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.