Google concept augmented reality glasses “Project Glass’

Augmented reality is already making waves in the mobile app arena but it seems Google are the ones determined to take the eyewear market by storm. It’s something I first looked at years ago whilst at university. Back then it was very much thought of as a useful tool rather than a fun tool (isn’t that always the way with universities?). Information would be overlaid onto real life objects to make them more useful and interactive. For example, when walking down the street, the road you need to take to get to your destination may appear to be a shade of green.

Another project involved being able to see what an item of clothing would look like on you by simply holding up a card to a mirror. An image of the item was then superimposed onto the body via the mirror. It looked pretty rubbish at the time to be honest but that was many years ago now and I know this technology is still being tested. I’m betting this would appeal to males in particular – anything to avoid the changing room hey guys!

The concept glasses video by Google is quite different to this. The information appears to be much more distracting, requiring attention and user focus. I can’t imagine being able to walk down the street and successfully read a text message without tripping over something. My point is that although this is very much a concept, there is a great deal of user interaction, human factors and ergonomics issues that will need to play a major role within the design to ensure the glasses are not just fun and useful but also safe. Google have announced public tests of the glasses are commencing.

The big question is what are Apple going to do? 

I hope we don’t have to wait too long as this is technology I need want right now!

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Using kittens to explain the power of Scarcity

(True story)

There are 4 kittens in a pet shop…

3 tabby kittens

and 1 black and white kitten

black and white kitten


Fact: Tabby kittens are adopted much more quickly than black and white kittens.

So, which kitten do you think will sell first?

Answer: The black and white one

Why?

The principle of Scarcity

What is the principle of Scarcity?

When something is scarce or rare, people see it as more highly valued and more desirable. This is why shops often have sales and why antiques have such a high value. Scarcity is closely related to the fear of loss – people fear losing what they have and also what they don’t yet have. They will act in sometimes non-sensical ways to avoid this loss (shopaholics and hoarders are good examples).

How do I know the black and white kitten really will be sold first?

Because these kittens have been advertised on the residents board where I live and everyone wants the black and white one.

How to sell more by using scarcity in your website design

  • Limited numbers of a product left? Make this information clear in the interface.
  • Show an end date or time for an offer.
  • Offer something free with the product but limit it’s availability.
Scarcity is a very well know persuader and influencer of behaviour. Once you’re aware of it, you’ll start to see how it is used everywhere so it’s well worth thinking of how you can utilise its power in your designs. 

Amazon use 2 scarcity elements on their product page
amazon scarcity example

Asos use ‘fear of loss’ to persuade within their basket page
asos

I’m in the news…

salford university carnival

I’ve been featured on Creative Boom talking about the amazing Salford University Carnival held at Islington Mill this week. We had a great time! Below is an extract of the article and if you want to read more just head on over to Creative Boom.

Over a hundred Salford University graphic design students showcased their amazing work at Islington Mill yesterday in a fun carnival themed event organised in conjunction with Designers Northern Alliance.

Representatives from key Manchester and Salford agencies attended the event to inspire and look for the next generation of fresh talent. Keepitusable, Magnetic North, Design by Day, Eskimo Creative, and Code ComputerLove were just some of the industry experts to attend the event.

Lisa Duddington, co-founder of Keepitusable Salford’s first user experience design agency whose clients include the BBC, saw the event as a valuable opportunity to connect with and inspire the next generation of designers.

“It’s so exciting to be part of this event! We know how difficult it can be when you’re first starting your career, so we’re eager to help students and graduates to gain the valuable experience and knowledge they need to succeed in what is an incredibly competitive industry.

We have a fantastic relationship with Salford University and are proud to be able to offer both their students and graduates incredible opportunities to gain industry experience.”

An incredibly TAX ing User Experience

“Tax doesn’t have to be taxing”

completing tax return hmrcI can confirm this is the biggest whopper i’ve ever heard. Maybe it’s true if you never touch self assessment yourself and leave everything in the hands of bookkeepers and accountants. But, for the average Joe Bloggs, completing a self assessment for the first time (like I’ve just done) is a very unpleasant, frustrating and stressful user experience.

