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Challenges of Operating in the Digital World

By Andrew Simister | Director of Digital QA

INSIGHTS // Articles

16 Nov 2017

#Accessibility|#Mobile|#Technologies

INSIGHTS // Articles

#Accessibility|#Mobile|#Technologies

By Andrew Simister

16 Nov 2017

At a recent ACS SIGiST in Sydney, I spoke about the challenges of doing business in the digital world. A big part of this complexity is due to the upswing in mobile devices and digital content.

Challenges of Operating in the Digital World

According to Gartner, 70 per cent of software interactions will occur on mobile devices by 2022. A Commonwealth Bank case study has also found that 53 per cent of transactions are made via digital devices and 80 per cent of logins are made via mobile devices.

To adapt to these market changes, global spending on digital transformation technologies is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion in 2017, representing a growth of 17.8 per cent from 2016, and is forecast at US$2 trillion by 2020. In Australia, spending was AU$79 billion in 2014 and is expected to grow to AU$139 billion in 2020.

Challenges with evolving platforms, OS and devices

Among digital devices, the OS market share is 41 per cent Android, 35 per cent Windows, 13 per cent iOS, and 5 percent OSX 4. In the smartphone space, there are at least three current versions of iOS and seven for Android.

In this fragmented market, how to ensure your applications are compatible with a large range of devices, OS and browsers being used? With continuously changing OS, browser, devices, the challenge is to ensure your apps keep working while also keeping pace with the environmental changes.

Then there is the need for speed. How do you respond quickly enough to the market changes to satisfy customers and internal stakeholders?

Usability is an area where apps can fail, as was demonstrated with the highly anticipated Color app that raised more than $41 million in 2011 before ever appearing on a smartphone or tablet. It was conceived to allow people with the smartphone app to seamlessly share photos with other users within a 150-foot proximity.

Yet four short months after launch, the complicated app was sent back to the drawing board. So how did an app funded by well-heeled investors, who had previous successes with Cisco, Google and LinkedIn, fail to resonate with users?

There were privacy concerns around an app that allowed anyone to see photos found in other Color-installed smartphones without approval or even registration. Additionally, many people found the app to be un-user friendly due to instructions that were difficult to follow, and an absence of functionality or purpose if there were no other Color users in the proximity.

Accessibility in the digital age

Digital accessibility has grown in importance since it enables independence, convenience and inclusion for people who require additional support when using technology. There is also a potential for litigation and lawsuits if your content is inaccessible, as was demonstrated by the landmark accessibility litigation of Maguire v. SOCOG.

In Bruce Lindsay Maguire v. Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) (2000), blind web user Bruce Maguire filed a case against SOCOG due to the Sydney Olympic Games website being inaccessible. There was no alternative text on images, lack of access to event results, and missing image maps.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) ruled in favour of Maguire, ordering SOCOG to compensate him $20,000 for unlawful discrimination and fix their website. In response, the Australian Government adopted W3C guidelines for all agency websites from 1 December 2000, and now accessibility is a legislative requirement for many government agencies.

Performance key to user experience

Digital performance has real-world benefits, with Walmart finding that one second performance improvement leads to a two per cent conversion increase. Trainline found that by reducing latency by 0.3 seconds they gained $12 million of additional revenue, while a 100ms speed increase for Microsoft led to a 0.6 per cent revenue increase.

Performance also ensures up-time during critical times, which was demonstrated by Disney's high-profile app fail. Disney Applause is an app that turns users' phones into viewing companions for select television specials and events, but when it came time to use it, the technology failed to perform.

After continuous promotion leading up to and throughout the televised event on ABC, viewers were instructed to download the app. However, the app crashed when attempting to sync, which left users disappointed with no acknowledgment from the brand.

More recently in Australia, an estimated 16 million people logged on to the census website, only to be met with error messages and told the system was "overloaded". That was before the actual website crashed.

Today every online user is a critic, so a bad experience can damage a company’s brand and send customers to competitors. 44 per cent of users will tell friends about a bad online experience, while 37 per cent will think less of a company's brand if their mobile app has issues.

Securing your digital identity

Digital security is now more important than ever before, as has been demonstrated with regular public data breaches. In July 2015, a group calling itself "The Impact Team" stole the user data of Ashley Madison, a commercial website aimed at enabling extramarital affairs.

The group copied personal information about the site's user base and threatened to release names and personally identifying information if Ashley Madison was not immediately shut down. A month later, the group followed up on its threat and leaked more than 25 gigabytes of company data.

Because of the site's policy of not deleting users' personal information, including real names, home addresses, search history and credit card records, many users feared public shaming. A security analyst found that among the 4,000 passwords released, "123456" and "password" were the most commonly used for the website.

Preparing for the next digital disruption

You can mitigate the risks of a poor customer experience by validating your idea to focus on business outcomes, as well as ensuring it meets regulatory requirements. But more than anything, it is important to test, test, and test some more before you move on to evolving and maintaining your digital product.

When looking at the next digital disruption, there is the use of data, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) to consider. They may be on the horizon, but it may be worth preparing for them earlier rather than later.

As the above stats and case studies demonstrate, digital users of today expect quality. Our Digital QA team can help you navigate these challenges and accelerate your delivery of digital quality.

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