09 October, 2017

What's the burning problem you want to solve?

The App Story


Want to order books? There's an app for that.

Want to rent furniture? There's an app for that.

Want to make mobile payments? There's an app for that.

Want to tweet while you drive the car? There's an app for that! Remember Tesla? Tesla loves you so much that it supports social media buttons on the car interface

Want to talk to your driver? There's an app for that. Remember Uber? They care so much for your safety that they encourage drivers to chat with you as they drive.

Want to keep the baby busy? There's an app for that too!


The Bot Story

Want to get to the call center analyst faster? There's a bot for that.

Want to converse with an e-commerce company? There's a bot for that. 

The patient wants to talk to the nurse? There's a bot for that too!


What's the burning problem you want to solve?

The world has many problems to be solved. Only few are worth solving. When we think of building a website, an app, a bot or even a robot, we need to ask ourselves three fundamental questions: 

1. Is this a problem that many others have?

2. Is this problem serious enough and worth solving?

3. How often does this problem occur?


How severe is the problem?

Mosquito Bite Problem
Is the problem similar to a mosquito bite? There are mosquitoes, and they do bite people. But doing nothing is a viable option. In few cases, mosquito bites may lead to serious diseases, but those are rare cases in rare places. But, that's only rare. Fixing moquito bites is a 'Nice to Have'. Is this serious enough? May be not!

Shark Bite Problem
Is this problem critical enough that many customers are trying to solve? Are they panicking that they are late to the market? Are they looking at competitors? Are they feeling as if a giant shark is going to eat them up. This is a Shark Bite problem.


"Feature should be a Shark Bite Problem on a Mosquito Scale" ~ Omar Mohout

Products or features must be built based on the seriousness of problems that occur at high frequencies. If we don't solve shark bite problems on mosquito scale, customers move to greener pastures in due course of time.

We live amidst an ocean of websites, apps, bots, robots and what not! Quote the problem and there you are - someone tells you about an innovative app or bot that solves your problem. We believe in a future of screens, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. We believe in a future where every possible technology is stitched into our brain, skin, flesh and appears to work for us. We believe in a world of interfaces. Some problems may go away with interfaces, but most of them can be solved only with meaningful solutions. So, what is the burning problem you want to solve?

Inventor and M.I.T. Media Lab researcher David Rose picks interesting problems and solves them. Take a look.




David or the Screen Guy?

07 September, 2017

Four Ways to Improve Airline Customer


This article was originally published on Linked In


Seth Godin recently wrote an article, Four ways to improve customer service a while ago. Here's how I think, we can apply this concept to improve Airline Customer Service. Read on...

1. Delegate it to your customers. Let them give feedback, good and bad, early and often.

Customers are more expressive today than ever. Given the penetration of internet, even children and teenagers have taken to social media to express dissatisfaction, with certain products or companies. Few airlines don't respond to complaints via email or phone. When a customer tags them on twitter, they immediately connect with that customer to fix the problem. Because the whole world is watching them. Live. Airlines use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to promote their business. Customers use the same media to highlight problems, complain about problems or appreciate good gestures. When one customer does something on social media, hundreds and thousands join them, because they sympathize with the user. This leads to a small complaint or appreciation growing manifold, thanks to the retweets, likes or comments of many other customers, who went through similar experiences with the same airline or some other airline.

The bad thing

In case of negative feedback, the brand value of the company plummets, in a matter of minutes or hours or days - the brand that was built over many years, hits the dust of the ground, with one tweet or post. The companies start wondering what went wrong. Take the case of United Airlines incident. A common seating problem on one of their flights in April 2017 ended with a man being bloodied and dragged from his seat and an already troubled airline earning more bad press. How did it all go so wrong? Firstly, the passenger was treated like a criminal although he paid for his seat. Secondly, the CEO, Oscar Munoz is believed to have defended the airline's action in an official email to his employees that it was the right thing to do.

