Live on BBC Business Breakfast and Radio: Why are we so addicted to our mobiles?

If you were watching BBC Breakfast Business News on channel 1 this Monday at around 7.50am you will have spotted our mobile expert and psychologist, Lisa Duddington, talking to Victoria Fritz about why we’re all so addicted to our smartphones and the effect it’s having on our lives. This is because new research by Deloitte confirms that the UK ‘has never been more addicted to smartphones’.

For most people this will confirm something you’ve felt for a while. Just looking around, you’ll have noticed the number of people walking down the street with their head down, engrossed in their digital mobile lives, perhaps you’ve even accidentally bumped into a few of these mobile zombies.

How about you? Do you think you’re addicted to your mobile?

Watch Lisa discussing our mobile addiction on BBC Breakfast (skip to 8 minutes in):

Are you addicted?

It might surprise you to learn that you check your mobile hundreds of times every day. Many of these are micro interactions – a quick press to check the time or to see if you have any unread messages or other alerts.

Our mobile is our constant companion. It’s replaced many other gadgets in our life and the more it replaces, the more we rely on it. It’s now not just a device for calls and texts, it’s our alarm clock that wakes us up first thing in the morning, it’s our sat nav to get us to work, it’s our note pad for reminders, it’s our calendar to organise our day for us, it’s our camera and video recorder to capture important memories, it’s our communication device and our means of accessing the whole world.

The younger generation having grown up with technology are exhibiting the heaviest levels of mobile use. In the generation z research Keep It Usable conducted last year, nearly 40% of young people claimed to use social media and messaging to communicate with friends for more than 6 hours every day. They’re also using ecommerce sites frequently; 27% browse products more than 5 times a day, 14% browse more than 10 times a day! This is a huge opportunity for retailers to convert young consumers using mobile platforms.

Psychology: Why are smartphones so addictive?

So we know we check our phones a lot, but what is it about them that makes us so addicted?

Well, if you think about it, smartphones are designed to get us to check them repeatedly. Every single alert aims to draw our attention to check the device. When we hear an alert we experience a sense of anticipation and even excitement at what we might have received. A new message from a friend makes you feel good and this leads to positive reinforcement, it makes the connection between an alert and the reward (the message) even stronger. This strengthens the connection and behaviour pattern so that it soon becomes a habit.

One of the reasons we feel the need to constantly check our phones is the fear of missing out (FOMO). If we take the example of a message from a friend, it’s very unlikely that we will let that message sit on our mobiles without reading it as it may potentially contain some exciting news or gossip that we feel we must read now or we might miss out!

Or course messages and alerts aren’t always positive like the example described. A lot of the time they’re quite dull and boring – a spam marketing message or a reminder to visit the dentist.  However, it’s this mix of positive and negative, of never knowing if an alert will make you feel great or not that keeps us addicted. This is called the variable reward model and it’s exactly the same model that is used in the design of slot machines. The unpredictability of the reward, the anticipation, the never knowing if the end result will be positive or not, the feel good factor of winning / receiving exciting news keeps us addicted. It is this variable reward model that makes them so addictive.

 

Listen to Lisa discussing why we’re so addicted:

Radio 5 (skip to 20 minutes in)

Radio 5 live

Radio Scotland (skip to 40 minutes in)

Radio Scotland

Nomophobia: What is it and do you have it?

Are you aware of where your mobile is at all times? Do you ever have moments of fleeting panic when you can’t see your mobile? When you leave your mobile at home do you feel anxious and feel like a part of you is missing? If you’ve ever lost or had your phone stolen did you experience high feelings of anxiety or depression? If so, you likely have nomophobia.

Nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) is the fear of not having your mobile with you. It’s very real and is something we’ve probably all experienced at some point in our lives. Unsurprisingly, nomophobia is more prevalent amongst younger people and effects them when they lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.

Nomophobia

How mobile addiction effects our health

One of the surprising and concerning findings from the Deloitte report is that a third of UK adults and half of 18-24 year olds check their mobile phones in the middle of the night. A third checking for messages and a sixth replying to them!

