Personas: Why is it important to understand your users?

Persona example 1Personas are amazing! If you don’t have them or if you have them but don’t use them (what a waste!) then you’re missing out on a whole host of business benefits. Let’s have a quick look at these before we dive more into what personas are and how they fit into the design process…

Benefits of Personas

  • Company wide understanding of who your users are
  • Deep understanding of customer behaviour and needs
  • Stop everyone in your company from talking about themselves, their friends and family as the user(s)
  • More effective, focussed conversations and business meetings
  • Clearer and better decision making – focussed on user needs and goals
  • Greater empathy with the customer

Enables your design team and project managers to create much better products and services

Where did it all begin?

Personas were introduced in 1998 by Alan Cooper.

At the time he was working on the design of new software and he interviewed some colleagues (possible future users of the software), to collect some ideas to implement in his project. That day, without even realising it, Cooper started to engage himself in a dialogue, play-acting as a project manager, inspired by one of the colleagues he interviewed that day.

Cooper found this play-acting technique was tremendously effective for solving design questions around functionality and interaction, allowing him to understand what was necessary or unnecessary from a user-centred point of view.

Since then, he used this technique to design all of his products, bearing in mind the benefits of thinking from the users point of view. Hypothetical user archetypes allowed him and his clients to better understand the end user in their projects.

What is the personas method?

Using Cooper’s own words:
“You tend to canvas the user community, collect their requests for functions, and then provide them a product containing all of those functions. I call this the sum of all desired features.”

Personas are narrations, stories about imagined characters; they are imagined and described in interaction with the product that is going to be developed (website, device, app, software etc.). Personas are defined in the early stages of the design process and they guide the project team throughout the product development process.
Defining personas is also essential for any consumer research involving the product. To canvas the profile of future users helps in the recruitment of a representative sample of the population for an effective and realistic UX testing session.

Why are personas so important to the design process?

The most important goal of personas is to create understanding and empathy with the end user(s).

If you want to design a successful product for people, first of all you need to understand them. Designing for everyone results in an unfocused goal that will dehumanise the profile of future users. The personas method allows you to draw not just a profile about gender and age, but to dig into the psychology of the imagined character in their interaction with the product.

“Personas consolidate archetypical descriptions of user behaviour patterns into representative profiles, to humanise design focus, test scenarios, and aid design communication” (Cooper, A. (2004) The inmates are running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity)

The power of the narration that typified this method, allows us to create a story that introduces the product in the everyday life of the imagined character. The narration sets goals, creates visibility of problems and potential issues in the user-product relationship.

Personas are a crucial passage in the user-centred design process because they define expectations, concerns and motivations, helping design teams to understand how to design a product that will satisfy users needs and therefore be a success.

People are no longer passive users of a product or a service, but they are actively interacting with it; they are engaged in a ‘conversation’ in which both sides, user and product, are actively asking and responding. Defining personas during the design process helps your team to imagine that conversation.

Designing personas

The story

When designing personas, the story needs to cover the following:

  • Demographic presentation of the character (age, gender etc.)
  • General traits (occupation, interests, hobbies etc.)
  • Psychological traits (needs, motivations, aspirations etc.)

Collection of data when designing personas

The scenario

The scenario is very important for the effectiveness of personas.

Scenarios are imagined situations in which the character interacts with the product. Personas without scenarios have no value, so defining good scenarios is crucial.

The narration of an imagined scenario follows this structure:

  • Setting a problem, a situation
  • Describe the character’s reaction to the problem
  • Define the role of the product in this scenario (e.g. how does the character interact with the product in that situation? Why does the character use the product? With which aims? What are the character expectations of the product?)
  • Resolution of the situation

Personas design-process

Remember, if you want your product to be successful, you have to design it bearing in mind who will use it.Personas design process

1. Collection of data. In the first step, you collect as much information and knowledge about your users as possible. Data can come from many different sources, even from pre-existing knowledge in the organisation. A good starting point is user research to gather insight into your users.

2. Hypothesis. Based on the data collected in the first step, you create a general draft of the various kind of users, including in which ways users differ from one another.

3. Description of scenarios. You create scenarios that describe solutions; possible situations that could trigger the use of the product are described. Scenarios will be used to better imagine user interaction with the product. The story about how the character will use the product is the personas’ ultimate objective.

4. Description of personas. Preparation of a brief description of the typical user, paying attention to user needs, motivations, aspirations and values. It is very important that you add to the narration one of the scenarios created in the previous step. The ultimate aim at this stage is to generate a narration that creates an empathic bond between the imagined person and the reader.