Overbooking on flights happens all the time. Airlines boost their profit margins by overselling, betting against the number of passengers who will miss their flights. In this case, the problem arose because United decided at the last minute to fly four members of staff to a connection point and needed to bump four passengers to make way for them. One bad thing led to another bad thing that eventually led to the downfall of United Airlines.

The good thing

Users are giving feedback for free. No interviews, no surveys, at zero cost. For FREE. KLM Airline has a dedicated social media team to serve customers. What started as a three member customer support team during the eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallaj√∂kull in 2010 with employee volunteers, grew to 250 employees working full-time by 2015. In November 2014, KLM announced that they made €25m from social media segment alone. These are the fruits for listening to customers all the time and responding in the best possible way.

When things go wrong (and things do go wrong), if companies acknowledge the problem and fix it, customer loyalty only goes up.

"Encourage customer behavior and create a strong customer support system around it. Create an environment where users can give feedback, early and often. This leads to customer retention and loyalty."

2. Delegate it to your managers. Build in close monitoring, training, and feedback. Have them walk the floor, co-creating with their teams.

Technical Managers handling product teams for airlines need to closely monitor customer feedback and work with the development teams to fix problems. Hands-on managers who know about incoming issues in depth can be of great help during problem resolution phases.

App stores are a great source of feedback for airline mobile apps. Products like Appbot, and Gnip help you identify specific problems, as well as problem patterns. They also categorize problems so product teams can learn quickly about which features are performing well and which are not.With individual teams focused on building specific features into the product, technical managers, product managers and relevant stakeholders must keep an eye on customer feedback on app stores and other media to offer timely resolutions. People who run airlines are business people, who need a strong technology hand to support them. Highly capable technology teams need to close this gap, monitor and gather customer feedback and support business teams by acting quickly during disruptions.

3. Use technology. Monitor digital footprints, sales per square foot, visible customer actions.

Every customer who is online, leaves a digital footprint, whether he likes it or not. This footprint can be used to construct the preferences of the customer. Analytics plays a great role in offering humanizing experiences based on customer data and past history. Products need to be coded to capture critical events, actions etc and create patterns around product usage. Products like Adobe Experience Manager, Firebase, MixPanel, Omniture and several others assist products to capture exactly what a customer does as part of his journey. Analytics can identify where users err often, how many times do they abandon the journey and why they do so. This, in turn, can guide the long term vision and roadmap of the products.

Airlines need to have a strong analytics wing that studies customers for several years and months. Data coming out of such analytical research is used to target specific customer segments, push promotional offers customized to their needs, give them what they need it, exactly when they need it. Analytics teams need to work closely with product development, social media, marketing and branding teams to accomplish good customer service for customers.

4. Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward. People like us do things like this. People like us, care.

Back in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano broke out, many flights were disrupted, In particular, KLM Airline was worst affected of other airlines. They did not hike up prices for upcoming flights or seek a penalty from customers for canceled/delayed flights. Instead, they focused on helping customers, who were stranded for many days. They made sure that customers were informed about this natural disaster and they made alternate arrangements for them. This, in turn, re-enforced customer's trust in the brand called KLM.

At KLM, social media teams respond to tweets from customers to book a flight ticket, modify seats, purchase special meals and even search for their lost item. Queries are answered on twitter. In most instances, customers get a response in less than 13 minutes of their tweet or post going public using KLM handle. Payments are made using a payment plugin on Facebook. KLM has built many custom products to enable better outreach to customers.

KLM would never have imagined coming this far, and be profitable in this pursuit. How did this happen? KLM has the best social media team in the world. This happened over a period of 5 years. Good reputation didn't come easy. They worked hard for it. KLM focused on building a Customer Service oriented culture.

Culture plays a key role in how an organization grows over a period of time. Empowered employees go to great lengths to do great work, in turn inspiring their peers. First and foremost thing is to keep employees happy, focused and empowered. Allowing employees to fail, learn and move on is critical to creating an open culture where great stuff gets built.