Now to understand the impact of this, we need to look at how the brain reacts to light. Blue light makes the brain think it’s time wake up, red light makes the brain think it’s time to sleep. Blue light suppresses melatonin, it helps with sleep timing and our circadian rhythms. The problem is that this is the same light emitted by our mobile phone screens. Basically, looking at your mobile screen in the middle of the night will make you feel more awake and disrupt your sleep pattern, making you feel much more tired the next day.

Oh and did you know that sleep texting is a thing now? Yes people are now texting during their sleep, posting all sorts of things and not remembering any of it!

 

Fancy switching off?

If all this is sounding worryingly familiar, don’t worry, there are some simple steps you can take.

Try switching your phone off at night time and if possible don’t use it just before you go to sleep – read a book instead and you’ll find you sleep better, waking up more refreshed.

During the day, try not to check your phone as often (it might help to turn it off for a set time), or have set points in the day where you check your phone and email, this will limit the disruption to your daily work.

If you turn to your phone when commuting or when in a new social situation, try putting your phone away and instead notice the things and the people around you. You might notice new things and find you speak with more people, you might even make new friends.

Feeling brave? Leave your mobile at home for a whole day and see if it has a positive effect on your life.

Creating meaningful experiences: an Introduction to User Experience design

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good design fits our needs so well that the design is invisible.” Don Norman 

What is UX?

‘An experience is a story, emerging from the dialogue of a person with her or his world through action.’ (Hassenzahl 2010, pp. 8)

Each person has their own definition of User Experience (UX) so it can be difficult for newcomers to understand what is meant by the term UX. UX refers to the experience a person has and who they feel when interfacing with a system.

Technologies have become progressively more complex as the industry advances and they are embedded into people’s everyday life to such an extent that our experiences are mostly created and shaped through digital devices. What used to be a one-way medium has evolved into a very rich and interactive experience and from this arises the importance to not just test the product but to test the interaction between users and the product. Users’ needs are always changing as they continually evolve their expectation, so continuously testing the user experience of your product is vital to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Working in UX requires many skills, below is just a small subset.

UX design disciplines

What is UX design?

UX design is the process of enhancing the end user satisfaction with a product or service as well as increasing business KPIs (if you have a great UX designer they’ll deliver both). In simple words, UX design is about how to create technology that can fit human needs, solve problems and make life simpler.

The more you understand your users the better you can design a product that is attractive and meaningful. User-centred design (that aligns your design to your users needs) will ensure the design of a successful product and an enjoyable user experience.

A UX designer will ensure a product logically flows from one step to the next. UX design experts study and evaluate the ease of use of the product, the perception of the value of the interface, the efficiency in performing tasks coupled with business needs.

The checkout process of an e-commerce website is frequently evaluated in terms of the user experience because it’s often a major jumping off point when customers are transacting. Testing how easy and pleasant users purchasing something on the website can be utilised to identify the challenges and obstacles that users face.

As human beings, we are all different. What works for one person might have the opposite effect on another. For this reason the aim of UX is to design for specific user groups (personas) experiences, promote certain behaviours and habits; user experiences will be different and unique for every product. The design process must be tailored to goals, values, needs and expectations related to a specific product.

What’s the difference between UX and usability?

There is some confusion around UX and usability; they are often used synonymously, however in reality, usability is a part of UX.

UX addresses to how the user feels when using an interface; it is more related to the overarching process and interaction with the product, whilst usability is about whether a task can be achieved in a satisfactory time and manner. In fact, according to ISO 9241, usability is purely regarded as efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction.

Whereas UX entails everything that effects how a person interacts with something and can include a whole variety of psychological and social factors; social proof, trust, emotions, frustrations and satisfaction. Usability is just one part of UX.

Which research methods are involved in UX?

The methods for researching UX are numerous and they are strictly related to the nature of the research and the final aims of the testing. Each research is tailored to which aspects of the interface is to be evaluated.

Some of the research methods in UX are:

  • One-to-one interviews: gather deep insights from real time behaviour, interaction, personal experiences, opinions and perceptions.
  • Focus Group: this group research method allows the researcher to investigate behavioural patterns and the influence of group interaction.
  • Concept Testing: testing a concept directly with users allows designers to understand expectations about the product and to transform early ideas into more solid concepts that have been adapted for user needs.
  • Card Sorting: used to inform structure and categorisations based on how users perceive them to be. Utilises understanding of the users mental model.
  • Usability testing: is a research method to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction of a product based on empirical evidence.
  • Diary study: this technique gathers deep information about feelings, habits and behaviours across a period of time.

Is the setting of the research important?

The setting of the research is very important – a poor environment can undermine the validity of the test. As in psychology, the success of research is also based on the environment in which it has been run. A comfortable, cosy and natural environment will help users feel relaxed and behave naturally, as if they were in their natural setting: their own home. Keep It Usable pioneered the home style UX lab – our Home UX Lab has a living room design and cosy, relaxed feel to put people at ease and gather deeper insights so you get more value from your research.

Keep It Usable Home UX Lab

What are the benefits for your brand?

Knowing your users and designing for them has a lot of benefits for your brand image, the engagement of your users and on your revenue.

UX design deals with users emotions and feelings and it has long term effects as well as immediate ones. For example, a simple improvement in the checkout process of a website can massively increase the revenue and, at the same time, it will grow loyalty resulting in repeat customers and referrals. If users find the product useful, pleasant and easy to use they will return and use it not just once but whenever they need it.

A positive user experience will make users wonder how they could live without your product!

  • Increase sales and conversion: your user interfaces will be more effective at selling your products and therefore will increase your sales.
  • Improve credibility and trust in the brand: good UX is associated with increased brand appeal and positive brand associations.
  • Decrease bounce rates: people bounce for many reasons. During the UX design process, as many of those reasons as possible will be identified and designed out, keeping people on the site, taking them further down the funnel.
  • Increase visibility (no. of new and return visitors): UX experts are not only looking to increase new customer conversion, but they’re also focussed on improving retention and longer term conversion.
  • Avoid costly redesign: testing the product in the early stages of the design process will avoid redesign costs later and lost revenue.
  • Increase business intelligence and ease decision making: If you understand your customers opinions and needs, everyone in the business will be able to make better business decisions that are more in line with your customers needs. The more user research you do, the more aligned you’ll be with your customers thinking.
  • Better reviews: Online reviews are read by everyone, they’re the word of mouth of the internet and they are trusted because they come from ‘people like me’. Through an increased understanding of customer needs and improving accordingly, you will create a better experience that leads to better reviews.
  • Improve user satisfaction: a satisfying customer experience is related to positive emotions due to the fulfilment of fundamental psychological human needs: self-esteem, autonomy, competence and relatedness (Self-determination Theory, Deci & Ryan). Moreover, the feeling of satisfaction gathered during a positive user experience, will create an emotional and affective bond between users and your brand, as well as a sense of engagement and motivation to use your brand in the future (for more about how to engage with your customers emotions, take a look at ‘How do you feel? Understanding emotions to craft satisfying experiences’).

In the digital era, a website is often the first point of contact that costumers have with your brand. We have evidenced in our research, that first impressions have a big impact on user behaviour and their decision making process. It takes just a few seconds for users to judge if your brand is worth their time; remember that a bad user experience will put them off, undermining their trust in your company and compromising future use of your brand.

Help!

Would you like to evaluate and measure the UX of your website or product?

Do you need help improving your online sales and conversion?

Would you like to understand your customer behaviour and opinions, discovering the whys behind your data?

Do you need to get your business thinking from the customers perspective so you can make informed, strategic decisions to increase sales?

Do you want to improve the quality of your customer research so you get deeper insights and more true-to-life behaviour?

Contact our UX and Conversion experts >

 

10 Reasons from real users: Why is Pokemon Go so addictive?

“Addictive, stupidly addictive. It’s making me feel like I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality which I didn’t think I did before. It’s bad, don’t do it kids!”

This is how one 32 year old described his use of Pokemon Go. In less than a month, it’s become the most successful mobile game in history. It’s already overtaken Tinder and is rumoured to have now reached Twitter growth proportions. Usage time has already beaten other social media apps.

