The Official OpenRoad Blog

IF/THEN

Avoiding Spinny-itus – Making Load Times More Bearable

My name is Dave Kachman and I have an iPhone 4. I’ve never met Siri. I type in a 4-digit password instead of scanning my thumb. I have never experienced LTE.

Most times, I despise the “spinny”.

Spinny Loading Indicator
Figure 1 – Animated GIF image of classic “spinny”

The “spinny” is an animated GIF image that is commonly used to indicate when a web application is loading something in the background. As users of the web, we started to see our beloved “spinny” in many websites when AJAX was introduced (which allows websites to asynchronously take actions without reloading the entire page). These actions could sometimes take a fair bit of time, so there was a need to inform users that the site was doing something in the background.

This is all well and good, but only if the wait time is reasonable. As I have witnessed over the last couple of years, adding a “spinny” whenever AJAX is used is not enough for all users. This is especially important for those not using the latest and greatest technology or those in areas with spotty network coverage.

The idea of “reasonable wait times” is not new. Jakob Nielsen posted about reasonable wait times in his article from 1993. He notes that the human attention span drifts after about a second of waiting, which means progress feedback must be given to the user if they must wait longer than 1 second to finish. The human attention span begins to drift again with delays longer than 10 seconds, after which Nielsen recommends updating users more frequently with updates on how the task is going. (more…)

Photo Gallery: Vancouver Design Week at OpenRoad

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We were thrilled to host an Open Studio event on September 20, 2014 as part of the inaugural Vancouver Design Week. A city-wide event, Open Studios connected the many Vancouver design studios and industries, with 34 different studios opening their doors on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Designers from all disciplines—as well as the general public—had the opportunity to engage with the many spaces, processes, and people that form our vibrant community. By exploring our studio and seeing our projects throughout their various stages of completion, guests of OpenRoad got a rare glimpse into how we work with our clients to produce unique results through strategy, design, and development. Plus, there was great local food, beer, and wine on hand.

It was a great opportunity to see old friends, meet new faces, and talk design. A huge thank you to Vancouver Design Week’s organizers, our volunteers, and to everyone that came out!

Please take a peek at our gallery and hopefully you can join us next year.

Onward to the Gallery

 

Defining the Right Measurement for Your Digital Strategy

The biggest land mine people face when defining KPIs is starting with web analytics tools. The brightly coloured reports with the ability to measure 101 different metrics can make you feel like a kid in a candy store. However, KPIs are not about what you can measure…they are about measuring business outcomes and creating actionable insights. To be effective, KPIs must be derived from strategy.

The Measurement Journey

kpi_measurement_journey

Start with Strategy

Key Performance Indicators are just that… key! They are the main measures of your strategy. They should tell you if your strategy is successful, and if not, give you a clear idea of what needs to be improved. They do not measure individual campaigns or tactics (although you probably have metrics for these, they are not your KPIs).

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Our Open Studio Event

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To celebrate Vancouver Design Week, we’re opening our space to friends, students, clients, and design lovers from all over the city. Come try on one of our many hats and see how we make new experiences possible, every day.

If any or all of the following apply to you, then this event is for you:
• You have a passion for design.
• You live in or around Vancouver and work in design.
• You’re a friend of OpenRoad.
• You like local beer, wine, and chicken.

Register Now via Facebook

Feel free to share this invite with your friends and colleagues (but please ask them to register here). We look forward to seeing you on September 20th!

Bonus for Students:

Are you a student or aspiring designer? This is your chance to connect with people in the industry and get feedback about your design portfolio. Sign up for a complimentary portfolio review with OpenRoad’s creative team.

Checking out Hyperlapse — The newest video technology from Instagram.

On Tuesday Instagram launched their new app, Hyperlapse. In true Instagram style, Hyperlapse aims to remove all the complexity from taking amazing looking time-lapse-style videos.

High-quality time-lapse videos often require rigs, dollies, and tri-pods, not to mention expensive cameras. But using some interesting image stabilization techniques, the Instagram team developed a way to compensate for the photographer’s shaky grip, resulting in an impressive picture that’s clean and smooth.

Of course, our design team couldn’t wait to try it out, so we created a hyper lapse of our office space and surrounding neighbourhood.

Hyperlapse created by: Wil Arndt, Daryl Claudio, James Byun

So… what’s our verdict?

First of all, it’s fun and impressive. It’s easy-to-use and lets you take great personal videos you can share on Instagram.

From a professional standpoint, while it’s not quite the same quality as a high-grade camera, it’s a great tool for prototyping and rapid experimentation. We can see it used for test shots, scouting locations, and making high-quality proof-of-concepts before bringing in the expensive production equipment.

We’re really looking forward to seeing the Instagram community take hold of the technology and run with it. Our prediction: Expect interesting things.

