Software Usability in Telco: Going Beyond Technical Performance

Posted: August 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Software Usability in Telco: Going Beyond Technical Performance

By Kirsi Kalenius-Ruotsalainen

Most software is built in layers. At the bottom sits the technical foundation, while at the very top there’s a user interface that connects man with machine. Most software users never actually deal with the technical layer – they’re happy as long as the software’s foundation works efficiently and as it should. mobile desktop software development

Instead, most user interactions occur on the surface layer, but that’s not always where developers and businesses focus their attention. A lot of development time is spent shoring up a product’s technical foundation, and while it’s very important to create a functional product that’s built on strong footing, a subpar user interface is not enough. Users need more than that. And a major challenge is that a product’s usability is invisible by nature and usually only gains attention when something is missing.

The User is Number One

What is usability in a nutshell?

The essence of it is to think about the usage of a product or service from the user’s point of view and consider the optimal way of interacting with the product to achieve maximum end-user benefits. It’s about enabling the use of a product or service to be as easy, as pleasant and as efficient as possible. It’s about simplifying complex things.

Users need products that are easy to learn and to use, that eliminate error-prone conditions, that create meaningful experiences, and, not to forget, that are pleasant to look at. Products need to make sense and answer the needs of users.

Users want products to be as fluent as possible, saving their time and, in the corporate world, saving their money. This need is universal no matter the software’s target group or ideal customer, whether it’s a private individual or a big global telco company.

So, how do software developers get to the point where their product’s users enjoy both maximum technical performance as well as great product usability?

One has to bear in mind that great product usability, as abstract as it sounds, is not a complementary asset – it’s an integral must-have quality for any service or software. The process of ensuring a service or software has the best possible usability goes alongside the whole development process, from requirements gathering all the way to delivery and beyond.

A Focus on Usability Saves Money

It’s not only end-users that benefit from an integrated approach to addressing software usability. Developers and businesses stand to benefit, too.

By utilizing user-centric design methods from the beginning, it’s easier for developers to track what customers want and compile a comprehensive list of product requirements. In fact, it would be beneficial for all parties, if possible, to have continuous communication between customers and the user experience design team to track satisfaction with a product’s usability and features.

After feedback is received and new product requirements determined, continuous end-user feedback and validation during the design and development stages will ensure faster progress and earlier resolution of design flaws or feature missteps. Failing fast saves development time and money.

How Comptel Addresses Product Usability

The Comptel user experience design team utilizes user-centric design methods that aim at taking the end-user into account from the very beginning of the design process. The range of different methods is vast, varying from user interviews to focus groups, workshops and co-creation. End-users and experts are an integral part of the design process and their knowledge is being utilized at all phases. We aim to achieve continuous dialog with our end-users.

Usability Can Also Be a Competitive Asset

Let’s not forget that Comptel is not the only business operating in the area of telco software development. We always ask ourselves: How can we differentiate from the other providers in this highly competitive environment? What makes us better?

When a software’s technical performance, feature list and price are approximately on the same level, it’s the surface-level usability that makes the difference to customers. So we work to deliver a superior user experience that customers know is quintessentially Comptel.

You can’t create a world-leading software product without offering both great technical performance and a great user experience. And you can’t deliver a great user experience without supreme product usability. These factors combined equal quality. And quality is our key driver.


Why Telcos Need to Pay More Attention to Strategic Experience Design

Posted: January 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The telecommunications industry is no stranger to commoditisation. As over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype and WhatsApp bite into traditional sources of revenue, there has been a scramble to compensate for those lost profits elsewhere. That has generally meant charging more for data or thinking about how predictive analytics can help build more sophisticated marketing offers.

Yet all of that activity often overlooks one central theme: strategic experience design. The commoditisation of technology has changed the battleground from the technology itself to the design of the product – in short, the user and customer experience.

Together, these two elements fall under the umbrella of strategic experience design.  It’s not just your customers that benefit from that kind of holistic design; it’s your customer’s customers.

Psychology and Design

At the heart of good user and customer experience is an understanding of applied psychology. How are people using your product? What do they expect, and what’s the flow from the start to the finish?

At Comptel, we believe that good design comes from collaboration, honesty and respect. Communications service providers (CSPs) shouldn’t be afraid of listening to customer feedback on the experience of their products, or of collaborating across traditional department boundaries to apply the strengths of the virtual working team for a better final product.

When we choose to undertake strategic experience design for our own customers, Comptel doesn’t just draw a blueprint of what we want the user experience to look like – we map journeys of our customers’ needs. To do that, we directly involve customers in the process, ensuring that we never create a product in isolation of our audience. That ensures that the end result will be an intuitive and extremely efficient platform for CSPs.

A Different Approach

Strategic experience design should be created from four different best practice steps. Initially, it’s about the requirements of the user. That sets the baseline for the next step: the concept. The concept creates the abstract of the experience itself and helps to decide the design goals, and what needs to happen in order to achieve it.

From there, the experience design moves onto the base design. That’s where the different user journeys are defined within the product.  During this phase, a presentation is built that helps to visualise the flow of the design. That’s important when it comes to the last step, sensorial design. At this point, the layouts, prototypes and sensorial assets, such as graphics, animations and sounds, are input that complete the experience, finalising both the look and feel of the product interface.

A New Kind of Experience

For a long time, technology has taken the helm, steering all other elements of the product. With the commoditisation of so many telecommunications services, that’s changed. People won’t remember the technology you provide so much as the experience you provide them.

Comptel has recognised this, which is why strategic experience design is an integral part of our product creation and solution packaging, from day one to customer delivery. And why we think that we will lead the way in this space by leading by example.


Abe’s Law of Experience Design

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There once was a sharp-dressing American gentleman named Abraham Lincoln. He was a great man by many standards, and there’s also a brilliant quote from him I always use as the first slide of all of my presentations and lectures: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

I think Honest Abe was spot on – why wait for the world to change, when you can just roll up your sleeves and get the wheels turning? At Comptel, we’ve adopted Abe’s wise words as our unofficial slogan in our mission to drive a meaningful, usable, and delightful user journey for customers across all of our products.

Beyond UI

Good user experience doesn’t happen by accident. It’s rooted much, much, deeper than just the graphical user interface. These are self-evident fundamentals that the likes of Jony Ive from Apple have made very visible in the consumer product space over the past decade, but strangely are still not widely adopted in professional software markets. The simple fact of the matter is that in a domain as business-critical and complex as OSS, putting proper weight on your user experience – instead of just the user interface – is even more important than with consumer products.

To that end, Comptel is dedicated to making a dent in our industry through strategic experience design. For us, user experience is not an obligatory final touch at the end of the R&D pipeline, it’s a driving force that runs deep throughout the organisation – from Product Managers, UX Designers, and Development teams, who work together to lay the basic bricks for the user journey, all the way to sales and service teams. We are all responsible for contributing to the overall user and customer experience in our daily work.

In the coming months, we’ll share more on the importance user and customer experience and offer further insight on today’s design trends. You will have the chance to get to know Comptel’s creative process, as well as our research methods and the design tools that we’re using to redefine experience design as we know it.

This is most definitely not a monologue, so we would love to hear your thoughts on the current stage of experience design in the OSS space. Please take this opening piece as an invitation to an honest dialogue, whether in the comments section below, on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ediootti), or over a very real cup of coffee in a face-to-face conversations!

Juho Paasonen is Head of Experience Design at Comptel