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Author: Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is the founder of System Concepts. He was an original member of the Human Sciences and Advanced Technology (HUSAT) Research group at Loughborough University in 1970. In 1979, he joined the management consultancy Butler Cox and Partners and worked on assignments in Europe, North America and Australia where he was mainly concerned with making computer systems usable by and acceptable to non-computer staff at all levels.

He joined System Concepts in 1983, became Managing Director in 1986 and Executive Chairman in 2008 and has managed the growth of the company to become one of the largest independent ergonomics, usability and user experience consultancies in Europe. He is active in British, European and International ergonomics and usability standards and chairs the ISO committee responsible for the ergonomics of human-system interaction (including ISO 9241). Tom is a past President of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.

Six more tips to attract and keep older web users

You would not knowingly ignore 80% of the online market in the UK, would you? 

Yet many websites, generally designed by younger people, forget that older consumers may not share their abilities or tastes. So their websites probably don't work as well as they should for the growing army of silver surfers.

However, designing to cater for the aging population is not always straightforward. Last year, Econsultancy’s David Moth spelt out six sensible tips ranging from increasing the font size to avoiding major navigation changes

As a senior facing yet another birthday (is it really a year since the last one?) I have six more tips to help younger designers appeal to that increasingly wealthy post-kids generation with time and money on its hands.

Vacuum Mugs

Four ways brands can make early adoption easier and less painful

A recent trip to Japan got me thinking about the disadvantages of being an 'early adopter' of new products and technology, and how brands should encourage and reward those of us who get in ahead of the crowds.

Japanese technology shops are particularly fun, with blaring advertisements and garish coloured banners everywhere. 

In one, I found ‘easy to drink from’ vacuum mugs in a wide range of colours with a variety of sophisticated caps and drinking spouts. 

The humble black screw top I had bought in the UK was completely upstaged by these colourful, feature packed newcomers.


What's the point of user-centred design?

No, I have not suddenly started to question an approach which I have pioneered for more than three decades. 

What I am doing is reflecting a discussion currently underway in the International Standards committee considering the revision of ISO 9241 part 11, which defines usability. 

Don't worry, we don't intend to change the definition in any way that most people would notice. Standard-makers love arguing about fine detail, so there may be some tweaking of the wording in due course. 

The core definition will remain the same but we'd welcome some input from Econsultancy's members about how we describe the outcome of using user-centred design.


Eight things user-centred design can teach business

User-centred design (UCD) is widely regarded as the best way to design a great user experience (UX), with most UX professionals following the international standard ISO 9241 part 210. 

As project leader for this standard, I realised that some of the principles which underlie UCD can be applied to whole organisations, so I am pleased to be project leader (with Tomas Berns from Sweden) for a new ISO standard which aims to make businesses as a whole more human centred.

To encourage interest in the new standard, we have drafted an executive summary which can be downloaded and freely distributed and would welcome input from Econsultancy readers.

This new standard aims to engage the ‘hearts and minds’ of executive board level people by explicitly presenting how eight main principles of UCD can apply to organisations. 

In this post I look at these eight principles and link them back to user experience with examples (good or bad) on the web.

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Undo on iPhone

Secret features which enhance the user experience

OK, I have to admit they are not strictly secret like so called Easter Eggs, features hidden in widely used software, which the programmers think are great fun but which some of us think are a waste of our computing resources.  

One notorious example was the Flight Simulator built into Excel97. Microsoft apparently banned the practice in later years as part of its trustworthy and openness initiative but they are still quite common

No, I am talking about very useful features, which many people do not seem to know and which do not appear to be widely publicised.

Biometrics and the user experience

Five potential UX issues with biometrics

I have recently become involved in the growing field of biometrics standards and believe the various technologies should be of great interest to digital marketers.

However, when I searched the Econsultancy site, I found that biometrics was mainly seen as a tool for market and user research

Given the explosion in digital fraud and the difficulty of combining secure access with easy access, I believe biometrics have a great part to play in creating an engaging user experience.


Five pointless discussion posts

Blog IconI know I am getting (only now?) a bit cynical in my old age but I can't believe that I am the only one who finds the proliferation of discussion forums a bit tedious. 

Done properly, such forums are great ways for professionals to share experience and knowledge. The Econsultancy blog and comments help keep digital folk up to date and stimulated. 

But some discussions (not on Econsultancy obviously) seem to me to be little more than opportunities for pointless posts.


Five reasons why 'cool' product names might not be as clever as they seem

Android Code NamesSome companies spend a fortune coming up with enticing names for new products - and sometimes it goes disastrously wrong

A memorable example is the Chevy Nova, which in Spanish roughly translates to the Chevy doesn't-go. 

Even if the name doesn't mean something inappropriate, our research shows that gimmicky product names might not be as clever as their creators imagine.


Mobile banking: who do you trust with your finances?

Banking on a mobile phoneAs experts in digital marketing, I am sure you were all aware that Thursday 8 November was World Usability Day -a world wide event celebrating the importance of in usability in the digital world. 

This year’s theme was financial services and few would argue that usability was anything other than vital in this market. 

My colleagues at System Concepts contributed a video of interviews with potential customers and some key players in the mobile financial market in which the two mobile financial services providers interviewed were Vodafone and O2. 

This set me thinking: Do we trust mobile companies to give us banking, more than we trust banks to give us mobile services?


Does customer experience actually matter if the price is right?

I have just had a very bad experience with a well known budget airline (Ryanair) and I haven’t even left home yet. 

It reinforced my view that I will only travel with that airline when I have no other practical choice.

So how come it is highly profitable?


Why does Amazon not (appear to) care about accessibility?

There are some very simple techniques that digital marketers can use to check how accessible their communications are to people with disabilities, so I was rather surprised to receive this email from Amazon:

Amazon email with images switched off


World Standards Day 2011: What does it mean for usability?

World Standard's Day poster14 October 2011 is World Standards Day where the three major international standards bodies IEC, ISO and ITU celebrate the contribution that standards make to international commerce.  The theme this year is ‘Creating Confidence Globally’ and it strikes me that this is particularly relevant to usability.

Most creators of digital products design their products to be usable: effective, efficient and satisfying. Although sometimes this is hard to believe, I do not think anyone deliberately ignores their users.

However, what some designers quite frequently fail to do is to apply current usability best practice or test out their products before launch. When real users find the products difficult or cumbersome to use or fail to get the desired results and stop using the product, this can come as a surprise to the unwary designer (and their bosses who see the costs of their investment rising and the benefits diminishing).