Importance of seamless user experience

Process   ·   21 June 2020   ·   13 min read

Importance of seamless user experience

Process   ·   21 June 2020   ·   13 min read

Importance of seamless user experience

Process   ·   21 June 2020   ·   13 min read

Importance of seamless user experience

Process   ·   21 June 2020   ·   13 min read

_____Nowadays, having only great quality of products is not enough. It is important to consider user experience as well as products. User experience is a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service, according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2009). Although there are many historic signs can be traced back to 4000 BC that people did care about intuitive, user-friendly experience, the recent concept of user experience was coined by Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist and designer, in the 1993 (CareerFoundry, 2019). And ever since, the interest in user experience is constantly increasing, technology is developing faster than ever and accordingly, user’s expectation for better user experience went up higher. Now, people want to have a great experience when using a product and having a good user experience became one of the important factors when choosing a product. Therefore, creating a seamless experience has become very important.

_____I was able to fully realise why seamless experience would be important for users with the project I did for Unit 7. For the first brief of Unit 7, I got to choose a brief out of three: YCN Shelter, YCN HMV and G.F Smith. I chose YCN Shelter brief which was to create a social media campaign to demonstrate the benefits of social housing. Although with so many benefits of social housing and the need of it due to the housing crisis in UK, it is fraught with negative stereotypes and high levels of stigma and Shelter wanted to break those and bring in more optimistic views. Shelter wanted to have 18-34 year olds see that social housing can and should represent a desirable place to call home and for the methods. They wanted us to deliver personal stories through media using photography, video or written media and demonstrate how their bold new vision for social housing would benefit them.

_____It was a difficult brief since it was a brief dealing with social issues, which people normally want to avoid. This was proved by number of students chose this brief, only 13% chose the brief. It was more difficult especially as a foreigner not familiar with the concept of social housing, initially thought that social housing is a housing like a shared housing. The issue was way deeper than I expected. However, I started to enjoy this project as I got to solve the problem.

_____The problem that I identified was that Shelter didn’t consider the audience properly. They didn’t consider the experiences that audiences will have with the tone of voice or the message they wanted to convey. First of all, social housing doesn’t benefit 18-34 year olds at all. Though the brief suggested us to deliver the message that social housing would benefit them, it was actually completely the opposite, 18-34 was the age group that benefited the least. Housing associations describe that it is extremely unlikely for 18-34 to be able to get a social housing. Yet, this age group is second lowest income group. Saying that it would benefit will be a lie and it would only create the negative effect. Second, telling human stories doesn’t work anymore. There are already too many stories going on that made people numb and it causes people to perceive these beneficiaries as out-group. Perceiving them as out-group even though they are in a same position as the beneficiaries will only enable more stereotypes and stigma. Third, like mentioned above, posting something deep and serious on the social media where there are full of fun and interesting things will naturally make people to skip the social housing campaign.

Figure 1. Affo

Figure 2. One of game interfaces in Affo

_____Therefore, alternatively, I created a mobile game called “Affo”, a game to live affordable life, using cute illustrated characters. (Fig. 1,2) As the feedbacks I got from many tutors and peers were very positive, I could say I’ve created the work that could help Shelter to achieve its goal.

_____The reason that I think this project was successful was because I tried to think about audiences’ perspective and what they might want to experience. Identifying problems that brief had and considering users’ experience enabled me to generate a better idea than what Shelter expected us to create. An idea to help the audiences to effortlessly learn about social housing and break the stigma towards it whilst having fun.

_____This project was definitely a trigger point for me to consider the audience more and think about user experience. At the same time, I started to wonder why seamless and effortless user experience became so important these days. Thinking back of the time a few years ago, it was not that big. There were many products that didn’t consider user experience and there were times when it was okay for a game or a product to have a long instruction. It was okay to make users to put effort when learning how to use it. I wondered why and searched for reasons that might have caused people to think user experience is now important.

_____First reason would be that people are smarter now. People have changed as the world has changed. In 2000s, it was the time when people started to own laptops and smart phones but yet, people were not used to these devices. They needed to learn in order to use it

Figure 3. In-app gestures

_____People living in 2020 are more aware of using smartphone and know the screen gestures as the smartphone penetration of mobile phone market in 2016 reached 81% (Turner, 2020). Many children are growing up with smart devices and they are very much familiar with touch screens. They tap, drag and flick to do what they need to in their phones. (Fig. 3) However, back in 2007, when the smartphone penetration was only 6% (Turner, 2020), this wasn’t the case. When these touch screen smartphones came out, some people weren’t used to the concept, hence, wanted to stick to what they know, physical keyboards.

_____The rise and fall of BlackBerry is a good example of showing this. Many years ago, BlackBerry used to own over 50% of the US smartphone market and 20% of the global. Even after 2007 and 2008, when the competitive iPhone and Android OS entered to the market, it remained its domination of smartphone market through 2010, holding over 40% of US and nearly 20% of global market share. BlackBerry’s leadership insisted that users preferred physical keyboard, however, because of this slow market reaction, it gradually lost its market share. Eventually, in 2016, they ended up announcing that they no longer produce smartphones (Luo, n.d.). (Fig. 4)

Figure 4. Market share of BlackBerry ’07-’16

_____Likewise, back in the past, it was needed to inform the users how to use the smartphones and what gestures they can use. It was needed to tell them what the icons are for and what buttons they can use. However, it will only annoy the users now when they already know everything. It’s like trying a new dish in a restaurant. At the first trial, you would want and expect the staff to explain the dish for you. What dish it is, what ingredients they have in it or how to eat it properly. After that trial, you will now know all the general information about it and when you have it again, you will want the staff to let you alone so that you can start to eat it right away. However, if they try to inform you again, you will be annoyed and think that they are delaying your meal. Therefore, it has now become more important to make an intuitive, self-evident design than to try to be overly kind and try to teach the user everything.

_____Secondly, people want something easy and fast. Technology has developed faster than any other period of time and it is being developed even faster now. People are able to do so many things more convenient but at the same time, it has caused people to be a lot more impatient. Technology brought the expectation to people that everything could be quicker.

