Anyone who's suffered with Bluetooth pairing can testify that connectivity isn't just about providing a robust end-to-end experience; user satisfaction and quality of experience are crucial parts of the user journey.

In this article, we offer some guidelines on how to select the right connectivity technology for your products, with five key points to consider.

closeup photo of turned on smartphone near keyboard
Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin / Unsplash

Comparing the UX of Chirp over other data-transfer technologies

There are many technologies and applications out there which turn to be frustrating to use for the user, and that's exactly what we try to avoid here at Chirp, through a mix of research and user testing. As part of our mission to be a leading provider of peer-to-peer connectivity technology, we run user studies to measure the subjective user experience (UX) of using data-over-sound in different real-world scenarios.

Many factors contribute in building frustration towards a system, with difficulty in finding desired features and committing mistakes as main causes of severe frustration (Mendoza and Novick, 2005). User frustration is a persistent issue and doesn't only cause dissatisfied users but it also has repercussions on users' daily interactions and might disrupt workplaces too (Lazar et al., 2006).  In the past, an interactive software agent was proposed to emulate active emotional support as a solution for alleviating frustrated users (Klein et al., 2002), but nowadays much research is done in the intent of designing systems and services that deliver optimal user experience.

Needless to say, different connectivity technologies are better suited for different scenarios. As users, we resort to the method that best suits our specific needs. But as a developer, how can you decide which technology to use in your product?

When designing an app or a product that integrates data-transfer technologies there are some crucial aspects to consider to ensure its efficiency and the overall experience, such as the environment it will operate in, the availability of network connectivity, privacy, user interaction and effort required.

Taking into account these 5 points will help you choose the right data transfer technology for your product.

Let's take a closer look into each aspect, and how Chirp can help to address each.

1. Network connectivity

Will your product have to rely on internet connectivity or should it be able to operate completely offline (or in airplane mode)? We've all experienced how signal strength and patchy connections can affect technologies that rely on Wi-Fi cloud connectivity.

Chirp operates offline, without the need for any network coverage, making it an ideal solution for locations where connectivity can't always be achieved (e.g. remote locations, underground, or other settings where network is not allowed as on airplanes), or users prefer to keep offline (i.e. children's applications - read our case studies about our partnership with Activision Blizzard and Hijinx).

2. Privacy and security

It is important to be transparent and make users fully aware of how their data is used. The increased use of audio-mediated technologies over recent years has raised serious privacy concerns as some products were found to be stealthy using acquired users data to track their behaviour. In a previous post we talked about consumers' concerns with how data is collected, shared and stored in audio-enabled products. Audio data with Chirp is entirely processed on the device, and never saved or stored onto external servers, ensuring Chirp users true peace of mind.

Offline connectivity such as Chirp is also implicitly compatible with child-protection and privacy legislation such as COPPA (US) and GDPR (EU).

3. Environment

When considering data-sharing methods, it's often important to consider the physical characteristics of the surroundings in which the product will be used in - e.g. will the product operate in low-lightning conditions, crowded settings, in a static or dynamic environment, etc.?

In the user studies we've been running, we observed how low-lightning scenarios can adversely affect the use of QR codes. Problems with scanning QR codes in low-light scenarios are worsened  when combined with mobile displays, whose adaptive brightness settings means that the display is dimmed in low-light - meaning that the code is still harder to scan.

Using ultrasonic audio connectivity does not suffer from these lighting issues. Via its inbuilt noise reduction and robust decoding techniques, Chirp is also demonstrated to work reliably in noisy and busy environments,  successfully employed in dynamic settings such as New Delhi's Shuttl bus service.

4. User interaction

Will user have to be in close proximity to operate the technology? Some technologies such as Near-Field Communication (NFC) or QR codes for instance, require users to align their devices in order to send or acquire data. This might not always be an ideal interaction scenario; for example, if you were to share some data with someone seated across from you. Chirp supports data sharing in the proximity of 3 metres for mobile apps and over 100 metres when using public address system.

5. User effort

Increased user effort might cause a rise in user errors, leading to frustration, which as we mentioned earlier in this article affects the user experience with a system. Minimising the effort required by a user to complete a task is a crucial point in the design of a good UX. Chirp was built for simplicity, to make users' everyday interactions easier and seamless. In a recent study we measured user experience and effort in setting-up a smart device to a Wi-Fi network, and we found that user effort was considerably reduced when using Chirp-enabled methods.

Sharing data via Chirp

At present we're running a series of focused user studies to test the efficiency and UX of sharing data using Chirp and other common wireless sharing technologies, such as QR codes and Bluetooth in relation to the above 5 points.

What frustrates you more when trying to share data with a friend via one of those technologies? Having to go through device pairing? Network connectivity or signal strength? Device proximity? Those are exactly some of the issues we try to overcome by leveraging audio signals and offering our users a fast and seamless experience.

In a preliminary pilot we've run to compare the UX of using Chirp, QR codes, and Bluetooth, users reported feeling frustrated when experiencing delays (whether from connectivity issues or system irresponsiveness) and expressed their dislike for systems that are not intuitive, appear fiddly and end up requiring more interaction than expected. We found that users' subjective experience of time outperforms system response time, confirming findings from Liikkanen and Gómez (2013) that the time perceived by a user in completing an interaction has effects on the enjoyability of the UX.

Participants of our pilot study were impressed by the novelty and efficiency of Chirp's technology, and felt the data-over-sound approach is very easy to use and requires minimal effort compared to the other sharing technologies proposed. Similar findings resulted in our IoT user study, where users found connecting a smart device to a Wi-Fi network via Chirp much simpler and considerably faster.

Stay tuned for more updates on our user studies!

References

Klein, J., Moon, Y., & Picard, R. W. (2002). This computer responds to user frustration: Theory, design, and results. Interacting with computers, 14(2), 119-140.

Lazar, J., Jones, A., Hackley, M., & Shneiderman, B. (2006). Severity and impact of computer user frustration: A comparison of student and workplace users. Interacting with Computers, 18(2), 187-207.

Liikkanen, L. A., & Gómez, P. G. (2013, September). Designing interactive systems for the experience of time. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (pp. 146-155). ACM.

Mendoza, V., & Novick, D. G. (2005, September). Usability over time. In Proceedings of the 23rd annual international conference on Design of communication: documenting & designing for pervasive information (pp. 151-158). ACM.