Care to share? UX considerations of the sharing economy for ridesharing, hospitality, and healthcare

Care to share? UX considerations of the sharing economy for ridesharing, hospitality, and healthcare

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BOLD INSIGHT

The sharing economy, primarily based in digital platforms, is poised for companies to stand out by delivering exceptional user experiences. 

Millions of people, by choice or circumstance, take advantage of the sharing economy, an economic model based on peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services. Some of the largest contributors and most well-known players in this game are companies that offer ridesharing, short-term accommodation, and, more recently gaining traction, healthcare, all through an online platform. And all, by offering a differentiated user experience and creating a seamless user interface, can better appeal to their users and pull ahead of their respective packs.

Ridesharing: Getting on board with UX

  • SITUATION: Ridesharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, have disrupted and redefined an industry once dominated by the taxi. Ridesharing services are convenient and affordable. These services rely equally on riders and drivers, creating a shared sense of choice and control.
    Uber, Lyft, and others like them are shaping the future of transportation. As they grow, they must evolve to meet the needs of both drivers and riders. User experience testing plays a critical role in keeping these services safe, convenient, and social while making them easy to use and inviting for new users.
  • WHITE SPACE: UX research and design can help with the features and design of the mobile app, making the GPS more usable, or even the design of the car itself.  For example, if a user has grocery bags with them, can the car be developed for a more adaptable interior?
    Currently, Uber and Lyft drivers need to own or lease a car to be a driver.  Could finding a way to allow people who do not own cars to become drivers create improved experiences for a new employee population?
    Perhaps the greatest white space where UX can impact this industry is expansion of the service offering beyond driver and rider to areas such as food delivery to urban delivery, freight transportation to autonomous driving. For success, all of these involve a multitude of new touchpoints that have entirely new mental models and user needs that Uber and Lyft could help address by talking with their drivers and riders.  

Hospitality: Building an exceptional user platform for hosts and renters

  • SITUATION: The sharing economy is also redefining the hospitality industry. Hotels, once the most viable option for travelers seeking short term stays, must now compete with Airbnb’s unregulated, sometimes untaxed, and often more flexible options. A 2019 study by Florida State University found that Airbnb’s exponential growth has contributed directly to a decrease in room prices and revenue in both luxury and midscale hotels.

    While hotels sometimes provide security, pools, fitness centers, and restaurants that are not often found in Airbnb listings, the cost per square foot is generally lower in AirBNB locations, appealing to travelers who don’t need traditional hotel amenities. The FSU study also found that travelers are showing an increasing demand for authenticity in lodging, which threatens hotel chains that sometimes don’t offer localized interactions and can feel too familiar to travelers hoping for new experiences.

  • GRAB MARKET SHARE: As with all peer-to-peer sales platforms, Airbnb offers only the tools and services to connect hosts to consumers. They rely on their hosts to provide consistently high-quality experiences during the consumer’s actual stay, making it particularly important for platforms like Airbnb and its competitors (eg, HomeAway, Vrbo), to provide excellent tools. These platforms must make the consumer comfortable and offer ample opportunities to provide feedback, which can be integral to identifying issues that could negatively impact the company’s brand. They must also provide tools to protect their hosts and give them the opportunity for success, ensuring they will not abandon the platform for an easily accessible competitor. All of this leads to building trust.

    Exploring the needs and expectations of both the hosts and renters through UX research is key to building that ideal platform that will stand out and grab market share and, ultimately, retain customers.