Completing a self assessment for the first time will:

  • Take much longer than you expect (take a guess then multiply it by at least 5)
  • Confuse the life out of you. The guidelines are so generalised that finding specific answers for your particular situation is nearly impossible.
  • Make you hate the HMRC helpline. They take a lifetime to answer the phone, and you can guarantee that as soon as you hang up the phone you think of one more vital question you should have asked so you have to start the whole process once again.
  • Make you hate all websites associated with tax, in particular the HMRC one. There’s a wealth of information out there but trying to find answers to seemingly simple questions like how to calculate how much NI you owe is very difficult as once again it depends on your particular situation.
  • Make you incredibly fearful of ‘Submit’ buttons.
  • Suddenly make you religious. In your head you’ll find yourself subconsciously saying a little prayer to the Gods of software and internet that your return is submitted successfully.
  • Make you hate Error messages even more than usual.
  • Start treating your computer like a precious object. No one is allowed within a two metre radius of it until the self assessment has been submitted. Each entry and mouse press is taken with extra care to prevent any mistakes being made.

frustrated kit

My expectations of the online user experience for completing your self assessment were that it would be easy. After all I’d seen the adverts on TV and the posters all over in the past claiming ‘Tax doesn’t have to be taxing’. My expectations couldn’t have been more wrong! Firstly I logged into the website using my login details and as I’d already told them I was a partnership I was expecting some kind of wizard to take me through the whole process online. But I couldn’t see any call-to-actions to say ‘Begin here!’ so I found myself aimlessly clicking on every hyperlink I could find. I just couldn’t find the starting point. I felt like Sarah in the movie Labyrinth who can’t work out how to get into the labyrinth.

So I went to my old pal Google. After some time I found an article that mentioned needing software to submit a partnership tax return. This was all a bit odd, I thought you could just use the HMRC site. Anyway it turns out you need to purchase software to submit a partnership return which is why there wasn’t a clear starting point on the website. I wish they’d explained this in big text as soon as I logged in. The site is very much aimed at people who have completed a previous self assessment and know what they’re doing.

I then had the task of trawling through lots of software websites and downloading demos to find something easy to use. This took time… Most were really, really bad. I’m so surprised that something everyone has to do can be made so complex. I’m educated up to MSc level, good with computers and I often have to understand complex problems so I can’t imagine how bad it must be for more novice users.

I finally decided on FTAX as it was basically a pdf version of the actual form. It looked more familiar and it had some intelligence – when you completed fields it automatically calculated other fields. It was still an unpleasant experience. The form started having what looked like a fit at one stage and would not stay on the page I wanted at all. Bear in mind I was feeling quite stressed at this point. The form was obviously evil and deliberately trying to wind me up even more. It wouldn’t behave itself until the following day and I then managed to complete all the fields.

Finally, I plucked up the courage to press the Submit button. It didn’t work. No response whatsoever. More stress. My partner tried it on his machine and hooray it worked! But oh no it failed! Errors written in the worst possible technical language imaginable beamed at me from the screen, giving me their equivalent of the middle finger. After a few attempts at tweaking random things I’m relieved to say that the form did eventually submit itself. Hooray! I can’t wait to go through it all again next year, not. I’ll definitely be employing an accountant next time because as i’ve found out tax IS incredibly taxing and should be left to the professionals until HMRC employ user experience designers to completely redesign the whole software!

An inspiring Saturday at the first ever TEDx Salford!

This weekend saw the first ever TEDx event held in Salford and we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the last tickets. Having never been to a TEDx event before we weren’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be a day full of inspiring and uplifting talks on a whole range of topics by incredibly knowledgeable speakers. From rock stars and explorers to futurologists, CERN scientists and even an astronaut, the event really did have a wide variety of interesting speakers! To read the rest of my post you’ll have to click here as I wrote it for keepitusable.com 

Salford TEDx

20 FREE eBooks you need to design an outstanding user experience / ux

I’ve put together a must-have list of 20 FREE eBooks that anyone who’s interested in improving their design, user experience, creativity and time management should read. Put together, the whole list is perfect for people looking to improve their user experience design, but individually the books can be applied to many disciplines. Have a look, i’m positive you’ll find at least 2 you just HAVE to download right now! Press the button below which will take you to the list of books. You can then choose which to download.

free user experience ux eBooks

The secret’s out!

The secret project that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years is finally out! As I can now talk openly about it, here I share my story about creating and launching the new product and fashion focussed social network sqoshi.com

sqoshi homepage

Redundancy

When the company I worked for closed down back in April 2009 and made everyone redundant, I and two other colleagues decided it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a project of our own. I’ve hinted at this project in the past and now i’m finally going to let the cat out of the bag! Hold on tight!

Concept

Our first concept idea involved creating a place on the internet where you could do everything socially. It would have enabled you to have one presence online but to show different parts to different groups. It was a massive undertaking and to be honest it was difficult even for us to explain. So, not surprisingly, when we ran the idea past users they struggled to grasp the concept and even when they understood it, they weren’t enthralled by it.

