A couple of years ago I visited the Eames’ ‘case study house’ and thought I had entered design nirvana.
…Well, it did have a great swing:
Next week I’m heading back to California, this time on a journey into the home of ‘design thinking’
Check out the highlights of the schedule…
I’m heading there with 25 CEOs of Kiwi export companies in the Government-backed Better By Design programme.
Along with a dozen others, I’m playing the role of ‘design integration coach’, helping promising NZ companies to integrate design into their business.
The principles behind the programme borrow a lot from the ‘design thinking’ school of thought popularised by IDEO, and more recently Stanford D.School. Both of which we’ll be visiting.
I’ve always been dubious of ‘design with a capital D’…
In fact, I tweeted not long ago:
“Is design thinking to design what cookbooks are to celebrity chefs?”
I’d love design thinking to be more than just a tarted-up version of taking a user-centred approach to design, beginning with end user insights.
This trip will either fully convert me, or leave me wondering whether it’s another wardrobe for the emperor.
I’ll let you know how it goes…
This month I’m featured in Prodesign mag.
The article harks back to my days designing surfboards and the moment I became ‘hooked on usability’ during a project for Sony Playstation.
It turns out this is the last issue of this magazine after 16 years.
What does that say about design in New Zealand?
…or does it say more about print publishing?
These two snippets make me wonder if a customer focused approach to business and design has truly taken hold here. One’s about Banks, the other Camper-vans.
Banks were some of the first companies in NZ to make a significant investment in usability and customer research, with leading banks improving their online and offline products and services. From internet banking, to call centres and even in-branch experience. Kiwibank even used this as a point of difference.
According to a recent survey, This User Centred approach has paid off.
The up-shot of the study was that ‘Banks provide the best customer service experiences’, with 7 of the top 10 spots in the survey taken by banks.
The survey company concluded that banks were “much more customer-focused” than other service providers
With people changing banks more frequently than ever before, it’s no wonder they are discovering and paying attention to the details which matter to their customers. (Telco’s fared the worst in this survey, but that’s another story)
Oh yes, and the camper-vans.
A coachbuilding firm in industrial South Auckland who build camper-vans are advertising a ‘User Experience Design Manager’ position.
They’re looking for an industrial designer who’ll need to ‘advocate and have a strong end user focus’ with the end result being “unforgettable holiday experiences” for their customers.
Many website design firms pay lip-service to user experience, but here’s a manufacturing company who’s seen the value of UX and is backing it up with budget and action, from a strategic level right down to the factory floor.
Maybe it was osmosis, or maybe there’s an exciting undercurrent of User Experience in the world of tourism and camper-vans.
Either way this is a great sign, and perhaps something to remember when you’re next stuck behind one on a hill.
You know you’ve overlooked basic design research when your customer can improve your product in a few seconds using a pen and some tape.
This is the case with these three payment terminals.
The design usually includes a discreet symbol to indicate which way the card should go through the slot, an interaction that occurs millions of times per day.
The symbol alone doesn’t get the message across, especially when customers have a queue of people behind them and don’t want to look like a goof.
To save time explaining, and customers feeling like idiots, these shopkeepers have removed all ambiguity with a simple message explaining how to insert your card.
It took observation of customer behaviour to improve this interaction, something the designer should have done, not the shopkeeper (who pays for the service).
Last week, for the first time, I saw this.
I like to think that a designer out there took notice of these shopkeeper hacks, then integrated them into the new design.
If your customers could hack the design of your product or service what would they change? and how will you respond?
With technology and the way we consume all types of media advancing at a blinding pace, following changes in behaviours, motivations and expectations of customers plays a critical part in informing and providing a great user experience.
It’s nice to think we kiwis are up to date when it comes to technology and that our media providers are armed with this rich customer insight, but in a weekend radio show some TV folk discussed the future of TV in NZ.
TV3 have this to say:
“TV companies have not yet cottoned-on to the internet generation’s wavelength.
We haven’t caught up with them yet … with their understanding of technology… their understanding of the process.
The world is SO different and I’m buggered if I know how we respond to that”.
mmm, Well …now I’m not so sure.
Remote research brings cultural relevance to usability findings, providing the kinds of insights which can only be gained by being there…virtually at least.
I recently ran some remote website usability sessions for a Kiwi startup whose main customer is in the U.S.A. … sure, ‘isolation breeds innovation’ and all that, but when your customers are on the other side of the world, it’s vital that your product connects with them.