Healthcare: Understand the gaps of the industry

  • SITUATION: The healthcare industry is attempting to infiltrate the popular sharing economy. Instead of having to go to a doctor’s office, patients now have the option to receive healthcare in the comfort of their own home.Companies like Heal, which offers on-demand, house-call doctors starting at $99/hour, and Crowdmed, a crowdsourcing platform where users can receive help to diagnose unresolved symptoms from a pool of those with knowledge or experience with similar symptoms and healthcare professionals, are providing patients with easily accessible resources. The sharing economy goes beyond patients as well. Apps like Cohealo facilitate the sharing of healthcare equipment and technology between hospitals and healthcare facilities.
  • CHALLENGES:
    There are multiple challenges in the healthcare sharing industry that may not be present in other industries. Users tend to be forgiving if their driver is late or if the home they rent is not clean. However, users hold healthcare to a higher standard.
    • Patient trust: In the healthcare industry, trust is particularly important. Users need to have trust in the doctors providing the services and that their healthcare information will be safe. Additionally, if a healthcare provider misses an appointment or prescribes an ineffective medicine, users may not be likely to use the service again. The challenge for the business (app/platform provider) is to build systems that cater to patients with this factor in mind.
    • Provider flexibility: The flexibility of providing services through a shared economy app may help draw healthcare providers to try it as an alternative or an addition to traditional in-office or in-hospital services. Facilitating this relationship between the provider and the business and ensuring that the flexibility offered by the app meets providers’ needs will be imperative to retention.
    • Payer experience: Another challenge for these businesses is the ease of billing and payments. When health insurance companies are introduced to the equation it adds a layer of complexity; the design must incorporate the needs of a third user group.
  • DESIGN TO FILL THE GAP: User research will help this growing industry learn exactly what needs must be addressed in the existing healthcare services space. What are users comfortable doing in their own home vs what do they think absolutely must be done in an office setting? What makes them feel that way? How can that gap be closed? 

Ultimately, due to the digital nature of the sharing economy, there is an opportunity for service providers to stand out with a great UX. And because trust is huge factor of success when it comes to these platforms, keeping all user groups involved in the development process will only increase that trust and help to build products that users can use seamlessly, safely, and effectively.

Research shows big payoff when design includes voice of the user

Research shows big payoff when design includes voice of the user

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BOLD INSIGHT

A recent McKinsey report outlines the ROI of UX research, offering a business case to invest in building designs centered around the user.

Arriving at a fantastic design rarely happens by magic or luck. More typically, it occurs through a great deal of work … including revisions, iterations, and seeking out the voice of the user. We know this. It makes sense. Yet, stakeholders still cut design cycles short because they can’t be sure that one more iteration, or that running a user study, will have a positive return on investment. Being in the field of user experience research, we know the positive impact that user experience (UX) research has on product design, but it can be challenging to convince a board room to invest. But now we have evidence! McKinsey recently released a report showing the business benefits of design.

The report found a robust correlation between companies that are strong in design and the financial performance of each company. These results held true across the industries they studied, covering physical products, digital products, and services. As you read into the report, UX research was at the heart of what put companies in the top quartile.

The report goes on…

“The importance of user-centricity, demands a broad-based view of where design can make a difference … In practice, this often means mapping a customer journey (pain points and potential sources of delight) rather than starting with “copy and paste” technical specs from the last product. This design approach requires solid customer insights gathered firsthand by observing and—more importantly—understanding the underlying needs of potential users in their own environments. … Yet only around 50 percent of the companies we surveyed conducted user research before generating their first design ideas or specifications…

And on…

… many companies have been slow to catch up. Over 40 percent of the companies surveyed still aren’t talking to their end users during development. … With no clear way to link design to business health, senior leaders are often reluctant to divert scarce resources to design functions. That is problematic because many of the key drivers of the strong and consistent design environment identified in our research call for company-level decisions and investments.

In our experience, designers are amazed by the many ways consumers interpret their designs. Knowledge of consumer interpretations empowers designers to improve their designs in subsequent iterations. Thus, design benefits from the voice and interpretation of the people who will adopt it.

Plain and simple, companies that invest in user experience research perform better financially than those that don’t. This data has been anecdotal in the past, but McKinsey’s report should serve as the foundation for any UX manager trying to build a business case for UX.

6 UX trends for 2019

6 UX trends for 2019

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BOLD INSIGHT

As industries undergo massive change, there’s a tension; new players will disrupt old market structures and the UX is going to play a critical if not defining the role in the success or failure of these transformations.

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

Part 6  6 UX trends for 2019

There are reasons to be both optimistic and somewhat cautious about what’s coming in 2019 for the UX industry. Walking through the expansive halls of CES, as I have done every year for the last 10 years, usually leaves me with a solid understanding of where certain industries are headed, both in technology evolution and investment, and the role user experience (UX) research and design will play in that process.

