When working on a UX project we need to understand the user whose experience we are shaping. However, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes can be easier said than done. I’ve always found that a good way to start this process is by considering the user’s EKE: Environment, Knowledge and Emotions.

  • Emotions 
Emotions have an important influence on our decision making. If we can tap into a user’s emotions we can use those to provoke the actions we want. We can work with colours, imagery, video and language to instigate desired emotions. 

  • Knowledge
If we know the level of experience a user has about a particular subject, platform or device, we can plan the product in such a way as to neither patronise nor overwhelm them. For example if we know the users aren’t particularly tech savvy, we could add extra guidance to the interface to accommodate that.

  • Environment

The environment a user is situated within is something that will affect their attention and actions. We need to put ourselves in their shoes in order to appreciate any potential barriers or any factors we can manipulate in order to improve their experience. For example, if the user is likely to use a digital product outdoors and we are designing something for mobile, we should ensure that it is lightweight enough to work across a 3G network. 

By considering these EKE factors we can begin to understand the user and achieve the empathy that is crucial in a UX consultant’s work. It is only then that we can begin to manipulate the experience to maximise the results of our project.

Here are some projects where the EKE technique was used.

Bristol Airport Parking

When designing Bristol Airport Car Parking booking system we had to consider the circumstances surrounding the need to book car parking (environment).  For example some users may be using the booking system on the way to the airport on their mobile phones. As a result a distinct mobile user experience was created. 

Bristol Airport Mobile Website

The level of knowledge the users had varied widely due to the nature of the service. In situations like this, the best approach is to design for the lowest knowledge level, as it covers all bases. This meant that being as clear and supportive as possible along each step was essential.

When it came to emotions, this was very dependent on the situation users may find themselves in. On one side of the spectrum we had well organised users who booked in advance in a calm and collected manner. On the other side there were stressed and flustered users who were in a hurry. 

Again it's our job to manage both these groups and the emotions that are attached to them. The main focus of the interface was to keep the user calm and confident. This meant making sure the steps were clear and easy, with plenty of feedback. 

To help those on the go we also designed forms that were quick to fill in on mobile using techniques such as dropdowns for the date fields instead of a pop-up calendar as they can be tricky to use on a small screen.

A simple form design is especially important when trying to keep a user’s frustrations in check.  

Royal Navy
When designing the new Royal Navy website, our experience principles included inspiring the user and assisting them in gaining knowledge about what they do.

Royal Navy Website 
Inspiration naturally puts emphasis on emotions but we still needed to think about the user’s knowledge and environment in order to build an experience that was pitched at the right level.

The site was primarily targeted at 16-24 year olds – as digital natives, virtually all within this age group are comfortable users of digital (knowledge).

In order to accommodate the behaviours of the primary audience, we needed to consider a broad range of devices throughout the design phase including mobile devices, touch screen tablets, smart TVs and games consoles. Each device provides its own challenges such as limited screen size, touch vs hover.

This meant the environment that the user would view the site could be boundless and therefore we needed to create a site that really draws the user in and detracts them from their surroundings. 

This was achieved by using a combination of technology, design, copy and a selection of meaningful interactions to encourage the users to explore the site. This was also one of the reasons why we decided that the new site would be responsive.

As you can see, these considerations need to be taken into account not just at the start of a project but throughout its life cycle, and beyond.

So next time you are starting a digital project why not EKE out the right results?