Posts in User Experience

US Midterm Elections: am I meant to vote? #myexperience

October 19th, 2018 Posted by User Experience No Comment yet

I have dual citizenship in the USA and Germany but never voted in the US, partially because the last time I lived there was when I was in kindergarten but also because I was under the impression that the country had it covered and would not vote for someone completely unqualified. I was wrong. So this midterm election is the first time I ever voted in the US and I am sharing #myexperience and how it compares to voting in Germany.

 

#myexperience summed up

Voting in the US:

→ requires a high level of motivation (requires a lot of time and is highly inconvenient)

→ has me asking if it is not encouraged by the country itself (why else would it be so hard?)

 

#What shaped my experience

 

#1 The 6-week obstacle: voter registration

When it’s time to vote German citizens receive their voting information along with detailed instructions on when and how to vote and what to do if you cannot make it to the polls on voting day as a letter in their mailbox. This happens automatically. They can receive this letter because each German citizen is registered under an address. For US citizens this is unthinkable because – I guess – it would be considered too much control by the state, unfree or highly bureaucratic. And while this might be the case it saves me from the pain of US voter registration.

A log:

Week 33, 2018: Visit https://www.usa.gov/absentee-voting – get discouraged as I am unsure that I was to choose the state that I last lived in when I was 4 years old as my voting residence. Could I choose the wrong voting residence? What would happen if I did? While the page links to several sources of information I could not find a satisfactory answer for my edge case (overseas voter, not embedded within a US community such a military community i.e.) – I end the registration process

Week 34, 2018: Spot a booth from votefromabroad.com in my city. Overjoyed! Question answered! I registered via the website https://www.votefromabroad.org/vote/home.htm and send my registration form via email to the county office.

Week 35. 2018: nothing happens

Screenshot of the registration process: why is this question even relevant?

 

Week 36. 2018: nothing happens

Week 37. 2018: Check my registration status – not registered

Week 38, 2018: Go to a meeting of Democrats Abroad and am advised to check back with the county to confirm my registration was received. Do this via email. Nothing happens. I start to wonder: is this barrier intentional?

Week 39, 2018: Write another email to the registrar office with my voter registration attached – this time I elaborate on my problem and ask for alternative solutions if my current way of trying to get registered to vote was not correct. THEN! HEUREKA! I receive an answer that I can register – this time at a different website directly from the county. 

No idea what was wrong before: registering over a different website or sending the registration form via mail but Y’ALL- I did not care at this point! I was registered to vote!

A six-week process in which I registered twice and sent two follow up emails to the registrar office to ensure my ballot was received is simply too much effort just to register to vote. I do not even want to guess how many journeys of people eligible to vote end during this process. One needs the time and persistence to achieve something that happens automatically in other countries.

 

#2 More hoops to jump through: Voting

After receiving my online voting link a few days after my successful registration I was energized due to my victory! I also had a personal contact at the registrar office, who was very helpful and explained the options I had: send ballot via mail or send ballot via fax. I mistrust both systems. May this following image speak for why I mistrust the US postal system:

Image of a parcel upon arrival that I recently sent to a friend while in the US. I had used a brand new box.

 

Fax machines: I know OF fax machines but I do not use them. I can send digital faxes but I am always unsure if they actually arrive and often call up to ask if it actually arrived. Nevertheless, I ended up faxing the documents. Luckily my contact informed me that my fax had only made it partially. I tried sending it again – three times from three different machines (one being an actual fax machine), each failed to go through. The fax number was not working. My contact advised sending the documents via mail.

Reluctantly I sent my voting documents via US mail. The German postman asked if I wanted to send it as a registered letter or via courier. The difference being more than 40€ /$46 in cost. When asking what the difference was the post office employee answered along the lines of “…

well…..one is with a courier from us (DHL) and it will be delivered personally. The other is with the US post office, which prides itself in being so affordable but is simply not the most reliable service.”

I still decided to send the documents in a registered letter thinking: If it fails to get delivered I can still try the fax number again because I still have time.

It is now mid-October. 

