Tag Archives: design

A positive customer experience served with a dash of milk

Harris + Hoole coffee cup

If you’ve read my blog before you might have noticed that I’m a huge fan of Foursquare for discovering new places and Tuesday afternoon was no different. I had just met a friend near London Bridge and I really fancied a coffee so I opened up Foursquare on my phone and searched for nearby coffee shops. I was looking for something new and spotted Harris + Hoole located just around the corner on Tooley Street and then saw a tip that said “Download the iPhone app for a free coffee”. Having just got back from three months travelling I am conscious of my spending so this sounded perfect!

I tapped on the website link in the tip and was greeted with a link to download either the iTunes or Google Play version of the H+H app (which was good because I’m an Android girl now!) and I installed the app. The first thing I saw was a welcome screen followed by a few more screens that gave me a quick intro to the app where I also discovered that I could choose pay with my mobile – things were just getting better and better!

Eager for my caffeine fix I happily went about setting up my profile and added a selfie from my photo library that would allow me to be recognised in store once I was checked in. I then selected and customised my favourite cup of coffee known within the app as “My Usual” which can then be used to automatically order your drink when you check in (flat white, medium sized, three shots, whole milk, standard temperature, no flavourings and certainly not decaf).

A selection of screens from the app

Screen views from the Harris + Hoole mobile app: Profile, coffee menu and loyalty card

Upon my arrival at H+H I was greeted by the two lovely ladies who were working there. Now, I probably should have mentioned that I was sitting right next to H+H in More London eating my lunch whilst I was setting up the app and being a little bit over excited I had already tapped the check in tick to see what would happen. It said I was checked in to the coffee shop and I could go ahead and redeem my free coffee. It was probably another 10 minutes or so before I actually made it inside and when I showed them my phone they said “Oh, there you are!”. Apparently I had flashed up on screen when I first checked in but at the time the shop had been full of men in suits none of whom matched my newly added profile pic! I explained that I worked in digital design and had a tendency to play around with things like this! My previous check in had expired so I checked in again and voilà “My Usual” was on its way.

We had a little chat about the app and the system and as the staff knew who I was they addressed by my first name. I was made to feel really welcome and, well, special as I was getting personalised service and a cup of coffee made just how like it.

The coffee itself was really great and it tasted so much better having just had a really good customer experience. This is the actual message that I sent to my friend as I was drinking my coffee which is basically a summary of this post:

“I just found a coffee shop on Tooley Street using foursquare, read a tip that said download their app for a free coffee, so I did and I created my profile and selected my fav coffee, customised exactly how you want, then I checked in when I got here and it ordered my coffee straightaway AND they all knew my name and welcomed me! How cool is that?!?!”

I went on to tell him that he should visit and sent him the link. I felt compelled to tell others about my good experience so they could experience it too.

The app also includes a map of H+H branches and a loyalty card which allows you to collect stamps and receive another free cup after six visits. Adding a payment card for future use was super easy and you can choose between manual or auto-top ups for convenience. The app is simple and not over loaded with unnecessary features. It knows what it is and it does it well.

So, if you want to do coffee sometime I know just the place!

UXPA UK February Event – Brand and Experience

Consistent = Trust

The February 2013 UXPA UK event was about the intersection of brand and experience design. Here is a short overview of the talks and a few thoughts on the subject.

User experience is at the heart of your brand
Kevin Keohane (@brandviolet) and Don Fogarty (@DonFog) from Brand Pie gave a talk titled ‘User experience is at the heart of your brand’. They began with some brand basics: be relevant (to the audience you want to engage with), be authentic (don’t say one thing and do another) and be differentiated (why should people chose your product over a competitor’s?). When working with clients they ask what’s your purpose, ambition, strategy and positioning? These questions apply to both internal and external facets of the company and they believe that strong, enduring brands align what they do with what they say and position themselves based on what they’re great at and not just on what’s happening in the market.

They then explained why they think that brand experience and user experience need to be one and the same thing and referenced a study published in the Journal od Applied Psychology that gave poor treatment as the number one reason why people leave brands (a whopping 73%). Customers who have memorable experiences with your brand are more likely to remain loyal, spend more money with you and recommend your brand to their friends. Conversely customers who have bad experiences will also share these with people in their network on a variety of channels.

