A framework for designing a better user onboarding experience

After weeks of brainstorming, sketching, designing, and arduous development, your app’s ready to launch. Your team’s enthusiasm is through the roof.

This is the moment of truth: Will the app be successful?

User onboarding has so much to do with an app’s success—really, it can make or break it. Done right, it’ll result in people coming back to use the app again and again.

Great user onboarding feels effortless, demonstrates value, and bridges the gap between users’ expectations and what the product can help them achieve.

Related: 5 key lessons for successful user onboarding


Distilling the experiences we’ve had building apps here at tapptitude, we’ve come up with a straightforward framework called instruction-action to better understand and design effective user onboarding flows for mobile products.

“A great user onboarding flow feels effortless and demonstrates value.”

The instruction-action framework is based on strategically playing with the 2 building blocks of the user onboarding process:

  1. Instruction elements
  2. Action elements

Instruction elements

Instruction elements are your best friends. Be it annotations, modals, or any other bits of copy, use instruction elements to efficiently communicate to the user how to use the app so they can discover its core value.

Some of the most popular instruction elements:

  • Splash screen
  • Welcome screens (with benefits or features)
  • Annotations
  • Permissions
  • Explanatory modals 

People won’t come back to use your app a second time if they don’t immediately understand how to get the most out of it.


Action elements 

Nir Eyal’s Hook model says the actions someone takes in a product are triggered by carefully designed persuasion elements. Ideally, such elements are a combination of motivational and instructional content so that the user has the reasons to perform a task and also knows how to do so.

“Users need to immediately understand how to get the most out of your app.”

When it comes to action elements, think of strategic design elements: clear calls to action and suitable visuals that act as a trigger for the user. The smallest arrow can have a big impact. Signal to the user that they’re on the right track. Instead of guessing whether they should click or swipe, the user will feel encouraged to take action.

Examples of action elements:

  • Sign in
  • Sign up
  • Allow access
  • Actionable tool tip


In any given user onboarding process, instruction elements and action elements work together to lead the user where they can experience the product’s value. How you combine these 2 types of elements depends on the purpose of the screens and the overall logic of the onboarding process.

Some typical examples of purposes app screens could have:

  • Browse through the primary features of the app
  • Present best practices within the app
  • Collect basic user account information in order to set up the app, tailored to the person using it
  • Explain a feature while allowing the user to experience it at the same time; useful and fun
  • Upsell your app’s capabilities: show people the app’s capabilities and offer a glimpse of what more it could do with just a little financial support on their behalf

“Make your app’s core value obvious every chance you get.”

Now it’s time to assess how to work with instruction and action elements.

Sometimes people don’t discover an app’s core value the first time they use it. So it’s the responsibility of the user onboarding process to get that person back on track and into the conversion flow. 

Based on this premise, we realized that we’ve got 2 major areas where onboarding happens: outside product and inside product

Outside-product onboarding

What are the chances of someone downloading and using your app without gathering the least bit of information about the product and believing in its promise?

Close to zero.

User onboarding ends with the user experiencing their ‘aha’ moment. But it all starts with their first encounter with the product, or what we like to call outside-product onboarding. And that usually happens long before using the product itself—on social media, the product’s website, or in the App Store. During these first encounters, the user establishes their expectations about the product and jumps inside the first phase of your conversion flow. 

And this is just step 1 of outside-product user onboarding. 

Think about Deliveroo’s App Store screens. Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted from a food delivery app? They’re spot on in presenting the benefits of the app.

Think about Deliveroo’s App Store screens. Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted from a food delivery app? They’re spot on in presenting the benefits of the app.

Say you’ve convinced someone to download your app, and then they open the app for the very first time. What will this experience entail?

This is where step 2 of outside-product user onboarding takes place. 

You could use a few instruction elements (nice visuals and bits of copy) and action elements to get the user inside the app. Show the user the most compelling benefits of your app in a few nicely designed screens, and encourage them every step of the way to try it out for themselves.

Related: Copywriting principles that will make new users love you

Another approach: Make it clear to users that sharing information about themselves will be rewarded in the long run. Use instruction elements to make your intentions clear, and action elements to point the user in the right direction. 

If you’ve managed to spike the user’s interest and motivate them to give the app a chance, you can move on to the second major area of mobile user onboarding.

Inside-product onboarding 

Once the user is inside the app, they’ll expect to find everything they’ve been promised in the previous onboarding phase. You don’t want them to get lost, wondering what to do next. So you have to show them where to go. 

Instagram does a great job explaining the benefits of allowing access to photos and the microphone beforehand.

Instagram does a great job explaining the benefits of allowing access to photos and the microphone beforehand.

