About AlexisConomos

Alexis is a User Experience Consultant at Objective Digital. With a background in psychology, she has a passion for understanding WHY people behave the way they do.

Domain experts vs experts in a process: Tips for conducting usability testing with complex products designed for SMEs.

I recently completed a project that involved usability testing with a cloud-based product used by IT administrators to manage virtual infrastructure. The challenge for me was how do I test a technical product when I have minimal technical knowledge of that product? How do I moderate a session with SMEs who know more about virtual infrastructures than I do? Ultimately, UX consultants are not domain experts, but experts in a process.

Well, here are some tips I learnt along the way:

  1.  Read! Read! Read!…then read some more! Read any document related to the product – the user guide, FAQs, marketing and presales information, reviews, internal documents, manuals etc. The more you know about the product before testing the better. 
  1. Talk to the experts. Have a SME &/or technical product manager walk you through every aspect of the product. And remember to ask a million questions as they do it (no matter how dumb they may sound). 
  1. Repeat information back to the client or respondent for clarity. This technique can be incorporated at all stages of the project to ensure you are correctly interpreting and understanding information. Study skills research has shown reiterating information given to you increases comprehension and recall of that information.     
  1. Be up-front. If you don’t know, acknowledge it up-front to respondents. At the beginning of each session, I highlighted the fact that I was not an IT expert and my technical knowledge of the product was limited. Rather my role as a researcher is to understand how they interact with the product. In return, respondents tended to use simpler words & provided additional explanations when expressing their thoughts, which helped my understanding of the issues.
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User testing with deaf and hearing impaired individuals

This month, I was fortunate enough to work with the National Relay Service (NRS) on a prototype of their new mobile application. The NRS is an Australian-wide telephone service for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment.

One example is the video relay service that allows culturally deaf people to use their own language – Auslan (Australian Sign Language) – to make a call to a hearing person.

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Talking to people is what I enjoy most about my job. However, getting the opportunity to talk with people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment was a real highlight. I was fascinated watching these individuals and interpreters communicate in sign language. I even learnt a bit of Auslan myself.

It inspires me to see and hear how these people navigate the world. Things we take for granted – booking a hair appointment, calling the bank, organising a taxi – takes considerable planning by the individual. It was amazing to work with the NRS team to build a mobile app that gives NRS customers the opportunity to communicate in ways we take for granted.

Omni-Channeling & Coffee

Omni-Channeling & Coffee – Takeaways from POPAI Professional Development breakfast seminar

On Tuesday (4th March), the Objective Digital team woke up early to attended POPAI’s latest seminar in its Professional Development series. Nick Salem – the ANZ Retail and Commerce Leader for IBM – revealed the high-level findings and insights from the IBM Institute for Business Value Global Consumer Study. While Zita Watkins (Marketing Manager at Active Display Group) told of her German adventures to the 2014 Euro-shop trade fair in Dusseldorf, and visits to other innovative retail stores around Berlin.

 IBM Global consumer study

The latest IBM Global consumer study – Greater Expectations – Consumers are asking for tomorrow, today – looked at consumer trends around the world and the new retail era. Advances in technology are changing the way customers shop for and purchase products, in turn, setting omni-channel expectations by digital-savvy shoppers. The survey identified the 5 key capabilities that shoppers expect from today’s retailers:

  • Price consistency across shopping channels
  • Ability to ship items that are out of stock in the store directly to the home
  • Option to track the status of an order
  • Consistent product assortment across channels
  • Ability to return online purchases in the store

These findings have been in par with previous research conducted by Objective Digital. The Objective Digital Mobile Grocery App review found consumers wanting product information, price and availability to be made available on mobile grocery apps to allow them to make equivalent informed decisions, as if they were shopping in-store. Ultimately, the ability of retailers to meet the needs (including the digital needs) of their customers becomes the deciding factor for where consumer’s want to shop.

 Euro-shop trade fair & other innovative retail experiences

The remainder of the seminar was dedicated to the latest industry insights direct from Euro-shop trade fair 2014 and other innovative retail experiences around Berlin. One trend that resonated through many innovative retail stores was the blending of retail and cafes. It seems many European grocery and non-grocery retails are starting to appreciate the benefits of setting up full-size coffee shops in their stores, adding a new dimension to the retail experience. The result is a mix of shopping and social interaction; encourage more traffic and longer visits. 

Microsoft’s “Digital Eatery” in Berlin, for example, is a café-showroom, which offers customers the chance to test out Microsoft gadgets while getting a taste of locally sourced food. Customers can’t purchase any products, but rather test Microsoft hardware and software onsite, in one of their themed areas – “at home”, “en route”, “in the office”, and “music lounge”. It’s a way for Microsoft to begin exchanging dialogue with their customers and understand how customers use their products within the context of their environment. 

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The idea of blending two different experiences, with a focus that extends beyond retail products is starting to take hold in Australian retail stores. The Woolworths concept store in Woolloomooloo incorporates a café area with bookshleves in the middle of the grocery store. Other new initiatives also includes a beauty bar and full time professional beauty consultants in its Town Hall Store. 

