IVR System Design and Hosting

Almost a month back I was anxiously looking for IVR hosting solutions and apparently ended up writing a SOS call on this blog. This is a follow up of that call with some information which I could receive. I also want to express my gratitude to someone who saw my call and replied me with his valuable suggestions. However as I set to do so in this post, I would bring back some of the references for a quick refresh. I am currently developing IVR prototypes for a usability testing. This required me to follow up a number of steps, right from finding an application domain to finding an information lag, to creating a script and recording the same. However one of the most crucial of these steps is to finally make everything work. I was suffering so much there.

Anyways, that’s where I had to call for help. Thanks Nalin, co-founder Mayavi Telecommunications, for sending out suggestions regarding the IVR hosting solutions. You introduced me to some of the best ones in this domain like Kookoo, Knowlarity and FreeSwitch, apart from Exotel which I’m finally using. A part of the suggestion was to keep an eye on IVRS world, a blog by Uttam Pegu. Uttam writes extensively about IVR system design and more recently about cloud telephony. It is an interesting blog which attends to a number of questions in the context of Indian Telephony scenario. Other things which I discovered includes an interesting Visual IVR design framework called CallKick. It is launched recently by Mayavi Telecommunications and comes bundled with a ready-to-install android app.
All these mentions form an interesting Pandora box which I wasn’t aware of earlier 🙂

Please care for the logo as well.

These days I’m faced with a very specific problem. Is is specific to the designs of Dot Com sites for various clients. Assume that every single client who wants to design her website has an expectation of communicating as clearly as possible through her website. This communication can be achieved by bringing better architecture to the website content which suits the users and off course by careful alignment of different attention zones in the entire website. What a clients also expects is to have a wonderful nice looking stunning design to their website content. This is a common process which involves looking at goals, content, information architecture to designing templates at the end. No issues at all, perfect!

Where I find people getting stuck is the point when they have their identities which suits a different media more than the web. For example a bunch of organizations have logos in the orientation of a portrait. Conventionally such a logo suits print media and not the web. You can have a really good portrait oriented logo on a letter head. Not because it looks good on letter head just like that but more because it goes with the length of the paper. The paper bearing its imprint is itself oriented as a portrait. Now come to the web which is essentially more horizontal-landscape a medium than print. Not only a logo with portrait orientation looks out of place, it also compromises on the header space. One needs a wider header to accommodate a log in a portrait format. Eventually it happens at the expense of priorities of other stuff on the website which can be shown without a scroll (above the fold). Well hopefully they will come to understand that logo designs with landscape orientation will suit better the web media. But currently they suspect me as the one convincing them to modify their identities to a landscape format. What to do !

Elsevier’s Identity

Elsevier's Identity Design

For days I have been going through papers published by Elsevier. It was only by sheer chance that I discovered their identity. What an effort for a print based solution! Not only is it dense and full of details, it also seems to convey Elsevier’s image to its audience.

ReelChanges.org, a brief account of my experience and learnings

Reelchanges.org does a lot more than merely using internet as a means of delivering information to the users. The site is originated out of the idea of supporting independent filmmakers around the globe by empowering them with means to communicate about their media proposals, to find audience, patrons and media distributors.

The team included a bunch of documentary filmmakers, journalists and technology experts. It was at this stage, quite the time when everyone was brainstorming that I joined this team as a UX consultant. Initial responsibilities included defining the design brief, gathering background information about various aspects of non- profit media production – distribution and informing the team about related design possibilities.

In parallel, started the phase of identifying different user personas with their individual needs. A set of workflows and scenarios were sketched pertaining to each user category. Somewhere I also got started with the task of breaking up and then structuring the information to come up with the system architecture.

Initial set of paper sketches as wireframes and system diagrams proved to be a handy communication tool within the team. We did run a couple of iteration cycles using these. Besides carrying the advantage of a faster turnaround time, these paper prototypes proved valuable for the team whenever it came to convey thoughts to the team members with different backgrounds, especially when most of us were accustomed to relying on text based communication. These wireframes soon became the basis for generating visual designs (high fidelity UI mock-ups) for this project. We also had points of difference around issues like usage of colors and visual language but the process followed helped us to embrace and appreciate good elements from different points of views. Moving ahead, these images were delivered for front end HTML implementation cycles which made me taste its own set of constraints 🙂

In Aug 2008, the team released the alpha version of ReelChanges.org. Since then it is kept on a content aggregation mode before we could embark on a new cycle of design enhancements. This is also a period when we are testing this idea with a live segment of users, patrons, documentary filmmakers and commercial content distributors.

Credits: Hal Plotkin, Texity Systems

Related resources: Click here to view a set of process sketches of this project.

A $2 app – fun unlimited

For the past two days we were working towards creating an iPhone app for the hearing impaired users. The application will enable an iPhone to be used as a hearing aid. Figures show that people with partial or complete loss of hearing includes a large number of elderly population. We thus choose elderly as the target user group for this application.

We try to suggest  a design solution at three different levels:

1. At the level of information architecture: We decided to keep the application essentially a simple one. We had to drop some of the advanced features for the pilot release. The application currently enables this user group to hear the surrounding sounds with an amplification. However users have also been provided with an ability to record different sounds which they consider as noise and then use this application to cancel these sounds as noise filters. Advanced features like managing noise profiles according to different usage scenarios are not taken into consideration at this stage.

2. At the level of usability: A short user study revealed that elderly users often find themselves lost while trying to understand visual clues like icons or graphic based buttons. Rather they prefer a step wise approach by carefully reading the text based instructions. Now the challenge was to come with action buttons with explicit text messages while staying crisp and precise. We also considered resizing the default “active or hit” areas for these buttons to be of a little larger size.

3. At the level of visual design: An apparent strategy of creating a visual contrast is followed. Besides we use iPhone library for creating visual design for this UI.

We plan to improve this application and are looking forward for any user feedback. The application is currently priced at $2. By-n- large as a short project, it was quite a fun for everyone in the team 🙂

For app news, Click here.