March 12, 2014

Welcoming Iris Classon!

We are very happy to welcome Iris Classon in the IdentityMine family. She’s a C# Microsoft MVP! Starting immediately, Iris will work on our projects and bring her creativity and her dynamism to the team. We’re so excited to have her here. Check out her blog article about this exciting change.

May 14, 2013

Cohort Analysis and Maximizing Investment

So you’ve already created your value stream map with the purpose of capturing the customer journey as well as defining which specific activities add value. This is a very important step, as a negative or bad experience at any point in the stream can result in customer dissatisfaction, loss of revenue, undermining of your value proposition and potential negative brand impact.

Optimizing the experience and journey is needed to maximize customer value, reinforce value propositions, generate positive return on investment (ROI) and be profitable. After this, you must determine which of your efforts are working (and which is not) so that you can best use the resources that you have.

Cohort analysis is the process of comparing the behavior or defining a common element between two or more groups of people within a defined period. As we know, each group has a set of defining characteristics, such as when they became customers. Once these groups are defined then it’s possible to begin building reports and creating comparison reports/ analysis.

The process is as follows:

  1. Define your business goal/ question to make sure that it aligns with business objectives
  2. Define the set of metrics that you want to evaluate to offer insights
  3. Define cohort groups
  4. Perform the analysis

In order to help determine true causation, it will also be helpful to consider items which may be influencing changes.

  1. Your business: Changes that you have made internally that could affect customers. Examples include technology not functioning as it should or overburdened team members.
  2. The outside world:  What external forces could impact customer experience? Examples include the release of new platforms with easier access to new capabilities or economic or competitive landscape changes.

The main benefits to consistently performing cohort analysis include constantly finding ways to better improve the customer experience, making sure that resources are being invested in the right areas, and maximizing ROI (both economically for the company as well as what is being offered to customers.)

Are you interested in maximizing your ROI and improving the customer experience throughout your applications and other touch points that customers have with your brand (such as user interface for external facing tools)? We can help with that! Contact us to learn how or to toss around ideas.

+ IdentityMine on personas

+ What is Cohort Reporting?

+ Using Cohort Analysis to Optimize Customer Experience

+ Contact us

April 19, 2013

A short history of Natural User Interfaces

A guest post by Marcus Ghaly

Nissan Kinect for Windows

Kinect for Windows in Action

When computing moved from inputting punch-cards to using keyboards in the 60’s and 70’s, a revolution in computing took place.  Governments, businesses, universities, and research institutes began doing large scale computation, statistical analysis, and built the early networks like the ARPA Net, which would eventually become the Internet and World Wide Web.

When we shifted again from text-only interfaces to Graphical User Interfaces, or GUI’s, in the 80’s a larger change happened.  The mouse, keyboard, and GUI allowed the computer to become accessible to everyone, found its way into the home in the form of a desktop computer, and it eventually became unthinkable to run a business without computers and the massive boost to productivity they brought.

Today we are at the beginning of the next revolution, moving from Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s) to Natural User Interfaces (NUI’s).  We are a highly mobile, data rich and highly social society, and so the desktop computer no longer serves our needs.  We use mobile phones, tablets, and conference-table sized touch screens to stay connected, meet our needs, and accomplish our goals. But NUI is more than just using your finger to tap buttons instead of clicking a mouse. Technologies like Microsoft Kinect are even able to interpret our body’s movements and gestures, to better suit our needs and lifestyles.

At IdentityMine, when we make Natural User Interfaces, we custom-build experiences to fit our client’s needs, allow users to easily interact with large amounts of information through voice, touch, and body movements and create elegant designs that are inviting and engaging.  We identify where business goals, user needs, and technology overlap, and create experiences that are unique, playful and ultimately feel natural. Interested in seeing what we can do for your business? Contact us or check out some of our past projects.

+ Contact us

+ Watch the video on the Nissan Pathfinder Kinect experience

+ See our portfolio

February 13, 2013

10 Steps for Awesome Speech Recognition User Interface Design: Part 2

Xbox voice recognition

Are you SURE you want a pie? Credit: CBSi

Speech Recognition is now an integral part of many applications that we interact with on a regular basis and so designing clear and easy to use applications are vital. In the previous post we covered the discovery, persona development and layout of the application. Below we’ll cover how to make your application work well.

6. Error Handling

Mistakes happen and the result can be a very frustrated user. Reasons for users not being understood correctly include background noise, accents, interruptions or speech that isn’t recognized by the application. You must determine how the application will handle this. Will it transfer users to an operator after a specific amount of errors? Will questions be rephrased and asked back? Will the system give prompts? Will there be a verbal confirmation if an answer is accepted or will the user be advanced to the next step without notification?