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Cultural Kings provides another example of adding an innovative dimension to the retail experience. World famous for its street wear and apparel, it also claims to offer its customers the “freshest shopping experience”. Retail stores regularly have DJs playing live music in-store and offer an in-store barbershop. The store doesn’t take appointments, but encourages customers to grab a ticket and wait for their turn. With a whole room of the latest fashion covering each wall of the store, it’s a clever way to get customers to browse whilst they wait. 

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In today’s competitive markets, it is imperative that retailers shift their strategic focus and harness new opportunities to serve their customers in ways that go beyond the traditional exchange of goods.

 How can Objective Digital help design your customer’s experience?

 

Multi-platform testing – the answer to omni-channel CX

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The omni-channel experience

Omni-channel” is the new buzzword being tossed around. But what does it actually mean? And how do you begin to develop an omni-channel strategy?

With the rise of Near Field Communication (NFC) and mobile phone usage in-store, consumers are increasingly embracing digital technologies and devices in all stages of their buying journey. This integration of digital into off-line shopping behaviour means customers experience a brand, rather than a channel within a brand. In response, companies are designing omni-channel strategies to deliver a seamless approach to the customer experience across multiple touch points. It’s about true continuity of the customer experience.

An article published in The Wall Street Journal (Jan, 2014) says “retailers are still struggling with omni-channel strategies” – and Australian companies are no different. If a company wants to start thinking about the omni-channel experience, they need to be open and involved in making their customers’ experience continuous and universal. To do this, you need to start understanding why and how your customers integrate different customer touch points into their buying journey.

To meet the demands of our clients, Objective Digital has deployed a multi-platform testing methodology. Conducting usability testing with eye-tracking on multiple devices, rather than individually, can create more knowledgeable insights into your customer’s omni-channel experience. A move to multi-platform testing with users allows our clients to better understand how their consumers experience their brand rather than the interaction with a single channel.

Objective Digital was recently commissioned by a one of Australia’s leading Internet betting and entertainment website. As an online organisation, one of their research objectives was to understand how their multiple platforms integrated together, and what type of omni-channel customer experience they were creating. In response, we deployed our multi-platform testing methodology to investigate which device – desktop, mobile, or tablet – was producing a more efficient customer experience at different points of the online betting journey.

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Multi-platform testing set-up

Participants were tested and eye-tracked on two devices (desktop, mobile, or tablet) across four key tasks. Each task was scored against a set of quantitative measures. This was followed by qualitative questions to understand the user’s experience with the different devices. At the completion of the project, we had compiled qualitative, quantitative, and eye-tracking data on each of the four tasks across the three devices. This painted a clear picture of how customers where engaging with the Online Betting agency across its different channels.  From here, we made recommendations on how our client could improve certain channels and leverage others depending on their customers’ expectations and needs.

The philosophy of omni-channel is simple, however the execution of omni-channel strategies has been mediocre at best. In order to accomplish this migration to being omni-channel, companies must have complete visibility of how their users mitigate their multiple touch points and channels. Part of what we are doing as customer experience consultants is filling that omni-channel gap for our clients.

Objective Measures of our Subconscious

The brain processes 400 billion bits of information a second. BUT, we are ONLY aware of 2,000 of those.” (Dr. Joseph Dispenza)

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At any given moment, our brain is receiving a great deal of visual information from our surrounding environment – changes in visual space, colours, shapes, and movement of objects. We take in so much visual information that our brain selectively filters out unimportant visual data and stores it in our subconscious memory.

Not to be dismissed, the subconscious mind has a great impact on our decision-making, thoughts, and behavior. Whether its browsing a website, glancing at an advertisement, or navigating a shopping aisle, visual information filtered into our subconscious memory influences how we react in these environments.

If the subconscious mind affects a person’s behavior with, or perceptions of, an environment (either physical or virtual), then it makes sense to understand it. In this instance, traditional research methods, such as focus groups, depth interviews, surveys, digital analytics, accompanied shops and intercepts, are limited in helping us understand subconscious reactions and behaviors. So, how do we measure the subconscious?

Our eyes process approximately 300 frames per second – processing visual information at every point. By measuring where someone is looking at each frame, allows us to detect elements in the environment that people visually perceive but may not be able to recall or remember – this is what our brain has processed into subconscious memory.

Eye tracking, as a research technique, enables us to measure each individual point at which our brain processes a piece of visual information. Replaying people’s eye movements back to them (a research method known as Retrospective Think Aloud) assists people to become consciously aware of these elements – that is, bringing these elements back into consciousness.

Shopping, for example, is largely a subconscious process, where behavior unfolds as a result of perception of visuals and other cues in the environment. By using eye tracking, we are able to objectively measure how customers respond to these cues, which our brain often filters into the unconscious mind. In such instances, eye tracking has enabled us to capture both the conscious and unconscious response to visual stimuli and provide deeper customer insights and understanding.

