By Allan Maurer
When you are thinking about usability and design, whether for the web or for mobile devices, the old saying, “Keep it simple,” rings true.
User expectations have shifted over time, says usability expert Joseph Dickerson, User Experience Architect with Wisconsin-based Fiserv, the largest provider of IT services to the financial industry.
Dickerson is among the several dozen experts from brands such as Google, Pandora, The Onion, YouTube, Twitter, and Klout, among others participating in the 2012 Digital Summit in Atlanta May 9-10.
Functionality and delighters both necessary
Dickerson says usability questions generally break down into two categories: baseline functionality and “delighters,” the stuff that makes people go ‘wow, that’s really nice!”
But, Dickerson notes, “What were delighters previously have become baseline functionality now. The expectations of customers is getting higher than what their software or hardware provides.”
He adds, “There is an interesting phenomenon in the mobile space. We’re now in the era of the dumb smartphone user. You have people who were using basic cell phones now using smartphones. They have access to a whole depth and breadth of functions they didn’t have before because smartphones have become so cheap.”
The same thing has happened with web apps, though. “People have gotten used to a higher standard. Companies that don’t deliver that will hear customers complain thorugh social media and abandon the company’s products.”
Three usability tips
Dickerson’s offers three usability and design points to consider for web or mobile projects:
First of all, he says, “Create the simplest form of user interface (UI) required to accomplish the task. Take out everything that isn’t necessary. Simplify.
Second: “Streamline any process toward an obvious end point (enter this data and submit a form, sign up for a newsletter, like a Facebook page, buy something).
Third: Don’t rely on “help” text. “Form labels are the only text you can rely on. Customers do not read. We tried an experiment. In bold letters on a form, we added the text, ‘If you bring up this note you’ll get an extra $100 gift card.’ None did.”
He adds, “People don’t read copy. I’ve fought copywriters quite a bit over this.”
Dickerson suggests, “Boil what you have to say down to 3 bullet points. That’s how people read on the web and mobile devices.”
“Don’t be verbose. Use terms people understand.”
Dickerson admits that can be a challenge if a firm’s legal department wants to insert legal boilerplate few understand.
“If you don’t want 80 percent attrition rates on your forms, tell legal to shut up and let you design the forms effectively. You can’t succeed doing things the old fashioned way. It’s not going to work in this day and age.”
Star Trek tech didn’t wait for the 24th century
Dickerson says his dream job would be designing futuristic technologies for the movies (such as “Minority Report,” although some of that is already old hat, he says).
“Look at Star Trek, which was supposed t be happening in the 24th century. We now have some of it in the 21st century. So we already have stuff influenced by sci-fi. I’d love to have a working Tri-Corder.”
One future tech his innovation team is looking at for use in the real world is voice payment technology for mobile devices. “If we can get that to happen, it will be the next revolution in IT.”
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