Covered Terms: Blockchain • Information Scent • Haptic Feedback Incorporation • Age Responsive Design
It’s likely we all can agree that our industry is advancing at a rapid clip. It is increasingly difficult to keep up with all the new and exciting UX trends and technologies that have become available. So many buzzwords, so little time. What is just irrelevant jargon and which of these trends can give you a legitimate advantage? The dizzying pace of technological terms, platforms, features and protocols, can be overwhelming for anyone tasked with providing their customer the optimal experience. Awareness of the latest tools can give you an advantage in this crowded space. Is your product living up to its full potential?
Do you need the latest and greatest? Areall these bells and whistles necessary or superfluous? Make sure to come and check back in as we plan on continuing this series, by expanding the glossary to help you assess what is applicable to you and your customers.
Blockchain / Distributed Ledgers
The excitement behind blockchain is understandable. Blockchains are an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. It is a new form of trust, decentralized and secured by its time stamped and unalterable records distributed over a peer to peer network. (think of BitTorrent, the file distribution network). The revolutionary concept behind blockchain is the elimination of the “middleman” in any transaction. One primary example to help understand the power of Blockchain, is by thinking of its increasing usage today in financial dealings between parties. Think of it as“digital cash”. Typical cash exchanges are one to one, private and untraceable. Today, most transactions require a third party to validate the transaction. Usually there are fees associated with this processing middleman. Blockchain eliminatesthis need. Popular examples of blockchain functionality are crypto-currencies like Bitcoin in which the two parties perform a transaction with no intermediary. Records cannot be altered or fraudulently modified, as the records are permanent on the chain and validated by a network hosting a distributed ledger. The implications of this technology have not been lost on institutions that profit primarily by serving as a go-between. Banking, real estate, energy companies, artist content, and many other potential applications are quickly discovering a myriad of ways to benefit from this secure distributed ledger allowing direct digital exchange with minimal risk or fees.
Modern Examples: AirBnB wants to implement blockchain between users, enabling a secure, tamper-proof system for managing digital credentials and reputation, the adoption of P2P lodging will continue to accelerate. Another application is the power grid. Companies like Transactive Grid and Grid Singularity are using blockchain to create a distributed network allowing customers to become their own power grid, selling excess power back and forth to others on the grid, using a trusted and secure Blockchain distributed network.
Information scent + ( or information foraging)
An important concept in information foraging theory. It refers to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they pursue a certain path through a system. As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding food, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to achieve their goals. As in the animal kingdom, maximizing energy and reducing wasted efforts are the aim when assessing whether or not to pursue the target.
Example: Google’s search results are a great example of optimizing information “trails” that a user will follow based on human characteristics like laziness and following the path of least resistance. This is why most search results acted upon are on the first page of a query. Intuitively users ask, is this result worth my time? And, when clicking a result, does this lead to more “good stuff” or, using the example of foraging, will my minimal efforts lead to more relevant content. In many cases the answer is yes, because Google has listed results that other users find relevant. Another example might be calling customer service and reaching a voice tree. If I press 0, can I talk to a person? Or am I sent on a frustrating loop that doesn’t take into account a natural human desire to communicate my needs effectively.
Haptic Feedback Incorporation
Increasingly, devices are using haptic feedback to provide comforting tactile confirmation when an action is taken. Force is applied to a button, a screen, or another object with haptic sensors. Based on the level of force applied, the haptic response changes. This gives the user a sense of “something happening”, enriching the experience.
Examples: Many current mobile phones have haptic sensors. Today’s iPhones have a home button that vibrates at pre-defined levels based on the users preference. Touch screens on tablets, tvs or monitors allow a more kinetic and direct interaction with the interface, reducing the layers of separation between the users and the software. Artists are adapting this technology in unique ways. Musicians may program an instrument that changes its tone or power based on the level of force applied to the object. Drawing and writing, signatures, are all made to feel more natural to a user giving the sense that their unique mode of expression can be translated as they interpret. Video games have adopted this technology, making the user feel more immersed in the experience, as if it were really happening. Tactile feedback generates a higher level degree of emotion. Think of “rumble packs” in a controller, where action generates the appropriate level of response.
Age Responsive Design
This topic deserves its own segment, as it is loaded with opportunities for personalized user experience. We will write more in depth on this topic for a future blog post, but it’s worthy of brief mention. Age responsive design means exactly what it says. If a company knows about its customer, why should it provide a one size fits all experience without factoring the human psychology inherent to one’s experience and preferences learned over time in life? How many times have you gone to a site, entered your birthdate, and wondered, how will they use this information? Of course, advertisers have been tweaking this formula for years now. Gaming companies create levels and difficulties according to your age. But age responsive design has many more applications just now beginning to take hold in the world of UX.