Tag Archives: ux

Il problema del numero civico nelle app di navigazione

Quando progetto app e siti per la navigazione, cerco sempre di fare in modo che le ricerche degli utenti siano sempre veloci, efficienti e corrette.

Per esperienza, anche come utente finale, la ricerca dell’indirizzo è un momento molto critico nell’utilizzo di queste app per due motivi:

1) Errori di digitazione causati dai nomi delle strade che in alcune situazioni sono anche in lingue sconosciute. In Italia tra l’altro abbiamo l’ulteriore complessità legata alle variazioni dei nomi delle vie (viali, vicoli, corsi etc) e delle piazze (piazzale, largo etc).
2) L’inserimento del numero civico utilizzando la funzionalità del completamento automatico/suggerimenti

Ma mentre il punto 1 può essere risolto in autonomia dall’utente con un po’ di attenzione, il punto 2 mi fa davvero impazzire.

Di seguito è possibile vedere cosa succede quando cerco la via dello studio di massoterapia di mia moglie in “via Durini 15” sulle app di Uber e Here.

Quando seleziono l’indirizzo dai suggerimenti la ricerca viene brutalmente conclusa posizionando il mio pin-point in un punto standard che solitamente è il civico numero 1.
Ma se invece io stessi cercando il numero 299?
In questo caso sarò costretto a tornare indietro per modificare il testo rischiando di invalidarlo, oppure dovrò digitare nuovamente indirizzo e numero civico ignorando i suggerimenti.

Questo è il problema del numero civico nelle app di navigazione.

Nelle scorse settimane ho scoperto che Google Maps ha risolto il problema dei numeri civici in maniera semplice e geniale inserendo un bottone dedicato all’interno della tendina dei suggerimenti.
Nel video che segue un caso d’uso.

Questa soluzione è disponibile sia in casi di disambiguazione quando sono presenti diversi indirizzi, sia quando le lettere digitate sono sufficienti per identificare l’indirizzo corretto. Ecco le due casistiche.

Grazie al nuovo bottone dedicato al numero civico, adesso su Google Maps per cercare “Via Durini 15” mi basta seguire questa semplice procedura:

digitare “dur” > tappare su ” + add street number” > digitare “15” > tappare su invio > visualizzare la posizione esatta!

L’unico miglioramento che potrei suggerire a Google, dopo aver scelto di inserire il numero civico, è sostituire la tastiera completa con la tastiera numerica. Capisco che questo potrebbe causare dei problemi con i subalterni tipo 1/a, 1b etc, ma solitamente la distanza tra questi punti non è tale da causare posizionamenti errati.

Spero di poter riprodurre questa soluzione nei miei prossimi progetti anche se sono sicuro che a breve diventerà uno standard per tutte le app di navigazione. Questo forse ne diminuirà anche il costo di sviluppo, ma nel frattempo non mi resta che ringraziare Google per il suo lavoro.

The navigation apps street number problem

When I design navigation apps and sites I always think how to keep users researches fast, efficient and correct. In my experience, even as common user, the address research is a real complex phase for two main reasons:

1) Typing mistakes caused by complex street names, sometimes even in languages that users don’t know. In Italy for example, a part from the Italian language, we call streets and squares in different ways depending on their dimensions (street= via, viale, vicolo, corso etc; square= piazza, piazzale, largo etc)
2) Inserting the street number using the autocomplete/suggestions drop-down list

While regarding the point 1 I could imagine that a motivated user could type or paste the correct address, the point 2 drives me really crazy.

Watch below what happens on Uber and Here when I use the suggestions typing my wife’s massotherapy studio address in “via Durini, 15”.

When I tap on the suggested address the research phase ends brutally locating the pin point in a default position of the map that usually is the street number 1.
But what if I’m searching number 299?
I must go back modifying the text and risking to invalidate the address, or I must type again everything, street number included, ignoring the suggestions.

That’s the navigation apps street number problem.

In the last weeks I discovedered that Google Map solved the street number problem in a brilliant and simple way. They indeed created a dedicated button for the street number directly on the suggestions/autocomplete drop-down list. Watch the video below.

This solution is available both when the user must chose between a lot of similar addresses or when he/she already typed enough letters for having the correct address. Following the two examples.

Thank to the Google Map new street number button, now I can search “via Durini 15” following theese simple steps:

type “dur” > tap on “street number button” > type “15” > tap “enter” > see my perfect location on the map!

For improving this process I could only suggest to switch to the number keyboard when typing the street number. I know that sometimes, like at our home, street numbers are like 1/a, 1/b etc, but usually these subordinates are not as far to compensate the experience of seeing just numbers when you asked to type the street number.