Canning the concept and creating a new one

So we did the right thing. We canned it immediately at the concept stage and went back to the drawing board. At the meeting there were numerous ideas but the one that everyone thought had the most potential was the one I brought to the table. Now this may well have been because I researched this like crazy so they couldn’t really not agree it had potential 😉 The idea was a site focussed around ‘what’s in your bag?’ There wasn’t anywhere online where you could do this but people were doing it everywhere! Bloggers, Flickr, newspapers, magazines… They always attracted lots of comments and interest. I could also understand the psychology behind why this would really interest people and how it could in the future link into brands.

sqoshi is born

We worked on this initial concept idea together as a team and broadened it to be a site all about the products that real people own and use. what’s in your bag would have been too limiting (people don’t change what’s in their bag very often) so instead, it’s just one of the things you now do on the site. that site being www.sqoshi.com

Thorough research

We conducted lots of market research, user research and usability testing right from the concept stage. Starting off with discussing ideas with users, then testing using paper prototypes, moving onto interactive simulations then eventually testing the built software. We even went so far as to test the brand name and logo design.  We commissioned a graphic designer to design 5 logos and we had already created one so at the last minute decided to include it in the user research. This turned out to be quite awkward as every single user preferred the one we had created! Here it is:

sqoshi logo

We believe the amount of research we carried out with real people is why sqoshi is now receiving such a positive response. You can read more about the design process we followed. And you can read more about what sqoshi is here.

Video of user testing sqoshi

We’ve received lots of brilliant feedback from our target audience (young people aged 16-29). This is the latest one I received about 5 minutes ago:

I think its a really cool idea that hasn’t been done before. I care a lot about my style and what it says to others about me and I know a lot of people who are the same. People bond over shared interests and I think Sqoshi is great way to do that.

I love how our target audience describe sqoshi. Words like ‘sick’ ‘dope’ and ‘rad’ are just some of the words they use. Makes you feel old doesn’t it? :p

The future

There is so much we want to do it’s often overwhelming to think of everything. Sqoshi as it stands is the most limited version we could create to launch it within the shortest timeframe. There are still bugs to fix, features to add, things to tweak and of course a mobile app to build. These will all help to grow our user base and encourage participation and engagement, which are our primary goals.

Questions

There is so much I could talk about but the length of this post would be unbelievable…you could fill a whole book! So instead, feel free to comment on this post or use the contact page to contact me directly.

As well as Sqoshi, we work with clients directly through keepitusable so if you like what we do, get in touch with us at hello@keepitusable.com

FREE amazing UX poster: the user experience machine

Keepitusable have produced a fab, fun and importantly, free ux poster as a very early little christmas present to you all. don’t worry, you don’t need to enter any personal details at all to download it, just click the image below then hit the big pink button to download your copy. alternatively, if you’d like a hard copy poster version to display by your desk, head over to their deviantART page.

free user experience ux poster

Google – keeping it simple

Have you noticed that for some time now Google have been gradually adding more and more links to their homepage? This is typical ‘Feature creep‘ and unfortunately happens a lot.

Feature creep is when “extra features go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in over-complication, or “featuritis”, rather than simple, design” (wikipaedia).

Google became the best search engine because of it’s simplicity. Think about it…what do you users really need on a search engine site? Strip it right back and all they actually need is a search box to type in and a button to press to get the results. They aren’t distracted by unnecessary clutter. They have one aim and they can perform it efficiently and effectively, achieving greater satisfaction.

However, even Google hasn’t managed to escape the dreaded ‘feature creep’. Recently it had begun to look like this:

Disappointing hey? The once simple site has become crowded with links.

BUT fear not! Google have recognised their featuritis and have tackled it head on with a rather ingenious solution. Now when you go to Google, it’s like going back in time to the old days when there was just a big search box and button. This is what you see:

Doesn’t it feel good? Very very simple. The cursor is positioned inside the search box so all the user needs to do is type and hit the return key or the search button. However, what about all the other features? Surely some of them were useful? Yes they were. Now for the clever part…. if the mouse is moved even slightly all the extra features fade in (via a nice transition). They are there if the user needs them.

Why does this work?

If the user wants to quickly search it is most likely they are poised ready to type as soon as the google page loads up. By positioning the cursor inside the search box, there is no need to touch the mouse. Users going to Google primarily to search have an excellent experience. Simple, fast and effective.

Users going to Google to do anything other than search will be used to having to use their mouse. Their existing mental model involves using the mouse. They may be slightly surprised upon seeing the new screen, but one tiny movement and the hidden features appear.

Search use case – keyboard focussed

Other use cases – mouse focussed

The new design provides a good fit between the interaction style of the user and the site behaviour.