Figure 5. Maximum time for an internet user to wait for a site to load

_____Google engineers have discovered that these days, even 400 milliseconds which is equivalent to the blink of an eye is too long for the users. In 2006, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load within four seconds or fewer, whereas people expected it to be loaded within two seconds or fewer (Lohr, 2012, p.2). (Fig. 5) Accordingly, this two-second rule is still commonly used for e-commerce sites, however, this rule is already outdated as well. Harry Shum, a computer scientist from Microsoft, said if the loading time for a website is slower than its competitors by 250 milliseconds, which is just one-quarter of a second, users are less likely to visit the website (Lohr, 2012, p.4).

_____Social login is a great example to explain this. Before social login was invented, people needed to fill out every form in registration page for every website. This caused people to spend a lot of their time just to register. As well as this, the notification saying that they need to change their password made people to be confused and to not remember what their password was, making them to find their password by going through identification and reset.

Figure 6. Register Form (Left) and Social Login (Right)

_____Social login solved all of these. (Fig. 6) All people needed to do was to click the button instead of typing to fill out the forms and users didn’t have to worry or try so hard to remember the password. After users experienced social login from one site to another, they started to realise how easy the registration for a website could be. They realised fast it could be done. It now has become a new standard for users so they expect the websites to have social login option available.

_____Journal app these days is another good example to show that users want a service that is easy and fast. Traditionally, writing letter by letter, word by word was the way to keep a diary. It applied the same until the early stage of laptop and smartphone, where people still typed to keep a diary. However, as users got used to touching the screen of smartphone and gestures they can use, these diary apps that help you to keep a diary just by touching a few buttons. (Fig. 7) This has enabled keeping a diary even more doable and less time-consuming. With lower burden, some people who didn’t keep a diary saw the benefit of this and started to try to keep a diary. Also, people who got used to this easy and fast system of keeping a diary found it hard to go back to the old way of doing so.

Figure 7. Type-based Diary App (Left) and Button-based Diary App (Right)

_____Last reason for why seamless user experience is important is because having poor user experience impacts business hugely. In the early stage of smartphones, there were not many apps available. The App Store for iOS was first opened on July 10, 2008, which started with an initial 500 applications available (AppleInsider, 2011). So it was relatively easier for businesses to keep the users and even if they had poor experience, they didn’t have much of a choice. However, as of 2017, the number of apps available in the store reached over 2.2 million (statista, 2020). Situation is totally different when businesses have a lot of competitors that users can easily switch to. For gaming apps, 349,563 mobile gaming apps were available in the Google Play app store and 903,489 gaming apps available in the App Store (statista, 2020). There are more than 1,400 sites for dating in the UK alone (Russell, 2020).

_____Same with the online shopping apps. Users are now aware that there are tons of other brands available that will offer better user experience and service and it is more than natural for these users to choose the website that will provide better experience. It is not a surprising result that 65% of consumers were willing to switch from a poorly designed mobile site to one that makes purchasing easy (Akindunjoye, 2019).

_____Of course, there are cases where people are less likely to switch from one to another. It is not always true that people are fickle, says Steve Krug, a user experience professional (Krug, 2014). There are cases where people have no choice but to stick with it, for instance, a company intranet or their bank’s mobile app. Also, there is no guarantee that they will find an app that is better than the previous one. However, this is also changing. For example, most people have at least one account from major banks in UK but most of them don’t provide instant notifications of spending. They usually go into pending transaction tab, which causes the statement to be in non- chronological order, making people to be confused on what they have spent the money for. A few years ago, people had no option but to just bear with this because it is even more bothering to apply for another account in another bank, which will take even more. And besides, most of the banks were the same. Now people have another choice as there are a few online-based banks which they can create an account way quicker and will send instant spending notifications.

_____As well as the fact that there are more alternatives available for users, there started to be more businesses that realised the importance of user experience more than ever. It was very crucial for them to keep up with the recent trend and technology and get it applied to their sites and apps, however, it was very hard to do so with the conventional workflow model, waterfall model.

Figure 8. Waterfall Model and Agile Model

_____Waterfall model is a model that aims to complete each phase before starting the next phase. This model has advantages that it is simple and easy to manage. It was a nice model until recently, where development of technology and change of society are too quick that they could not keep up with the trend and technology. Therefore, as an alternative, businesses started to take agile model, which sub-steps are implemented in iterations called sprints (Spies, 2015). (Fig. 8) This way, it was easier to satisfy users need, react fast and adapt to changing circumstances and even it was possible to amend after having some feedbacks from users.

_____Because there are businesses reacting very fast on their feedbacks with agile workflow model, not improving poor user experience became even more critical. It is very critical that it can affect many businesses because the paradigm of purchasing has been changed. After Industrial Revolution, there were so many products but so little did consumers know about the detail. In order for producers to sell the products, they began to advertise them, however, in the process of doing so, the experience part was separated. As the technology wasn’t so developed back then, sharing little experiences with family and friends was the only option people had. It was done purchase-first, experience-later way and there was nothing people could do about it. On the other hand, with the development of technology, the paradigm has become the opposite. It is possible for them to experience first and then purchase later (Kim, 2012). It is very easy to find reviews about a product on the internet, making people to not only depend on advertisements. Therefore, these days, not reacting fast enough and letting the poor user experience to continue on will only enable users to switch to another better product, which will affect hugely on the business.

_____My project for social housing ‘Affo’ could have ended up being deep and serious. Social issues could sometimes be something that people want to avoid for a bit especially when it is posted on social media platforms with so many fun stuffs. Considering young audiences and thinking of what they might want to experience led this project to the success. It became more approachable, engaging and bright. Likewise, in a bigger sense, knowing the characteristic of users nowadays is important when designing user experience. Because of the technological development, people became smarter with the devices and accordingly, they started to want something simple and quick. As people now expect effortless and seamless user experience, products with the opposite user experience are being neglected, hence, affecting on the business a lot.

_____“Now we need to generate insights very quickly, perhaps weekly, effectively running the whole model in fast-forward mode,” said Tom Acland, Director of brand strategy from Neue Digitale (Spies, 2015, p.36). Our world that we are living in is changing so fast that it doesn’t make sense to do a project without any iteration and adjustments. Many things will need to be changed with the change of the world. However, nevertheless, one thing stays clear. With the fast-paced world, people will expect everything to be fast. Making users to pause themselves to think or learn about the product will only delay their original purposes of the product. Therefore, having seamless user experience will become more and more important.

