I recently attended UX Scotland 2018 held at the beautiful Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. Now in it’s 6th year, it is a well established event for anyone interested in user experience.
I went along on the Thursday and this is a short blog summarising what I learnt.
Claire Rowland: Key questions for designing connected products
The day kicked off with a keynote from Claire Rowland who is a London-based product/UX strategy consultant specialising in the Internet of Things (IoT). She is also the lead author of Designing Connected: UX for the consumer internet of things.
Whilst this talk may not have been specifically relevant to what I do day to day, there were aspects of it that I found interesting and insightful.
Claire spoke mainly about the thought – or lack of – that goes along with creating these products. It’s more than just creating a product and an interface. In fact, an equal amount of thought needs to be given to what happens when these connected products lose connection. Are they deemed useless? She summed it up quite nicely:
“If someone is relying on something, make sure the basic functions work in abscence of connectivity”
The example she used was a power tool usually used in basement conversions (signal is often lacking here) that relied on an app for extra information regarding the environment you were working in. However, when signal was lost, the basic premise of the tool (to drill f*ck off big holes) still functioned.
Who owns a Tesla?
Another part of her talk was regarding a recent software update for the Tesla Model 3. Some owners felt that an over the air patch applied to help the braking efficiency had a knock on effect to the cars acceleration. They were also questioning – after spending anywhere up to $85k on a Model 3 – who actually owned the car? Was it them or was it in fact, still Tesla?
It seems a surprisingly relevant question that I’d be asking myself if I were fortunate to be in a position to be an owner of one.
The whole premise of a connected product is to feel connection with it. Whilst they are wonderful tools, they don’t always behave as you’d expect. This was certainly the case with the Smartbe Buggy.
A crowdfunding project which was essentially a pram that stayed within a certain range of you when out and about was the USP. Claire pointed out however that most parents are worried about a pram rolling away – not wanting to chase it. Can you imagine if the pram were to lose connectivity?
Needless to say, the Smartbe never made it to market.
Other interesting bits from the talk included:
- Latency is a huge problem in IoT – changing an indoor light on 4G network is noticeably slower than on wifi. The user therefore questions whether their action has worked.
- Ensure your interface responds within 0.1s – users want to feel like their actions are directly causing something to happen on the screen within this time For example, if you click on an expandable menu, you expect to see the expanded version in less than 0.1 seconds
- For AI experiences there are different expectations – You want Netflix to get around 70% of their AI recommendations correct. However, you want Alexa to book you a taxi with 99.999999% accuracy (see image below)
Like I say, not a huge amount of what Claire was speaking about was relevant to designing a website. The little snippets of information that I picked up proved interesting nonetheless.
Markus Knigge: Bring it to life
Markus is the design team lead at the digital unit in Berlin Germany for Volkswagen Financial Services (VFS). They are a huge company with a €2bn profit (after tax) and around 20 million contracts globally. No pressure to get the design system right then 😉
He looks after a wealth of design systems, which each present their own problems and issues. This is on a scale that most of us are not likely to experience. Each brand that Markus is responsible for (including Skoda, SEAT, Audi, VFS etc) has it’s own unique way of communicating their messaging, and he needed to find a way of managing this.
Markus explained that his team had built their own Bootstrap-esque type template for each brand with various items (buttons, typography, colours etc) changing.
The atomic design principle was key to his work, and they also needed to ensure that developers could pick up the elements of code wherever and whenever they needed to.
He said that the main problem with typical PDF styleguides is that they often suit the designer or developer and rarely both. The slide from Markus’ talk explains the crossover points quite well:
Therefore, championing the role of fully interactive, code based styleguides, Markus provided his list of favourites:
- Frontify – Audi use this for their UI
- Fractal – An open source styleguide builder which allows for clear designer and developer communication
- Patternlab – He showed an example of this in action, and I’ll definitely explore this further
At the end of his talk, it was clear that the role of an up to date styleguide is essential for the huge numbers involved in creating digital products for VFS and their subsidiaries. Whilst I’m not part of a team anywhere near as large as Markus’, I think it’s definitely worth exploring the role of a styleguide going forward.
Llara Geddes: Leveraging Customer Service expertise to improve UI
Llara is the head of UX at Beauty Bay based in Manchester. She was keen to highlight that she had no UX training and fell into a user experience role. However, her customer assistance experience played a huge part in the consequent popularity of the site now.
So much so, she mentioned that they had to close the site on Black Friday because they hadn’t got the physical stock to cope with the online demand.
However, when she joined the company, it wasn’t all as rosy. Customers were irritated with the general online experience, order tracking was a nightmare and the customer service team were overwhelmed with complaints.
Their target audience are primarily the ‘Instagram generation’ so an efficient digital experience was a must.
Customer experience matters
After working in Schuh, Llara realised that she was taking UX in the real world quite seriously. She mentioned how the placement of mirrors in relation to the customer played a huge part in their buying decision. Place them too far away and they’ll unlikely go and see how the shoes look, resulting in a missed buyer.
After realising that, she decided to take a pay cut and try and explore a route into the ever popular digital environment and got herself a marketing & social media role, then onto an agency UX role (which she didn’t particularly enjoy as she was just a wireframe monkey) before heading to Beauty Bay.
Liaising with the customer service team Llara was able to understand the irritations of the website users. She has been able to implement, amongst others:
- Order tracking
- Efficient couriers (Hermes was sh*t)
- Fix checkout bugs based on customer feedback
- Make payment methods match customer expectations
Whilst she admitted they tend not to carry out too much A/B testing, when they had done it proved insightful:
- Delivery time messaging: 3-5 days vs 3-5 business days made nearly no difference in orders. The team initially thought the ‘business’ part would scare off users. In fact, being transparent and adding in that element enhanced customer satisfaction
- Sticky basket button: Adding a sticky ‘Add to basket’ button that follows the user down the page resulted in a 26% uplift in orders
- Lifetime value: They are currently comparing return options for satisfaction. The options are 1) Straight refund 2) Replace 3)Provide an option between 1 & 2. Unfortunately there wasn’t much insight as to which customers preferred
On the whole, Llara’s talk was insightful. Clients often forget that its the customers and users that really matter when using their website or application. Not their own personal opinion.
I attended UX Scotland a few years ago in 2016 and the experience then was the same as this year – fantastic. I felt I learnt many ways of working, the information and expertise that surrounds the industry is outstanding and above all, I have plenty to learn.
Thanks for reading 🙂