Improving Digital Experiences with Sudoku Lessons

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Jul 28 2014, Posted by Jim Stoklosa

Recently, I downloaded a Sudoku game app on my tablet. The app store was flooded with several versions to choose from, but ultimately I went with the one that seemed most popular. In the weeks that followed, I spent many hours playing this particular game, having a lot of fun while slowly improving my Sudoku skills.

In addition to my new skill set, I also learned something else — we can get awfully comfortable with minor but specific behaviors of a user interface. This became apparent to me when my daughter borrowed my tablet and I was forced to play a Web version of Sudoku on my laptop.

The Web version behaved very differently from my tablet app version and was not nearly as enjoyable. The basic game was exactly the same, but certain minor features and behaviors that I had come to rely on were simply not there, negatively affecting my overall experience.

This got me thinking about interactive digital experiences in physical retail spaces. Typically, users need to “learn” the interface as they go, while simultaneously trying to focus on completing a specific task. The average user is thus tasked with performing two functions instead of just one, and the reality is that users will not and should not have to spend excessive time trying to learn the user interface. They should be able to get the information they seek quickly and efficiently, without spending much effort on basic navigation.

Answering user navigational questions with technology

“Will this button bring me back to the start screen?” or “Can I change my previous choice to another choice?” are common questions that users contemplate during their digital interactions. Helping users through these navigational speed bumps can greatly improve their experiences. And, leveraging external technologies could offer an effective solution, which becomes even more apparent when we think about technologies such as iBeacon.

Creating a system that allows a smartphone to receive data from an iBeacon, which then transmits data back to a premise-based digital signage kiosk can allow for specific data triggers that make navigation easier. For example, the iBeacon can broadcast location data indicating what station the user is engaged with, and when the smartphone syncs with a central server, the iBeacon can push a data package down to the kiosk. The kiosk can then use this incoming data trigger to modify menu choices, highlight certain items or add new items as needed.

This iBeacon example is just one of many options that can be used to facilitate movement toward “auto-navigation” experiences that assist users with choice selection in relation to their product or service interests. By leveraging these kinds of technologies, retailers and the brands selling through them can ease the burden of the navigational learning curve for users and allow them to focus on the brand rather than the interface. Ideally, maneuvering through the user interface will feel like second nature to the user, or better yet, like something the user has been using every day of their life instead of for the first time.

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