Point first approached us with an idea for an app, or basically the idea was they wanted an app. We evaluated their digital offering and proposed that they needed to make their corporate web presence mobile friendly instead, as their first step towards gaining greater reach to all mobile users.
Simultaneously they expressed interest in creating a payments knowledge bank for their merchant customers. While being quite a good starting point, we immediately started ideating around how to utilise their vast amount of payment data, and identify what the genuine need was on the merchants’ end of it. The final product was a business intelligence tool called Point Sales Tracker. In brief, an analytics tool for payment data aimed at small to medium sized merchants and customers of Point/Verifone. A beta version was released in Sweden and Finland in August 2013 to a select number of customers, the full release is rolling out now to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe in November and in Asia later this year.
In order to identify industry benchmarks and stay competitive at a minimum is naturally to do a competitive analysis. It serves multiple purposes such as: identifying key business trends, customer insights inspiration, ambition necessary to create the best class solution, and even a list of what not to do. Additionally, it helps to establish a solid foundation to rely upon when developing the concept strategy and design directions with the client. I tend to divide the competitive analysis into three parts: general, business and interface.
What everyone else is doing, or are rumoured to do, is important to investigate when we want to be the first. There is no point in doing something that is second best. Either you’re first, best or not. In Point’s case, the payment industry is quite slow and underdeveloped, yet technology and emerging outliers are leading customers into a new generation of payment solutions. Even though Points is depending on the banks who do little to nothing to stay competitive there are some significant sources of inspiration we identified coming from mobile payment solutions (such as Square and it’s Swedish equivalent iZettle), NFC payment solutions (such as Google Wallet) and knowledge forums (such as in American Express’ OPEN Forum).
At the end of the day it all comes down to the end customer experience, so for example, in this project we knew we were going to develop an analytics tool which serves small business owners, presenting business intelligent data they can utilise both in the web and in the real world. With a vast database of graphs, button, knobs, infographics, status boards and sliders at their disposal, they are ultimately in control of how they wish to use or present their business critical informations.
Meetings and presentations are often useful, but let’s face it, the biggest problem we have as creative consultants is that the clients say they understand what we mean but then it becomes clear that they don’t. Workshops serves two purposes, to create a creative environment where the agency and the client can come together and generate ideas as well as unite behind a solid direction.
The second reason for having workshops is to make the client understand the creative process and include the client in such a way that they genuinely played a part in the creative process and claim ownership of the original idea. No matter how slick a presentation you make, making a non-creative underhand highly sophisticated concepts is ofter close to impossible, unless they have actually played a major part in creating it. Therefore, workshops are a must in the beginning of any project - to solidify not just the idea, but the client relationship. I planned and led three workshops with the Point team, in which we started from nothing and finally laid out the main direction of the project together.
Early on we all agreed on creating a solution that played a part in all business aspects of the customer’ life. Even though the client at the time wasn’t convinced, we knew that mobile was essential. In order to demonstrate the mobile use cases we used a Customer Journey workshop to map out a day in the life of our customers activities and identified key points we could serve them with our solution - and guess what? The client became an active believer that mobile clearly does take precedent beyond desktop.
Target User Interviews
Between a creative agency, with years of experience, and the client, with deep insights into their customers and product, you can make educated deductions as to what the final product is going to be. Sure, these can be “good enough” insights and you can decide to fix whatever mistakes you’ve made later on, based on the user data generated by analytics and heat maps. But at the end of the day, data does not make a user experience. For that we need to go out and meet them, talk to them, walk in their shoes if we can.
Naturally we conducted a number of customer interviews in order to validate our overall conceptual approach. We needed to listen to the customer talk about their business, their life and their general opinion about payment methods in the context of their daily work life. They not only provided us with some very helpful insights strategically and helped us tune up our proof of concept, they even helped prioritise the actual features and functionality of the final product.
During the discovery phase everyone - from project leader to developer to client - is an active contributor to the conceptual approach. But it is the designer (that’s me) who is ultimately responsible for leading the team to come to a mutual consensus as to who the target user is, what their needs and motivations are, and how the client can best serve those.
The best way to make everyone see this is to create easy-to-understand concept boards showing the future goal of the project. By demonstrating the context in which the solution is used and the users value it serves helps all involved to understand and provide valid feedback to making the concept even stronger. Concept boards are best when they can tell a story, depicting key milestones in the customer’s journey as well as how a product might develop over a series of releases. In the pictures we show the product being used by the same person in different scenarios throughout the same day, at his desk, when working in the store, at home, and so on. I created five concept boards which I opened every presentation with, so that everyone knew where we were heading and that every decision along the way had to be aimed at getting us there.
Finally we need to put all of these insights and conceptual ideas onto paper. I always use a method that I learned from Basecamp, for every page on a website, or view in an app, you prioritise the functions, one by one, and then place them accordingly. It doesn’t really matter what program you use, it can be hand drawings on a piece of paper as long as you get everyone on the same page (pun intended), working towards a common goal.
I think it’s important to make your prototypes as close to the final products as possible, while never making it so good looking that it takes focus from what’s important, the placements and the navigation principles. So, I make all links clickable, all sizes correct, and set headlines in actual copy. No images, texts or colours are added though.