5. Selection of 3-6 personas. The ideal number of personas is limited (too many and you’ll start to lose track of who’s who). At this stage, choose 3-6 descriptions that are the most representative of your typical users. Selecting a limited number of personas allows you to be more focused during the design of the product.

6. Dissemination of personas. It is important that personas defined during the process are shared with the whole project team to provide a shared understanding of your users / customers.

Example persona

Here’s an example of a completed persona:

Persona example 2

Need help or advice?

If you’d like to know more about personas and how they can help you to create a more successful product, contact our UX experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

12 reasons to invest in UX
What is User Testing?

References
The origin of personas (Cooper) – http://www.cooper.com/journal/2008/05/the_origin_of_personas
Persona templates – http://fakecrow.com/free-persona-template/

What is User Testing?

Mobile UX Research Testing

User testing, aka usability testing, user research, UX testing… everyone’s talking about it, all the best companies are doing it, but what exactly is user testing? And why are your peers banging on about it so much?

Why is user testing important?

Because it will save you A LOT of money, make your projects more successful and make you look good for all those new customers you’ll convert at the end of it.

Increase your sales

Whether you’re responsible for e-commerce sales, online conversion or sales of a product there’s a common factor for those that go through regular user testing. They’re more successful, they experience higher and faster growth and the business works better as a whole because everyone understands the user.

Save time and money

A common misconception of user testing is that it will lengthen your design and build process, however, there’s no need for this to be the case. It runs in parallel with other activities. The one way to guarantee adding time and having to increase budget and that’s by not including any user testing in your project. Imagine getting to the end, only to realise that you missed out a crucial piece of the user journey and you’re going to have to rework everything.

Fail fast and fail often

If your new project isn’t going to resonate with customers you want to know that as soon as possible so that you can adapt it and re-test it until you get it right. The sooner you get this insight the better! How soon? You should start at the concept stage and you don’t even need any tangible designs to get your first, most important user feedback. Test everything with your target users.

Improve what you’ve got

Whatever stage you’re currently at (wireframes, prototypes, procrastination…) user testing will always be enlightening to improve what you already have. Identify the main issues, the strengths and opportunities for further enhancement.

Consumer insights, intelligence and evidence

You’re building for an end user, a human being so why wouldn’t you actually observe their behaviour, listen to their feedback and question their expectations? The insights you’ll come away with will help you across your whole business and the changes you’ll need to convince your teams to make will be clearly evidenced by the testing. When conducted by experts, user testing is a methodology and a science that produces behavioural and psychological evidence of the changes that are necessary to meet your customers needs.

Mobile shopping ecommerce ux

When it comes to digital experiences, users are used to being able to do things quickly. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. In recent years we’ve seen big change in the customer mindset, they now expect things to be easy to use and they’re more aware of usability than ever before. Once upon a time people would blame themselves but now they are quick to blame a company for a poor experience with their website, app, software or product.

Usability is a necessary condition for survival and doing user testing is the solution to ensure your costumers with a positive and enjoyable user experience, which will in turn create more new and return customers.

What makes this harder for you is that people no longer read instruction guides and they’ll skip through your very helpful user interface overlays. We know, you put them there to be helpful, but we’re sorry to have to tell you that we see users skip these all the time. Then when they need the help they can’t find it!

There are many things to consider. You need to provide users with all information they need and to allow them to find it as quickly as possible. Most of them will not take the time to look through a website that is not usable. For this reason, ensuring your projects include user testing is a clever time and money saving activity your company would choose.

What is user testing?

User testing is an essential part of the UX design process. It typically consists of evaluating a product by researching it with your representative users (who we recruit). A product may be a physical product such as a kettle, a piece of software, an app, a website or other form of digital interface such as those found in retail stores. User testing when done best, takes the form of one-to-one interviews that are conducted face-to-face by a qualified UX researcher. This research method enables deep information to be gained about your users’ patterns of behaviour, preferences and opinions, in order to implement this feedback for a more successful product. Testing early during the design process allows you to prevent future re-design costs and to launch a user-friendly product. Testing doesn’t require a big sample of participants since the aim of the session is to gather qualitative data. Remote user testing tools are also available and are useful for backing up face-to-face with greater numbers, however they should not be used in isolation unless your budget really does constrict you.

Mobile Usability Testing

In the user testing session, a wide range of testing tools can be involved. Each testing session is tailored on your objectives and the best user research technique is chosen according to your needs.

