Sense Making in Cross Channel Design


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An edited set of slides (with notes) from my UX Bristol Talk on the 20th July 2012.

There is an accompanying blog post on this topic here:

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  • We must acknowledge how more and more the digital and physical worlds are colliding. More than ever we are asked to design digital products that must support our wider client services, systems or ecosystems.\n\nToday I want to step away from just talking about digital and look at how we create wider, cross channel, user experiences.\n
  • One of the best summations of the term cross-channel taken from Peter Morville’s 2011 UserFocus Keynote.\n
  • A surprising number of just 9% (optimistically).\n
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  • On my own projects I have seen customers conduct longitudinal research across three month periods for high-end expensive purchases.\n
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  • We are typically being asked to build systems that must accommodate digital and non-digital channels\n\nWe cannot think about these individual channels in silo’s (even if we may find ourselves only designing a single channel).\n\nTechniques such as customer journey mapping have been implemented to identify the various touch points that customers / users have within the ecosystems that we are trying to design. \n\n\n
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  • Resmini & Rosata (2011) Identified five heuristics that contribute to the successful creation of Pervasive Information Architectures. \n\nIt has been proposed that successful cross channel user experiences rely on a strong informational layer that creates understanding amongst users of a service. This pervasive informational layer helps users in forming conceptual models about how the overall experience works. \n\n
  • Following a call to action to the Architectures of Meaning workshop at Pervasive 2012, I began to explore and research what contributes to the formation / degradation of these pervasive layers of understanding...\n
  • A first key question to ask ourselves early in the design process is “What role will each channel play in the wider ecosystem we are designing? \n\nHow will each channel help us fulfil the key user journeys that make up our customer and business objectives?\n\nI Initially, identified five types of channel but these are still under review. Four will be discussed today...\n\n
  • The channel is a key support in a wider user journey. The channel could be viewed as a “stepping stone” in the completion of an objective BUT does not exclusively deliver a service on its own.\n\nFor example, a poster campaign with QR codes that take me to your website.\n\nOr the dating app that vibrates my mobile in my pocket when someone walks into the bar that meets my dating criteria (having previously established my dating profile on another channel i.e. a laptop / desktop).\n\n
  • The channel acts as a replication of an existing service i.e. the same content is delivered through a different channel. \n\nFor example, many retail sites replicate their functionality and product catalogues on mobile. Both desktop and mobile channels essentially helping replicate the wider user goals of “research”, “bookmark” and “purchase” (in a longitudinal purchase decision).\n\nSame content, different channel\n\n\n
  • The channel must fulfil a number of roles across a number of user journeys. \n\nThis type of channel can vary, in some instances acting as a support channel whilst in others a replication. \n\nFor example, a mobile can replicate the functionality of a main desktop site for a retailer but can also provide additional useful services through its wide array of its built in sensors e.g. physical retail store location nearest to you.\n\n\n
  • Essentially two channels used in conjunction at the same time. \n\nI view them as essentially types of support channel but the fact that they are used simultaneously to support each other I believe warrants a distinction. \n\nFor example, using a mobile app to input product numbers from a paper catalogue in order to check stock.\n\nPlaying scrabble with friends using an iPad as the board and your iPhones as the tile / letter holders.\n\nUsing your mobile to pay for services at a ticket kiosk in a cinema... \n \n
  • An excellent example from an agency in Germany called Precious. An alternative way of thinking about the strategic roles that devices will play in delivering services in a clients ecosystem.\n\nObviously the iTunes example has also been heavily mentioned in the past with regards to how iPods, iPhones sync with the customers account and iTune Store.\n\n\n
  • The second major question to ask when exploring how pervasive information architectures are formed is how can the design of our cross channel eco-systems and services degrade the success of our goals?\n\nThis question led me to Information Foraging Theory (Pirolli, 2007) who explored the notion of information patches and users foraging for information. \n\nListeners will remember the work of Nielson and Jared Spool with regards to Information Scent.\n\nCan we apply the concept of information scent not just within channel navigation (i.e. websites), at a micro level, but also at the macro level (i.e. across channels, within wider ecosystems?).\n\nCurrently I would argue many of our cross channel user experiences fail because of the false design silos we construct each channel in, resulting in a “chinese whispers” effect on overall user success.\n\n
  • We are talking about information scent at a macro, ecosystem level. As we transition between channels (over both time and space) how do we ensure we can complete our longer term goals? \n\nWhen the customer transitions between channels they are no longer engaging with ANYTHING that we will have designed. There are no breadcrumbs in the ether...\n\nWe have identified 10 heuristics but will only discuss 4 today.\n
  • Moving “food patch” is easier than its ever been. \n\nIf the informational links glueing the journeys are weak or ill informed the likelihood of leaving a channel is high. \n\nMany of the problems we are asked to design for are actually ill informed problem spaces. For example “I want a holiday” is quite a broad goal. Compare this to a perfectly formed structured problem space such as a game of chess.\n\nIf its easy for me to leave the information patch, how can we ensure I remain in the desired ecosystem? What options can we present to a customer upon channel exit or failure?\n\n
  • We fundamentally can not dismiss the effect that switching channels has on information scent in a cross channel context. \n\nGabriel Radvinsky at University of Notre Dame has conducted fascinating research on the effect walking through doors (both digital and physical) can have on wiping short term memory. \n\nTime is another major factor that can contribute to a diminishing information scent whether I return to a previous channel or enter a new one in the ecosystem.\n\nWe need to provide proximal cues at all major entry points to channels to support us recapturing the scent. \n\nWe need to identify these common entry points (for example, analytics) and compare them to our ecosystem’s customer and business objectives.\n\n\n
  • We often have to “carry” information needs with us on a cross channel journey, for example remembering the location of information that I have located on a previous visit. We need to identify what functionality we can use within each channel to support customers and “carry” the information for them.\n\nThe good news is that we already have a range of functionality that can do this (some better than others) such as QR codes, email, wish lists, sharing.\n\nThere are several companies that offer the same service but why is DropBox so well liked?\n\n\n
  • As with at the micro level (i.e. within channel) we can take many paths to the same information. However, what complicates a cross channel journey is that these paths can shift or paths previously travelled can disappear.\n\nFor example, finding information on a mobile which I have previously located on a desktop. This point raises interesting questions for responsive web design which has the advantage of at least utilising the same basic taxonomy as other digital channels in our ecosystem...\n\n
  • Dan Willis (@uxcrank) has done some excellent work modelling Intent Paths of customer journeys. \n\nIt can be difficult to model customer journeys in a cross channel context (whether using intent paths or customer journey maps etc) because they typically display the journey in a linear way i.e. Channel A to Channel B to Channel C etc\n\nWhat happens if a customer goes to Channel D after they have been to Channel A? We can’t model everything!\n
  • An excellent example made by Bill Buxton at his talk at UX Lisbon earlier this year. He mentioned that he sees a lot of diagrams from design teams saying “Thing A is great and Thing B is great”. “Oh yeah, and the customer will move between them”.\n\nBill Buxton’s point was that if you are not spending as much time thinking about the arrows in this picture as you do about A and B then you are not doing your job properly...\n
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  • I call it a Cross Channel IA Diagram (my CEO and colleague Simon Norris as affectionately termed it a “meaning map”).\n\nIn each corner of the diagram is a channel that forms part of your clients ecosystem. I have used the term client because this is typically the design context / challenge that I will be presented with.\n\nOn the edge of each channel are the “Channel Membranes” that allow me to identify (from research) the major entry and exit points for that given channel.\n\nThe centre of the diagram the “Between Channel Information Space” where we can begin to map core customer informational needs that need to be supported irrespective of channel.\n\nI believe this Cross Channel IA Diagram” has a number of advantages:\n\n1) It is channel agnostic. We can see the overarching needs of our users that our ecosystem must support irrespective of the channel;\n\n2) New channels can be added without any problem, simply expand the boundary of the diagram (it doesn’t have to be a hexagon!)\n\n3) We can start to think about our cross channel goals without worrying about the order with which a user engages with any specific channel;\n\n4) We have a useful visualisation that can be used early on in a design process to obtain stakeholder engagement and bye in to our strategic ideas.\n\n5) Finally it helps us formalise the etherial space between channels. The middle of this diagram are in essence the arrows in Bill Buxton’s drawing.\n\n
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  • A much bigger discussion on this topic will be published in the Journal of Information Architecture along with the rest of the proceedings from the Architectures of Meaning workshop from Pervasive 2012.\n\nPlease let me know if you use and / or adapt this technique.\n\nThank You!\n
  • Sense Making in Cross Channel Design

