Transforming rail

 

High I took a  quick look at the recent survey site about the new rail timetables that are being introduced, after seeing how my 8 friends reacted to the website.

https://www.transformingrail.com/

A friend recently sent me a the link above link over Whatsapp. With a lot of the group commuting into london it became quite a hot topic. When my friend first sent it across it was with dismay at the reduction ot our service. So I had a look along with my mates.

All plugging in our details stevenage to kings Cross. The form returned our existing trains with the new proposed timetable and then gave the option to complete a survey, so we could say what we thought about the proposed changes.

The form showed our current schedule with around 10 trains in the morning period from 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning. With the new train schedule showing just two trains. How could this be right, with all the trains currently being packed. So plugged in the details again to see if anything had gone wrong. The exactly the same outcome appeared.

As a conversation was going on whatsapp about these changes and my friends finding the same, our anger quickly grew. Leaving us all to fill out the form leaving quite harsh feedback.

It was a couple of weeks later when speaking to a friend that I actually found out our service was changing and we would no longer be stopping at Kings cross, and would be calling into St Pancras which is just next door. This new format actual allowing commuters to travel further into london, as far as Blackfriars.

I returned to the form and filled it out again putting BlackFriars instead of Kings Cross. Showing the new timetable with several trains I could now catch.

 

Looking at the page

When Looking at the page again and reading all the way through there was text explaining the changes to the service, but these messages are being missed, probably leading to the survey being incorrectly filled out. Also users can read this and think that the text does not apply to them.

The proposed changes at a glance

New expanded Thameslink network will include more frequent direct services via St Pancras, Farringdon (with interchange to Crossrail), City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge to Gatwick, Brighton, Horsham and Maidstone East. Additional Great northern Mainline peak services will also be provided to and from London Kings Cross. Trains between Moorgate and Stevenage will be replaced by buses between Hertford North / Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage until at least 2021 in both directions until new infrastructure is completed at Stevenage.

 

The problem

I have quickly noted down some of the problems that I think the page has to deal with and how users are coming to the site.

  • Rail travel is highly sensitive with a big part of a user’s salary going on travel, leading to users expecting the worst and being ready to quickly complain.
  • Media highlighting bad news within the rail sector such as rail price increase and strikes that affect commuters.
  • The link being passed through Whatsapp where people can feed off each others complaints.

Issues with the page:

  • Users have no idea that the service is changing to St Pancras so would not even think about entering this destination into the form.
  • Text explaining the changes are too long making it quite easy to not understand what the information means to you.
  • The text on mobile is served too far down the page. As users see the form first and realise their trains have been cancelled users will scan for the survey button to voice their feelings and don’t look to read the rest of the page.

 

Fix

  • Make specific headers to the new time table that highlights changes quickly, giving a link to new timetable that actually includes St Pancras.
  • Understand that when users enter Kings Cross into the form that commuters are interested into getting to London, and know that ST Pancras is located in the same location. So serve up St Pancras to these users when showing the timetable.
  • Rewrite the text so that it it has less jargon and can be easily scanned.
  • Highlight the extra stations that will become available to commuters.

 

Proposed changes

Thameslink is expanding with frequent direct services to:

  • St Pancras, Farringdon (with interchange to Crossrail), City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge to Gatwick, Brighton, Horsham and Maidstone East.
  • Additional Great northern Mainline peak services to and from London Kings Cross.
  • Trains between Moorgate and Stevenage will be replaced by buses between Hertford North / Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage in both directions until new infrastructure is completed at Stevenage. This will last until at least 2021.

 

 

Conclusion

I have tried to give more information to users but in smaller elements to display the extra benefits of the new service to the user. Hoping that giving the full information to the user will allow more accurate results once the survey has been completed.

Trading Skills – MUXL Academy project

 

The brief

Discuss real problems that can be solved with tech in 8 weeks, with users you can contact for research purposes.

Here we discussed a variety of ideas first looking at dating apps, which then quickly turned into a way of connecting people. The main idea was a trading skills app where baking a cake can be exchanged for child minding within the local community to helping with DIY around the house.

To first validate our idea we quickly gave a quick profile of what we thought our users could be. This was first time buyers and mums.  

Research

User interview

From the user interviews we quickly found that the amount of trust needed with mums to baby sit or to do the school run was far too much to focus on so we decided to focus on first time buyers and DIY tasks.

