Objective Asia presents at Next Bank Asia Singapore 2014 (NBASG14)

Yesterday, James Breeze; CEO and founder of and Objective Asia and Objective Digital gave a presentation on the concept of ‘build’ with a focus a on user experience at the Next Bank Asia conference 2014 in Singapore.

James Breeze Objective Digital from NextBank on Vimeo.

James presented on the importance of customer experience, with emphasis that Asia should continue to build and develop their customer experiences in this rapidly changing world.
James gave some key examples of how eye-tracking greatly enhances the quality of customer experience research, particularly when that research can be conducted in store using portable eye-tracking glasses, or data is provided to clients in real-time during user testing for immediate integration.


Objective Asia also flexed some of their latest Tobii eye-tracking set-ups at the conference, which allow for eye-tracking of mobile and tablet users – the emerging leading platforms since the home PC, and of which now give even the laptop a run for its money.


Given the worldwide shifts toward ‘mobile banking’, a large amount of interest was generated, as the banks are now understanding the importance of high-level customer experience research.

Objective Asia continues to build new relationships and enhance existing relationships in Asia and remains an active player in helping maintain a high-level standard of customer experience in this world of technological change.


Special thanks to NBASG14, well done James Breeze and congratulations Objective Asia!

Mobile Banking: Who has improved app usability and, surprisingly, how many haven’t

Seventy three percent of Australians aged 15-65 own a smartphone. 65% used their smartphone everyday over the past week and 77% don’t leave the home without their device. With the rise of mobile usage it’s no wonder some of Australia’s leading banks are now making the mobile customer experience a priority (Frost & Sullivan Australian Mobile Device Usage Trends 2013).

However, since releasing our incredibly popular mobile banking app usability white paper in August 2013, it is surprising to see how little has changed in the Australian mobile banking app market!

The CommBank mobile banking app is one banking application leading the way in not only giving customers the ability to manage their finances while on the go, but helping users in making it a usable, seamless, easy and quick process. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Optional Transfers Customers have the option to make payments to a friend via Facebook, mobile number or their friend’s email address through the CommBank app. All the recipient needs is an Australian BSB and account number. Existing Commonwealth Bank customers will receive the funds directly into their account. Ensuring no-one is left out, anyone who is not a Commonwealth Bank customer will receive a text notification and a code from the sender to retrieve funds.


CommBank’s mobile banking app, transfers, May 2014

2. On-the-Go payments using NFC or PayTag CommBank has been one of the fastest movers on allowing customers to pay on-the-go using either NFC (near field communication) or their recently introduced PayTag technology. A PayTag will cost customers $2.99 and sticks to the back of the mobile phone, working just like a credit card for tap-and-go payments. The PayTag is simple to install using on screen instructions, and is used by just tapping your phone as you would with a credit card.


PayTag for iPhones

3. Cards Top-Up Easily top your cards up while on the go. This is a particularly useful feature when using travel cards and need to quickly access accounts to transfer money to your Commonwealth Bank travel cards all in one place within the app. Once navigated to the “top up” feature, large credit card images are visually displayed on screen accompanied by a large “top up” button where customers can simply “top up” from one card to another.


CommBank’s Card Top-up, May 2014

4. Transfer between accounts Vertical scrolling wheel to select accounts for transfer ensuring there is minimal user input to complete the task. Only relevant information is visible on screen keeping design minimal, user friendly and removing the possibilities for user errors or confusion.


Transfer between accounts, May 2014

5. Usability and overall user experience The most common tasks performed by users are now visible with a clear call to action on the launch screen. As users have limited time and generally be on-the-go, it is important to consider the context in which the mobile app is used. CommBank does a nice job of bringing these common tasks like account transfers, payments and tap and pay forward for their customers, whilst still keeping all app functions easily accessible through the main hamburger menu (top right).


Launch Screen (left) and Navigation (right), May 2014

The mobile payment space may have started out somewhat slower than expected from Australia’s leading banks, however, with the ever-increasing rise in mobile use, together with customers demanding quick and usable payment solutions this is sure to change. This is evident with many of Australia’s leading banks currently releasing and/or testing new mobile payment solutions for their customers. The examples provided show CommBank leading the way with updated features and usability making everyday tasks easier for their customers.

It has never been more important to be considering the user experience of the product by researching and testing new solutions and designs with customers to evaluate how, when and why they may or may not use their mobiles for payment and everyday banking.