_____Nowadays, having only great quality of products is not enough. It is important to consider user experience as well as products. User experience is a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service, according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2009). Although there are many historic signs can be traced back to 4000 BC that people did care about intuitive, user-friendly experience, the recent concept of user experience was coined by Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist and designer, in the 1993 (CareerFoundry, 2019). And ever since, the interest in user experience is constantly increasing, technology is developing faster than ever and accordingly, user’s expectation for better user experience went up higher. Now, people want to have a great experience when using a product and having a good user experience became one of the important factors when choosing a product. Therefore, creating a seamless experience has become very important.

_____I was able to fully realise why seamless experience would be important for users with the project I did for Unit 7. For the first brief of Unit 7, I got to choose a brief out of three: YCN Shelter, YCN HMV and G.F Smith. I chose YCN Shelter brief which was to create a social media campaign to demonstrate the benefits of social housing. Although with so many benefits of social housing and the need of it due to the housing crisis in UK, it is fraught with negative stereotypes and high levels of stigma and Shelter wanted to break those and bring in more optimistic views. Shelter wanted to have 18-34 year olds see that social housing can and should represent a desirable place to call home and for the methods. They wanted us to deliver personal stories through media using photography, video or written media and demonstrate how their bold new vision for social housing would benefit them.

_____It was a difficult brief since it was a brief dealing with social issues, which people normally want to avoid. This was proved by number of students chose this brief, only 13% chose the brief. It was more difficult especially as a foreigner not familiar with the concept of social housing, initially thought that social housing is a housing like a shared housing. The issue was way deeper than I expected. However, I started to enjoy this project as I got to solve the problem.

_____The problem that I identified was that Shelter didn’t consider the audience properly. They didn’t consider the experiences that audiences will have with the tone of voice or the message they wanted to convey. First of all, social housing doesn’t benefit 18-34 year olds at all. Though the brief suggested us to deliver the message that social housing would benefit them, it was actually completely the opposite, 18-34 was the age group that benefited the least. Housing associations describe that it is extremely unlikely for 18-34 to be able to get a social housing. Yet, this age group is second lowest income group. Saying that it would benefit will be a lie and it would only create the negative effect. Second, telling human stories doesn’t work anymore. There are already too many stories going on that made people numb and it causes people to perceive these beneficiaries as out-group. Perceiving them as out-group even though they are in a same position as the beneficiaries will only enable more stereotypes and stigma. Third, like mentioned above, posting something deep and serious on the social media where there are full of fun and interesting things will naturally make people to skip the social housing campaign.

Figure 1. Affo

Figure 2. One of game interfaces in Affo

_____Therefore, alternatively, I created a mobile game called “Affo”, a game to live affordable life, using cute illustrated characters. (Fig. 1,2) As the feedbacks I got from many tutors and peers were very positive, I could say I’ve created the work that could help Shelter to achieve its goal.

_____The reason that I think this project was successful was because I tried to think about audiences’ perspective and what they might want to experience. Identifying problems that brief had and considering users’ experience enabled me to generate a better idea than what Shelter expected us to create. An idea to help the audiences to effortlessly learn about social housing and break the stigma towards it whilst having fun.

_____This project was definitely a trigger point for me to consider the audience more and think about user experience. At the same time, I started to wonder why seamless and effortless user experience became so important these days. Thinking back of the time a few years ago, it was not that big. There were many products that didn’t consider user experience and there were times when it was okay for a game or a product to have a long instruction. It was okay to make users to put effort when learning how to use it. I wondered why and searched for reasons that might have caused people to think user experience is now important.

_____First reason would be that people are smarter now. People have changed as the world has changed. In 2000s, it was the time when people started to own laptops and smart phones but yet, people were not used to these devices. They needed to learn in order to use it

Figure 3. In-app gestures

_____People living in 2020 are more aware of using smartphone and know the screen gestures as the smartphone penetration of mobile phone market in 2016 reached 81% (Turner, 2020). Many children are growing up with smart devices and they are very much familiar with touch screens. They tap, drag and flick to do what they need to in their phones. (Fig. 3) However, back in 2007, when the smartphone penetration was only 6% (Turner, 2020), this wasn’t the case. When these touch screen smartphones came out, some people weren’t used to the concept, hence, wanted to stick to what they know, physical keyboards.

_____The rise and fall of BlackBerry is a good example of showing this. Many years ago, BlackBerry used to own over 50% of the US smartphone market and 20% of the global. Even after 2007 and 2008, when the competitive iPhone and Android OS entered to the market, it remained its domination of smartphone market through 2010, holding over 40% of US and nearly 20% of global market share. BlackBerry’s leadership insisted that users preferred physical keyboard, however, because of this slow market reaction, it gradually lost its market share. Eventually, in 2016, they ended up announcing that they no longer produce smartphones (Luo, n.d.). (Fig. 4)

Figure 4. Market share of BlackBerry ’07-’16

_____Likewise, back in the past, it was needed to inform the users how to use the smartphones and what gestures they can use. It was needed to tell them what the icons are for and what buttons they can use. However, it will only annoy the users now when they already know everything. It’s like trying a new dish in a restaurant. At the first trial, you would want and expect the staff to explain the dish for you. What dish it is, what ingredients they have in it or how to eat it properly. After that trial, you will now know all the general information about it and when you have it again, you will want the staff to let you alone so that you can start to eat it right away. However, if they try to inform you again, you will be annoyed and think that they are delaying your meal. Therefore, it has now become more important to make an intuitive, self-evident design than to try to be overly kind and try to teach the user everything.

_____Secondly, people want something easy and fast. Technology has developed faster than any other period of time and it is being developed even faster now. People are able to do so many things more convenient but at the same time, it has caused people to be a lot more impatient. Technology brought the expectation to people that everything could be quicker.