The focus of the onboarding process should be to guide the user towards the core value proposition of the app. Help them discover how the app can bring an improvement to the way they’ve been doing things up until now, or how much fun the app is. Once this is done, the user will be a lot more open to discover the rest of the app’s features, one at a time. 

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you could guide the user through the core use case of your app.

For a social app, people will expect to be able to contact a friend as soon as possible in order to decide if this product brings anything new to the table. Is the core feature of the product the ability to chat with friends and family, or is the user’s profile equally important? Show the users how to set up a profile with a minimum amount of information, how to add friends (offer the option to import contacts), and enable them to chat freely. Then cross your fingers. 

“A good onboarding flow guides new users towards the app’s core value proposition.”

For a calendar app, it’s all about how well the product organizes the user’s schedule. Allow the user to either import or sync existing calendars and events from other platforms, if they want. Quickly enable the user to get the feel of the product. What’s the design of this calendar? Is the schedule easy to analyze? What kind of customization is available for the different types of events?

For a photo editing app, show the user how effortless the entire process is. Enable them to either pick an image from the camera roll or take a picture on the spot, guide them through the editing process using annotations where necessary, and finally present them with the sharing options. For people working with picture editing apps, a fluent editing journey is as important as the quality of the product.

A good mobile product deserves a solid user onboarding strategy. Don’t limit yourself to the product itself. Start planning by taking a close look at your app’s core value—and make it obvious every chance you get. Be it an ad for the app or an onboarding screen, everything has to make a valuable statement about the product and its capabilities.

Keep reading about onboarding

Sinziana Chitea
Content Marketing Specialist at tapptitude, a native mobile app development agency, where she successfully teases everyone into taking cute pictures for Instagram. Discovering the tech world bit by bit, and writing it all down in the agency’s blog. Enthusiastic about everything visual. And sweets and dogs.

from InVision Blog http://blog.invisionapp.com/user-onboarding-framework/

Un-Abandon My Cart: 5 Ways to Improve Checkout Conversion Rates

A potential customer has spent time exploring your product listing. They’ve looked into your various offerings on a specific product category and added their product of choice to the cart. Then, all of a sudden, poof – the cart has been abandoned. Gold turns into stone.

For e-commerce businesses, shopping cart abandonment may be the most frustrating thing that can happen. In this article, we would like to help you out with combating it by sharing five ways to improve your checkout conversion rate.

But, first things first:

Why do users abandon their carts?

Usabilla defines Shopping Cart Abandonment as “the rising phenomenon of users filling their virtual carts with everything they want, but leaving your site before they complete their purchase.”

There are a lot of reasons why online shoppers decide to discontinue the checkout process. Some reasons are wholly of the discretion of the shoppers, however, some can be attributed to our own wrongdoings.

In Usabilla’s ebook, Combat Shopping Cart Abandonment, customer experience is identified as an integral part of resolving shopping cart abandonment. Sudar explains, “Customer experience (CX) is an emerging trend in the world of business. Although it can be considered a derivative of customer service, it very much stands on its own as a discipline to be valued. Practicing good CX can be a way to alleviate and prevent shopping cart abandonment.”

Since we cannot control the personal decisions that shoppers make, what we can deal with are the factors that would otherwise have them complete the checkout process. The following are the reasons why shoppers are abandoning their carts:

 1. Extra costs are too high

“Business is business,” they always say. And it is true that in order for your business to survive, you will have to make profits, which means intelligently pricing your products. In doing so, you’ll need to consider all expenses related to the sale of a product, including shipping, taxes, fees, and the cost of the good itself. However, what is unwise is making it harder for customers to actually buy your products because of too many extra costs.

2. Registration is needed before checking out

Some shoppers do not appreciate account registration – some don’t have the time, while some just don’t want to share that much information about themselves. So, the hassle of having to create an account before being able to buy is simply causing some shoppers to decide not to continue with the checkout process.

c3v88boorom-bench-accounting (1)

3. The checkout process is complicated

Speaking of the checkout process, cart abandonment also occurs when the checkout process itself is too complex. What is a complicated checkout process? One that asks a customer to fill out too many forms, and provide too much information that isn’t necessary for completing the sale.

4. The total amount is not available upfront

Shoppers tend to turn away from e-commerce sites that do not display the final price at first glance of the product. This triggers a fear in shoppers that they might get overcharged, because why would the price have to be hidden, right?

5. Errors are experienced on the e-commerce site

Another major turn off is website errors. Buttons that cannot be clicked, bookmarked items that return an error instead of being redirected to a similar product page, or worse, the website itself crashes. We suggest that you study e-commerce analytics to determine which pages need optimized or check your favorite webmaster tool for crawl errors and more.