User testing will generally be task oriented. Tasks will be created in advance and the user will be asked to complete them whilst being questioned by a researcher who will analyse and question their behaviour in real-time. A good researcher will pick up on UX issues as and when they happen, and pursue a relevant line of questioning.

A user test may also include activities to inform structure and navigation, such as card sorting. Typical measures of usability may also be included, such as the SUS rating scale – the official measure of user satisfaction. This is a questionnaire that the user completes to give an overall satisfaction score.

After the testing sessions, our expert will analyse the findings thoroughly and they will provide you with a full range of design solutions.

Are you ready to grow?

User testing gives you deep psychological and behavioural insights from users that will improve not just your user interfaces and products, but also your business as a whole. The more you understand your users, the stronger and more successful you’ll become.

If you’re curious about any of the above and how user testing will help you to create a more successful product, contact our user testing experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Other posts you may find interesting:

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission
What’s the real difference? Face-to-face versus Remote user testing

5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

User research

You’re very busy, in and out of meetings all day, managing projects and making decisions that will create a successful product. You’re managing expectations and dealing with multiple conflicting opinions from stakeholders, everyone has a different idea and vision – perhaps you rely on your gut instinct to make the final decision.

It’s great to have lots of ideas but how do you refine these to those that will really resonate with your users and be a huge success? How do you then build these into successful products? How do you validate ideas and evidence required changes? The answer is user testing.

1. Concept tests

The start of a project is the perfect time to begin research with your target users. Are you guilty of waiting until the build is complete before running your first user test? This is a very high risk strategy. We’ve been called into projects at the last minute to test before launch because concern sets in that perhaps the site/software/app actually isn’t all that great. The initial cost saving of not running any user research in the early stages is not worth it when you’re then faced with the overwhelming cost of redesign, development and additional time to launch, all resulting in potential lost sales.

2. SWOT competitor tests

Did you know you can run a full user test on all of your competitors? This enables you to understand their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your product from a user perspective. The biggest assumption you should avoid making is that they have a good UX. They may well do no user testing, they may not be very good at user testing, they may do it but not interpret and implement the required changes very well, you can’t assume they are better than you you need to find out for certain. You should also include your own site in competitor tests so you can discover how users compare you against them and where you are strong/weak in direct comparison.

3. Features and functionality tests

You have a long list of things you want in the UI. Your stakeholders have their own lists. You all disagree what should be in the UI and which features should take priority. How do you decide? What you need is a user test focussed on determining which functionality and features are important for the user. We use tools to determine what should be included, the priority of importance, user expectations of each feature, where it should be within the navigation structure and interface and much more.

4. Prototype tests

How much time do you spend sat in meetings debating what the UI should look like and where things should go? Forget it. It doesn’t matter what you think, you need to remember you are not your user. Ask your designers to mock up your early wireframes in a prototyping tool. This can then be tested with users. It’s quick, effective and provides you with the peace of mind that your design is progressing in the right direction. Of course, if users respond negatively to it, at least you’ve caught this at a very early stage where alternatives can be mocked up and tested easily.

5. Visual design tests

So you’ve been user testing at the early stages and everything’s gone well, there’s no need to test at the end is there? Wrong. You should always test after the visual design stage. Visual design forms part of the user experience and is crucial to get right. Poor readability, poor CTA contrast, copy, imagery and many other factors can all have a big influence on usability and conversion. Don’t invest in UX all the way up to this stage then blow it on the final hurdle.

What next?

The next step is simple. If you’re curious about any of the above and how user testing will help you to create a more successful product, contact our user testing experts for free, friendly, no-ties advice.

Karen Millen’s Black Friday UX Faux-pas

It’s Black Friday, you wake up, grab your mobile by your bed and have a quick look at your favourite sites to see if there are any bargains to be had before christmas. Going round the shops is for losers, you’re going to be the first one to get the bargains and all in the comfort of your own bed before you’ve even started work. Win!

One of your favourite stores is Karen Millen and you’re excited to see they’ve joined in with Black Friday. It’s promoted on the Home page, however, you nearly missed it because it doesn’t have the usual Black Friday branding and looks just like a normal ad. But you spotted it and that’s what counts.

karen millen black friday

You eagerly click on the ‘Shop now’ text (you do this carefully because it’s very small on your mobile) and land on a page full of items. The large ‘25% off’ text on each item immediately grabs your attention. Fantastic! 25% off!

karen_millen_uxAt first you’re confused. It appears there are are only two jumpers in the Black Friday sale so you go to press the back button but you happen to catch the screen with your finger and the page scrolls slightly. You notice there are actually more items hiding further down the page!

