Harpal Singh

UX Designer & Entrepreneur

Mobile app as your shopping companion

While working with a fashion startup recently, I came up with the the concept and idea for their new direction, otherwise known as pivot, as their first beta product didn’t fair well. The concept is basically about using mobile as your shopping companion, and mapping your shopping journey throughout a day by taking photos of things you discover, tagging your friends, unlocking rewards from shops etc. I’ve designed the app with a mindset that user doesn’t have to put their head in mobile all the time, and app should nudge and offer help on its own by understanding their behaviour. This makes use of location services, alerts and gamification techniques. Although the concepts of tagging and photo-taking aren’t novel, the magic lies in the way it connects and tailors the experience for user.

I’ve worked within fashion / eCommerce space for couple of years, and acquired specific domain knowledge into user’s shopping behaviour both online and offline. This concept was born as a result of that hard work.

Both stakeholders and users loved the concept, which is now in visual design and development phase. Here are some high-level wireframes (full resolution not available for confidentiality reasons).

fashion_app_concept1 fashion_app_concept1b

fashion_app_concept1c

 

Opening web pages within iPad app

I’ve been looking into how iPhone and iPad apps handle web pages within the app, especially in the context of eCommerce. I’ve been baffled by little or no attention paid to a step that’s going to convert a user to a paid customer. These eCommerce apps are either sending users to retailers website (via affiliate links) or their own website (product page) to complete the purchase. Without a doubt, this is the step with highest drop-off rate due to problems like out of stock items, non-optimised mobile websites, shipping not available to user’s location, random pop-up boxes within web pages etc. To make the matter worse, some apps open the web pages in a windowless browser within the app on full screen purely for aesthetics purposes. Users have no clue as to when they are moving between native apps and web pages with latter being slower in most cases.

While designing the fashion magazine iPad app, I hit the road with a similar challenge. While we can’t control the experience on retailer’s websites and the way they handle leads, we surely can improve the experience on our end. This is how I solved the problem:

1. Resize browser window to 98%
A 98% browser window provides enough affordance to understand that you are being sent to a different website that’s not part of the native app. The difference in visual design between the app and website won’t surprise users, and they would be more forgiving towards the speed of loading pages in comparison to native app.

2. Move browser controls to the bottom
This fashion magazine app is designed to support Portrait mode only (for various reasons). Based on my research of how people read magazines on iPad and the nature of content, we expect people to operate iPad with one hand while using this app. Hence, for easier access I moved the controls to the bottom.

3. Put controls in right order
Various apps follow the order of ‘Done’ button on far left, ‘Prev-Next’ controls and ‘Open in Browser’ icon on far right. It works in landscape mode and when the primary use case is usage with two hands. This, however, doesn’t work for us based on reasons cited above. Hence, the order we followed is:
Prev-Next-Refresh | Open in Safari | Done
where Prev and Next appears only when you start browsing multiple pages within same window.

Exploring pricing page concepts for DataSift

The idea of pricing page looks so simple on the surface but it demands indepth research and thinking to arrive on a decent solution. Before exploring the solution, I’ve spent time to understand decision making factors in context of DataSift products, marketing messages they use for end users, and user acquisition channels through which they acquire customers. This is already proving helpful. Lets see how the design pans out in coming days. Here are two early concepts:

DataSift Pricing DataSift Pricing

The year of big data disruptions

We live in a world where we have more of everything. Our lives are entangled with superabundant data growing with every breath at an inexorable rate leading to a choked feeling of information overload. No matter how hard we try, it’s nearly impossible to manage all the data around us. However, the recent big data revolution to extract patterns, meaning and wisdom out of this data is a strong promise to get the control back of our lives.

We are already witnessing some great advancements in big data space. Microsoft patented a travel prediction technology for their search engine, Bing, which analyses 225 billion flight and price records to advise customers weather to buy or wait for the airline ticket. Gmail prioritises emails for you, Klout tracks influential people, Smmry summarises articles, Foodspotting recommends food you like and the countless applications built on top of Twitter.

Data mining, trend analysis and pattern matching are bringing us closer to understanding human behaviour. While there are billions worth of potential residing within organisations, it can have some negative effects too. For example, retail industry that competes solely on price recently became the poster child when Amazon’s location based price comparison app drove customers to view items in the store and buy them online via mobile. This amalgamation of multi-channel experience coupled with real-time information is forcing businesses to innovate their business models.

The fact is that the same big data technologies that are causing the disruption will save these businesses. McKinsey research suggests that big data can potentially increase operating margins up to 60% for retailers. It’s a science that can give retailers a view into their customer behaviour and motivation, decision making factors, demand in the stores and communicate the insights back to departments in a timely and relevant manner that’s actionable.

Finally, it comes down to cutting the choice for making optimal decisions, finding the stuff faster and giving the short story of the long story. Listen to your data, it’s time.

What are you doing in big data space? Would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers to the new year and another chance to make it perfect if last one wasn’t.

UX process for an Enterprise web app

I’m working on improving the user experience of an enterprise web application that was developed years ago in Java. At this moment, client can’t entertain any functionality changes that involve backend developers due to time and resource limitations. I came up with the following process to pick the low hanging fruits first, and then going deeper into making structural changes progressively.

UX Process of a legacy product

Process

  1. Standardise forms
    Tidy up the forms across the web app, standardise the controls, remove extra fields, improve labels, add help text etc.
  2. Surface improvements
    Simplify the navigation, make layout consistent including fonts, colours and styles.
  3. Optimise user journeys
    Revisit information architecture, optimise interactions, flows and user journeys.
  4. Redesign pages
    Redesign pages where necessary to align with optimised user journeys.
  5. Unified experience strategy
    Create the experience strategy for Phase II which requires backend development.

The team has bought into the idea of making incremental improvements to the web app. I’m looking forward to it.