The smart ring that never was
You will be delighted to hear that I am sticking with my UX theme for a second week.
This time, before you get protective, I will argue that UX goes further than you let it, and unless you let it go further than it usually goes, you fail.
How’s that for dramatic?
What do I mean? Read on.
I love Apple Pay with a passion and a vengeance. I love leaving home (on the rare occasions when I don’t lug around a suitcase and a laptop case) without a handbag.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you have found a woman who hates handbags.
I love being able to pay with my watch. I love being able to do almost everything I need as I go about my daily life on my phone (and now Greek ID is available digitally I am genuinely on fire).
My friend Andrew Vorster has been swearing blind by his smart ring.
Even less hassle, he said.
It works as if by magic. You don’t need extra chargers. You don’t even need to carry one more piece of kit around. Just wave your hand like a Jedi. He should be on commission. He’s that convincing.
A few weeks later, randomly, but in perfect symmetry, I got given a smart ring as a speakers’ gift at an event.
I won’t pretend I wasn’t excited.
And yes, this is a pre-Covid story.
Why am I telling you now, I hear you ask?
Because I just found it, in my desk drawer.
Still in its box.
And the reason it’s unused is that, although the ring’s UX is as magically seamless as Andrew demonstrated, user onboarding was not.
Observe a disaster in three parts:
1) I get gifted the smart ring. I open the box. It comes with a booklet. So I read the instructions. The instructions talk about the amazingness of using the ring but say nothing on getting started.
For more information, we are referred to the website.
Fail. Either have everything I need on the paper booklet or just have a QR code or website on the box. Don’t give me some instructions here and some instructions there.
But OK, whatever, salvageable.
2) So off I go, onto the website where it actually does have a ‘getting started’ section.
Only, in order to get started, I need an invoice number.
What happens if I had used my receipt to throw out some used gum? What happens if I can’t remember which card I paid for this ring with? Do I need to start trawling through all my transactions across multiple accounts, cards and PayPal records to find a reference?
What happens if, as in my case, this was a gift?
Contact us, is your only option.
3) So I contact them.
And they are stumped.
It hadn’t occurred to them when they gifted a bunch of rings that this would be a problem.
Now, two fun facts. I was not the only one who got a ring as a gift at this event and this exchange took place a week or two after the event. This means that by the time I got onto them, either every other recipient of the gift had already given up on ever using it after steps one and two, or their teams hadn’t compared notes on this edge case/obvious miss (depending on how charitable you are feeling).
I reach out. I explain the situation. We spend hours I will never get back going back and forth on the obvious things that don’t apply to my situation, like have you used your invoice number?
We tried a couple of things.
Try this number… oh no that didn’t work, let me talk to my manager and get back to you… hours pass… try the shipping details… that didn’t work… let me try something else… days pass… try this order number… that didn’t work either.
Three was the charm.
The third attempt was them generating a null invoice for me to use.
Only I was travelling by the time they worked it out so by the time I got round to using it, it had expired… another one had to be created… which took a few days… and when I got on and managed to get to the activation page with enough information to identify the actual ring in my hand, the information required and the format it is was needed in meant that the time I had allocated to do this task was up before I was done with it.
But nothing for it, I needed to be on a call and then the post must have arrived and got piled on top of the box waiting for me to get back to it and then I must have moved it when tidying and there you go. It’s still in the box and I can’t even remember what stage of the process I abandoned all hope and effort at, so I would have to start from scratch.
So why am I telling you this, considering a very small fraction of my readers, followers and friends are working in wearables?
I am telling you because we are all in the service business.
One way or another, we all design products in the form of a service for consumers who have options.
For consumers who expect their digital encounters to sustain interruption without needing to reset.
Who expect their digital encounters to be quick and in real time.
And who will make no financial commitment until after the experience has been experienced… so you’d better hope said experience has been smooth.
Perhaps if I had paid for the ring I would have persevered.
But the reality is, your consumer choosing to consolidate their pension pots on your app, moving their savings to your platform, opening an account with your neobank or opening a brokerage account with you won’t part with cash until they have reached a rather advanced stage of the journey.
Your abandoned baskets along said journey are a testament to the things you have done badly and an accusation pointing at all the things you missed in a world where UX is not about the design but genuinely about the experience.
This is genuinely not about design in a narrow sense.
Bad UX can still be very pretty.
But nobody cares if it’s pretty yet not smooth, fast or designed for interruption (I feel like I need to repeat that about 10 more times, but I will limit myself to one more: digital journeys need to be designed for interruption. If they are not, they are not really digital journeys, they are just pretty screens your boss liked so signed off on).
And this is as important. It needs to be designed to compete for the attention of a multi-banked audience who has options. Good options. And many of them.
Be it a retail customer, (increasingly) an SME customer or an institutional customer… If you don’t get onboarding right, you will never get to show off your amazing product, your amazing, smooth in-app experience, the stuff that your teams focused all their time and energy on.
Back in my banking days, onboarding was referred to as ‘the hairy beast’, and everyone tried to delay taking it on or hoped another team would get tasked with tackling it.
There’s a reason for that.
It’s hard to get right in a way that balances regulatory requirements, edge cases, speed and customer-friendliness.
It’s really hard.
But it’s really important.
Because in a world of options, if you don’t get onboarding right, you will never get to do the next part.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!