Voice – MUXL

Lee Mallon the Technical lead from Rarely Impossible came to share his experience in working with Alexa voice, giving some useful insight into how using this technology can change the way we communicate.

One point raised was quite interesting, talking about how the younger generation adapts to technology first, but then turning this conception on its head looking at how the interaction could actually suit the older generation more due to under 25s having grown up researching and asking questions using the internet with a keypad, whereas the older generation 65+ have grown up talking to gain insight and knowledge, which i though was quite a nice turning the usual concept on its head. He pointed out how Alexa gives a transcript of everything that was asked during the past month or so, and mentioned how his nan suffers a bit from Dementia and this was shown up within the transcript, where she had asked the same question a number of times within a short period of time, which raises some useful thoughts about how this could be turned into something positive, that might be able to detect certain patterns in how the user uses the device detecting early onset of dementia or other illnesses.

It is interesting that Alexa constantly monitors what is being said waiting for awake words to be mentioned, but Lee mentioned how you soon forget and carry on with normal life. What was alarming is that every term that goes through Alexa is being monitored by a team of people who put a transcript together, although not noting location or name of the user.

This led to how Alexa can be used for offices such as being able to put together and presenting sales figures, and then presenting it to the team – which would save a few people within my team a few hours a week. Although companies must be scared that their data is being run through a direct competitor. They found some interesting things about the placement of Amazon Echo when testing it within a client’s office, such as Alexa found it hard to pick up voices in a noisy location which is fairly obvious, but most interesting was it struggled at the end of the day, finding the office workers voices and language hard to understand as the users become lazy and tired, wanting to get home. Lee found with his team that there is a real difference in the tone and quality of the users voice depending on how they feel.

Lee talked about the findings he found when taking it home, finding that he would first talk normally when asking Alexa a question, but soon started talking as if he was typing into a Google search box. Eg saying, “Hamilton Malaysia” instead of “Where did Hamilton finish at the Malaysian GP this weekend”. With his kids everything started fine until after a couple of week one of his kids went up to him and said “Dad get me a drink”. Lee found himself replying “I’m not Alexa!”. They then had to download a skill so that Alexa would only carry out requests once it had heard the word please.

Moving onto new technology of where voice could be used such as lifts and how this would affect the interface, eg allowing the user to know that they would have to speak, when there is no interface. Here the lift would have to talk to the user asking which floor the user would want to go to, which would be one of the first times that a computer would initiate contact with the user.

Accessibility Notes

It is important that we try to make our content as user friendly as we can. Here are some pointers that we should remember when designing, writing/ and building our pages to help our customers who are for example visually impaired or colour blind.

Images

Users can have difficulty understanding images that are not accompanied by a text description. Within the alt text try to:

  • Let the users know what the image is

  • What the image represents

  • If it is a link, and where the link will take you.

  • Where text is burnt into the image, write this in the alt text/ title tags of the image.

  • Don’t forget to add text to infographics.

 

Colour

Some users may find it hard to read content where there is not enough contrast between text and image. This can include:

  • Text overlay on a background image

  • Colours of text and background colour

  • Allow colours to contrast. Be wary of using yellow, blue and green close to one another. Black text on a white background is generally best practice, due to it being readable for most audiences.

  • Be sure to also distinguish blocks of content from one another using visual separation (such as whitespace or borders).

 

Links

Just like sighted users scan the page for linked text, visually-impaired users can use their screen readers to scan for links. So try to:

  • Properly describe where the link will go. Using “click here” is not considered descriptive, and is ineffective for a screen reader user.

  • The most unique content of the link should be presented first, as screen reader users will often navigate the links list by searching via the first letter.

  • Underline your links or make sure that there is a colour contrast between hyperlinked text and regular text, to help colour blind users find links.

 

Text

There should be enough space or the element should be able to grow, to allow users to enlarge font sizes by 3 times to help them view our content.

 

 

SEO Notes

General rule is to make the content as useful and as easy to understand for our customers. Google will see this, and raise our pages up the ranking.

When putting a SEO plan together you will need to allow around 2 months before you see any improvements through on Google. Ideally content pages should be very specific to a given topic—usually a product or an object.

SEO Checklist

To help you when building your pages please use the checklist below:

1 Title tags

Added within Management center, this one of the most important SEO parts to the page. PHD will be able to supply the best copy to use here.

2 H1 title tag

Wrapping your headline tag within a <h1>tag. At the moment Management centre automatically adds this to the page, but will also change the hierarchy name as well.

3 Headers

Wrap your content in the correct tags. Eg <h2>, </h2>, <h3>, so Google can see the page is correctly structured.

4 Content

Use engaging imagery, text content, videos to show Google that we have a breadth of content on our subject type, and make sure that content isn’t duplicated within your pages. Also provide unique content about the given subject of your page.

5 Text

Drop in the keywords you want to appear highly for, within the body copy and headers of the page. Don’t keyword cram as this will lower your page within Google. Brightedge tends to allow the same keyword to be used around 10 times in the page.

6 Keywords

Wrap your content in the correct tags. Eg <h2>, </h2>, <h3>, so Google can see the page is correctly structured.

7 Image size

Use images no bigger than 100KB and use tinypng.com to help reduce the size of your image without reducing the quality.

8 Image name

Within the filename of your images use the target keyword for that image.

9 Alt text

Properly describe the context of the image within the alt text, remembering to add in the keywords you are targeting for that image.

10 Link text

Within the anchor text describe the page you are linking to, so both users and search engines can understand where they are going.

11 URLs

Make URL’s friendly, by making these shorter and keyword rich.

12 Responsive

Make sure your page renders correctly at both maximum and minimum width.

