Monday, March 07, 2011

2011 Mobile Trends

Most of our clients are trying to find ways to engage their customers through mobile channels.  Mobile strategy professionals are helping clients understand what their customer's need from them in the mobile enviroment.  We define mobile strategies with prioritized feature offerings that scale from the simplest smartphone to the rich interfaces of tablet devices using the most appropriate technology solutions for the client's business and technology infrastructure. 

Don't build what you can re-use and don't build something you can't re-use!  Companies are beginning to take the mobile channel seriously and dedicating multi-million dollar projects to enable content and features for this ever-present customer connection.

If you are serious about understanding what is happening with mobile and what is next on the horizon, I recommend the Forrester article published in January on 2011 Mobile Trends by Thomas Husson and Julie A. Ask with Mark Mulligan, Charles S. Golvin, Ian Fogg, and Annie E. Corbett.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mobile Web will be bigger than IVR

Recent History of Customer Service:
Call centers handle customers virtually --> call centers employed IVR to reduce the number of agent assisted calls to reduce high call center costs --> Customer self-service was added to company websites to reduce IVR calls to reduce user experience complaints that resulted in the IVR calls rolling to the call center

The first user interface I worked on in my user experience career was an application for call center representatives.  I have a special fondness for the customer service profession, since it was there that I first researched, designed and tested an application with end users who were generous with their time and patient with my questions as I sought to understand how to tune the application to meet their needs.

Now customer self service is moving to the mobile web on smart phones.  Astonishingly, more people will have smartphone web access than those who have traditional web access by 2012 or so.  While companies needed to retain IVR because they couldn't count on their customer to have web access, now your customer will expect you to get where they are.  Companies will need to get their services mobilized or lose their customer to the company who is.  People won't blunder along in an IVR system and they won't wait in the Queue at your call center.  They want to do business with you company and they want to do it while waiting for their Tall Americano with room for cream.

Mobile Design Strategies

For those interested in Best Practices for Mobile Web Design, the white paper is available at Perficient.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mobile Web Design Best Practices

I am co-publishing a paper on Mobile Web Design Best Practices.  It should be available in PDF form in the next week or so. 
Comment or send me an email if you would like a copy.

Businesses know their customers are using mobile devices, but many businesses don‟t realize how many and how extraordinary the usage trend is. Savvy businesses want to connect with customers in new mobile channels and will take the time to develop a mobile strategy before doing so. The best practices and design patterns present in traditional web sites are mature and often repeatable across industries, where as, the best practices and design patterns in mobile web are in their infancy and patterns are only beginning to emerge.

The mobile strategy will need to be executed by product designers and developers that understand the business objectives, user goals and context of use. This paper, "Mobile Web Design Best Practices", encourages discovering business and user needs, then applying common interaction design principles when creating a mobile website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ultimate Experience

My customers often ask me to help them create a user experience that meets the needs of all their audiences at the same time.

I have created personalized UI based on user types, roles and profiles. I have created efficient task flows, a multi step process that can be manipulated and entered from anywhere for frequent users, as well as a wizard with helpful text that guides an inexperienced user. Coming up with all these options, views and personalizable experiences costs time and money, causing strains on IT budgets and resources.

SCS Interactive has figured it out.
Ultimate Experience
SCS Interactive Ultimate Experience Products are designed to create one of a kind family experiences. These products bring together the smallest toddlers, their older siblings, parents and even grandparents for a splashing good time.

OK, so maybe they have figured out how to create individual experiences within the concept of a suite of products that work seamlessly together. Oh yeah, we have the same thing in IT. It is called a PORTAL!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SMS Interaction Design Standards (Cont'd)

Continuing the SMS Design Standards...
One Way Messaging
User agrees to let the company send them messages, typically based on some parameter the user has chosen.

Number of Messages
The user should be able to determine how many messages a day they receive from the company. You might want to set some expectation of how many messages will be sent per day, week, or month. (MMA: CCS-09, Mobile Marketing Association Guidelines, 2009)

Two Way Messaging
User sends a request to the system and the system replies with a response. Messages are both received from and sent to members, creating interactivity and a conversation between the user and the company. The best SMS applications promote this interactive experience.

