7-Step UX checklist | Buy the right technology for your users
I don’t have time for this! I can’t get this thing to work! I really don’t like technology!
Imagine a businessperson uttering these very words exasperatedly while standing in the middle of a meeting room waving the remote controls in the air and jabbing angrily at the power button. Quite easy to picture, isn’t it? There is a high chance that you’ve been in that person’s shoes at some point or another. If you’re such a tech pro that you’ve never had these issues, and everything has always worked out fine for you, good job! You have a better understanding of technology than 99% of the rest of the world. However, you might have witnessed your colleague acting this way... the point is, technology can be quite exasperating to use.
Due to such stressing experiences with AV tech in the past, AV equipment is seen by many as a necessary evil; getting projectors, screens and the sound to work has become an accepted part of the frustrating ritual at the beginning of every meeting or presentation in class.
Some might blame themselves, thinking they're just not tech-savvy enough to use the technology. Yet despite the challenges of using AV tech, these very same people can easily use the latest smartphone and computer technology. Where does the blame lie then? Is it the user, who is just too 'stupid' to use the product, is it the product itself, is it the person who bought the wrong product, or is it the product manufacturer?
Too many features to choose from
The job as the IT/AV person in a company or institution can be tough. You’re the link between technology and users. Your job is to make sure that the scene with the frustrated businessman doesn’t happen. But how do you avoid it?
The technology industry is moving at a tremendous speed. In a few months, the devices you just bought might be discontinued, because something newer and better came along. You’re bombarded with ads for gadgets with more and more features; 12K resolution, wireless setup, mind reading eye scanners and every other crazy thing you can imagine. Which criteria should you use to help you get the most out of your budget while making sure you don’t create more IT issues for your colleagues? Issues that require you to spend even more time than you already do handling emergencies and putting out fires? How do you empower users to embrace technology with all its features and functionalities?
Innovation for its own sake
There are thousands of technology manufacturers out there whose sole purpose is to beat their competition, by creating new products, with more or cooler features. Their focus is to be going to market fast, with a solution that is half-baked at best, when seen from a user’s perspective. In this case, product innovation is not focused on solving a problem, but on several other factors, for example:
- to create something impressive
- to push the boundaries of what is possible
- To earn more money, fast
- to subvert the status quo
- to follow trends
- To avoid the fear of missing out and being beaten by the competition
None of these ‘reasons to innovate’ puts the user at the center of the design process.
To be fair, creating a new technology product requires several stages and months of work until it is ready to be sold; concept development, research, strategy, design, testing and commercialization. In this development period, it is extremely easy for companies to get bogged down in facts and features they have worked long and hard to create and forget the user. Being proud of their work, companies want to tell everyone about the latest features in the most minute detail, using technical terms that only they understand. But this way of designing and creating products does not make a difference for the user – the people on the front line, having meetings and trying to make obnoxious technology work as it should.
"The customer cares about the benefit, not the features"
- the why and not the how.
So, are we saying that people don’t care about features and specs? No, on the contrary, they do! The problem is that people are used to products that only improve on a part of the problem. They are not used to products that tackle the whole user situation (ex. starting an online meeting). If a person is not directly involved in the development process, what's going on "behind the scenes" inside the product doesn't really matter to them. How the product solves a specific problem is of no consequence to customers, as long as it does it well. The customer only cares about what the product allows him or her to do differently and do better – “what can this product help me achieve?”
We make it a point to conduct a lot of field research and visit several users, customers, companies and schools every year. We realized that we can create a lot of values for ourselves and our customers but putting ourselves in users’ shoes as a starting point for innovative product design. No matter the type and size of the company we visit, the answer is always the same – the technology just needs to work, when they need to use it, every time they need to use it. In short, the customer cares about the benefit, not the features, the why and not the how.
This is something that is easily forgotten by manufacturers, distributors, resellers and system integrators. The challenge for many companies is, therefore, to describe their technology's value to the customer and not only the features it provides.