Optimize your checkout

Now you know the five most common reasons for shoppers to abandon their carts. The next question is how to address these in order for your conversion rate to go up. Here are some checkout optimization ideas that would really help in reducing cart abandonment:

1. Optimize product pages

Design your product pages well. Make sure that the photos are of a high quality and that the site is also optimized for mobile. Also make use of product descriptions so that your shoppers know more about the products you are selling.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 11.15.03

2. Try a single-page checkout process

Shorten your checkout process to a single page. Ask only for information that is necessary for the sale to be completed, plus offer the use of “same as billing address” to auto-fill the shipping address.

3. Say goodbye to mandatory sign-up

As it turns off a lot of potential customers, your mandatory sign-up policy must be abolished. Offer sign-up but don’t require it. Instead, allow shoppers to complete the checkout process as a guest, asking only for the necessary information.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 11.05.18

4. Offer free shipping and return

Smart pricing will allow you to offer free shipping and returns to your shoppers. Doing so will not only help prevent cart abandonment but will even help you gain even more sales. Again, price intelligently. Free shipping only works if you would still realize profits.

5. Form optimization

It is necessary for your forms to be optimized, here are three top tips to consider:

i) Google autofill

With the help of Google Autofill, certain forms will be filled automatically. The usual forms that are automatically filled out are those for name, address, and email address.

ii) Think mobile

Again, consider mobile in your optimization initiative. Filling out forms on mobile devices is not as easy as doing so on desktops and laptops. Make sure that textboxes are not too crowded and that autofill is also usable.

iii) Payment (secured payment gateway)

In optimizing payment forms, put security as a priority. Ensure that when you capture payment information (especially debit and credit card numbers), these are encrypted, tokenized, or both. Security should never be taken for granted!

Bonus Tip: Retargeting and abandonment email


Our tips for optimization are sure to help you in addressing your cart abandonment problem. However, we can’t promise 100% conversion rates. In order to deal with those that still abandon their carts, make use of retargeting and email. Give them a reason to continue with their shopping and that this time, they should complete it.

Abandonment email refers to the effort in reaching out to cart abandoners. Basically, an email is sent to a shopper who leaves their cart, usually with a reminder that their shopping cart is pending. There may be offers to make the shopper more interested in the product.

Retargeting, on the other hand, ensures that ads related to the product/s your user left behind will be seen across other websites and platforms. Hopefully, this visual reminder will trigger a purchase decision next time around.

Un-abandon your carts with our optimization tips

The tips above deal directly with factors that can lead to shoppers are abandoning their carts (at least those that we can control). If you follow our optimization ideas, you will surely enjoy higher conversion rates. So, optimize your e-commerce site now and turn it into something that shoppers would regret abandoning.

Shopping Cart Abandonment - Usabilla

The post Un-Abandon My Cart: 5 Ways to Improve Checkout Conversion Rates appeared first on Usabilla Blog.

from Usabilla Blog http://blog.usabilla.com/un-abandon-cart-5-ways-improve-checkout-conversion-rates/

Draw sketches for virtual reality like pro

Virtual reality is a brand new frontier, but there are already tools that cover almost all the steps of creating a new experience (thank you, game industry).

But sketching is so ancient, as we still are using the same tools as ages before, a pencil and a piece of paper. I don’t want to say that it’s so bad. I really like making fast drafts. But VR gives us new boundaries as a comfortable field of view, no frame around, the ability to move your head and so on.

I used to do a lot sketches of only part of the view, or views from different projections (for example front + top). Also, I found this cool template for drafting stories. It is good, but doesn’t reflect how the user will see it. Also, there is the solution for the Sketch App, but I’m an old fashion guy who likes taking the pencil first.

So I tried to use 360 panorama grid to align my sketches to wide angle view. It was looking not very spectacular, till I scanned it and put on my face.

And it is working! So I’ll be glad to share my process step by step:

  1. Upload templates here:

2. Print any of them.

3. Take your pencil and draw. But let me explain what those marks mean:

Each vertical line measures 10° of the angle of view. Each curved line measures the vertical angle of view by 10°.

To start you should remember that in the centre is the front. On the left and right borders is back.

There are two “rectangles” that show the comfortable and maximum field of view by Alex Chu. It is just to be aware of scale, which is not easy catch at the beginning.

4. Scan or take the photo of your art.
Tip: You can draw on Wacom or any other pen tablet as well.

My 10min sketch

5. Crop the image with a ratio of 2:1. Marks on the corners should help to do this.

6. Open in any 360 photos viewer.
On Desktop I’m using GoPro VR Player.
On iPhone, I’m using Street view app by google.
Instruction how to import images. Tip: Don’t forget that your image should have at least 14 megapixels (5,300 by 2,650 pixels) and in JPG format.

