When building next gen fintech, start with research in Africa

When building next gen fintech, start with research in Africa

U

BOLD INSIGHT

The user experience (UX) of emerging FinTech might be considered superior in Africa compared to the United States. In Africa, the utility of cryptocurrencies has been communicated and made known, effectively improving the UX of this emerging technology.

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 5  When building next gen fintech, start with research in Africa

The finance industry is changing in massive ways as digital technologies advance. For the next installment of our Bold Future of UX blog series, we look at how the FinTech landscape has changed in recent years, where it is headed, and who is leading the way to build a better UX.

The blurring of lines between the finance and tech worlds has given us the ability to pay for goods and services using banking apps on our phones and watches, or entirely bypass the bank using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay. This is all made possible by the digitization of currency.

I know I personally have very little physical interaction with my cash. Between direct deposit, debit cards, online bill-pay, and peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, the old mantra of “Cash is king” is slowly starting to fade away.

Bold Insight Managing Director Gavin Lew recently spoke at the Money 20/20 conference, where he discussed FinTech in Africa, a place where that adage of “Cash is king” has long been considered outdated. Physical cash has become impractical in many parts of Africa. As an example, local currency is tricky to deal with for the average person – Zimbabwe famously unveiled a 100 trillion dollar bill due to the rampant hyperinflation plaguing the country.

And while most African nations don’t experience a cash crunch of quite that magnitude, fluctuations in the value of the local currencies are somewhat commonplace across the continent. These fluctuations are so unpredictable that the idea of carrying around a physical wallet is almost a foreign concept since a meal at McDonald’s or a coffee at Starbucks might require anywhere from a briefcase to a suitcase full of cash. Even having bags full of the aforementioned 100 trillion dollar bills is currently not enough to buy groceries in Zimbabwe.

Enter FinTech. Specifically, cryptocurrencies and digital ledger systems.

Learning from Africa about implementing a usable and useful revolutionary currency system

In the US, the day-to-day use of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, is limited and still feels like we are at the infancy stage of development. There are online guides to show you where you can pay for goods with Bitcoin, but if you have to search for a guide of where to use your money, it should be taken as a sign that it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet. This is, in part, due to the fluctuations of the value of Bitcoin and in part to the somewhat confusing nature of cryptocurrencies and blockchain (how do I store it, how do I spend it, how do I buy/create it, etc.). In terms of utility, we’re now in a space akin to the early days of Apple Pay where people were ready to use their new Apple Watches but the infrastructure at the point-of-sale terminals wasn’t in place quite yet. Except in this case, not only are the sellers lacking the ability to accept cryptocurrency, but the customer is also not equipped (and likely doesn’t have the desire) to make a cryptocurrency payment.

While in the US these limitations might be enough to scare away the average potential user, in parts of Africa, they’re non-issues. Fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin don’t scare people in certain African nations since the national currency fluctuates on a regular basis. It’s also easier to obtain and spend Bitcoin in Africa; South Africa, for example, is set to expand its infrastructure of Bitcoin ATMs and POS systems.

The user experience of emerging FinTech might be considered superior in Africa compared to the United States. While in the US, we are still largely debating the value, legitimacy, and utility of cryptocurrencies, in Africa, they’ve moved past that debate and cryptocurrencies are already being used to buy goods. Not only do users understand Bitcoin and have the necessary tools to make payments with it, but, possibly even more important, the infrastructure for acquiring Bitcoin and exchanging payments are in place. The utility of cryptocurrencies has been communicated and made known, effectively lifting the user experience of this emerging technology.

It’s clear that the future of currency is digital, whether it’s dollars and cents, Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum, or even one of the many copycat currencies (Litecoin, Dogecoin, Garlicoin, etc.). Whatever the currency of the future is, there will obviously be a need to make it easy to store and easy to spend. Perhaps the real innovations will come from the retailers. Maybe Amazon is on to something with its brick and mortar stores where you pay by just walking out the front door…

What are your thoughts on all of this? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post is part five of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that discusses future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community. Read Part 1 that discussed Singularity and the associated challenges with UX design , Part 2 which provided an overview of focus areas for AI to be successful ,  Part 3 which dug further into the concept of context in AI, and Part 4 which proposed UX design principles for robot design.