    1. 1. Sense Making in Cross Channel Design Jon Fisher | @ergonjonImage:
    2. 2. We must also support non-digital channels
    3. 3. Image:
    4. 4. Some estimates of e-commerce as a percentage of total retailare as high as 9%.“Shopping is still predominantly a bricks and mortar activity” Greg Satall Innovation Excellence Blog, 2011
    5. 5. Pharmacy chain Walgreen’s has found that customers whoengage in more than 1 channel are 3x more valuable thansingle channel customers. Luke Wroblewski
    6. 6. 53% of US adults bought offline after researching online McMullin & Starmer, 2010
    7. 7. “The customer is interacting with the brand...they don’t careabout the channel” McMullin & Starmer, 2010
    8. 8. Building ecosystems or services DateImage:
    9. 9. Cross channel user experiences rely on users successfully transitioning between channels to complete a journey
    10. 10. Information Architecture as the system “Glue”Image:
    11. 11. Image: pervasive layer across our services Date
    12. 12. How can we define the different roles that channels play inthe services / systems / ecosystems that we are designing?
    13. 13. Support ChannelImage:
    14. 14. Replication ChannelDate
    15. 15. Multi - Purpose ChannelImage:
    16. 16. Symbiotic ChannelImage: Date
    17. 17. Image:
    18. 18. Image: Information Foraging
    19. 19. “Information Foraging Theory (IFT) aims to best explainand predict how people will best shape themselves for theirinformation environments and how informationenvironments can be best shaped for people” Pirolli, 2007
    20. 20. Heuristic #1: Cost of switching channel is very lowImage:
    21. 21. Heuristic #2: Switching channels eliminates information scentImage: Date
    22. 22. Heuristic #3: Carry information needs between channelsImage:
    23. 23. Heuristic #4: Different paths to the same informationImage:
    24. 24. Image:
    25. 25. You think that because you understand “one” thatyou must therefore understand “two” because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand “and”. Sufi Story
    26. 26. We need a way to identify and track information needsthat inform the creation of our cross-channel services
    27. 27. This approach touches on big discussion areas such as UX strategy and service design...
    28. 28. what?!
    29. 29. Its not designed to replace existing methods, its designed to support early design activities and decision making Its a tool
    30. 30. Thank you! @ergonjonImage: