How To Design An RFID App Used By Everyone | RFID Q&A #5

September 25 2023

Are you interested in the world of UX design and its role in revolutionizing RFID technology for retail? Have you ever wondered how user-friendly apps are crafted to enhance the experiences of store employees? Join us in this interview with Vera Hutman, UX Designer at Nedap Retail, as we explore the principles and strategies behind creating the iD Cloud app. Discover how a "people-first" approach influences design decisions and the practical insights that drive meaningful enhancements in the retail landscape.


Daphne: Hi and welcome to a new episode of our RFID Q&A. My name is Daphnee, Business Developer and RFID Enthusiast at Nedap Retail. Today, I will be interviewing Vera, who is our UX Designer at Nedap.

Daphne: Vera, can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Vera: Yeah, thanks for having me, Daphne. I'm Vera Hutman. I've been the UX Designer for iD Cloud Store and the other applications that we have at Nedap Retail for the past five years.

Daphne: Cool, thanks for the introduction. Today, I will be interviewing you about how to design an app for retailers that use RFID in their stores.

Daphne: What is UX design for you and why is it important?

Vera: Yeah, UX design is short for User Experience Design. It's essentially the practice of ensuring a product is user-friendly and accessible. But what that means for us is that we ensure that we create an app that's actually usable and user-friendly for people of all backgrounds or store employees of all ages and nationalities.

Vera: Essentially, what our goal is, what we strive to do, is to create an app that needs no training. Of course, there's always a little training needed, but that's essentially our goal. The user should be able to come into the store, pick up the app, and be able to do what they need to do. There shouldn't be any thresholds. I think next to that, what we really try to do or how we try to achieve this is to start working from a problem, not so much from the technology.

Vera: I think it's a real easy pitfall that you want to showcase all this cool technology because RFID is really magic, but it can also get really complex. What we really try to do is not think from the RFID technology but think from the problems that people have in the store and really try to fix those. That's also what we call technology for life.

Daphne: Can you tell us what we are working on right now and what we are improving?

Vera: Yes, of course. What we really see happening right now is that what we were before is mostly a simple counting app. But we are improving in a lot of ways in the sense that we are having more item-level information, more serialized information, which allows us to unlock a whole load of new features. What we really need to do is balance between optimizing the features that we already have. You can think, for example, of counting or availability or refill. Those features can be greatly enhanced if you have item-level information.

Vera: But at the same time, we also need to develop the newer features that come with omnichannel, like setting statuses for click-and-collect items or monitoring items. We see both challenges and opportunities in improving this. For example, in availability, we can give better and more information on where in which zip location an item is. In counting, we can give better guidance, for example. So, those are essentially the two things that we are working on improving in the app right now.

Daphne: So, you're really saying that you are changing from a traditional application to an application that is designed for all RFID processes.

And because of the fact that retail staff is working with the application in the end, can you tell us a little bit more on how you design an application for retail staff?

Vera: I actually like to use an example for this because it always speaks a little bit more than just talking about it, right?

Vera: So, one of the things that's in the upcoming release, so it's a little bit of a sneak peek as well, is the new RFID search functionality. So, what we do when we design a new feature is we get a request essentially from our product management team, the inventory, the wishes, and the needs of our customers. And what we do with that is we start to research.

Vera: We really start to dive deep into what is the question behind the question, because people tend to come up with ideas rather than problems. In this case, we found that it was difficult to find items in the store, and RFID search really is the last part in that whole process. So, what we did, it was part of a large project where we tackled the entirety of availability and gave the information already without the use of an RFID reader. But if you still can't find the products after using availability, then you still are in need of the RFID search.

Vera: So, what we did then is actually go into the stores and observe how people use it, and we also talk with our customers, like how do people actually use our app? What we found is that people don't really look at screens when they are using a search. They're really listening to the reader, and the main thing that they want is to have an image, because you want to know what you're looking for.

Vera: What you can see here is the current design of search, and you can see that the actual search indicators are really small, really difficult to see. You can't really easily glance at them if you say you have the phone a bit away. So, we wanted to change that and make it clear that the reader is actually active.

Vera: What we do in this process is we go very broad. We have some examples over here as well. You can see we don't just pick diversity that comes to our minds. We actually do a very broad ideation. We pick some of the best ideas from that, and we go into the store and test those.

Vera: What we do with that, that's called usability testing. We create a prototype and a scenario or task for somebody to walk through, and if that works well, then we have a good design. And if it doesn't, we need to go back to the drawing table and do it all again to ensure that we actually have a good design and not just an okay design.

