Using Adaptive Technology to Foster Inclusivity

Using Adaptive Technology to Foster Inclusivity

Before I started working at Shockoe, I didn’t know anything about requirements regarding accessibility in technology nor had I heard about adaptive technology tools. We primarily focus on building enterprise mobile apps here at Shockoe, and that includes recommending to our clients the best way to make sure their mobile application meets ADA accessibility standards set out by The United States Access Board. The next level of this is a newer trend of using adaptive technology tools or enhancements to help individuals with a disability accomplish a task using technology to assist. 

Here at Shockoe, we are starting to figure out a strategy for how to incorporate this into our client’s projects when it makes sense. Considering that according to the CDC website, 26% of adults in the US, so 1 in 4, have some type of disability, this is a prime market to be able to tap into, that could be missing out on some of our client’s projects because they physically cannot interact with them.

These are 2 tools that are now in the marketplace that we’re excited about:

  1. The Xbox Adaptive Controller – This is a huge step for people with any range of disabilities to be able to interact with their favorite video games, and the best part is that it works with a range of hardware, including switches, joysticks and buttons. It was an innovative and incorporating decision to not only make their own adaptive controller which helps people with limited hand mobility play the Xbox, but then making it so that it allows other assistive devices to also be incorporated really makes this device the definition of inclusive.
  2. VR Headsets – Such as the Oculus or Google Daydream. These systems are starting to break into the marketplace because of their consumer-friendlier price points and thus becoming more of a consumer reality, vs a tool used by some futuristic hero as part of a plot line in a syfy movie. Some of our clients have started to look into using VR headsets to help train employees more efficiently, which makes sense as it’s a way to immerse people in safe, controlled 360 degree virtual environments, where you can program any number of daily use-cases in to better prepare these employees for their new roles. In this same vein, VR headsets can provide experiences to a population who might otherwise might not be able to enjoy it with their limited mobility, or whatever their disability might be.

I like the future painted by Forbes contributor Denise Brodey, who focuses her writing on the role of disabilities in the workplace. She says “…And the woman looking at her phone in the middle of the parking lot? Don’t yell at her. It’s likely that she is using an app designed to help blind people navigate new spaces independently. As for your website, social media and store displays? Those will already have been tested by someone with a disability before they were installed. Don’t worry about compliance. It will be baked in.” (Source: Forbes)

And when this future soon becomes a reality, we’re planning on being ready to help our clients incorporate the necessary functionality into their mobile apps.

Courtney Wright

Courtney Wright

Project Manager

Courtney has been a Project Manager at Shockoe for 3 years and is simply the greatest Project Manager on earth. That is all. 

Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Among the sea of social media apps, news apps, and photo book-making apps I use – I have three kids! –  is my mobile banking app. I bank at a “traditional” or “retail” bank, meaning it has branches, versus an online-only bank. That being said, I never go to a branch. Anything I need to do I can do using my mobile banking app: check my transactions, transfer money between accounts, or deposit a check. Believe it or not, these things that users have come to expect out of their mobile banking experience, I have had to figure out rather the hard way with my current mobile banking app. The user experience of my bank’s app has never been truly intuitive, though it has gone through multiple iterations. Banking apps should not make it difficult for customers to complete basic tasks. By continuously putting user experience first and applying the following adjustments to your UX Strategy, your bank is guaranteed to drive revenue through customer loyalty. 

 

The first time I used Venmo, an app designed solely for people to be able to electronically send money, I immediately noticed the intuitiveness of the app. A few months after I started using Venmo, my bank came out with an identical feature. I could send money to friends or family no matter who they banked with. That’s as much as I know about it because the idea of using my bank’s clunky app for a task I found myself doing frequently seemed overwhelming, so I stuck with Venmo.

 

As more FinTech companies continue to disrupt, develop and innovate mobile banking applications, it will occur at the expense of lost market share for traditional banking institutions.The rising FinTech sector is making it easier making it easier for their customers to do more with their money.

 

At Shockoe we have advised our financial industry partners to consider two adjustments to their UX strategy as a result of this changing environment:

 

Implementing machine learning.

 

I, like many others, have predictable spending habits. I shop at the same places, I pay my mortgage, and I head to the grocery store at the same time. To keep an eye on my spending, I log into my banking app quite regularly.

