signals of noise

Category: ux and design

Reducing Friction

There are two aspects to friction as it applies to a website or any product. One, you make it easy for the customer to do what she wants to on your site. Two, you make it easy for the customer to do what you want her to do.

In the e-commerce context the second aspect manifests in a way to make it easy for customers to leave a product rating/review. Not only does this help future customers make their decisions but also helps the site collect all important explicit rating data to build a working recommendation and personalization system. Without explicit rating data it becomes impossible to implement a user-item collaborative filtering algorithm to drive recommendations. So it is in the best interests of the site to make this as frictionless as possible.

This is Flipkart’s user profile page. It just tells me that I have not rated or reviewed any product. But it doesn’t make it easy for me to do it.

No listing of products bought or shortcuts to ratings/reviews.

Had I not made any purchases this would have been fine. But as you can see that is not the case here.

No listing of products bought or shortcuts to ratings/reviews.

And even when I clickthrough, the products bought are not hyperlinks to go and give ratings. Option? Copy the title, paste in the search box, hit enter, look up the product in the search results, clickthrough to the product and then give your rating/review. Not easy. Too much friction.

Orders do not link to the product page.

If the products bought were instead listed on the profile page with shortcuts to rating stars and a review box the friction would have been lesser. Then the focus could have shifted to how actually to get customers to provide this feedback.

Images from my account on Flipkart.com.

UX: What is Experience?

This is the second post in a series of posts I am doing on the fundamental need and principles of user experience. (part 1)

Before we jump into user experience lets first look at what ‘Experience‘ means. Why? Knowing what experience means before diving into user experience will help us deliver better results and also hasten the learning curve.

So what is experience? The dictionary definition goes such.

Experience (noun)
1. A particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something
2. The totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood and remembered.

Experience is also
…the aspect of intellect and consciousness experienced as combinations of thought, perception, memory, emotion and imagination…

The key words here are thought, perception, memory, emotion and imagination. If you think about it, it is one or more of these that really shapes our experiences.

  • Our perception of an experience varies as everyone has their unique way of organizing and interpreting sensory information.
  • A memory of a past expereicen is against what we always judge our present experiences.
  • Before we actually experience something we imagine how that experience is likely to be.
  • The emotional response to an experience is what will ultimately determine if the experience was good or bad.

The Kailash Temple at Ellora makes one go 'wow' when seen the first time.

Experience is associated with sensory stimuli – visual, audio, touch, taste. An awesome experience results when this stimulus is in response to something you have previously read or heard about. It is like seeing the Kailash Temple at Ellora for the first time.

Experience is subjective. Different people will perceive similar things differently and different things similarly. For example, the sitar, guitar and the cello are all string instruments but not everyone who likes one may like the other.

Experience is small things. Like the curved back of the iPad inviting you to pick it up. A good experience is almost always made up of many small little things. So it is important to identify these small things and features and ensure they add up to deliver the big picture.

The remembrance of an experience is high when the experience as bad as well as when it is good. So how do you want to be remembered?We remember both good and bad experiences. But with very different outcomes! We want to re-live, repeat the good experiences, suggest it to others. It is exactly the opposite for bad experiences: we will never repeat those and never recommend it to others. Quite possibly we may even try to dissuade others. We don’t particularly like or dislike the average experiences. They are generally completely forgotten once over. Any doubts where we want to be?

UX: What is that?

Anyone anywhere building products know and talk about the important role user experience plays. According to Forrester research:

- More customers will be willing to purchase. On average, companies that provide a superior experience have 14.4% more customers who are willing to consider them for another purchase than companies in the same industry that offer a poor customer experience.

- More customers will resist doing business with competitors. Compared with companies that offer a poor experience, companies that offer the best experience in their industries have 15.8% fewer customers who are likely to consider doing business with a competitor.

- More customers will recommend you. Companies with the highest experience scores have 16.6% more customers who are likely to recommend their products or services compared with their lowest-scoring competitors.

[the numbers are slightly old, but they may only be more convincing today.]

Clearly user experience is an aspect of product development that you can only ignore at your own peril.

I am not an expert with user experience. But I have had prior experience at Siemens doing workshops to redesign user interfaces to provide users with superior experiences. And in my current role as product manager it is far more important than it ever was. Besides, my adventures with photography has kind of got me more interested in the subtler aspects of good design.

As I already said, I am not an expert with user experience. But I am learning. And here I will try and share what I pick up, point out resources that can be of help to anyone interested in this field. I can’t promise to be very sequential with this but I will try.

I will start with the next post and we will first of all look at what is experience.

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