Figure 5. Maximum time for an internet user to wait for a site to load

_____Google engineers have discovered that these days, even 400 milliseconds which is equivalent to the blink of an eye is too long for the users. In 2006, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load within four seconds or fewer, whereas people expected it to be loaded within two seconds or fewer (Lohr, 2012, p.2). (Fig. 5) Accordingly, this two-second rule is still commonly used for e-commerce sites, however, this rule is already outdated as well. Harry Shum, a computer scientist from Microsoft, said if the loading time for a website is slower than its competitors by 250 milliseconds, which is just one-quarter of a second, users are less likely to visit the website (Lohr, 2012, p.4).

_____Social login is a great example to explain this. Before social login was invented, people needed to fill out every form in registration page for every website. This caused people to spend a lot of their time just to register. As well as this, the notification saying that they need to change their password made people to be confused and to not remember what their password was, making them to find their password by going through identification and reset.

Figure 6. Register Form (Left) and Social Login (Right)

_____Social login solved all of these. (Fig. 6) All people needed to do was to click the button instead of typing to fill out the forms and users didn’t have to worry or try so hard to remember the password. After users experienced social login from one site to another, they started to realise how easy the registration for a website could be. They realised fast it could be done. It now has become a new standard for users so they expect the websites to have social login option available.

_____Journal app these days is another good example to show that users want a service that is easy and fast. Traditionally, writing letter by letter, word by word was the way to keep a diary. It applied the same until the early stage of laptop and smartphone, where people still typed to keep a diary. However, as users got used to touching the screen of smartphone and gestures they can use, these diary apps that help you to keep a diary just by touching a few buttons. (Fig. 7) This has enabled keeping a diary even more doable and less time-consuming. With lower burden, some people who didn’t keep a diary saw the benefit of this and started to try to keep a diary. Also, people who got used to this easy and fast system of keeping a diary found it hard to go back to the old way of doing so.

Figure 7. Type-based Diary App (Left) and Button-based Diary App (Right)

_____Last reason for why seamless user experience is important is because having poor user experience impacts business hugely. In the early stage of smartphones, there were not many apps available. The App Store for iOS was first opened on July 10, 2008, which started with an initial 500 applications available (AppleInsider, 2011). So it was relatively easier for businesses to keep the users and even if they had poor experience, they didn’t have much of a choice. However, as of 2017, the number of apps available in the store reached over 2.2 million (statista, 2020). Situation is totally different when businesses have a lot of competitors that users can easily switch to. For gaming apps, 349,563 mobile gaming apps were available in the Google Play app store and 903,489 gaming apps available in the App Store (statista, 2020). There are more than 1,400 sites for dating in the UK alone (Russell, 2020).

_____Same with the online shopping apps. Users are now aware that there are tons of other brands available that will offer better user experience and service and it is more than natural for these users to choose the website that will provide better experience. It is not a surprising result that 65% of consumers were willing to switch from a poorly designed mobile site to one that makes purchasing easy (Akindunjoye, 2019).

_____Of course, there are cases where people are less likely to switch from one to another. It is not always true that people are fickle, says Steve Krug, a user experience professional (Krug, 2014). There are cases where people have no choice but to stick with it, for instance, a company intranet or their bank’s mobile app. Also, there is no guarantee that they will find an app that is better than the previous one. However, this is also changing. For example, most people have at least one account from major banks in UK but most of them don’t provide instant notifications of spending. They usually go into pending transaction tab, which causes the statement to be in non- chronological order, making people to be confused on what they have spent the money for. A few years ago, people had no option but to just bear with this because it is even more bothering to apply for another account in another bank, which will take even more. And besides, most of the banks were the same. Now people have another choice as there are a few online-based banks which they can create an account way quicker and will send instant spending notifications.

_____As well as the fact that there are more alternatives available for users, there started to be more businesses that realised the importance of user experience more than ever. It was very crucial for them to keep up with the recent trend and technology and get it applied to their sites and apps, however, it was very hard to do so with the conventional workflow model, waterfall model.

Figure 8. Waterfall Model and Agile Model

_____Waterfall model is a model that aims to complete each phase before starting the next phase. This model has advantages that it is simple and easy to manage. It was a nice model until recently, where development of technology and change of society are too quick that they could not keep up with the trend and technology. Therefore, as an alternative, businesses started to take agile model, which sub-steps are implemented in iterations called sprints (Spies, 2015). (Fig. 8) This way, it was easier to satisfy users need, react fast and adapt to changing circumstances and even it was possible to amend after having some feedbacks from users.

_____Because there are businesses reacting very fast on their feedbacks with agile workflow model, not improving poor user experience became even more critical. It is very critical that it can affect many businesses because the paradigm of purchasing has been changed. After Industrial Revolution, there were so many products but so little did consumers know about the detail. In order for producers to sell the products, they began to advertise them, however, in the process of doing so, the experience part was separated. As the technology wasn’t so developed back then, sharing little experiences with family and friends was the only option people had. It was done purchase-first, experience-later way and there was nothing people could do about it. On the other hand, with the development of technology, the paradigm has become the opposite. It is possible for them to experience first and then purchase later (Kim, 2012). It is very easy to find reviews about a product on the internet, making people to not only depend on advertisements. Therefore, these days, not reacting fast enough and letting the poor user experience to continue on will only enable users to switch to another better product, which will affect hugely on the business.

_____My project for social housing ‘Affo’ could have ended up being deep and serious. Social issues could sometimes be something that people want to avoid for a bit especially when it is posted on social media platforms with so many fun stuffs. Considering young audiences and thinking of what they might want to experience led this project to the success. It became more approachable, engaging and bright. Likewise, in a bigger sense, knowing the characteristic of users nowadays is important when designing user experience. Because of the technological development, people became smarter with the devices and accordingly, they started to want something simple and quick. As people now expect effortless and seamless user experience, products with the opposite user experience are being neglected, hence, affecting on the business a lot.

_____“Now we need to generate insights very quickly, perhaps weekly, effectively running the whole model in fast-forward mode,” said Tom Acland, Director of brand strategy from Neue Digitale (Spies, 2015, p.36). Our world that we are living in is changing so fast that it doesn’t make sense to do a project without any iteration and adjustments. Many things will need to be changed with the change of the world. However, nevertheless, one thing stays clear. With the fast-paced world, people will expect everything to be fast. Making users to pause themselves to think or learn about the product will only delay their original purposes of the product. Therefore, having seamless user experience will become more and more important.