You see a jumper you like so you look at the price and it says £75.00. You look back at the 25% off text and wonder if that means the price is already discounted or not…. There’s no other price on the item (you’re used to seeing a before and after price) and the price isn’t in a different colour so it looks like it might still be the full price. Is it really in the sale?

Hmm… you decide to click on it to have a closer look at the jumper and to see if there’s any sign of a sale price on the next screen. Maybe they just missed it off the previous page. But now it looks worse… the 25% off text has now gone completely and there’s just the one price of £75.00. It doesn’t look like it’s in the sale at all.

karen_millen_black_friday

You’re confused. You like the jumper but don’t know if it’s reduced or not. Is is reduced? Is the £75.00 the reduced price or the full price? You don’t want to risk it so you leave and go to River Island instead.

river_island_home_black_friday

Aha! That’s more like it! River Island screams the magic words 50% OFF as soon as you land on their home page. It doesn’t actually say if it’s a Black Friday sale but who cares, it’s a whopping 50% off and that’s good enough for you!

river_island_black_fridayYou eagerly press to see the items in the sale and land on a page full of cool stuff to wear. It’s really clear to you that these are all sale items because you can see the original prices which are crossed out and replaced with new prices that are also red so you know they’re in the sale. Whoop! Let’s get sales shopping!

Keep It Usable.

Keep It Usable app featured in the papers

If you were sitting down with your coffee on Saturday morning, reading the papers, you may have spotted Keep It Usable. We were featured in an article about a fantastic health app called Clintouch, which has been developed by Manchester University. We are proud to have worked on the design of the user interfaces for this now award-winning app that has subsequently made an appearance at 10 Downing Street to inform the future of how digital technology can improve the nations health.

Clintouch is one of the first apps being prescribed by doctors to patients to aid early intervention. Currently prescribed to patients with psychosis, the app could ultimately save the NHS millions by enabling earlier treatment before a patient becomes seriously ill.

This groundbreaking app has subsequently gone on to win an innovation award and is currently being trialled in NHS trusts in the UK.

Independent research that we conducted with users of health and wellbeing apps showed that there is a great deal of distrust and disengagement with health apps (caused by the quality of apps in the marketplace at the moment). Users want trustworthy apps that are easy to use and will do what they claim to do. Clintouch is hopefully the first of many apps that bridge the gap between patient and doctor and make a real difference to both the NHS an people’s lives.

There is a great deal of scope for health and wellbeing apps to improve our lives, cut NHS costs and improve the relationships we have with our doctors. However, it is crucial that these apps are designed by professionals in collaboration with health experts so they actually work and have a high level of efficacy, otherwise they just join the thousands of health apps already in the app store that are downloaded and never used.

The privacy paradox and how you can use it to increase conversion

The privacy paradox and how you can use it to increase conversionIn the era of Web 2.0, privacy is not only one of the liveliest issues in the debate about consumers behaviour and individual rights, but also one of the most difficult one to solve. Companies want more customer data, customers say they dislike this, yet they freely provide personal data.

Nowadays, the border between private and public is becoming more and more blurred; people are used to sharing their pictures, videos, preferences, personal information, and everyday a huge amount of online data is collected, however, they still appear to be seriously concerned about their privacy and claim it to be an important factor in their online decision-making process. To make things even more complicated, concern about privacy doesn’t in fact match actual online behaviour.

The Privacy Paradox

The privacy paradox is the discrepancy between an individuals’ intentions to protect their privacy and how they actually behave in the online marketplace, it’s the relationship between individuals’ intentions to disclose personal information and their actual personal information disclosure behaviours, which are often very different.

According to several privacy-related studies, the online audience can be divided into three big categories:

1. Privacy fundamentalists: very privacy-oriented and concerned
2. Privacy unconcerned: not at all privacy-oriented
3. Privacy pragmatists: in-between the other two categories

In general, consumers appear to be much more sensitive about the use of their medical, financial, and family information than they are about their product, brand consumption or their media usage behaviour. Why is this? Because things like their medical, financial and family information, when disclosed, can cause potential embarrassment and security problems. People also fear loss of control of this type of information.

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

The conceptual model of disclosure is a theory that states the consumer’s behaviour is influenced by both their perceived risk of disclosing their information and the trust they have with the company.

Conceptual Model of Disclosure

Privacy Paradox Model

In reality, the consumer’s actual behaviour is more highly influenced by trust. This is why people disclose information even when they say they’re really concerned about their privacy.

