Building a coupon app for iPhone - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech at EuroIA

 by Martin Belam, 30 September 2012

I’ve spent the last couple of days at EuroIA in Rome, and I’ve been gradually making my way through publishing all of the notes I made. So far I’ve covered talks by Gerry McGovern, Peter J. Bogaards, Birgit Geiberger & Peter Boersma, Raffaella Roviglioni, Jonas Söderström, Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss and Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller.

EuroIA Rome 2012

EuroIA Rome 2012
by Martin Belam
All of my notes from the 2012 EuroIA conference in one ebook, featuring coverage of talks by Gerry McGovern, Peter J. Bogaards, Andrea Resmini, Eric Reiss, Jim Kalbach, Carola Weller, Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Stephen P. Anderson
Available free for iBooks, for Kindle, and as a PDF

The only session I saw that actually had footage of using testing was a case study of building a discount coupon app for the iPhone in Switzerland. Here are my notes...

“What users don’t understand about their iPhone” - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech

Hermann & Gregor started by explaining a bit about the traditional couponing space, which is very complex. I remember trying to design the check-out flows for the Sony Connect store and having to factor in all manner of discount and promotional vouchers. Nightmare. Coupons typically involve absolute discounts, relative discounts, time limitations or geographic limitations, and are restricted to one coupon per person. Typically they have been in print - and the physical format restricts them to one time use, since the retailer takes the piece of paper out of circulation.

SMS couponing has been going in in Switzerland for a few years, and has proved to be a business success. You get a code on your phone, remember to tell the cashier when you are paying, and then enter the code into the payment machine. Hermann & Gregor quoted a study by electrical goods retailer Mediamarkt that claimed coupon promotions gave a 50% better ROI than other promotional marketing means. The idea of having a couponing app was driven by making that even more profitable, by using push notifications instead of the more expensive SMS.

I suddenly had one of those flashes when I realised that yet another chunk of display advertising - putting physical coupons in physical paper - is probably going to disappear from newspapers, and wondered why none of us had built some grand affiliate couponing “thing” to keep that revenue spend in our vertical.

The case study was a fairly traditional user-centred design project. They started with some requirements and did some - their words - “scribbling”, then showed the scribbles to customers and stakeholders in a round of testing to refine the idea. The finalised the concept, and went into using Axure to prototype.

When they tested the prototype, at the time the version of Axure they were using had some limitations when used on the iPhone, and so they incorporated into the test a warm-up exercise to teach the user to do two-fingered scrolling rather than the native one finger version. There were also some issues about running the tests on a slow development server, and of course the weirdly intrusive nature of watching people touch their phones. Hermann & Gregor were actually using the DIY Mecanno rig that had been demoed by Belén Barros Pena and Bernard Tyers at EuroIA 2010 when I dubbed them the MacGyvers of mobile usability testing.

Hermann & Gregor made the fatal mistake at this point of trying to do a live tech demo in front of a large audience, which of course failed. I had a similar experience during my workshop on Thursday when was down, breaking all the prototypes I wanted to show, and one of the things I wanted to demo from the Guardian was giving me a 502 Bad Gateway message. Never work with children, animals, or live tech demos.

One thing that became clear with the couponing app is that however they designed it, they were still hitting a point where a human being has to read off a number from one device, and key it into another. That looks like it surely has to be an interim solution - because computers are very good at swapping numbers from one place to another if you let them. The elephant in the room was the timeframe for widespread NFC technology being introduced. In the meantime, of course, if the interim solution is delivering a 50% ROI on marketing spend, well that sounds like a pretty good interim to me.

Before showing the user-testing footage they explained two things. Firstly Switzerland has very high penetration of smartphones, and the iPhone in particular. This means, they think, that there are many more people with the devices who you wouldn’t usually consider to be first movers with tech than in other demographic samples.

Secondly, they debated how closely they should keep their design to Apple’s guidelines, in the end opting to, because, they assumed, they would get a more usable app out at the end. In fact they uncovered some issues with Apple’s own usability guidelines - particularly with the placement of the segmented control. This doesn’t surprise me hugely. I tend to think that if you are having to use the segmented control at all, you are probably already struggling to present a simple view of complex information, let alone provide the controls to manipulate it. The testing also found that people don’t discover features that can only be accessed by gesture - in this example shaking the phone would have taken users to their list of favourite coupons, but nobody tried it.

You can view Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech’s original slides on SlideShare:



Next up I’ll have my notes from Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s deep dive into how IAs can help us all work better with content.

This is one of a series of blog posts about the talks I saw at EuroIA 2012 in Rome. You can download the whole lot in an ebook for iBooks, for Kindle or as a PDF

“The dirty magnet” - Gerry McGovern
“Helping businesses to tackle a ‘wicked problem’” - Peter J. Bogaards
“Process & People” - Birgit Geiberger & Peter Boersma
“An agronomist’s unexpected path to UX Design” - Raffaella Roviglioni
“Responsive IA: IA in the touchscreen era” - Martin Belam
“‘Stupid bloody system!’: Bad IA in the workplace” - Jonas Söderström
“On beauty” - Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss
“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller
Building a coupon app for iPhone - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech
“Micro IA and content that travels” - Sara Wachter-Boettcher
“What am I curious about?” - Stephen P. Anderson

You can also download all my notes from the previous EuroIA in Prague as one PDF or as an ePub document.

Keep up to date on my new blog