Usage Time: Pokemon GO vs Social Media Apps, US Android App Data: July 8th 2016 : Data by SimilarWeb

Walking around, you’ll find Pokemon catchers of all ages and genders, often in small groups with big smiles on their faces. It seems to appeal to everyone.

But what is it that makes this particular game so addictive? We went out to hunt down Pokemon Go users in Media City, Manchester, to discover what makes the user experience so addictive.

10 Reasons why Pokemon Go is SO addictive?

1 Nostalgia

“I used to play Pokemon when I was younger so it’s just the nostalgia of it I guess and I like that this is the first generation as well so it’s the generation that I know the most”

pokemon_pikachu_misty_pok_m

A crucial factor that has a big role in the game’s success is nostalgia. The game is a real blast from the past. Fans that embraced Pokémon during their childhood in the 1990s are once again indulging in their old obsession. Nostalgia, is a powerful force in luring users to a new but familiar experience (let’s look at what’s popular in the cinema right now.… Ghostbusters… Batman vs Superman…). The adults that once loved the cartoon or played the video game on their game boy, now have the opportunity to re-live those old feelings that make them feel good. To the cries of “gotta catch’em all” people feel happy, they associate the words with their carefree youthful days of no responsibility and lots of fun.

“The only way to deliver fun is to have players feel confident, give them a sense of exploration and connect them socially to others – on those three very important counts, the game looks like it’s succeeded” said Andrew Przybylski, psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Studies on nostalgia show it increases optimism, inspiration, boosts creativity, and pro-social behaviour. Pokemon Go reminds you of the fun things you used to do and the people you used to do it with but it also helps you look forward to more fun times in the future.

2 Meet new people

“I’ve met a few people, it is quite sociable. I was talking to a woman with a dog and she was playing Pokemon at the same time so we were comparing notes, so it is making people interact a bit more I think”

We all have in common the desire to be socially connected and to belong to a group – this is clearly seen with social media. But why?

Throughout our lives, we all go through a complex identity construction process that entails a continuous practice and experience of the self, a role playing and a negotiation with other identities in order to define who we are.

In this regard, sharing and socialising, it is necessary to find the inner self; social media is a unique stage to do this. It offers the opportunity to experience the self in many different ways than in the offline world – through images, videos, avatar, status etc – and in a context where we feel more in control of our actions and of other people’s feedback.

In the same way, Pokemon Go gives you control of the interaction; it has the flexibility to let you play alone, or with other people. The anonymity and the de-individuation that typifies our society makes it challenging to interact and connect with other people in the offline world. The game offers the opportunity to connect with others over a common interest, making it a more spontaneous, low risk interaction.

“Just randomly having little bits of chats about Pokemon, looking at what kinds of Pokemon they’ve got”

Twitter is full of stories about Pokemon Go‘s impact on anxiety and depression, with thousands of people praising the game for getting them out of the house and making it easier for them to interact with friends and strangers.

PokemonGo_anxiety

3 Enhance existing relationships

“Everybody in the office is playing. I think it encourages people to chat to other people. It’s brought us two closer”

Playing Pokemon Go is not just giving people the opportunity to make new friendships, it’s also strengthening existing relationships. A couple of co-workers told us how they’ve become much closer since playing the game together (we caught them playing it on a lunch time walk together), and one mum who was sat with her family told us that the reason she had started playing it was to get closer to her two sons and to enhance their relationship. It was something to talk and laugh about with them, it was something new that she had in common with them.

“My experiences have been very positive. I play it on the bus to work instead of spending that time on social media and comparing my life to all my friends. In the evenings I take my three younger brothers for a walk in the local country park “pokemon hunting”. We’re spending at least an hour, often longer, out there. Only yesterday we spotted and watched fox cubs playing, bats flying over a field catching bugs and sat quietly to watch some rabbits.”