Privacy Paradox Model

Figure 1 Norberg P., Horne D., and Horne D. 2007 The Privacy Paradox: Personal Information Disclosure Intentions versus Behaviors.

One of the problems is that people have a tendency to over-report their understanding of privacy issues and their willingness to act in order to protect them. There’s a disjoint between users attitudes and opinions and their actual behaviours and experiences online.

This was tested in an “e-commerce experiment” to understand how privacy indicators affect the users decision-making process.

Ecommerce test

Above: Screenshot from e-commerce experiment (Jensen C., Potts C., Jensen C. 2005 Privacy practices of Internet users: Self-report versus observed behavior).

They observed that consumers tend to disclose personal information more easily than they claim to do. What the research highlights is that users self-reported experiences don’t match with their actual online behaviour. What clearly emerged is the importance of “trust-marks” in the interaction between users and digital interfaces.
Trust-marks → factors which may not say anything about the site’s privacy practices, but which are interpreted as such by users.

Users appear to live a “double bind” relationship in dealing with privacy issues on digital interfaces, and this is affecting their decision-making process in purchasing online. The Double Bind theory (Bateson G. 1950) in psychology is defined as a conflicting communication dilemma in which the message doesn’t match with the observed behavior; that causes an emotionally distorted and frustrated reaction in the individual.

Tips to improve trust, acquire more data and lessen abandonment

Here follows some tips that could help interfaces designers in dealing with the paradox, avoiding frustration and consequent abandon in purchasing online.

Visible link to a privacy policy

It has a major effect on purchasing behavior, even though, according to the study, only a quarter of the policies were consulted. In most cases, users had more confidence in a site simply because it had a policy (the impact a policy has is of course more powerful when it is read, but it is not negligible when it is not). Policies are important, not just because of what they say, but because they are there.

Netflights Privacy Policy
• Credit card icons

Even if it does not in fact imply any promise of fraud prevention or privacy protection, consumers find these icons reassuring.

Netflights Credit Card Icons
• Show a contact phone number

Preference for phone information over mailing or email information. Consumers feel reassured to see a phone number to contact the company if any problems occur during the transaction.

Netflights Contact Info
• Development of policy simplifications and standardised indicators

Implement standardized, simple visual indicators for the risks users are exposed to.

It is interesting to note the strong effect policies have despite the fact that users rarely read them. Just having a link to a policy makes a difference. This indicates that in many cases it is the presence of a policy that has a positive effect on users, not its content. Users are looking for “trustworthiness”, not based only on fact but rather on appearance and first impression.

Keep It Usable app wins award and goes to 10 Downing Street

ClinTouch Mobile App

ClinTouch wins Outstanding Innovation award

Designed in collaboration with Keep It Usable, ClinTouch was recently the subject of a meeting hosted by David Cameron’s senior health policy advisor at 10 Downing Street, to consider the impact that digital technology could have in improving the nation’s health. ClinTouch is an easy to use app that provides an innovative new way of supporting people with psychosis, enabling early intervention and significant cost reductions for the NHS. This revolutionary digital intervention, developed by Manchester University empowers self-management for people with psychosis and reduces serious episodes occurring, improving the lives of individual patients and reducing NHS service costs, such as unplanned admissions and A&E presentations.

Significant cost savings for the NHS

Cost savings for the NHS are significant: Earlier intervention services in psychosis have the potential to save the NHS £119m over three years (Schizophrenia Commission Report). The ClinTouch mobile app is an end-to-end digital solution that improves communication and closes the information gap between patient and practitioner. This empowers service users to be more active in their care and recovery. This prevention is aided by utilising real-time data and alerting professionals of significant changes in their patient’s symptoms.

ClinTouch-Screens-Keep-It-Usable

Rich data and analytics

Through the app, users are prompted to record their symptoms and feelings. A unique and bespoke branch of questions then follows ensuring that each question asked is relevant with a graphical bank of user-friendly analytics immediately available for the patient to consider and review. This digital data-log can then be used to help identify any lifestyle or environmental triggers that prompt the onset of symptoms. ClinTouch has been built into an end-to-end system in two NHS mental health Trusts, with summary data accessible at clinical team desktops and streamed into e-healthcare records. If early warning signs for relapse occur, healthcare professionals can act to enable early intervention.