Here are my thoughts on which UX considerations will take center stage in the coming year:

1. The complexity and need for speed-to-market in healthcare will drive user experiences to new and interesting levels.

In 2019, we will see a greater focus on the user experience in healthcare. Healthcare has been slow to move in the past in large part because it’s highly regulated and obsessed with safety (as it should be!). But as consumer-oriented digital applications begin to raise the awareness of what user interfaces can be to health-care professionals, users will demand better experiences.  We see this in electronic medical records, where many user interfaces are effectively mired in 1990s-style UI designs.  Further, as more nimble startups see the business opportunity in healthcare, there will be more consumer-facing applications to support a wide variety of areas (e.g., sleep, nutrition, pregnancy, etc.).  There is growing need among these companies to do human factors testing of digital products prior to FDA submission, and a painful lack of awareness of that process.

 

2. As payments go digital, there is a knock-on effect across the entire commercial fabric making understanding user experience essential.

In the past, many financial services that customers required demanded an intermediary financial institution, e.g., currency exchange. It’s now possible to set up an account where dollars can be moved between euros, pounds, and yen without ever having to incur any intermediary. Through a simple app, accounts can be kept in one currency and withdrawn.  The user experience is greatly simplified.  There is also a fast push to cashless societies, such as in Sweden.  (Even homeless people in Sweden can take credit cards!). Companies will have to understand their customers’ needs and lead the way with user experiences that provide systemic, safe, private, and convenient ways of interacting. Again, like in healthcare, smaller, aggressive and well-funded startups will challenge established players; the point of competition, where customers will be gained or lost, will be at the customer’s experience.

3. Mobility provides both macro and micro challenges to the user experience.

Mobility is morphing. We are all incredibly aware of how Uber, Lyft, Didi and other ridesharing services are transforming how we think about transportation and mobility. How we get around today and how goods are moved (i.e., in trucking) is changing fast. In fact, the whole notion of ownership of vehicles is changing – in the next 15 years the idea of an individual owning one or more vehicles is becoming obsolete.  Fractional ownership of multiple vehicles by cooperatives of people will be the norm. There will likely be increased mobility by drone services (CES has several examples of this.)  How users and customers will engage will be of increasing importance for the success of the business models.

 

4. AI needs UX.

This was the year of AI at CES. It seemed every other booth had the letters “AI” on their signage. However, most of the AI applications cannot succeed without proper data that is human tagged. In fact, over the last couple of years, I’ve been involved in several projects to just collect data to train AI algorithms. This is not traditional UX by any means.  But UX professionals and psychologists have research and logistical skills to be able to collect data that will allow us to train AI algorithms.

 

5. UX will grow increasingly more important in the developing world.

2019 will see the need to increase understanding of the skills, knowledge, capabilities, needs and desires of the users in the developing world. All one must do is to look at the public record to see that Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are heavily invested in moving into places like Africa, Indonesia, India, and Brazil. These next billion users are the ones that the companies are targeting. There will be enormous investment put into the user experience research needed to serve these markets because of the wide language, and cultural diversity. The technological capabilities in these locations are vast and unknown to international manufacturers trying to design user tech. To be successful in this market these companies must develop products and services that would be a value to the users and of value to them as suppliers. UX research is global! (Shameless plug for my book) And global UX research partnerships like the UXalliance can help companies be successful in these markets with on-the-ground resources steeped in local knowledge.

 

6. Transformations in user security and privacy will demand attention.

The increasing spate of data breaches and identify theft create an opportunity for improved user experience. (If you want to understand, and be horrified as to what you sign up for when you hit ‘Accept’, I strongly recommend watching Terms and Conditions May Apply on Netflix.)  Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously said in 1999(!) “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”  The digital world has become much scarier since then; the bloom has come off the rose.  With all the upside in technology, there is a huge risk.  Companies that help us manage all the risks are going to be in higher demand – and UX will be at the forefront of this.  There should be better ways to protect and control who sees what about each of us.  Anyone who has had their identify stolen or been a subject of credit card theft knows how tedious it is to manage this.

 

Large dominant players, who once had a comfortable existence for decades, will find themselves under intense pressure from smaller start-ups who have learned how to care for the customer.  These small players are also not burdened by legacy systems that will continue to drag them down. Successful companies in the market, whether start up or established, must learn about: who the customers are, what the customers’ needs are, and how to design for those needs.

What are your thoughts on 2019 UX trends? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post is part six 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 that provided an overview of focus areas for AI to be successful ,  Part 3 that dug further into the concept of context in AI, Part 4 that proposed UX design principles for robot design, and Part 5  that highlighted Africa’s role in building next gen fintech

 

A Bold year to remember!

A Bold year to remember!

