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    • 09/16/15
    • Technology
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    Best practices for using digital ethnographic tools

    As experience experts, ethnographic projects are some of our favorite opportunities to explore everything from the American mediascape to journey mapping patient experiences. For many of these projects, we have leveraged traditional in-home ethnography to gain an authentic look into the lives of our participants. We have worked to splice this established methodology with a dynamic field of research: digital ethnography. To establish this hybrid ethnography, we have paired conventional ethnographic methods with remote digital methods, including a newly minted tool: the GfK Participant Toolkit (PTK). As in any exploratory venture, we have had the opportunity to learn about which methods and tools work well, which work better, and develop best practices in this brand of research. Along the way, we have also learned about the challenges of conducting this type of long-term ethnographic research, and how to overcome them.

    Challenge: Develop a data collection tool that integrates seamlessly into participants’ lives

    For any long-term ethnographic project, we would have to employ innovative data collection methods to retain invested and motivated participants. Our response was to design the PTK, a mobile device loaded with a curated suite of apps, uniquely combined to facilitate engagement and foster stimulating data collection for both researcher and participant. The PTK has become a pivotal factor in our ability to foster enduring participant interest. It has offered valuable opportunity to allow ongoing learning; because of the myriad capabilities baked into today’s mobile devices, the PTK has inspired us to constantly challenge the methods and techniques we typically use in obtaining data.

    Best practices for designing and employing digital ethnographic tools


    1. Remote and in-person methods must work in tandem. We learned that the PTK’s remote, asynchronous ethnographic capabilities were also important to pair with more traditional, face-to-face ethnographic methods. While the PTK has been an invaluable tool in helping us rise to meet the roadblocks inherent to both longitudinal and remote ethnographic research, ultimately, there is still no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Engaged participants provide the most valuable data; in order to create and sustain these relationships, researchers need to invest in participants by being with them. Since longitudinal work is difficult to do entirely in-person, the PTK provides a useful surrogate for researchers by allowing continued contact with participants. Furthermore, the PTK, by allowing us to connect to our participants remotely, helps us save on costly travel expenses, while remaining a mere click away.
    2. Video chat is a great way to foster trust between participants and researchers. Despite the need for in-person research, the PTK is an important development in facilitating face-to-face contact and bridging the gap between in-person and remote ethnography. The PTK’s video chat functionalities allow us to meet our participants on multiple occasions, crossing thousands of miles in an instant to be with them. By layering these live sessions into our toolbox, we have been able to become recognizable faces in our participants’ households, thereby gaining an even stronger foothold into the experiences of our participants. Investing in these remote face-to-face interactions works to engage participants on a deeper level, motivating them to provide richer and more thoughtful data. Inspiring participants in this way also reduces participant turnover, and therefore costs to clients.
    3. Long-term projects require flexible technology. Apart from being a digital proxy, the PTK likewise allows us flexibility in innovating data-collection techniques. We have learned that some parts of our suite of research apps were stickier than others; certain apps simply sparked more energized responses from our participants. Because of the remote access allowed by this digital tool, we are able to take a real-time iterative approach to customizing this suite as we explored the new wave of app technology. This has allowed us to remain on the crest of both potential tools and participant interest over the two years we have spent together. Being able to stay on our toes in this way allows flexibility not only in how we engage participants, but how we approach our research goals; the PTK helps us “pivot” in crucial moments, and make strategic reassessments with ease.

    These challenges and best practices invite us to not only think about resolutions to these specific hurdles, but also help us better imagine where the limits of digital ethnography might lie. As we continue to explore the possibilities and affordances of cutting-edge technology, we are eager to explore and meet the awesome potential of digital tools in the ethnographic sphere.

    What digital tools have you used in long-term research projects? In ethnography projects?

    Eve Ejsmont is a Lead UX Specialist at GfK and can be contacted at Eve.Ejsmont@gfk.com.

    • 09/05/15
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    How to design great product instructions

    The success of a product’s instructions depends on the strength of its design. Designers must meet five key challenges to ensure this experience is effective and user-friendly. GfK’s UX Design Director, Flori Manning, PhD, details these challenges and how to overcome them in the free whitepaper, How to design great product instructions. There are so many ways to connect with your customers with respect to instruction design that yield positive outcomes, including successful product use and how users perceive both product and brand. Download the free whitepaper to see what techniques are appropriate for your product’s out-of-box experience.

