Wearable Technology: The Future of Usability?

 

Wearable Technology

What a world we live in! Not only can we contact anyone from anywhere in the world, we can now do it from our glasses and watches! Since Gradinar Razvan wrote his article, Designing a User Experience for Wearable Devices, the technology for wearable gadgets has been growing by leaps and bounds. The devices of two years ago are no longer the devices of today. While tech glasses were still in existence back then, consumers expressed their disinterest in Google Glasses and barely a hint is heard about it today. Watches, on the other hand, are now a major portion of both Apple and Samsung’s sales. Both of these two major technology firms have come out with multiple versions of their watch. By abiding by Razvan 3 Keys, Apple and Samsung have adopted various colors and schemes to keep it both fashionable and wearable as an accessory, as well as functional so that it saves the user the extra step of taking out their phone.

In his article, Razvan brings up many good points and offers insights into how the future for wearables would turn out. Considering his article was written two years ago, it is clear that his recommended 3 Keys for designing wearable devices have been followed:

  1. Devices should be usable: When dealing with the small screen on a watch a well thought-out and simple U.I. is needed so that an immediate grasp of information is possible and users can figure out what they are doing while multi-tasking (e.g. when going for a run).
  2. Make sure that anyone of any age can figure out how to use the device: The technology must be accessible to everyone and easily understandable. The problem with the earlier generations and models was their complexity resulting in many users “dropping” the device. By losing users quickly you don’t allow the technology to grow (i.e. what happened to Google Glasses: https://virtualrealitypop.com/what-the-hell-happened-to-google-glass-eff123b96dd).
  3. Make devices accessories: The user needs to want to wear the watch and use it for dual purposes – for a mobile device but also for a fashion statement. Users don’t want a clunky ugly thing on their hand; the device should be pretty and nice while at the same time carrying out all its intended functions.

Razvan makes an interesting assessment: “We can assume that the typical user is in their twenties or thirties with an above-average income. They are open-minded early adopters…. This means that there are very few restrictions related to how advanced the user interaction (UI) can be.” Bernard Marr corroborates his numbers in this Forbes article citing that almost 50% of users are 18 to 34 and all the tests show that most users are early adopters of technology. However, once the technology is out there for more years and moves past the beta stages it will be adopted by older groups (aka those that are slower to adopt). Therefore, the complexity of the interaction, like Razvan says, needs to be advanced enough to attract the experienced professional, yet simple enough that anyone regardless of age or technological proficiency can use it.

Design Critique: Seamless Website (seamless.com)

Figure 1: Screen Shot of Seamless.com

 

Seamless, an online food delivery website, allows you to order from over 12,000 restaurants that use their services to deliver food direct to your doorstep. The mission of the website is to cut contact between the user and the restaurant that often causes much aggravation. The website revolves around the user by attempting to be as human-centered as possible. The main attributes of this website (seamless.com) is searchability/ finding the website, ordering/ navigation and design. The digital interface of the Seamless website has mostly positive and some negative Norman elements. Using Norman principles, I will critique Seamless.com, but on a whole congratulate them on a job well done.

Figure 2: Screen Shot of Google Search “food delivery”

 

On a whole, Seamless.com is a pretty well designed and thought out website. It has searchability- when searching for food delivery, Seamless is listed as a top search result on Google making discovering the website quite simple. It’s simplistic navigation style and clear instructions displayed throughout the website, makes the ordering process easy to use. However, there are some faults in the system in regards to user clickability and having icons that look like signifiers but don’t afford clicking.

Key to its success in findability is the promotion of its website which therefore promotes searchability by paying for the top spot in the Google search platform (Figure 1). The website has easy to follow instructions: where they put “knowledge in the world.” Using labels on controls and offering a map of the website shows positive discoverability.

Figure 3: Screen Shot of Seamless.com Search Bar

 

Figure 3 shows the ease with which the website lets us search either by address or zip code, or searching by the type of food and/ or name of restaurant.

Figure 4: Screen Shot of Seamless.com Menu Search

 

The design of the navigational system makes the ordering of food simple through a series of quick steps in the center of the website: input of location, type of cuisine, input filters (i.e. ratings, price, delivery/ pickup…), choosing restaurant and once inside- choosing food items from the menu (figure 4). It also uses natural mappings (i.e. where clicking on a name or object does that action). Because all the instructions are on the screen, there is no need to use any knowledge in the head and therefore there will be no gulf of execution. However, the website has some faults when it comes to the signifiers on their main menu where the icon (Figures 5 & 6) seems for clicking but is not clickable. According to Norman, this can be fixed by either removing the icon that would then lessen the websites discoverability or by making it able to be clicked and doing the desired action that the icon suggests.

Figure 5: Screen Shot of Menu that seems clickable but isn’t

Figure 6: Screen Shot of Menu That Seems Clickable But Isn’t

 

The design of the website itself, makes the website very appealing and gives positive feedback when something is clicked on or a filter is added. For instance, when clicking on a restaurant there is a swirling design or when adding a filter the screen turns grey so no other action can be performed (as seen in Figure 7). Additionally, on the main page the website is broken into different levels of Seamless website usability: The top is the main use of the website for searching for restaurants; underneath in bright yellow is an advertisement for their apps on Androids and iPhones; below it the user can find instructions of how to Seamless; and so on and so forth with each level having a designated color containing different content.

Figure 7: Screen Shot of After-Click Feedback

 

The seamless.com website is designed so that users can order food without having the hassle of dealing with restaurants (getting the wrong item or something being bad) and tries to make the process simple and quick. It is my opinion that Seamless.com on a whole accomplishes this according to most of Normans principles and the ones that don’t can be chalked up to “not every website is perfect.”