UX principles for robot design: Have we begun to baseline?

UX principles for robot design: Have we begun to baseline?

U

BOLD INSIGHT

As the robotics industry continues to find its way into our lives, we can begin to identify UX design principles to apply to this tech to increase the acceptance of robots and improve the human-robot interaction experience.

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 4  UX principles for robot design: Have we begun to baseline?

In a previous post, I discussed the challenges of designing a user experience for AI and how it needs three components to truly deliver on the promise of the technology: context, interaction, and trust. These three elements allow for a good user experience with an AI. Today, we’re taking AI to a related area: robotics. A robot is essentially an AI that has been given a corporeal form. But the addition of a physical form, whether or not it’s vaguely humanoid, creates further challenges. How do users properly interact with a fully autonomous mechanical being? Since this fully autonomous mechanical being can, by definition, act on its own, the flipside to this question is just as important, how does a robot interact with the user?

Before we dive into these questions, let’s all get on the same page about what a robot is. A ‘robot’ must be able to perform tasks automatically based on stimulus from either the surrounding environment or another agent (e.g., a person, a pet, another robot, etc.). When people think of robots, they often think of something like Honda’s ASIMO or their more recent line of 3E robots. This definition would also include less conventional robots, such as autonomous vehicles and machines that can perform surgery.

A research team at the University of Salzburg has done extensive research on human-robot interaction by testing a human-sized robot in public in various situations. One finding I found particularly interesting is that people prefer robots that approach from the left or right but not head-on.

In San Francisco, a public-facing robot that works at a café knows to double-check how much coffee is left in the coffee machines and gives each cup of coffee a little swirl before handing to the customer.

While a robot in Austria approaching from the left and a robot in San Francisco swirling a cup of coffee might not seem related, it points to UX principles that should be kept in mind as public-facing robots become more ubiquitous:

  • A robot should be aware that it is a robot and take efforts to gain the trust of an untrusting public (evidenced by people’s preferences for robots to not approach head-on and to always remain visible to the user)
  • A robot should be designed with the knowledge in mind that people like to anthropomorphize objects (evidenced by people preferring the coffee-serving robot to do the same things a barista might do even if it’s something the robot doesn’t necessarily need to do)

As with all design principles, these are likely to evolve. Once robots become more ubiquitous in our lives and people become accustomed to seeing them everywhere, different preferences for how humans and robots interact may become the norm.
This may already be the case in Japan, where robots have been working in public-facing roles for several years. While anthropomorphic robots are still the dominant type of bot in Japan, there is now a hotel in Tokyo staffed entirely by dinosaur robots. The future is now, and it is a weird and wild place.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post is part four of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that discusses future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community. Read Part 1 that discussed Singularity and the associated challenges with UX design , Part 2 which provided an overview of focus areas for AI to be successful , and Part 3 which dug further into the concept of context in AI

Three things to improve acceptance of AI

Three things to improve acceptance of AI

U

BOLD INSIGHT

To truly deliver on the promise of AI, developers need to keep the end users in mind. By integrating three components of context, interaction, and trust, AI can be the runaway success that futurists predict it will be.

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 2  Three things to improve acceptance of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics in tech right now. Conversations around AI inevitably lead to dreams of a world where a computer is predicting every need one might have and/or the impending doom of humanity through a SkyNet / Ultron / War Games-type scenario.

As entertaining as that discussion might be, instead I’m going to focus on what AI needs to do to become more functional and more accepted by society (that is, users). As it stands now, technology (including some of the advances in AI) seems to be advancing simply because developers want to see if they could build it. What my colleagues and I want to see, as user experience (UX) professionals, is meaningful advancements in AI that deliver functionality that is useful for users.

