Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The total customer experience

Last week, I had a delivery from DPD. At one level, it was very mundane (I received and signed for a parcel). At another, it was very positive: I could choose my deliver time to within an hour; I could even elect for a "green" slot when they were going to be in the area anyway (which obviously reduces their cost as well as simplifying my choice). Then on the day I could track the movement of my parcel online and anticipate pretty accurately when it would arrive. The user interface was good, and it was the "front end" of a good system that worked well. This made the overall experience of choosing, ordering and receiving the product much more pleasurable than it might otherwise have been.

In contrast, Samuel Gibbs reports on his experience of using novel Internet of Things tools to do something comparable for frequently bought products. Quite apart from the prospect of having dozens of IoT devices stuck up around the home, he highlights the challenges of receiving the goods once ordered, and of receiving goods in impractically large quantities. These new technologies aren't just about an easy-to-use button-press (like my "easy" button), but about the total customer experience of choosing, ordering and receiving... and someone needs to think that through properly too.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Making time for mindfulness

You can't just design a new technology and assume people will use it. The app stores are littered with apps that are used once, or not at all. It's important to understand how people fit technologies into their lives (and how the design of the technology affects how it's used). We choose to use apps (or to be open to responding to them) in ways that depend on time and place. For example, on the train in the morning, lots of commuters seem to be accessing news via apps: it's a good opportunity to catch up with what's happening in the world, and my journey's an appropriate length of time to do that in.

We've recently published a paper on how people make time for mindfulness practices.
Participants were mostly young, urban professionals (so possibly not representative of a more general population!), and their big challenge was how to fit meditation practices in their busy lives. Mindfulness is difficult to achieve on a commute, for example, so people need to explicitly make time for it, in a place that feels right. There was a tension between making it part of a routine (and something that "has to be done" and making it feel like a choice (spontaneous?). But there were lots of other factors that shape when, how and whether people used the mindfulness app, such as their sense of self-efficacy (how much they feel in control of their lives), their mood (mindfulness when your upset or angry just isn't going to happen – not in ten minutes, anyway), and attitudes of friends to mindfulness (peer pressure is very powerful).

Some of these are factors that can't be designed for – beyond recognising that a mindfulness app isn't going to work for all people, or in all situations. Others can, perhaps, be designed for: such as managing people's expectations of what differences mindfulness might make in their lives, and giving guidance on when and how to fit in app use. What are some of the take-homes?
  • that incidental details (like the visual appearance or the sound of someone's voice) matter;
  • that people are one a 'journey' of learning how to practice mindfulness (don't force an expert to start at the beginning just because they haven't used this particular app before, for example);
  • that people need to learn how to fit app use and mindfulness into their lives, and expectations need to be managed; and
  • that engaging with the app isn't the same as engaging with mindfulness... but the one can be a great support for the other in the right circumstances.