I’ve been watching a recent Top Gear episode and learnt the reason behind a little usability rule about capital letters. Top Gear was interviewing Margaret Calvert who worked on the design of Britain’s road signs in the 50’s and she described a little about the typography used in signs. On road signs you will rarely see words written in only CAPITAL letters. It is easier to recognise a complete word if it starts with a capital, followed by lowercase letters. This is because lower case letters are significantly more different to each other than capitals.
Of course, it’s about getting stakeholder buy-in, but anyone can do that. However, any new consulting project should have some forum where the team members hear the strategic issues, for themselves. Not just the biased version from the internal project team. Consultants need to build a picture of the organisation and identify opportunities; so that every design decision that flows from there on in meets the strategic business and personal needs of the client and, more importantly, their customers. Also, don’t forget, doing this research also allows the stakeholders need to voice their opinion, without biasing their view because their fellow staff member is in the room. User centred design is not about hearing cats for the sake of it. There’s a reason for every step and if you don’t know why your doing something, ask.
For years I have been looking for a better name for the competitive review service we provide at Objective Digital. When doing this service, we generally ask the client for a list of sites they consider competitive to review. Clients often say, “We’ve done that already.” However, my response is, “We need to look at them to familiarise ourselves with your market and also to find and borrow any good ideas they might have.” They usually let us do it.
The other day, I was listening to Stuart Edwards from Profero speaking at the AIMIA customer experience event at the Telstra Experience Labs. He was showing us how they borrowed the flexible one-page set up the interface from World of Warcraft to innovate the redesign of the Pizza Hut online ordering system in Australia. This was a great example of thinking outside the box! Stuart made an important point. He said, “We don’t do competitive analysis at Profero, we do Opportunity Analysis!”. The word opportunity completely changes the focus of the competitive review exercise! Instead of reviewing the other sites from an analytical frame of mind it requires a creative frame. It reminds clients and consultants that we are looking for design innovations in other websites, not just doing a standard site comparison.