Exploring the Omni-Channel Universe with Universal Analytics

The omni-channel universe is expanding — customers interact with brands in more ways than ever, across a multitude of devices, social channels, mobile apps, loyalty programs, and more. Universal Analytics, the latest iteration of Google Analytics, provides a new level of clarity into these complex customer relationships. Available as a free upgrade to all standard Google Analytics users, Universal Analytics gives you considerably better insight into how users are interacting with your business across multiple devices and channels. We’ll explore key advantages of Universal Analytics and show you how to check which version of Google Analytics your site is currently running.

Google Analytics’s code has changed. Have you?

Your job has likely changed a lot since the last time you updated your Google Analytics code. You have gone from not worrying too much about mobile to making it a top priority in your digital marketing or e-commerce efforts. Offline and online marketing were once two totally separate departments that barely spoke to each other. Now, you are at the centre of the storm trying to co-ordinate omni-channel efforts in the name of a delightful customer experience (like Disney).

Your demands on your Google Analytics implementation may have changed as well. You probably lived with a certain amount of inaccuracy in your visitor counts. Now, you’d really like to understand what is going on as customers traverse your digital marketing universe on every flavour of device. If you haven’t already, it is time to move migration to Universal Analytics up your priority list.

Track the Same User across Multiple Devices

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Fun Times & Moving Memories at our Gastown Grand Prix Event

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Thanks to everyone who came out to our 2014 Gastown Grand Prix event! We’re honoured to have such charming, fun, and interesting people as clients, partners, and friends and we hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did. Also, a big thank you to Global Relay for bringing such a high-quality cycling event to Vancouver, we definitely enjoy our front-row seats.

This year, in addition to candid photos of our guests and the race, we created unique moving images (called cinemagraphs) of the event. Be sure to have a look at the gallery and check them out—you won’t be disappointed. We hope you can make it out next year.

Have a wonderful summer and feel free to get in touch with us at info@OpenRoad.ca if you’re starting up any projects in the fall (or would just like to grab a coffee!)

>>View the Gallery

 

Imagineering the Omni-Channel Experience

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At the start of 2014, we called cross channel experiences a major trend to watch. While cross channel remains important, we are seeing an evolution to omni-channel experiences. Omni-channel focuses on creating a consistent experience across all customer touch-points, where cross-channel is often limited to only a portion of the experience. Disney is a great example of the “magic” that happens when a true omni-channel experience is delivered.

Historical Limitations of Cross-channel

One cross-channel strategy may focus only on the digital channel. It ensures the digital experience works across all browser and operating system platforms, various screen sizes, and device types. While this is a worthy effort, it leaves out all of the other channels a customer may come in contact with such as in-store and call centres. Another cross-channel strategy tries to ensure a consistent experience via branding and information provided across all physical and digital touch points. Again a worthy and important effort, but still short of a truly omni-channel experience.

Omni-channel

Omni-channel concentrates on delivering seamless experiences through all available touch points with a product or service via mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar locations, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Customers expect every interaction with a brand to be integrated through their journey of discovery, research, purchase and support. Planning and executing an omni-channel strategy is a way to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Omni-channel experiences strive to seamlessly weave digital and physical touch points together across all channels, allowing customers to achieve their goals whenever and however best suits them. Omni-channel experiences are frictionless in that they can start on one device or channel and be quickly and easily completed on another channel or device without having to start over or backtrack. Omni-channel strategies strive to enhance physical channels with digital augmentation and ensure digital experiences have appropriate physical analogues so no digital divides exist and so customers can operate in their channel of choice.

Disney’s Omni-Channel User Experience

Disney's website at desktop, tablet and mobile phone sizes

Disney’s website at desktop, tablet and mobile phone sizes

Lets look at how Disney is delivering omni-channel experiences for visitors to Walt Disney World. The experience typically starts at disney.com, a responsive website that works across device types: computer, tablet and smartphone. Even their trip planning site is optimized for the mobile device.

Once a trip is booked to Walt Disney World Florida, guests can use My Disney Experience to book in-park dining reservations and plan FastPass experiences. FastPass allows park guests to skip lines for three attractions per day. Using the My Disney Experience smartphone app in the park, guests can check and change their FastPass choices and check other attraction wait times while on the go.

These innovations make for fun trip planning and theme park experiences, but Disney is truly forging new omni-channel experiences with their MagicBand program. The MagicBand is a wristband embedded with short-range RFID and long range Bluetooth technologies. It’s an opt-in system so guests control how much personal information they share with the park. The more information guests share, the more customized theme park experience they receive. For example, in Disney resort hotels, MagicBands are used as room keys. Just tapping your wristband unlocks the door. Guests can also order food with their wristbands at Disney restaurants and food carts.

MagicBand RFID wristbands

MagicBand RFID wristbands

MagicBands also integrate with FastPass and PhotoPass systems. Once set up, you can walk to the front of an attraction line, tap your wrist, and on you go. If your picture is taken with a Disney character by a park photographer, they will scan your MagicBand and your photos will be available online for purchase later. The old PhotoPass system for purchasing photos online involved manual data entry by the user, whereas the new experience is virtually seamless.