4 Augmented reality

Pokemon Augmented Reality

There’s been a lot of talk about augmented reality and although it’s out there, many apps still do a poor job of creating an engaging experience. It’s often more of a marketing gimmick than a true enhancement to the user experience. Pokemon Go embeds augmented reality very successfully – they’ve turned it into the main feature of the game. Augmented reality is ingrained into the user experience and makes the characters feel more alive. It’s successfully bridged the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

5 Easy to play

Pokemon Mobile App Screens
“It’s a pretty simple game”

“I think it’s pretty intuitive”

The game is really simple and easy to get started, there are no barriers to use. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, you just need a smartphone with a camera and GPS. Crucially, these are technologies that users are already very familiar with. They feel easy. It also doesn’t require much learning. There are no instructions to read and the game is pretty simple to understand, especially if you’re already familiar with Pokemon. In fact all you need to do is:

1 Go outside

2 Walk

3 Find Pokemon

4 Flick a Pokeball to catch it

Repeat

6 Achievement

Achievement is another key factor of the Pokemon Go success.

Achievement and motivation are two strictly related concepts. People need to feel motivated in order to act, and motivation is boosted by achievements. The self-confidence that arises from the achievement of a goal – catching a Pikachu – motivates people to play more and more…and Pokemon Go players are indeed very motivated, to the point of catching Pokemon whilst their wife is giving birth!

The achievement experience is the fundamental mechanism of the entire Pokemon Go game. And it’s such an easy goal to achieve, that you can’t stop yourself. The ease with which the reward comes every time your phone buzzes, alerting you that a Pokemon is nearby, is very basic psychological conditioning.

7 Exercise

“It’s getting everyone out walking. It’s an excuse to get out of the house.”

Catching Pokemon means you have to get out and about, in effect, you have to exercise. It’s well documented that exercise has a positive effect on both the mind and body and that many people find it highly addictive.

“It’s getting everyone to go to parks and stuff so that’s pretty cool”

Dr. John Grohol is an expert in technology’s impact on human behavior and mental health, he says. “The research is really, really clear on this, that the more you exercise, the more it would help decrease feelings of depression,” he says. “It actually works as an anti-depressant and it has a really, pretty strong effect. It’s probably one of the most beneficial things a person with depression can do.”

PokemonGo_depression

Plus, walking around also helps people’s physical health – lose weight and get fitter. All these feel good factors contribute to the addiction.

“Our bosses kids are into it, so he has the excuse of saying ‘do you want to come on a walk and we’ll go and catch some Pokemon’ ”

8 Fun

Pokemon Mobile Outdoors

“It’s simple and it’s fun. You just plod along, it’s something to do on your lunch breaks”

It’s a game and it’s fun to play. You could go for a walk to the park or you could go hunt Pokemon at the park, which you’ll likely find much more fun to do and you’ll probably bump into other players whilst you’re there.

9 Variable reward model

Slot machines are so addictive because they give intermittent variable rewards. Social networks are addictive for the same reason. Pokemon Go uses the same reward model. Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools to ‘hook’ users. Research shows that our feel good hormone, dopamine, surges when the brain anticipates a reward. Introducing variability multiplies the effect, creating a hunting state that activates the parts of the brain associated with want and desire.

The rewards in Pokemon Go aren’t predictable and as you chase that Pokemon there’s also the fear of not catching it: the psychological ‘fear of missing out’ (fomo) coupled with the excitement of the anticipation of catching that Pokemon. It’s the anticipation that often gives us the biggest dopamine hit.

10 Post brexit escapism

The timing of the launch of Pokemon Go couldn’t have been any better. In the UK, half of us still are depressed about brexit, there’s real uncertainty and fear of what’s to come and in the world there’s been numerous terror attacks. A little escapism is much welcomed! Where Brexit divided the UK as a nation, Pokemon Go is bringing us back together.

How do users want to improve Pokemon Go?

Pokemon-Loading-Mobile
Whilst chatting with Pokemon Go users, we also found out what’s annoying them the most – server issues! Everyone said this was the most frustrating issue with the game at the moment. The gyms also seemed to be a little confusing for some people who didn’t really know what they were supposed to do. Younger people wanted more features, more Pokemon and greater access to gyms.

Will the addiction continue?

Analysing the psychology behind the game mechanics and the user experience, we don’t see any reason for the current addiction to decline.

Need help to create an engaging gaming app user experience?