Providing customers with an accessible, easy and useful mobile payment experience can go a long way in, not only ensuring they continue to use it, but that they will be one of your strongest advocates.

So do you have a product or service you want to put in front of your customers? Find out about all your usability testing options and contact us for a quote!

Myles Clemones – UX Consultant

Sydney Research Network – Objective’s in-house recruitment agency

We welcome Michelle Brandwood, who joins us as Recruiting Manager. Objective Digital’s in-house recruitment agency, Sydney Research Network, lists well over 2000 participants allowing for rapid and efficient recruitment of participants based on demographic and lifestyle segmentation criteria. Recruitment being an in-house activity ensures a rigid process of quality management by ensuring a fresh source of participants for market research; not relying on single existing database.


Michelle Brandwood, Recruitment Manager at Sydney Research Network

GE Capital shows the way with a high-tech eye tracking lab

General Electric (GE) is a household name synonymous to innovation. Objective Digital recently teamed up with the User Experience (UX) team at GE Capital in Melbourne to help setup their next-generation eye tracking lab in Melbourne as part of their new UX initiatives. It was a lab that made even our experienced eye tracking consultants drool. So what was so special about the eye tracking setup?

Let’s look at how the setup was designed to ensure that every step of a usability session would run smoothly:


The eye tracking testing lab in Melbourne is where the action happens. This is where the user or customer comes in contact with the product. GE’s brightly lit and spacious testing lab meant that participants would feel comfortable. Since it looked like someone’s office, participants would not have to go too much out of their own normal working environment.

Traditional usability testing involves assessing the usability of a product by watching the behaviour of the participants. With the latest eye tracker from Tobii, the X2-30 Compact, GE are now able to see where the customers are looking at. The eye tracker is so portable that it evens fits in your pocket! This results in a drastic reduction in research effect as participants forget that their eyes are being tracked and display their natural behaviour.

Eye Tracking lab Melbourne

GE’s Eye Tracking lab In Melbourne

Mobile Device Eye Tracker

GE Capital also have a Tobii Mobile Device Eye Tracking Stand. For eye tracking mobile apps. It looks like this.

GE's mobile device eye tracker in Melbourne


Tobii’s eye tracking software, Tobii Studio allows seamless and simultaneously eye tracking and recording of the participant’s activities. Showing a real user talking about your product (e.g. how they didn’t notice a call to action or couldn’t make sense of the information on a page) is the easiest way to convince stakeholders of the value of usability testing and the importance of improving the design.

Tobii X2-30 Compact Eye Tracker in Melbourne at GE Capital

Eye Tracker in Melbourne research Lab with GE Capital

Observing Eye Tracking in Melbourne

Even better than showing stakeholders recorded clips of usability sessions is to let them watch the sessions live. GE had this covered with a big screen showing 3 videos at the same time:

  1. the stimulus with the participant’s eye gaze superimposed on top of it,
  2. the participant’s face to capture their facial expressions, and
  3. the fly-on-the-wall view of the testing lab to observe the things participants usually point at on the stimulus using their fingers.
Observation room for eye tracking in Melbourne

Observation room at GE Capital

Observers also had a choice of viewing the eye tracking session through a one-way mirror in the adjoining room (think CSI!). The room also had a live recording software which synced all video inputs into one.

Dark room with one-way mirror and eye tracking live recording

Dark room with one-way mirror and live recording

Collaborating the eye tracker

GE’s massive observation room also doubled as a collaboration room where designers, developers and other stakeholders can participate in rapid iterative design workshops while watching the usability sessions. This means that design changes can happen on-the-fly without having to wait for the findings to be analysed in detail and the big fat report to be produced.

Collaboration room

Collaboration room with multiple screens to view the sessions

Both GE and Objective Digital are excited about their eye tracking lab in Melbourne and looking forward to the new innovations coming out of GE.

How has your experience been setting up a usability lab in your company? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Feel free to get in touch if you want to have a chat about setting up Tobii eye tracking usability labs in Australia, New Zealand or South East Asia.

Changing course

When we conduct usability testing, we always have a plan – a discussion guide or testing script that has the entire session mapped out to the finest detail (how to greet the participants, what tasks to give them, etc.). However, sometimes, you need to change your plans in the middle of testing, as I found out myself.

I recently finished a usability testing project for a mobile website. It was a pretty awesome-looking site with lots of features from its desktop cousin. After the first 2-3 sessions, I started noticing a clear pattern: everyone was having trouble finding things on the mobile site. There were so many features on the site that users were getting lost trying to find things.


