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.

UXLx 2012: Links to notes and podcasts

Between May 16-18 I attended UXLx User Experience Lisbon 2012. It was an intensive 3 days. I took part in 4 workshops, listened to 3 lightning talks, 10 conference talks, published 14 sets of notes, and recorded 6 podcasts. Phew!

And if that wasn’t enough, I met up with dozens of really interesting and clever people and (just like last year) almost talked and thought myself to exhaustion!

Unprecedented access to speakers

One of the excellent things about UXLx is the access you get to the speakers. The workshops
give you one opportunity, but most of them also attend the evening events and stay at the main conference hotel.

During the week I chatted with Dave Gray, Derek Featherstone, Rachel Hinman, Steve Portigal, Joshua Porter, Jesse James Garrett, Andrea Resmini, and Ginny Reddish (plus some of those who held lightning talks).

Notes and Podcasts

During each session I attended I took some notes. Straight after the talk or workshop finished I published them unedited on the unofficial uxlx participants blog so that I could share them with everyone both at the event and those who couldn’t make it.

Per Axbom and I also recorded six podcasts which we recorded live and published straight away, giving you an audio-peek into the events of the week.

In this blog post I’ve gathered together links to all the notes and podcasts I published during the conference.

Tuesday 15th May

Episode 12: James and Per conquer Garageband at UXLx

Our first episode came from our hotel room at the Trip Oriente. After a bit of a fight with our new microphones and Garageband we eventually got it together and kicked-off our series of on-site podcasts.

Wednesday 16th May

Sharpie, visual alphabet, drawing of a running man

Gamestorming workshop with David Gray

A proper workshop. Filled to the brim with practical, useful, go-home-and-try-them exercises. After hearing so many of last year’s presenters talk about gamestorming, it was great to complete the circle and get some hands-on coaching from Dave

Episode 13: James and Per cross channel gamestorm

In the day 1 post lunch podcast we talk about David Gray’s Gamestorming session and Peter Morville’s Cross-Channel Strategy workshop.

User Research Hacks with Gene Smith

Mental Models with Indi Young

A lecture at break-neck speed from Indi with 110 slides in the first 65 minutes. There was some excellent stuff in there, including sound advice on interview techniques. “”we are not the target audience”

Per and James recording UX Podcast at UXLx 2012

Episode 14: James and Per give a lecture

A run down of the afternoon of the first day of UXLx.

Thursday 17th May

Remote Research with Nate Bolt

A practical workshop session with Nate guiding us through how you can set up remote user research. Consider how can you be graceful and flexible when your technology breaks – as it will half of the time. Nate was as cool as a cucumber when the tech did break in our session.

Episode 15: James and Per talk to Dave

After lunch on day 2 we managed to grab Dave Gray for a few minutes to talk about his workshop yesterday and planning workshops in general.

Developing and Implementing Findability Standards with Ravi Mynampaty

Accessibility for UX Designers with Derek Featherstone

A long session with Derek, but some great accessibility stuff. I think it opened the eyes of a fair few in the audience. Derek described accessibility as extreme usability. If we look at the extreme cases and build to those extremes then everyone else will be somewhere in between.

Episode 16: James and Per have done all this research

Friday 18th May

Here are my notes from 8 of the 10 talks. My notes for Rachel Hinman and Kim Goodwin weren’t really up to scratch, so they are missing from the collection.

The Architecture of Understanding with Peter Morville

Opening talk of the day. “IAs are planners, organisers and bridge builders, But they are also architects of understanding.”

Discover and act on insights about people with Steve Portigal

Microcopy with Joshua Porter

One of my favourite talks of the conference day. “If your UI designer doesn’t sweat over every single word they add to a screen, you should probably fire them!”

Refined Design: Thinking Beyond the Device with Derek “Steve” Featherstone

Derek gave a great run through of a context aware conference website. UXLx take note!

Design for Engagement with Jesse James Garrett

“UX is design of anything used by people independent of medium or across media with human experience as an explicit outcome and human engagement as an explicit goal.”

The Long Neck Versus the Long Tail with Gerry McGovern

The tiny tasks go to bed and dream of being a top tasks. They then wake up and go down to the web team and demand to be on the start page.

Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business with Jeff Gothelf

Lean UX: concept -> validate internally -> prototype -> test externally -> learn from user behaviour -> iterate.

Bill Buxton presenting at UXLx 2012

Ubiquitous Computing and the Emerging Digital Eco-System with Bill Buxton

The closing presentation from the legend that is Bill Buxton. Difficult to take good notes when you’ve got such a professional and entertaining speaker dancing about enthusiastically in front of you (or on top of you in Gerry McGovern’s case).

Saturday 19th May

Episode 17: James and Per wrap up #UXLx 2012

The Friday was too busy to fit in the recording of a podcast, so Per and I recorded our 6th and final UX Podcast of the conference from our hotel room on the Saturday morning. We gave a quick review of our 4 top talks from the Friday, chatted to Lynsey and Celine from Paddy Power, and finally a roundup of the entire conference.

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

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