Thinking Products: A Weblog by Clarice Technologies

4 Guidelines to Avoid a Fragmented Consumer Experience

Consumers today no longer see you and your brand in isolated interactions, they journey across devices, mediums, and physical locations in the course of accomplishing a single task. There is a thin line between the physical and digital experience today, as objects are able to exchange live data, thanks to technologies like the Internet of Things. Users have evolved through these experiences and raised the bar.

Consider the touchpoints in making an airline journey: first a consumer may visit the website to search for flights, and do an online booking. She may get the confirmation via an SMS, and details of the flight via an e-mail, which she may read on a smartphone. Next, she may check in using the smartphone, and choose seats from a kiosk at the airport. She may receive in-flight messages on a TV console once she is seated. During the booking on the website, she may come to know about promotional offers and upgrades, and redeem her frequent flier miles. There is a variety of information and interaction at each channel.

clarice_multichannel_UX1

Gaps Frustrate Consumers

When organizations do not “mind the gap” in transition between channels, consumers are very frustrated due to the disconnect between what the brand promises and their actual experience.  They do not care about channels, they care about getting what was promised with minimum fuss. And they think of their experiences across all channels and touch points over a period of time.

For example, if an insurance company advertises that it will reliably settle claims without any delay, but makes a consumer go through long-drawn, frustrating steps, from website to call center to emails for that, it will belie their promise.

The Multiple Device Dilemma

Today, a large part of the consumers’ multi-channel journey is carried out online, on various devices. We live and interact in a world that is rich in devices: desktops at work, televisions at home, smartphones and tablets everywhere. Consumers no longer access media or carry out their online activities in isolation or at one go. People hop from device to device and carry out their activity on all of these, either simultaneously or sequentially.

The Multi-Device World Quantified

New data about the connected world is constantly emerging. A very insightful Google survey provides some rich data about consumer behavior in today’s multi-screen world. The key findings indicate that 90% of our media consumption is in the online world (a majority on smartphones). It further shows that 90% of consumers move between multiple devices to complete a task. For details, refer to the survey here.

googlestudy_main3From this study, it is clear that you need to consider the entire journey your consumer makes with you and create a consistent experience that fulfills what your brand promises and is appropriate to each digital platform.

Ensuring a Seamless Multi-Device Experience

When designing a multi-screen, multi-device experience, the aim is to create a single, yet appropriate conversation with your consumers. Here, we share a few principles that can ensure this.

1) Make your Designs Adaptive

Every device has its own technology characteristics and strengths. For example, smartphones provide you with the user’s location, allowing you to build a ‘digital to physical’ transition feature into your mobile app. The app can have a feature to locate your nearest store or ATM, which may not be so useful a feature on a website. Also, not all channels are right for all tasks, especially due to varying screen sizes of devices. You need to use appropriate adaptive design techniques and pick and choose tasks per channel. If a mobile app is being used to collect movie tickets, it has no place for extensive reviews of the movie.

2) Provide Seamless Transitions between Channels

Users are often interrupted, or they may choose to switch the devices. Ensure that this transition is frictionless to them.

If the device ‘knows’ and remembers the user’s data, preferences and history across all devices, you can predict their needs and actions and proactively present them to users.

Consider someone who was viewing a movie online on his smartphone, and switched to his computer after reaching home. It would be a disjointed experience if the movie did not begin where he had left it off, but seamless if it did.

3) Support Contextual Tasks

People use devices at home, at work, and on the go. Tasks and information have to be presented keeping contexts in mind. Ask yourself: “What are the most common tasks performed on this device?” However, ensure that you support the most important common tasks on all devices.

For example, in one of the cross-channel design experiences we created for FundTech (a financial product), we did not show complicated, extensive financial data on their mobile app. Instead, we focused on making tasks like “pending approvals” handy, while giving more detailed data on the desktop version.

clarice_multichannel_UX2

4) Be Consistent in your Identity

Users like consistency. The layout, visual design, functionality, and the tone of messages should be consistent across devices to build trust and emphasize the brand. Once that is achieved, each channel can be linked to another to cross-sell and up-sell. Conversely, if a consumer has a bad experience in one channel, say a store, it impacts the entire brand. And he or she is less likely to order online from the same company, no matter how well designed the web site is.

Being adaptive, seamless, contextual, and consistent in the design of your digital interfaces will help overcome the multi-device challenge, leading to customer loyalty and better returns.

Article by – Mohit Kanakula

0
3

Gamification for Engaging User Experience

Gamification is a new direction Clarice is using to solve challenging design problems for some of our customer’s products.

Moving users from ‘Can do’ to ‘Will do’ with Persuasive Design

A good product design can cause a paradigm shift in user experience. Designers need to study a user’s emotions while interacting with a product’s interface. This kind of design is not for mere usability; it goes beyond. It is not just functional; it evokes emotions, motivates, engages, and creates “joy of use”.

For example, out of 10 sites that help you make an airline booking, all 10 can be said to fulfill the usability criterion (they have all the necessary functionality to let you make the booking successfully), but only one or two make the experience pleasurable. The ones with a persuasive design strategy will try to generate and sustain good feelings, maybe even put a smile on the user’s face, and bring delight as they buy tickets. Users will choose these sites over others and praise them to others. Users have been persuaded to move from a ‘can do’ situation to a ‘will do’ choice.

With persuasive design, focus on function in design is NOT enough. Design needs to evoke and utilize emotions. The basis of persuasive design is putting user needs in an hierarchy and addressing them with appropriate design tools, one of which is gamification. The key goal of gamification is persuasion, by adding game elements like challenges, leaderboards, points.

Gamification and Game Mechanics

Using game theories in areas not otherwise associated with games is often referred to as gamification.

It uses people’s natural desire for competition, achievement, feedback, and status to make tasks meaningful in any context. In the most simple form it rewards people for completing tasks and encourages competition by displaying the achievements.

It uses mechanics like Points, Levels, Challenges, Virtual Goods, and Leaderboards  to fulfill human desires like getting rewards, achieving some status, self expression, competing, and so on, while using the product. You can design a gamification strategy by selecting a mix of the mechanics and the corresponding desires.

For example let us look at how Linkedin uses various game mechanics that fulfill desires and also leads to task completion. It displays all statistics graphically to enhance the impact.

The key goal of Linkedin is to collect as much information from users  about themselves via profiles and make the network stronger and wider with more connections. Some examples of game elements to achieve this in Linkedin are:

LinkedIn Gamification Strategy

Case Study: Gamifying a Productivity Tracking tool (perceived as Spyware by employees) into a Work Behaviour Evaluation & Modification tool

At Clarice, we applied the principles of gamification to one of our Enterprise products that needed a perception makeover.

The Brief

The product, an innovative, patent-pending software is an analytics & productivity audit tool designed to measure employees’ work output. It gives managers a clear record of productivity of employees (time spent in office v/s time spent on real work).

The client wanted to promote this tool as an enabler to boost productivity at work and help people self monitor their progress, rather than as an application used by the organization to spy on its employees. The requirements were:

  1. Convert the management-centric tool to a people-centric approach
  2. Make it a personal evaluation for employees, than a mere manager productivity audit
  3. Push for improvement in work habits by creating data-driven challenges
  4. Humanize the tool by encouraging voluntary user participation and spark motivation with competition

 The Game Plan

Clarice decided to transform the product by using gamification as its core.

Our task was to first analyze the areas where we could seek both the employees’ involvement and motivate improvement. We identified various quantifying elements and narrowed down to ‘Focus’ and ‘Distraction’ as the key measurable and attainable goals, around which a set of challenges were further built. Focus was rewarded and Distraction was presented as a challenge to be overcome.

Frameword

Following are some of the elements of gamification that we used to make ‘productivity tracking’ an enjoyable and motivating personal experience.

1. Simple, Measurable Challenges

Employees undertook easy game-like challenges that gradually worked towards making them more focused and reduce distractions at work. Depending on their progress, they had the choice of aiming for bigger challenges.

Competitiveness and Rewards

2. Game Levels

Mechanics of a typical game scenario where users have Lives/Chances to finish a level, were implemented to encourage consistent participation, even in times of failure. Levels were used to encourage users to progress incrementally within the game and develop ‘work-habits’.

3. Instant feedback for Self Analysis

Instead of a generic record of performance, users received more personalized messages that timely motivated and nudged them to self-analyze their performance and aim to do better.

Instant Feedback

4. Competitiveness, Collaboration and Rewards

Individual level ranking within teams using leaderboards were built as a key driver for participation. We also added rewards for collaboration on a team level to make users help rank up their teams on an organizational level. A ‘points mechanism’ was implemented as a unit to measure a user’s achievements in relation to others. Whereas a set of interesting badges were created to reward achievements.