 7. Design Grammars

This corresponds mostly to applications that are using directed dialog input. Grammar is defined as ‘a structured list of all the words and phrases that a user is expected to say at any given time.’ Designing grammars clearly involves working with a designer, programmer and possibly speech expert to essentially create a structure for potential human behaviors in the application usage scenarios. Remember that the more answers that are accepted at each step, the less accurate the voice recognition can be but all options should encompass what the most likely user responses would be.

8. Refine Prompt Language

One of the last steps is to decide upon the prompt language: what the users are being told by the application. Good prompts will mirror what a user is likely to say and help encourage them to say phrases or words that can be understood. While striking a balance between prompts being too short and too wordy a good technique is to employ prompt tapering. This is when the user is given a shorter set of options initially but if they are unable to provide a recognized value, then the application prompt expands and gives more information the next time.

 9. Tune the Speech

The UX designer should be heavily involved in the process of testing and tuning the speech for both application prompts as well as user entries. As there are many ways to say different things, the application must account for and help set users up for success.

 10. Consistently refine and update

Your work isn’t complete once the application is initially released. Continuous iterations and improvements will help create a useful application that caters to the needs of your users, no matter the size or scope. Make sure that the internal support and buy-in is in place in order to ensure consistent updates and attention for your application.

Did you know that IdentityMine has designed 10 applications for Xbox as well as several for Kinect? We’re experts at designing user experiences that work for you and your users. Voice Recognition is only one of the many tools that we use when creating the application that’s perfect for you. Contact us to learn more about our work or to bounce ideas off of us.

+ Contact Us

+ Read UX Magazine’s suggestions for creating a high quality experience

+ Read UX Magazine’s speech recognition primer

February 6, 2013

10 Steps for Awesome Speech Recognition User Interface Design: Part 1

Speech recognition engine

The big three! Image: MSDN

Speech Recognition is one of the most important new features and technologies that needs to be considered when focusing on user-centered design. Voice/speech recognition is now mainstream and ranges from frustrating experiences (tried navigating a credit card “customer service” phone tree lately?) to incredibly helpful (have you tried the Kinect’s voice recognition yet?)

Well-designed user experiences are extremely important when it comes to voice recognition, as there is a much higher chance for users attempting to say phrases or words that aren’t recognized or cause errors. This can create a bad user experience and reflect negatively upon your brand. It can also place an additional burden upon live customer support if they are receiving lots of frustrated communications.

Speech applications can also present a very linear experience where users cannot easily backtrack or change their mind after making a choice. Ensuring that dialogue, prompts, and grammar are well-constructed and developed will help make this experience as positive as possible for the user.

Here are the first five steps to help ensure a high quality experience.

1.       Determine Goals and Requirements for the System

Engaging in a careful discovery process on what it will take to make your application truly successful.  The process can help you determine the questions that you need to ask and what needs to be included in the application, in order to decide upon target user groups, functionalities and interactions. (One method is to create personas.)

2.       Choose between Natural Language and Directed Dialog

What you think of first may not be what your neighbor would think of first. With only a limited number of potential actions for your users to take, you want to make sure that their intentions are recognized correctly. While a natural language application creates a more human-like interface experience, it can be a much more complex to design and can carry a higher risk of errors. If the application has a limited scope focusing on a clear set of actions, directed dialogue is often a better choice.

3.       Choose the Application Persona

During the discovery process, make sure to define any brand or personality requirements for the application. Remember that whatever is selected as the voice of your application (and by extension your brand) reflects on you.  So be sure that you are prioritizing usability over novelty. It is also important to consider where and how an application will be used, for example navigating a car GPS system versus ordering takeout, to direct the language and flexibility of the application. Also keep language and cultural differences in mind as well. One size doesn’t fit all.

4.       Map the Voice User Interface (VUI) Structure

Have a plan! After doing your initial rounds of discovery and approach planning, it is time to build some skeleton wireframes. This information can be conveyed well using graphical wireframes and flow charts. This is especially important when determining the fastest way to help the user accomplish their goal.

5.       Finalize the VUI Design

According to UX Magazine, by this point in the process you should have:

  • Clear sets of requirements, goals, and use cases/user stories.
  • A decision on whether or not the application will support natural language.
  • Guidelines about the application’s branding and personality requirements.
  • Skeletal flow charts indicating the basic paths through the application.

The framework for the application is completed now by filling in and refining details. This is the time to circulate your design to any necessary stakeholders and incorporate their feedback. Don’t proceed from this stage until you have identified what each user can do at each specific step in the application.

Stay tuned next week for the final five steps to ensure a high quality experience with your speech recognition user interface design.  IdentityMine helps businesses rethink the way that they communicate with their customers across multiple digital touch points. Interested in learning more about our take on voice interaction? Want to see how we’ve incorporated it with our Windows Phone, Xbox and Kinect applications? We’d love to tell you about it so contact us!

+ Contact Us

+ Read UX Magazine’s suggestions for creating a high quality experience

+ Learn about Kinect Voice Recognition

+ Kinect for Windows Tutorial

+ Cocktail Party Techie Term: Personas