7. Voila! You easily have your sketches in virtual reality.

Of course, it is a little bit of a bulky solution, but it’s the fastest way that I have found.

If you have any comments, questions or ideas, just let me know.

P.S. Here is a demo created by Andy Stone using this template.

from Sidebar http://sidebar.io/out?url=https%3A%2F%2Fvirtualrealitypop.com%2Fvr-sketches-56599f99b357%23.7a7r5qfsj

A New Tool to Analyze Medical Records

Health-care companies are collecting more data on patients yet, they are struggling to realize its full value because much of it can’t be analyzed in a traditional database. McKesson Corp., the drug distributor and health-care technology firm, says it is developing a new analytics tool that could help solve that problem for oncologists by using […]

from CIO Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2017/01/25/a-new-tool-to-analyze-medical-records/?mod=WSJBlog

Designing the Internet of Things: 5 Critical Design Principles for IoT

Designing the Internet of Things

5 Critical Design Principles for IoT

Imagining an IoT ecosystem — The old school way!

IoT continues to gain tremendous momentum, and even more organizational interest, to the tune of multi-million dollar investments. Companies like Samsung, Google, Ford, GE, and more have made tremendous organizational shifts, in order to fully understand and contribute markedly to what many are calling the next big technological revolution.

It’s both exciting and surreal. Exciting because of the potential to create intelligent environments. And surreal because many people still don’t know what IoT is, what it means, and why it’s important to them. And it’s this very mystery of IoT that should guide the next wave of IoT experiences.

As IoT continues to enter the mainstream, it needs to elevate beyond the technology, beyond the novelty of simply being connected. The value of IoT products needs to be clearly understood by consumers and seamlessly adapted to their lives.

This is the challenge that all IoT products and/or experiences will need to solve, and why traditional UX/UI designers will play a key role in IoT’s continued evolution. As a developer of UI’s for almost 20 years now, I’ve recently begun shifting my focus towards IoT, beginning to craft some ideas around general design principles.

Here are 5 principles that I believe are critical as we begin to consider the role of digital design in IoT:

from Sidebar http://sidebar.io/out?url=https%3A%2F%2Fiot-for-all.com%2Fthe-iot-design-principles-fe04e635f43a%23.mjayvuz8r

Tobias Frere-Jones: Break Things Deliberately

As one of the world’s leading typeface designers, and this year’s 99U Alva Award winner, Tobias Frere-Jones believes that the best way to learn a new skill is to “break things down deliberately” to understand how it’s really done.   

In this talk, we learn to see the beauty in taking risks. Frere-Jones explains that in order to do our best creative work, we must not just permit moments of confusion, but actually go chase them. “When trying to figure out a problem, pause for minute, and see if you can make it worse,” he says. “A structure can really describe itself as it falls apart.”

Over the past 25 years, Tobias Frere-Jones has created some of the most widely-used typefaces, including Interstate, Poynter Oldstyle, Whitney, Gotham, Surveyor, Tungsten, and Retina.

Tobias received a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992. He joined the faculty of the Yale University School of Art in 1996 and has lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. His work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2006, The Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague awarded him the Gerrit Noordzij Prijs for his contributions to typographic design, writing, and education. In 2013 he received the AIGA Medal in recognition of exceptional achievements in the field of design.

As a typeface designer, I get a lot of questions about– about the work that I do. When I describe what– what I do for a living, this can be one of the responses. [LAUGHTER] And taken a little further, you’ll get to the– sort of the classic question that typefaces– that every typeface designer gets, which is why make more typefaces? Aren’t there enough already? And I used to hate this question, because it always sounded like someone saying to me, like, you exist? But what’s up with that? [LAUGHTER] But– but I actually welcome this question now, because it’s an opportunity to explain what I do and advocate for its value. And I think it’s also– I think it’s also a powerful thing to present the mission statement of your career, as we say it out loud, in your own voice, to hear yourself saying that. It sort of helps keep you grounded that way.

But as I think of it, typeface design stands at this curious intersection of culture, and language, and technology. And any one of these can present a new problem or a new challenge. But certainly, when they start combining with each other, then there will be new problems to confront with culture, and technology, or technology and language. These can turn into problems to solve.

