User centricity is gaining in importance for vehicle manufacturers, as the hunt for competitive advantages is getting tougher and user centricity also increases customer loyalty. While a few years ago the sheer number of functions was decisive, now it is crucial to what extent these services can be used by end customers.
We, the P3 User Experience Team, passionately dedicate ourselves to the topic of user centricity. Our goal is to better adapt products, services and experiences to the real needs of their users. This means on the one hand to analyze the specific needs and to incorporate them as a basis for the development. On the other hand, we check to what extent products but also prototypes meet these needs.
In our daily work there are always situations that surprise us or make us smile. We make interesting discoveries about UX Mindset, UX Strategy and UX Development, especially during live vehicle tests with test persons. We have compiled some of the best of these experiences and conclusions in six short stories.
Proband surprises everyone with non-use of infotainment
In one of our observational studies, we gave test persons the task of playing music in a car. One of the study participants got into the test vehicle, pulled his phone out of his pocket and placed it in the center console to finally play music from his phone. He did not even connect to the infotainment system.
This shows it is not immediately clear to everyone what features and functions a vehicle has. Users should therefore be actively enabled to use precisely those functions that reduce driver distraction, such as making phone calls via the infotainment system.
Lesson #1 – The connection of smartphones and other devices with the infotainment system should be simple and self-explanatory. When in doubt, however, the user must first know that his vehicle has the option of connecting smartphones via USB or Bluetooth.
Intuition of a test person sabotaged test
During a benchmark of two vehicles, in which we wanted to compare the buttons and touch display, a test person outsmarted us by intuitively triggering the desired function via voice command and thus sabotaged our test.
Especially when car manufacturers rely solely on a touch display as a haptic input device, sophisticated voice control is even more important to ensure that drivers can still operate the infotainment system in difficult driving situations.
Lesson #2 – Various input options are a must for infotainment systems today. Many manufacturers are implementing touch screens, steering wheel operation, gesture and voice control, in addition to the familiar knobs and dials.
Co-worker disappears in the trunk
In one of our test vehicles the SIM card slot was hidden in the trunk according to the operating instructions. After minutes of searching in vain and then removing the base plate and another cover, the colleague had already completely disappeared in the trunk before the tiny slot for the mini SIM card was finally found.
By 2020, Internet is a must-have in new vehicles. A permanent connection is needed not only for the legally required emergency call service “eCall”, but also for typical navigation applications or music streaming services. Users should therefore have an easy and frictionless way to install small things like a SIM card.
Lesson #3 – When it comes to internet access, it is also desirable to give the user the choice – for example, between a fixed SIM from the manufacturer, a separate SIM card or a USB dongle. The resulting scenarios must also be considered and designed to be user-friendly.
Trust has not paid off – vehicle app fails
In a test setting we determined the runtimes of signals between app and vehicle and back to the app. After a few attempts, the trust in the examined service, which allows opening and closing the car via app, was large enough so that the real key remained in the car permanently. But exactly after this the service failed, the car refused every command of the app, and one of our experts had to climb through the open sunroof to open the car from the inside again.
The possibilities offered by a vehicle connected to the Internet, such as keyless car sharing within the family, can make life much easier. But as always, the services must be reliable and remain easily comprehensible.
Lesson #4 – Vehicle apps, which every manufacturer nowadays provides so users can trigger various vehicle functions are fine perks. Reliability and good performance are the most important requirements for these functions to be used and to be fun to use.
Coffee & tea open the trunk
In a selected test case for voice control in a vehicle, our test persons experienced various use cases for opening the trunk and sunroof. Not only our test persons, but us too were surprised when the request “Open the trunk” was processed regularly and without error message by searching for “coffee & tea” in the navigation system. (Original input language German)
There is no doubt that voice control in the vehicle provides easy access to vehicle functionalities if it works smoothly. Nevertheless, incorrect execution of desired voice commands leads to increased distraction for drivers and does not provide the anticipated relief.
Lesson #5 – Voice control exists today in many places in both private and business environments. Inside the vehicle, the requirements are at least as high as for the operation of smartphones or intelligent speakers. Operation must be simple and intuitive so that the attention of the driver remains focused on the road.
The insurmountable door
Before the actual test began, our test persons got into the vehicle to sit in the driver’s seat. However, a problem already arose when one of the test persons could not figure out how to open the door. This new vehicle model simply lacked the recessed grip – the grip is operated in a new way by tilting. Only after explicit explanation the eye-opener took place and the door could be opened.
If users do not immediately understand how to use a product, they have often formed a different mental model for it. To better understand such operating problems, it is helpful for developers to know these existing models.
Lesson #6 – People work with mental models, which means they recognize processes and interactions according to familiar patterns. If these familiar or learned patterns are interrupted, for example for design reasons, targeted visual and verbal assistance must be provided.
Our experiences illustrate the significant insights that user-centric design and testing of solutions can provide. Essential for the entire project is the initial analysis of the intended target group: Which people will use the product? What are their needs? What is their motivation? What is their previous knowledge and what thoughts and feelings are they occupied with? This knowledge about the potential users serves to make well-founded design decisions to meet the desired needs.
User knowledge is also necessary for the selection of the test persons for our numerous tests and benchmarks. Only with potential users we can generate meaningful results and ultimately come closer to our goal of designing products that provide a better user experience.
P3 User Experience team: