friend once told me, “I won’t use ugly software”. He was referring to audio production software of the early 2000s, yet he made a valid point. One that applies just as well today. If we replace the word “ugly” with the term “badly designed” then we start to enter the world of user experience design (UX), now a common term in software and web design. When it comes to event technology it is still common for the user’s experience to be below par, and this is a problem. It is a problem because it creates a major barrier to user adoption. We would all like to see events with seamless integration of technology and mass adoption by the participants, but this simply will not happen unless the experience of the users is overwhelmingly positive. Event technology should be intuitive, just like computer games. When someone plays a computer game for the first time they do not want to stop and think about how the game works and what button does what. A well-designed game feels intuitive. If the growth curve of a game is too steep players will not persist. Some of the simplest games are the most intuitive, and the most addictive. Candy Crush or Tetris are all great examples but more complex games are also intuitive.
Perhaps the best example of an intuitive product is the iPhone. The iPhone and its operating system are incredibly well designed. This device, that comes with no printed manual, is used intuitively by millions of people. Moreover, it has made tapping and swiping into universal gestures performed regularly by toddlers and senior citizens alike. There are more factors that come into play simultaneously when considering UX. One of the most important is familiarity. In the case of event apps their adoption will be much greater if they are designed to be like other apps, ones that the user is already familiar with. This is particularly important when event participants take very little time to explore an app, that immediate sense of familiarity makes all the difference.
User Experience Design should also have an impact on event technology. PHOTO: BOB NEWMAN / UNSPLASH
In practice this means that event apps providing networking functionality will benefit from an interface that is similar to Facebook or LinkedIn. Likewise, for navigation the interface should be similar to Google Maps or Uber in order to reap the benefits from familiarity. Some event apps offer functionality without obvious parallels in popular apps, but using familiar interface options is likely to benefit the overall user experience.
A good example of event technology taking advantage of familiarity is Event- Collab. This event project management tool is built in the Google ecosystem. It not only fully integrates with Google tools like Documents and Sheets, but it also feels and acts like other Google software. This makes the learning curve significantly more manageable for anyone familiar with Google tools.
A good-looking product with updated design is important. Imagine using event registration tool that looks and feels like Windows 95 on the latest high powered PC. Even if the registration tool works well it is not as aesthetically pleasing and whether we like it or not this will make a difference to the user.
Miguel Neves, Head Chef at Social Media Chefs. He is also known as Senior Online Community Manager of Imex Group and jury member of the trade show’s startup competition. PHOTO: SOCIAL MEDIA CHEFS
With almost any type of event software there is a basic need for compatibility with the multitude of browsers, screen sizes, operating systems or mobile devices. In the case of event apps this usually means that there are several versions of the same app, all of which behave in slightly different ways. This is a challenge for event app developers as large amounts of testing must be carried out to ensure that the User Experience is consistent. Many other factors should be considered when it comes to online tools and apps including consistency, navigation and speed. Audience interaction is an area where different types of event technology have been developed, all with careful attention to User Experience. Software tools such Slido, Glisser or Crowd Mics have put a lot of work into their UX which has enabled impressive user adoption. In the case of Catchbox, the soft throwable microphone, it does not offer the same possibilities as other software tools, but its User Experience cannot be faulted.
In most cases event technology focussed on providing a single function tends to have higher adoption rates than those provide multiple services. This is particularly relevant for new event technology providers creating the next generation of event apps. Solving one problem or facilitating one function very well is better than doing many things adequately.
UX design is resource intensive and costly as it involves extensive research and user testing. This is perhaps the main reason why UX in event technology is often not as advanced as in mass market technology. With so much event technology being developed by small companies with limited budgets it’s easy to see why UX design is neglected.
Technologies are readily adopted if their function is familiar and intuitive. PHOTO: CEBIT
As event technology develops it is important that event professionals are advocates for the best user experience possible. For example, it is both the event technology provider and the event manager’s responsibility to ensure that registering for an event is effective. Often there is atemptation to collect extra data at registration by adding various extra fields, but this is more than likely to get in the way of the core task of registering for the event. If too many fields are added and the registration is not user focussed we risk having a negative effect on registration numbers and possibly event revenue. Ultimately a good user experience is never solely down to the event technology itself. For technology to be used by the participants, adequate communication in advance is usually well received. Any event that wants to guarantee user adoption should consider having staff on hand that can help participants get started with the event app or any other event technologies being used. Furthermore, when using technology powered audience interaction it is crucial to have a tech savvy moderator who can adequately facility audience interaction.
Event professionals will also benefit from good UX design of their internal tools. Well-designed software will save time, streamline processes and help them provide participants with a rewarding (user) experience. An all-round dedication to a good user experiences will go a long way to providing positive return on investment for everyone. MIGUEL NEVES