_____Nowadays, having only great quality of products is not enough. It is important to consider user experience as well as products. User experience is a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service, according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2009). Although there are many historic signs can be traced back to 4000 BC that people did care about intuitive, user-friendly experience, the recent concept of user experience was coined by Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist and designer, in the 1993 (CareerFoundry, 2019). And ever since, the interest in user experience is constantly increasing, technology is developing faster than ever and accordingly, user’s expectation for better user experience went up higher. Now, people want to have a great experience when using a product and having a good user experience became one of the important factors when choosing a product. Therefore, creating a seamless experience has become very important.

_____I was able to fully realise why seamless experience would be important for users with the project I did for Unit 7. For the first brief of Unit 7, I got to choose a brief out of three: YCN Shelter, YCN HMV and G.F Smith. I chose YCN Shelter brief which was to create a social media campaign to demonstrate the benefits of social housing. Although with so many benefits of social housing and the need of it due to the housing crisis in UK, it is fraught with negative stereotypes and high levels of stigma and Shelter wanted to break those and bring in more optimistic views. Shelter wanted to have 18-34 year olds see that social housing can and should represent a desirable place to call home and for the methods. They wanted us to deliver personal stories through media using photography, video or written media and demonstrate how their bold new vision for social housing would benefit them.

_____It was a difficult brief since it was a brief dealing with social issues, which people normally want to avoid. This was proved by number of students chose this brief, only 13% chose the brief. It was more difficult especially as a foreigner not familiar with the concept of social housing, initially thought that social housing is a housing like a shared housing. The issue was way deeper than I expected. However, I started to enjoy this project as I got to solve the problem.

_____The problem that I identified was that Shelter didn’t consider the audience properly. They didn’t consider the experiences that audiences will have with the tone of voice or the message they wanted to convey. First of all, social housing doesn’t benefit 18-34 year olds at all. Though the brief suggested us to deliver the message that social housing would benefit them, it was actually completely the opposite, 18-34 was the age group that benefited the least. Housing associations describe that it is extremely unlikely for 18-34 to be able to get a social housing. Yet, this age group is second lowest income group. Saying that it would benefit will be a lie and it would only create the negative effect. Second, telling human stories doesn’t work anymore. There are already too many stories going on that made people numb and it causes people to perceive these beneficiaries as out-group. Perceiving them as out-group even though they are in a same position as the beneficiaries will only enable more stereotypes and stigma. Third, like mentioned above, posting something deep and serious on the social media where there are full of fun and interesting things will naturally make people to skip the social housing campaign.

Figure 1. Affo

Figure 2. One of game interfaces in Affo

_____Therefore, alternatively, I created a mobile game called “Affo”, a game to live affordable life, using cute illustrated characters. (Fig. 1,2) As the feedbacks I got from many tutors and peers were very positive, I could say I’ve created the work that could help Shelter to achieve its goal.

_____The reason that I think this project was successful was because I tried to think about audiences’ perspective and what they might want to experience. Identifying problems that brief had and considering users’ experience enabled me to generate a better idea than what Shelter expected us to create. An idea to help the audiences to effortlessly learn about social housing and break the stigma towards it whilst having fun.

_____This project was definitely a trigger point for me to consider the audience more and think about user experience. At the same time, I started to wonder why seamless and effortless user experience became so important these days. Thinking back of the time a few years ago, it was not that big. There were many products that didn’t consider user experience and there were times when it was okay for a game or a product to have a long instruction. It was okay to make users to put effort when learning how to use it. I wondered why and searched for reasons that might have caused people to think user experience is now important.

_____First reason would be that people are smarter now. People have changed as the world has changed. In 2000s, it was the time when people started to own laptops and smart phones but yet, people were not used to these devices. They needed to learn in order to use it

Figure 3. In-app gestures

_____People living in 2020 are more aware of using smartphone and know the screen gestures as the smartphone penetration of mobile phone market in 2016 reached 81% (Turner, 2020). Many children are growing up with smart devices and they are very much familiar with touch screens. They tap, drag and flick to do what they need to in their phones. (Fig. 3) However, back in 2007, when the smartphone penetration was only 6% (Turner, 2020), this wasn’t the case. When these touch screen smartphones came out, some people weren’t used to the concept, hence, wanted to stick to what they know, physical keyboards.

_____The rise and fall of BlackBerry is a good example of showing this. Many years ago, BlackBerry used to own over 50% of the US smartphone market and 20% of the global. Even after 2007 and 2008, when the competitive iPhone and Android OS entered to the market, it remained its domination of smartphone market through 2010, holding over 40% of US and nearly 20% of global market share. BlackBerry’s leadership insisted that users preferred physical keyboard, however, because of this slow market reaction, it gradually lost its market share. Eventually, in 2016, they ended up announcing that they no longer produce smartphones (Luo, n.d.). (Fig. 4)

Figure 4. Market share of BlackBerry ’07-’16

_____Likewise, back in the past, it was needed to inform the users how to use the smartphones and what gestures they can use. It was needed to tell them what the icons are for and what buttons they can use. However, it will only annoy the users now when they already know everything. It’s like trying a new dish in a restaurant. At the first trial, you would want and expect the staff to explain the dish for you. What dish it is, what ingredients they have in it or how to eat it properly. After that trial, you will now know all the general information about it and when you have it again, you will want the staff to let you alone so that you can start to eat it right away. However, if they try to inform you again, you will be annoyed and think that they are delaying your meal. Therefore, it has now become more important to make an intuitive, self-evident design than to try to be overly kind and try to teach the user everything.

_____Secondly, people want something easy and fast. Technology has developed faster than any other period of time and it is being developed even faster now. People are able to do so many things more convenient but at the same time, it has caused people to be a lot more impatient. Technology brought the expectation to people that everything could be quicker.