The benefits – or the why – of a product can be summed up as the overall experience the users leave the meeting with. That opinion or feeling of whether it has been a good meeting or not is not only based on the results created but also the experience that the equipment in the room has afforded the user.
So, if we revisit the statement at the start of this article: “I don’t have time for this! I can’t get this thing to work! I really don’t like technology!“ - this is a clear case where the equipment in a meeting room does not offer a great experience.
The value of technology
We want to be bold and say that if a company is unable to describe the value its technology creates, then the technology does not have value.
Value, in the context we are discussing here, refers to the sum of product benefits as perceived by the customer, measured by how much they are willing to pay for the product. Therefore, value does not only refer to the price paid to make a purchase. The efficiency and effectiveness of the purchase also matter.
In layman terms, efficiency is how much you get out of something in comparison to how much you put into it. A purchase that involves you getting into your car and driving to a specific store 50km away is a big hassle compared to going online and clicking “buy”. Effectiveness, on the other hand, is the impact of obtaining value, or how well the product meets the customer's needs.
A product that has value is, therefore, one that does the right thing, does it right, and at an acceptable price.
Our intention here is not to sound like a Management textbook. On the contrary, we want to highlight some of the challenges present in the industry and offer some suggestions and solutions. Companies shouldn't create new products just for the sake of it. Progress and development should always have a purpose - to do something better and easier, not just faster. The key to finding that purpose is to have a deep understanding of the customer's problems, challenges and needs. The knowledge gained from this research allows a company to identify which features are relevant and beneficial to a customer and how to communicate these effectively.
The right technology, applied in a meaningful way, has the potential to make all the difference in world for companies and for users alike. A great example is the Apple Airplay technology, which has disrupted the industry and made wireless transfer of sound and images available and approachable to customers around the world. However, technology should be selected by looking at the needs of the business, the needs of the users, and the problems they face in their everyday lives.
Selecting the right technology
We would like to make it easier for you, the IT/AV responsible in a company or institution, to select the right technology for your business. Our piece of advice here is simple – focus on the user experience; the perceptions, feelings and emotions related to an interaction with technology.
User experience has many facets, and we can write several posts just on defining the term. Instead, we’ve made a handy checklist to assess whether the equipment you consider buying is the right one for the users. Just remember that the best thing is to ask the users about what they think.
User Experience Checklist
Does the product address a real need that your users have? Is it something you have actually seen, or is it partly made up?
Can the customers use it to achieve the task they would like to achieve? Does it get them all the way, or just some of the way?
Are they able to find the features and functions you put into the product, or are they hidden away? Do customers have to think too much in order to use the product?
Do the customers want to use this product and/or product feature? Is the product intuitive and a pleasure to use?
Does the product provide any kind of value? Does it save time? Money? Does it improve the way they do things? Does it help them achieve a goal?
Is the company that produces and sells the product a credible and reliable one? Does the product seem like something worth trusting, both in terms of build quality, but also in terms of functions?
Can everybody use the product, no matter their physical abilities/disabilities?
By using this checklist, you will be able to identify the technology products that can do the job, without creating many challenges for the users, and without wasting a lot of time providing user support. While it’s certainly true that much of the latest, innovative technology has many impressive features, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, it’s about getting the job done in the best, most efficient way possible. And sometimes, simple really is best.
Neets, as a product manufacturer, strives to create products based on what users need, not on trends or what the rest of the industry is doing. We care about the users and making life easy for them. We’re also a firm believer in making technology work for the user, not make the user a slave of technology.
Our mission is to create user-friendly products that get the job done, without any unnecessary extras, so that people can focus on doing their jobs, instead of wasting time getting their equipment to work.
Biamp is a leading provider of innovative, networked media systems that power the world’s most sophisticated audiovisual installations. The company is recognized worldwide for delivering high-quality products and backing each one with a commitment to exceptional customer service.