Our UX experts specialise in psychology and designing engaging mobile user experiences that create a sense of flow. Our expertise in mobile interface and experience design goes back to the first ever Ericsson smartphone, so your mobile app is in the safest of hands with us.

Email us now at hello@keepitusable.com for your complimentary initial consultation.

Other posts you may find interesting:

Baby duck syndrome: Why users hate change and what you can do about it
Using the Pareto Principle to improve your user experience

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.

Keep It Usable beat hundreds of entrants to the DADI awards

DADI Awards Usability Finalist

We’re excited to announce that we’ve made it as a finalist in the DADI Awards Usability category for our redesign of KOOTH.com.

Katy Thomson of The Drum told us:

We received over 550 entries this year so getting through to this stage really is a huge achievement. Your work has impressed the panel! You should be very proud of you and your team’s hard work.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with KOOTH, it’s the UKs most successful online mental health platform for young people. KOOTH.com provides online counselling to 10,000 young people with potentially life-threatening issues such as self harm and suicide through to everyday worries at school or home.

Like many pieces of software, it had been designed originally by experts, in mental health and IT. They had a very successful online service and were clearly incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their service. They care greatly for their end users and recognise the importance of an easy to use  and visually engaging platform, so, having heard of Keep It Usable and our reputation, they commissioned us to redesign KOOTH to make it easier to use not just for young people, but also for their counsellors.

3 Kooth Home Signed out

So far, the team have had lots of positive feedback from young people so this is a huge step in increasing the appeal KOOTH has with the target audience as well as increasing engagement with the platform to encourage return use and word-of-mouth referrals.

The results have been phenomenal.

The KOOTH team have also had lots more enquiries and contract wins following the redesign. Feedback from customers and potential customers has been incredibly positive. As well as the UX and visual redesign, KOOTH now incorporates advanced reporting tools that make commissioners lives much easier so they now have the confidence that young people will use the platform and they can easily see the impact and results for their region.

Of course, there’s a huge monetary return on their investment in UX for the KOOTH team. The time saved with the redesigned chat views provides much added value to service users and commissioners based on increased efficiency and effectiveness. The increased appeal to young people should see increased word-of-mouth referrals and increased return use. With the KOOTH team, we wanted to advance the current site to create a place that felt even more young person friendly and remove any existing usability concerns. With new combined chat and case note views, the young person gets even more quality counsellor time. We envisage that with the redesigned and streamlined backend (in collaboration with the team), that less money will be spent on re-training and supporting counsellors in how to use the system.

KOOTH has always been an amazing service for young people, but together, with our combined expertise, we’ve refreshed KOOTH to maintain it’s position as the leader in online mental health for young people and set a very high benchmark.

Hat-trick of client awards for Keep It Usable

We produce user experiences that make people sit up and take notice, that ruffle the feathers of your competitors and attract more customers to your brand. We don’t talk the talk, we walk the walk. Have a look for yourself:

Kooth

Shortlisted: Best User Experience Big Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)

– Estimated 5 fold return on investment in just 1 year.
Increased sales and dramatic increase in enquiries.
– Added value to service users of £300,000 per year.
– Increased staff satisfaction and decreased training costs.

“We’re delighted with our work and our partnership with Keep It Usable”

Used by young people throughout the UK, Kooth was already a hugely successful online counselling platform however it was in desperate need of an overhaul. We conducted focus groups and workshops in schools to uncover insights that enabled us to complete a successful redesign of the frontend UI that young people now love!

We also overhauled the backend system UX for counsellors as they struggled to use the existing complex interface and it was costing the company in re-training and lost productivity. We increased efficiency and user satisfaction – combining multiple views into one to decrease navigation whilst in a counselling session. It meant their clients also received more value for money due to the extra time counsellors were able to spend counselling.

Netflights

Shortlisted: Best Digital Experience – Leisure, Events and Travel. UK Digital Experience Awards 2014 (winner announced in July)

Netflight’s focus on their mobile, tablet and desktop user experience is key to their commercial success. Taking an iterative research and design approach enables us to create ideas and assess our designs with their target audience in the most effective and efficient process. We also go above the standard usability benchmark by applying PET (persuasion, emotion, trust) principles to increase positive user engagement and satisfaction.

