SOGETI UK BLOG

Speaking of design we usually think about the wonderful front-ends your customers, and sometimes employees, love. We might also think of industrial design or even city shaping. Beautiful architecture. These days we are so focused on the front-end; we might be tempted to forget the back-end. They say, beauty is what lies inside.

Image from Ex Machina 2015

With multi-channel, or even better onmi-channel and cross-channel, companies try to reach out to the customers and design a rich pallet of interfaces shaped to match the size of the channel and fitting it’s character. Mix and match so to say. Customer journeys are shaped and constantly improved, front-ends online are brought in-line with the more modern App world. Beautiful designs are created for both user interface (UI) and -interaction with respect to the complete user experience, neatly spread over channels. Everything for the user, user-centric or People First as I like to call it.

With the recent wave of modern AI, more and more companies are claiming that AI is the new APP. Not the traditional chess playing AI, but AI that can learn. We can teach it almost everything, even dealing with us humans. Microsoft is betting AI will be its future. Even though it’s twitter Tay chat bot turned into a little Hitler-loving sex bot. Companies like IBMGoogle and Facebook also believe in a strong AI future and even Elon Musk is trying to set free AI, though he formally said it was “our greatest existential threat”. I also sometimes joke “They will kill us all” or “We will all be the slaves of robots” just to take a sniff of what the opinion in the room is.

All this power of computing, with all the recent investments in Machine Learning (as a better way of saying modern AI), is hungry for information. Like a young mind that is eager to learn. On the other hand we all, inside and outside our companies, have and share huge amounts of information. Machine learning can deal with large amounts of unstructured data. Learning from data, getting to know us. Do we also want it to handle parts of our lives that way? Act on behalf of us in such an unstructured way? Should we make the ‘life’ of our cognitive assistants really that complex?

As bots will be able to take over more and more complex tasks for us, just by having a dialogue, they will need to be able to act on our behalf with almost infinite amount of companies. In the recent years we have been busy creating a beautiful interface for people, it’s time to think about beautiful interfaces for bots as well. The inside of our companies should shape up.

All is the new App: API is the new App and AI is the new App. We have heard them both. Lets combine them by creating highly standardized interfaces that connect with the non-human interfaces of out bots.Creating neat interfaces that seduce bots to use them. Set a standard dialogue on the inside to flirt with them. It is after all the front-end for our cognitive friends. We need to treat them like our friends if we want them to be as successful as possible assisting us and improving our lives.

 

Arnd Brugman AUTHOR:
As an innovator Arnd helps organisations with innovative project delivery - from the initial idea and inspiration through to the vision, strategy and roadmap all the way through to assissting with proof of concepts and pilots. He has significant experience with innovation, product development and service delivery.

Posted in: API, architecture, Automation Testing, IBM, Infrastructure, Innovation, IT strategy, Microsoft, Open Innovation, Quality Assurance, Research, Robotics, Social Aspects, Software Development, User Experience, User Interface      
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Some say strategy is what we are going to do, this only tells part of the story. What we will not do also is an important part of your strategy. Exactly the same goes for design. What is smart design, from a user perspective, or even a user experience perspective? What is in scope for an interaction, an interface? And also what is not in scope. What is not smart for this user? Who is not the user? ‘Not’ can be quite powerful.

If we talk about strategy, we usually state what we are going to do, to deliver. It’s usually what we choose to do. I’d like to add that what we are not going to do is equally important for your strategy. Choosing what not to do is sharpening your strategy much more than just a bit. Choosing what not to do in addition to what you will do makes a much more complete strategy to execute.

Warning

Creating creative ideas in design also takes a huge leverage on the use of not. In the practical problem solving method for innovation, known asTRIZ, it is also a great tool for taking new perspectives. Thinking not on what you might consider essential in a current solution or offering, can help create a whole new direction – read disruption – in a service or even a whole sector. Some examples: The best hotel is not a hotel, the best taxi is not a taxi and the best interface is not an interface. Does it sound familiar, not?