So while typeface designs can be artistic expressions, and they can be cultural artifacts, if they are fully realized and properly executed, they’ll be the solution to a problem. That’s how I think of it. And I think that’s– that makes it more interesting, I think. Also, it makes it more difficult, but thankfully, I have an affection for things that are difficult. So typefaces are solutions. And we need them, because we keep having new problems. So that’s how I’ve come to– come to think about it. How I’ve– that’s my answer for that– that perennial question. So it means that I spend– I spend a lot of time thinking about where I’ll find these answers for whatever challenge is at hand, and then figure out how to turn that answer into Serifs and Excites, and Bolds, and the rest of all that. So to– so to understand the– sort of the way I go about this, I’ll have to go back to my sort of previous life as a painter.

This is what I used to do before I was– I was a typeface designer. And in the way that I approached painting, questions and answers exist independently of each other. They don’t rely on one another. It’s possible to find an answer before you actually know what the question is. And in the kind of painting that I did, there was no explicit problem to solve. There just was sort of the generalized challenge of creating an atmosphere, or taking some state of mind and– and making that visible. But that idea of finding the answers before you know what the questions are, I’ve always– it’s something that I found really valuable, and something that I’ve kept with me, as I moved into type design, and it’s– it’s implication is that you have to collect everything– ideas, objects, anecdotes– and trust that these things will be useful at some point, if not today, then perhaps tomorrow. It also means that you will probably end up with a storage space full of junk. [LAUGHTER] Actually, I have two, come to think of it. But you become a kind of pack rat. And I don’t know. That’s– that’s– you’ll see how this– what this turns into.

While I was at college, I had decided that type design was the field that I would go into, but discovered that there was no organized instruction in this particular field. So I had to– it was up to me to work this out for myself. And the process of reading is a really complicated one, if you think about this for a moment. If I– I can make a set of marks and declare that each one of these has some phonetic value, then pass them on to someone else who will organize them into some sequence, these things will get passed onto someone else who will unpack these forms, hopefully agree with the declaration that I’ve made, and receive the content of some third party, hopefully, without any kind of distortion along the way. This is a really complicated process. And I thought that if I aspire to shape some part of this process, I really ought to know how each part of this– this string, this contraption, works.

So how I am I going to do that if I’m not really getting any help and I’m on my own here? So I devised a sort of plan for self education. It’s something I sort of instinctively done for years. And in this case, my plan centered on breaking stuff. I was absolutely the kid who would take the– the radio, or the alarm clock, and take it apart and see how it works. I liked to have the batteries in and the whole thing turned on while I was doing it, so that I could find out when the radio would go silent, when I pulled out this wire, or undid this bolt, because that’s how I would learn something. That’s where sort of the real lesson would come from. And I’ve always thought that there is something really informative in watching something break or collapse, that a structure can be– can describe itself really eloquently as it falls apart.

So if I wanted to learn about reading, what would happen if I tried breaking this process in some way?

So on my own I created a series of typefaces that had the explicit aim of throwing wrenches into the works of the process of reading, very deliberately and with a specific target to see how exactly things would screw up. One would focus on taking some central assumption about how text is meant to work, like one letter ends before the next one begins. What happens if that’s not the case? What happens if you pull that bolt out? Will things keep working? Another focused on the idea of ingredients and recipe. So what would happen if you had all of the things that you need to recognize these letters accurately, but then did a little bit of rearrangement? What would happen?

As it turns out, it kind of messes with your head, at least it messed with my head. But there is one experiment that began when a couple friends of mine mailed me a flyer that– that someone had handed them on the street. This is not it. It’s– it’s lost, or it’s buried in some storage space somewhere. But it looked roughly like this. And they sent it to me with this sort of joking dare to try to make a typeface out of this– this blobby mess of a thing. And I actually took it seriously, because I saw on this a really great way to break the alphabet. This is one I hadn’t thought of before. So I made a typeface called Chain Letter out of this– this photocopied flyer that had been copied over and over again. And what I– I thought it was fascinating is at the shapes had become so distorted, that the very identity of them were starting to fade as well. So this is the Aegean Sea, cap G and cap C.

But there’s barely a line between these two shapes now, because so many things have decayed and fallen away. There is a tiny bit of a hint of a crossbar, or I should say, a tiny hint of something, which might be interpreted as a crossbar, in which case you can conclude that this says hi. Or you could skip over that and conclude this is the Roman numeral three. What would happen with that kind of ambiguity? Would our experience as readers be able to step in and figure out, that this is an m with a whole in it, or that these are just two shapes that have nothing to do with each other? Later I took this idea a little bit further and started making some– some pen and ink sketches, in this deliberately sort of sprawling, sloppy style, being deliberately vague about the letters that I was drawing. And the– the endpoint for this was this typeface called Sum of the Parts. And the challenge here, or the goal here, sometimes I’m tempted to call it the sort of the punchline, is that there appear to be 26 letters here. But they’re actually only 11. And each one serves to represent at least two, sometimes three other letters of the alphabet.