5. Intrinsic Motivators matter the most

Any good gamified system needs a layer of strong intrinsic motivators at its foundation. We focused on the intrinsic desire of the employees to better one’s work habits, improve productivity and ultimately encourage better work-life-balance.

0
2

Enterprise Products: 5 UX Pitfalls to Avoid

By Shivam Sahai, Sr. UX Designer, Clarice Technologies

User Experience (UX) Design has been a rapidly growing area that has seen build a lot of traction in the recent past. Today, business and technology alone are not only factors driving how a product shapes up, rather the consideration of end-users has gained tremendous attention in the recent past. This has brought UX Designers to a centre-stage in the entire product lifecycle who now own a crucial responsibility to build effective experiences for many enterprise products today.

For a UX consultant however, having the knowledge of user-centered design processes, deliverables, techniques and methods is simply not enough. From my experience of working in this space, there are additional aspects that must be factored in while embarking on such projects. Here I list down 5 pitfalls that a UX consultant must be aware of while embarking on a design engagement for an enterprise suite :

UX Pitfalls

1) Piece-meal approach is risky: An enterprise product suite is like a big elephant (so as to say). If you start small, one module at a time, you actually have no clue what you are going to build in the end. This is a very common challenge with product suites owing to the scale and complexity inherent to them. By starting piece-meal (a single module at a time and then building up), you run the risk of creating a design which is not well informed in terms of various design factors, for instance an ineffective information architecture, inter-module navigation and a not-so-scalable overarching structure. In such a scenario, it is important to start with the big picture. Several questions needs to be answered; what are the modules that make up the suite, how are they related, is there any access strategy defined for the end users. Based on a broad understanding, it is a good idea to start with a robust overarching container for the entire suite and then further drill down into specific areas.

UX Pitfalls

2) Big-bang changes may be detrimental: As UX designers, we are always enthusiastic to revolutionise the product experience. We are always thrilled at trying out new ideas, new concepts, and challenge the status-quo. However, what we also need to understand is how the product has evolved over time. It might have taken years of iterations, release cycles for the product to reach where it is today. In this journey, both product stakeholders and the end users may have become used to the existing interface. As consultants, we can’t expect to turn it upside down overnight. Doing so might leave a huge on-boarding cost as well as a learning curve which might not fit into realities.

3) Consistency is critical: Enterprise product suites are usually expansive in terms of modules, features and their scope. However, these systems are still common platforms for the end users, who might access different parts of the system as per their defined roles. In such a scenario, it is imperative to define a common library that documents the interaction and visual language for the entire platform. Such a baseline ensures consistency (in terms of interactions, visual look and feel) across the entire suite. Additionally, it also prevents the design team from ‘reinventing the wheel’ every time a new component is designed and saves efforts and time. For the end users, common interactions and behaviour supports quick learning and offers a predictable experience across the suite.

UX Pitfalls

4) Teams must work hand-in-hand:Design itself is an elaborate exercise and takes its own sweet time to reach a logical conclusion and acceptance from clients. Although it might be seem to be a time to celebrate, the reality is it is just a start of the story. To translate a design into a seamless end product, it is imperative to work closely with the engineering teams throughout the process. This could be in terms of working hand-in-hand to understand their release cycles, technical feasibilities and even build a rapport that builds mutual trust on both sides. Such a mutual understanding and acceptance can go miles to ensure there in no loss in translation from design to engineering. Another area where synergy is of utmost importance is the design team itself. Owing to the nature and complexity of the product, team members usually face different contexts, interaction patterns, visual language scenarios etc. To ensure that the team is building a cohesive experience, it is important that everyone is aware of any new interaction or visual guidelines. Conducting periodic workshops is a good way for everyone to share their experiences in the entire design team and also to learn from others.

5) Work as partners: User experience is not a mere one-time-service, so as to speak. As consultants, we need to be aligned to the strategic roadmap for the product. This means ensuring that we are plugged-in to the key stakeholders and decision-makers. We should be in a position to not just consume requirements from the clients, rather have the influence to contribute to the roadmap. Clients, in general, should ideally create such space for us, and must be receptive towards new ideas and possibilities. Such a relationship would ensure we work as their strategic partners, rather than just a short-time consultant.

If you have any suggestions based on your experience in this space, would be happy to see you leave a comment. Thanks.

0
0

Shaping a ‘Software Defined Anything’ Product

The SDx Ecosystem

The term ‘Software Defined Anything’ (SDx) can be defined as the domain encompassing the SDN, SDS, and SDDC systems. Traditional systems have tightly coupled proprietary hardware and software, whereas a software defined system is based on abstraction – hardware and software is separated into a data plane, and a control plane, respectively. There are protocols defined for how these two components talk to each other, for example, Openflow. Virtualization of systems is a key driver for the software defined systems. A hypervisor layer acts as a mediator between the guest OS and the hardware and host OS, leading to a flexible and scalable architecture.

An SDx system is deployed in a data center and applies certain services to the data center. It lets you configure virtual services, appliances, networks, storages, and servers.

In a traditional system there are a limited number of configurations, like users, organizations and related forms. But in an SDx system, the number of entities and configurations are too numerous. Managing an SDx system involves tracking, monitoring, and configuring services (in 100’s), servers (1000’s of virtual machines), connections, and logging of all services for many organizations.  It has to be built to handle scale and complexity. Using the correct design strategy to simplify all this for users is a challenge.

The main advantages of SDx are scalability and cost effectiveness. You can add more virtual resources as needed (for handling requests or processing data). Their interaction is much simpler than in traditional resources. Also, separate evolution and management of hardware and software becomes possible.  However, the number of parts makes such systems very complex. When designing the management layer for this, simplification becomes a key factor.

A Management Model for SDx

Monitoring and managing SDx systems is critical due to size, scale, and dependencies. A good management model can come to the rescue when handling such complexity and scale.

The management model for the virtual infrastructure of SDx systems follows the FCAPS framework (Fault, Configuration, Administration, Performance, Security).clarice_SDN_UX

Simplification Process and Strategies  for the Management Layer

When creating the management layer for SDx, there is a risk of creating a UX layer that parallels the complexity of the underlying domain. When creating the SDx monitoring system, the primary need is to understand the complexity of the domain and  the specific product functionality, and present it in the most helpful way.

The design has to be in keeping with the domain characteristics, and give a holistic view of the entities being monitored and their inter-relationships.

Clarice designed and developed a service and UI layer for a SDN management product that presented all the typical challenges of such a system.

clarice_FCAPS_SDN3

Some of the design  and development principles we used are outlined here:

Mental Models: Users of this product already had experience in running  networks and had built mental models of the underlying system. Our new design could not break the models already present in their minds, and we had to align our designs with them.  At the same time, if the existing mapping was too complex, the design had to stop deriving from existing  mental models.

‘Inside Out’ Design: To deal with the complexity, we identified high-level entities while creating the Information Architecture, and began the design process with their key relationships in mind. We started from the simple, and created detailed screens progressively. Information was also presented in levels, with progressive drill-downs.

Data-Action-Users Model: We analysed the domain using a data-action-users model, and used this as the basis for design. We came up with a design and navigation that kept these three entities in coherence and coordination. For example, in a server monitoring screen, we thought about what actions a user would want to take and made the actions readily available. This provided coherence and clarity to users while navigating through the product.

Templates and Defaults: As there were too many configuration parameters associated with any user task, we analysed and pre-fed the defaults for them. Wherever possible, templates were created. This improved speed of configuration and learnability for new users.

Innovative Visualizations: Visualizations offered a significant challenge for UI development. We had to  show complex information in a simplified way. For example, complex, numerous, and dynamic connections between organizations, servers, and networks had to be summarized in one visual.

Automating Repeated Blocks: In order to speed up UI development, we invested in a code generation engine that built repetitive blocks.

Scalability and Performance: Caching was used extensively to increase UI performance and scalability. Potential hot spots were identified and the responses were cached in a database. The caches were kept updated with various built-in mechanisms.

Component Based Design: We took a component based approach for both, UX design and development. This led to re-usability, repeatability, scalability, and allowed us to tackle complexity in a gradual manner.

In Closing

The  proven principles of UX design and UI technologies can be applied to any emerging domain like SDx with excellent effectiveness. They have to go hand-in-hand with understanding the domain and the users of the system, identifying the real problems, and prioritizing them.

Applying design innovations and using a suitable technology approach to match leads to a user experience that delights end users.

1
0

The Knotty Tale of Design & Development

Product Development is a complex process. A product as an idea is only half baked. It becomes real only when it takes a form. A form that is shaped when it passes through the scrutiny of UX Design & Technology development. But this too is a knotty process. Check out the infographic below to figure out exactly what an idea endures at Clarice before it becomes a product.

Click to Enlarge+

Knotty Tale of Design & Development

Knotty Tale of Design & Development

0
0