I hope to use this kind of solution in my future projects, but I’m pretty sure that soon it will be adopted as an industry standard from all the navigation apps decresing the adoption cost.

In the meanwhile, thank you Google!

“Featured contents” function design for instant messaging apps

Recently I studied IM Bots, but unfortunately every time that I experienced them on a Facebook Messenger I felt unsatisfied. Bots and AI are for sure the personal assistants of the future, but we must wait for their evolution and for our language adaptation (read my posts about Bots: Chatbots are contents, not conversations and Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants).

Intead of Bots, in these months I used many times a lot of Chat Customer Services on some companies web sites and on Messenger. As all the studies say, communicating with a company through our favourite instant messaging app is smarter than downloading any branded app or using the old-fashioned email. My experience was great and these companies increased loyalty and my admiration.

Using Whatsapp, Messenger, Telgram or WeChat for companies is a great challenge for many technical and communicational factors:

  • Technical, because CRMs should access to IM platforms for identifying users and managing the requests trafic.
  • Communicational, because some contents should be always and easily available for customers instead of lose in the chat’s flow.

As a Product Manager I focused on the second problem and, starting from a Whatsapp-like layout, I designed the “Featured contents” function. The scope of this function is to enrich the discussion between the customer and the company saving the requested contents in a reserved area of the app.
Watch the “Featured contents” gif animation for understanding how it function in the direct relationship between a Hotel and its customer.

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Chatbots are contents, not conversations

After my first post about Facebook Messenger Bots, I continued my research because I understand the importance of Chatbots and Instant Messaging apps. Following a transcription of the presentation that I published on Slideshare.

The assumptions from where I started my reasearch are:

  • Users don’t want conversations. Users want pertinent and timely contents within the app that they use most.
  • Chatbots have the reason to exist because users don’t like to download lot of apps and because mobile sites are slow or difficult to navigate.
  • Chatbots are a communication channel with an interaction pattern in a sort of way similar to the natural language. They aren’t virtual sales agents.
  • Chatbots have the difficult mission to bring together contents and services within messaging apps.
  • The best chatbots performances aren’t based on conversations. Interacting with them requires new functions and a standardized command language.

So I can say that Chatbots are an important technology because:

  • they represent a way for engaging users within their favorite apps
  • they can replace apps and websites for simple and recurrent tasks
  • they are the only direct marketing channel comparable with the email
  • they revolutionize the smartphone’s push communication marketing
  • they are the entrance point for advanced data building programs
  • users interest in downloading branded apps is decreasing
  • mobile navigation sometimes is frustrating
  • users are accustomed in making Google searches in a conversational way

But this importance bring with it some threats:

  • chatbots can’t really understand natural language
  • chatbots can’t replace the all the other apps functions
  • chatbots could decrease the users curiosity and research capacity
  • chatbots will struggle for visibility
  • chatbots can’t wrong a lot of answers and they can’t ask too much questions
  • chatbots must care a lot about language, style, frequency and relevancy of their push contents
  • chatbots aren’t a branded channel

Chatbots are the future of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Direct Marketing for the following reasons:

  • because they deliver profiled offers and contents, receiving immediate feedbacks
  • because they are an effective support for the human-based customer care
  • because they will build accurate customers profiles analyzing the interactions and asking for information, ratings etc

Thinking about all these incredible opportunities, I examined the standard instant messaging apps user experience and I realized that Chatbots should have a dedicated set of functions that designed as following.

chatbot_dedicatedfunctions_ui_antoniopatti_1.jpg

At this point I tried to go practical matching my Chatbots functions and experience with some generalistic companies.

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Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants

Reading on the web the new Facebook Messenger’s Bots reviews I confirmed my idea: human language is still too complex to understand by any kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Read “I Tried Shopping on Facebook Messenger. It Didn’t Go Well” by Lukas Thoms and “Facebook’s grand plan to simplify your life is off to a rough start” by Alex Heath.

So please, stop dreaming about a J.A.R.V.I.S.-like Bot. AI will never be like a personal assistant that knows everything about you, that understands the environment, your feelings and your needs. AI assistant will be for ever a digital system that gives complex and nice outputs just because someone coded all kind of linguistic inputs that a human can produce; this kind of assistant will never really understand what’s happening. The most advanced AI possible is the one that has the biggest relational and semantic database tested (manually!) by real operators (read “The Humans Hiding Behind the Chatbots” by Ellen Huet).

Natural language isn’t the key

Machines that understand some plain language commands and that can anticipate some users needs are possible, but computers that are able to understand all kind of phrases that a human pronounces, sorry, but aren’t near to come.