“Create an experience that provides a memory that relates directly to your brands purpose, ambition, strategy and positioning” – Kevin Keohane and Don Fogarty

As Kevin and Don explained the prize is to become market leader but even leader brands can be knocked off the top if a nimble challenger brand comes along with a simple, usable, focused product that is backed up with a superior end-to-end customer experience connected across all touch points.

Brand is Interface
David Eveleigh-Evans (@eveleighevans) from Method spoke about the ways in which the nature of brand definition is evolving and adapting and how interaction design is shaping the experiences between people, technology and brands. He explained that interaction design is becoming ever more important in differentiating a brand and maintaining customer loyalty as product experience surpasses traditional marketing communications and advertising.

David explained that your brand is more than a logo, a typeface and a series of colours, your brand is your interface and the gap between brand promise and brand reality is determined by the truth of use. Being consistent and transparent creates trust and brand loyalty.

“A brand is not a product or a promise or a feeling. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company” – David Eveleigh-Evans

Social networks provide brands with opportunities to join in the discussion on a much more personal level and they are also opening up new touch points for customer engagement and support (conversely they are also creating new outlets for your customers to talk about you). David explained that the challenge now for brands is to bridge the gap across all of these online and offline touch points.

Digital technology is bringing us closer to brands than ever before via mobile, desktop and offline channels. How can brands differentiate themselves in this ever-changing world?

Customer experience should be at the heart of everything you do. A user-centred design approach aligns business goals with the needs of customers across channels, devices and touch points. After all, customers who have a positive memorable experience are more likely to return. However, if you have a fantastic product but your online presence leaves your customers frustrated and unsatisfied then they may well start looking for alternatives.

RunKeeper – Be goal oriented


Climb a mountain and reach for the cake!

This is a great design for an empty state on the RunKeeper iPhone app before you have set yourself any goals.

Having neglected my RunKeeper app for a while (and running in general) I am back using it again and I’m rather enjoying the latest version of the app which is full of lovely little touches like this.

Empty states - parts of apps that have no content or data – are all too often neglected or left showing some unfriendly technical error messaging and I love it when the time and care is taken to address these views. Often you come across empty states in parts of an app or website that require your input or an action so they might contain an instruction or hint but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring.

Not only did I smile when I saw this but I also felt compelled to show it to somebody sitting next to me and then I did actually set myself a goal to run a distance of five miles by Sunday. Hmmm, I’m beginning to regret that now!

Take a look at some more examples on the Empty States tumblr.

dConstruct 2012 – Playing With The Future


“The future hasn’t happened yet and never will” – James Burke

I went to UX Brighton today which reminded me to post one of my favourite quotes from James Burke’s dConstruct 2012 talk ‘Admiral Shovel and the Toilet Roll’.

Anyway, back to the future (I couldn’t resist!). No matter what we predict, the reality won’t be exactly the same when we get there. How can it be? The future is shaped by the past and inevitably there are unexpected twists and turns along the way that change the future before it happens.

The future won’t be what it used to be.

Or something like that… it’s getting quite late and it’s been a long week!

The image used in this post is from Seb Lee-Delisle’s session: Pixels, People and Play. Seb never fails to impress and this year was no exception as we were treated to PixelPyros and we had a whole lot of fun with glow-sticks!

UK UPA – Designing For Engagement Workshop


This is shockingly late but I’m finally posting my notes from the UK UPA Designing For Engagement workshop that was held a very long ago (Monday 23rd April to be exact) with Susan Weinschenk AKA ‘The Brain Lady’.

During the evening Susan shared with us some insights from psychology research and we looked at some of the ways in which this research could help us design more engaging and persuasive websites and online interfaces.

I attended the Cognitive Psychology UX Bootcamp with Joe Leech earlier in the year (more about that another time) and this workshop followed on nicely from that.