13 301 redirects

Redirect old redundant pages to the latest version to reduce duplicated content and allow our old pages that are high ranking in google to have a destination.

 

What Google is looking for

“Remember that Google cares a lot about how visitors interact with your content. If users click on your page from the search page but then bounce back to search, this will drop you down the ranking”.

“Think about the searcher. Give the user the experience they need and the answers they want”.

Make your content — semantically, lexically, and logically.

  • A) is on-topic and relevant,

  • B) includes critical answers to searchers’ questions, and

  • C) has credible, accurate information.

 

 

LWS Accessibility talk

Billy Gregory @thebillygregory was very entertaining, but with a very important message. Talking about a tweet that he sent out over a year ago that he didn’t think much about at the time. This then caught on about, and he came over from Canada to talk through Some User experience eg SUX.

Billy Gregorys original tweet was:

“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as ‘SOME User Experience’ or SUX?”

What was interesting was looking at the learning curve of various ages. Struggling to find a iOS app that his dad would understand using gesture based controls, and then looking at his daughters who were way more advanced than he was. Talking about how he is stuck in the middle,  getting a little bit more out of touch with how you the younger generation interact with technology, and pointing out all the different people that we need to be designing for from WWE wrestlers to visually impaired to people finding it hard to move, and how inclusive shouldn’t have no boundaries.

A few things that are half-arsed online

  • Headings
  • Lists
  • Forms
  • Focus management
  • Poor contrasts

What to focus on when building design requirements

  • Colour contrast and meaning
  • Structure
  • Focus and content order
  • Focus states
  • Touch target size (recent read that the average size of the thumb print is 40x40px)
  • Describe how custom components work

I would very much recommend to go to a talk of Billy Gregory, as he was very entertaining and gives you something to think about.

Leonie Watson presenting the accessibility techniques for SVG. Very much aimed at the Developer, but did highlight some amazing things you could do to SVG imagery to bring these to life for visually impaired.  Highlighting that within background imagery you can now be using a High Contrast Mode (HCM) detection script. What looked great about SVG + ARIA is that you can now start to explain graphs and animation within the SVG bringing them to life.

Within the question and answer phase, a lot was said about CMS’s that can’t achieve full accessibility and how sometimes the excuse is made that because they can’t be fully accessible that there was little point spend much time on this by client managers, but it was the thought from everyone in the room that making little changes along the way even if it is just explaining an image correctly can have a huge benefit.

In the QA at the end another thought was looking at the little icons that come as standard such as radio buttons, and how it does look cool to redesign these to match site branding, but how this can then also be becoming a barrier to accessibility. Another one brought up was how fancy date picker pop ups can be horrendous to use when only using a space bar or screen reader.

 

 

UX and Banking

An interesting talk looking at the future of banking at how the industry thinks it will evolve. Some good speakers with a couple from agencies such as Athlon, but most interesting was the two speakers from Lloyds and Monzo. It was great to see these two gently spar throughout the evening, sharing comments about how the two companies operate. The two comments that stood out most, was how Monzo tested their products, trying to steer away from usability testing within a controlled environment in their office, preferring to go into people’s homes where users are more comfortable, knowing full well that Lloyds would have testing facilities set up in their offices. Another dig back from Lloyds was looking at these new start up banks as non-banks as at the time hadn’t acquired the right licenses to be called a bank.

The talk started with Lloyds,  speaker Tiago Marques who went through the history of banking, and how it went from a trusted serves within the high street, to how bankers were awarded for risk during the 80s. Eventually these people moved up through the company, changing the culture of banking throughout the industry, resulting in the crash of 2008. Now the efforts are trying to move these companies back to more human organization, but as with any large organisation it will take time. He went on to speak about how human interaction within banking was still important, and mentioned with something important like life insurance or buying a house, people still want to be able to go and speak to someone who has knowledge of the area. Despite the user being able to go online and find the same service. Finally mentioning how there is still some way to go with online activity where 40% of customers haven’t registered online.

 

The head of UX at Monzo Hugo Cornejo came on and talked more about the process of design within their company, talking about how they don’t state what the company ethos is, and how the role of UX is the responsibility of everyone within the company. A main focus point on his talk was about Fitt’s law, and looking at what user expect from a design, and not deviating away from that mental model the user already expects from their product. As well as looking at ‘Poka yoke’ to prevent error by design e.g. placing constraints that forces the user to adjust their behaviour, such as error messaging within a form field, and looking at over complicated designs. The main focal area for them is making sure their users know what’s going on within their account at every point of the process.

The talk then moved onto Fintech and AI from the speaker Bence Csernak from Bencium, talking about predicting future events on past behaviours and how AI is already part of everyday life, and has been part of our lives for a while with such systems as auto correct with mobile phones and the old Microsoft office helper Clippy. Moving onto users he showed a video of how teenagers and early 20s are consuming media, and made quite a valid point about how they are used to distractions and how banking communities serve up a bland form for them to fill out. Making a point about how we can start to use AI to change branding and functionality to suit these users. Other useful snippets from him was within amazon and facebook how they are introducing slide buttons to stop users clicking buy by mistake, as well as how happy users are more open to new content, which is similar to a point made in the book ‘110 Things every Designer need to know about people by Susan Weinschenk’ that mentions how studies have found that users are open to new brands when shopping when happy, but if upset, or are in a bad mood supermarkets are better to offer up well known brands, as users search for that familiarity and comfort.

To the future, all presenters mentioned that it is quite an exciting time and what with new legislation, you may see 3rd party companies accessing users accounts and serving up the user interface for them, with the banks becoming almost a safe house for the users account. They mentioned how it will be important for these larger companies to get their product to market first and offering up API’s for smaller companies to hang off, similar to how Google works with such technology as their maps.