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Design & creativity

At the start of the new year some of our clients approach us and ask what new UX and design trends they need to be aware of. To help them out I try to keep my ear to the ground and talk with my colleagues. So here they are, the things I think are going to take off in digital this year.

Screenshot of Snowfall website

Storytelling

Specifically in the form of single-page sites with parallax scrolling. The New York Times started this trend back in 2012 with its launch of Snowfall. It takes more traditional publishing techniques and brings them to life with the power of digital  - using movement, interaction and effects like parallax scrolling to create one seamless experience. Over the last couple of years this already popular trend has come a long way, and I can see it becoming common practice as more companies embrace it as method to engage and delight their customers with their brand, products and services.

Screenshot of National Geographic's 'rendezvous with death' documentary website

Split page layouts

With the above in mind, I think the use of split pages to tell two halves of a story or show different products will become much more popular. Line25 have collated some good examples if you’re unfamiliar with the concept. One of my favourites is still the National Geographic’s interactive documentary ‘Rendevous with Death’, which tells the lives of both President John F Kennedy and his accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, in parallel. It’s extremely powerful and digital storytelling at its best. Whilst this site went live back in 2013, it is still one of the finest examples I’ve seen and is one of the reasons why I think this trend will stand the test of time.

Screenshot of the dropbox user guide landing page

More recently, this method has been used by companies to showcase products and services, specifically those with two distinct offerings or audiences. Dropbox is one example of this. They’ve adopted the approach for their guides; splitting the site between their business and admin users. It’s a clear way of signposting to different audiences, and I think it works really well.

Minimalist navigation

Screenshot of Newton Running homepage

In 2014 leaders such as Google introduced more frequent use of hidden navigation, and the ‘hamburger‘ menu became ubiquitous for mobile sites. This year, I think we’ll start to see this become more widespread across larger screen designs. This is great for designers as it allows us to focus the attention on content without the noise of headers and footers.  Newton Running is a good example of this approach. On their homepage, the design is all about the navigation, which enables users to get to the section they are interested in quickly and easily. From there, the navigation is minimal, it’s all about interacting with and experiencing the trainers.

In addition to minimal navigation, this site also adopts some of the other trends mentioned in this article, including a split design to signpost to men and ladies and parallax scrolling to tell their story.

Skeuomorphism

Love or hate it, skeuomorphism is already starting to make a comeback but this time with a more refined flat design approach (so no more 3-dimensional bookshelves, Apple!). Designing for the much lauded Internet of things (IoT) will mean that we only start to see more UI elements that resemble everyday physical objects that are familiar to users. Some nice examples of this can be seen in this Awwwards UI inspiration article.

Email design

As the most successful tool at a marketers disposal, I think designers will start to adopt a more user-centred approach to the end-to-end design of emails. Consideration will be given to their role in the user journey and how they are part of the multi-channel experience. Designers will need to think about strategy, content and design – it’s no longer just an email. Perhaps with future releases of outlook (and other email clients) we’ll even get greater HTML and CSS support. One can dream…

I hope you find this useful! Please feel free to suggest some trends of your own in the comments.

Happy new year! At the end of every year it’s become a tradition at Webcredible to ask our consultants for their UX resolutions. So without further delay, here they are!

@gmaninis:

  • UX people need to be involved in more strategic decisions!
  • UX to drive organisational change in thinking, structure and decision making etc
  • Clients to buy more into customer research and understand why we are doing what we are doing!

@donerix:

  • Embedding UCD thinking within the whole organisation and not just the responsibility of specific individuals or teams – think the ‘digital by default’ strategy of the Government Digital Services (guys who’re responsible for GOV.UK)
  • And following that, if organisations don’t yet have a digital strategy, it’s time to come up with one!

@Nordic:

@boomrich:

What are your 2014 UX resolutions, and what do you think of ours? We would love to know so please leave a comment below. If you are looking to give your customer experience new lease of life in 2013 but aren’t sure where to start, get in touch and we can help you have a great year!