Here’s a short summary of the points discussed:

  1. The Fusiform Facial area (FFA) makes us pay attention to human faces – We are programmed to recognise faces from as little as six hours old! The most attention grabbing facial images are those of people looking straight at you. Avoid juxtaposing two different faces because our brains don’t like it. Straight on, symmetrical, eye contact.
  2. People can remember/deal with only 3-4 items at any one time – Forget Miller’s Law of 7±2. People can only hold 3-4 items in their working memory at any one time. They may go back and select another batch of items to review but they can only really focus on 3-4 at once. Susan then went on to talk about choice. People like having choice but if you give people too many choices, they’re more likely too not choose anything at all. As American psychologist Barry Schwartz explains in his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, although we have more choice now than ever before we are not benefitting psychologically as everyday decisions have been made increasingly complex which could be having a detrimental effect on our emotional wellbeing.
  3. People have mental models – User research allows us to understand people’s mental models of how things work (or should work). Designers can then use this insight and design in a way that supports these.
  4. When uncertain, people look at the behaviour of others to decide what to do – Testimonials, recommendations, how many times a video clip has been played and Amazon’s ‘What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?’ are all examples of social validation and herd behaviour. In turn they can influence behaviour.
  5. SEX… Now that I’ve got your attention, carry on reading! Food, sex and danger grab attention – Fear of loss results in anticipation of gain. Scarcity can drive value upwards as people are more motivated to make a purchase or act quickly if they believe that they might miss out.
  6. Video is the engaging media – Video on websites is particularly compelling and movement captures attention. Research shows that we are hard-wired to imitate and emphasise and video can be an effective medium to encourage this.
  7. People are motivated to connect – Dunbar’s number (proposed by Professor Robin Dunbar in 1992) is a theoretical limit of stable social relationships that one person can maintain at any one time. There is no exact number cited but it is esitmated to be approximately 150.
  8. Beauty is in the eye of the unconscious – Our brains crave unpredictability but Susan explained that if things get a bit too crazy the “old brain” kicks in and says “enough, give me some order here!”. Apparently we like unbalanced column widths and uneven numbers (personally I like a bit of order!).
  9. The brain processes information best in story format – Personal stories, quotes and anecdotes invoke empathy and trigger emotional reactions that help people process data and make decisions. Real people telling real stories.
  10. People expect technology to follow human-to-human interaction rules – Susan joked that having a 60 second loading bar on a website is like ignoring somebody for a minute! Write as if you are talking, use real and meaningful sentences and think about your micro-interactions including error messages and labels. Be friendly (but not creepy!).

Following Susan’s talk we split into small teams and set about reviewing and redesigning some example website pages in need of some TLC based on everything that we had discussed. The image used for this post is the sketch that our group did of a redesign of a university application page.

You can watch a video of the presentation any time you like.

UK UPA – Profiling the Perfect UX Practitioner


On Thursday, 19 July I attended the UK UPA event ‘Profiling the Perfect UX Practitioner‘. Sitting on the panel were Aline Baeck, Andy Budd, Stavros Garzonis and Jason Mesut. The evening began with each speaker sharing their views on what makes a perfect UX practitioner and ended with a Q&A session that sparked further discussion about portfolios, mentorship and design education.

So, what is a perfect UX practitioner? Well, in short, there isn’t one. We UX folk come from many different backgrounds and have different qualities and different experiences. Job roles and responsibilities vary between companies and the environment and culture that we work in affects what we do and how we do it. This makes it hard to define the skillset that every UX practitioner should have. But that’s OK.

During the evening there was a lot of talk about soft skills outweighing the hard skills and this pleased me. The ability to empathise, build relationships and communicate with colleagues, clients and users is a must. Being able to think conceptually and having listening and reasoning skills is also extremely valuable. And there were plenty more skills mentioned. I was pleased to hear so much value placed on these soft skills as I myself do not have any formal qualifications in UX (I have a degree in Graphic Design) but I do believe that I have something worthwhile to contribute and I am the first person to admit that I have a lot to learn.

Rather than finding that one ‘perfect UX practitioner’ it makes a lot of sense to build up a team so that a variety of skills are available to help tackle design problems from all sides. This also provides opportunities for mentorship and for people to learn from each other and to develop.

So, to conclude (for now), we are all making stuff that people use and being able to do that well comes from experience. Do we need formal qualifications in order to ‘do UX’? No, not really. Would formal qualifications make it easier to identify a good practitioner from a bad one? No, not necessarily.

