Latest UX industry insights - August 2013

Paypal facetime

Don’t despair if you’re someone who’s dreamt about getting your moniker onto any form of monetary tender in the UK and have been struggling to find a way to legally achieve this to date. The answer may be just around the corner. And, you might just be able to play your own small, but significant part, in helping to shape the future course of our digital cultural heritage from which generations to come will draw benefit from into the bargain. This follows news which reached me recently of an exciting initiative currently taking place in south west London, well Richmond to be exact, where location is of no coincidence. The initiative is headed up by Paypal, whose main offices are located nearby are responsible for running the initiative. The initiative in question involves a smartphone app which enables user recognition on in-store payment systems. Logging into the account via the app enables a customer’s name and profile picture to be presented on a till screen to the retailer. The retailer can then simply click on their image to complete the transaction. Currently a dozen local businesses are involved in the trial, covering a range of different retail sectors. This includes a Fish and Chip shop as I understand, after all who wants greasy coppers rattling around their pockets after a late night sortie to the local chippie. Good thinking! Paypal points towards benefits of higher levels of security (e.g. human facial recognition) and personalisation of the overall payment experience. According to current expectations, Paypal’s aim is to roll the service out nationwide within the next 2 to 3 years. Following the launch and further expansion of contactless payment (note EE’s joint initiative with Mastercard ‘Cash on Tap’ a near field based mobile payment system launched less than 4 week’s ago in the UK) and Paypal’s already existing pay by mobile service which was introduced here around 2 years ago, the era of the electronic wallet appears to be well and truly upon us.

What of the data?

Well, the convenience and ability to handle micro-payments lessens the need for hard cash whilst giving consumers the benefits of faster payment. It also carries a massive incentive for the retailer sector in the form of customer purchasing data and MI. For example, why need an in-store loyalty card, when everything can be tracked and recorded directly? This will undoubtedly form the big carrot for the data hungry retailers in terms of taking up new payment channel opportunities. Kerching, as they used to say in the old days!

4G to experience an Indian summer?

So, it’s not long to go now before EE loses its exclusivity on 4G service provision in the UK, as the 29th August will see Vodafone and O2 joining the 4G party. In efforts to catch up with the head start made by EE on its 4G user base both Vodafone and O2 are heavily marketing bundled deals (Spotify premium and Sky Sports anyone?) to entice users to upgrade and switch early from their incumbent 4G provider, EE, when annual contracts start to expire later this year. Vodafone look set to focus their initial launch activity around London, with 12 more cities set to feature by the end of this year. Meanwhile 02 are looking at a wider initial roll out adding Leeds and Bradford to their initial London launch base. Operator ‘3’ has yet to show its hand but is rumoured to be looking at more affordable options which won’t entail a SIM swap-out. Meanwhile, Tesco who use 02 effectively as a white-labelled service, also look set to join the fray at some point in the near future. Extending the net out wider, BT is looking to use its segment of the 4G pie to allow its broadband customers to connect routers to 4G as a Wifi alternative. Increased competition, increased choice, should signal good news for us customers and of course high-band width digital content producers. Bring it on.

‘Watch’ this

And now a switch from market enabling to more emerging market news. This comes in the form of Samsung who recently revealed a patent filing for their smart watch patent application, ‘Samsung Galaxy Gear’. No further news is currently available as to what, when and how much the device is likely to cost, but what we do know at this stage is that this is certain to form another chapter in that on-going saga that is the Apple v Samsung mobile war. Close integration with Samsung’s existing device portfolio, in particular its flagship products, Samsung Galaxy S4 and its Galaxy Tab range must also be logically expected as part of any future offering. In terms of specification the device is likely sport only a limited storage capacity, heightening anticipation that the watch will act primarily as an access interface or alert device to other (Samsung) smartphone or tablet device. Elsewhere, Microsoft is also reportedly testing a series of removable wrist band prototypes. Meanwhile, Sony announced its Smartwatch 2 way back in June (yes 2 months is a long time these days in the portable digital world!). And of course the kick-starter financed Pebble smartwatch has already started working on its healthy backlog of pre-orders earlier this year.

Not quite a carbon copy

Now, news of a shocking discovery regarding some models of Xerox photocopier model. News that will undoubtedly send shivers down the spine of users involved in the duplication of particularly intricate or detailed specification documentation. Apparently a glitch in the system’s compression algorithm has caused certain digits to be swapped out and replaced by others on duplicate copies; for example, 65 to 85 and 21 to 14. The swap outs appear to be randomly generated, hence no particular pattern for this behaviour can be identified with any degree of certainty. Obviously, it goes without saying that this will need a full and speedy resolution and Xerox is currently working on a patch to fix it. Interesting news indeed, as in all the days I was copying colleagues’ course notes from the occasional missed Uni lecture, I’ve never questioned the inner workings of the library photocopier and indeed, why would I? There again my degree was primarily arts focused where numbers were less of an issue, although it may explain some of comments made regarding my Macro-economics coursework submissions! If there are any graduates out there taking copies of your degree certificates as part of your job application activity, it would be well worth checking your friendly local copier (if you are using one) has inadvertently down-dialled your academic achievements, or maybe even the converse!

A to B (maybe)

Finally, something we all do in publicly in both digital and physical spaces and regularly and openly discuss our experiences with our friends, relatives and peers (well some of us do). Can you guess what it is? The clue’s in the title, namely…sharing our experiences of finding our way around, or not as the case may be. As a keen amateur orienteerer and adventure racer in a former life (I have an impressive array of map cases, compasses and heavily out of date energy bars to prove it!), the concept of navigating physical as well as digital spaces has held a particular fascination for me. So, imagine my delight when I espied a copy of on a recent visit to my local Foyles of a new text ‘The Lost Art of Finding our way’ by Harvard Professor, John Edward Huth. It was the design which initially attracted me to the book, the title and subject matter of the book followed shortly thereafter. But, engaging design isn’t an issue I want to get ‘side-tracked’ onto at this juncture (anyone see what I did there?). I’ve not ventured too far into the book as yet, but learning more about the different environmental methods used by various navigators throughout history in the absence of supporting digital technology is making for fascinating reading. So too are the descriptions of the mental mapping processes used by navigators and wayfayers to negotiate their way around their environments as well as the impacts of feeling lost has one one’s mental and physical being. This concept of creating a mental map to also navigate digital spaces was no more vividly demonstrated on a recent client project, where a substantial amount of content was served up against the backdrop of the site homepage. This proved to be really disorientating to a number of fellow consultants working on the project, who exclaimed that this type of single page interaction behaviour was creating an alien environment to them in which they lacked any sense of progression and the ability to journey down into lower levels of the website hierarchy to locate their destination content. No doubt further instalments will follow on this in future articles as a chart my progress through this weighty tome. This will be a journey of a thousand steps, but one which I aim to learn and share my learnings with my fellow blog readers along the way! (Heads off into sunset).