  • How to design great product instructions
    • 09/05/15
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Consumer Life
    • United States
    • English

    How to design great product instructions

    The success of a product’s instructions depends on the strength of its design. Designers must meet five key challenges to ensure this experience is effective and user-friendly.

    • 07/28/15
    • Health
    • Technology
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    Four things you need to know about human factors validation for your mobile app

    Whether it’s breathing new life into aging patents or capitalizing on the quantified self craze, pharmaceutical companies are finding ways to expand the reach and utility of their drug brands by developing digital companion applications that track, monitor, log, and calculate therapeutic data. If you are a product manager considering developing an app for that, you know that the app may be subject to some of the same human factors regulatory requirements that drug delivery systems must meet.

    Given the simplicity of the tasks and the supporting visual design in many of these apps, it can be shocking to realize just how much effort and coordination goes into planning and preparation for a human factors validation test, especially where the perceived risk of harm is slim to none. After all, it’s software, not a device, right? Wrong. If the software provides information or data used to make decisions about administration of care, there is a good chance human factors and risk will be assessed similarly to a medical device. It’s true that rigorous attention to detail is required to create and adhere to a robust and effective human factors validation protocol. But it’s not impossible! Here are four common stumbling blocks, and how to avoid making mountains out of molehills.

    Before you start:


    1. Know how it’s done IRL (in real life): Consider instances where the official prescribing information may differ from the rules of thumb employed by real people. We’ve seen cases where the app design was bound by specifications in the prescribing information related to upper and lower limits and injection rotation specifications. However, in testing we discovered that real doctors, nurses, and patients tended to bend these rules according to their own personal circumstances and clinical opinions. If the app is rigid and won’t accommodate/ doesn’t reflect real use scenarios, not only will it be confusing and frustrating, it may be entirely unusable.



    1. Don’t just automate—provide a service. Make sure there is clear value in the utility of the app that is greater than the effort required to seek out, download, and learn to use it. If a dosing app designed for nurses is just multiplying some number by two, an operation that can almost always be done in the head, why would they use an app for it? If the interface visualizes data in irrelevant ways, how will it support decision making? No one wants to see participants asking “why should I care about this?” in their validation study.
    2. Understand the risk of harm. The FDA is primarily concerned with patient safety. Think through and analyze the potential risks to the user associated with unintentional misuse of the app. The potential harm that could befall someone who miscalculates or misinterprets a recommended insulin dose is far more obvious than the potential harm that could befall someone who misreads an injection rotation diagram, but it’s still the manufacturer’s responsibility to conduct due diligence and determine the level of criticality associated with foreseeable user errors. With criticality defined and mapped onto a task analysis, the next step is to carefully define essential and critical tasks in your study protocol and spell out in detail the conditions of success and failure. You’d be surprised at how many different circumstances can lead to a participant doing or not doing something that is part of the expected task work flow. Know in advance which deviations are OK, which are artifacts, and which actually represent a true use error that needs to be analyzed for root cause and residual risk. A challenging proposition for device validation, this gets even trickier when testing perception and interpretation of screens or data in an app. Decide ahead of time what success needs to look like: Does each participant need to understand the concept behind the app inputs and outputs? Do they need to interpret trends? If so, then decide what needs to be interpreted and how, and know how the researcher will know if and when it has been interpreted correctly.



    1. Engineer your data: When designing your test protocol, think about whether you will test with fake (pre-defined) data or if you will let participants use personal reference points when performing tasks with the app. This isn’t limited just to name, email address, and DOB. It could include other key assumptions about the users’ identity and training such as multipliers and dosing protocols as well as familiar volume increments and conversion methods. If you are building an app that calculates something a certain way, make sure you recruit participants who do it that way too, or at least establish important facts about the participants’ frame of reference in advance of administering tasks. If you are asking participants to draw meaning from trend data, make sure the trends displayed would make sense for a real person, and haven’t been randomly generated. In other words, think about the variability that could be introduced if you allow participants to use their own points of reference, but balance it against the test artifacts that could result if you don’t.


    For more information, contact Kirsten Bruckbauer at kirsten.bruckbauer@gfk.com.

    • 07/22/15
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    What customers actually buy, and why it’s not your product

    Yes, the title of this post refers to your product. That isn’t to say your product isn’t selling. Indeed, customers are out there purchasing your product—but it’s not what they’re buying. What customers actually buy is the experience of using your product. Unless your product was designed for the sole purpose of sitting on a shelf, your customers will take your product home and use it. This experience of product use is what you’ve sold.