Bold Insight started out small, much like my former company 20 years earlier, User Centric, where a few set off with lofty ideas and a plan. But this time, we are smarter. We learned from the growing pains, the corporate red tape, and how to run a business better to ultimately benefit our clients. A year has passed and Bold Insight has emerged into so much more than anyone could have dreamed.

We set the bar high with an adjective that would guide us both individually and collectively to be BOLD. As UX researchers, our brains tell us to be thoughtful and calculated. But our hearts scream for us to be courageous.

Courageous by being a committed and curious research partner that cares about product success as much as our clients do, and to consistently provide the insight needed to create safer and more efficient, effective, and engaging experiences.

Courageous by nurturing a fun, supportive, and dynamic work environment that imparts cultural values of empowerment, resourcefulness, and ingenuity; to reward dedication and initiative with opportunities to share in the success of the business. That’s what being an employee-owned business is all about.

Courageous by giving back to the community through our commitment to philanthropy and investment in advancing our field. In 2018, we supported undergrads and graduate students studying human-computer interaction (HCI), organized a company team for a charity 5K, and hosted two networking events (Chips for Charity) that resulted in donations to 20 charities and look forward to more in 2019.

In a short year, we have surpassed our goals. We have grown from two to 30 in what seems like a heartbeat. With that growth comes office expansion. We are so excited about two brand new offices in 2019. Built from the ground up, our goal is to make these spaces uniquely “Bold Insight” to reflect our company culture. Our Chicago Loop location will open in January 2019 and our new headquarters, designed around the employee experience, will open in March 2019 in Downers Grove, IL (Chicago suburb).

In the last year, we have also expanded our international network through global funding. With partner locations in Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, we are poised to support global projects effectively and efficiently.

What a year this has been! Bring it on 2019! We are excited for it to begin!

UX and sustainability: What is our role as researchers?

UX and sustainability: What is our role as researchers?

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BOLD INSIGHT

As UX researchers and designers, we should consider the entire product lifecycle, including disposal. If possible, also thinking ahead to future product iterations and how product replacement will be handled.

Earlier this year, I was a part of a formative study for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to investigate patients’ opinions about a new liquid medication delivery device. It was a daily dose that came in one-time-use bottles made of plastic, meaning patients would have to dispose of approximately 30 bottles per month. One of the unexpected insights we gathered from this study was that participants were highly concerned about the waste involved and almost unanimously voiced the desire for the bottle to be reusable, recyclable, or smaller at the very least.

This is an interesting first-hand example of sustainability becoming a factor in user experience (UX). Users often want the latest technology, not only because the capabilities of new devices are helpful in critical ways, but also because our society sees newness as fashionable. And design is often structured around that concept. For example, new software often can’t be run on old devices, requiring the purchase of new hardware – and resulting in a continuous cycle of disposal. This frequent disposal of goods has a significant impact on the environment, and technology may have further environmental effects in the form of energy-demanding websites and electronic waste. So how do we as UX professionals consider the needs and desires of users while also factoring in the broader human value of environmental sustainability? Should that be part of our responsibility?

Design with sustainability in mind from day one

Some experts, including the reputable Don Norman, suggest that designers should consider the full life-cycle of a product as they build it, with the end goal of creating well-cared-for systems. This kind of design not only has a positive impact on the environment, but it can often ultimately improve the user experience (as noted in the example above) and therefore contribute to commercial success.

There are some actionable ways that sustainability can be included in design. For one, product innovators and designers can think ahead to the disposal of the product. How will users get rid of the product when they no longer need or want it? Furthermore, does the invention of this product displace an older model, and what impact will the disposal of the older version have on the consumer? On the environment? Considering these concepts early in the innovation cycle means avoiding greater problems later down the line.

Adding options to reduce waste

On the other end, designers can also look at the ramifications of behavior induced by a certain product or system. For example, food delivery apps might promote waste because of the large amount of plastic and packaging that are often inherently involved in the process. Building in options that provide the user opportunities to reduce waste or save energy is a simple way that designers can promote sustainability and allow users to make more informed decisions about their consumption, which at least for some users, elevates their overall experience with a product.

As UX researchers, we are responsible for investigating what is important to users in order to improve their overall experience with products and services. But humans are complex, and their desires are not always straightforward. Sometimes, the insights we uncover remind us that technology does not exist in a bubble, it exists in societies with values and norms (like concern for the environment). What are some other ways UX professionals might be able to address the intersection between sustainability and design?