Recently we created a great set of personas, scenarios and user stories for an interface on an iPad (primarily and secondary on a mobile phone). Being new in their respective area of operation (confidential, sorry), we didn’t quite get all the personas and accompanying scenarios and user stories spot on, so to say. To be honest we were quite off on some of them.

This user will never use the interface”, “This is not what they will use this solution for”. Not quotes we were expecting to hear. This felt a bit wrong, at first. As it turned out it massively helped our discussion around focusing on the user behavior and the demands for this interface. This “not a user” and “not a valid scenario” helped us scope the interface much more than just seeing what would supposedly be in scope. It sharpened the dialogue as well as the interface.

So, besides writing user stories, use cases (and possibly abuse cases for security), we can add ‘not’ user and ‘not’ use cases for sharpening the dialogue and by such scoping the interface and interaction with the users even further.  This thought us a very valuable lesson using ‘not’ in design. A handy tool that is easy for us to create a sharper scope and an even more logical interaction on any touch point. Would you use ‘not’ on your next design?

 

Arnd Brugman AUTHOR:
As an innovator Arnd helps organisations with innovative project delivery - from the initial idea and inspiration through to the vision, strategy and roadmap all the way through to assissting with proof of concepts and pilots. He has significant experience with innovation, product development and service delivery.

Posted in: Digital strategy, Human Behaviour, Infrastructure, Innovation, IT strategy, Research, Smart, User Experience, User Interface, user stories      
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Is Justin Bieber working for your company? Is pseudo Latin your native language? Probably not.

JB

Making demonstrators for customers should not only show relevance in customer or employee value, it should also make the demo relevant by using appropriate content. As relevant as friendly names can be, make sure they are relevant to the customer and their business, not just funny for the concept or anonymous placeholders.

With our design team I recently had the wonderful opportunity to create a number of very fascinating mobile app concepts to engage employees. While creating them a lot of placeholder data was used to show how the screen layout works with content. Typically, funny as they are, the designers used names of people like Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera and some one named it Miley Cyrus. Also the ever-infamous lorem ipsum took quite some screen space.

The designs were great – off course; I am working with great designers 
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Arnd Brugman AUTHOR:
As an innovator Arnd helps organisations with innovative project delivery - from the initial idea and inspiration through to the vision, strategy and roadmap all the way through to assissting with proof of concepts and pilots. He has significant experience with innovation, product development and service delivery.

Posted in: architecture, Data structure, Developers, Digital, Infrastructure, mobile applications, Quality Assurance, Research, Transformation      
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While doing several Mobile App concepts for clients we discovered a trinity of value that took us from ‘quick and dirty’ to ‘quick and clean’. While building concepts as a demonstrable prototype, you are bound to take shortcuts. You cannot make fast progress without cutting some corners. Having limited time should never mean cutting out the essence; it should mean focusing on the essence. That is exactly what O.E.R. delivers; Focus on essence.

Ontology

To capture the reason the user will start using the solution we define the reason for the app to exist. This can only be described as the value towards the user. What will the App deliver as a value to the user? Or from a user perspective: ‘what’s in it for me?’ That is the Ontology of the App. This can be described in one paragraph of only a couple of sentences that define ‘the meaning of being’, as a philosopher would put it. This ‘whatness’ is why the App exists, for this the users enjoy it and its value: it is the essence of the App.

Epics

I love ‘focus’, especially for Apps. Only one purpose for the App brings focus, however it is a bit narrow. From the ontology we can derive several epics: main use-cases that bring value to the user. This set of epics has to be a coherent one and should be focused around one user group in a specific context or aligned contexts. By creating the epics we create a kind of mental flow for the App. The App becomes logically layered as described in my previous post ‘The Next Wave in App Design’. This helps to order the functionalities that are derived from the user values and gives guidance to the user.

Rationale

With ontology and epics, we have a clear set of ‘why’ and ‘what’ from a user perspective. Everything until here was done without any interface in mind. All was interface agnostic. It is time to create a layout and a detailed flow for the App, including the visual style for the App demonstrator. This means we create the design language as a constant factor throughout the App that is the logic behind every screen, every element and every transition. This logic is the Design Rationale. It should be consequent and in line with the App concept, the style of the company and the platform guidelines. One rationale behind the entire App, described as one complete and comprehensive set of visual design principles.

