19 December 2013

Feedbacks: UX Design (Part 2)

Second part of this post aimed at developers and UX designers wishing to work in the design of large public interactive displays. The project owners responsible for the deployment of such devices could also find some interest in this article.

Any interaction is an act of communication 
It is obvious for pure communication systems (events) but this principle also applies to service-oriented devices (interactive map, product catalog...). Any interactive device communicates a brand image. A successful device provides the expected service and a positive experience which will be associated to the brand. Providing the expected service without taking into account the user subjective experience is perform half the work.

Non-verbal communication & interactive devices
Any interaction with a digital device has an analytical part (verbal) and an affective part (non-verbal). Analytical perception through the service and the information provided. Affective perception through graphic design, animations, transition effects, haptic & audio experiences provided...

Master the hardware to master the affective perception
Hardware plays a key role in the emotional perception of your system. If you want to induce a feeling of fluidity, choose touch technologies which don't require heavy touches. Make sure the processor and graphics card are powerful enough to ensure smooth animations.

Importance of graphic design
Graphic design is too underestimated, often limiting its role to aesthetic sphere. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work on the presentation of a tram line to the inhabitants of a city. This kind of construction is a long and negative experience for people (traffic jams, bankruptcies of shops ...). We chose a 3D isometric representation which has two very valuable qualities in this context: it softens the message to be transmitted and simplifies the understanding of the information. It does not solve the problems but it helps to discuss in better conditions.

Graphic design is key in the transmission of information (data visualization) and the emotional perception of a device.

The importance of animations
Object permanence
If, in the presence of a baby, you have already played this game consisting to hide your face behind your hands before you get it back, you will have noticed the hilarity provoked. The fact is that during the first months, the child does not see object permanence. An invisible object is an object that does not exist. This knowledge appears only at 18-24 months but it will remain anchored our whole life: physical objects do not disappear instantly (continuity) and their existence persists even when we no longer have direct visual perception (permanence).

Throughout our development, we have incorporated many similar principles that apply to the handling of physical objects. Nothing requires you to apply these principles to the manipulation of digital objects, but do to soften the effect of rupture between the physical world and the digital world. Mastering animations and transition effects (acceleration, deceleration, inertia, fade in/out, ...) is a valuable tool.

When animations come to the rescue of a "weak" hardware
Sometimes you have to deal with hardware having strong constraints and limiting available interactions (single point of contact, discontinuity in the management of touches...). In these cases, animations and transition effects are valuable to enrich the user experience (multiplier effect of the action). However, avoid too complex animations or be prepared to lose your user.

The difficulty of valorising the affective perception
The iphone has always fascinated me for a reason. Months after acquiring my first model, I continued to discover transition effects gone unnoticed so far. These effects are often subtle and their implementation has obviously required a lot of work. They contribute to the user experience and yet we are not always aware of their presence. Valuing everything related to the emotional perception can be a difficult exercise. All companies now talk about UX but much remains to be done to raise public awareness of elements constituting a good UX.

No device may be better than a bad device
There are fads. Technology is no exception. One day or another you will be asked to design a system whose primary purpose is to exist, no added value for the end user. Say no to a customer is a difficult exercise (impossible?) but ineffective / useless systems are detrimental to everyone. As pointed out a study, no device may be better than a bad device.

Before anything else, always ask yourself these three questions:
- What are the motivations encouraging my client to implement this system ?
- What is the purpose of this system ?
- Is it a useful system ?

The design of an interactive system involves many aspects covering a wide range of knowledge. I don't know anyone who masters all these knowledge and this activity remains largely a team effort. Whatever your role in the team, gradually expand your knowledge beyond your natural field of expertise. This strengthens the team and helps to better articulate the various aspects of a project.

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