User Experience means that users experience a product. The most innovative controls and the most fluid animations are useless if the product is not sold and used. As a UX service provider, we have seen many times how good UX not only makes the product a success for users, but also how UX helps a product get to market in the first place. The Return on Invest (ROI) of UX-Design shows the profit or turnover achieved as a result of an investment in UX Design. Where the additional profit / revenue comes from, which other aspects contribute to the ROI and further questions about Return on Invest by UX-Design are answered in this article.
Thinking Out of the Box
First of all: Industry 4.0 has a lot to do with technology, computers, software, machines, the Internet and intelligent data analysis. These relationships are not unknown, but have been decisive in the industry over the last 30-40 years. We remember how the computer (often a 286 AT) pushed the mechanical typewriter out of the office step by step… and with it everything that belonged to that machine at that time, from Tipp-Ex (with the special smell of solvents) to carbon paper and ink ribbons. The first modems followed suit, which “audibly” connected the office with the Internet and data services. And shortly thereafter, discussions started as to whether and who really needed a color monitor: “Honestly? A color monitor? What’s that good for?”
So changes in the way we work / with what we work are not unknown to us – we tend to forget how much the user’s experience with an interactive system has changed.
Reach small and large goals easily and playfully, without being aware of the effort involved. This is a vision that drives researchers and practitioners in various fields of application around the topic of gamification. In this article, I describe how we apply gamification in practice in the Mighty U research project to help children with motor disabilities with therapy.
In the last few years, gamification has increasingly developed into a topic with a strong media presence in the German-speaking world, with which numerous TV reports, newspaper articles and conferences have also been in touch. But Gamification not only received a positive response in the media. We at Centigrade also receive more and more request in the gamification and enterprise gaming area, of which some have already been implemented.
If we are honest, we all are desperately awaiting the future. We are waiting for the next boom, which seems so close but actually didn’t come much closer for the last 5 years. Microsoft’s Fluent Design is one of these developments that promise a brighter future. Will it be able to live up to the high expectations of the UI Designer communities? What can designers, what can developers take from it right now? I took a look at the Fluent Design System and explored it during my work on a first test project. In this article, I’ll share what I learned so far.
Scenario 1 – The Swiss Army Knife
Monday morning, 08:30, a meeting room somewhere on the third floor of an office complex. At the table: several developers, project managers, marketing representatives, and two UX specialists. Their budget for the next three months is secured. The goal of the workshop is to define the first work packages of a long-term plan to revise their entire software and make it more user-friendly. During the workshop, it turns out that there are four work packages in total, with each attending project manager assuming that his or her package has priority. The result is a long dispute which ends in the decision to tackle all packages simultaneously. After burning through the first budgets, the big disappointment sets in – nothing has been finished, no noticable progress compared to the status quo has been achieved. The project is therefore stopped and postponed to an uncertain date.
Scenario 2 – The Top Secret Project
Tuesday afternoon, 14:30, the CEO’s office. In addition to three close confidants of the management, the head of the development team and two representatives of an external UX agency are present. They are planning to develop a new software in the next two years. The project team is confident that the software will be a resounding success, which is why the budget for the entire development has already been assured. The software is developed in-house and after two years, a creatively sophisticated software that has been extensively tested and approved by internal staff is launched. The potential customers did not know about the new development so far, because the management did not want anybody to know something about the innovative product before release.
One year later: The software has been available for 12 months, but only sold once – to a subsidiary. Two years of development have been in vain. The UX agency gets removed from the project, as it has apparently not provided an exciting enough experience for potential users.
Projects like those two exaggerated scenarios are common. A motivated start, a great team – but a frustrating result nobody can figure out. But why is that? What can be done to avoid such situations of frustration and, above all, money sinks?
On December, 12th 2018, I listened to an interview with Dr. Carsten Breitfeld, a world-renowned expert in electric mobility, and the co-founder & CEO of the company BYTON which aims at turning the car into a next-generation smart device. He was a guest at the ‘Der Flaneur’ Podcast (German only), live from the Websummit conference 2018 in Lisbon.
Breitfeld spent the past 20 years at BMW, leading a range of key engineering divisions within chassis development, powertrain development and corporate strategy. Before joining BYTON, Dr. Carsten Breitfeld was Vice President and Head of Vehicle Program i8 of BMW Group.
Listening to the podcast (unfortunately available only in German) you can see his vision of cars becoming basically smart devices on wheels, platforms for services and more. Because as cars become more and more autonomous, people sitting inside of these cars want to be entertained and engaged. This is also where BYTON wants to earn its bigger share of revenue: with services instead of car sales.
“As cars become smarter and autonomous we need a new kind of user experience. Because the question is what are people doing inside the car while they are commuting.”