Four things to keep in mind when conducting on-the-road UX research

Four things to keep in mind when conducting on-the-road UX research

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BOLD INSIGHT

To successfully execute on-the-road driver experience research, it’s important to account for factors unique to the driving environment, such as the route or geographic location.

There are many facets of the technological renaissance currently underway in the automotive industry. Development in areas such as infotainment, connectivity, and autonomous driving are fundamentally altering the in-car experience; the extent to which these developments are implemented successfully hinges in part on informing their design with a thorough assessment of impacts to that experience. While it is possible to test vehicle systems in a parked car or on a closed track, neither will fully simulate the experience of driving on the road. Conducting UX research on the open road allows stakeholders to test product or system performance in dynamic conditions that match those faced by drivers every day.

There are several factors UX researchers must consider before conducting an on-the-road study, and by thinking ahead, researchers can ensure they will capture the richest data possible. As is the case with any simulated-use research, many of these factors bubble up to understanding the importance of context of use. That being said, there are some unique considerations for the driving environment so here are four things to keep in mind when conducting on-the-road UX research:

1. Know your route

Just as we (UX researchers) know the products and systems we are researching inside and out, when conducting on-the-road UX research we should also know the test routes and roads equally well. To do this, drive the route multiple times prior to your research. Become aware of how the route drives at different times of day to account for variables such as street parking. Make note of detours and alternative routes in case drivers are unexpectedly diverted from the original plan during your research. If the product or system of interest is meant to be used on the highway, plan a route that goes on the highway. If it’s meant to be used on rough roads, seek out a road with potholes, speedbumps, or rough patches. This will result in a more realistic simulation and ultimately in richer data. Aside from accounting for these factors when planning routes, becoming comfortable with the routes beforehand ensures the research team can focus more on observing behavior and interaction and less on getting research participants from point A to point B.

2. Time of day can impact driver experience

The time of day during which on-the-road UX research is conducted can considerably impact the context of use for in-vehicle systems. When conducting a highway road test in metropolitan areas, research conducted during evening rush hour versus earlier in the day may result in fundamentally different experiences. One driver may experience bumper to bumper traffic, while the other may be able to speed down a relatively open highway. The amount of cognitive bandwidth available to devote to interaction with onboard systems can vary greatly depending on external environmental factors such as traffic, and it is important to account for this variation and how it could impact the driver experience.

3. Location, location, location

Depending on how the system is meant to be used, some regions will be better than others in which to conduct the on-the-road research. If the system is meant to be used over rolling hills, Southern California could be an ideal test site. If the system is meant to be used in snow, testing in Chicago in December could be ideal. The vehicle category should also play a role in selecting an appropriate test site. A system only available in luxury vehicles should be tested in more affluent locations where sales of luxury vehicles are higher, thereby making recruitment of research participants easier. This is where you utilize the expertise of your recruiters to ensure it’s possible to locate the desired population.

4. Focus participants on the stimuli

While this is a standard expectation for any research study, during on-the-road studies, keeping participants focused on the vehicle systems being tested can be particularly challenging. Participants’ attention can be pulled in several directions, from systems inside the vehicle to road distractions. If participants are meant to provide feedback on the experience of the infotainment system, it doesn’t help if they discuss the seat warmers or the slick roads. Conducting in-vehicle UX research on the open road can yield great insights to operational context of use, but it does come at a cost. It can be difficult for research participants to separate out the individual aspects of the in-car experience when providing qualitative feedback, so it is essential that researchers specify and clarify the elements for which feedback is relevant. Something as simple as mentioning the system being tested in follow-up questions can help keep participants focused on appropriate parts of the vehicle during their session.

In summary, context of use is key and the above are just a few examples of elements that are important to account for in a driving environment. Whether the artifact of interest is the infotainment system, or a mechanical system intended to improve the quality of the ride, it is essential to understand the context in which the system will be used so that context can be replicated in your research. Will the system be used while parked? On the highway? When going off-road? When research objectives include obtaining any sort of understanding around how a system will be used in operational context, researchers must attempt to replicate the road, traffic, and route conditions in which the system will be used.

There will always be factors we cannot control, like weather or other drivers. However, planning ahead and thinking through the points outlined above will enable researchers to get the most out of on-the-road UX research and obtain the valuable insights needed to develop best-in-class in-vehicle experiences.

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