While working on a recent project for a client in the banking sector, we researched various trends and ideas about the future of banking and payments. That’s what I will try to share with you below.

The driving forces of change

The factors and user needs that are driving change in the banking sector are as follows:

  • The increasing use of, and dependence on, mobile devices (or simply small screens)
  • The need for a ‘democratisation of payments’. This in particular has influenced start-ups to create solutions that make it possible for everyone to accept payments by card despite cost and technology barriers
  • Sharing bank account details with other people can be tiresome. Who remembers their account number and sort code by heart?
  • Social media is a place for organisations to engage with their customers but some banks and start ups are starting to use it in more innovative ways
  • The need for financial and budgeting advice
  • Fees are still high for some transactions, whereas speed of transaction execution isn’t satisfactory for international payments
  • Despite all the above, we should never forget the need for better security

So how have these factors impacted on the world of digital payments and online banking?

Mobile payments

How many times have you felt disappointment at your local store for not accepting card payments or applying a charge to transactions on payments under a certain amount? Targeting mostly small merchants who can’t offer card payments because of hardware and IT costs, start-ups have turned tablets and smartphones into card processors. All you need is an app and a small card reader which is attached to the phone.

However, is this approach really worth the pain – can business with small merchants be profitable? Rumour has it that Visa have invested in Square, an innovative start-up in this domain. Some big banks, like Santander and Lloyds, are also supporting similar projects.

Who’s already doing it?

Utilising NFC and other technologies, digital wallets are another form of mobile payments.

Payment without bank details

Searching for bank details every time you want to set up or accept an online payment is tiresome. Some debit cards don’t even have sort codes on them! Soon, however, you might only need to know the recipient’s email address or mobile number.

Who’s already doing it?

  • NatWest allow their mobile app users to pay their contacts if they too have a visa card. They also have prize draws to motivate users to try it out. This service is powered by Visa Personal Payments
  • PayPal offer payments to email addresses or phone numbers. Again the only limitation is that the both parties (payer and recipient) must have a PayPal account
  • Google offer their Gmail users the ability to send money as an email attachment if they are using Google Wallet

Social banking (Face-banking)

Would you follow a bank on Facebook or Twitter? You might if their posts were relevant to your interests. A few banks have succeeded in creating a content strategy for their social networks to engage and grow their following. For example, BBVA and Barclays gained thousands of followers by posting about football. In between football updates, they also tweeted about their product and services.

Following financial institutions on social networks is one thing but how about accessing your account balance through Facebook and even sending money to your friends? Facebook banking apps allow you to utilise the capabilities of web banking without having to leave your beloved(!) profile. Facebook even guaranteed they won’t have access to your financial data…

Who’s already doing it?

Financial planning: ‘spend, save and live smarter’

If you want to be fancy in the financial sector nowadays you have to offer tools that help your customers manage their finances in a smarter way. Again, start-ups are leaders in this domain and offer alternatives which are commonly superior to those of traditional financial institutions. Here’s what personal financial management (PFM) tools offer:

  • Track and compare with past spending/saving behaviour
  • Show where money is spent
  • Option to setup saving goals
  • Advice on what is safe to spend and whether spending some money will affect your financial health, e.g. future planned payments or saving goals
  • Making the experience more pleasant with gamified messages and instructions

Who’s already doing it?

Some of these services might sound a bit extraordinary or risky (like logging in and banking through Facebook…). The truth is that there isn’t accurate data out there to validate the success or failure of these services. Time will tell.

Resources

If you want to keep up-to-date with financial tech news, here are some informative resources I have subscribed to:

Over the last year or so there has been a huge amount of debate surrounding responsive sites, dedicated mobile sites, and native apps. Specifically, debate is focused on which is best and what you should develop.

Recently I came across an example of a native app that’s fit for purpose whereas the other two mobile formats wouldn’t be. The app in question is the official 2013 Sónar Festival app.

