs into professionals, consumers into prosumers, enabling deeper participation and ownership of interfaces and how people use them. Customer participants should be nurtured as human capital as well since they will invest in developing, improving and evangelizing products and services. User-centric technologies provide the tools and access to the machinery of innovation – content, context, communication, collaboration. Employees can design business processes to meet changing market conditions. Customers can design products to meet their specific needs and this dynamic intelligence can be aggregated to unearth new business opportunities.

Opening up traditional business process boundaries provides new opportunities for customer contact and regulatory compliance: User-centric technologies create a complete paradigm shift as they perforate the traditional enterprise border. Business process automation and information security are typically constrained by a network, a machine or a disk. The companies who extend their business outside the traditional enterprise border will generate new business opportunities and can reduce the burden of regulatory compliance.

These boundaries are challenged by new technology delivery models such as SaaS and pervasive client infrastructure such as PDF, Flash, HTML. These new delivery models promise opportunities to delivery superior service with less cost, reach large audiences for compliance without systematic burden and communicate rich, personal information with complete security. Over time I have adopted a refined approach for measuring categorical leadership across three core capabilities that should be inherent in your design thinking and application delivery strategy:

• Reach – you will want your applications to reach the most customers in the most contexts possible with the least amount of effort to provide for these various contexts; e.g. browser, application, mobile

• Experience – You must leverage best practices in experience to deliver on three key opportunities to excel; during customer acquisition or the first touch point, during any interaction dealing with customer service throughout the life of the customer, and enhancing our communications both personal and mass inclusive of all documents and ongoing outbound touch points to provide new levels of interactivity and response

• Optimization – Tireless improvement and betterment as part of a measured approach to bringing these great experiences, enabling us to manage highly responsive environments, constantly optimized both physically and from a content and delivery perspective.

These three core capabilities empower your opportunity to deliver this new breed of applications: high touch, collaborative, everywhere and instilled with a constantly improving and agile sensibility. Further we see an increase in applications built by enterprises to service their customers, leveraging web and enterprise technologies to optimize outcomes by focusing on defining factors that invoke push/pull relationships between systems and users, leveraging dynamic content, rich data visualization and capture and finally social interactions to increase engagement.

Much of your time as an architect is concerned with how to sensibly partition an application into a set of inter-related modules or at minimum recognizable “chunks” of software. Software systems are designed according to human motivations and desires, and any reasonable architecture process should not remove the human element from the architectural design process. Essentially a focus on users both from the perspective of knowledge and environment as well as goals and activities is the best combination, since a pedagogical focus on what users want infers too broad of a set of cases, and conversely a pure focus on activity will not produce the desired results from a user input perspective.

Experience is a Management Opportunity

One of the things I think a lot about in terms of building great experiences are the cultural barriers and individual employee challenges challenging the shift to being customer focused.

We tend to talk about ‘Experience’ in two ways from a product and service delivery standpoint. We talk in terms of Customer Acquisition and Customer Service. But these broad-reaching, multi-org definitions cannot directly translate to specific tasks and roles without some investigation and application of theory.

Acquisition
One could argue that on the web, customers acquire the enterprise or customers acquire products and services – not the other way around. This subtle shift changes the way we present, compete and enable self-service touch points and the corresponding activities. We do need to help people from time to time, and the more complex the product or service, or the less intuitive the interaction, the more we will need to help them. For me it helps to flip the funnel upside down (or sideways) and then tackle it from the customer/end user POV. Map the steps and stages against what they are going through, not in terms of your view of the touch points, but in terms of the total customer universe. Then invert your relationship/engagement language into their terms and insert those tentacles into the new customer funnel.

You will see any gaps immediately.

From a service standpoint, lets keep mapping the points into the funnel. Now we will be starting to populate post-purchase activity as well as some pre-purchase investigation of service levels that customers will be looking into. We are defining the path to referral as the panacea but don’t fool yourself into thinking a perfect activity map will automatically lead to referral. Some customers will never refer anyone which is simply a permanent symptom of too many years of people getting this whole centricity thing backwards.

This new activity map should now be populated with only what you actually have in place today that works as intended 100% of the time. Work back and forth across the lifetime of a customer’s interactions on your sideways funnel and remove anything that does not always produce the stated outcome.

You will now see further gaps.

Finally, ask yourself what are you doing in your life to specifically help the people working on the front-lines to trust that product and service design have the same degrees of customer-centricity that they are being asked to deliver? Think across the organization and see if you can find other examples of what is being done right. Map the ROI of those desired behaviors into your new funnel. By the way, the list of answers to that question, that’s customer-centric teamwork. Go team.

Now ask yourself the million dollar question.

Where in those gaps you have uncovered and now want to fill do you see a lack of management focus on getting the gaps closed immediately?

That is where Experience is a management opportunity.