This came with its on problems though as to create trust in the neighbourhood and try to make sure that neighbourly relationships were not broken with our product.

Principles checklist from user interviews:

  • Build respect between community. (Any problems can create awkward situation with neighbours).
  • Allow users to focus on immediate friends first that already have a rapport.
  • Try to move away from publicising roles that occur weekly.
  • Find a way that makes people want to join in and help, rather than just receiving work.

 

Competitors


Personas
From the research gathered we created our personas

First time buyer

Young couple Age: Late 20’3 early 30’s

Occupation: Buyer, Works full time, 8.30 – 6.00Just moved into first home.

Still enjoys nights out with friends. Finds there’s not much time time in the week.

Tech savvy, has all latest technology, but not keen on DIY although does help friends if needed

 Mum

Age: 36

3 Kids: 3, 5, 7

Occupation: Product Owner,Works Part time

Works: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. 9-4

Can work from home, Finds despite not working Fridays a full weeks work is still required to fulfil job role. Will often not leave on time to help team with project queries.

Ideation

First we explored the initial idea of creating journey maps, mind maps, random links, and creative stimulus where we considered other environments related to our users.

 

NABC (Needs Approach Benefits Competition)

Who/ What, How much, When, How, Where?

Taking the ideas we have generated we started to narrow down the ideas and chose our strongest ideas and created the following sketches to further explore our ideas.

 

Idea selection

Here we took our ideas and scored them to finally decide where to focus.

Validating our idea with a quick experiment

Just to see the uptake with friends I carried out a quick experiment. To test the uptake of the our concept I posted a question on Whatsapp to friends asking for help me with a DIY task.

Question posted:

Q: Does anyone want to do some manual labour for little to no pay.

Group size: 16

Responded Yes: 6

Refusals: 1

37.5% uptake in idea

Comments received:

  • Someone asked if people would be up for child minding instead
  • One person asked what points system would they be rewarded with
  • Another asking if there would be beer

Day of work:

  • 5 people turned up with 2 of them turning up half way through the job

Our idea:

Creating a community for personalised needs. Allowing users to reach out to the local community for help with their tasks in exchange for their time.

Here our users can request help for a job and will pay in time. To gain more time the users will have to help other people in the community.


Storyboard

Information Architecture

Journey maps

Here we used our personas and research that we had gathered to run through each task our users would go through when doing a DIY task.

 

User Flows

Using the journey maps I started to look at the general process the user would go through when using the Trading skills application.

 

Site map

 

Wireframes

 

Paper prototypes

Here we wanted to quickly test how to best present user profiles to other users within the app.

We learnt here that it’s best to trim down the information and to focus on reviews and star ratings.

Prototypes

Using Proto.io We started to move the sketches to wireframes and into a direct Prototype that could be tested. First looking at the initial Prototype by using it myself and putting together a User journey to show how the users would flow through the app, making notes and alterations from the thoughts of the rest of the class.

 

User tests

Deciding the research goals

Looking at the current prototype I came up with a list of areas that I wanted to explorer.

  • Do we need a navigation.
  • Does the user understand the process of receiving time for carrying out tasks.
  • Can users easily add tasks and enter information.
  • Can users easily find where to look through tasks and apply for them.
  • Do users understand what is happening on the homepage. (As this is the main control panel that keeps user informed of upcoming jobs, and whether they need to carry out anything.

 

Setting the scene for the User testing

  • You have been doing some DIY and need to get some help to get the job finished. Sign up to Trading Skills using a facebook and get to the homepage homepage.
  • You are about to starting stripping the wallpaper but would like some help this weekend. Please use the app to add a task and then return to the homepage.
  • How would you go about getting some more time that you could use to create more of your own tasks.

 

User interviews

[Photo of the notes taken]

 

Completed Prototype and User flow

Below showing the latest iteration of the Trading Skills app. Using the notes taken from user testing:

  • Putting task that users needs to carry out in a more prominent position on the homepage.
  • More messaging to allow users to know when they have carried out a task.
  • Maps so users know where the task is taking place at a quick glance.
  • Slight copy amends.
  • Allowing users to filter when searching job.

 

 

 

Further development

 

There are further amends or enhancements that need to be explored.