So– and the question here would be what– how much could context and experience– how much slack could those pull up if the individuality of each letter has been completely shut down?

And it turns out– they can pull up some of the slack, not completely, but it’s still an important lesson to– to think about. But throughout all this, I was just collecting answers, just wagering that at some point in the future I would find some question that looked sort of like this, and be able to apply it. So even the ones that– the experiments that– that blew up, became completely illegible, like this one. They were informative in their own particular way. The lesson here is don’t do this. [LAUGHTER] It doesn’t work. But it was still valuable. I wasn’t getting paid. I wasn’t– I was out of school by this point. I wasn’t getting college credit for any of this stuff. But this still– you know– I was still acting like a pack rat, collecting all the stuff and saving it somewhere.

So if we fast forward several years, and I’m all grown up, or at least I present reasonably well as a grown up, and I’ve got clients. “The Wall Street Journal” was getting redesigned, top to bottom. And with their external consultants, they decided that the stock listings section of the newspaper needed to be redone. The whole thing needed to be pulled apart and put back together again. And they needed a new typeface for their stock listings. Now the newspapers are a hostile environment for typography, for all kinds of– for physical reasons and operational reasons. Because the paper is cheap. The ink tends to be kind of thin. The press is moving really fast. Space is literally at a premium. So everything is working against clarity and beauty. But on the stock page, I realized that it actually gets even worse, because the content there isn’t even language. [LAUGHTER] This is what the stock– this is the kind of stuff you’ll find on a stock page. And normally, if you’re reading a story anywhere else in the paper, and one letter is a bit vague, so a bit of ink smear, your experience as a reader can fill that in, and sort of your experience and can step in as a judge and resolve the ambiguity. That’s not going to work here. Because any sequence of letters and numbers, cap and lowercase, any of this isn’t going to look plausible. So your experience is not really going to help you out here.

So I thought that something kind of radical was needed in the face of such a tall order. And at this point, I remembered a– an anecdote, one of these things I had collected and stored away somewhere. And it was about– it was about a filmmaker from years past. And in his class, at whatever university it was, he liked to show his students really lousy films as well as really good ones. And the idea, as I understood it, was that if you just look at really good work, you’ll learn how to make good films, but only in the way that that person had done it. If you look at work– at work that’s crap, and talk about how it went wrong, and what else could have been done, you get the same kind of knowledge, but without that sort of built in preference. You get the insight without the bias. And I thought it was a really fascinating idea. It stuck in my head for a really long time. I believe the filmmaker was Fritz Lang, though I was– I haven’t been able to confirm that. It’s possible I’m getting that wrong. It’s also possible that I just made the entire thing up. But either way, it– this seemed like an idea worth remembering and considering. This came to mind again while I was thinking about what “The Wall Street Journal” needed, and this very severe problem they had, and realized that in this– this idea of what I was thinking of as the inverted negative, I already had half of this work done from way back when in my, you know, just barely out of adolescent years, when I’d stay up late at night figuring out ways to break the alphabet. I had a kind of reverse blueprint of how to take on this really serious problem of legibility and environment.

So what would happen if I took those old experiments, like Chain Letter, and Sum of the Parts, and turn them upside down, and did the exact opposite of what I did there? What would happen? So what I came out with in this design, that ended up being called Retina, I created a strategy where every– I identify in every letter a feature that happens there and nowhere else. And so in the case of the capital B, I decided that was the triangular white space on the right exterior where the two curves meet. So that part of– of the shape, is blown up as big as possible, and the rest of the letter just follows along however it needs to. And following on– on the sort of the Sum of the Parts model and turning it upside down, where there are shapes that had a kind of structural sympathy with one another, they were pushed as far away from each other as possible. So the profile of the E is sort of vertical as I can get it. And the profile of the F is diagonal as possible. All this had to– had to get added up with these big chunky notches taken out of intersections, to accommodate and sort of to anticipate, the ink spread that would happen on press. So– so this is what– what this turned into in the end, a much larger family, but this is one– the sort of core of what Retina looks like. This is one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever done. I meant to say that before. But one of the really fun parts of this was subjecting these forms to various forms of duress.