It was evident that the issue was with the information architecture of the site (i.e. how information was structured in the site). I felt like there was no point getting the participants to do the same tasks and uncovering the same issues over and over again. So, I decided to conduct a card-sorting activity during the remaining sessions. During a short break between sessions, I quickly printed out cards with labels from the existing site.


Before I showed the site to the participants and asked them to conduct the tasks, I gave them the pile of cards and asked them to group them into categories they deemed logical. After the grouping exercise, I then asked them to give a name to each of the groups that they came up with. The whole process just took 10 minutes and after asking a few participants to conduct the task I could see a clear pattern about how participants were sorting the cards. Not so surprisingly, the IA of the mobile site was very different to what the participants had come up with. No wonder they were having difficulty finding things, the site IA was totally different to what the participants had expected.


The clients were fascinated by the findings from the ad-hoc card sorting activity. It helped them get into the heads of their users and see the system from a users’ point of view. The clients were pleased to receive the extra deliverable: a new IA based on actual user input, and the good thing from a project management point of view is that the card-sorting activity did not cost us (or the client) any additional time or budget (10 minutes for the activity and a couple of hours to analyse the findings and restructure the IA).


So it got me thinking…what would I have done differently next time? Maybe I could have prepared cards before the first session just in case I needed them or perhaps utilising a digital card-sorting tool like OptimalSort. Online tools are useful as participants would be able to sort the cards on their computer screens and the clients would be able to watch the results live via screen sharing.

Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to change your course if you’re heading in the wrong direction. Always keep asking yourself whether you’re getting rich insights to answer the research questions and also are these the most important questions to be asking? If not, what other methods can you use to find the answers? Planning and being adaptable is more important than a plan (that doesn’t work).


Had you had to change course in the middle of a usability testing project? What would you have done? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

iPad app development – the road ahead

iPad app development is on a steep upwards trajectory yet in its wake is iPad app usability.  Recent work we conducted for a Sydney client echoed some of the findings that Jacob Neilson began to uncover recently in US regarding usability.

One of the biggest challenges we found (amongst many) was that users adopt two distinctly different mental models when using an iPad. They are the magazine mental model and the computer mental model.

Magazine mental model

With the magazine mental model users expect the app to work similarly to an ebook or emagazine because the shape and size of the iPad device mimics earlier e-reader devices. Users are satisfied with media publications that have been brought online in an electronic form, as it is an efficient, extensive and familiar experience. It is a very linear experience and the structure of the material is in a familiar format of chapters with an initial table of contents (or a catalogue with product categories). It is a wide but flat experience, rather like snorkelling in the water, looking down.

An example of the kind of industry or content suited to a magazine mental model could be online shopping. Anything where the user will be browsing and reviewing choice prior to making their purchase choice/decision.

Computer mental model

However for every other app, users expect a more computer mental model. So what this? We’ll it’s not to say that an iPad is simply a paired down PC but rather users also expect an more accessible, engaging, interactive and immersive experience. This is to be delivered in a fluid way with functionality ignited at the touch of a fingertip. For example, in our travel project participants in the study wanted to be able to see in real time where the current cruise ships were on the globe. The ideal iPad app experience should be a deep one, rather like scuba diving where you can dive deeper, much deeper.

Some examples of the types of industries or content suited to this format are: online booking services (travel, entertainment), financial budgeting and planning (modelling) and travel schedules.  Where the real experience (e.g. holidays) involves engaging all senses – sight, sound, touch – these would be ideal for the computer mental model.  

The expectations that users bring to experience are two fold, the experience must not only be informative but entertaining. Our research revealed that majority of participants used the iPad while eating a meal, having a drink, relaxing on the couch or in bed.  Other research from the UK revealed that in 2010, as much as 20% of iPad usage occurred in bed! It goes without saying given the context of use an app must be simple and uncomplicated. All in all it’s a very tall order.

There seems to be a sense of déjà vu with the rash of iPad and mobile app developments. Where 10 or so years ago businesses were rushing to have a website, we are seeing a repeat somewhat with the development of the apps. In the rush to develop these apps however the usability experience is less than ideal, and often not even considered. The difficulty expands many issues but two critical ones include a lack of navigation and the lack of affordance, which should be on the top of the list when designing an iPad app.  

Lack of navigation: The discipline of developing a simple, stable navigation is lacking in many apps. So many apps don’t even have an obvious back or home button to help participants get back on track when lost. The home page is a critical landmark which users are familiar with and the lack of it severely undermines the process. The mouse-over functionality is non-existent on the iPad and therefore rollover menus and dropdown menus are eliminated from the experience. These are very helpful functions normally on a website so the navigation design needs to work even harder to bring the content out in an easy, simple way.       

Lack of affordance: The seemingly current trend to have sleek, flat designs on an iPad app means that perceived affordance for target areas on the screen are eliminated (For example a properly designed button has the visual affordance of pushability).  Participants in our research became confused as certain links were either avoided as they didn’t look like a link or participants actively tapped items that were deliberately not a functioning item. As the design stood it was not clear what you could push or not, thus generating a considerable amount of frustration. You may very well wish to make your functions discoverable – if there is a game element – but hiding features from your users is not recommended.     

If you would like to know more about our experiences with mobile & iPad testing shoot us an email lphillips@objectivedigital or call us on 02 8065 2438.










Reflecting on Steve Jobs & Apple’s Approach to User Experience

It was sad news that Steve Jobs lost his fight with Pancreatic Cancer last week. We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the things that Jobs (and Apple) brought to usability and customer experience.

It is widely agreed that Steve Jobs designed “insanely great products”, many of which have revolutionised the way in which we interact with technology and create and consume digital content today. Many of these products could be described as ‘disruptive technologies’ i.e. technologies that were game changers disrupting existing markets. For example, the popularisation of the ipod and iTunes changing how we consume music, the Apple LaserWriter printer combined with true type fonts and PageMaker software (made by Aldus, now Adobe) started desktop publishing, making the mobile web accessible and sticky through it’s applications for the masses through the iphone etc. Apple products may not have always been the first of their kind but they were usually the first of their kind that were both easy to use and widely purchased. Whilst there were many engineers involved in the creation and design of Apple products, there can be no debate that Steve Jobs was an influential force in Apple’s successes.

In 1984 Jobs unveiled the Macintosh computer to a very excited audience which fast became the first commercially successful small computer with a graphical user interface and a mouse.

Steve Jobs introduces the Mac 1984

The Macintosh computer through its use of a graphical user interface and a mouse provided people with a mental model to understand how to use it through it’s metaphor of a desktop, folders and icons etc. It should be acknowledged that this new interface within the early Apple products revolutionised the usability of computers exponentially. Whilst many other engineers were solely focused on the technology, Jobs understood the value of considering the people you are designing technology for.This sentiment can be seen by the promotional material for The Lisa, the predecessor of the Macintosh, as “the personal computer that works the way you do”. From the iPad, to the iPhone, to the iPod, Jobs and Apple continuously delivered products that were easy to use and easy to love.

Jobs also understood the value of creating exceptional customer experiences. He infused Apple with a culture that valued design and cared about the details. According to Jobs: Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

This consideration of how things worked went beyond the design of products. Not only did Apple focus on the design of exceptional products, they also considered every part of the purchasing process, both before and after you open the beautifully designed box. Apple’s retail service has been meticulously considered and designed across the entire customer life-cycle. Got a problem with your Apple device? Make an appointment with the Genius bar where an Apple Genius will assist you. Need some help with how to use your new Macs’ inbuilt movie making software? Book in for some training. (NB The inclusion of software with computers too was an early Apple innovation). If you ring technical support and give them your serial number they will know your name and when your warranty expires. The personal service you get when you go to an Apple store and talk to a customer representative about your needs gives you confidence that you are investing in the right solution for you. It’s this understanding on the entire customer experience, the focus on ‘details’ and ‘how things work’ that make customers feel valued and create customer advocacy. Apple makes buying their easy to use products easy.

This holistic approach can also be seen by Apples’ investment and evolution of iTunes and it’s associated services and sister products. Through iTunes, Apple was able to develop a content and product eco-system (a Product-Service-System) combining their products with services, creating a lucrative business model which others are trying to emulate. Through a tightly coupled integration between multiple hardware devices, media storage, indexing, acquisition and consumption, Apple has all bases covered. With iTunes and it’s associated devices one can discover, purchase, download and then consume content in minutes, on one device without leaving your armchair. The fact that you can even purchase and consume media through iTunes on your PC is testimony to the fact that they think beyond just their products.

This meticulous attention to detail, a focus on how thing work, the requirement for well designed products, and the intentional design of customer interactions across multiple touch-points all contribute to superior customer experiences and unprecedented customer advocacy for Apple. Further, we can all thank Steve Jobs for popularising the idea amongst his business contemporaries that better design makes both sense and cents (well more like dollars)!

Steve Jobs was a true innovator, a brilliant designer who really understood what people need and a remarkable entrepreneur. Thank you Steve, you will be missed.

Jax Wechsler, October, 2011.

Why our clients are finally finding the real value in usability testing…

By Esse Spadavecchia on 3 August 2011

Recently at Objective Digital we have had a plethora of financial clients asking for usability testing with our eye-tracking facilities as well as larger focus-groups to ascertain people’s views on finances and their attitudes towards banking online.

This is a good thing. Actually it’s a great thing. For one, as a banking customer of a couple of our client’ banks, I’m overjoyed that they’re interested in hearing what their end-users have to say… and what’s more they’re really listening. Secondly, it’s good for business. And we do love that really. But how did this all come about?

How did we instil the need for usability testing?

There was a long period of time when the words Usability Testing and User Centred Design were just hot jargon being played with in the industry… I don’t think our clients really knew how they would make improvements following usability testing sessions or include the outcomes in the process.

So what changed?

Well for one, the User Experience (UX) industry started evolving to a point where their deliverables weren’t just a 98-page Word document with detailed findings that no one would ever read…

Yep, we started wizening up to the fact that nobody likes to read lengthy documents, whether they are online or printed and bound. Even if you did put your super snazzy company logo in the top left corner with scented spray.

Now there was GOLD in those documents. Literally thousands of magic pointers that, if followed to the nose, would make your site grow a cape and take off faster than Superman… but who has time to read? Let alone work out a strategy for what gets done first and who should be responsible for it all.

And then what?

Deliverables became PowerPoint presentations and findings became bullet points of highlights. Graphs and tables with summaries became the norm. Edited short video clips of usability testing and eye-tracking accompanied every document.

Suddenly our clients were taking notice. One of our clients went on to say that our report was the ‘Best report I’ve ever read, tells the story in a way that makes absolute sense. We can’t wait to do this for all our products’.

 This was the hot tamale they’ been looking for. This was actionable. This they could deal with and still get home in time to watch Master Chef. Winner.

As an example we delivered a 28-page preso to one of our clients recently, most of which consisted of links to snippets of users talking about what they liked and what they didn’t like. The chief programme guy got it immediately. He stood up, shook our hand and said “Guys, I know what we need to do. It’s so obvious”. I know we keep saying it, but yes, the users’ voice speaks a million words… Even more so that an image, even if it’s of Paris Hilton.

So we started fashioning all our final presentations as such.

  • Short overviews, executive summaries.
  • Stats on what people liked, where they failed, what they wanted.
  •  All accompanied by video and eye-tacking data, as well as heatmaps and gazeplots.
  • Then end it off with an actionable list of what needs to be done, and prioritise it by user-need vs. business-need vs. technical complexity and you have a winner.
  • With a cherry on top.


So now our clients keep coming back to us. Not only because we’re lovely and generally very good-looking, but also because we actually deliver something they can act on. The guy at the top gets it because he can fashion a business case from it. The manager of the programme gets it because he can work it into his project timeline and of course the designer and propeller-heads get it because it’s actionable and they can action it. Simple.

So now our clients know usability testing is good. Not only because they are hearing the voice of their customers, but also because now they know what to do about it. Brilliant.

At the end of the day it’s the deliverables that are evolving… we forget in the UX industry that our clients have other stuff to read too (no! really?). And we are very, very clever, but it means nothing if people can’t do something with it.

It’s like getting a stunning villa in France vacuum packed and bubble wrapped with limited instructions (in French) as to how to get it up and install the plumbing… it’s bound to be abandoned.

And you probably won’t buy a villa from the same people again.

So go forth grasshopper, and create shorter presentations and deliverables with real impact!





Fake form fields for a better user experience

Being a Sydney-based UX company we do heaps of work in finance, particularly with online forms. Typically an online form, usually comprising multiple screens, will present some design challenges:

– collect all the required data, while being as short as possible

– collect accurate (formal) data, while using everyday (informal) language

– give the user a sense of control, while demanding intricate details (in a linear order).

