The business world is becoming increasingly dependent on computers as well as other mobile devices in conducting their day to day operations. This phenomenon has led to increased generation of visual content. With the growing dependence on visual content, the issue of creating visual environments that will offer users the best possible experience has often come up. For this reason, developers of web application are presented with the need to design systems that have the needs of the user in mind. Even so, most web applications have interfaces that users find difficult to navigate through. This realization is disturbing especially to the e-commerce fraternity. There is need for e-commerce companies like Sports R US to ensure that web applications meant to provide self-service solutions to customers are functionally good and will give users the best experience. This paper will discuss a Human Computer Interaction based design and implementation of the self-service solution for Sports R US.
The technological era has heralded immense change in almost every area of life from the way businesses are conducted to the way these businesses are engaged with their clients. Customers expect that utility companies make it more convenient for them to access the services they require without having to move from their homes. The purpose of a mobile self-service is to ensure that customers access utility services at their convenience.
The traditional approach that involved customers making calls to an agent before being served is slowly fading away. This old approach meant that the customer had to rely on agents to get their orders processed. This approach was limited in that there were bound to be delays in order processing resulting in late delivery. This caused discontent among many customers who wanted their needs met at the same time they are aware of them. The goal of mobile self-service is to eliminate discontent among customers. Again, the service is aimed at bringing reliability to the doorstep of the user since by making it possible for services to be more accessible irrespective of location and time.
Image: The ecommerce website temple
Human Computer Interaction studies ensure that the design of applications is effected in a manner that ensures ease of interaction with users. The primary target segment for Sports R US is athletes. To determine usability of the prototype, the athletes will be the primary source of data. However, in this early stage limiting the target study group to the actual users is not necessary. Other stakeholders such as employees of Sports R US can be included in the study since they can provide insights in to which functionalities are important for Sports R US. However, all customer needs relating to functionality will come ahead of those of the employees.
To evaluate the performance and usability of the prototype, the target audience will be interviewed. Interviews provide a chance for people to express their concerns. Both structured and unstructured questions can be used to elicit responses based on scenarios. Questionnaires will also be used to obtain responses and opinions on how to make the experience of users better. In the natural setting, the users will be observed to obtain information first hand on the areas that require the attention of the developers before implementation of the service is embarked on fully. Similar products from established companies such as Nike, Inc. will also be observed and analyzed in order to determine the specific requirements of the Sports R US product.
In designing an interface, the needs and wants of users need to be kept in the mind of the designer. All approaches and considerations should be centered around the user. It therefore follows that understanding the skills as well as user preference is key. Users of any system need to interact with interfaces that are simple and so the prototype interface needs to be kept simple. To attain simplicity, unnecessary elements should be avoided at all costs. Instead, the focus should be more on using clear language that is not lexical.
The users also want to save time. The design of the interface should include defaults where necessary so that the user does not have to fill all fields. The designer should anticipate such a need to have some fields pre-filled to remove the burden on the users of having to spend so much time filling fields that are not even relevant to the kind of service they want to request. The users also need feedback on what is happening. For this reason, the elements of the user interface (UI) should always communicate status and progress to eliminate frustration on the part of the user. Users require navigation elements on the interface such as icons, check-boxes, and search fields. These elements will make task completion easier and the customer will be left satisfied.
Since a prototype is just a rough model to provide insight in to how the actual product will behave, the resources needed will not be many. A prototype does not have to be perfect; it just needs to mirror the reality. One of the key resources needed will be experts. Experts can be taken to include designers, programmers and quality auditors. The other resource required for successful outcome of the process is a cloud to host the mobile application. Finance is also a key resource in marshaling all the resources together for the good of the project.
The design of a mobile device website should adopt a responsive strategy. This design will ensure that the website has the capability to adjust automatically to the display capabilities of mobile devices. To achieve this, there are numerous available solutions that are cost effective and rely on the cascading style sheets technology to deliver on this promise. Designing a website that is responsive will ensure that the target audience of Sports R US is not limited to few customers since such a website will allow Sports R US to reach a diverse web audience. This design also has an advantage because shrinking the web page will not in any way affect the content readability. Again, this design will provide enough support for users to navigate the website. Prototyping and simulation is one of the most commonly known ways of designing user interfaces. Interaction protocols can be used to limit errors that may come up during usage.
