Judge: Morag Reavley
Role: Senior Manager at American Express
Do you have a favourite app & website in terms of the design and user experience?I really rate the Citymapper app for intuitive access to the information you need to travel about London (or New York, Paris or Berlin), including duration, live journey times and walking/cycling calories consumed in terms of slices of toast. A sense of humour is a good thing in UX, as in life.
Hailo also delivers in terms of simplicity and service. It gives you the feedback you need (how long your cab will be, your driver’s details), and payment is dangerously frictionless.
In terms of websites, Medium is a beautifully simple tool for collaborative reading and writing. Elegant and intuitive, it lets the content sing, and shows there’s appetite for long-form yet.
Which industries, in your opinion, tend to deliver the worst user experiences, and why?
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that luxury brands have poor UX. Typical tropes are pointless animations or movies, images which are cripplingly slow to load, custom navigation schemes, impenetrably creative labels – the digital equivalent of spot gloss and ultra-thick paper stock.
That kind of design goes with the need to justify a large client budget, and the desire to express ‘luxury’ through the interface. A truly premium experience should follow the same rules of UX design as any other site, and provide a prestige experience through immersive visuals and product story telling.
Sport is another sector where UX tends to lag behind mainstream entertainment brands. Cluttered interfaces, over-commercialisation, old-fashioned photo composites, saturated colours – there is still a lot of scope to reimagine the fan experience.
What has been the greatest game changer in the UX and usability sectors over the past 10 years?
The gravitation towards agile development and lean design methodologies has completely transformed UX and usability as practices.
The availability of quick-to-learn and inexpensive prototyping tools has made it easy to move rapidly from ideas to clickable designs you can set before real users. It has taken away the lengthy documentation and Photoshop composites, making it easy to tweak or pivot multiple times before release.
We’re seeing much more emphasis on iterative user testing – testing a prototype over successive days, and updating the prototype after each session. That results in more thoughtful, effective and generally better experiences.
Another corollary of the collaborative agile working style is the fact that UX has moved from being the sole domain of an expert or specialist team, to a practice, responsibility and passion shared across the whole project team.
All this has really put the user into UX, and is raising standards across the board.
What do you think are the biggest challenges companies face utilising UX?Every company has its own challenges, depending on its approach to design and development, the complexity of its on- and offline estate, and the commitment of leadership to UX.
The challenge of creating a joined-up UX is something many enterprises face. A lot of companies have huge legacy footprints, which can’t be overhauled overnight. Some level of inconsistency is inevitable, resulting in experiences for users which are at best patchy, at worst broken.A related challenge is the need to join up on- and off-line experiences. How do you bring your call centres and retail teams up to speed with an omni-channel world? Do you even know all the touchpoints on your customer’s journeys? There are some great retailers doing that already – but too many aren’t.
And you can’t under-estimate the challenge of getting senior buy-in to implement great UX. Maybe that person has the role of Chief Experience Officer; maybe it’s a senior leader who understands the UX is an immensely powerful differentiator and weighs in to make things happen. Either way, without that senior-level mandate it’s going to be tough to deliver seamless, joined-up UX.
Do you have any UX pet peeves?
Well, now you mention it…
Any mobile service that’s not fully mobile optimized – for example, mobile account servicing that takes you from a text message into a desktop-only web page. That’s a sin which many mobile service providers and Apple customer service are guilty of.
Any company still sending non-responsive emails – when more email is now read on mobile than on desktop.
Sites or apps which offer social sign-in as an alternative to signing up, but then still require you to set a password and provide personal data.
Sites or apps which offer social sign-in but don’t explain why and how they will use your data – or, worse, ones which hijack your social networks with unexpected updates and communications.
Online ‘helpdesks’ which do everything they can to suppress the company telephone number when you really need a human to talk to.
Carousels in almost any form, but especially those used to carve a story up into multiple pages, to crank up page impressions. Leave carousels in the fairground.
Any site that puts you through a compulsory ‘customisation experience’ without explanation before you can get started, and doesn’t allow you to skip it – Quora, I’m looking at you.
Actually, the entire Quora experience.
If you could have any super power what would it be and why?I would like the ability to recharge mobile phones. I would have micro-USB and iPhone connectors concealed inside my finger tips, ready to be flipped out whenever a distressed user needs to charge their phone. Can you imagine how handy that would be?