Manchester University, Manchester City Council, NHS, Manchester Mental Health

A cash-less future? Insights from MoneyConf

Having just returned from MoneyConf, we’re feeling incredibly excited about the future of banking, currencies, payments and FinTech. The next 10 years will be a game changer for the banking and payments industries. It will also be a transformational time for consumers who will see the gradual disappearance of physical money, replaced with virtual wallets and mobile payments.

Banks – Innovate or fail

Banks Innovate or fail

However if you work in a bank, you may have more cause for concern than excitement. Where other industries are innovating, some banks have only just woken up to the importance of digital and many are already rapidly falling behind. It’s not surprising when you consider that their major sources of income are based on experiences that are poor for the customer. Yes there is a reason why they don’t warn you when you’re near to going into your overdraft or there’s a higher interest current account that they could switch you over to.

Figures from Harvard Business School predict that based on past statistics, only 8% of the banks around today will still be here in 10 years. Why? Because they will fail to innovate. Innovation doesn’t make the corporate agenda because in good times, ‘there’s no reason for innovation’ and in bad times ‘there’s no money for innovation’. New startups that are more focussed on building technology that helps customers and gives them a better experience will have increased adoption. If banks fail to innovate themselves, they’ll need to look to buying out some of the technology that startups are bringing to the table, or risk being left behind.

Financial services

Mobile will continue to grow

Mobile will continue to grow

However, customers still don’t trust mobile…

Customers still don't trust mobile

Need to focus on Omnichannel

Brands will need to focus even more on the whole customer journey across devices and the physical store.

Need to focus on Omnichannel

Virtual wallets are coming!

This is one we’ve been waiting for. No need to carry cash around with you anymore. No need to even carry cards with you anymore. Mobile payments have arrived and in 10 years time expect them to be fully mainstream. If you’re a purse manufacturer you may want to focus on handbags in the future!

Virtual wallets are coming!

The problem for merchants and consumers will be too much choice.

Too much choice

And customer education, as people aren’t familiar with wallets yet.

Customer education

Mobile payments using NFC

For physical retailers, the future of POS payments will be mobile payments using NFC to make the transaction quick and simple.

Mobile payments with NFC

Contactless payments have grown rapidly over the last few years, with massive growth last year that’s set to continue. With consumers growing used to this new behaviour (if you’re in London you’re even more familiar with contactless through your daily use of the tube) using NFC to pay via your mobile seems to be a natural next step. We can expect those technologies that work alongside the user’s existing learned behaviour to be adopted more quickly and potentially more successfully.

Contactless payments

Digital money is here

Bitcoin. Have you heard of it? Controversial but this digital currency could well be the future. Bitcoin was created in 2009 and behaves just as a physical currency does. It can be bought and sold, transferred to others, it can go up and down in value and it can be used to purchase goods. In the future, we may well be paying for things using Bitcoins.

How Bit coin Works

A cash-less future?

It looks like the future may well be one that doesn’t involve physical cash. Payments will be so easy to make virtually that we may find physical coins and notes gradually disappear. Future generations may only understand money in the form of digits. How do you feel about this?

With the increasing adoption of mobile wallets and mobile payments, we’ll also see the disappearance of card payments and with it, the need to own a wallet.

And beyond mobile payments, expect to see biometrics coming into effect. Can you imagine paying for your coffee using just a scan of your fingerprint? Or your eyes?

Will banks still exist or will peer 2 peer replace them? How will banks innovate to keep up with the rapid technology startups are bringing to the table?

One thing’s for sure, good user experience will prevail.

How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences

Digital platforms and technology allow us to do things quicker and easier. Well, that’s the theory. The reality can often be far from this. How many times have you been looking for information only to give up and visit a competitor site? Unfortunately, badly structured websites and complicated software are all too commonplace. We’ve been spoilt by the likes of Apple and expect this simple, effective and affective user experience across all our interactions with technology.

Customers want experiences “that dazzle their senses, touch their hearts and stimulate their minds” (Schmitt, 1999)

Our relationship with technology affects our emotions and quality of life. Therefore, in order to provide users with positive and satisfying experiences, understanding their emotional responses is a necessity. Experiential marketing assumes that customers take functional features, benefits and quality as a given.

How do we make users like it?

Making users like something is not as easy as you might think. The qualities of physical products, websites, software and other digital media can be classified into two distinct groups (for this we’ll look at the work of Hassenzahl et al. 2000):

1 Pragmatic qualities

Pragmatic qualities relate to practicality and functionality.

