James Royal-Lawson


Testing IKEA’s augmented reality catalogue

The new 2013 IKEA catalogue arrived. Normally my interest in it is limited to taking it from the postbox and putting it into a place where my wife will find it.

This year my interest was unusually high – I knew that IKEA had included augmented reality features.

In this film clip, you can see the IKEA catalogue equivalent of a “live unboxing”: Taking the catalogue, following the instructions, and trying to get the augmented reality features to work using my Android Tablet.

Link to the video on YouTube.

How did it go?

To summarise the “unboxing”. It was a little awkward finding the app using the Swedish name, but it installed ok and ran without problem.

Getting my tablet to activate the pages was a little more awkward. I was forced to put the catalogue on my chair in order to get far enough back.

What will I get?

One thing I felt was missing was some kind of expectation of what to find once I’d managed to get a page to scan. Some of the pages when scanned triggered overlays which “stuck” to a particular place on the page; or a 3D animation. Other pages gave a beep and then loaded a picture gallery. Different results required quite different control and positioning of the tablet.

close up of IKEA's scan icon

When using barcodes or other kinds of symbols that lead to additional content, give people some indication of what they should expect when they successfully access the content. In IKEA’s case, that could have been a second icon depicting a film, slideshow or 3d animation.

Further testing on the iPad

After I’d finished recording the video, I managed to retrieve the iPad back from my daughter and tested the app on iOS. It was easier to find in App store (then it was in Google Play) as I got a match on the Swedish name this tme (although it was disappointing that the existing IKEA app hadn’t been updated and I had to install a new one)

The iPad app was, like the Android version, fussy about distance. At times it was awkward to get a lock on the page. It was also fussy about light levels. Most pages in the catalogue I managed to activate or scan, but there were a couple that I had to give up on (or perhaps I just missed the augmentation?)

iPad showing a 3d animation with an IKEA catalogue in the background

The 3D animations were really quite odd. It was difficult to keep a “lock” on the page at the same time as rotating the iPad to see different angles.

I tried to move round to see the back of set of wardrobes that appeared at one point. I managed it, but it was like me, the iPad and the IKEA catalogue were playing a game of Twister.

Ease of use

I’m quite a fan of connecting the physical world to the digital, such as QR codes, but the major barrier to adoption to most of these attempts are the need for specific apps to be installed before you can interact with whatever lies behind the code or activate the AR features.

QR codes, and barcodes in general, would be much more successful and simple if mobile device manufacturers included scanners in their native camera applications. So far both Apple and Android lack this. Microsoft on the other hand have made it native it in their Windows 8 devices.

As it is, the augmented reality felt gimmicky and awkward, rather than inspiring and useful.

A more stable activation method, such as a QR code, would increase the success rate of interacting. This could be combined with practical features such as adding items to a wish list, showing availability, product variations and suggested combinations. It even opens the door to social content. IKEA could support their catalogue via the second screen in a similar way to what we are seeing with television.

It all boils down to usability. The ease of use. How usable is it. The more hoops you need to jump through the greater the chance of failing. Every time you write “just download our app”, you add a number of new loops to the challenge.

You can read about the thinking behind the 2013 catalogue in this article.

Have you tried scanning the IKEA catalogue? How did it go?

James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

The Beantin Index

Last week I launched The Beantin Index, a site where Swedish websites are graded and ranked!

After a number of months of planning and preparation (as a side-project) The Index has, at last, seen the light of day.

Screenshot of The Beantin Index, Swedish websites graded and ranked

There are plenty of awards handed out to Swedish websites every year, but I felt as if something was missing. I wanted something where I could compare sites; quantify how good they are based on a set of critera.

To create a score that gives an indication of how well a website is managed, how well it complies with various standards and recommendations, and how good it is to use..

The Beantin Index fills that gap.

It’s only the beginning, but I’m intending to add new sites to The Index as often as I can mange. The review process itself takes a couple of hours, then it takes an hour or two to write up, prepare, and publish the final result.

Want your site rated?

If you’d like your website rated, please get in touch. If you’re a little bit afraid of hanging out your dirty laundry in public, then don’t worry – I can do private ratings (for a small fee), then once you’ve made some improvements I can re-assess the site (for free) and add it to The Beantin Index.

I hope you find The Beantin Index both interesting and useful.

James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

12 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 22-27, 2011)

For your reading pleasure this time, a collection of links (with summaries) including articles related to: web management, SEO, intranet, UX.

Web management

The web is critical. The web team is not

‎”According to a McKinsey report, From 2004 to 2009, the Internet’s contribution to GDP in mature countries averaged about 20%.” – just think how much it could be if more organisations made good, well managed use of it!

Greenpeace R2D2 QR Code

I’ve read a fair few good things have been said about aspects of Greenpeace’s “Volkswagen” campaign – but they haven’t done a good job of using QR Codes. Yes, it looks good on R2D2’s side, but (amongst other problems) the code leads to a non-mobile version of the site…

Härmed anmäler jag Riksdagen för brott mot lagen | Emanuels randanmärkningar

The new “cookie law” came into force on July 1st here in Sweden, basically making pre-approval of cookies a requirement for a website (with some fuzzy not clearly defined exceptions). Have you adjusted all your (Swedish) sites? A draft recommendation of what to do to comply is available from IAB Sweden.

The Web Is Not A Farm! It’s Time To Tear Down The Silos

All hail the generalist! Conferences covering every “Silo” seem to be talking about how the Silos that exist in web [well, business…] have to be broken down. Unfortunately a lot of time, it is the Silo topic of the conference that paints itself as “right” and it’s all the other Silos need to be broken down. Thankfully, Kristina Mausser writes some sense. All hail T-shaped people and generalists!