Figure 5. Maximum time for an internet user to wait for a site to load

_____Google engineers have discovered that these days, even 400 milliseconds which is equivalent to the blink of an eye is too long for the users. In 2006, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load within four seconds or fewer, whereas people expected it to be loaded within two seconds or fewer (Lohr, 2012, p.2). (Fig. 5) Accordingly, this two-second rule is still commonly used for e-commerce sites, however, this rule is already outdated as well. Harry Shum, a computer scientist from Microsoft, said if the loading time for a website is slower than its competitors by 250 milliseconds, which is just one-quarter of a second, users are less likely to visit the website (Lohr, 2012, p.4).

_____Social login is a great example to explain this. Before social login was invented, people needed to fill out every form in registration page for every website. This caused people to spend a lot of their time just to register. As well as this, the notification saying that they need to change their password made people to be confused and to not remember what their password was, making them to find their password by going through identification and reset.

Figure 6. Register Form (Left) and Social Login (Right)

_____Social login solved all of these. (Fig. 6) All people needed to do was to click the button instead of typing to fill out the forms and users didn’t have to worry or try so hard to remember the password. After users experienced social login from one site to another, they started to realise how easy the registration for a website could be. They realised fast it could be done. It now has become a new standard for users so they expect the websites to have social login option available.

_____Journal app these days is another good example to show that users want a service that is easy and fast. Traditionally, writing letter by letter, word by word was the way to keep a diary. It applied the same until the early stage of laptop and smartphone, where people still typed to keep a diary. However, as users got used to touching the screen of smartphone and gestures they can use, these diary apps that help you to keep a diary just by touching a few buttons. (Fig. 7) This has enabled keeping a diary even more doable and less time-consuming. With lower burden, some people who didn’t keep a diary saw the benefit of this and started to try to keep a diary. Also, people who got used to this easy and fast system of keeping a diary found it hard to go back to the old way of doing so.

Figure 7. Type-based Diary App (Left) and Button-based Diary App (Right)

_____Last reason for why seamless user experience is important is because having poor user experience impacts business hugely. In the early stage of smartphones, there were not many apps available. The App Store for iOS was first opened on July 10, 2008, which started with an initial 500 applications available (AppleInsider, 2011). So it was relatively easier for businesses to keep the users and even if they had poor experience, they didn’t have much of a choice. However, as of 2017, the number of apps available in the store reached over 2.2 million (statista, 2020). Situation is totally different when businesses have a lot of competitors that users can easily switch to. For gaming apps, 349,563 mobile gaming apps were available in the Google Play app store and 903,489 gaming apps available in the App Store (statista, 2020). There are more than 1,400 sites for dating in the UK alone (Russell, 2020).

_____Same with the online shopping apps. Users are now aware that there are tons of other brands available that will offer better user experience and service and it is more than natural for these users to choose the website that will provide better experience. It is not a surprising result that 65% of consumers were willing to switch from a poorly designed mobile site to one that makes purchasing easy (Akindunjoye, 2019).

_____Of course, there are cases where people are less likely to switch from one to another. It is not always true that people are fickle, says Steve Krug, a user experience professional (Krug, 2014). There are cases where people have no choice but to stick with it, for instance, a company intranet or their bank’s mobile app. Also, there is no guarantee that they will find an app that is better than the previous one. However, this is also changing. For example, most people have at least one account from major banks in UK but most of them don’t provide instant notifications of spending. They usually go into pending transaction tab, which causes the statement to be in non- chronological order, making people to be confused on what they have spent the money for. A few years ago, people had no option but to just bear with this because it is even more bothering to apply for another account in another bank, which will take even more. And besides, most of the banks were the same. Now people have another choice as there are a few online-based banks which they can create an account way quicker and will send instant spending notifications.

_____As well as the fact that there are more alternatives available for users, there started to be more businesses that realised the importance of user experience more than ever. It was very crucial for them to keep up with the recent trend and technology and get it applied to their sites and apps, however, it was very hard to do so with the conventional workflow model, waterfall model.

Figure 8. Waterfall Model and Agile Model

_____Waterfall model is a model that aims to complete each phase before starting the next phase. This model has advantages that it is simple and easy to manage. It was a nice model until recently, where development of technology and change of society are too quick that they could not keep up with the trend and technology. Therefore, as an alternative, businesses started to take agile model, which sub-steps are implemented in iterations called sprints (Spies, 2015). (Fig. 8) This way, it was easier to satisfy users need, react fast and adapt to changing circumstances and even it was possible to amend after having some feedbacks from users.

_____Because there are businesses reacting very fast on their feedbacks with agile workflow model, not improving poor user experience became even more critical. It is very critical that it can affect many businesses because the paradigm of purchasing has been changed. After Industrial Revolution, there were so many products but so little did consumers know about the detail. In order for producers to sell the products, they began to advertise them, however, in the process of doing so, the experience part was separated. As the technology wasn’t so developed back then, sharing little experiences with family and friends was the only option people had. It was done purchase-first, experience-later way and there was nothing people could do about it. On the other hand, with the development of technology, the paradigm has become the opposite. It is possible for them to experience first and then purchase later (Kim, 2012). It is very easy to find reviews about a product on the internet, making people to not only depend on advertisements. Therefore, these days, not reacting fast enough and letting the poor user experience to continue on will only enable users to switch to another better product, which will affect hugely on the business.

_____My project for social housing ‘Affo’ could have ended up being deep and serious. Social issues could sometimes be something that people want to avoid for a bit especially when it is posted on social media platforms with so many fun stuffs. Considering young audiences and thinking of what they might want to experience led this project to the success. It became more approachable, engaging and bright. Likewise, in a bigger sense, knowing the characteristic of users nowadays is important when designing user experience. Because of the technological development, people became smarter with the devices and accordingly, they started to want something simple and quick. As people now expect effortless and seamless user experience, products with the opposite user experience are being neglected, hence, affecting on the business a lot.

_____“Now we need to generate insights very quickly, perhaps weekly, effectively running the whole model in fast-forward mode,” said Tom Acland, Director of brand strategy from Neue Digitale (Spies, 2015, p.36). Our world that we are living in is changing so fast that it doesn’t make sense to do a project without any iteration and adjustments. Many things will need to be changed with the change of the world. However, nevertheless, one thing stays clear. With the fast-paced world, people will expect everything to be fast. Making users to pause themselves to think or learn about the product will only delay their original purposes of the product. Therefore, having seamless user experience will become more and more important.