 

These include:

  • Investigating equipment and users lending equipment to each other.
  • Further investigation into linking Friends to help jobs, Wether this is linking the right people to you. Or grouping friends and you can select a group of friends to help with a task, so there is less awkwardness in everyone getting to know each other.
  • Trading knowledge section, maybe people don’t need help with tasks and a quick chat would help.
  • Further investigation on keeping people safe when using this app. Using a photo recognition software that sometimes are used in dating apps to confirm the right person, and to make sure all addresses are correct.
  • If there is no one to help, look to see if you can include local trader advertisement.

 

Human in AI – UX Crunch

With 3 guest speaker UX crunch organised a night to discuss the developing world of AI and how we design for interactions with this new technology. With Becky Priebe a Director of human Experience at RealWear, Alex Bone the Co-founder from Mettle Studios and Ben Scott-Robinson a founder at the Small Robot Company all talking about their experiences within this sector.

 

Becky Priebe came to talk about her experiences of being within the design industry at this time. With the sector constantly evolving and everyone be connected through information every second of the day.

She gave the analogy of how we as humans are set up in the same way as machines with sensors of smell sight touch taking data that our brain process this. But what does separate us from machines is emotion. And how we can learn about society, culture and how as designers we should be using our empathy to design ai to help users. Think about how people use a product to design the experience of ai. Here Becky stressing how the media portray AI as a product in itself, when actually it is a technology we should be applying to an experience.

Looking forward Becky talked about the what is starting to happen more and more, and this is how the industry is moving from designers working closely alongside developers to working next to data scientist making sure data come first and really determines what happens within design.

Alex Bone the Co-founder and Creative Director at Mettle studios came to talk about his experiences and perspective of being a practitioner of AI and data science. With his experience of iot he talked about machine learning and gave us insights into how artificial intelligence lacks in intelligence needing to be fed with information until it can become useful. Finding that users in general expect these products to be right straight from the offset, and didn’t understand the notion that these products having to analyse their data first.

An example of this is the Clean Space app (Where the user receives a clean mile credit depending on the mode of transport they have taken). His team had no baseline of data to start from, so they were struggling to know exactly when a person changes transport modes from walking to bus to cycling. The only way the team could do this was to go out and collect their own data, and then tagging in the right mode of transport. They found one person within in the team didn’t tag their journey, complaining that the app was never working correctly failing to understand that the app needed to be trained first.

Do Chevon from The Small Robot company came to talk about how they are using data and AI to transform farming. Looking at disrupting this market by reducing soil compaction. They have been able to design a service where they would lease out 3 different robots, Tom Dick and harry. That all have individual roles, from one looking at the current crop to see what pesticides are needed and whether they require it at all, to giving the farmer the exact position of each crop, to then helping plant each seed so that nothing is wasted. All without working or putting the same amount of pressure on the soil as current method, reducing the amount machines are compacting the soil which is a major problem to most farms around the country where the farms will have to allow around 5-8 years so that the ground can recover.

UX Academy MUXL

Week 1 – HCD or UCD

Week one opened with the 9 member sheepishly greeting each other and finding out about one another’s backgrounds, from Developers turned Designers, Marketing executives, and Graphic Designers all wanting to learn more about UX. The class size was a good number which allowed everyone to participate without feeling intimidated.

The first week run by Charlotte Gauthier the Lead UX Designer from The Guardian was focused around Human/User centred design. Starting by showing the various teams we would be working with throughout the course. Each team being split to give a wide range of backgrounds and experiences from the different participants. The first exercise was to decide a user-group that would benefit from a new email interface. A good range of ideas came forward, from a email interface focused on accessibility, to one focused on security which showed a good range of ideas within the groups.

Charlotte then focused the talk on what User research methods and processes were needed to validate the ideas. From Primary research, such as interviews, questionnaires and field studies, to Secondary research methods like benchmarking competitors and looking at previous studies. Then introducing us to tools like empathy maps, Persona cards and moving into NABC (Needs, Approach, Benefits, and Competition) that help make sense of the data gained.

Towards the end of the class we were separated back into our teams and given the brief for our course project, with the first week focusing on profiling our audience. With the ideas for the projects being a Healthcare app, a gardening tool, and ours a Trading skills app for the local community.

Week 2 – Ideation

Meeting with our teams again and exchanging notes on the week’s work, having found some  useful information from interviews carried out during the week. With the Health care app being reminded of a old A-Z book that mums and dads would use to get quick medical knowledge. To understanding that an app that dealt with neighbours working together, would have to be careful to create respect within the app’s community, as to not create awkward relationships in the real world.