A fun project, but choosing which software to run during the sessions was a headache… There’s a boggling number of services to choose from (25 on this link) and there’s no clear winner.
After some experimenting, I went with Skype and it did the job nicely.
Here are some benefits over paid and more sophisticated software I’ve used previously:
- It’s easy to recruit participants who already use Skype
- Familiarity means no learning curve for you or participants
- No install means no wasting valuable session time setting-up
- Sending links and files is instant with built-in messaging
- It’s possible to make contact with participants prior to the session
- It’s free, so that’s hard to argue with
During the sessions, I was able to video chat with the participant for a while, then fire up Skype’s screen-sharing tool, so I could observe their movements on the website while hearing their thoughts and reactions etc.
Skype’s screen-sharing only works between two computers so if you have clients observing, this will have to be through an external monitor (Make sure they are sitting out of view of your webcam and preferably out of earshot).
The project generated rich insights and shaped the design process moving forward.
I’d definitely use Skype for this again, but would love to hear from anyone who’s used anything else with success.
I also had Adobe Connect recommended …anyone tried that?
During a 9 month project with IDEO, Air New Zealand took a user centred approach to improve seating design for their long haul services. They built full scale prototypes of cabin interiors to carry out design research, evaluating seating and service concepts with real passengers.
The project began in 2007 with a goal of understanding passenger needs during long haul flights. Following extensive interviewing of passengers and flight attendants, a design team built seat concepts from polystyrene and cardboard.
Paid actors, as well as customers sat (or lay) through three hour research sessions simulating the in-flight experience. The actors were included to enhance the sense of realism, in addition to engine noise and full cabin service.
Finding a point of difference is a challenge for airlines. While Qantas’ recent design efforts focussed on the aesthetic, commissioning Marc Newson to add a layer of style to the A380 interior, Air New Zealand choose to tackle the challenge from the customer’s viewpoint, leaving style out of the question until the functionality was humming.
As well as researching the way passengers used the seating concepts, a ‘fresh eyes’ approach was taken when selecting a design team. Air New Zealand opted to work with industrial designers who had ergonomics experience, but were new to airline seating, avoid preconceptions, maximising freedom to take risks and innovate.
A groundbreaking three year project with User Centred Design at the heart, resulting in true innovation based on fresh thinking and real customer insight.
What a dream project.
Some websites provide more of an experience than others, but the number of web agencies and even individuals who offer User Experience in their list of ‘services’ indicates there’s a chunk of lip-service being paid to what has become an almost industry-specific buzzword.
Although many techniques and approaches to UX have been honed and made popular during online projects, if New Zealand businesses associate User Experience only with making a well considered website, the power of taking a user-centred approach will be diluted and practitioners risk limited uptake from business in the design/research/strategy of their other channels and customer touch-points.
There’s so much more ground to cover and value to offer away from the web and I hope I’m not alone in my ideal that businesses and organisations should involve customers in the planning and design of all facets they interact with, on and offline, physical and virtual.
Tell me I’m not alone…
A UK based Air New Zealand campaign highlights the attitude and friendliness of cabin crew as something uniquely kiwi. The idea for the campaign was apparently inspired by a passenger’s tweet;
… but given that the tweeter is a London-based digital marketing consultant who’s own website has a page of “10 reasons why you should engage your customers in an online conversation”
…I’ll let you be the judge of how genuine this is.
Customer blogs and tweets about your product can act as a great barometer of how your customers perceive your product or service.
With most airlines competing on price, this campaign shows Air New Zealand as being responsive to customer feedback, and focused on the in-flight passenger experience.
When you look at the dozens of touch-points involved in a travel experience; research, planning, booking, in-airport routines, transfers and accommodation details that sandwich the actual flight, it can almost dwarf the on-board component of the passenger experience. Especially for short flights.
An Airline I worked with in the UK carried out an ‘Experience evaluation’ seeing and measuring the entire process through a customer viewpoint; from the inspiration to take the trip, right through to uploading your photos when you’re home. By identifying which of the touch-points work well and which ones frustrate passengers, these airlines can identify ways to improve the passenger experience.
This ‘personality allowed’ campaign is aimed at long haul flights where the actual flight is likely to be the memorable aspect, hopefully blanking your memory of the queues at immigration and perhaps even something worth shouting, or tweeting about.