Incorporating eye tracking into research studies involving human interactions with systems or environments has allowed us greater insight into people’s subconscious. More importantly, eye-tracking data has provided an objective and more detailed view of actual behavior.

Objective Digital are leaders in using eye tracking technology to uncover unconscious insights which can be decoded to improve the customer experience. Having worked with large financial institutions, telco’s, retailers, travel companies, government bodies and universities, our team is equipped with a wealth of knowledge across all aspects of customer experience.

Dear Mr. Bouris – You’re fired!

Dear Mr. Bouris,

I am writing this because I feel you would greatly benefit from this recount of my online experience when I first engaged with the Yellow Brick Road (YBR) – don’t worry it’s not all bad. From a business perspective, The Celebrity Apprentice provides some unique and powerful advertising for the YBR franchise. However, it seems you may not have considered the people at the receiving end of your marketing campaign – your customers. Your company’s website is the first point of contact with your customers and instrumental in shaping their YBR journey.

I apologise in advance if I seem overly harsh and critical. I work for a company (Objective Digital) who prides itself in making technology, particularly websites, more usable for customers and everyday users. Having worked with many financial institutions (including several of Australia’s top banks) we understand that amazing company’s can do amazing things, but are not so amazing at building websites – which is where we usually come in.

I personally admire your enthusiasm and passion for educating people, and your strong belief in delivering affordable financial advice to the everyday person. For this reason, I would like to personally share my Yellow Brick Road experience.

In the near future, I plan to invest in my first property and a home loan is something I will need. After watching an episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, I decided to investigate my options by looking on the YBR website. As a company that prides itself in giving Australians’ access to quality financial advice, my online experience was anything but that.

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Yellow Brick Road homepage

To begin with, I had difficulty accessing information. The homepage was busy and confusing with no clear calls to action, making it difficult to locate useful content – this did not provide a good first impression. There were so many elements competing for attention I didn’t know where to look or where to find information that related to my personal situation and me. After typing ‘first home’ into the search box, I finally arrived at my destination. However, the financial advice I needed was not presented in a simple or logical manner leaving me more confused about home loans than when I started.

My initial experience made me doubt the quality of the information you provide. In the high-tech world that we live in, a company’s website is usually the first point of contact for customers, and is seen as a reflection of that company. I am in no way saying your company lacks quality – after all, your company profile displays a collection of employees with a wealth of financial knowledge. Rather, my online experience resonated more with a company that is disorganised and mediocre rather than with a company that speaks quality and excellence.

My attempt to locate my nearest branch was even more disappointing, forcing me to question the possibility of actually receiving advice. Instead of scrolling down the long list of branches to determine which was my nearest branch (at this point, a map would have been sufficient), I resorted to typing in my suburb – Kingsford. My search resulted in a blank screen, which implied there were no branches in my area.  Although there is no Kingsford branch, it failed to tell me that Maroubra was, in fact, my nearest branch (I think!).

A long list of NSW branches
A long list of NSW branches
No results for my nearest branch
No results for my nearest branch

As a Psychologist who works as a User Experience Consultant, I have an annoying habit of critiquing every website I visit. Despite my online experience, it has not tarnished my opinion of YRB. In fact, your performance on The Celebrity Apprentice was inspirational. The old me would have endured this painful online experience and complained about it afterwards to friends or colleagues. I don’t think this is the effect you envisioned with your Celebrity Apprentice marketing campaign. So, I placed myself at the boardroom table at YBR HQ, face-to-face with yourself, Dane Bouris, and Deborah Thomas (admittedly, I would be terrified if I ever found myself in this position). I would think… ‘Would Mr. Bouris be happy if I just left it at that?’ ‘What else could I do for the cause?’ Taking on the advice you have given others in the past, I underestimated my pulling power and need to step it up and bring my A-game.

So here I am, voicing my opinion for you and others to read. You need to think about your customers, the people at the other end of your marketing campaign. Your website is the primary point of contact for your customers. As a potential customer I was sadly disappointed, confused, and none the wiser on home loans. I expected a lot more from you. For this reason, Mr. Bouris – You’re fired!

Kind regards,

Alexis M. Conomos

(A disgruntled yet inspired potential customer)

P.s. @DaneBouris “Stay off the hairy carbs”

Rise of the Creative Technologist

Objective Digital got the opportunity to show off the latest from Tobii Eye Tracking Technology at this month’s SkunkMonk event hosted by Virtual.Offis in Sydney. The theme of the event was centred around the Creative Technologist, and was dedicated to advancing the interest of creative and technical leads in digital agency environments.

Objective Digital received a great response from the crowd who enjoyed interacting and testing the T120 eye tracker. However, the highlight of our toy collection was new X2 mobile eye-tracker and our popular eye-tracking glasses, which are leading the way in mobile eye tracking.

Below are sample heat maps of the images we eye-tracked with the SkunkMonk crowd. These images provide a good example of how people tend to focus on human faces, to the detriment of other visual elements on the page.

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