The impression I have after this experience is that voting in the US is unreliable, nontransparent, highly inconvenient process and – when I calculate in the current reports on voter fraud, suppression, and purge – it is meant to be that way. It is a trust issue and so it is a natural consequence that I ask: ”who do I believe” when my contact at the registrar office informed me this week that my ballots were received and registered, while my tracking number says my registered letter still has not been delivered. Who would you believe? And… when do I get my sticker? #freedom

credits for title image: Parker Johnson on Unsplash

Tatsu Ramen: young, healthy, passionate, friendly #myexperience

October 18th, 2018 Posted by User Experience No Comment yet

When visiting a restaurant we have certain expectations. We expect to leave the restaurant with a belly filled with yummy, yummy food. But we also expect to have a pleasant experience. And while the level of pleasantry and how we define pleasant will depend on the type of restaurant we are visiting, it is important that the experience lives up to or better exceeds our expectations because these two aspects: the product (in this case the quality of food) and our experience nearly play an equal role on the decision if we will be returning to the restaurant. If either stink it is highly unlikely that we will be back. In fact, you could argue that the experience is even more important than the product itself:

A meal can be the most amazing meal ever had, but if the environment made you feel uncomfortable you will most likely never return. However, a meal can be anything from okay-ish to excellent, but if the experience was amazing and made you feel comfortable you will be back more often. After all, we are social animals and when it comes to food the social aspect plays a large role (Google it. There are many scientific papers out there on the subject).

#myexperience summed up

Tatsu Ramen is:

product

→ a delicious, authentic ramen restaurant
→ that serves healthy and balanced meals (even for vegetarians and vegans).

experience

→ a young and passionate business that caters to a young urban clientele
→ with very friendly staff and owners that care about their staff.

Is this all the case? No idea! But it was #myexperience,
the impression I was left with and the reason why I would return.

 

What shaped my #myexperience

photo from a Yelp review

On a rare overcast and chilly Los Angeles day all I wanted when entering Tatsu Ramen was a warming bowl of delicious ramen. The place is hard to miss while heading down Melrose especially if you have a love for ramen, bold design and the color black. I very much enjoyed the ramen (check out their Yelp reviews ) but what really excited me was the setup and user experience in the restaurant.

 

#1 Setting the mood

The entrance to the restaurant is lined with bamboo. I have never been to Japan but in China and walking through a bamboo forest is one of my favorite China travel memories. Obviously, this small setup is not as impressive as the giant Chinese forests but there is something about the fresh green colors, the shade that bamboo throws and it’s movement in the wind that set a great mood when walking in.

 

#2 Authenticity

left photo from Yelp review, picture on right from seriouseats.com

Inside the visitor is greeted not by friendly staff but by a row of digital displays lined up on the wall, which you can use to place your order: a clever bow to the order process of traditional ramen shops in Japan.

 

#3 Humour

The ordering process itself is done in four easy steps, that actually managed to put a smile on my face. The visitor swiped through a list of ramen broths that can be selected and then customized. The application is super easy to use with a clean design. Like in Japan every dish is displayed with images, even the sides. What was spot on and my personal highlight was the wording: charming, brief, friendly and lingo on point with the target group.

Another humorous contact point are the ramen bowls themselves. Each bowl has two messages for the visitor. One can be seen when the bowl is full, at the beginning of the meal and encourages you to start enjoying your ramen. The other message is towards or at the bottom of the bowl and includes cheeky sentences such as “No, we cannot give you the recipe”. William Khoe, who created the app in collaboration with Tatsu Ramen was nice enough to send me a few screenshots. Thanks for that!

 

 

#4 Humaneness  

image on left from yelp, image on right from Yelp

The guests dine at large, sociable tables that fit several people. Private tables are scarce but available. The tables are lined with condiment stations that include fresh garlic, sesame, nori, and anything guests could wish for in order to enjoy their ramen to their individual preferences. The number of images on Yelp of these condiment stations shows that the guests appreciate this gesture. The staff itself is not – as so often in the US service industry – clingy or overly attentive but friendly and available if needed. My personal impression of this setting was that it felt very human – catering to many different types of people.

 

#5 Showing personality

As my visit was nearing its end I was really interested to find out more about who the people were behind this place. I wanted to know if this was what it felt like: an owner-operated place built on the blood, sweat, and tears of a passionate founder). Good thing I visited the restrooms or I would not have found exactly the story I was looking for hanging from the walls in the shape of a comic strip:

 

To be honest I did not read up on the actual story and do not know if the founder Ryu had actually taken this journey but at this point, it wasn’t important. This was only additional information, the encore to an already enjoyable story and journey.