Sonar is the International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art which takes place in Barcelona for three days every June. Apart from 3 days of multi-venue, non-stop music, there is also Sonar+D which offers workshops, hackathons, interactive installations, product demos and a lot more.

Presented by such breadth of… stuff, I initially felt overwhelmed, and the official lineup did not help at all.  How was I going to manage my itinerary for such a three-day feast? Their solution was a native mobile application, which I downloaded (for free) not expecting to use it much at all.

The best bits

After a frustrating and lengthy attempt at organising my time I turned to the app for help. Much to my surprise, it did just that, helped.

How it helped:

  • There was a great feature which allowed me to be able to bookmark my desired performances and events and create my own calendar which then alerted me a few minutes (5, 15 or 30) before every selected show. With my personalised itinerary mapped out in advance I didn’t need to worry about missing any shows
  • Using the app I could listen to the festivals official play list which were directly streamed from the app using Deezer (a music streaming service). There was also Deezer stream for each artist which was easily accessible along with a synopsis of each artist or activity. This was useful as I could browse and listen to all the artists from one location before and during the event. The collaboration between Sonar and Deezer was great, I’ve never tried Deezer before but now I might give it a try and potentially rethink my Spotify subscription.
  • For a festival with such a plethora of acts and activities they had  present this information in an user friendly format, which they did. Details on the venues was divided into ‘Sonar by day’ and ‘Sonar by night’ as well as integrating Google maps and information on transportation. Similarly, in the ‘Artists and Activities’ tab, the three types of events, the music, Sonar+D and SonarCinema were separated to avoid confusion and results for each were displayed clearly in alphabetical order with photos. In general the usability of the app was brilliant

Any UX glitches?

As a UX consultant, I am always aware there is room for improvement:

  • It’s not easy to find out how to mark an event as a favourite for it to then be added to a schedule
  • The app has some very detailed, interactive indoor maps of their venues. However, It’s not obvious which parts of the venue maps you can interact with

Despite a few small problems its assortment of user centred functions won my heart. It was great to use a festival app not primarily used as a sales tool, it was to help better the user experience. Have you had an experience with a great festival app? If so, please do share it with us, we would love to give it a go!

I had heard a lot about the unique dining experience at a restaurant called Inamo, the Pan Asian restaurant famous for its interactive tables and thought I should try it out for myself. A good friend of mine, Rose was visiting from Australia and she’s a bit of a geek so I thought she’d enjoy the experience. So brimming with anticipation, the three of us went along to their Soho restaurant for dinner.

How it worked

We were greeted by a waiter who immediately explained how it all worked. A projected interactive screen on your table enables you to do lots of things by touching various icons. For example, you can call the waiter, view the menu, find out information about what’s happening in the area and even view a live feed of the chefs at work in the kitchen which I must say is quite reassuring! You can even play games with each other but I chose to decline my friend Carmen’s request to try it out, preferring a good old fashioned chinwag instead seeing as Rose only had a couple of hours and we hadn’t seen her for a whole year. Next time, perhaps!

Where it worked

The most interesting part for me was the menu itself. The food and drinks menu is fully illustrated and when you touch a certain item that interests you, e.g. chicken satay, lo and behold, a picture of the food appears on your plate which gives you a really good idea of what to expect. Pretty cool and very engaging.
The food arrived really quickly and was pretty good. When we were ready to go, we ordered the bill via the interactive table. The waiter magically appeared within a couple of minutes with the bill and the card machine.

Where it did not

The only downside, as with most touch-screen interfaces being overly sensitive, is that you can erroneously send your order to the kitchen before you’ve actually made a full order, at this point you would have to hit the “call waiter” button to undo it!

All in all it was a novel experience. For a one off it’s great. You can even order a cab once you’re done. We had great fun playing around with the table. I must admit though that I prefer to be fussed over by the waiter when I dine out. Just sayin’

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