A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide

Some nice parts in this Guide from Smashing Magazine. Unfortunately, it’s missing some really important aspects. What about migration? Most companies aren’t start-ups with no existing digital presence. What about SEO? Keyword research? Taking care of redirects? And then a big miss – usability testing?

Five years from now, there’ll be no such thing as a webpage

Well, no – but kind of. Yes, social (networks, content & search) will continue to make huge changes to how we consume (create and share) content – but the hub of the internet will still be pages.

UX, IA & Testing

“Come as you are” – Part 1: The Reckless years

A series of blog posts sharing stories and experiences from 13 years of working with Information Architecture. Martin is currently the lead IA and UX architect for The Guardian.

Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing

Examples of Guerrilla usability testing from the lead UX/IA at The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Although it’s a compliment to “proper” testing, there’s really no excuse for doing no testing at all when it’s so simple, quick (and low cost) to just get out there and collect some data!


Getting “Pure” Search Results

Some tips about how to get “clean” non-personalised search results. Useful for research. I particularly like Scroogle – allows you to search Google as a “Google virgin”.

Why Google SERP CTR studies are a waste of time

We all know how “ranking number 1 in Google” is a silly phrase these days. This article does a good job of looking at patterns in click through ratios of SERPs and analysing the behaviour. You even get a reminder of some good housekeeping tips for improving your snippet.

Intranet & Collaboration

Does your intranet make a difference for your customers?

Nice reminder from Jane that the intranet should be helping you help your customers. In particular I like the example at the end of the post where she quotes a large bank that broke their workforce down into 3 groups: front line, back office, and analytical. All of which have very different expectations and needs from the intranet – and require different strategies (and tactics)

The multiplier effect

A blog post on the Economist Blog about social collaboration platforms as a talent-centred ecosystem for organisations. They talk of “T-shaped brokers” with deep specialist knowledge (the vertical bar) and a desire to collaborate (the horizontal bar). I’ve dubbed a variation of such people as “super-creators” previously.

Plain english please!

Plain language is better for usability. Giving things descriptive, clear and to the point labels will help users complete their tasks easier.

We’ve talked for years about the inside-out problem where corporate websites let internal terminology seap through into the information architecture of their external web site.

OK, sometimes it’s perhaps some strained attempt at sub-branding, but in most situations I think it’s more effective to use plain language rather than go through the cost and hassle of inventing and establishing a sub-brand.

SL Access

A little while ago I used one of the ticket machines at a Stockholm metro station to buy a ticket for a visiting relative. This is not something I would normally do, being a season pass holder. Being fluent in Swedish, I wouldn’t normally choose English as the language rather than (the default) Swedish,

Seeing the opportunity to do a bit of on-the-spot usability testing of SL’s ticket machine, I tried to stay out of the process as much as possible – only helping when my relative got stuck, or reached the point of giving up on each screen of options. Yes, each screen. We got stuck a lot. There is no real on-screen help at any point. So as a tourist you have to magically understand different zones, concessions, and numerous other things.

With each screen I was increasingly wondering just who the ticket machines were aimed at? No matter which language you choose – English or Swedish – if you were using the ATM to purchase a ticket then it is likely that you are an occasional user of the transport system or a tourist (as regular users would have period cards). Occasional users need guiding and supporting through the process, nothing can be presumed to have been learned or remembered. The labels and language should be simple and intuitive.

MIFARE standard

Photos showing the mysterious MIFARE standard button

The screen that made me shake my head, and inspired this blog post, was the “Select media type” screen that contained the phrase “MIFARE standard” as an option. Media type? MIFARE standard? We opted for “Paper” by deduction as Back, Cancel, and the mysterious MIFARE didn’t seem like the right options. So Paper it had to be.

But what is MIFARE you ask? A search on SL’s website is no help whatsoever. The term MIFARE isn’t used at all on the entire site. As usual, Google will give you the answer – it’s the contactless technology used in SL’s “Access” smart cards and billions of other smart cards around the world.

Screenshot showing no search results for MIFARE on

Access is the sub-brand created by SL for their smart cards, which given that they have bothered to create a sub-brand, would have been a more sensible option to display on this screen. People just aren’t going to understand what MIFARE Standard is. Not that it will help you, but MIFARE Standard isn’t even the the technology used, it’s actually MIFARE Classic.

Complete lacking of testing

Sadly, despite my ranting above about plain english and sub-branding, I think in this case the problem is down to a complete lack of testing of the Englsh language version. The Swedish version perhaps may not have been tested with real users either, but it does use more sensible language – and in particular doesn’t include the mysterious MIFARE option.

SL introduced a 20kr fee for “Access” smart cards from the 1st of January in an attempt to encourage Stockholmers to reuse and refill their cards more often. Perhaps it would have been more sensible to invest a little more in testing the process and making it a bit more user friendly instead?

Most of your webpage is irrelevant

Provocative title, yes, but as you can see from the eye tracking heat maps above – when a user lands on a page trying to complete a task, they ignore everything they don’t consider helpful in completing that task.

Left-hand image

The left-hand heat map shows 3 people looking at the start page of a Swedish council’s website without a task. They were just told to take in the page – a test I call first impressions. Without a task, people look everywhere – fixating on headlines, menus, and faces across pretty much the entire page – even scrolling to look below the fold.

Right-hand image

The right-hand heat map shows where 3 people fixated on the same page, but this time they were given a specific task. Their focus is entirely on the horizontal menu. They presumed the menu to provide the next step in completing their task. Everything else was ignored. Nothing else was expected to be able to help more than the main menu.

Normal behaviour

This is not a one off. This is what I see every single time I test a web site where the user has a task to complete. The exact places they look varies with the task, but searching the page for keywords almost always begins with what is perceived to be the main navigation.

How much of your start page is irrelevant and ignored?

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