Inamo restaurant in London is using a new way to attract customers, with the world’s first interactive ordering system using overhead projection technology: an ‘e-table’. The aim of this is to give the diner control over the dining experience.
Diners sit at a table, and rather than use a paper menu, they place their order through a food and drinks menu that is projected onto the table surface. As well as ordering food, diners can change their table cloth, browse food, play games, request and review the bill, look for things to do in London, and order a taxi.
One of the great attractions in Edinburgh is the Zoo, my kids love it. We have been members for five years and spend many days of the summer holidays wandering around. Over the last few years I’ve seen the Zoo marketing develop and on my last visit was particularly impressed by their recent flyers. They have successfully combined maps, plans for the future, members information and all manner of other info into one neat, slick and usable handout.
The flyer is a standard DL sized concertina folded affair but what nicely sets it apart is that it has a built in information architecture and is really easy to use.
The concertina has an offset fold that exposes a small border. The borders show the title of that section and make it easy to find and fold to that section. The borders act in the same way as tabs do within a webpage. They conceal a large amount of information in a small space and provide the user with a quick introduction to the contents.
Having these tabs makes it easy to find the section you are interested in and avoids the problem of either having to open up the entire concertina or folding it up in some weird way to expose the bit that you are interested in.
If the zoo were not a fantastic trip in and of itself, I would heartily recommend popping along just to pick up one of these flyers.
If you’re aware of any similar excellent examples we’d love to hear about them.
Advances in mobile, social media and gaming technologies have moved the field of user experience into almost all areas of our daily lives. This has created a shift away from traditional usability (as you knew it) to the much richer scope of user experience, where users’ feelings, motivations, and values are given as much, if not more, importance than the traditional measures of efficiency effectiveness and subjective satisfaction.
Cob, bap, muffin, barm cake… what do you call it? Chances are it depends on your social background, where you were brought up, and a myriad of other influences over the past years. If you haven’t got a clue what I am talking about by the way they are all terms for things you might stick some cheese or a sausage in to make a snack. Other terms include ‘bread rolls’ or ‘buns’ and there are about 30 or so others in common use in the UK.
If something as innocent as baker’s doughy product has the potential for confusion, misinterpretation, class associations and heated argument (yes disputes are rife – raise the issue with your colleagues and wait for the fallback) then imagine the potential for chaos and bewilderment when communicating more complex propositions across national and international markets…. …this is where good customer research with a reach beyond the confines of London can help
Bunnyfoot has been performing customer research and customer usability testing for the last 10 years. We noticed very early on that there were distinct UK regional differences (over and above other demographic influencers) in people’s responses to the same website – and these differences have profound consequences on the websites’ ability to communicate, persuade and convert. Knowing and acting upon the geographical differences (cultural, social, language, attitudinal etc.) dramatically increases the effectiveness of the end result. This is one of the reasons why we set up 5 offices with usability labs running the length of the UK and why we encourage our clients to look beyond the myopia of London when researching with their customers (it works better if you do – simple as that).
But you don’t have to be locked to physical labs, getting out there in the field and observing what real people do in their own environments is a valuable thing to be doing that can reveal key insights. One problem with this is that it can be expensive. One way of getting there without so much cost is to perform ‘remote usability testing’. This typically relies on screen-sharing over the internet, and with recent advances in broadband penetration it is now possible to run usability tests and observe people in their own homes or places of work (with consent!!) from practically anywhere.
Beyond the UK
When your product or service reaches beyond national boundaries then geographical and cultural differences become even more pronounced. HSBC clearly know this and you will know doubt have seen some of their adverts revealing the different cultural, geographical and socio-economic meanings associated with things like colour, gestures, symbols and language.
It goes beyond this too – we have recently been working extensively across Europe, the Middle East and Asia (and a little bit in Africa) we have uncovered challenges associated with extending online communications across these regions. This includes:
the need for flexible or even completely different interfaces to cope with different languages (e.g. German = long words and phrases, Arabic and Chinese = right to left)
the fact that in some regions the preferred or only way people engage online is via mobile (Africa and Japan in particular)
display advertising and contextual advertising is far more effective than search engine marketing in some regions (e.g. Middle East) because of not just language differences but also cultural differences
‘western style’ minimalist aesthetic design doesn’t work well in China – and again this is cultural and not just because of the character sets used
We, as an agency, need to take our own advice on board to adopt local knowledge to get the best results. Bunnyfoot employs consultants from across cultures and have recently opened an office in Hong Kong to get closer to international differences. When we test abroad we use a network of quality agencies, it just brings that edge of local knowledge that makes the testing run much smoother.
