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Designing the small details – “Microinteractions”

Dan Saffer's text

Dan Saffer’s text

Part 1 of 2

As a usability researcher it’s important for me to stay aware and informed of guidelines for designing user interactions. Also, I want to be literate about topics within user experience design. So Dan Saffer’s book Microinteractions – Designing with Details caught my attention. His text is interesting; it focuses on the importance of the small details, the small pieces of functionality within a digital design. Saffer thinks these small details are really important because they can be “signature moments” that impact the entire experience of a product. Now that I’ve read his book, I would agree. To illustrate his perspective Saffer has included numerous examples of when a microinteraction created an enduring signature moment, for example Larry Tesla’s creation of Copy/Paste in 1973, and a lackluster one, “the initial intrigue with Google + Circles fell flat against Facebook when sorting users into circles became tiresome and gimmicky.”

What are Microinteractions?

I have to agree with Saffer on the importance of the details in designing, but it’s difficult to always know which design elements are microinteractions. As Saffer would say they “are all around us, from the turning on of an appliance to logging into an online service.” And, these “small pieces of functionality,” as simple and brief as they are, can delight or frustrate us over and over with every interaction. I can think of a situation in which I experienced the feeling of frustration when I had to log into a retail site to access tracking details on my purchase. This merchant’s microinteraction “rule” wasn’t a wise choice because it sacrificed my user experience by adding unnecessary complicatedness. It could have been much easier with an email that contained the shipper’s tracking number linked to the carrier’s site. Read the rest of this post »

Chrome DevTools Features to Help UI Development

In the technology industry, we often take for granted things in our work routine that we do so often we don’t even realize we’re doing them: keyboard shortcuts, program macros or any other “muscle memory” tasks that are second nature to us.  Many a time I have found myself working with a partner or helping a coworker with a bit of code and they stop me with a, “Whoa now, what the heck did you just do?”  For those people I’ve bullheadedly helped without helping, here is a short list of things you might not have known you could do with Chrome DevTools.

Android Debug Bridge

For starters, a few years ago I wrote a two-part article on how to use the Chrome DevTools to inspect and debug webpages from an Android device.  Pretty cool stuff, and useful when developing a responsive web design. Read the rest of this post »

This Post Is Late

Why is time management so hard for this creative professional?

wonderlandrabbitgfairy001_vectorized

Morphart Creation

I wanted to go ahead and get that out upfront. My week for writing and posting was last week, and I have this lovely plan to write and post on a semi-regular basis going forward. Like many of the creative people I work with, however, I find I am not always successful at managing my time to my advantage. Sometimes, I’m terrible at it.

Time management is hard. It isn’t simply that we have busy jobs. We are all tasked with deadlines and responsibilities, often managing multiple internal and client projects at the same time. We have busy personal lives. Many of us have kids, and some of us are going to school or pursuing additional training and education. We have creative pursuits and other interests and commitments, plus bills and home or car repairs and doctor appointments and extended friends and families that need us. We have a life and a professional life, and we generally like them both.

The way we manage our time has something to do with the way we think, as well. The creative mind doesn’t like to simply solve a problem or meet a challenge and be done. Our approach includes the tendency to go beyond problem solving to imagining “what else.” We poke at things, and then peel them back to reveal hidden intricacies. We twist them around, sometimes breaking them, yes, but then putting them back together in a new or enhanced way.

Read the rest of this post »

For Enlightened CIOs, the “I” Stands for Insight

Who’s the most important marketing person at your company? Your CMO? Someone on her team? Maybe your CEO? What about your CIO? While your Chief Information Officer isn’t likely to craft your next campaign, the impact he or she has on customer experience is becoming more direct and more critical every day.

shutterstock_234372760The reason is simple, and it has to do with insight. More and more, CIOs and their teams hold the keys to unlocking the customer understanding that designers and marketers crave. A convergence of trends — abundant customer data, demand for greater insight in defining and managing customer experiences and a growing need to empathize with a wider range of customers — are driving CIOs into the insights business. A question remains, however, in how effective marketing and IT teams will be in working together to uncover customer data and convert it into meaningful actions.

Insight into customer behavior is what separates good customer experiences from bad. Insight drives empathy, a raw ingredient in the effort to humanize technology and harness its brand-building potential. The astute use of customer insight is so vital that we include it as one of seven factors in Perficient’s CXIQ Assessment, our measure of an organization’s customer experience maturity. While every company offers its customers an experience, few understand what it takes to systematically turn customer insight into the superior experiences that lead to increased preference and loyalty.

Read the rest of this post »

Project Off Track? Why Client, Agent and User Balance is Critical

From a PM/AM perspective, we are expected to keep the client happy (fulfill their objectives and vision), be the voice for our internal team and help produce a relevant and useful product while staying on time and in budget. Neglecting one and overdoing the others can cause issues with the overall success of the project, ultimately placing strain on the client relationship and internal morale. Catering to the client only can result in delivering a product solely focused on business objectives. This tends to overlook the user’s satisfaction, delays development and produces a less than successful product. It is our job to figure out what those objectives are and how they translate to the end-user. On the flip side, if we as the agency look out for our sole interests, rogue creativity may result in irrelevancy and dismiss the client’s primary business objectives. There is a balance, but how do we get there?

There was a similar discussion in the book, SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, which sparked my interest on the topic. In software/web development, teams can be overwhelmed with a never-ending list of requirements that become irrelevant and outdated as the project develops, and they tend to serve more as roadblocks. Features become wasteful and not needed. These requirements are gathered at the beginning of the project and are thought to be essential to success. Things change, however, and we must be willing to be flexible.

To get to the overall purpose and desired outcome, we need to prioritize with our clients and internally: what is important, what is a must have, what is a nice to have, and what can get left out all together?

Look at the requirements through the lens of the Kano model, a method that has helped me wrangle in my own grandiose ideas.

Must-be Quality – Expected qualities of a deliverable. (The table stands up – woo hoo!)

One-dimensional Quality – User is satisfied when achieved, dissatisfied if not. (Table says it raises up and down. It does not – boo!)

Attractive Quality – Not expected or desired but a bonus. (Table was also made with recycled tires – cool) If it wasn’t, still cool table.

Indifferent Quality – Neither good nor bad, doesn’t really make much of a difference.

Reverse Quality – Too many features/options, not all customers are alike. (Table can also fold into a sofa, a ping-pong table, a sled and be used as a trampoline. I just want to put my computer on it!)

I’ll never forget a project that was delayed for one small feature that eventually was removed anyway. At the time for the client, they thought it was the make-or-break feature for the site. They had lost sight of their goals which cost them in the long run. (Of course, I tried to stop them, they just wouldn’t listen…LOL)

My Favorite Example of an Indifferent Quality

“Think about it: when was the last time you used Visual Basic Editor in Microsoft Word? …But it’s there, and someone spent time implementing it, but I guarantee you, it doesn’t increase the value of Word by much”

Here are two projects with the same intention (success and increased usage), yet two very different results:

FAIL: Windows 8 Metro UI

windows metro screen

Here is a unique example of having the user experience in mind, so they thought. The Metro worked very well across mobile, tablets and the Xbox interface. The move to PC caused confusion as they forgot to examine what the experience would be like for the user and focused more on the continuity of look/feel between devices. Hidden gestures, a clunky start screen and other usability issues put the desktop user last, not remembering that desktop browsing is still very relevant. It solved the problem for creating the same interface to multiple devices, which is more of a design conflict, not solving a real problem for the user.

YAY: McDonald’s App (Netherlands)

mcdonalds_2

This UX team had great attention to detail on what the users wanted (locations with directions, relevant coupons, favorites, build a meal with nutritional values) while still meeting the business needs. The app had delivered on its KPI’s, impact on sales. 2.1% of all McDonald’s customers brought in a mobile coupon, and there was a 47% increase in spending through upsells using the coupons. On top of that, it was the #1 download in the app store and Google play, downloaded by more than 1 million Dutch consumers, according to UX Magazine.