We were then greeted with our tutor for the next two weeks Hara Mihailidou who is currently Head of UX at Just Giving with a whole wealth of knowledge from experience at Microsoft and O2. Today we started to look at Ideation using a few techniques to develop the concept from week 1, ready to make a proposal that would be ready to pitch.

We were taught a number of great tools to use, that helped take the initial ideas and expand on them. The ones that sprung out to me included Journey maps, where you take a persona and map out the user’s day, helping to find where the situation would be useful for your users. With two others techniques that help take the idea and look at them in a completely different way, with ‘Creative Stimulus’ using ‘Revolution’ technique. Here you take the rules created from your original idea and reverse them to see if this leads to new ideas. Also another I particularly enjoyed was ‘Random links’ which allows you to stop getting bogged down within the project you may be working on. By bringing in a couple of random objects you would then discuss what they allow the user to do (anything is plausible), then taking these notes and relating each one back to the original idea.

Week 3 – User Experience, Sketching, and story boards

With the class being run again by Hara we all presented our final idea, giving a short explanation to how we got there. Within our team we had found that our initial idea was too broad to focus on within the time frame. Whilst also finding it would be very difficult to help mums and families because of the trust you need with the person may help with giving the kids a lift to school or babysitting. So we eventually settled on focusing on first time buyers and helping them with DIY tasks. It was good to see the other teams present and how their ideas had been developed into one pitch.

One learning from each of the groups pitch which seems obvious, was that we each forgot to give a quick story of the user and the specific problems they face, showing where our idea would help. With this in mind we moved into looking at our design goals, seeing the pyramid diagram from Stephen P Anderson who looked into the psychology behind design, moving your product from usable and reliable, to something pleasurable  and meaningful, that will keep your users coming back time after time.

Hara then showing a great video from the master himself Don Norman. Looking at all the instances of designing fun into your products and what emotional cues the product should have to succeed, from Visceral, Behavioral, and Reflective.

We then came to one of the most enjoyable parts (for me) which was sketching, and creating storyboards, learning some quick techniques on how to quickly draw people to help get across the story we want to portray.

Using the personas that we first created in week one the teams drew out the storyboard that would show how our idea would intertwine into the user’s day and help them with their tasks.

Week 4 – Journey mapping, Information architecture and Wireframing sketching

Jiri the Principal Interaction Designer currently at Intruit was our tutor for week 4, bringing with him his experience from working for the Telegraph, National Rail Enquiries, among others.

Now with a true validated idea, from using the knowledge we have learnt from our user interviews we moved on to learning how we could start to structure the information we had gained, by looking into the Taxonomy and Information Architecture or our products.

The first activity of the night was to map out our user’s Journey using the storyboards and personas we had created from previous weeks. Quickly noting down all the activities our users would go through from initial problem to using our application. A great activity that really allowed us to dig into the detail of every process of our product. Then mapping out subtasks under the initial notes, reiterating the original line of activities as we went along.  This flowed nicely into creating our User Flows, discussing as teams how the users would move around the activities and subtasks, learning that further Journeys could be made when wanting to dig into the detail of further subtasks.

Armed with the User Journeys and Flows, along with the work from previous nights, we moved into sketching out our wireframes. First working as a real rough Low fidelity hand sketch to get the ideas on page, allowing us to easily discuss what should be included and changed.

Before leaving, Jiri gave us the homework to the create a high fidelity wireframe prototype  using proto.io along with a couple of useful links from BBC Gel, iOS HIG that look at existing patterns and design system that users already have a mental model of.

 

Week 5 – Prototyping and Rapid Experiments

I turned up early to see our tutor for the night Jiri grabbing a bite to eat before our class. It was good to get a quick chat with him before class, as we got to talk about how the academy was going and what my views on the class, along with getting a quick bit of advice over what I should emphasise within my CV and portfolio. With my background he mentioned I should focus on selling my experience from working with British standards to meet Ergonomic needs with the products I had worked on previously. Along with that he talked about his experiences when doing a masters, saying he thoroughly enjoyed it, and would still do it, despite the pressures of having a young family.

Moving onto the class we took a quick look at the wireframes we had produced using proto.io. Giving guidance on what areas we should adapt, opening it up to the whole group to ask questions. This then led us into the week’s topic of Prototyping.