Motion design, the animation of digital content, has become an essential part of our modern interaction with computers. Wherever you look in modern applications, text boxes fly around, elements pop up and menus shrink as you scroll. UX designers have long recognized animations as an essential building block to increase usability and delight the user.
As a visual designer, I have been exploring this topic for several years now. In my personal experience, the transfer from design to development has proven to be critical. As it turned out, it is not so easy to translate the abstract idea of a movement in a designer’s head into an actual application. The form of transfer and type of specification heavily influence efficiency of implementation. An inefficient translation can be frustrating for both the developers and designers involved. How can this be avoided?
Different designers work differently in integrating motion design into their work. Besides the variety of tools (e.g. After Effects, Protio.io, Kite Composer, Framer, Flinto, Principle), the output can vary from loose scribbles to storyboards to frame-accurate animatics. In order to facilitate the communication between development and design despite all the variables, I present some guidelines and basic considerations for the efficient specification of animations in the UX process.
The subject of capacity planning is often a challenging task in medium-sized or large companies. With a growing number of employees, it can become difficult at some point to distribute them effectively and above all efficiently to task areas or projects. For such a planning a lot of data is used (“Big Data”), which is often difficult to visualize and interpret.
We at Centigrade have been working with new technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and other forms of 3D visualization for quite some time. This opens up completely new fields of application. One of these new fields of application could be the personnel capacity planning with the support of Augmented Reality, or in a further expansion stage also the planning of machines and material. By extending the data visualization from a 2D representation to 3D projections in real space, completely new interaction and design concepts can be applied, allowing the user to explore the data in a natural way. This could not only be more enjoyable, but it would also make more efficient data analysis possible. It would be particularly exciting to also feed the usage data of such planning rounds into the Big Data pool and thus to arrive at predictive capacity planning over time with ever better suggestions. However, the use of the still quite new technology raises questions:
- Can an AR application, unlike conventional desktop solutions, provide more effective capacity planning and efficiently support the HR department?
- What is the added value in terms of usability and utility when using such an application?
- How efficient is this in its handling?
- How do users rate the user experience?
As part of my master thesis I developed a holographic application in the last half year to find answers to these questions – DeepTap. A project report.
What’s with all the hype around AirBnB? Booking.com makes it much more effortless to book your stay and if you are lucky, you can get some insane discounts.
Both apps, or the portals behind them, serve the same user need: „I would like to stay overnight at a foreign location“. However, both have a wildly different mission statement and completely different user interfaces. Resulting from that, they have defined their focus areas totally different. UX Designers who are working with Lean UX or the Centigrade-approach Continuous UX are consistently building their user experience concepts based on a suitable Persona. But if both apps are building on top of the same user need, how can they be so different from each other?
What everyday life teaches us about UX or: how I learned to see the (digital) world with different eyes
Do you remember the moment you first realized that there is something like user experience? Probably not. Only looking back I realized that I already suffered from bad product UX as a young kid. And I bet you did too. I remember big fights with my family members: before every household had an obligatory flat-rate, internet use had to be fought for way harder than today. As soon as I had landed ten minutes of precious surfing time, siblings shouted into the computer room that they had to make the most important phone call of their lives – now! Getting offline for a phone call – definitely very bad UX. I remember my deflation: how can be a cool new thing like the internet be so unfun at times?
This article won’t cover the basics of Design Systems like “What is a Design System?”, “How does it work?” or “Do I need it?” (to which the answer is “Yes”). It will also not cover tool specific topics (Carbon, KSS, Pattern Lab, Sketch, AdobeXD, Invision, UXPin… it is too much). It is a fairly broad overview of the challenges companies have to face, when they try to install a Design System for the very first time.
The main question we usually get from clients, regarding Design Systems, is something like: “How do we create a Design System?”. Or: “We want you to create a Design System for us”. But actually, what this means for us as a service provider is:
“Is creating a Design System enough?” The short answer is: No.
Congratulations, you don’t have to read any further. Now you can go outside and enjoy life. If you don’t like to be outside or if you want to dig deeper, here is the longer answer:
When a small concept turns into a hundred wireframes that quickly turn into a prototype, sometimes the question arises too late: Which tool would have been the right one? In our work at Centigrade, we often consider which tools we can best use to create concepts. As always, this depends on many factors and we decide on different criteria in every project. First, the context matters: Will the concept be directly implemented? Are specifications to be written? Do we do the visual design for the concept or do we hand it off directly to the customer? The decision could also hinge on whether a click prototype should be built, whether a usability test takes place or whether animated transitions between the individual wireframes/screens are prioritized for the project from the very beginning. Finally, customers also may have preferences for tools that they use themselves.
The bottom line is: there is no general recommendation for a particular tool. Still, I want to break down what advantages and disadvantages I see in some of the common tools to help other designers to decide.