Manipulation

Manipulation refers to the functionality and how that functionality is accessed, i.e. the usability. At a very basic level, can it do what it needs to do? A consequence of pragmatic qualities is satisfaction. Satisfaction occurs when a user uses a product or service to achieve certain goals and those goals are met.

Examples of attributes that are typically assigned to websites (and software in general) are “supporting,” “useful,” “clear” and “controllable.” The purpose should be clear and the user should understand how to use it.

2 Hedonic qualities

Hedonic qualities refer to the psychological needs and emotional experience of the user.

Hedonic qualities are divided into three categories:

Stimulation

Users want to be stimulated in order to enjoy their experience with your site, software or product. Rarely used functions can stimulate the user and satisfy the human urge for personal development and more skills. Digital experiences can provide insights and surprises, for example, if after a period of time a feature hasn’t yet been used, the software could inform the user via a quick tip.

Identification

The human need for expressing ourselves through objects to control how you want to be perceived by others. We all have a desire to communicate our identity to others and we do this through the things we own and the things we use. They help us to express ourselves; who we are, what we care about and who we aspire to be. This is why people enjoy using personalisation on sites such as Twitter. Changing our background wallpaper and header image, helps us to express ourselves.

Evocation

Which memories and feelings does the experience evoke?
Evocation refers to the symbolic meanings that the experience has on our memories and our background. The visual aesthetics of a website may remind you of a past experience. For example, a travel website with a background image of a beach, might bring back memories of a past holiday and all the feelings (most likely highly positive) associated with that experience. As we all have different experiences in our lives, what we feel when we look at an identical website will be unique to us, the individual.

It is the combined pragmatic and hedonic aspects that form the appeal and the amount of appeal that a digital or physical platform has. 

Situation

The users’ experience also depends on the context of use. Where are they? What do they need to do? How many times have they used it? Who are they with? How much time do they have to do what they need to do?

The first time a user tries an application, they may experience some confusion and minor issues, leaving with a slightly negative experience. However, when they become more familiar with all the features and how to access them, they will become more emotionally attached to it, and therefore each use becomes a pleasant user experience. This can be problematic within User Experience design as a poor, inefficient interface may be disliked by it’s users but they can be reluctant to change it because they have learnt how to use it. Therefore their perceived effort to deal with the change and the additional learning is deemed greater than sticking with the poorly designed current system.

Designer's and User's perspectives

Which feelings are felt with a good user experience?

The most satisfying user experiences are related to positive emotions such as, enthusiasm, pride, interest and inspiration. These positive emotional responses are all related to the hedonic qualities of the product: for example enthusiasm is connected to the stimulation dimension and pride is related to the identification quality. The hedonic qualities of interactions are those that make us feel  an experience is satisfying.

In contrast, users who feel irritated, hostile and upset experience more pragmatic (usability) and technical problems.

Emotions and user experience: a recent study

Recent research by Tampere University in Finland (Partala & Kallinen) about the emotional aspects of users’ experience highlights how the most satisfying experiences are related to positive emotions, those that fulfil our psychological needs and are more personal to us.

Our sense of time changes with pleasurable experiences

When people enjoy the most satisfying user experiences, such as playing Angry Birds, they typically report feeling not especially hurried and people often lose track of time. In psychology we refer to this as entering a state of ‘flow’. However, when an experience is frustrating and unsatisfying, a moderate level of urgency is felt and time may appear to go slower.

Satisfying experience and psychological needs

Users that have a satisfying digital experience will report emotions connected to the fulfilment of the most important psychological needs:

Autonomy “I make my own choices and decisions”

Competence “I can do this”

Selfesteem “This makes me feel good about myself”

Relatedness “This is connected to my needs”

As supported in the psychological theory of Self Determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the fulfilment of these needs emphasises psychological growth, integrity and wellbeing. An individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness is argued to foster the most high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. So if you want to create engagement or you want to motivate your users, perhaps to change their current behaviour or habits, then you should look to how you can utilise psychological needs.

Understand users and exceed expectations

Nowadays, users are not only looking for efficiency and good usability. What makes the user experience unique and enjoyable is making people feel confident, stimulated and surprised. Connect with your users on an emotional level.

Observing behaviour, analysing and asking users to reflect on their own experiences through user research offers the opportunity to design experiences that satisfy the user’s true needs, leaving them with an experience that exceeds expectations, creates long term engagement, increases brand value and ‘wows!’. People will then use your website or app not because they have to but because they want to.