First looking at the Double diamond diagram created by the Design council. Methodology suggesting that the design process consists of the 4 phases Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver. With Jiri saying that prototyping can fit within every phases as you look to evaluate your designs. Learning how Prototypes have many different guises and can be used to understand the problem space you are about to move. Showing examples of Rapid experiments where you jot down your interface on a piece of paper to test with a potential user. A very quick and easy way to test an assumption you might have.

Jiri started to go into detail of the various test he had carried out giving us lots of examples of Low fidelity test like sketches and dry tests where the prototype can be a creative piece that wouldn’t include any functionality to a ‘Wizard of OZ/ concierge’ test  where a model is produced that allows the user to think they are using a real product. Jiri gave an example of a text based prototype where his teams created a text messages service where they would re-write the received messages from users before forwarding them, allowing them to test an idea quickly and the user thinking that everything was running through a database.

Another test that Jiri recommended was the diary study, getting users to use a prototype for a period of time whilst keeping a diary of when they used the product. This allows you to understand how the user gets on with a product over a longer period of time. What Jiri found most interesting was once the diary test had finished, they allowed the users to continue using the product. Although Jiri no longer got the the diary, the analytics they got back were quite interesting.

We then moved to a quick practical where we drew out and used paper prototypes to test quick interactions with our projects, which was a great way to imagine the steps the user had to go through to achieve a certain objective. Leaving this week  with a couple of noteworthy comments  ‘A prototype is worth a 1000 words’ and you should make a prototype in the lowest fidelity possible to answer the question you have.

Week 6 – Inclusive & responsive design

Today we met our 4th Tutor Sophie Lepinoy who is currently teaching Lean User experience and has mentored start up businesses at Google Launchpad. She came to give us an overview of what we should focus on with Accessibility and Inclusivity when designing for our users.

Sophie showing some insightful videos of people who are visually impaired, and what tools they use. Showing us how to consider the page is structured so that the screen readers can run through the page in a flowing manner. The video led the talk into the meaning of Accessibility as trying to remove barriers that stop people from using the website, which could be anything from visual impairment to hearing, which could be a physical problem to an environment problem of where the user is viewing your site/app. Then showing the certain standards that our designs should fall under such as the Equality Act 2010 along with the guidelines and associations which are good to keep in mind WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).

The next topic which Accessibility falls under was Inclusivity that can range from Language, Age, Education, communities and many more of what your users might be. This led to looking at our designs from ‘Stress Cases’. Where a product may be used in the wrong way. An example was given of a user asking Siri “Siri, I don’t know what to do, I was just sexually assaulted”, with Siri replying “One can’t know everything, can one?”. Showing how not thinking of all the ways a user could interact with your product, no matter how bad can lead to making a traumatic devastating event, even worse for the user.

The first exercise of the night was looking at the wireframes we have already created, and seeing how they should be restructured to include what we had learnt from the day’s session. This led our team to not only look at how the page should be restricted but how users may become vulnerable whilst using our app. Making us look at what safeguards we might need to be put into our design in certain steps of the process, such as pop up warnings, as well as directing people to connect with users they may already know through Facebook.

After a small break we started to look at responsive design and grid systems, looking at the differences between Native, hybrid and Web, from how to to pick your break point to choosing a responsive grid that would suit your site, mentioning it should be looking at your content and how it is viewed at various viewpoint sizes before setting your breakpoints. Sophie finished by giving us some great resources to help decide a grid and setting a task to adapt our mobile apps to desktop.

 

Week 7 – Validating with usability testing

Sophie set out the agenda for the night. Looking into Usability testing methods and techniques. First making us aware of how prototypes can save millions in industry. Really highlighting the need to test your assumptions before pushing them into the real world. Whilst showing how building up knowledge in the area to gain empathy with the core users, as without this our designs are pretty much wishful thinking.

First we looked at the initial research we needed to gather to help validate our idea. Taking the brief that came from the client and beginning to understand:

the users situation,

their motivation

and their desired outcome.

To help learn what users are doing now to solve their problems.  Showing the quote below:

“This is exactly why we do user research: to find out what people are doing now to solve their problem, understanding what needs they have, and to understand how we can best help meet those needs. Then it’s time to work out what the project should be”

https://userresearch.blog.gov.uk/2015/05/27/doing-user-research-in-the-discovery-phase/

The talk moved into giving us some useful research methods and questions that we could use, whilst also showing a few examples from the book Just enough research by Erica Hall

“A healthy team is made up of people who have the attitude that it is better to learn something than be ‘right’”.

