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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mobile Web UI

There are 3 common business realities for the mobile web:

  • You haven’t even looked at your site on a mobile device.

  • Even if you haven’t created a version of your website for mobile devices, your users are accessing your website from their mobile device. You better find out.

  • You have looked and it’s not pretty. You want to do something about it.

  • It’s not too late to start putting together a plan and apply some tactics right away.

  • You have a mobile web strategy, but your not consistent or optimized.

  • Get some fresh ideas and inspiration by staying curious and exploring the mobile web. Get physical fast, by designing and testing in mulitiple emulations.

    I am working on a white paper that categorizes the 60 Mobile Web Practices into 10 Principles with examples of sites in three formats: web, iPhone and Blackberry. I will post a link to the paper when I get it published early in 2010.

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    Something for Nothing

    In this economy, everyone is asking for more while expecting to pay less. With many of my clients (large corporations) struggling, my clients have taken to squeezing us vendors. They know we will comply or risk losing them as top customer before it all turns around. Being a business woman, I understand and accept this. I am grateful to still have my clients!

    But would you ask your hairstylist to give you a full cut and color for the price of just a cut? Would you do this on the grounds that the stylist needs you to come back to her again in the future and she would rather get a little money than none at all from you? This video shows just how ridiculous that would seem.

    I wonder if my customers realize that if they devalue my business, they may also be devauluing their own.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Designing for Touchscreen

    I am working on a handheld medical device that patients use to manage the therapy they recieve from their implantable device. We explored the designs of other commercial products on the market to set the bar for the types of new technologies, interaction paradigms and gee whiz factors we should include in the new handheld device. We came up with a short list of desirable products and chose to emmulate the interaction paradigms of two well known handhelds: iTouch and Blackberry.

    Since this is a medical appliance and not a cell phone we needed to have some key goals/rules that are unique to the medical device domain.

    Rule #1: Don't kill, maim or hurt anyone

    To accomplish this goal we needed to prevent user error. The key use error identified was unintended actuation or prevent the user from activating features without their intent. We needed to prevent the accidental modification of the patient's therapy when they weren't using it, like when they put it in their pocket or carried it around in their purse. We applied the following design mitigations to prevent the use errors. I call them mitigations because they each have a usability draw back.

      Locking mechnasim - the patient can lock the handheld when they are finished or the system will automatically lock after a period on non-activity, but this means you will need to unlock the handheld each time you want to use it.

      Resistive touchscreen rather than a capacitive touchscreen - the patient uses their finger or other fleshy protruberance to activate onscreen targets, just bumping your handheld into other hard surfaces won't activate the targets, but this also means you need to take your gloves off to make an onscreen request.

      Multi-modal interactions for therapy modifications - the patient makes a therapy adjustment request onscreen and then confirms it with a hardware button keypress. This protects the patient, but may cause interaction confusion when switching between touchscreen and hardware interaction combinations.

      Use target size and target spacing appropriate for patients with movement disorders - we used a 1/2" target with 1/2" spacing, but this reduced the navigation options and information space available on the screen.

    Some other great guidelines for you to use on your touchscreen are available at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT)Accessibility site.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Surgical Task Flows

    I am trying to define a best practice for a surgical procedure to implant a medical device. Here's my approach:

    Step 1: Who?
    What kinds of surgeons and surgical support staff are involved in this procedure?

    What kinds of surgical techniques are they familiar and comfortable with and what will be new or different to what they currently do?

    Step 2: What?
    What products need to be supplied by the medical device company?

    What products would be commonly available for these clinicians, but not supplied?

    Step 3: Where?
    OR or Clinic setting?

    What needs to be present in the environment? (sterile, xray, other tools or equipment needed)

    What might be present that could pose a hazard? (magnetic or other emissions)

    Step 4: How?
    What are the primary activites during the surgical procedure?
    ex: Assess patient condition

    What are the functions within activity?
    ex: Intake patient

    What are the tasks within each function?
    ex: Obtain patient record

    What are the steps within each task?
    ex: Review patient progress

    Note who is involved and where it is done for each task.

    Step 5: Document and Review
    I start all of this in a spreadsheet with the first column being the Activity (high level of what is being done), the second column the Function (sub-activities that may have different goals), the third column Tasks (Short, 1 to 8 words that describe something that has a clear start and end point; performed by only one user/doer), the fourth column Steps(the precise description of how this is performed and the order of how to do it.) The spreadsheet has a bunch of other columns to capture who is performing the Task, what environment the user is in when performing the Task and some other info and notes columns.

    Once I have completed all of the Task Analysis research in the spreadsheet, I create a visio diagram of the draft surgical flow. This is very similiar to the diagrams clinicians use when triaging or diagnosing patients, so I have found this to be a good way to get the clinician involved in helping me to refine the flow and steps when we review and iterate on the recommended surgical procedure. For complex procedures, the flow is per task with each step in it's own box. For simpler procedures, the flow is per function with each task in it's own box. It really depends on where I have the questions and where I think there will be disagreement in surgical approach.

    The National Istitute of Health; MedLine provides videos of surgical procedures. I have viewed many of them in their entirety, but squeamish beware!

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    Products fulfill needs, Experience fulfill desires

    From Marc Gobe, The 10 Commandments of Emotional Branding

    “Products fufill needs, experiences fufill desires. A product or shopping experience, such as REI stores’ rock climbing walls or the Discovery Channel stores’ myriad of “sound zones” has added value and will remain in the consumer’s emotional memory as a connection made on a level far beyond need.”

    Thanks to Kyle for the post that led me to Marc Gobe.

    Experience Days - A unique product/service

    Whether you are looking for an exciting extreme experience like free falling or 4 wheel driving or something more tranquil like spa treatments or cooking classes the Experience Days offereded at Gizoo were fun to browse through when looking for fun vacation ideas.