Archive for the 'Tips' Category

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

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

January 23, 2013

Cocktail Techie Term: Affective Interaction Design


Emotions, emotions, emotions!

When performing interaction design, it is vitally important for designers to be aware of key elements within their interfaces and designs that influence emotions in users. Interaction design, often shortened to IxD, is the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.  It is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of the people who will use the product.

Throughout the process of interaction design, designers must be aware of key aspects in their designs that influence emotional responses in target users. In today’s finicky and demanding consumer market, the need for products to convey positive emotions and avoid negative ones is critical to product success. Affective Interaction Design takes aspects of positive, negative, motivational, learning, creative, social and persuasive influences into consideration in how they shape the application.

One method that can help convey such aspects is the use of expressive interfaces. In software, for example, the use of dynamic icons, animations and sound can help communicate a state of operation, creating a sense of interactivity and feedback. Interface aspects such as fonts, color palette and graphical layouts can also influence an interface’s perceived effectiveness. Studies have shown that affective aspects can affect a user’s perception of usability. Using expressive interfaces, especially through dynamic logos, animations, sounds and other forms of feedback, can convey the sense of positive progress and interactivity.

If it’s not easy to use and doesn’t make sense, then the end user won’t have a positive experience, no matter how robust the content is. Do you want us to make sure that the emotions and feelings that users have after interacting with your application are the right ones? Call us! We’d be more than glad to take a look. You might also be interested in looking at our portfolio to see some of our work with natural user interfaces.

+ View Interaction Design Foundation’s video series on Affective Interaction Design

+ View our portfolio

+ Contact us

January 17, 2013

10 Design Challenges of the Mobile Web – Part 2

Beat fat finger syndrome

Beat fat finger syndrome through user experience design!

Is this year ‘the year of mobile’? Every year, for the last five years, you’ll find that the answer is the same: YES. According to Smashing Magazine, some of the considerations that apply to mobile web are similar to designing desktop websites — with some additional mobile-only considerations that go hand-in-hand with small screens, device features and constraints, and connectivity issues.

  1. Connectivity issues and slow download speeds. Not all mobile users are using 4G! An offline mode isn’t normally expected by users, but lost connections should still be handled well. Download speeds can be very slow for some users, especially if they are using older devices or are on a mobile EDGE network. Your site should still be usable and make sure that extraneous information is as minimal as possible. For example, restaurants probably should not require users to download entire pdf’s to view the dinner menu.
  2. Slow hardware. This point really builds on the last one.  Poor experiences with page loads and transitions/animations may end up forcing your user to exit the site before they can even view your content. Try some deferred JavaScript execution and hardware accelerated CSS animations along with good programming to help combat this.
  3. Distractions and interruptions. Let’s face it—real life happens and provides plenty of distractions and interruptions, both digital and physical. Making sure that your user can return to your site, and find it in the same state that they left it in, will help maintain user experience context and encourage them to continue interacting with your site.
  4. Inappropriately sized images. Simply trying to scale down a full size image from a traditional website with much more screen real estate to a mobile version that supports nothing close to that can lead to images that look more like inkblots rather than the compelling image that is intended. Solve this by not using overly complex images (especially in thumbnails) or not providing images any larger than thumbnails. Do not forget your logo as well!
  5. Smaller screens. The average desktop design currently is 1024*768 compared with current phones that are a fraction of that. A miniaturized version of your current desktop site only leads to zooming in and out, therefore breaking the user experience. There are two options to combat this. First, you can design specifically for multiple screen sizes. Second, create a single website that caters to all devices, mobile or not.

Are you interested in increasing and optimizing your digital touch points or taking your site mobile? IdentityMine can help you create only opportunities for your business through our extensive experience in user interface and experience design. View our portfolio to see what we’ve done for others and contact us to see what we can do for you!

+ View Baymard Institute’s research

+ Bryan Rieger’s discussion on designing for multiple screen sizes

+ Smashing Magazine discusses User Centered Mobile Design

+ Contact us