Like everybody us today can understand icons on expensive glass-plates called smartphone, in the same way we must create a simplified language for communicating and using Bots.

For me nobody wants to lose his time talking with a Bot even if companies would love the idea that millions of virtual and assertive sales people talk 24h/7 with customers. Instead, the most amazing feature of the Bots AI isn’t their humanity, but the fact that users can treat them without any courtesy, that they will memorize users tastes and credentials, that they will anticipate users needs thanks to some “natural language” commands and some Facebook profile analysis. 

All this doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t care about language per se, but that they should drive users to use a simplified language for the following reasons:

  • a simple language is easier to explain in a sort of tutorial during the first chats
  • a simple language is faster and more efficient than the natural one. If the number of taps for receiving an information on a chat is a way more than searching it on a website, the chatbot is going to fail
  • creating a sort of standard simplified language for all the Bots will ease exponentially their usage.

The users fruition model will be like the one that today drives sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora or the common FAQs pages where contents are organized and required using the “How to…” and “What is…” format.

Conclusion

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The inspiring “Driving Paradox”

I work in Digital Communication and I’ve worked on the functional & user experience design of websites, mobile applications, advergames, digital signage systems and info kiosks.

I love cars and motorcycles since when I was a child. I remember very well the “procedure” that my parents had to apply first to start our old Fiat 500, the incredible internal design of the Renault 4 of my neighbour and the unintelligible fashion of the Motobecane Mobyx parked in my garage.

back-to-the-future-delorean

I think that cars and motorcycles are the most impressive demonstration of the humankind power of imagination and adaptation. Imagination because who put together the technology necessary for an “autonomous run” of a 4/2 wheels object for me was an artists, not an engineer. Adaptation because driving a car or a motorcycle is one of the most complex mixture of unnatural gestures that we have on the earth.

That’s the point. That’s the Driving Paradox.

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How to design for visual impaired people

This is the post that I wrote after the event “Design beyond design boundaries” for the Milan’s group of the Interaction Design Foundation.

Last Saturday September 20th, IDF Milan organized its 4th event “Design beyond visual boundaries” in collaboration with the Italian startup Horus Technology. The main objective of the workshop was to start designing the User Interface of their product.

Horus is a device that supports visually impaired people like a virtual assistant. It will be positioned on normal glasses and it will interact through audio bone conduction and a manual controller with buttons. Horus will have two 5mpx cameras, a separated battery pack and it won’t rely on internet/bluetooth connections to be functional.

occhiali1-1100x400

 

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Interaction Design related terms definitions

During the first Interaction Design Foundation Milan Chapter event, the group decided to define the most important interaction design related terms.

I started to approach professionally this field of Digital Communication a few months ago, but I care about User Experience since my first project in 2006.

My definitions are really general, almost philosophical. They are based on my daylife experience and on what I’m learning at Interaction Design Foundation courses.

UX is how users use and feel a digital product.

UI is what users see and use for interacting with a digital product.

IA is how contents and functions are titled and positioned in a digital product’s plain structure.

Usability is a digital product use efficiency rate.

Interaction Design is designing UX and IA and contributing to the UI.

Service Design is everything involves customers beyond the strictly digital product experience.

I hope you enjoy.
If you don’t, I agree with you. This is a User Experience feedback too 😉

ANSA’s site UX critical issues

March 26th the news agency ANSA launched its new web site (read the article in Italian).

For promoting a discussion on the IDF Milan group, I analyzed the ANSA’s design and I wrote down a UX critical issues list. But first of the list, I want to declare that I never used the ANSA web site and that beyond all the critics, I think that globally they did a good job, except for the point 4.

1) The header buttons are links to different services, function and sites. They are not coherent and not really visible. They seem graphical elements.

ANSA header

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2) The search field is not visible and could be confused with the other icons.

ANSA search field

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3) The “temi caldi” is confusing because it’s positioned in the breadcrumb position.

ANSA temi caldi

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WordReference search box evolution

 

During the Interaction Design Foundation course, I answered this question:

Please identify an example where a search box has been used in a design and outline the various stages of implementing the search box in this particular instance.

I chose as an example the amazing WordReference translation service. I use it since 2004 and I clearly know the users needs: translate.

2001

WordReference search box in 2001

In 2001 it didn’t have the search box focus on the home. The multiple search boxes were displayed on the left small column. There was not enough space for long words and users had to scroll the page for certain languages. Moreover the centre of the page was full of contents that were absolutely not useful for the users.
Visit it on the Wayback Machine

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