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UX Research website to close in 2017

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

After 10 years of service, this website will be closing mid 2017, to be replaced by the more modern www.uxreview.com.au which also reflects the type of work in which I have been engaged in recent times. Health problems since 2014, specifically my battle with double-hit lymphoma leading to a stem cell transplant, have prompted me to work less and more importantly in an area that I feel is so much more worthy than the consulting I have done for the Financial Services Sector. Frankly, I have little respect for the work of the FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) industry even though they have been a source of most of UX Research’s income since its establishment in 2007. I agree with a recent description of the financial industry as, “an overgrown parasite whose rapacious rent-seeking immiserates working people” (Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, April 25, 2017). Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good people who I’ve worked with over the years, but honestly you could hardly believe some of the stupid marketing ideas I’ve recently seen the banks¬† waste so much money on, while they suck the life out of the economy selling mortgages on over-priced real estate to the occupants of this nation – which now has the greatest private debt in the world.

No more – Now I’m back working part time teaching mathematics and helping students learn with technology. I’ve got a real job again, working to make a difference where it counts.

All the best,

 

John Eklund

 

Independent Reviews of Advertising Concepts

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Over the years UX Research (www.uxreview.com.au) has specialised in independent reviews of digital initiatives including websites, transactional flows and advertising concepts. Digital Creatives have a habit of coming up with odd-ball ideas intended to get the attention of an increasingly diminishing share of the market. We have seen a lot of these from the financial services sector recently (I’m sure you can guess who), where service providers are desperately trying to distinguish themselves from the competition (which they mostly cannot do because fundamentally their offerings are basically the same). Some of these ideas just might be winners and strike a chord with the audience, while most will amount to costly ways to annoy an existing customer-base. The only way to weed out the few ideas that might actually work from the rest of the self-indulgent non-starters is to conduct independent testing – checking the ideas with customers -and this should be done at an early concept phase before serious funds are wasted on production. Sounds obvious right? A fundamental of User Centred Design known about for years? Then why do we see so many failed concepts just prior to launch?

Usability of ATMs – an update

Monday, August 15th, 2016

In November 2013 I noted that NAB ATMs had a peculiar feature whereby a customer making a withdrawal was asked if they would like to save the current amount as their favourite amount. Whether or not they responded with YES or NO, it appears the amount is never offered in future withdrawals as an option. The point being that every interaction on an ATM is an additional overhead on the user to get to their primary goal of completing the transaction, and steps must be strictly limited, especially if they offer no end purpose.

Now almost 3 years later, I am happy to report progress with this. Now the user receives a message that says something like “Favourite transaction saved”, when they respond with a YES. While this seems to occur inconsistently, there is still no option for the user to retrieve their saved favourite amount!

It’s good usability practice to provide the user with feedback on their actions, but if this is not backed up with actual functionality to retrieve the saved amount, it amounts to emphasising flaws in the system.

Maybe in another 3  years the pathway will be complete, who knows? Until that time they are just adding unnecessary steps without providing the full functionality, so one wonders at the point.

Autoplay embedded video an obvious, stupid mistake

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Visit news websites such as www.news.com.au and you will find most pages lower than the homepage have embedded video segments that are set to ‘autoplay’, taking away the option for the user to intentionally interact with that segment if and when they choose [User Control]. This is particularly annoying as the pages often contain many sections and subheadings that a user might scroll to, taking the video segment off the screen. The problem is compounded by the use of multiple tabs. It’s like playing a game of stopping the noisy bit before it bothers you. It gets worse: The video segment takes time to load, so the user has to wait for the appropriate control to appear before it can be paused. Its also possible to have more than one video playing at once. Given that the number of pause actions on a page for auto play segments is likely to be about the same as the number of play actions in a non-autoplay environment, this design is paramount to saying “the designers have decided you will view this segment now (or as soon as it loads)”. The stupidity of the design is further exacerbated by the fact that on completion, many videos are followed with another video that has no relationship to the surrounding content on the page. No-one with the slightest inkling of good usability would ever implement this, yet here it is all over a major news site.

 

UX Review website live

Monday, October 26th, 2015

We have launched a new website at www.uxreview.com.au

This represents a collaboration between the usability services offered by UX Research and the brand and marketing services by Review Partners. Our integrated methodology goes further than conventional usability studies by telling you how your customers are using your digital platforms and also what the experience means for their relationship with your brand. We evaluate user engagement across desktops, mobiles and tablets to help you develop the optimum brand and usability experience for your entire audience. Studio UX is our custom-designed research studio in the Sydney CBD which gives you a first-hand opportunity to see how your customers are interacting with your digital communication.

 

UX Research presents paper at AMSRS Conference

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

UX Research had the honor of presenting a paper at this year’s national AMSRS Conference in September 2015. The paper was entitled “Is a screen more important than a smile in shaping brand equity? Combining usability and brand impact research to explore the influence of the digital user experience on the value of a brand“, co-authored with Paul Costantoura of Review Partners.

In the presentation we make the point that in today’s modern world where people increasingly interact with brands using technology, the importance of good usability in the transactional interface can have direct impact on brand perceptions, particularly for those users who might be ‘brand agnostics’. A consequence of this is that as a usability company, we are increasingly conducting hybrid sessions taking the form of small focus groups with a task-based hands on component; and we can thus offer not only design suggestions to improve ease of use of an interface but solid feedback on brand awareness, perceptions and preferences.

UX Review – combining Brand values and Usability Research

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

This month UX Research announces a major new initiative – a formal collaboration with brand research company Review Partners.

Having shared the same premises for a number of years, we started working together on a number of high-profile projects – specifically in the financial services sector. These involved qualitative research covering both brand values and straight usability. Through these projects, which are often commissioned separately by different parts of an organisation, we found that with the increased access to different media (mobile/tablet/desktop), it was almost impossible to separate the impact of good usability from a user’s perception of brand. Just as importantly, it was clear that how users interact with an organisation through different media starts with their perceptions of that brand. It meant that we provided some very rich and rewarding sessions of consumer feedback that covered both brand awareness, brand values and ease of use that were seamlessly interlinked. Recommendations from the studies were aligned and had impacts across the organisation.

After these experiences, Review Partners wanted to extend its reach into usability and UX Research wanted to incorporate more market research into routine usability sessions. We really needed to work together and leverage from each other’s expertise.

Combining our services into User Experience sessions that covered both these aspects made perfect sense. Of course users begin with perceptions of a brand – they then interact with that brand through multiple platforms – and its the quality of that experience that ultimately impacts how they approach the brand. The marketing managers and the web team obtain one clearly aligned message about how they can improve their market share and take-up rates. So simple and effective. We call it UX Review.

View the UX Review brochure

Merry Christmas 2014

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

2014 has been characterised by change at a business and personal level. From a work perspective, UX Research has increasingly collaborated with (and often become a part of for specific projects) the market research team at Review Partners (http://www.reviewpartners.com.au). This has enabled us both to take on larger and more multi-disciplinary projects that involve components of usability as well as strategic positioning and marketing, as well as share delivery resources. Together, we have developed significant expertise in undertaking user experience reviews across multiple platforms – especially tablet and mobile. From this association, report formats have become more accesssible and more visual, processes in conducting reviews have improved, and the scope of report outputs has expanded. On a personal level, I have had to deal with ongoing hospital treatments throughout the year following the diagnosis of double-hit lymphoma (http://www.tdhlf.org/). A long and difficult journey – perhaps not over yet – but one from from which I am gradually recovering.

Thanks to all the clients this year who have supported us – especially those very few who have paid their invoices on time.

We wish you all the best for 2015.

John Eklund

Business Insight through customer research

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Partnering with experts in market research, we offer business insight and strategy through a formal process of customer consultation. Methods include stakeholder requirements analysis, task-based usability testing, and focus group sessions for early design reviews. Improving the way your customers interact with your business via technology is the future of your business.

Building business intelligence through a customer-centred approach means regularly involving customers in an iterative design process. These review processes form the core skillset of UX Research.

The usability of ATMs

Friday, November 8th, 2013

As a regular user of ATMs, I find I am encountering three of problems in their use – other than not having enough money in my account! I wonder if others do too? Here they are:

1. The purpose of buttons on the machine is sometimes mistaken because the text on the screen that explains the function of the button doesn’t line up well.

So rather than looking like this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.02.21 PM

It looks more like this- and I’m not sure if withdrawal is the third button or the last one:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.19.59 PM

Now, it seems to me that if the number of items on the screen was the same as the number of buttons, the user could more readily infer the correct correspondence. Like this, where withdrawal is more clearly the third button:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.04.06 PM

 

Secondly, with NAB I am always asked “Do you want to save this as your favourite transaction?” I have experimented many times with answering YES or NO, but it makes no difference, I am never offered that same transaction next time anyway.

Now this is actually a big deal because its important in an ATM transaction to minimize the number of actions to completion, so to insert a redundant action is bad on two counts.

I am not even sure if it did work it would be worth it, but surely it should work before it is implemented?

 

Third and finally, I am asked if I would like my balance displayed onscreen. This question comes up quite early in the flow. I sometimes want this, but almost always miss seeing the balance when it is displayed. This is because it is shown at a time when I am taking out the money dispensed, and not attending to the screen.

I think if it directly followed a user action at the end it might work better. After the cash is dispensed, ask the user if they want the balance displayed then if yes show it immediately.