Regular testing for incremental improvement

Sophie Ellis
June 6, 2018
Regular testing for incremental improvement

Our client had created a code, delivered to any phone (smartphone or feature phone) which allows you to make purchases and accrue loyalty points simultaneously. No more scanning two different cards at the checkout.

It’s a really cool technology created by a really cool team.

But taking on phone scanning is a big deal, and requires options for hardware. The team had already created the phone scanner when Kickstand came on board. But if they wanted to make improvements to the scanning process so that is was faster, easier, cooler, where would they begin?

By asking the users of course!

Talking to customers is addictive. We know this at Kickstand because we do it all the time. But sometimes taking on user research can sound like a really big deal – it doesn’t have to be. Starting small is a great way to get quick results and form the habit of asking.

So that’s just what we did. Once a week we commandeered a room at our client’s offices. Lined up users back to back – 20 minute slots – and timed them scanning their phones under a range of conditions. We thanked them for their time and sent them on their way.

Officially this is called a Time and Motion Study and for this client it was a great way to test lo-fi ideas for hardware improvement without having to invest in a lengthy and expensive hardware redesign process.

Time after time users delivered valuable insights that the team could address immediately.
“They’re not coming close enough to scan” = Get some arrows on there!
“They’re worried about scratching their phone” = Put on a rubber bezel
“They’re not sure which way the phone goes” = Directional iconography

In time these rough and ready ideas will be refined and go into mass production but for now, that’s not the point. For now, we just want to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Which ideas are worth pursuing and which ideas get parked.

The development team decided to put the videos from our testing sessions on loop in the office. Watching users struggle or triumph on repeat during their work day inspired some firmware updates which were validated quickly in following week’s sessions. So the cycle continued.

… and week after week the times to scan got shorter and shorter.

Better still, a regular testing format like this gives the team a direct link to real people – the people they are delivering for. It didn’t take long before the new ideas started to flow. “What if we changed the orientation of the scanner?” or “What if we changed the angle?”

When we see the design choices we make in action it is both enlightening and inspiring.

As it turns out, the phone scanner was already pretty cool. But by checking in with users we were able to make some incremental changes which had a big impact on usability without having to go back to the drawing board.

Cool, huh?