by Kelley Parsons
A few weeks ago, many of us woke to a media firestorm surrounding the question, ‘What color is that dress, gold and white or blue and black’? While many shrugged and said, ‘who really cares’, there were those of us who thought of it as a fun and interesting discussion to follow, especially those of us who find the topic of color perception to be fascinating. While in this instance it seems that the dress patterning and differences in lighting may have both played roles in the variant dress color, we should also consider color perception. The simple fact that much of how we experience color is subjective, that is to say, that color resides within the realm of human sensation. As it turns out, two things are certain; first, color vision is a complex topic and second, it is one that most of us don’t really think much about. Yes, we might delight in an especially lovely color or proclaim to others that of which is our favorite color but we rarely, if ever, wonder or question how it is that we ‘see’ color.
Many people, if they do give any thought to how we experience color, make the assumption that a color is a color is a color and that unless someone has a color vision deficiency such as color blindness, an object is seen as the same color by all. This is not the case: The way that we perceive color, like so many other facets of the human experience, is subjective (not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but as it turns out, so is color). Have you shopped with a friend and commented on a shirt or backpack, maybe referring to it as say ‘blue’ only to have your friend point out that you are clearly wrong, that the color of the item is obviously ‘purple’? If so, you have experienced firsthand that color is subjective and that people can and do experience the same item as being a different color or hue.
Upfront, let me say that color perception is far more complicated than will be discussed here, but an overly simplified explanation goes something like this (this assumes normal color vision):
Our visual system is most sensitive to that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum called visible radiation (or what we commonly refer to as ‘light’). This is approximately that portion of the spectrum sitting between 360nm – 760nm. If you think about the range of colors that you see when you pass a light beam through a prism, or when you witness a rainbow and that is the approximate range that we humans are visually equipped to see.
When ambient light is present, it strikes an object. Depending on the characteristics of that object, some of the spectrum’s light waves are absorbed by the object while some are not absorbed but, instead, reflected.
When we then view or see that object, the portion of visible light that is reflected off of the object enters the eye as a physical stimulus, where it quickly comes in contact with a small area at the back of the eye called the retina. The retina is tiny, but powerful. It is made up of specialized neurons called photoreceptors that are sensitive to light. Once the light enters the eye and comes in contact with these photoreceptors, the physical stimulus (light) begins a process that eventually triggers a series of neural signals that travel to the part of the brain responsible for vision and it is there that the brain attempts to process the neural patterns produced by this chain of events and make sense of them. Now, we are no longer experiencing the physical properties of the stimulus but are instead experiencing the ‘personal’ sensation of that experience. It is at this point in the process that the subjective or individual aspects of color perception begin and we can interpret the color of an object in different or individualistic ways. As is the case with any aspect of human experience, our perceptions personalize those experiences and they become a collective part of that which we jokingly say ‘is all in our head’.
There are so many factors and any one or any combination of several can influence our decision as we decide what color we believe an object to be. These factors can be past experiences, memories, expectations, age, education, culture – just to name a few. It is safe to say that we still do not know all there is to know about this fascinating aspect of the human experience.
So, now I will ask you again, ‘what color is that dress?’
by Kelly Nercess
Lets face it. We live in a society where the majority of people are glued to their mobile devices. Whether it’s texting a friend, finding an online recipe for dinner, or taking a selfie…everyone, at one point or another, is guilty of being attached to their smartphone.
During the Big Design conference in Dallas this year, I had a chance to attend Pamela Pavliscak’s workshop on “ The Real Mobile Experience”. Aside from her entertaining jokes and quick wit, she gave us a her insights on what people really do on mobile phones and how to design for those activities.
Some quick facts:
– For every baby born, there are five mobile devices activated
– 7 billion mobile phones in the world. 55% of those are smartphones
– Typical mobile users check their phones 150 times a day
– Smartphone owners spend over 2 hours on their phone each day
– 21% of US mobile phone owners go online primarily using their phones and globally that number is even higher
– Out of preference: 50% of smartphone owners under 30 use the Internet primarily on their mobile phone
– Out of necessity: 55% of Americans who make less than $30k/year have no web access at home
– For convenience: 34% use the device simply because it is close at hand
– 29% say that their phone is the first and last thing that they look at everyday
– 44% sleep with their phones (in a very platonic manner)
Based on the data that Pavliscak reported, people show a remarkable dependency on their smartphones. The fact that we now wake up and go sleep with this electronic device by our side can even be intimidating for a spouse. Women were asked if they would rather give up sex or their mobile phone for 1 month. Can you guess the answer? 48% of women said they would rather give up sex, while the other 52% said they would rather do without their mobile phones. Hmm, interesting. Where do you fall on the spectrum?