In the article that he wrote on customer service, Seth Godin quotes,

"You've probably guessed that the most valuable one, the fourth, is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts. It's corroded by shortcuts and by inattention and fed by constant investment and care.
Big company or small, it doesn't matter. There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest…"

How do you handle customer service?




28 June, 2017

How To Educate Mobile Users Using Contextual Tutorials

You heard good things about an app. You downloaded and installed it. You launched the app. You are faced with 7-screen long swipe tutorial that educates you about each and every feature in the app. You hope to remember the features like a memory expert would. Except that, you won't! Mobile app tutorials make or break the app based on their design. Let's take a look at two types of tutorial and which one of these creates a positive impact on users.
 1. Screen by Screen Tutorial

Pulse app throws a big help file called Quick Tutorial educating the user about 4 gestures. The first thing the user does is to 'Dismiss' this screen, due to cognitive overload. As he uses the app thereafter, he struggles to recollect which gestures are mapped to which tasks. In many apps, a quick tutorial is a first-time launch screen that disappears into wilderness forever. Users end up uneducated.
Another example is a static tutorial like the one above. Perhaps, some users take a screenshot and store it. In this case, user's don't just forget the tutorial, but they even forget where the screenshot was stored in the first place. End solution - uninstall the app, reinstall and re-launch the app. Easy. Isn't it?

NO!

Users don't install apps to get a Ph.D degree in How to use your app. They want to accomplish their primary goal, quickly. They are least interested in browsing a 7 screen tutorial on app design features.

Conventional wisdom states that tutorials/static educational screens must be displayed at first launch of the app. Users must go through the learning process (if you are lucky, there'll be a skip option), before proceeding to use the app. This works best in a world where tasks happen in a linear sequence - one task after the other. Sadly, tasks are non-sequential, occurring in a random manner. This leads to remembering features, gestures or ideas difficult.

2. Contextual (Just In Time) Tutorials
A contextual (just-in-time) tutorial is displayed just in time when the user needs it. A contextual tutorial tells the user what is the right thing to do at that moment in time, without referring to the previous or next screen. It provides relevant and necessary information, unlike screen by screen tutorial which throws loads of information at once, irrespective of which flow the user might be using.

Contextual tutorials can be used to educate users in multiple ways:
a. Interactive Tour, One Feature At A Time

Elk is a currency converter app with simple UI. A user can convert a value from one currency to another for whole numbers and decimals. For e.g., a user can seek conversion of 10.35 INR to HUF. This app doesn't show a long tutorial at first launch. Instead, the feature is introduced step by step, the app waits for the user to try the step, understand it and then move on to next feature. Interactive tour works well for complex apps.

b. When Users Commit Errors
When users commit errors, it is common practice to display an error message, educating the user. It turns out, users don't want to be educated. Rather, they love to be guided when they go wrong. On Wego app, when the user forgets to select travel dates during flight booking, a simple action dulls rest of the screen and highlights just the departure and arrival dates, indicating that user needs to enter this data to proceed. This is a delightful way to tell users how exactly they went wrong, where they went wrong and how to fix it. The job is done well.

Users are no longer excited about elaborate onboarding ceremonies before performing their task. They want to setup the app as quickly as possible, complete the task on hand and get out. It's best to think of contextual/just in time education as improving the quality of lives users have by creating delightful experiences for them.

Do you have a contextual tutorial in your app?