Why O.E.R?

These three (O, E & R) principles for the App concept are necessary to make a great pitch for the demonstrable prototype. They provide answers to questions that are expected to rise during the presentation. Why? Exactly: why. The question always will be ‘why’…? Why this App? Why the logo on the left? Why this start screen? Why here? … ‘Why’ is the question 2-year-olds keep asking and we tend to ask them to stop asking. ‘Why’ is the question we should ask to gain insight, to improve our concept and to make sure we have answers for those who will decide if a concept will be realized. Asking ‘why’ is what we teach adults again to be able to improve their work and others. Keep asking ‘why’ until you reach the essence, how and what will follow from that. You want to know why? Take a look at Simon Sinek on TED.com.

 

Arnd Brugman AUTHOR:
As an innovator Arnd helps organisations with innovative project delivery - from the initial idea and inspiration through to the vision, strategy and roadmap all the way through to assissting with proof of concepts and pilots. He has significant experience with innovation, product development and service delivery.

Posted in: Digital, Digital strategy, Innovation, mobile applications, Requirements, Research, Social media, User Experience, User Interface      
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Since the start of the App revolution we have seen some pretty amazing Apps, as well as a great deal of poorly designed and pretty much unusable Apps. I have always liked Apps that have a clear focus. Apps should not start with a menu asking what the user wants to do. Apps should start with the core functionality and with what the App is meant for, because the App designer already knows what the users want to do, when the App is started. The App designer knows, because he researched and listened to the user group.

Menus

I am not against menu like navigation to separate functionality in an App. It is however never the goal of the user to start with the menu. I have never heard a potential App user say: ‘As a user I want to use a menu’. Separation of functionality enables the App to be used at a broader level than remaining restricted to one functionality. I do not believe in one functionality per App. I do believe in one core functionality. The App focus: should be the core.

Layered Approach

The core functionality is the reason the App exists. It is the materialisation of the most ‘epic user’ story. It is why the user opens the App in the first place, usually. So, this also, is what most of the screen real estate should be used for, when the user opens the App. It should be clear by now that this is never the menu. So where do we put the other valuable interaction that is logical to access in this App but not necessarily the most ‘epic of epics’? We use the first layer of navigation, the tab bar or action bar.

By separating the additional App values from the core in this bar, we bring it clearly and logically in front of the user, without the need to ask him where he wants to start today. The user can easily access the functionality and doesn’t have to find his or her way around the App: it’s clear but not in their face. To make sure the App is still focused, there is only room for a couple of additional App values. Typically, the initial four fit the tab bar, the rest is one more click away.

Now that we have our most epic and additional App values in place, we sometimes are left with some stuff that we have to add. Typically, stuff that is left, is a large part of what the users will never mention as a value. Think of security, login, and other configuration and settings. Stuff that has to be in the App because it matters to the working of the app but not so much to the user. This group of features – as we can hardly call these values – we can position in the Settings menu or the ‘Hamburger’-menu.

Image 1

This clear layered approach of core, additional App values and more stuff is logical and simple to get rid of the start-up menu and presents the user with an elegant and well-thought-through App design.

One more thing: Contextual Core

Thinking of the core as an epic of epics works most of the times. However, context of the user can change the initial expectation of the user and influence the way we look at the user values. This context of location and time can also change the order of the values. Making one user value more epic than another, for now, in this context. By taking into account these user scenarios with context, we can be mindful of the expectations and adapt our solution to the user and usage context. Context-aware applications can assist us efficiently, so that we can accomplish our tasks with fewer clicks.

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: The Next Wave in App Design

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Arnd Brugman AUTHOR:
As an innovator Arnd helps organisations with innovative project delivery - from the initial idea and inspiration through to the vision, strategy and roadmap all the way through to assissting with proof of concepts and pilots. He has significant experience with innovation, product development and service delivery.

Posted in: Application Lifecycle Management, Behaviour Driven Development, Business Intelligence, communication, functional testing, Human Interaction Testing, mobile applications, Security, Usability Testing, User Experience, User Interface      
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