The park experience feels “frictionless” with the use of MagicBands, My Experience apps and FastPass. The best parts of the Disney park experience are made better via subtle digital enhancement. There is something magical about skipping to the front of the line to have your child’s picture taken with a beloved Disney character and then conveniently ordering the photos online later.

This is both an example of an existing omni-channel experience, as well as the current high water mark for experiences that move between the physical and digital.

MagicBand integration with Disney's PhotoPass system

MagicBand integration with Disney’s PhotoPass system

Summary

When relentlessly focusing on the quality of the experience you are delivering, you have to look at all of your customer touch points to deliver seamless experiences choreographed between all channels, physical and digital.

The first step to creating omni-channel experiences is to create a strong strategy focused on customer needs. This is accomplished through research, culminating in a Customer Journey Map. A journey map depicts the step-by-step interactions a user has through all of the touch points with your product or service. Once completed, this design artifact helps key decision makers identify opportunities for improvement or differentiation that can help drive the strategy.

Once identified, opportunities can be worked out through storyboarding and refined via service or experience prototypes; these prototyping methods involve users in simulations so the end experience can be evaluated and modified if necessary before actually launching the enhancements. Simulations can be done in a lab-like environment but it is strongly encouraged to do a limited live run to verify what impact external factors not possible to verify in the laboratory have on user perception and experience. This was the approach taken by Disney with their MagicBands: look at the customer journey; identify pain points and opportunities; design, test and iterate.

OpenRoad's Trevor Allen and his family gave MagicBands a spin

OpenRoad’s Trevor Allen and his family gave MagicBands a spin

Emily Carr’s Big Idea Gala: Supporting the Future of Design in BC

Congratulations to Emily Carr University of Art and Design on their launch of The Big Idea capital campaign!

The campaign aims to raise the $25 million needed for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art Emily Carr University campus at Great Northern Way. Creativity is a vital resource to the British Columbia economy, and Emily Carr University hopes that the new campus will become part of the province’s economic, social, cultural, and educational engine.

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From left to right: Wil Arndt, Creative Director; Darren Gibbons, President; Gordon Ross, Vice President

As supporters of BC’s design community, we were honoured to attend and sponsor their Red Carpet Gala to kick off the campaign. The high-profile evening included red carpet photos, an opportunity to learn more about the project, yum-mazing oysters, and a sneak peek of the freshest art and design projects at The Show (Emily Carr’s annual grad celebration).

Our Creative Director, Wil Arndt—an Emily Carr University graduate, former design program teacher, and current alumni board member—says, “The creative industry is flourishing in Vancouver thanks to institutions like Emily Carr. As usual, I was impressed with the high levels of sophistication and insight at the design show this year. These students are bringing innovation, creative thinking, and determination to some big design problems.”

Congrats to Emily Carr University and a shout out to Reliance Properties for donating a generous $7 million to kick off the campaign. We encourage you to get involved by donating to their FundRazr Campaign (donations start as low as $5).

Filling in User Experience Potholes: Connecting Applications for a Smoother Experience

We’ve all seen it. We’ve watched as user research participants struggle through what should be a simple task. We’ve witnessed them work across multiple off-the-shelf applications, each with their own idiosyncrasies and learning curves. The sum of these disjointed experiences are like driving over a paved, prairie road after the winter thaw: bumpy, unforgiving, and frustrating. But, each pothole is actually an incredible opportunity to address serious user experience challenges within organizations that purchase 3rd party software applications.

Companies will often work with multiple vendors to assist with various parts of their business. There are obvious cost savings rationale associated with purchasing an off-the-shelf product as opposed to developing software in-house. Some examples of this are: purchasing accounting software to track expense claims and purchasing issue-tracking software to organize the triage and resolution of calls to the call centre.

The unfortunate side effect of this is that their employees will now have to deal with several user interfaces throughout their day, each with varying level of usability, each possibly with a different login. This can lead to a very frustrating experience for users when you take into account each user’s unique needs and that each product is usually not designed with the other applications in mind. Over the years I’ve seen the full spectrum of experiences that accompany using 3rd party applications to assist with critical business processes. Some of these applications are just plain painful, some are a pleasure to work with, and some are merely ok  — they get the job done with relatively few headaches and grey hairs. However, “3rd Party Software” doesn’t have to be a dirty phrase. With thoughtful attention to the user’s experience across applications, we can design solutions to fill in those potholes, smoothing out the user’s experience along the way.

Can’t We Just All Get Along?

I recently listened to James Robertson (@s2d_jamesr) give a talk at VanUE on Designing Behind the Firewall, where he showed many different applications of beautifully designed intranets for many enterprise clients. (more…)