In 2005, here at Bunnyfoot, we carried out an eye tracking usability study; it showed that 79% of people were able to find the 2003 UK gross domestic product using Google.
We carried out a similar eyetracking study in May 2009 using Bunnyfoot’s Mass User Testing approach and found that this had dropped to 37%.
We also compared the performance of Google to the new WolframAlpha search engine where 100% of people got the correct answer. This result is worrying for Google for two reasons:
Google’s algorithms have got better in the intervening years; despite there being significantly more pages indexed on Google in 2009 compared to 2005 Google returns fewer results for the same search string; “gross domestic product UK 2003”. Given more pages to return results from and better algorithms it ‘should’ be easier to find information, not harder.
The general level of people’s Internet experience and expertise has increased since the original study – people ‘should’ be more successful, not less.
WolframAlpha also outperforms Google on three key measures of usability; effectiveness and efficiency and satisfaction. However, the strength of the Google brand dominated WolframAlpha with 100% of users saying that they would recommend using Google to a friend with only 77% saying they would recommend WolframAlpha.
The study is by no means comprehensive; it is based on a single search query and one that favours WolframAlpha’s approach to knowledge management/search, but is does pose an interesting question:
Can Google’s search dominance be beaten by better results and usability or is the brand so strong that people will stay loyal no matter how good the competition gets?
We developed ‘mass user testing’ in response to the real world needs of commercial clients and to combat the deficiencies inherent in the most widely used traditional usability testing methods (we have actually been doing this for about 4 years but formalised it last year).
The key to mass user testing is using large numbers of people rapidly and cost effectively – this is achieved through recruiting people ‘off street’ with the lure of some cash (or other incentive – we are quite creative in this regard) for about 15 minutes of their time.
The BBC news item below shows a report on the UK’s first Internet enabled car – produced and invented by Bunnyfoot in 2000. The car was intended as a demonstration of the essential importance of usability and accessibility … our message got somehow lost in translation in the newspapers and TV shows that ran the story, but it taught us a lot about different communication methods and to always look to the future.
Since then (is it really 10 years ago?) we have produced hundreds of video demonstrations showing usability testing, eyetracking and accessibility in action, our customer experience presentations at seminars and conferences etc, and many will be appearing here in the next few months – but this BBC one was one of our first … and is still a firm favourite.
What is perhaps surprising is that this type of technology and other ‘alternative interfaces’ haven’t really come on that far in the last 10 years– it seemed then (in 2000) that things like sophisticated voice interfaces for all sorts of devices and uses were bubbling just under the surface. In 2009 though you are likely to be annoyed at best, but most probably bemused, by the majority of telephone interfaces (has anyone tried Egg’s?), never mind anything more ambitious. It seems like it should be simple but this type of interface requires just as much research and careful design (perhaps more) than seemingly more complex visual interfaces. I’ll return to discuss this in more detail in a future post.
The point of the Bunnymobile video?
It was meant to demonstrate that usability and accessibility are vital for the interfaces of the future:
the car used software that blind people use to translate web sites into voice = accessibility
and needed to be simple enough so distraction didn’t cause you to crash (amongst other things) = usability
It seems we were right, and they still are important … lots more challenging and interesting work to do though.
After many years of fudging responses to the common question “when are the new global accessibility guidelines coming out?” – I can finally give the the answer – it is today (11th December 2008) see the Press Release and WCAG 2.0 Introduction for more info.
The new standard is called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (or WCAG 2.0), it replaces WCAG 1.0 – the previously recognised global standard which had been in place since 1997 (that’s eons in ‘Internet time’)
What does the new accessibility standard mean for you?
How do you measure the effectiveness of your in-game ad investment?
Do you need to know accurate performance and brand engagement metrics?
It is not just about brand awareness or brand recall anymore, the new era of digital innovation provides us with an array of rich media to communicate with the increasingly cynical consumer. Games offer a huge untapped market with a broader profile than typically assumed. 59% of the UK population (26.5million) are gamers and 45% of those are women! Playing games is not just a nerdy boy thing anymore.