_____Nowadays, having only great quality of products is not enough. It is important to consider user experience as well as products. User experience is a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service, according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2009). Although there are many historic signs can be traced back to 4000 BC that people did care about intuitive, user-friendly experience, the recent concept of user experience was coined by Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist and designer, in the 1993 (CareerFoundry, 2019). And ever since, the interest in user experience is constantly increasing, technology is developing faster than ever and accordingly, user’s expectation for better user experience went up higher. Now, people want to have a great experience when using a product and having a good user experience became one of the important factors when choosing a product. Therefore, creating a seamless experience has become very important.

_____I was able to fully realise why seamless experience would be important for users with the project I did for Unit 7. For the first brief of Unit 7, I got to choose a brief out of three: YCN Shelter, YCN HMV and G.F Smith. I chose YCN Shelter brief which was to create a social media campaign to demonstrate the benefits of social housing. Although with so many benefits of social housing and the need of it due to the housing crisis in UK, it is fraught with negative stereotypes and high levels of stigma and Shelter wanted to break those and bring in more optimistic views. Shelter wanted to have 18-34 year olds see that social housing can and should represent a desirable place to call home and for the methods. They wanted us to deliver personal stories through media using photography, video or written media and demonstrate how their bold new vision for social housing would benefit them.

_____It was a difficult brief since it was a brief dealing with social issues, which people normally want to avoid. This was proved by number of students chose this brief, only 13% chose the brief. It was more difficult especially as a foreigner not familiar with the concept of social housing, initially thought that social housing is a housing like a shared housing. The issue was way deeper than I expected. However, I started to enjoy this project as I got to solve the problem.

_____The problem that I identified was that Shelter didn’t consider the audience properly. They didn’t consider the experiences that audiences will have with the tone of voice or the message they wanted to convey. First of all, social housing doesn’t benefit 18-34 year olds at all. Though the brief suggested us to deliver the message that social housing would benefit them, it was actually completely the opposite, 18-34 was the age group that benefited the least. Housing associations describe that it is extremely unlikely for 18-34 to be able to get a social housing. Yet, this age group is second lowest income group. Saying that it would benefit will be a lie and it would only create the negative effect. Second, telling human stories doesn’t work anymore. There are already too many stories going on that made people numb and it causes people to perceive these beneficiaries as out-group. Perceiving them as out-group even though they are in a same position as the beneficiaries will only enable more stereotypes and stigma. Third, like mentioned above, posting something deep and serious on the social media where there are full of fun and interesting things will naturally make people to skip the social housing campaign.

Figure 1. Affo

Figure 2. One of game interfaces in Affo

_____Therefore, alternatively, I created a mobile game called “Affo”, a game to live affordable life, using cute illustrated characters. (Fig. 1,2) As the feedbacks I got from many tutors and peers were very positive, I could say I’ve created the work that could help Shelter to achieve its goal.

_____The reason that I think this project was successful was because I tried to think about audiences’ perspective and what they might want to experience. Identifying problems that brief had and considering users’ experience enabled me to generate a better idea than what Shelter expected us to create. An idea to help the audiences to effortlessly learn about social housing and break the stigma towards it whilst having fun.

_____This project was definitely a trigger point for me to consider the audience more and think about user experience. At the same time, I started to wonder why seamless and effortless user experience became so important these days. Thinking back of the time a few years ago, it was not that big. There were many products that didn’t consider user experience and there were times when it was okay for a game or a product to have a long instruction. It was okay to make users to put effort when learning how to use it. I wondered why and searched for reasons that might have caused people to think user experience is now important.

_____First reason would be that people are smarter now. People have changed as the world has changed. In 2000s, it was the time when people started to own laptops and smart phones but yet, people were not used to these devices. They needed to learn in order to use it

Figure 3. In-app gestures

_____People living in 2020 are more aware of using smartphone and know the screen gestures as the smartphone penetration of mobile phone market in 2016 reached 81% (Turner, 2020). Many children are growing up with smart devices and they are very much familiar with touch screens. They tap, drag and flick to do what they need to in their phones. (Fig. 3) However, back in 2007, when the smartphone penetration was only 6% (Turner, 2020), this wasn’t the case. When these touch screen smartphones came out, some people weren’t used to the concept, hence, wanted to stick to what they know, physical keyboards.

_____The rise and fall of BlackBerry is a good example of showing this. Many years ago, BlackBerry used to own over 50% of the US smartphone market and 20% of the global. Even after 2007 and 2008, when the competitive iPhone and Android OS entered to the market, it remained its domination of smartphone market through 2010, holding over 40% of US and nearly 20% of global market share. BlackBerry’s leadership insisted that users preferred physical keyboard, however, because of this slow market reaction, it gradually lost its market share. Eventually, in 2016, they ended up announcing that they no longer produce smartphones (Luo, n.d.). (Fig. 4)

Figure 4. Market share of BlackBerry ’07-’16

_____Likewise, back in the past, it was needed to inform the users how to use the smartphones and what gestures they can use. It was needed to tell them what the icons are for and what buttons they can use. However, it will only annoy the users now when they already know everything. It’s like trying a new dish in a restaurant. At the first trial, you would want and expect the staff to explain the dish for you. What dish it is, what ingredients they have in it or how to eat it properly. After that trial, you will now know all the general information about it and when you have it again, you will want the staff to let you alone so that you can start to eat it right away. However, if they try to inform you again, you will be annoyed and think that they are delaying your meal. Therefore, it has now become more important to make an intuitive, self-evident design than to try to be overly kind and try to teach the user everything.

_____Secondly, people want something easy and fast. Technology has developed faster than any other period of time and it is being developed even faster now. People are able to do so many things more convenient but at the same time, it has caused people to be a lot more impatient. Technology brought the expectation to people that everything could be quicker.

Figure 5. Maximum time for an internet user to wait for a site to load

_____Google engineers have discovered that these days, even 400 milliseconds which is equivalent to the blink of an eye is too long for the users. In 2006, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load within four seconds or fewer, whereas people expected it to be loaded within two seconds or fewer (Lohr, 2012, p.2). (Fig. 5) Accordingly, this two-second rule is still commonly used for e-commerce sites, however, this rule is already outdated as well. Harry Shum, a computer scientist from Microsoft, said if the loading time for a website is slower than its competitors by 250 milliseconds, which is just one-quarter of a second, users are less likely to visit the website (Lohr, 2012, p.4).