 

The reason I point out these things is that this is all data that the banks can use to help make me a “stickier” client. I get random ads sometimes when I log into my account, but they don’t happen as I take an action, nor are they personalized to me.

 

Banks are leaving a great opportunity to interact with their customers on the table. They could ask questions about unusual spending to improve security and more importantly learn about shifting habits. e.g. “It looks like you made a purchase at Wegman’s last weekend, was that you?”, the app learns that this is now part of my purchase history and the algorithm changes. Similarly, new products could be touted as client data captures what looks like a night out: “Looks like you left the kids at home and recently went to the movies! Did you pay your babysitter with our easy system to send money electronically to people?”

 

There should always be a way to turn these kinds of alerts off, but banks know so much about their users, and using machine learning capabilities is one way they can use that data to try to engage more with their clients.

 

Making banking apps more social. 

 

A big part of Venmo’s popularity comes down to the fact that they’ve tapped into the special sauce of why social media is so popular/addictive. You can interact with people, keep up with their latest transactions and see why they’re sending or receiving money for. Obviously, security is n essential consideration in banking, but for people that are willing to share, this is another outlet for banks to engage their audience, encourage product use, and compete in an increasingly competitive FinTech industry.

 

Do people want to be able to brag about their savings account interest rate? What else are people comfortable with being able to show off in regards to their banking relationship? We work with our clients to run user group feedback sessions to find the answers to things like this. User feedback should be an essential consideration in designing an engaging user experience that extends beyond logging in and checking on account statements.

 

Banking apps should no longer think of themselves as a one dimension account statement viewing portal. FinTech will eventually edge them out of services such as peer to peer payments (venmo), machine learning (mint), and potentially edge them out of being a provider at all in lucrative services. I am a project manager at Shockoe and I’ve worked with two large banking clients as part of my tenure here, and these thoughts are coming from meetings with them and our approach helping them stay engaged with their user base and attract more users through their mobile app solutions. What’s cool is our clients know we work together to create mobile applications that people use, love, and remember, and that sometimes the problems are even solved by the project management team.

Project Managment’s Story: Chasing Waterfalls with Agility

Project Managment’s Story: Chasing Waterfalls with Agility

At Shockoe, we have the unique (and awesome) opportunity to work with a lot of emerging technologies and methodologies, which is why I’ve always preferred to work for start-ups. There’s less of “This is how its always been” and more “This is new…how can we try to use it?” This is exciting and challenging in a fun way. Not only is my team embracing the latest and greatest in how we build mobile apps, but also in how we manage projects.

If you’re on the project management career track, “Agile” is one of those buzzwords you hear a lot. Even though the idea/methodology is not new, it is currently very ‘hot’.  A lot of companies are trying to move from a Waterfall way of running their projects to being Agile. Most of the clients I’m working with at Shockoe have told me “We are used to being a Waterfall organization but we’re trying to embrace the Agile way of running a project”. That, or even if they don’t plan on moving away from Waterfall, they’re interested in our project process and are intrigued to see Agile in practice.

There’s a lot of benefits to being more agile. The big one (for me) is better quality end-results.  This happens because you are not saving testing to the end, but instead incorporating testing and then adjusting based on those tests throughout the life cycle of the project. Secondly, there’s more wiggle room for change. In the waterfall world, if you’re saving the testing until the very end of the project and your business/product owner during testing realizes a bunch of things they didn’t consider and now want to be changed, you’ll find yourself out of either time and/or money.

Running our projects using Agile lets us reduce risks to the quality and getting last minute change requests. However, getting our clients to move at the same pace as we want to can sometimes be challenging. Right after the project kick-off, we’re basically ready to go. This can be quick for some of our clients, who find themselves waiting on the Change Review Board or internal PMO to green-light the project.

What this means is there can sometimes be some initial lag time, which usually gives us time to do “Sprint 0” which is when the initial designs and technical architecture documents are created – so once the client tells us they’re ready for us, we can hit the ground running. This is a good way to mix the Agile principles of continuously analyzing, developing and testing throughout the life cycle of the project, with the Waterfall ones of having a plan set forth before you start creating anything.

This has helped ensure that we’re able to deliver what we set out to, and in a way that makes our waterfall clients comfortable with the process, while still allowing for agility in our project management practice. We have so many examples, this is just one, of how we’ve been able to successfully marry our agile practices with our waterfall clients, and delivered a high-quality product that everyone was proud of.

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