In the blink of an eye and the touch of a finger

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This method of arriving at the financial returns for changes in user experience has been doing the rounds recently. The writeup talks about how Amazon may possibly lose 1% in sales for every 100 miliseconds added to page load time. With all the data at one’s disposal it seems reasonable that one has been able to establish a relationship between sales and speed. While it may be easier to quantify and A/B test in this specific instance, there are multiple user experience initiatives where it’s not easy to measure interactions or the impact of change.

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In this light, I have been wondering how Apple would have worked out the business impact of changes in its font from Helvetica Neue to SanFrancisco Neue. Although it seems like a harmless change (because, in most cases, all functionality remains intact), and new users may not argue, old users will most definitely be rattled by the changes, because they have been used to using the same interface, with the same font, over and over again. While some decisions to change the typography (or font) are clearly led by rationale to make the type work for newer (and smaller devices) and offer better legibility, it also impacts users emotions in two ways.

Cognitive bias

Firstly, we associate certain connotations to specific fonts and font styles. This, like many other things in our world, is often influenced by our cognitive biases and the culture we grow up in. For instance, sans serif fonts are commonly used on official U.S. government forms. But, in England, sans serif fonts are more commonly used by tabloids.

The context in which different fonts are used changes how we feel when we see them.

Objective readability

On top of all that, some fonts are inherently easier to read than others. And the harder our eyes and brains have to work to interpret a piece of text, the worse we report feeling afterwards.

Serif fonts were originally used by the print press, as serifs are proven to help the eye move from letter to letter faster.When computers were first used, computer screens had low resolutions. Serif fonts had to be created using vectors, which just didn’t look right with the low pixel-density available back in the days. So, early designers defaulted to using sans serif fonts, which were created as bitmaps.

Screen resolutions have come along way over the past few decades. We’re at a point where pixels are barely recognizable up close. As such, serif fonts liked Georgia are becoming more and more popular.

Experimenting with typography

While you may still have a hard time convincing your clients or your other team at work to make that extra investment in typography to improve the user experience, the fore-mentioned formula does help in arriving at the return of the UX investments. The method allows one to use the expected change in monetary value for every user interaction that the change in customer experience (or UX) development will arrive at for a user or a customer and then multiply the monetary value with the total number of customers impacted by the change while including the time period and the cost of development as other important considerations.

As more and more touch points become enhanced with elements of technology, they become more measurable allowing organizations to improve customer journeys. However, as human behaviour interacts with new forms of technology it often conveniently arrives at methods and ways of interaction which no one perhaps would have thought through at the stage of inception or development of the technology and its manifestations in the form of devices. I wonder if Apple at the time of developing the Watch would have thought that more than half of the users would use their nose to interact with the device! But then such are the intricacies of human behaviour which in turn makes improving user experience as much a science as it is art.