Modern form design is a creative art to ensure that people (a) complete the process without deciding to give up and (b) feel emotionally positive after completing the process; if the customer feels the process was demanding and tiring, and even, well, *degrading* because of the personal disclosure to an inhuman interlocutor, then chances are your customer relationship is spoiled from the start. 

Recently we were designing a form in a workshop with a client and we discovered a design issue that demonstrated some of these competing demands, and we ended up with perhaps an unusual solution. The form, like many others, required some disclosure of the financial position of the customer. Part of this was their employment details. The form we had sketched had fields for ’employer’ and ‘job title’. Our client explained that actually they need the ‘job type’ and not the ‘job title’. Job types are selected from a (long) list and are things like:

  • Manager
  • Clerical assistant
  • Labourer
  • Teacher
  • Production manager
  • Warehouse manager
  • Sales minion* 

Whereas job titles are free text entry and are things like:

  • Manager, retail division
  • Senior administration supervisor
  • Granite technician
  • English teacher
  • Head of plant operations
  • Senior logistics manager
  • Sales prodigy*

You can see that ‘job titles’ often carry a sense of identity and can infer status (there’s more Senior and Principal UX professionals than Standard ones 😉 whereas ‘job types’ are averaging. Chances are that declaring a job title leads to a little flush of pride whilst declaring a job type leads to a little bit of reflection. With the form in question, and indeed with any form design, we want to keep the user feeling just chipper whilst they fill it in (there’s always some checkboxes that the client wants them to tick, right?). We felt that swapping ‘job title’ for ‘job type’ would take too much shine off the emotional wellbeing of our customer during this particular engagement. We decided to leave in ‘job title’ so people could tell us something special about their work, and then collect ‘job type’ straight after**.

Asking for data that you don’t need – the fake field – is of course artifice, and maybe could be considered a patronising lie that breaches the spirit of trust that should exist between user and provider… but seen in a different way it is quite usual to gather extra, incidental information. In a conversation, with a real person, without a computer screen and an un-emotional form in the way, people get a sense of dialog and emotional engagement from the interaction. A lot of extra information is transferred in the process of managing the interpersonal interaction. When designing a form, we acknowledge the compromises compared to that proper human engagement, and we look for ways in which we can take tiny steps back towards where we prefer to be. In this case, the ‘job title’ field is not data that gets kept, but it’s still important to ask someone; could you imagine asking someone what sort of job they had but not asking what they actually do? Even though it compromised our key goal of a short, fast form, sometimes satisfaction is more important than plain old efficiency.

Can you think of other examples where a fake field might help the experience?


* not really

** (we’d love to test this out and see if a form with ‘job title’ has higher satisfaction ratings than one with just ‘job type’ – maybe one day we will – for now we’re just measuring the form against performance goals)

Jon Duhig is a Grand Wizard at Objective Digital

Qantas A380 disruptions are not the only thing bothering passengers right now

It’s official, the Next Generation for Qantas has no people.

I am presently sitting on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne with Qantas. I have just had the most uncertain airport check in experience of my life. 

From the moment I entered the departure hall, until I boarded the aircraft, every step left me with unanswered questions.

Qantas are redefining the future of flying. In a world where airlines are too expensive to run and companies spend money coping with legal action and bad press, the hunger for profit has finally meant that we customers are left to deal directly with poorly designed technology, instead of having a lovely person as a buffer between sanity and IT.

It all started when I couldn’t find the check in desk!

As I entered the airport, I saw a strange looking wooden structure in the centre of the room. On which, all the signs pointed to the right and there was no indication of what I was supposed to do.

As I am 6′ 6” I need extra legroom and therefore I have to see someone at a desk so they can ask me if I am happy to be the first one out of the exit when the engine falls off.

So, the first question presented itself “What’s going on here?” 


When I finally found the check in kiosks, they were all standing in a diagonal row. Prompting the next question, “Where do I line up?” 

When a kiosk was free I presented myself and chose to enter my name, the only information I had about my flight, as Kylie had booked it for me. It found my booking!

I was fairly impressed. It looked quite usable.

So, I continued with the kiosk’s process that was clearly indicated with steps on a timeline at the top of the screen.

That’s where usability ended and stress took hold.

It started talking about Q Bag Tags. I was thinking ‘what is a Q Bag Tag and how many extra bag tags do I need?’ I thought they must have one at the counter for me, so I ordered 2. But I had three bags… then, to my surprise, it started printing bag tags… ah, it prints bag tags, I realised… Thanks for telling me! I had no idea what a bloody Q Bag Tag was, nor was I aware that there were no counters anymore.