Why you shouldn’t use one way mirrors for ux research

Why you shouldn’t use one way mirrors for ux research

Do you use one way mirror labs? Do you value research that gets you the best results? Then you might want to re-consider using one way mirrors. Here’s why…

Talking to users is fascinating! It’s something we absolutely love doing despite having conducted thousands of them! When it comes to location, you can test almost anywhere but there’s one place that we advise against, and that’s one way mirror labs.

What is a one way mirror lab?

A one way mirror lab (also known as two way) consists of two adjoining rooms with a mirror between them. One room is used to interview people and the mirror functions as a normal mirror from this side. On the other side of the mirror is the observation room where people watch the research taking place, from this side the mirror behaves as a window, enabling the observers to secretly observe what’s happening in the research room.

The negative consequences for research

We’ve used this setup many times and sat on both sides of the mirror. These are the problems:

Nervous users

As a researcher you are ethically bound to tell the participant that there are observers behind the mirror. However, there is a problem with this and it’s called the Ironic Process Theory or the White Bear Principle. It refers to the human tendency to continue to think about something after being told not to think about it. For example, if someone says to you ‘don’t think about a pink elephant’, it’s the first thing you’ll picture in your head.

Many users will forget about the mirror. There are other users who will interview ok but afterwards they will admit to feeling watched  (which in turn will have influenced their answers). Finally, some people simply do not interview well with one way mirrors. They may appear nervous, glance at the mirror throughout, whisper some answers to you because they don’t want the people behind the mirror to hear any negative feedback, etc. And the mirror is a difficult thing for people to get over once they have a problem with it, because it’s such a huge object in the room and therefore a constant reminder.

Positively biased responses

If you knew there were a group of people watching you behind a mirror wouldn’t you be more inclined to give positive responses and to withhold negative opinions? It’s natural for people to do this, particularly if they are new to research – they’ll be inclined to want to please you.

Sound leakage

Your observers need to be relatively quiet. I’ve seen labs provide headphones so that observers can turn audio volume up without sound leaking into the testing suite.

When two rooms are next to each other, it’s impossible to soundproof them completely. If the observers next door get quite loud, or turn the volume up, the sound can leak into the adjoining room. Imagine if they laugh and the user hears this (yes this has happened). In some labs, the doors don’t close quietly either – this then becomes another reminder to the participant that there are people watching them.

Noisy cameras

One way mirror labs almost always have cameras that can be controlled in the observation room. These aren’t always silent though. You can be in the middle of a really interesting insight with the participant opening up to you, when all of a sudden you hear the dreaded buzz of the camera . Off-putting to say the least and yet another reminder to the user that they are being watched.

Dark, uninspiring observation room where no one speaks

Observation rooms in labs are awful places really. There are no windows and therefore no natural light, the lights have to be turned off (otherwise you can see straight through the mirror) so it’s a dark, dull, uninspiring room to be sat in all day. In one way mirror labs sometimes the observers can be much quieter than in labs without a mirror, because they can see how close the participant is to them. This isn’t conducive to team working and problem solving.

The issue is these are great setups for observing research, especially focus groups, not UX research. If you have a team of designers observing research, the one thing they’re guaranteed to want to do is sketch, but how do they do that well when they’re sat in a dark room? It’s not an environment that encourages team collaboration, makes a team feel energised, inspired and creative. Conversation and teamworking should be encouraged – now’s the perfect time for the team to get together in one place, collaborate and get to work on designs.

Ironically, no one really observes what’s happening through the mirror!

We spend most of our time watching the TV screens, which give us consistent detail, clarity and control. The glass, for all its glamour, doesn’t always fulfil its worth.

In UX research, the most important interaction to focus on is that between the user and what’s being tested, and in this regard you can’t see anything through the mirror, the detail is through the cameras pointing at what the user is doing. Therefore, the majority of the time, observers are focussed on the tv screen – where the action is. Compare it to UX design…if you want the users attention to focus on something you might give it a more central position, make it bigger, put everything else around it. So when the UI is the most important thing for people to observe, why do labs show this on a small tv screen and give the highest visual prominence in the room to the mirror? It’s crazy!

The solution

The alternative, better solution is to use two rooms that have all the same technology to record and observe the user and their interaction but in the observation room, there are TV screens and no mirror. GDS (Government Digital Services) also use this setup which you can see here. Without a mirror, you’ll get better insights from your more relaxed users and the observation room can now be a creative haven. You can turn up the lights, have natural daylight (windows), have dynamic team discussions and work together on sketches and ideas.

It suddenly becomes an exciting and inspiring workshop to turn user feedback into better designs! And this, is the whole purpose of user research.