Category Archives: User Experience

User Experience takes hold in NZ

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.

Explaining UX research to my mum just got easier

6 memorable design research projects from 2010When I designed and made things for a living it was easy to explain what I did. People formed a mental model of what I did and pigeon-holed me instantly.

… but when my design career was t-boned by research I became a hybrid. Finding the words to articulate my work became much more difficult.

I soon realised that describing whatever project I was working on was the best way to help people understand what I do.

This works well socially, but I figure that my ‘case studies’ list is the professional equivalent.

2010 delivered a fresh and diverse set of examples, so I’ve updated my UX consulting website with some memorable projects.
…should come in handy when I’m asked … “so, what do you do?”

My answer…  “from a mouse to a medical device, mortgages to meteorology, click here to check out 6 UX research case studies

Oh, and THANKS to y’all who read my blog, I don’t know who all of you are, but wish you a great 2011.

The tip of the User Experience iceberg

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…

Air New Zealand listens to customers. Or do they?

Watch campaign clip on YouTube

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.

Banking on Usability?


This ad from Kiwibank shows a customer turning to rage while checking his balance online   …presumably on a competitor bank’s website.

Banks were one of the first industries to take their services online in New Zealand, so after more than a decade to fine tune their customers’ online experience…

…should user-friendliness really be a point of difference?

An augmented reality-check

Classic lack of end user understanding here from Weet Bix.
A marketing campaign using augmented reality aimed at early teenagers fell at the first hurdle owing to the myopic vision of those who designed the campaign.

Young All Black fans were supposed to hold a card from their cereal packet up to their webcam to experience their favourite player on screen in 3D.  .. all good in theory,
…in practice the promotion involved a lengthy signup, third party app. download and installation plus a browser restart, etc. etc.

Hardly the recipe for a campaign designed to spread by word of mouth.

Trent from Optimal sums it up nicely when he poses the question “did they ever sit down with a 10 year-old and get them to use it?”

Ben Gracewood runs through the ‘experience’ through the eyes of a 10 year old on his blog

… so, why couldn’t the marketing team see it this way?

Design teams make assumptions about their audience, project their own goals and needs onto the project and become too close to their products, losing sight of the big picture.

Usability testing with the target market at an early stage would have identified signup and installation barriers and very likely forced the team to rethink the way the campaign was rolled out. … before it was rolled out. Products are significantly cheaper to correct at prototype stage than post-launch with egg on your face.

Something tells me here that the campaign was pushed through despite its clunky user experience simply because the marketing team were so in love with the concept of augmented reality.

A shame their target market don’t share the love.

Back in Black

Since being back in New Zealand I’ve heard people reckoning we are a few years behind Europe and the States in terms of the acceptance of UX.

I’m back in London for a few weeks, consulting for Flow Interactive, … so if it’s true we kiwis are behind, I’m in an industry crystal ball here.

It’s great to be back in the saddle at Flow, the place where I first heard some of the many acronyms that have proliferated as the industry evolves. (UCD, UX, UE, IA, IXD, CHI, HCI… where do you want to get off?)

All these labels and sometimes glorified job titles aside, in the last few years in London, the biggest change I’ve noticed in the industry is the shift from usability to user experience.

Usability studies are often the first encounter clients have with a User Centred Design process, but these are notoriously carried out too late in the process to be of use. (telltale sign: more ‘oh shit’ than ‘a-ha’ moments)

Switched-on clients have adopted UX as an early strategic tool to gain insight, minimise risk and build competitive advantage.

As clients are exposed to user centred approaches and the results they bring, they aim to integrate UX across their entire product lifecycle. You know they see the true value of UX when they involve UCD in the earliest stages of a project

…Meanwhile ‘user testing’ (another horrific and misleading term) has become somewhat commoditised, seen by some as a ‘tick-box’ exercise routinely built into the development cycle particularly of websites. Usability is no less important, but less mysterious and more self contained.

If this is what NZ has to look forward to, then it looks like we have to push our clients over the usability hump, to see the full value of a User Centred approach
…And stop baffling them with acronyms.

The oldest trick in the customer experience book

Every Tuesday NZ business strategist Lance Wiggs issues ‘Three ways to improve your business’, Last week at number two is ‘Meet your customers’.
This simple advice represents the grass roots of a customer-centric approach to building a great experience for your customers, and competitive advantage for your business.

So, if this approach is simple yet crucial to design and business, why do we have to be reminded?

In the world of retail, gaining customer insight is; there for the taking, known best practice and as old as shops themselves.

In traditional retail, understanding customer behaviour is a matter of key staff keeping eyes and ears open. At base level, switched-on store managers can track and respond to demand and popularity of products simply by watching them fly off the shelf (or not). Front of house employees with their ears ‘on’ can gauge reaction to new product lines and track customer requests to inform potential new products or services.

Online, without face to face contact with your customer, you’re blinded to these insights and opportunities.
…of course web analytics can paint some of the picture, and tracking keywords in your site search can take you closer to the mind-set of your customer…

…but ultimately these aren’t stats or keywords, they are people and  it’s about meeting them, understanding the attitudes that drive behaviours in and around the context of your product or service, and their wider goals relating to what you offer.

This means qualitative research at an individual level. By building empathy with your customers, you can gain valuable insights into their motivations, monitor changing attitudes and expectations to inform vital changes to your proposition. …just like shopkeepers have been doing for thousands of years.

Lance’s timing is good however, as too many online businesses have failed to keep eyes and ears on their customers.  It’s an old and proven approach, and it ain’t going anywhere soon.

Prepare to be disappointed. Customer service in an over-subscribed city

I’m en route to London and am bracing myself for the reality of ‘the nation of shopkeepers’

London shopkeepers’ best intentions to deliver great customer experience are challenged under the weight of the massive demand. With this volume of customers to serve, there’s no time for the personal touch.

And from a shop workers viewpoint, why bother? It’s a constant anonymous flow of customers and tourists you’re very unlikely to see again.

I’ll soon get used to this, lower my service expectation and be delighted if I even get a hello at the checkout. When your sights are set so low, it’s amazing how little is required to make a difference.

In New Zealand, good sales staff will greet you with a smile, look you in the eye and seem genuinely interested. Often you feel like you are the only customer in the shop or on the phone, you have their attention and it even seems personal.

When returning to NZ from a global metropolis I really notice our hometown advantage, and it takes some acclimatising. “why are they so interested when I’m just buying the milk?”

I’m already looking forward to the first few trips to the shops on my return.