This thinking can be used throughout the project cycle; there is not one definitive moment that it is more useful than another. Project is off track? Look at where you are in the development cycle. What can be removed? Does it still have the same effectiveness without it? Will it still remain relevant and useful to the user? As we all know, projects are evolving pieces of work and have elements of upkeep to them. Does the product still engage the user? Have the business metrics flat-lined? Are there new technologies/techniques that we have access to now that will make this better? Moral of the story: take a step back from the chaos and reflect on what it is that you are trying to accomplish and how you are trying to get there.

How the Perception of Effort Impacts Content Marketers

People are impatient. They expect a lot of effort to be performed on their behalf, but without seeing that effort they can’t appreciate it, yet they want it all the same. According to recent research, making users wait may create the expectation that what they receive has greater value, and that more effort went into preparing it.

For content marketing professionals, the effort is often unseen; clients give us a directive, then we disappear to mine through data and research, and then construct something. But, for the client the deliverable just appears before them upon completion. This could make our work seem easier than it is, especially if you’re experienced enough to work exceptionally fast. So it becomes vital for us to tell the story of our work, and show our process. Otherwise we are trimmed for scope or left out all together on projects that really need us.
Read the rest of this post »

CSS Pixel Ratio (or “How Big is My Phone?”)

When designing and developing a website for mobile devices, there are many things one needs to consider. Are you using a responsive or adaptive approach? What devices / browsers should be supported? What are the major breakpoints? When trying to answer these questions, we as designers and developers tend to focus on mobile device resolutions as a deciding factor, but one thing that is often overlooked when considering the size of a mobile device is the CSS pixel ratio.

Put plainly, CSS pixel ratio (also referred to as device pixel ratio) is the relation between a device’s physical pixels and logical pixels. Especially with the advent of retina screens, the pixel resolution of modern mobile devices is growing at a fast rate. Consider that the iPhone 3g had a resolution of 320×480 px, the iPhone 4s’ resolution was 640×960 px, and now some phones like the LG Nexus 5 boast a resolution of 1080×1920 px. How is one supposed to design a website for all mobile devices when their screen sizes are so vastly different? That is precisely why the device-pixel-ratio was created. Read the rest of this post »

Perficient Expands E-Commerce Expertise with Acquisition of Zeon Solutions

Exciting News!

Today we announced our intent to acquire Zeon Solutions, a firm specializing in e-commerce, content management, product information management, mobile and digital marketing solutions.

zeon-logo-horizontal-rocket-jpgZeon Solutions is an excellent addition to our team, bringing a unique combination of strategy, engagement and technology services, a proven track record of growth and profitability, an impressive reputation and a strong client roster.

The addition of Zeon Solutions deepens Perficient’s e-commerce expertise and enables us to provide more powerful enterprise digital solutions for our customers. Perficient is better positioned than ever before to help clients effectively address market changes and realize lasting business results.

Additionally, this acquisition increases Perficient’s geographic footprint, adding U.S. market locations in Milwaukee and Ann Arbor, as well as an off-shore delivery center in Nagpur, India. Altogether, nearly 400 consulting, technology, sales and support professionals are joining our team.

It’s an exciting time at Perficient. As our business continues to grow, we see tremendous potential to leverage Zeon Solutions’ e-commerce knowledge, tools and experience, driving more opportunity across the enterprise. I’m confident Zeon Solutions makes Perficient an even stronger consulting partner and solutions provider.

You can learn more about Perficient’s acquisition of Zeon Solutions in our news release here.

Posted in News

QR Codes Rule!

QR Codes Rule…if you happen to live in China, that is.

According to a recent article from Fast Company,

In China, QR codes are everywhere, and most apps have their own QR code readers built-in.