08 June, 2017

Top UX Influencers You Need to Know


This article was originally published on Linked In.
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Thus said, Isaac Newton. Thanks to the Internet, I am constantly learning from the work of many great people across the world. This article is a small attempt to introduce you to few giants in User Experience (UX) space. This list is never complete as there are hundreds of thousands of people who are quietly doing their work.
Twitter is a treasure trove of experts in different fields. I frequent Twitter to learn from the experts on specific topics like UX, read about latest trends and apply them to projects based on the context. Many experts I wrote to, responded graciously and guided me. I am amazed and grateful forever, for the great work done by these great people who have generously shared their experience and expertise for free to make this world a better place for all of us. Aspiring UXers and designers looking for inspiration can learn from these UX influencers with a great legacy behind them. The names are in no particular order.
********************************************************
Donald Norman @jnd1er
The founding father of user experience, Donald Norman is credited with coining the term “user experience”. He is one of the world’s most famous UX Designers with @NNgroup. Don Norman’s books are intense, thought-provoking, and showcase his love to create humanizing experiences for users.
Recommended Reading: All of Donald Norman’s books
********************************************************
Luke Wroblewski @lukew
Luke Wroblewski is my digital transformation hero. He is a straight-speaking UX guy with a penchant for all things UX in Web and Mobile. His deep work and advice on building next generation mobile apps are close to none other. True to his Twitter bio, he is truly humanizing technology. Luke is a truly hands-on, highly insightful technical subject matter expert of our times.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
********************************************************
Jared Spool @jmspool
Jared Spool is a UX legend and one of the most influential authority on UX design for almost 40 years. His articles, talks, and workshops give you fundamental insights we need to build great experiences. He emphasizes on overall human experiences while building products. Jared’s thought-provoking satire on his experience of flying United Airlines experiences can air drop you into a thinking pool.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
********************************************************
Steve Krug @skrug
Steve’s best-selling book Don’t Make Me Think was the first book that got me thinking about usability. His books are simple and easy to understand for beginners. His insights on human-computer interactions and user testing are commendable. If you are starting out in usability, this guy’s body of work does wonders for you.
Recommended Reading: Don’t Make Me Think
********************************************************
David Rose @davidrose
David Rose is a world-renowned MIT Media Lab researcher who has built fabulous products with enchanting experiences, as he calls them. The products he has built imbibe subtle human feelings. His products and book are must learn stuff. David is one of the gifted UX artists we have today.
Recommended Reading: Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things
********************************************************
Bill Buxton @wasbuxton
Bill Buxton is a Principal Researcher, Interaction Designer and a relentless advocate for innovation and design. His 2007 book, Sketching User Experiences reflects his love for human values and culture.
Recommended Reading: Sketching User Experiences
********************************************************
Alan Cooper @MrAlanCooper
Rightly called the Software Alchemist, Alan Cooper is the ‘Father of Visual Basic,’ and Inventor of design personas. Alan’s books focus on how not to drive users crazy and keep them sane.
Recommended Reading: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.
********************************************************
Golden Krishna @goldenkrishna
One of the top hands-on designers with a legacy of great UX work at Zappos, Amazon, Samsung, Cooper and now at Google, Golden Krishna is a human-centered designer who is making technology human-friendly.
Recommended Reading: Best Interface is No Interface
********************************************************
I follow many others like Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Adrian Zumbrunnen, Susan Weinschenk, Karen McGrane, Annette Priest, Laura Klein, Ethan Marcotte, Jess James Garrett and a hundred others. I’ll add their information once I have read their books/blogs and learn more about their body of work.
I use the term Expert for a constant learner, a teacher or a guru. With due credits to all great people who claim to be experts as well as those who don’t think of themselves as experts, we need to understand, there are no EXPERTS on any subject or in any field. Every so called expert builds on the knowledge and experience of their predecessors and contemporaries. Making this world a better place to live is the only thing that matters. And many people do that. I express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who share what they know and help others to become better moment by moment through Twitter, books, blogs, and other online/offline forums. THANK YOU!
Guru devo bhava!

22 May, 2017

How to Improve Payment Forms Using Four Interaction Design Patterns on Mobile Devices

This article was originally published on Linked In.