Manchester Council

Shortlisted: Best public sector website Big Chip 2014 (winner announced in July)
Winner: Best public sector website UX UK Awards
Winner: Best government website People’s Lovie Awards
Winner: Best home page People’s Lovie Awards

How our research with residents and design recommendations led to an award-winning website

Contact Keep It Usable

A psychologists thoughts on Spritz and the future of digital reading

How do you read these days? Do you read physical or digital books? Have you heard of Spritzing? Here, Lisa Duddington, Digital Psychologist at Keep It Usable, looks at how reading has changed and what the digital future holds.

ux books

“I’m an avid reader, in fact my nickname is ‘the bookinator’. You can normally find me hanging out in the psychology section at Waterstones. For a long time, I just couldn’t see myself ever replacing phsyical books with digital versions. To me, part of the ‘user experience’ is looking through a book case of pretty, colourful covers, picking each one up in turn and leafing through the sheets, breathing in the smell of the paper. Each book is in itself unique, it has character. However, this all changed when I jumped onboard the Kindle revolution. I can now carry hundreds of books with me in my handbag and that’s pretty amazing! However, there’s a new player about to come onto the market called Spritz that will radically change how we all read and could see an end to current eReaders.”

What is Spritz?

Spritz uses a very small interface to present just one word at a time. One letter in each word is coloured red and this is representative of the ORP (Optimal Recognition Point). It’s basically the point within the word that you’re most likely to recognise and therefore read the word optimally.

Have a go for yourself. Focus on the red letter and try to relax, using your peripheral vision to read each word. If you feel like you can go faster, try adjusting the wpm.

spritz 250wpm
spritz 500wpm

How does it work?

With Spritz, your eyes focus in one position, as opposed to having to move to read the rest next words. This is where Spritz makes a huge difference to the speed at which you read. 80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes from one word to the next. Without this movement, you can achieve hugely increased WPM (word per minute) reading times.

80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes.

Although this sounds incredible and I’m sure you’re already thinking about how many books and emails you could now get through in a day, what is questionable is the ability of the brain to process and store this information as deeply.

Information processing

How many times have you had to read and re-read a paragraph of text because you were distracted or you simply needed further understanding? Do you ever pause when reading a book to reflect on what you’ve just read? Does you’re reading slow down and speed up in reaction to the content? All of these things show the limits of Spritzing.

The appeal of Spritzing for many will be in reading easy to digest fiction books. However, non-fiction books are less suited. Our pace of reading is naturally slower when we’re learning, digesting and questioning, making sense of and understanding anything new. We’re also more likely to re-read paragraphs so Spritz wouldn’t really be suitable.

CEO of Spritz, Frank Walden says “If you’re reading Shakespeare, you’re not going to want to do it with Spritz, but with a romance novel, for example, people skim like crazy anyway. They just rip through a book, reading for plot. Are they savoring every word? Probably not.”

Spritz Mobile

Less emotion

One of the downsides of Spritzing is a lack of emotion in the words due to the speed. When we read we naturally tend to subvocalise (we hear the characters voice in our heads). However, when we read at speed we lose the ability to subvocalise, giving less emotion to the words.

More concentration, less control

As Spritz requires the user to look in one place and the words flash quickly, it can feel like it requires increased concentration and focus. There’s a feeling of ‘I can’t look away or I’ll miss a word’. With the constant movement we wonder if there will be any physical side effects, such as motion sickness. Will there be a tendency for users to blink less?

What’s unanswered right now is how the user controls the Spritz. If you’re interrupted, how do you get back to where you were? Whereas in a book you may recall you were about halfway down the page and relocate your position fairly quickly, with Spritz’s one word at a time presentation, this may be time consuming and difficult.

The future of digital

How would you like to read 50 emails in 7 minutes?

This will have some really interesting effects on future digital devices and interfaces. It adds a whole new world of possibility for showing lots of information, quickly, on very small screens. We’re now going through a phase of larger screens but Spritzing could change all of this. Imagine being able to read a whole novel on a bracelet, or check your emails on your ring. It could also be the perfect pairing for Google Glass. Imagine Spritzing within adverts – marketers would be able to show a lot more information within a much smaller space and people would in theory read more of it in a single glance.