An experiment was performed where she asked 250 people to “take a look at their phone”. She was requesting the owner to just happily pass their phone over to a perfect stranger. The result:
– A slim amount of people actually handed over their phone
– Some made an excuse not to pass it over
– Some also just instantly put their phone away
– Majority of people would hold the phone out and show it while it was still in their possession
So, what does this mean for society? We are way too overprotective of our phones. It’s as if it was our newborn child.
In addition to our phones providing a channel for enhanced social interactions, they also allow us to also solve problems. Pavliscak reported that 86% of people solve problems with their phones, which includes troubleshooting emergencies. What else do we use our devices for? High on the list is making sure our kids are happy. Only 20% of parents don’t use tablets or phones to keep their children occupied. So next time you are at a restaurant and you see a young child playing Angry Birds as opposed to eating their macaroni and cheese, you can look at them and think “Oh, you’re part of that 80%”.
We all know that we love and adore our phones, but what are we really doing on them? Ms. Pavliska proposed another experiment to research what we are spending our time on when our eyes are glued to that mobile screen. Even though we look at it over 150 times a day, we’re usually using it in three ways:
– 72% of the time we Tap
– 77% of the time we Swipe
– 94% of the time we are Scrolling
People know how to use the zoom button, but surprisingly a lot of us will continue to read the small text as opposed to using the gesture to make it larger. How can we optimize the mobile experience based on this data?
– Take the guesswork out for the user, but give them obvious cues
– Get rid of any needless gestures
– First impressions hold the most value for The Flick (scroll down to the bottom, and then quickly back up to the top)
– Don’t have to many hidden menus for when a user applies the The Washing Machine method (someone who swipes up and down/right and left)
– We go to great lengths to avoid typing, so consider that when designing your mobile site
– Use icons in a way that is consistent with other sites
– Essential content should be on the page or on the top (hamburger menus are iffy)
– Sound cues are a missed opportunity – only 74% of people leave their ringer on
Overall, there is much room for improvement for the user experience of mobile devices. They are attached to their phones almost as if it were another limb. Aside from the great content she was able to share, she had an upbeat and entertaining presentation style that did not go unnoticed by the crowd. If I get the chance to attend another talk by Pamela, I won’t miss the opportunity!
by Nick Iuliucci
Our clients ask us some challenging research questions. As the global marketplace continues to mature one of the main questions asked is
Can we adjust the language on our current website to Spanish?
Will the site still have the same level of usability?
Challenge accepted! In an effort to better understand the impact of language and culture on multi-lingual businesses initiatives, we designed the first in a series of studies that use eye-tracking methodologies to measure the impact of the anthropological layer of subjective culture how it relates to web design elements, by deconstructing variations in gaze patterns.
We recruited 30 respondents (all from the US) and asked them to view two versions of the Best Buy site. One site in English and the other site in Spanish. Best Buy is a 1-to-1 site where language is the only difference in site design. The eye-tracking data showed that respondents who self-report as Hispanic and identify with the Spanish culture and language did demonstrate differences in gaze patterns versus those that identified with the English culture and language.
The chart below represents how cultural orientation manifests as a change in circular eye scanning on the English site.
This difference can be interpreted in two ways:
1) Respondents who are familiar with US cultural and language (English) are able to processes the information on the page rapidly allowing them time to shift around the page to items they prefer.
2) From a cognitive processing point of view, the US culture promotes a rapid short term attention approach instead of a deeper individual understanding of a site.
The second chart represents the eye scanning pattern difference on the Spanish site. Those with high U.S. cultural orientation scan the Spanish site but this time with a lack of the circular pattern. While our study is preliminary, it does support the idea that Spanish culturally-orientated individuals also show a shift in circular scan vs scan-only gaze patterns between the two sites.
Regardless of the complex anthropological or psychological foundations, the result represent directional data that seems to indicate that just translating the language of the site to match a new market, is not optimal if you are trying to maximize usability and maintain the desire experience for consumers.
While this difference requires further exploration, the impact on marketing approach and usability design are substantial. The Hispanic population in the US in 2013 was almost 53 million (17% of total), and will only continue to grow. To ignore that visual consumption of websites differs based on cultural background may alienate a growing customer base. Furthermore, all the respondents in this study currently live in the US, half in New York State and the rest in Florida. This is a clear demonstration that our cultural orientation identification method coupled with eye-tracking methodology provides a unique way to differentiate sub populations within a region.
Follow-up studies will further explore the potential of eye tracking tools to help us understand the cultural divergence between American and Hispanic-orientated individuals. If you would like a copy of the presentation, please contact us at email@example.com
Learn more about the growth of the Hispanic market:
US Census: Profile America Facts for Features “Hispanic Heritage Month”
Huffington Post: Hispanic Population Facts: A Look At Latinos By The Numbers
Pew Research Center: The U.S. Hispanic population has increased sixfold since 1970
Latino Populations Are Growing Fastest Where We Aren’t Looking