Payment forms are critical on mobile apps, to sell products online. Conventional payment forms have at least 4 input controls — Name on Card, Card Number, Expiry Date, CVV and in some cases, even Card Type — Visa, Mastercard, American Express and so forth. We seek card type although we can detect which type of card it is using first two digits of the card number. We seek detail to this level in the name of providing freedom and control to users.




Typing through each field, by looking intermittently at the card and the payment form to ensure correctness can be a daunting task. Payment form listed above can be simplified by reducing the number of input controls from 4 to 1.




Great! It’s a given that this single input control gathers all the information previously done but in a more elegant and simplified way.

Interaction Design Patterns
Good experience only begins from here — the single input control. Four intuitive interaction design patterns can be used to improve the input experience further.

1. Contextual Keypad
Tapping on the card number field displays a keypad. A lot of mobile apps display qwerty type keypad. The user has to switch to the numeric keypad with few taps to enter the card number.




Reducing the effort required to switch between multiple keypads while entering input is a big relief to users. Displaying a numeric keypad (input type=tel) since.

2. Input Masks
As a user types the card number, after typing first 4 digits, he/she pauses to decide whether to give space or hyphen symbol. The user needs intuitive guidance here on which separators (space/hyphen) to use and how many digits are remaining.




Input mask is the answer. Input mask can be implemented in many ways:
  • Use ‘XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX’ and gradually reveal the input structure as user types along
  • Use real text like ‘Expiry Date’, ‘CVV’ to hint users
  • Auto-populate card logo based on card number as user types first two digits of the card number. This provides feedback to the user that he/she has indeed, entered the right card number.
3. Animation
An improved design pattern for payment forms is to introduce animation using card metaphor by designing a virtual card layout. As a user enters the data, it is auto-populated on the card to give a real card visual experience.




4. Machine Input
Tired of typing input manually? There is a simpler pattern :). The built-in camera on mobile phones can be used to retrieve card information by just scanning the card.




The user doesn’t need to enter card number manually anymore. Many mobile apps are adopting this approach these days [This approach might need intense machine learning algorithms to work with precision.]

Using small/big fingers on small screens to perform input operations can be challenging for many users. Payment forms are particularly risky given the secure nature of operations. Intuitive interaction design patterns listed above can soothe stressed out users by simplifying payment forms to a large extent.
How simple are the forms in your apps?

09 May, 2017

How Linked In Got Skeleton Screens Wrong


A skeleton screen is essentially a blank version of a page into which information is gradually loaded.
Luke Wroblewski introduced Skeleton Screens in 2013 through his work on the Polar app, later acquired by Google. I also wrote a short write-up on Facilitating Better Interactions Using Skeleton Screens last year by applying it to mobile apps.
Following Luke's work and Medium's implementation of skeleton screens for images, Linked In implemented it roughly a year ago. The Linked In team picked few pages/screens for this implementation.

Notifications


















The skeleton screen on the mobile web appears as shown in the screenshot above. The content appears to load in a gradually revealing fashion. It looks neat and clean.

So, What Went Wrong with Linked In Implementation?










Let us consider Notifications screen on Linked In, accessed over a mobile device. There are many additional elements on the actual screen, compared to the number of elements on the skeleton screen. For example, the carousel section, time component and ‘Send InMail’ button are not present in the skeleton screen. The user looks for a 1:1 content mapping which is missing in this case, hence leading to greater confusion.

Can This Be Fixed?
As you might notice, a natural mapping is missing in the Notifications screen.
Mapping is a technical term meaning the relationship between two things.
Consider the steering wheel in a car. To turn the car to the right, one turns the steering wheel clockwise (so that its top moves to the right). The mapping is easily learned and always remembered.

Natural Mapping
Natural mapping takes advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards (Another example - red traffic light means stop; green means go). The human mind is trained for natural mapping. As a result, products, in general, should exploit natural mapping to design enchanted experiences.

Skeleton screens need a worthy implementation. When poorly done, users are put off by the experience rather than feeling joyful about it.

How do you want your users to feel?