Above all, have a passion for what you do and show it. Build up your experience and your confidence will follow. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and use whichever tools are suitable for the task in hand. Instinct is important and mistakes are inevitable. Learn from them and move forward.

LightningUX March 2012


A little bit of everything…

Last Tuesday, 6th March, I headed over to City University to attend the first LightningUX event of the year. There was five speakers in total and each person spoke about a topic of their choice.

Sophie Freiermuth began by talking about the many job titles that we hear in our industry ranging from UX Designer to Dev-igner(?!) and how this ambiguity can cause confusion for people who want to employ us.

Francis Norton then spoke about using business strategy as a driver for UCD and suggested that we use metrics to communicate how the services we offer can add real value in terms of the things that businesses care about and can relate to such as risk reduction and return on investment.

Next up Mike Atherton talked about domain modelling. I really enjoyed Mike’s presentation at UX Brighton last year so I was looking forward to hearing more. According to Mike, domain modelling is where IA meets Content Strategy. Rather than classifying content by document type, domain modelling breaks down a subject into it’s component parts and allows for abstract connections to be made. Content is aggregated and the subsequent cross-linking adds value both for users and SEO. Data is enriched by creating journeys across domains e.g. music can be broken apart into subjects like artist, genre and releases which leads to related topics like tours, venues, set lists and promoters. Through natural, social or editorial curation we can add context that makes information structures meaningful and easy to navigate. My favourite quote from Mike’s presentation (and the evening) was “Curation brings human love to a cold, robot heart.”

Tim Caynes shared his personal experiences about the UX challenges in designing a mobile wallet and the limitations regarding the framework and infrastructure that is already in place. There are also other matters to consider such as understanding the complex and varied contexts of use and how we can overcome the lack of confidence that users have when they don’t yet fully understand how a service actually works.

Lastly, Daniel Soltis talked about designing unfamiliar interfaces and how designers can improve usability and understanding by using clear explanations and familiar patterns, allowing for accidental inputs and providing feedback. Challenges for users include understanding the cause and effect of their actions, physical dexterity (can I actually use this thing?) and determining how much time and effort they are willing to invest in order to overcome the learning curves associated with using novel interfaces. People must be willing and able to learn a new system and this in itself is a challenge for designers.

Thanks to Lee McIvor for organising and to Propel London for sponsoring. Looking forward to next time!

For more information about future events check out the LightningUX website.

All of the presentations have kindly been made available on SlideShare.

What’s Next… in Experience Design


Fuelled by a fabulous Brick Lane beigel (cream cheese and bacon – amazing!) myself and Holly Kennedy attended What’s Next… in Experience Design, organised and hosted by LBi last Wednesday, 29 February 2012.

The event was focused on looking ahead and trying to identify future trends in user experience design based around five themes: Businesstrategy, Creativitech, Gamentertainment, Mobilemergent and Politicsociety.

The first Mobilemergent talk was ‘Mobile needs in emerging and submerging economies’ by Priya Prakash, Head of Mobile Phone User Experience at Nokia. Priya said that services and tools designed for a global market should be useable regardless of gender, income and location as although people in people use different tools in different locations their needs are universal.

Priya debunked some of the myths about designing for people in emerging economies:

  • Its not about the culture or the device. It’s about the context.
  • Its not about the data. It’s the need for entertainment and meeting new people across the globe.
  • It’s not about being a smartphone alone. It’s what it enables you to do faster and easier with longer battery life.
  • It’s not about spending money for always being on. It’s the value you get when you can connect as needed.

Next up I attended ‘Mobile Health: Will your design help or harm?’ by Sam James, Consultant Psychologist at Harku. Sam said that although self tracker health apps can bring real and meaningful change into the lives of consumers in these situations poor UX can not only be frustrating but potentially harmful.

We need to be aware of who we are designing for and the situation they could be in. Other guidelines included design for feelings of control and reducing fear, design for coping, allow for automated and manual data collection and design for simple ideas of cause and effect – the app may simply allow people to identify a positive trend in exercise and mood.

