Creating a Great User Experience in the Real-Time Web

Real-Time Web Solutions Supplement

Creating a Great User Experience in the Real-Time Web

By Phil Edholm, President & Founder, PKE Consulting  |  August 10, 2016

Many website and mobile application owners are seeing the emergence of the real- time web as a new opportunity to drive usage, stickiness, time in app, and revenue. However, introducing a real-time experience into a website or application can be a challenge.

One key to success is to clearly understand how the real-time experience integrates with the other components of the user experience. Is the real-time interaction an overlay to other activities? Will there be an expectation of sharing? Will one party need to guide the other, or provide feedback using tools?

These and a hundred other questions and issues will be part of the discussion of the real-time web. A key difference in the real-time web vs. traditional telephony or even closed systems like Skype (News - Alert) is that the real-time web is event by event, site by site. Each experience can be tailored, from how it integrates to the app through the tools made available to assure an optimal user experience. For example, an application like a realtor doing a virtual showing of a property with real-time video and shared movement between devices is an example, just as is adding social interaction while watching a sporting event or a concert. While a customer care example may be focused on just a voice interaction, many other real-time integrations are additive. How can the real-time experience augment and extend, not replace other elements of the experience?

In the sporting event and concert example, the primary value of the app is to take the user to the event and to experience the event. The real-time component enhances the experience, but does not replace the content coming from the sporting field or the concert; it augments it. A good example is Cube Slam, an early WebRTC-based real-time web experience developed by Google (News - Alert). In Cube Slam, two players can play an emote game of pong, but their pong experience is enhanced by real-time video of each opponent at the back of the pong board as viewed from the other opponent’s view. When you play Cube Slam, it is very clear that, while you are playing the game, there is scant time to look up and actively watch the opponent video. In fact, for anyone who has played a competitive game of air hockey, the same would apply; you only look at your opponent at the end of the point, either to bask in success or accept a loss. Cube Slam is the same; the value of the video is at the end of the point when the focus changes to the opponents interacting with each other. Understanding when a real-time capability will be used through the use of the app or site is also critical to optimizing the experience.

I am clear that the simplicity of a phone call, with a simple 10-digit dialing system, a simple user interface with 12 keys, a symmetrical experience by both parties, and the limitations of relatively poor quality audio and no video is going to give way to new communications experiences that are both tightly integrated to the app, but also implemented with a user experience that reflects the standards of today’s website and applications.

The other part of real-time user experience is the in-session experience. The quality of audio and video, how it is delivered and scaled can have big impact on the overall experience. For example, if a small video window is being included, not to detect certain visual responses, but rather just to see the other party, the bandwidth of video can be managed to the actual space on the page or app and how it relates. As quality is often a tradeoff with bandwidth, processing, and cost, optimizing the real-time media flows to the user experience can result in significantly lower costs.

Indeed, technology can be changed. The user experience rapidly gains adherents as well as haters. How often is a company like Facebook or LinkedIn (News - Alert) castigated when it changes an existing user experience, even if the new experience is much better?

At the Real Time Web Solutions Conference, the topics of user experience and design will be covered. We’ll discuss how to map the available tools and media modalities to your application – for example, understanding when a simple audio chat is required vs. the visual feedback of a video chat. Sessions will focus on how to effectively integrate real time into applications and how to deliver a user experience that can enhance the underlying applications or websites, not inadvertently detract from them.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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