_____Social login is a great example to explain this. Before social login was invented, people needed to fill out every form in registration page for every website. This caused people to spend a lot of their time just to register. As well as this, the notification saying that they need to change their password made people to be confused and to not remember what their password was, making them to find their password by going through identification and reset.

Figure 6. Register Form (Left) and Social Login (Right)

_____Social login solved all of these. (Fig. 6) All people needed to do was to click the button instead of typing to fill out the forms and users didn’t have to worry or try so hard to remember the password. After users experienced social login from one site to another, they started to realise how easy the registration for a website could be. They realised fast it could be done. It now has become a new standard for users so they expect the websites to have social login option available.

_____Journal app these days is another good example to show that users want a service that is easy and fast. Traditionally, writing letter by letter, word by word was the way to keep a diary. It applied the same until the early stage of laptop and smartphone, where people still typed to keep a diary. However, as users got used to touching the screen of smartphone and gestures they can use, these diary apps that help you to keep a diary just by touching a few buttons. (Fig. 7) This has enabled keeping a diary even more doable and less time-consuming. With lower burden, some people who didn’t keep a diary saw the benefit of this and started to try to keep a diary. Also, people who got used to this easy and fast system of keeping a diary found it hard to go back to the old way of doing so.

Figure 7. Type-based Diary App (Left) and Button-based Diary App (Right)

_____Last reason for why seamless user experience is important is because having poor user experience impacts business hugely. In the early stage of smartphones, there were not many apps available. The App Store for iOS was first opened on July 10, 2008, which started with an initial 500 applications available (AppleInsider, 2011). So it was relatively easier for businesses to keep the users and even if they had poor experience, they didn’t have much of a choice. However, as of 2017, the number of apps available in the store reached over 2.2 million (statista, 2020). Situation is totally different when businesses have a lot of competitors that users can easily switch to. For gaming apps, 349,563 mobile gaming apps were available in the Google Play app store and 903,489 gaming apps available in the App Store (statista, 2020). There are more than 1,400 sites for dating in the UK alone (Russell, 2020).

_____Same with the online shopping apps. Users are now aware that there are tons of other brands available that will offer better user experience and service and it is more than natural for these users to choose the website that will provide better experience. It is not a surprising result that 65% of consumers were willing to switch from a poorly designed mobile site to one that makes purchasing easy (Akindunjoye, 2019).

_____Of course, there are cases where people are less likely to switch from one to another. It is not always true that people are fickle, says Steve Krug, a user experience professional (Krug, 2014). There are cases where people have no choice but to stick with it, for instance, a company intranet or their bank’s mobile app. Also, there is no guarantee that they will find an app that is better than the previous one. However, this is also changing. For example, most people have at least one account from major banks in UK but most of them don’t provide instant notifications of spending. They usually go into pending transaction tab, which causes the statement to be in non- chronological order, making people to be confused on what they have spent the money for. A few years ago, people had no option but to just bear with this because it is even more bothering to apply for another account in another bank, which will take even more. And besides, most of the banks were the same. Now people have another choice as there are a few online-based banks which they can create an account way quicker and will send instant spending notifications.

_____As well as the fact that there are more alternatives available for users, there started to be more businesses that realised the importance of user experience more than ever. It was very crucial for them to keep up with the recent trend and technology and get it applied to their sites and apps, however, it was very hard to do so with the conventional workflow model, waterfall model.

Figure 8. Waterfall Model and Agile Model

_____Waterfall model is a model that aims to complete each phase before starting the next phase. This model has advantages that it is simple and easy to manage. It was a nice model until recently, where development of technology and change of society are too quick that they could not keep up with the trend and technology. Therefore, as an alternative, businesses started to take agile model, which sub-steps are implemented in iterations called sprints (Spies, 2015). (Fig. 8) This way, it was easier to satisfy users need, react fast and adapt to changing circumstances and even it was possible to amend after having some feedbacks from users.

_____Because there are businesses reacting very fast on their feedbacks with agile workflow model, not improving poor user experience became even more critical. It is very critical that it can affect many businesses because the paradigm of purchasing has been changed. After Industrial Revolution, there were so many products but so little did consumers know about the detail. In order for producers to sell the products, they began to advertise them, however, in the process of doing so, the experience part was separated. As the technology wasn’t so developed back then, sharing little experiences with family and friends was the only option people had. It was done purchase-first, experience-later way and there was nothing people could do about it. On the other hand, with the development of technology, the paradigm has become the opposite. It is possible for them to experience first and then purchase later (Kim, 2012). It is very easy to find reviews about a product on the internet, making people to not only depend on advertisements. Therefore, these days, not reacting fast enough and letting the poor user experience to continue on will only enable users to switch to another better product, which will affect hugely on the business.

_____My project for social housing ‘Affo’ could have ended up being deep and serious. Social issues could sometimes be something that people want to avoid for a bit especially when it is posted on social media platforms with so many fun stuffs. Considering young audiences and thinking of what they might want to experience led this project to the success. It became more approachable, engaging and bright. Likewise, in a bigger sense, knowing the characteristic of users nowadays is important when designing user experience. Because of the technological development, people became smarter with the devices and accordingly, they started to want something simple and quick. As people now expect effortless and seamless user experience, products with the opposite user experience are being neglected, hence, affecting on the business a lot.

_____“Now we need to generate insights very quickly, perhaps weekly, effectively running the whole model in fast-forward mode,” said Tom Acland, Director of brand strategy from Neue Digitale (Spies, 2015, p.36). Our world that we are living in is changing so fast that it doesn’t make sense to do a project without any iteration and adjustments. Many things will need to be changed with the change of the world. However, nevertheless, one thing stays clear. With the fast-paced world, people will expect everything to be fast. Making users to pause themselves to think or learn about the product will only delay their original purposes of the product. Therefore, having seamless user experience will become more and more important.

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Made with love by Jimin Kim  |  Copyright 2020

Made with love by Jimin Kim  |  Copyright 2020