To meet this goal, I sat down with my colleague Gavin Lew, who has recently been talking a lot about AI, to identify three things that AI needs to be successful:

  • Context – At its core, AI is based on pattern-recognition. Once AI learns a pattern, it can make predictions about outcomes of similar patterns. However, while we’re giving AI the raw data it needs to recognize patterns, we’re not giving it the context in which to make good decisions. Our take on this is that we are doing a disservice to AI by not giving it the proper context.
    • An example of this is IBM Watson Health. IBM Watson for Oncology was fed data from the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and then suggested treatments for various cancer types all over the world. It was able to suggest the correct treatment for lung cancer over 96% of the time in India. However, in South Korea, it was only correct 49% when suggesting treatments for gastric cancer. Why? Because South Korea’s treatments for gastric cancer aren’t in line with Sloan Kettering’s recommended treatments. In other words, Watson was lacking the context needed to suggest the right treatment approach.
  • Interaction – Our understanding of user interactions with AI is still developing. The user interactions of AI are largely still unknown to most. How is someone supposed to use AI? Is “use” even the right term when it comes to AI? Once it is fully realized, a complex AI system will entail the systems of a home, car, office, appliances, and personal tech gadgets, all talking to each other and exchanging information without the user having to actively do anything. Thus, the user is seemingly not doing anything to use AI, while the system itself is passing and parsing data behind the scenes.
    • Think ahead to the future where you have your own personal AI. Our interactions with AI may consist of nothing more than an offhand comment, essentially interacting with the AI without knowing that we’re doing so. For example, when I’m making breakfast and mutter to myself, “Almost out of milk,” a strong AI will know to remind me at an appropriate time to buy milk. Or maybe it will just take the initiative and order me a gallon of milk from the automated grocery service in my area and there will be a milk delivery timed for when I get home from work. Or maybe I don’t need to state that I’m out of milk for the AI to act…. perhaps finishing the gallon of milk is my passive interaction and the AI figures out what the next logical step is by ordering automatically.
  • Trust – Trust in AI has been a recent topic of discussion in the tech sphere. For people to want to use AI on a regular basis, they need to trust it. The early buggy interactions people had with Siri scared them away from voice assistants to the point that most have not attempted to try Microsoft’s Cortana. A new form factor (i.e., Alexa) finally encouraged people to give voice assistants (read: AI) a second chance, and it was more widely accepted and used.
    • But why? Because of trust. Trust is created when a question is asked, and the right answer is given, when a task is given and correctly performed, when a purchase is made and the correct product was bought, and, possibly most importantly, when personal info is kept safe.

Once AI has the three components of context, interaction, and trust, it will be much easier for it to hit the mainstream and be the runaway success that futurists predict it will be. Even if the above three pillars are never fully recognized, to truly deliver on the promise of AI to the end users, the developers of AI systems need to keep the end users in mind since the AI is ultimately being created to benefit them.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post part two of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that will discuss future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community. Read Part 1 that discussed Singularity and the associated challenges with UX design.

Singularity and the potential impact on UX design principles

Singularity and the potential impact on UX design principles

U

BOLD INSIGHT

If we are approaching a rapid technology shift as some experts predict, core UX design principles will have to be redefined to adapt to radically different interaction models.

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 1  Singularity and the potential impact on UX design principles

The times they are a-changin’. I know it’s a corny, overused refrain but I don’t think that it has ever been truer. Technology, as well as its impact on society, is advancing at a rapid pace, and that pace is only expected to accelerate.

Futurologist Ray Kurzweil believes that we are soon approaching a point where the computing power of tech exceeds the computing power of people. This “Singularity”, as it is called, will be fueled by a variety of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and nanotechnology, to name a few.