    How well have you designed that experience? Neither the product life cycle, nor the customer journey, ends at purchase. On the contrary, it is at this point that things get very interesting. It’s time to examine the quality of the user experience (UX) you have provided for your customers; it’s time to think “out-of-the-box.” Literally.

    The out-of-box experience The out-of-box experience (depicted in the graphic below) is a critical touchpoint of the customer journey, covering the unboxing, product setup, and initial use of a product.

    Creating a positive experience during unboxing involves attention to the package design, product look and feel, and the anticipation surrounding product use. What expectations do customers have as they unbox your product, and will those expectations be met or thwarted during product setup and initial use?

    Product setup typically involves instructions for use (IFU) of some kind. These instructions not only guide the customer through the assembly, installation, or initialization process, but also prepare and guide the customer in the product’s initial use. This first experience is crucial toward fostering the desired attitudes and emotions indicative of product success.

    Each aspect of the out-of-box experience should align with both product expectations and your brand. The good news is that you have a lot of control over how this experience occurs for your customers; you can see to it that the design for the out-of-box experience matches (or exceeds) your customers’ expectations.

    Improve your product’s out-of-box experience By optimizing the out-of-box experience for your customers, you are also more likely to:

    Decrease the number of product returns Reduce the number of calls into your call center (product support or complaints)

    Retain more customers Increase future purchases for other products under the same brand Influence product/brand reputation (social media reviews and word-of-mouth)

    Delight your customers!

    With so much to gain, it makes sense to consider the out-of-box experience for your product. Is it up to your standards? How do you know? If you find it lacking, which aspects of it should you address to have the greatest impact?

    UX research can uncover the answers to these questions. Testing can include in-lab or in-field research to observe users interacting with the packaging and product. An expert evaluation can also reveal pain points. It’s also possible to employ a survey tool, such as the UX Score, which can measure usability, usefulness, and aesthetics and determine the dimensions along which the out-of-box experience is the weakest and strongest, allowing you to focus strategically on the items most in need.

    How well are you able to deliver on what your customers are buying? Attention toward the out-of-box experience can help generate excitement and delight around your product and your brand.

    View our latest webinar recording, How to think “out of the box” about what your customers are actually buying. In this webinar, Flori Manning, PhD, User Experience Design Director for GfK, highlights what organizations stand to gain from optimizing this memorable experience, user experience best practices and how they are applied to product learnability, and the challenges and considerations for package design and instructions for use (IFU) design.

    You can also download our latest white paper How to design great product instructions: Five challenges to overcome. In this paper, we detail these challenges and how to overcome them.

    There are so many ways to connect with your customers with respect to instruction design that yield positive outcomes, including successful product use and how users perceive both product and brand. Read the whitepaper to see what techniques are appropriate for your product’s out-of-box experience.

    For more information, contact Flori Manning, PhD at flori.manning@gfk.com

    • 07/21/15
    • Automotive
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    Are you going tone deaf to car audio cues?

    I notice from my own life how over-stimulated I am sometimes. Whether I’m bombarded with video messages on screens on a commuter train, or am subjected to ambient noise while in the city center, I’m constantly receiving messages about my environment.

    It’s no wonder that when I get into the relative serenity of my own car that I look forward to unwinding, relaxing, and letting down my guard. (At least for a little while, until it’s time to crank the music.)

    But sometimes when I’m in my car, I’m kept busy trying to place various noises – sometimes beeps, sometimes buzzes, sometimes alarm tones. I must ask myself which one was that and what do I do now?

    Well, the noises all come from audio feedback systems in cars, such as entertainment or driver assistance systems. When you have multiple assistance systems, you have multiple feedback.

    I’ll get back to my own experience, but first I want to tell you more about the UX study that we at GfK conducted recently. We surveyed global car manufacturers about human machine interfaces (HMI) in different car models ranging from the compact to the luxury segment. We learned, among other things, that users are looking for flexibility and easiness in operating information systems.

    Study basics Let’s start with the basics to set the stage. We found that user experience (UX) scores rose with increases in the car model year.

    We also saw that young drivers and tech enthusiasts tend to have higher user experience scores.

    These are some of the more “expected” findings of our study.