Trying to break this, and seeing what happens, and putting it side by side with Helvetica Light Condensed, which is what the “Journal” had been using before, and trying to see what would happen if someone’s vision were not quite up to– you know– were not quite 20/20, which as it turns out, is actually the prime readership of the stock page– [LAUGHTER] –of the Journal. Because the people who were doing this professionally are getting their quotes online. The only people who are getting their stock prices out of the paper are retirees. So it actually got worse. But it was amazing to see how fragile Helvetica can be. I will resist the temptation to go off on this rant about Helvetica. It does not deserve the reputation that it has, whatever. I’m not going there. Don’t worry about it. [LAUGHTER]

But a– a large part of– or this– potential for confusion between shapes was particularly urgent with the numbers. Because this forms a– you know– something like half of the content of a stock page, and there were four numbers in Helvetica. And the 3, the 6, the 8 and the 9 that are just one smudge away from being mistaken for one another. And again, we’re not going to be able to rely on our experience in our content to figure out that something’s wrong. So the numbers in the Retina push all these shapes as far away from each other as possible, so that they are as durable as possible, and as immovable as– if I could ever make them that way. So in the end, the paper was able to get 11% more text on the page. And I did the math about the– you know– how much paper “The Wall Street Journal” was saving, and you know, how many issues in a day, how many copies in a year, and how many trees that added up to. And I felt pretty great about myself, but then discovered that the paper was using that opportunity to just sell more ad space. [LAUGHTER] So I don’t know. I did my part. But– but the best part– the best comment about this design came out of one of the focus groups, where a retired stockbroker, someone who’s 80 years old, looked at this new format for the paper and said, I don’t know what you did, but I don’t need my glasses anymore to read the prices in the paper. It was one of the best things I’ve ever heard about anything I’ve ever done. But the– so the theme through all of this– that we’ve been talking about– is self- education. And it’s always been an important part of my life whether I’ve realized it or not.

And if I have any advice to offer, it’s to not just– you know– permit these moments of disorientation, or confusion. But actually go chase them. If you’re trying to figure out how to solve a problem, pause for a moment and think about how you can make it worse. Try to break this thing. And then walk into that tremendous mess that you’ve made, and with all of your senses on, all of your imagination turned up. Because you can find something pretty amazing in all that mess, in all that wreckage.

Thank you.

from 99U99U http://99u.com/videos/53989/tobias-frere-jones-break-things-deliberately/

Using Card Sorting to Create Stronger Information Architectures

By Jitesh Jaidev Jumani

Card sorting is an information-architecture technique that enables a group of subject-matter experts or users to either

  • provide input to the definition of a new information architecture for a Web site or application
  • evaluate and provide feedback on a Web site’s or application’s existing information architecture

During a typical card-sorting exercise, participants organize a set of cards comprising navigation items for a particular context into categories or groups that seem logical to them. Participants can name these groups and, thus, create a folksonomy, or user-defined taxonomy. Read More

from UXmatters http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2017/01/using-card-sorting-to-create-stronger-information-architectures.php

How Blockchain is overshadowing Bitcoin

Steve Jobs once said that “the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”. That’s the motto an anonymous person* took to heart as he shook up the financial world by creating an unregulated tech-based currency in early 2009. That very currency was developed using another revolutionary technology which is now in the news for its uses beyond trading unregulated online money, and has become a hot topic amongst financial and business executives recently.

Let’s discuss what both technologies offer their users, and what the future holds for each.

Bitcoin’s introduction

“This event was off the charts”

Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, created and held electronically on your PC or in a virtual wallet. No one controls it or sees it – it’s decentralized so no person, institution or bank controls the currency.

It was the year 2009 when bitcoin burst onto the financial scene, and soon computers all over the world started running sophisticated programs that would mine blocks of bitcoins by solving extremely complex mathematical equations. Mining bitcoin means to discover or verify new bitcoins because unlike traditional currency, bitcoin cannot be printed. Miners make money every time they discover new bitcoins or verify a bitcoin transaction.

There can only be a fixed 21 million bitcoins [to prevent inflation], out of which 15.5 million are currently in circulation, which leaves 5.5 million bitcoins to be discovered. These valued blocks of online information skyrocketed in price as time went on and investor appeal in the new technology grew. Today, January 19th, bitcoin is showing an upwards trend and is trading at US $890.90, below the US $1000 threshold it broke in November 2013.

Figure 1 Bitcoin price between July 2010 and Jan 2017. Source: Coindesk

Trading could be done online – anonymously, quickly, without hassle from regulatory and exchange bodies. The ease of use and lack of a trail led to flexibility unheard of in the financial world. But for all its benefits, the currency was overshadowed because of its anonymous, unregulated nature as it became easy for people to use the currency for illicit transactions that would stay off the books, as well as for schemes that swindled people.

Coinbase has been one of the biggest proponents and enablers of bitcoin use. In an era where most traditional financial institutions avoid bitcoin discussions, the company sticks vehemently to its stand on bitcoin, likening the resistance of business executives to bitcoin to how companies once preferred private intranets over the open internet. We all know who won that battle!

