Information for Business from Lenovo
Performance + Productivity
Contributor: Mark Pesce
Coffee and the art of UX design

The art of user experience (UX) design will determine if your customer uses and complies with your business systems.

On a recent visit to my local cafe, my waitperson asked me why, as such a frequent patron, I never used the cafe’s loyalty card. I said that I had, back when it consisted of a little paper card they stamped after each purchase. I used that paper loyalty card every day, and regularly enjoyed a complimentary coffee.

About two years ago, my cafe brought in a new customer loyalty system. It involves plastic cards bearing large QR codes – those ugly square blotches of black and white rectangles that make sense to a computer, but not to a person.

Loyalty lost

Anyone using this new loyalty card now has to front up to a tablet computer, tap the screen, then carefully position the code on the loyalty card so that the tablet can scan it. That’s no easy task, because – as is true with selfies – everything is reversed right-to-left. And the camera positioning must be perfectly accurate to decode the card.

Then, after all that, the customer is confronted with data entry about their purchase – one coffee, two, a bag of beans, etc. Finally, after all of that, they’re presented with their current points balance, which might entitle them to a free coffee next time around.

A process that once took about two seconds has now been drawn out into an extended machine interaction that can easily take thirty or more. In the morning, when there’s a long queue for coffees, having someone standing at the order counter struggling with the system that records their customer loyalty creates frustration and anger – the opposite of the experience it’s meant to produce.

Wake up and smell the coffee

As someone who has an eye for user experience design, I refused to battle such a system on a daily basis. Life is too short for these unnecessary frustrations – frustrations borne out of a drive to make things easy for the developer, not for the customer.

As I don’t use their system, they don’t get my customer data – and I don’t get free coffees. Everyone loses because the cost of compliance is too high.

In her work as a public servant, Karin Geraghty is at the coalface of the South Australian government’s user experience design, and she’s recognised that if you want people to obey the laws and regulations around the use of natural resources, it helps if you build tools that make it easy for people to comply with those laws and regulations. She talks about this in Episode 5 of the CIO podcast - The move to open government data.

In many ways this seems completely obvious. In other ways we never think about the costs of compliance. Because people have to do it, we believe they will do it, no matter how much it hurts. That’s just fantasy thinking – people will do as little as they need to do, so when you lower the bar, you raise compliance levels.

On the other hand, making things too easy presents its own problems. Someone I know recently had a credit card stolen. The thief used the Paywave feature on that credit card to rack up $300 in low-value purchases at a string of convenience stores, carefully keeping the dollar amount below a threshold that would have triggered a PIN challenge. We like Paywave because it offers the convenience of ‘touch and go’, but in that case the bar had been lowered so far it opened the gate to fraud.

When designing for compliance, you need to locate the sweet spot between making it easy to comply and making it too easy. That very likely won’t happen on a first try. Instead, you need to watch users like a hawk, understand what they’re doing and how they feel about doing it, putting those observations to work to continuously improve their experience.

If my cafe had done that, they’d have more loyal – and compliant – customers.

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