At the heart of design is quality and usability. The design should adopt an interface that is consistent so that users are able to establish patterns in the course of their application usage. The visual elements should be clear and concise. While using web applications, users sometimes make mistakes. A good design should provide remedies to the errors made by the user instead of disregarding them. Even though aesthetics is not one of the functionality issues, the design strategy should ensure that the interface is one that appeals the user. This will make the time users spend on the website more enjoyable.
After the design is complete, efforts can be redirected towards streamlining the content to ensure that it is in accordance with the needs of the users. One of the reason people use mobile devices is to access websites is so that they can save on time. The content on the website will either make this possible or impossible for clients. The best way to ensure that users are saving time by using the website is to provide quick links that can redirect clients to the specific things they want without having to flip through the whole content on the website.
The touch user interface is also applicable. This interface accepts input by touch and is important in mobile application development because most mobile devices are configured with a touch element attached to them. Zooming user interface is used to represent information and images at varied detail levels allowing the user to zoom or change the detail level to achieve the desired visibility without compromising the integrity of the information or images.
The prototype recommended for the mobile self-service is the user experience prototype. This prototype will allow designers to develop and test a proposed solution with participation from supposed users. The interaction between designers and users will help pinpoint areas that require the attention of the designer. By incorporating such a step in the development process, designers will come up with a solution that gives the users the best experience possible. In terms of functionality, the designers will get a chance to know which elements to add or remove from the real solution.
This prototype should be created to mirror the design. The designer should be the same person responsible for prototyping to ensure that the needs of the project do not conflict. In the event that the person doing the prototyping is different from the designer of the project, close supervision will be required to avoid scenarios of bugs that can impact negatively on the usability of the prototype. Concepts of usability and navigation should be tested early enough even before the prototype is presented to the users. Not all the errors need to be solved through the help of the users. Some common errors can be spotted early enough by the project leader and solved.
The tree testing method will be used to evaluate the usability of the prototype. Usability is the key theme of best user experience. Usability implies that there are no navigations issues on the part of the system users. Most websites are designed and filled with so much content that navigation by the user becomes a problem. Poor navigation experience will leave the user dissatisfied. This problem can be identified early enough and be addressed before resources are dedicated in the implementation of the actual system.
Tree testing method enables designers to isolate problems related to findability. To ensure the best outcome from this evaluation method, the search function should be removed as its presence will allow test users to search the information and therefore eliminate the possibility of isolating findability problems. This method of evaluation differs from the card sorting method because it can isolate several problems unlike the card sorting which only identifies the problem of navigation and findability.
To conclude that there are no findability problems, the test will need to attain a confidence rate of 95 per cent. For instance, if a sample size of 100 individuals is selected for the tree testing exercise and 60 per cent of the population is able to locate items without difficulty, then it is possible to say that the 95 per cent confidence has been attained. From this, it can be determined that individuals between 50 and 70 per cent will be able to locate items if the same true is used. The sample size can be increased by a multiple of 4 to reduce the sampling error.
Even though the benefits of mobile self-service are many, there are challenges that are bound to emerge during the stage of deployment. The choices are usually not easy to make for most organizations. During implementation, one of the issue that will be addressed is the mobile application extension. The appropriate devices should be determined so that support and development burdens are brought to a bare minimum. The platforms that will be supported such as Android, Windows mobile, Symbian, IOS and Black berry for smart devices should be determined to ensure smooth implementation. It is also important to put users in to categories according to the different device requirements.
During deployment, the security concerns that are likely to emerge from the use of the mobile self-service should be addressed. Security concerns ranks the top among factors that make most organizations adamant about implementation of mobile applications. There are numerous available security mitigating options and the tool providing the best security will be adopted. Support and management of the service will be considered to ensure that there is actually enough end user support. Another issue that should be addressed to avoid costs that come with unsuccessful implementation of projects is connectivity. There are various types of connections that can be used by users to access web contents. The mobile self-service should be designed in a way that it will be possible to connect through the various available networks.
Throughout the process of rolling out the service, tests will be conducted to ensure that the outcome of the project aligns with the vision of Sports R US. Continuous assessment will identify setbacks and help the project manager re-align the design to fit the needs of the service. Feedback from the users can also be obtained to help the project manager determine whether the project has been a flop or a success.
Before designers can embark on the development of a mobile self-service application, it is important that the usability issues are carefully considered and made the cornerstone of the design process. Design should be done with the end user in mind to guarantee the success of the service. Among the things to be addressed is the user interface. Users need to interact with platforms that allow them to derive the best experience from their usage. For this reason, the user interface adopted should be one that allows the users to access whatever they want on the web application without difficulties.