    Looking forward The “unexpected” part is what comes in addition to understanding the audience and the types of cars that provide the best user experiences. For instance, our study also showed which features consumers want from car manufacturers moving forward.

    These include a tablet PC as a full replacement for a built-in infotainment system, and gesture control, among other features.

    Now, back to my own experience with audio cues, before we move to the things we learned in a recent connected car study. From the user experience test I mentioned, I saw that due to the large number of assistance systems, drivers were overburdened with a wide range of audio signals – in many cases without any supporting visual cues.

    Take the automated parking assistants as an example. Most drivers were unwilling to rely solely on the system and the pictures in the display.

    This was true even for drivers who had previous experience with similar systems before those used for the survey. People used the rear-view mirrors and some even turned around fully to check the back of the car when parking.

    But what if someone ignores the Central Information Display (CID) and doesn’t understand what the “bing” tone means? Several times during the study, GfK moderators had to directly intervene and tell the drivers to brake to prevent the car from crashing!

    Conclusion My conclusion is that this type of audio and visual feedback has clearly reached its limits, if the driver cannot pay attention anymore and runs the risk of crashing the car because he or she didn’t know what the signal meant. It’s like having gone tone deaf to the cues.

    Therefore, I say car makers should reconsider their approach and use natural language cues like the word “STOP” if an accident is imminent. This could apply to audio feedback for other advanced driver assistance systems as well, such as emergency braking systems which are only rarely if ever activated.

    Car makers are on the right track: Our data showed that overall, drivers are satisfied with their infotainment systems’ look, feel and sound (a score of 4.5 in total), however, the products lack personal engagement and inspirational motives.

    For OEMs, this means they can differentiate among themselves by focusing and boosting user-oriented qualities(such as product fit and inspiration).

    Connected Car Now, for the connected car. What does that have to do with audio cues?

    Well, for one, in-car information and entertainment systems are a basis of the connected car – and it is these very systems that are often outfitted with peep tones.

    A GfK Connected Car study conducted in six countries showed that drivers see connected cars that provide data, entertainment, and life management as a viable option, and they are intrigued by the idea of a car knowing a person’s entertainment preferences.

    Indeed, when it comes to positive emotions related to connected car features, entertainment had the highest positive emotional reaction.

    Now, let’s see if we can get that kind of positive reaction to all the peep tones coming at us inside our vehicles – or find a different way to alert drivers when needed.

    Background connected car concepts We asked consumers to evaluate seven connected car concepts.

    Ultra Safe, a car that makes driving as safe as possible Connectivity with other cars, ensures you are alerted to upcoming problems such as accidents or heavy traffic.  Sensors in the car will pick-up if you are not alert. Connectivity helps you locate parking spots and the car also parks itself.

    Data Tracker, a car that tracks usage, runs diagnostics, checks repair costs and automatically records accident data Entertainment, a car that knows your entertainment preferences Life Manager, a car that communicates with other connected devices in your home Home To Destination, not a car but a travel solution. This app will take complete responsibility for a trip, identifying the best transport solution Self-Sufficient, a strong but light electric car Autonomous Driving, a car that drives completely autonomously.

    About the UX survey The UX Score is based on a ten-question survey administered after a user has interacted with a product. The UX Score provides a measure that can be used to track experiences over time, better understand product loyalty or market share, or compare HMIs.

    GfK’s Connected Car Report:

    Download our free preview report or get the full insights in our global report, which is available to purchase now. It contains detailed market-by-market analysis and brand specific insight. For your definitive guide to the road ahead or any further information, contact us.

    Get more insights Jan M. Panhoff is Senior Consultant of User Experience at GfK in Germany. To gain the full insights and benefits from our detailed studies contact us.

    For more about our offerings, visit our Automotive and User Experience pages AUTOTALK newsletter Discover latest industry insights, market data and how Auto and Consumer trends will affect your business. Sign-up for AutoTalk.

    • 04/21/15
    • Fashion and Lifestyle
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Digital Market Intelligence
    • Market Opportunities and Innovation
    • Point of Sales Tracking
    • User Experience (UX)
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    The Apple smartwatch launch: it’s crunch time

    With the hotly anticipated global launch of Apple’s smartwatch only a few days away (April 24th), how do consumers feel about the device, and how many expect to be wearing one anytime soon?

    • 01/14/15
    • Automotive
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    What do Italian drivers want from tomorrow’s car infotainment systems?

    Which car infotainment features do Italians want