The guys from Heavy Chef did a great job of getting Phil Barret from Flow interactive to share his experience and ideas with us. I was surprised at the amount of familiar faces I saw at the gathering which I only recently learnt about.
Flow Interactive’s Phil Barrett spoke about ‘User Experience: What it is, Why you want it, and How to get it’
Design Research is something I’ve been doing a bit of reading on lately, an area I feel I need to drastically improve my skills in. Knowing how to design an experience which will be positive, user-friendly and memorable has to be done in collaboration with the end user.
People are exhausted
Starting off Phil reminded all of us of an essential truth which we find across the majority of media platforms, that being a huge shortage of attention. With the proliferation of different forms of media as well as the fact that technology has made it possible for just about anyone to publish content, we are increasingly finding we have less and less attention available for our little messages significant though they may be. Everyone is just exhausted.
The Attention Age
We are competing in an attention economy, where attention is a valuable commodity which individuals are even being paid for nowadays. Attention or rather, eyeballs are being purchased metaphorically speaking, making companies like Google as big as they are today.
It’s not only advertisers who are fighting for a piece of the attention pie. Anyone trying to convey any kind of message online is competing for that same attention. The traditional approach of shouting louder just does not have any sustainable effect.
Make them Love it
Phil went on to say that we should be investing in building it right the first time.
“Make is speak to the customer, Make it a pleasure to use and to make sure they find it …”
We need to be creating great experiences, whether it be the way the site looks or the words people read, from top to toe it needs to be scientifically constructed piece by piece.
Helping your visitor get to what they are looking for, or to get to where you want them to go quickly is important. Time is expensive, so the quicker you can get something done or get a message across the better.
Too little or too much?
In comparing a few real estate websites, Phil highlighted how too much choice as well as too little choice can be equally negative. The trick is to have enough options but not to overwhelm people, and to get them where they are going quickly. I hate it when I order take out of some kind and I have to answer 20 questions about the flavour, size, etc. Sometimes less is more, but then again, sometimes it can be too little. It’s a fine line.
Make it work first time
Building simple prototypes, even paper based ones are helpful. Getting feedback from a variety of user types can be the difference between a successful first launch or needing to go back to the drawing board.
The creation of personas in software and site testing can provide insights into how a user might make decisions when interacting with your site or application. Personas help when planning functional features and design and can save valuable time by spotting simple problems up front.
According to some facts presented by Phil Barret, a Forrest Survey revealed that improving usability overshoots all other tactics when it comes to profitability.
Many Huge Brands have built their success off the back of creating a superb user experience. Take Apple for example, most of what their products represent contain usability improvements over their competitors. the experience of listening to an iPod, using an iPhone or working on a macbook is what turns doubters into brand lovers in no time.
Test it when it counts – early on
One of the main messages coming out of the presentation was that the usability testing needs to happen at an early enough stage so it does not become too expensive. Many usability glitches discovered at the end stages of product development have cost companies huge amounts of money to fix. Investing in some testing and low cost prototyping early on saves future mishaps which ultimately have cost, time and Brand value implications.
The following article(by the UK Design Council) discusses user centred design in more detail and might prove useful in understanding some of the techniques employed.
The central premise of user-centred design is that the best-designed products and services result from understanding the needs of the people who will use them. User-centred designers engage actively with end-users to gather insights that drive design from the earliest stages of product and service development, right through the design process.