Then another question arose, “Where do I go to put it on my bag? Do I just go and stand over there and do it?” I actually saw one guy put his tags on in front of the kiosk… this met with disapproval from passengers in the queue!

Then, after an uncertain wait, a few bag receipts were printed and my boarding pass was printed out, indicating the end of the process at the kiosk. I walked off with 2 bag tags and 3 bags. I then asked one of the 3 staff I found on the floor of the busy departures hall,where do I get another bag tag?’ She said, ‘didn’t you get three? Go back and use your boarding pass to get another tag.’ 

I murmered to myself.. why didn’t it confirm that when I was at the kiosk the first time?  I went back over to the kiosk and looked for the boarding pass option to get started. Nothing in the list… I entered my name again.

Then I went through the whole process again and got another bag tag.

Now, what do I do about oversized baggage?

I thought, I can’t go over to the bag drop because no one is there to help me.

Blood pressure rising, I found another person, and after waiting for a few minutes, they took me to a little terminal in the middle of the room, took a sticker off the oversized baggage tag and entered it into the system. She said, I need to know how heavy the bag is, and I told her it was 20 kg.. She trusted me 😉

Then she said, “Are you going to put this [roll up display poster] in as over sized baggage?” “I don’t know”, I said. “Do I need to?”

So next I went over to the bag drop off area and pressed a few buttons and weighed the only bag I had. Thats when the system told me I was 13 kg over weight and it was going to cost me $130. A kick in the guts after all this mucking around.

My non-oversized bag shushed off down the conveyor.  I was wondering “will I see it again?”

So I looked at the bag drop interface…. where do I pay the $130 oversized back fee please? Nothing…

I asked another staff again…And do you know what she said?!

“At the [f***ing] kiosk!”

Back to the kiosk I went. And as I approached the kiosk for the third time, an old guy who approached from the other direction accused me of taking his spot! Line the kiosks up on the wall please Qantas!

Then the same staff member I had spoken to twice already came over and said “You’re back again!’. I laughed… and thought “idiot”.

This time I worked out how to scan my silly boarding pass instead of typing in my name. Yes, it took me three visits to work this out!

I paid my money.

Then, I had to take my big bags over to the overly busy oversized baggage counter. Of course it was busy, no one was checking the bags carefully. I left my very expensive eye tracker equipment on the floor with a pile of other oversized bags, all sitting there t
ogether, hoping they make it to Melbourne.

How did I feel now?

I left the check in area anxious and shaking. I was wondering whether I would get my flight on time and I had arrived at the airport 75 minutes early!

Plus after all that, I had forgotten to get more leg room! And what’s more when I got on the plane the exit rows were basically empty!

When I got to the other end waiting at the conveyor belt to pick up my baggage, I felt certain it wasn’t going to arrive. Fortunately it did. 

 So why did all this go wrong?

1) Keep people informed 

With processes like this, that have only a few staff managing hundreds of transactions. One hundred percent of passenger types should be catered for by one hundred percent of the system. If this isn’t possible then the passengers need to be clearly informed about what to do at every step of the way on both the interface they are using and in the physical environment around them.

2) Test everything

My guess is that Qantas made sure that the interfaces on the machines, that require interaction, work really well, but they didn’t link the machines together at an overall process level.

3) Time in motion 

Qantas also didn’t consider the physical movement of people and put the wrong transactions on the wrong machines.  Why should I have to go back and line up at a busy kiosk to pay for excess baggage when I have already dropped my bag off!!

4) Help!

Qantas took all the staff away before the glitches in the system were ironed out.

It is obvious to me that different people where responsible for each of my interactions with Qantas and its technology interfaces during check in. I am sure that the program manager on the Next Gen project was too busy to consider all the parts of the puzzle at a high level and I guess that they didn’t have a team that was responsible for the overall customer experience.

I am sure the checkin kiosk and website were usability tested in isolation and the rest was left to engineers and builders.

So long… 

I am looking forward to my Virgin Blue flight home and I will not be flying Qantas again.

All these things could have been avoided with some pre planning, testing with passengers, clear signage and more staffing.

This form of customer abuse is simply irresponsible.

If you have had a similar experience, then vote with your feet.


James Breeze is the Chief Experience Officer of Objective Digital, a Sydney based user expience consultancy. www.ObjectiveDigital.com