Vera: And after that's all done, then yeah, we hand it off to our developers to be built. And it's actually quite an easy way of doing it because it's a lot less intensive than the developers needed to build everything over and over again. So, we take that difficulty away from them.

Daphne: So, to give a short summary about the design process, you get a request from the customer, you start researching the problem, and then you do some brainstorming for solutions. You test the solution in the store, and when it's finalized, you hand it over to developers?

Vera: Yes, and I also have the final design as built by the developers. We can show it right now. So, this is what it finally came to be. You see on the screen, the large image because that was most important for users to actually see what they need to look for and very clearly, the interaction with the readers for the sounds and if you're very close to something or not. So, this is really a great improvement over the earlier design that we had.

Daphne: Yeah, cool to see. Can you give some examples of design principles that you use?

Vera: Yes, I think the most important one is "people first." Like I said in the beginning, it's important that we think from what people in the store need rather than what the technology provides.

Vera: So, an example of this is what we recently worked on. If you are programming a label, you can get a whole load of errors, and we can maybe throw an error code like 401 or something, but that doesn't really say anything. You want to give somebody in-store an instruction on what they need to do, and it's those small things that we really take care of. For example, in writing clear instructions, we always start to think from the people first and not from technology first.

Vera: Another thing that we find really important is to leave complexity out. RFID can be almost magic technology. It can be really difficult to use, but we don't want that. An example of that is, there are several ways to scan a barcode or a 2D barcode, for example, like Barcode Scanner or RFID Reader, etc. We could give the user all those choices, but we don't. We have a lot of logic in place that always selects the right one for the right situation. It's already pre-selected for you. You don't notice that when you're using the app if it's not going well, but if it's all going smoothly, it should be very nice.

Vera: What we have as well is we design for what we call the "unhappy flow." Stores can be chaotic places. You may be doing a certain process like shipments, and a customer comes in and asks for your help. Maybe the Wi-Fi is spotty. Things like that. We can't always rely on the situation being like in a lab, so we need to design for that as well. We take those kinds of flows into account.

Vera: Lastly, it's "make it feel good." It's something mandatory you need to do, but that doesn't mean it should be boring or cold. It can be nice and it can be fun, and we feel that's really important. Examples of that are, for example, the emojis that we have in Team Count or the new tutorials that will be in the next release that have just been made a little bit more fun and interactive.

Daphne: Yeah, so you really see with the design principles that you use that you put the people first. That is really important to you. What are some insights that customers gave you that have changed the application?

Vera: I think a great example of that is in "refill." So, I'd fit this probably in a feature that a lot of people are familiar with. We use the system with the dots to visualize how many sizes you need to move from Stockholm to the sales floor.

Vera: And when we were working on what we call the "targets," the specific quantities of items to refill, we thought, "Oh, we can use numerical values here." So, instead of three dots, you'd see "3" because we have a clear pick list, right? So, everybody within Nedap, that makes sense to people from headquarters, from customers that we talked to. That made sense.

Vera: But when we tried this in the store, this didn't work at all because people in the store, they live in a different world, so to say. And they really like being able to see the size chart at a glance, and they also really differ from the exact numbers given because if it's raining outside, then you are going to put on raincoats and not crop tops, for example, and we don't have that information. So, in the end, after this whole research that we did, we decided we need to keep the dots as they were.

Daphne: I can imagine. Thank you for sharing some of the examples. It's really nice to see that it sometimes differs from what you think in your heads and how it is in the real world. And I also see that you are very passionate about your job. What are you most proud of?

Vera: There's not really a specific feature that I can pinpoint that I'm most proud of. I feel most proud when I actually go to the store and speak to our end users, and they are very enthusiastic and very happy to use it. I think that is by far the thing that motivates me the most.

Vera: And I speak for myself, but I think also for a lot of our colleagues here, that we know that we have thousands of users, but if you speak to one specific person who is really enthusiastic and their lives have been made better because they used to have to do all this kind of stuff by hand, and it was a very tiring and caused a lot of labor, and it's now been done easier and they are super happy with it, I think that's the bit that motivates me the most, definitely.

Daphne: Thank you very much for sharing. I really can't imagine that it's nice to talk to store employees in the end and that you can see what kind of impact you're making on them. So, that is really cool, I believe, in your job.

Vera: Definitely.

Daphne: So, thanks for watching and see you next time. Bye.