The Blockchain

While bitcoin had the power to make transactions untraceable, it was another innovation that promised to make every transaction transparent and permanent. Underlying the use of bitcoin is blockchain, which is almost entirely opposite its more famous alter-ego. Blockchain possesses the ability of having permanent records of the transactions the blocks (the name for their portions of value) are used for, and at any time people can see those changes online in real time. It is this transparency that people have hopes in, but that’s not the only thing blockchain does differently than the cryptocurrency it drove for so long.

Blockchain can easily transfer everything from property rights to stocks and currencies without having to go through a middle man and clearing institution like SWIFT, while offering the same safety, higher speed and lower costs. Consider it from the financial perspective: billions of dollars are transferred daily in the financial markets, with every transaction being “cleared” by a middle man. Replacing the middle man with a revolutionary technology that is faster, cheaper and as secure will help save millions for businesses.

To put into perspective just how big the market is now and how big it will become, the World Economic Forum shared some metrics on Bitcoin and Blockchain. It estimates that currently $20 billion dollars’ worth of Bitcoin exists now on record. The bigger prediction, though, was that by 2027 about 10 percent of the entire global GDP would be stored on blockchains, meaning anyone who wanted to become part of that process still has time to get a piece of the pie.

Banking allies

Because of its “cleaner” reputation than bitcoin, blockchain has garnered the support of different financial institutions behind its design. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Bank of America have expressed great interest in blockchain by joining a coalition to implement it into banking practices. In addition to those large financial players, Visa, NASDAQ, Citi, and others have also agreed to be clients for blockchain related services and technology. These large, long established institutions feel that blockchain has less of a negative image attached to it than bitcoin, and because of that they seem more open to trying out the technology.

The rush towards blockchain is simple: banks can increase the efficiency of their transactions by using their own permissioned blockchains to record all transactions done by their customers, as opposed to trying to record all that data with different types of software that become outdated every few years.

However, some experts like Don Tapscott [University of Toronto] think that banks should be using blockchain technology not just to increase their banking capabilities, but to completely change how banking computing looks like for the entire industry.

Indeed, outside of traditional banking, blockchain services have allowed users to engage in high value currency transactions already. The processing times on these transactions are very quick, and allow for a high volume of money to be exchanged and recorded.

Bitcoin startups and their evolving strategies

Major bitcoin players include names such as Bitreserve and Circle.

Bitreserve serves as an online portal to convert currency from one form to another. In the beginning, users had to deposit their currency in bitcoin form, and could then convert their bitcoin into 25 other world currencies or four different types of valuable metals. Circle at first only allowed use of its transfer services – amazingly quick money transfers to anyone, anywhere – to be done in bitcoin money, including the process of depositing, holding, and sending of currency.

Many of the companies who started off using bitcoin as their main currency are changing to focus on blockchain as a whole. Bitreserve changed its name to Uphold and has since allowed depositing of currency in any form, and Circle has changed to allow use of credit and debit cards to be used for deposit, holding, and sending of money worldwide.

Many startups that were created with a focus on bitcoin are changing to accommodate alternative currencies and to let others know that they are not nearly as bitcoin dependent as before for what seems to be a similar reason to the one banks use: that bitcoin has a negative connotation to it, and since blockchain is the hot commodity now, it seems like a smarter idea to tie the business to that. They hope that, as more businesses and users adopt the blockchain technology, their use of it will also allow them to gain in popularity and use.

What it means for businesses

For players in the financial sector, the best thing to do right now would be to seriously consider the advantages of blockchain. While bitcoin is the most top of mind for the general public, blockchain is attracting the biggest forces in the finance sector with its clean reputation. More than that, blockchain offers the opportunity to revitalize modern value transactions as we know it, and those who get their stakes in before that happens will have the best chance to shape what happens after. It’s business management 101: first-mover advantage!

Is it crazy to change course of your company to try something so new, something so different from what you have has been accustomed to. Maybe so. But as Steve Jobs very rightly noted when thinking about changing the world, financial or otherwise – it’s usually the crazy ones who do.

from The Next Web http://thenextweb.com/business/2017/01/23/blockchain-overshadowing-bitcoin/

Kroger Tests Sensors, Analytics In Interactive Grocery Shelves

Kroger Co., the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., is testing sensors and analytics technology to let shelves and products interact with shoppers walking the grocery aisles. The system, which detects individual shoppers through their mobile devices, can offer tailored pricing on specific items and, through 4-inch color display screens, highlight products on the customer’s […]

from CIO Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2017/01/20/kroger-tests-sensors-analytics-in-interactive-grocery-shelves/?mod=WSJBlog