Erika Hall, Just enough research

Moving towards user interviews where Sophie showed short video from the book Sprint by Jake Knapp, that showed Michael Margolis conduct a user interview about a fitness tracker. Picking out some of the key areas to keep in mind when conducting an interview, such as:

Making the user at ease, and being conscious of your own body language and how this could affect the user whilst being fresh and enthusiastic,

Start the interview by spending 10 minutes talking to the user and finding out about them.

Make sure you listening and don’t interrupt and be appreciative showing your listening

Ask the users questions, or ask where their thoughts may have come from, eg a past app they may have used.

Make sure the user fully understands you are testing the product and not them

Give the user certain tasks to complete.

And finally finish with a quick debrief.

We then broke away for 20 minutes where we started to use the tools we had learnt that night to conduct our own interviews. First we decided on the user goal and what we might want to learn from the interview. Then turning these into tasks the users needed to complete and non-leading questions that meet the goals we set out.

Within the group one person interviewed a user whilst the rest of the group participated in note taking. It was good to learn this in a non pressured environment, and I immediately picked up some useful learnings, after committing the cardinal sin of jumping straight into the task, forgetting to learn about the user first. What was interesting was being able to see the problem and writing down the note just by seeing the movement of the mouse and the body language of the user even before they spoke themselves about the issue. Showing how important user interviews can be.

This leads us into the final week with some great feedback to add to further users tests carried outside of the academy to build upon our designs.

 

Week 8 – Stakeholder management and UX portfolios

Onto the final week, which was a fairly relaxed evening with Sophie filling in at short notice with the topic for the night being Stakeholder Management and Portfolios. Showing us how important it is to know who they are, what they want, emphasising the need to take these people with you whilst doing the project. Giving us a few key ways to keep people on board with workshops like Hackathons, Design sprints, and storytelling. Which all help to change attitudes in terms of how UX might be thought of in other parts of the business, with a major example coming from the book Sprint by Jake Knapp and Game storming by Dave Gray.

The talk then moved into how best to set up a portfolio, and how to use the work we had done throughout the course, and build a case study that would allow us to show the processes we have gone through when designing.

One of the best parts being right at the end where Sophie spent her time to have a look through the work we had produced over the last few weeks, as well guiding us on our online portfolios, giving us an insight into what employers are looking for, as well as a few pointers of what we should change. I found this a great part of the night getting great feedback in a non pressured environment and being able to chat openly with Sophie on ideas of how to adapt my site to best show off my work.

As the night came to a close a few of the students finished off with a couple of drinks with both Naveed and Sophie joining us, where we could talk about the academy and share ideas and what groups and events to join to continue learning.

 

Final thoughts

As someone who has been a front end developer, and product designer I really enjoyed the 8 weeks, which seemed to go in a flash. My highlights definitely being able to sit down with the tutors on a one to one basis from getting thoughts on masters degrees, to usability tests. I think it’s great if you’re new in UX or a beginner, in giving you the right structure to follow or just cementing what you may already have learnt whilst at work. Although what I would say is you get out of the course as much as you are willing to put using the nights sessions as a way to give a direction to the work you do outside of the academy.

A definite highlight is the tutors who have amazing backgrounds in UX who give a great insight to what they have learnt over their careers as well as Naveed who makes you feel at ease and is more than willing to answer any question you have, and always looking at ways to see how he can improve the academy in the future.

 

.

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.

Tents



When working within the camping range, we received a lot of complaints that the user would wake up in the middle of the night with the tent leaking. With total refunds for a tent being around 7%. After receiving a number of the returned samples and assembling them in the garden and leaving them up over the weekend, none leaked.

The actual problem came to light when we received one returned sample, that showed the knots that this particular customer was using to tie their guy lines.

This showed that there was a lack of knowledge in our customers when it came to camping. Showing that we generally dealt with new/novice campers. The products were fine but although the Instruction manuals were benchmarked with competitors, we were missing vital information to let novice campers understand how to set up tents to avoid morning condensation.

So a relatively simple change to add more information within the IM that helped reduce returns and give our customers a better experience. That showed how important it is to understand the customer that buys into your specific product, and not just the range as a whole.