 

#6 Caring leadership

When exiting the restaurant the customer passes the last display of humour, personality but also of what appears to be good management: the Tastu Ramen digital tip jar (displayed on a tablet). The funny sentences on the digital tip jar change every few minutes and nudge the customer towards a tip by being so charming that the act of tipping is turned into something enjoyable. And while the idea is not new the difference is that the tip jars on pages such as funnytipjars.com, are most likely to be made by the employees themselves, while Tastu Ramen’s tip jar came from management. The visitor leaves the restaurant with the impression that management cares enough about their staff to make this for them.

image on right taken from Reddit

All the listed gadgets, items, and design aspects were part of #myexperience and the user or better customer experience in this restaurant. Tatsu Ramen shows what can be achieved if a little love and much thought go into creating a delightful experience during a restaurant visit. It also displays the impact user or customer experience can have when it comes to customer trust and loyalty.  

 

human_cognition_ux

From global to local: How our visual perception develops over time

September 6th, 2018 Posted by User Experience No Comment yet

There is evidence that our visual processing develops over time though it seems instantaneous to us. This general (or: global) to detailed (or: local) processing is also supported by neuroscience and is of enormous importance as it explains how we identify objects in our daily environment

Undercover user research

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Analysis & Research, User Experience No Comment yet

As we all know: UX – U = X . But, unfortunately, as we all also know: sadly it’s often difficult to get a buy in to conduct user research at the beginning of a project or even establishing an ongoing research culture. But, the good news is: There is still hope out there and here’s what you can do while you have to deal with research blockers.

human-cognition-ux

How change blindness can affect your user’s experience

July 24th, 2018 Posted by User Experience No Comment yet

Our visual environment changes all the time. It is important that we notice these changes. For example, it allows us to react to potential dangers like moving away from something dangerous and in general, to make sense of the world around us. However, our perceptual system does not always respond to changes in our environment in an appropriate way. The phenomenon of this so-called change blindness is crucial for user experience design as it can affect overseeing critical information on a visual display.

User experience vs. the user’s experience

June 27th, 2018 Posted by User Experience No Comment yet

When we speak of user experience most people think of human-machine interaction. In fact Wikipedia’s second sentence on the subject is:

“User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.” 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience

UX however has been around way longer than computers and its goal is not only to enhance the human-machine interaction but, as Nielsen and Norman state:

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/

(more…)

How our expectations determine how we process information

May 8th, 2018 Posted by Analysis & Research, User Experience No Comment yet

How do we process information? In cognitive psychology there are two famous processes involved on how we interpret information – and as humans, we constantly use both: Top- down processing and bottom-up processing. (more…)

10 questions for voice interfaces

October 26th, 2017 Posted by Analysis & Research, User Experience No Comment yet

For many years now, interface and interaction designers have been designing for graphical user interfaces (GUI). But in the recent years more and more so called natural language user interfaces (NLUI). This means human-machine interaction does not happen by checking radio buttons, clicking buttons, swiping or scrolling but rather through spoken text in natural language.   (more…)

UX Research: Don’t forget the stakeholders

June 7th, 2017 Posted by Analysis & Research, User Experience No Comment yet

When we are hired as a user experience design studio we are often asked to jump straight into production work like sketching and wireframing and to quickly hand over some solutions and deliverables.
We are not very comfortable with this approach and this is why:

Differences in formative and summative evaluations (and why they matter for UX designers)

May 12th, 2017 Posted by Analysis & Research, User Experience No Comment yet

A few weeks ago Steffi spoke at the Berlin Ladies that UX meetup “An evening about user research” about the different types of usability tests. Here is a brief summary of the talk

We love to write an speak about UX topics.

We have had many nation wide speaker appearances on many different topics. We have spoken at TEDx, UIG spring conference, Usability Congress, World Usability Day, webmondays and the up.front web design community in Berlin. We speak mostly about topics such as user experience and workflows. Have a date? Need speakers? Get in touch and let us know We might be interested in researching a topic