Message Length
160 Characters or less for English language.
Recommendation: Take advantage of short hand when ever necessary, but remain professional. Some media and entertainment sites can get away with using 2 for to, too or two; but most businesses can’t. Other short hands are universally acceptable though. (example SMS syntax will be covered in the full paper, contact me if you would like a copy)

Create a text message glossary specifically for your company that complies with your corporate branding tone of voice.

Longer SMS Messages
Sometimes 160 characters are not enough. If you know the message is going to be multiple messages than number your messages. (1/3): really long message…., (2/3): continuation of really long message…, (3/3): final message. You can’t control the order that users will receive these messages – so they MUST be numbered in a human readable format. Also use a convention at the end of every message, like ellipses (…) to communicate that more messages are coming.

Synchronizing Communication Channels
The most frequent channels used while mobile are phone, IVR, and SMS. Mobile web is starting to be more common but has not become main stream yet. Many companies have tried to create a consistent interaction with users across all channels but specifically focused on Phone, IVR and SMS.

User Privacy and Protection
You need to let the user know:
- They could end up being charged for something. You need to communicate if standard or premium rates apply.
- They can opt-out or stop receiving messages at any time. You need to provide easy ways for people to stop receiving messages and you need to communicate this frequently.
- Their personal information could be at risk. You need to be clear about how secure the information channel is or is not.
- The message has to be clear enough to prevent user confusion or misinterpretation.
- That SMS is not a guaranteed communication channel and that message delivery can not be guaranteed.

Always seek legal counsel to ensure that you comply with user privacy and protection laws. (MMA: CCS-07)

All companies must comply with FCC/FTC regulations and must consider how they could harm the user of the service.

The Healthcare industry must comply with those above while also following additional privacy rules per HIPAA | Title II | Privacy Rule for Protected Health Information (PHI). Each Healthcare industry needs to determine which, if any Personal Health Information (PHI) elements have been deemed acceptable to share via the SMS channel. Some companies have deemed that some words are ok to use; like surgery, appointment, No food or drink after Midnight, etc; but they don’t include the surgery or appointment type. They direct members to the web channel to see their personal health details.

Authentication Methods will be covered next time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

SMS Interaction Design Standards

Your SMS (Text Messaging) channel is just one part of your overall communication strategy and must be coordinated with your other channels. Mobile interaction does not stand alone; rather it leverages other forms of communication including print, email, and web. It is important to understand that SMS is not a guaranteed delivery channel and that critical messages should not use the SMS channel alone. SMS should be used as a redundant or additive service.

The first hurdle is to provide awareness of SMS service to users. Second is to provide education of how to gain access to the service. Third you need to explain to users what they can do with the service and how to use the service.

Your SMS project should include
- creating awareness of the offering (How is it being campaigned?)
- strong call to action that inspires users to use the offering (What's in it for them?)
- education of how to use the SMS channel (Adjunctive and Supportive materials)

The user needs to be provided the company short code to send messages to; this is typically through the web or a mailing. They may also need to be a registered website user if they can manage their SMS service from the web.

As Interaction designers, we need to follow the interaction design patterns present in a command line interface rather than a browser based interface. SMS is a “call and response” dialogue that restricts both dialog components to 160 characters or less. (Asian languages are only 70 chars)

The command line interface expects users to learn the short code and commands to be able to access features as well as the syntax the system is expecting. This creates an efficient interchange but not a highly intuitive one. To aid in this non-intuitive interaction, using patterns and standards will help create a consistent interaction that is more learnable and supportive to the user. Understanding that SMS’s key use error conditions are typographical errors and misspellings, will help you plan for ways to support the user as these conditions are encountered.

I will be publishing a white-paper on this topic. Contact me if you would like a downloadable copy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Truth about Design

Who would have thought that I would be finding inspiration and a message I believe in at Xero, an Accounting Software Blog site?

Matt Vickers, designer/developer, blogs three ideas that I have found to be true as I have worked for and with companies over the last 20 years or so.

1) Applying skins, themes and visual treatments to software is not design.
Slapping lipstick on the pig only makes the pig more appealing at first glance, but it quickly turns to bacon grease when you try to use a poorly designed software application.

2) Inspiration is seen not heard.
People can't tell you what they need. You have to figure out how the current process forces them to compensate for bad software by watching what it takes for them to get their goals accomplished when using the product, software or technology.

3) User stories need to be engaging and tellable.
The scenarios you capture have to eloquently capture user needs and be detailed enough to know when or which of your design ideas will fulfill them.