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For the first 3 years of his education Rhodri Buttrick was unable to learn to read or write. His parents, due to their tenacity, finally got a diagnosis of Dyslexia and Dyspraxia for him and were able to place him in an specialist school where his specific learning needs were accommodated.

Rhodri can ride a bike but isn’t good at directions. He can’t hand write, making form filling difficult. He uses speech recognition to produce all his written work and for his exams. He also uses software for reading from the screen, but wasn’t able to read the instructions for setting it up.These are the kinds of ongoing challenges he faces. Nevertheless he is highly creative with his own website and radio station and performs live stand-up comedy.

Rhodri is now 19 and preparing to enter Reading University. He has kindly agreed to chronicle this life changing experience for Webcredible in a regular blog.

As user experience practitioners, we at Webcredible know that we are never the user and most times it is very difficult for us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who faces accessibility issues. Rhodri’s posts will reveal the issues and barriers he encounters in general, and those specific to his Dyslexia and Dyspraxia especially where technology is concerned; providing all of us with a better understanding of the accessibility issues he faces as he enters university.

Over to Rhodri…

Everybody keeps telling us that online shopping is constantly growing, and I’ve bought many things online (books, CDs, DVDs), but I had never attempted a food shop online until recently and to be honest, the experience has sent me straight back to the checkouts.

Using the website of a certain major UK supermarket, I spent a good hour and a half loading up my online basket, selecting a delivery time and heading to the checkout.  This was no problem, and I’m reliably informed that when you’ve bought once, the system remembers the items you buy to make it easier (although I’ll now never be a repeat customer), so I was perfectly happy.

It was at the checkout that it all went wrong though. Firstly, I needed to amend my address details (as I had previously registered at my old address, although I had never used it), but the automatic address finder was giving me incorrect address details and wouldn’t let me input the full correct details – Somehow I wasn’t confident that the delivery driver would find Flat 11, London (my postcode was there as well, but it’s still pretty vague).

But, the worst was yet to come.  I returned to my basket frustrated, only to find that all the items I had spent a lot of time selecting had been removed as a result of me attempting to change my address during an order, without even so much as an error message! The lack of continuity in this user journey suggests that it needs much better planning.

The result is a customer who will probably never do food shopping online again because of this poor user experience, and because my nearest supermarket is a store of a different company, the brand in question has lost a lot of repeat business from me.

Wow – what a busy month August has been here at Webcredible Towers! Actually, it does feel a bit like our building is all ours as we now occupy 4 of its 5 floors. We moved in to our current offices almost 5 years ago now, at which time we were just sub-letting a few desks. As we expanded over the years we’ve gradually taken over more and more of the building.

Anyway, I digress… August is now over and despite the fact that this signifies the official end of summer (did we even have a proper summer this year?) everyone here is quite relieved. We managed to get through more work this month than at any time I can remember in quite a while. We’ve been delivering on some very complex user research and design projects and I’m really pleased with the work we’ve produced – it really is top-notch and adding significant value to our clients.

We additionally put live another report this month, focusing on the state of the financial price comparison market. The report, entitled Future comparisons: What’s next for price comparison websites, is now available for free download and is well worth a read!

As part of this, we’ve changed our standard download page for the report (as well as the download pages for all our other reports) so you no longer need to enter your email address in order to get the free PDF download. Previously you had to enter your email and there was a checkbox already ticked to sign up to our fantastic newsletter (our system would then email you a link to the report). We originally did this with our report download pages so as to increase newsletter subscribers, but with almost 25,000 of you now subscribed to the newsletter we decided it was time to let you get instant access to the reports.

So with September now upon us it’s business as usual for us Webcredibles. We’re out and about quite a lot this month, attending the usual IMRG events, the Accessibility 2.0 conference and the Great customer services on a budget day-long seminar organised by the ARK Group (at which I’m presenting).

So that’s about it for another month – please don’t forget to vote in our poll about what the key factor in purchasing a content management system would be for you. With 800 votes to-date some surprising results are emerging.

In today’s highly competitive environment, it’s important to think about how a product or service is conceived and designed across multiple touchpoints. In this article we introduce the concept of service design and explain why it’s important.

85367348_0647ec00c7Today is the official release day for “Snow Leopard (also known as Mac OS X 10.6), the next iteration of Apple’s operating system. There’s been little fanfare about this release – perhaps because it has few major new features, but many small “under the hood” improvements. However, I’ll be more than happy to fork out the £25 that Apple is charging for this upgrade, because I’ve always thought that user experience lies in the details.

Some of those “details” include:

  • Space savings: Apple claim they’ve managed to trim Mac OS X by 7GB for an average installation – giving some breathing space to those who (like myself) are reaching the limits of a small laptop hard disk
  • Easier to select and copy text from PDF files – if you’ve ever tried to copy text out of a PDF file only to find out that it comes jumbled up with parts of the text in the wrong order, you know what I mean.
  • Larger file icons that can show a detailed preview of a file before you even open it
  • Last but not least, a suite of improvements to the built-in accessibility features

People looking at a complete system can easily think that “it doesn’t do anything special” and “it’s easy to build this from scratch”. Benjamin Pollack has written about the design of Stack Overflow, an online community for developers:

… most visitors seem to agree that the user experience is smooth, from start to finish. They feel that they’re interacting with a polished product. Even if I didn’t know better, I would guess that very little of what actually makes StackOverflow a continuing success has to do with [the technical details] … There is a tremendous amount of spit and polish that goes into making a major website highly usable.

Fortunately, people are taking note. Ubuntu, the open-source Linux-based operating system, is an interesting example. We recently blogged about their One Hundred Paper Cuts project, aiming to find and fix 100 minor problems that degrade the overall user experience.

When was the last time you looked into the details of your product or service and tried to streamline things instead of focusing all your resources on building grand new features?

Photo credit: whybesubtle via Flickr / Creative commons

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