Once this Singularity hits, Kurzweil and other similarly-minded theorists believe that life will be unrecognizable to what we know today. He compares the difficulty of describing this post-Singularity society to someone today as being just as difficult as describing to a caveman how different life will be with bronze tools and agriculture.

Bringing us back to the present, how does this relate to UX?

My thoughts around this weird unknowable world of the future have started to stray toward design. Let’s think about AI and (by extension) robots. These two technologies have the potential to completely flip the paradigm of usability and user experience. The user should not have to learn how to use AI. AI is supposed to be the one learning: learning our habits and routines and learning what actions it should take in response to what’s happening around it. In UX research terminology, the user has become the stimuli and the stimuli has become the user. That is, the human is now the stimuli that the technology is learning to react and respond to.

But if you buy into the whole notion of Kurzweil’s Singularity, how do you design for a future that is (predicted to be) wildly different than anything we’ve ever known or could fathom? How can a UX designer implement traditional usability principles, such as effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction, or are these principles going to become a relic and left by the wayside as radically different interaction models emerge?

I’m going to tackle some of these questions in future posts in this series. Next topic: Artificial Intelligence!

What are your thoughts on all of this? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

 

This blog post is the first of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that will discuss future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community.

UX project logistics: choosing the right vendors for project success

UX project logistics: choosing the right vendors for project success

U

BOLD INSIGHT

Selecting the correct vendors to support your UX project is critical to success. From facilities to recruiting, knowing the right questions to ask, budget constraints, and client needs and expectations will make the selection process smooth and painless.

When we start planning UX projects for our clients, one of the main things that we keep in mind is that one size does NOT fit all. Every client has different needs due to method, target user population, stimuli, or even personal preferences for where the research should take place. Because of these factors, we carefully think through the best logistical approach for every engagement.

Test lab flexibility

One thing we always keep in mind is to be flexible and think outside the box. While we prefer to use traditional labs that we’ve already vetted for UX research, we recently proposed a project in which a traditional UX studio might not be the ideal place to conduct the fieldwork. Instead, we decided to conduct fieldwork at a hotel because the room and amenities offered more closely aligned with the chosen methodology (the rates were also a better match for our client’s budget). Having tested in many hotels around the globe, we knew we could prepare for the challenges that may arise in that environment, so we were comfortable with that approach.

Responsive vendors

Another consideration is that the lowest-priced vendor is not always the preferred choice. We recently drafted an automotive project plan that required working with a vendor that rents out very specific vehicles with even more specific trim packages (not cars that you can easily find by calling up your local car rental agency). We contacted a few potential vendors – one of them called me immediately to discuss the details of what we needed… another didn’t reply to my email until a week later. At that point, we were ready to go with the vendor that was responsive and eager, even if they didn’t have the lowest bid. We were more comfortable knowing that this vendor was more likely to quickly resolve any potential issues to ensure a smooth project for our client.

Participant access

Finally, one of the most important vendor choices to make when setting up a UX study is who to trust to recruit study participants. The right choice of recruiter can be the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful study. Our team has years of experience working with several recruiters across the US and around the world, and in that time, we’ve come to learn that the best recruiter for finding Type 2 Diabetes patients may not be the best recruiter for finding consumers that use their mobile device to pay for gas at the pump (both of which are populations with whom I’ve done work).

In addition to relying on past experiences with recruiters, study parameters have to be considered, including time line (filling a recruit in one week vs. three weeks), sample size (n=12 is very different than n=72), and even client requirements (some clients have vendors they prefer we use). All of these factors are taken into consideration when we decide what recruiter we’re going to use for any given project.

With thousands of proposals under our belts, we always keep these things in mind (as well as some other project planning tips and tricks) to provide the best experience for our clients and participants. Just as the research stimuli and participant sample change from project to project, so should the logistical approach be flexible and adapt to fit the needs of the client. Knowing what to look for in a vendor is one way we deliver seamless, successful projects.

Pin It on Pinterest