In his talk ‘Disruptive digital business models. Darwinism goes digital’ Alexander Grünsteidl, Director User Experience at Method, talked about the demise of products that we own and the explosion of services that we use. This trend has shifted our perceptions of value and ownership and access is everywhere at anytime, consequently what has more value – access or ownership?

With the evolution of the web we have seen the extinction of businesses that failed to evolve and meet the changing needs of the current market (this reminded me of Peter Drucker’s ‘Theory of the Business’ in which he states that business assumptions must be frequently reviewed and tested due to the dynamic nature of markets, consumers and technology and that business models, however sound they once were, can become obselete).

Along the way niche opportunities can be uncovered such as The Million Dollar Homepage (a website that sold 1 million pixels of internet advertising space for $1 each) and the One Red Paperclip (whereby one red paperclip was traded up 14 times for a house over a year). There are also game changers like Square (a service that allows you to accept credit card payments with a mobile phone and card reader) and Khan Academy (a service offering free educational videos to anyone anywhere).

Food for thought
My main takeaway is that our role as UX designers is becoming much more strategic and to understand design we must understand business.

We should not be afraid to ask awkward questions to get right to the heart of design challenges. Successful UX designers are curious and have an innate desire to solve problems. The pace of change is relentless and we must adapt and evolve along with new trends and technology.

We need to break down silos and and speak the languages of people around us: the language of design, the language of technology and the language of business.

This is an exciting time to be doing what we’re doing and Marcus Mustafa summed it up nicely when he said: ‘We should have fun, be engaging and encourage emotions’.

Image: Alexander Grünsteidl talks about disruptive digital business models under the watchful eyes of one of the LBi UX Badgers!

London IA February 2012


At London IA last week the topic of the evening was Lean UX. Jeff Gothelf kicked things off with a presentation about getting out of the deliverables business and afterwards there was a panel discussion with Jeff Gothelf, James O’Brien, Johanna Kollmann, Leisa Reichelt and Mark Plant during which the audience asked questions about Lean UX.

Jeff Gothelf: Lean UX – Getting Out of the Deliverables Business

In brief, the goal of Lean UX is to bring the experience being designed to light much sooner without getting too focused on the deliverables. Designers and developers collaborate from the start to build a shared understanding. The iterative approach means that quality continually improves as you validate your design hypotheses and refine based on feedback.

Jeff shared his five practical tips for implementing Lean UX:

  1. Solve the problem together – One of the key aspects of Lean UX is that the team builds a shared understanding of the project early on. Everyone involved is engaged in the process which in turn creates buy in and momentum.
  2. Sketch – Putting pen to paper (or whatever you have to hand) helps develop a shared understanding and is a good way to iterate designs. People feel more able to make alterations to a sketch as they are seen as less precious than polished wireframes and are therefore much more malleable and open.
  3. Prototype – Get the experience out into the open as soon as possible and test your prototypes with real users.
  4. Pair up and get cross functionality within your team – Co-working means that developers can start building prototypes from sketches straightaway and they can give immediate feedback on what is and is not achievable without having to wait for a detailed spec which leaves the designers to get on with designing. Pairing sets designers free and empowers developers.
  5. Create a style guide early on that evolves as the project does – Put it on a wiki or on the wall for all to see so that it can’t be ignored and forgotten. Back it up with code snippets and assets to build up a library.

During the panel discussion Joanna said that when collaborating time should still be allocated for personal reflection. I certainly agree with this. Co-working can be hard and it is important to have some time alone to think and to formulate ideas.

I often feel under pressure to deliver the right solution, the first time. But there are always options and I’m not always sure which is best. A project evolves so much during design and having to decide everything upfront before moving into build can hinder the design process as it doesn’t allow room for manoeuvre. The time and effort it takes to produce beautifully annotated wireframes and sitemaps for hefty spec documents could be better spent on iterating prototypes of the actual product. In light of this we should be asking ‘What do we need to define now in order to get a prototype built and tested with real users’?

As Jeff rightly said, no matter how smart you are, every design solution you put out there is a hypothesis. He also said that as designers we are in the problem solving business but we don’t solve problems with design documentation, we solve them with elegant, efficient and sophisticated software. The true value of design is in the experience that we create.

You can check out Jeff’s presentation for yourself on Slideshare. I highly recommend it!