Smart watches have struggled to gain mainstream popularity. They’re bulky and don’t really offer anything over and above the smartphone. The small screen poses difficult interaction with the interface, and makes reading things like emails a rather more painful process. Spritz could well be the trigger the smart watch needs to gain mass market popularity.

Spritz on Smartwatch

The possibilities of how this could effect future technology are really exciting! Let’s Spritz!

Manchester City Council named Best Government Website

Manchester City Council wins Prestigious Lovie Award for Best Government Site following research by Keep It Usable

AWARD WINNER! Named the best government site at the prestigious People’s Lovie Awards!

Manchester City Council’s website came top of a public vote as the best website in the government category, and judges also bestowed the website a silver award and shortlisted it in the ‘best home page’ category from a list of more than 1,500 entries from 20 European countries.

With the help of Keep It Usable, we’re proud to announce that Manchester City Council have won their first award for their innovative user-centric website.

‘Unsurpassed in its design and functionality, our new look site has become the benchmark of local government websites, making ease of use the main priority for our users in an era when the internet is  gearing increasingly towards tablets and smart phones.’

Following a review of how people asked for services, reported problems and paid bills, the site was redesigned to be wholly customer-centric. In particular, ensuring the top things people want to do are as easy and simple as they can possibly be.
Manchester City Council stated:

“The website was tested thoroughly by Manchester-based company, Keep It Usable. They asked ordinary local people from a range of backgrounds and ages to perform various tasks on different devices to see how easily they could do things.

The site was also tested by accessibility-experts and organisations representing blind or partially-sighted people to make sure it is useable by everyone.

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said: “This is a fantastic achievement that gives testimony to the quality and success of the new website. That it has been judged by industry experts as one of Europe’s top government sites, while also being voted for by users of the website, is a huge accolade.

“Unsurpassed in its design and functionality, our new look site has become the benchmark of local government websites – making ease of use the main priority for our users in an era when the internet is gearing increasingly towards tablets and smart phones.”

Nik Roope, Executive Chair of IADAS, said: “The re-designed Manchester City Council website has excelled in its category, showing fantastic prowess in digital innovation and creativity. This award is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

Read the phenomenal user feedback the site received upon launch >>>

Lisa’s BBC Radio Appearance

bbc radio manchester

If you were up early this morning and listening to BBC Radio Manchester, you’ll have heard Lisa Duddington of Keep It Usable chatting with Allan Beswick.

Lisa was invited to appear on Allan’s show following her recent success at being shortlisted for 2 women in business awards, the award ceremony of which will be held next week.

The topic of focus for the interview was today’s news as well of course as some discussion of usability, research, tech and women in business.

Allan told Lisa of his own frustrations with websites:
“If I had control of the world… I would require all websites to operate the same way, because when you’re looking for something, looking for a product or a service or whatever, you go to one website, you’ve got to spend ten minutes, quarter of an hour trying to navigate it, you go to another one – it’s entirely different! What’s the point of that?…So many of them are counterintuitive”.
Lisa and Allan also discussed the importance of research, prototyping and usability in a world where you don’t get second chances with customers:
“Lisa: A lot of companies underestimate the amount of research and testing and prototyping that you need to do on anything, be it a hard product or a website or an iPhone app. You really do just need to spend quite a bit of time testing it and researching it with real people, people like yourself, to make sure that it is easy to use and it is going to be a success and that it does meet people’s needs and their wants… What we would do is we would go in and do the research for them so as opposed to just launching something and hoping people like it. We would do research beforehand to make sure that they do like it before you spend all that money on launching a product.

Allan: Because a customer driven away is a customer that never comes back…

Lisa: Exactly! And not only do they not come back but they tell thousands of people on social media not to come back.”
If you missed the show, you can still listen to Allan and Lisa on BBC Radio Manchester’s Allan Beswick show. Just fast forward to 44:30 and 1:17:35 to hear Lisa’s parts.