What seems like a pointless piece of technology in the U.S., can be central to an entire infrastructure in another country.

Here’s another example: voicemail.

I’m one of those people who would like to change my voicemail message to say: “Thank you for calling. If you want to reach me, please send a text.” I find the entire process of calling my voicemail and listening to a lengthy message to be a time-waster. I’ll take 10 texts over one voicemail any day. But in China, it’s reversed. Writing and reading Chinese is very laborious. It’s even harder when there are multiple dialects. The solution?

Voicemail.

When creating a technology or determining its usefulness, it’s vital to understand the culture of the people who will be using it. This is true whether you are creating an app for a specific country, a specific demographic or a specific industry.

Great UI design is only great if the end user says that it is, regardless if they say it via text or on voicemail.

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Posted in UX

Why Good Is Not Good Enough: What I Learned at Forrester CX Forum

Last week, I ventured to Anaheim, CA, for Forrester Research’s Why Good Is Not Good Enough conference. I wanted to find out how, in a world of same-day e-commerce, self-driving cars and ubiquitous Wi-Fi, the stewards of the world’s top brands were managing to keep their customers happy.

CXW_Brochure_COVER_finalAcross the two days, mic’ed-up presenters and tweeting colleagues agreed that customer experience (CX) couldn’t be left to chance. Like any business asset, it must be monitored, measured and optimized in accordance with shifting market demands. And now that we’re a few years into the optimizing, we sense that “good” just won’t cut it anymore.

But despite the agreement, two distinct camps emerged; one asserting that as customer demands grow, brands must keep pace by exerting maximum control over experiences, even extending their influence beyond traditional boundaries and into external ecosystems. The other held that doing too much planning and seeking too much control was impractical and unwise. Organizations should instead pursue a more enlightened path of responsiveness, flexibility and empowerment.

So who’s right? Here are my six takeaways from the conference…

#1. Mastering CX is not easy. Forrester VP John Dalton opened with a story of Walt Disney, pioneer of experiences for the pint-sized customer. Despite years of planning and a drive to control every detail, Disneyland’s opening was a near-disaster. On that sweltering day in 1955, throngs of parents and children endured hours-long wait times for rides. Newly paved asphalt melted under the July sun, devouring ladies’ heels. A plumber’s strike deprived the park of drinking water and a gas leak required much of it to be closed. Negative press followed. But Disney stayed true to his vision and eventually things turned around. With this tale, Mr. Dalton seemed to suggest: if Walt Disney had trouble with this customer experience thing, maybe the rest of us should lighten up a bit. As in most situations, progress is better than perfection.

“If Walt Disney had trouble with this customer experience thing, maybe the rest of us should lighten up a bit.” (tweet this)

 

#2. Firms are getting better at CX delivery. Forrester’s Megan Burns took the stage to talk about CX maturity. She reported that the concept of customer experience, which Forrester has tracked since 2007 with its annual Customer Experience Index, has now reached its gangly adolescence years. While great experiences are still rare (hence the title of the conference) truly awful ones are on the decline. Until recently, few organizations knew that measuring their CX maturity was something they should, or even could, do. Now with eight years of data as evidence, she offered three “universal drivers” for CX maturity and loyalty:

  • Make customers feel valued.
  • Resolve customer issues and problems quickly.
  • Talk to customers in plain language.

#3. We’re all competing with the best. Katy Keim of Lithium Social Web spoke about the social media revolution and its impact on customer experience. Noting that “CX = delivery – expectation,” Ms. Keim neatly distilled the challenge to its essence. As customer expectations have become more and more “extreme,” firms find it harder to stay ahead of their customers’ needs. And when it comes to expectations, companies no longer compete only with others in their industries. Instead they go head-to-head with the Netflixes, Ubers and Amazons of the world. These brands have redefined what customers should want, and in doing so, have recalibrated the CX benchmark for every category. Increasingly, firms that fail to live up to these extreme expectations will been seen as “unresponsive.”

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