A UX approach to enable NFC for everyone, not just techies.


How do you launch a feature that uses technology that most people don’t even know exists? A technology that requires your users to buy physical tags, but the variety of tags out there is so big that even users who are familiar with the technology face difficulties finding the right tag for their phone.

For us, Near Field Communication (NFC) is a big deal. It allows our time tracker app UI to expand out of the phone into physical things in the user’s environment.  It allows our users to start time tracking without even entering the app. When done right, it makes every day time tracking easier by acting as visual cues, because having the physical tags on your desk or office door reminds you that you should be time tracking.

This post outlines what we did to make the introduction of NFC meaningful and not just another feature that no one will use.

We designed the experience for people who have never heard about NFC before, users who would not know what to use it for. We designed it thinking about how it can fit in the environment around the people using it and how to make it really easy to set up and use within our app.

Help your users understand what it can be used for

We took great care and put a lot of effort in writing a description that would even be easy to understand for our less techy family members who never heard about NFC at all before. The technology it self is not important here, anyone can read about NFC online. The important thing is to explain how it works for them, and what it can be used for. After a few iterations, we settled on one key sentence to efficiently shine light on what tags are and what you can use them for.

“A JiffyTag is a physical item that when touched to your phone can tell it to start a project.”

Understanding what it can be used for  is one thing, but figuring out how it fits into your environment it is another. To inspire our users, we wrote real world examples that they could relate to. One example that we used is “Put a sticker in your notebook and link it to the project your notebook belongs to.“  This, together with an image really tells the story.

Describe how it was designed to fit in your app

We designed JiffyTags specifically for time tracking. You can link a tag to a project, and then simply start tracking by scanning the tag. We even designed our own color labels that match the colors used in our app to stick on the tags, so you can easily identify which tag starts what.

To make it even more user friendly, we decided to preprogram the tags for Jiffy. When a phone that has the app installed scans a tag, it automatically brings up the page that links the tag to an existing project.

Make the technology easily available

To make sure anyone interested can get tags, we decided to start selling our own. We investigated the different tags on the market, carefully choosing a standard one that would work with all NFC enabled phones. We did this to relieve our users of the frustration of accidentally buying tags that do not work.

That is how easy it should be. Normal, non tech savvy users should simply not have to care about what NFC tags are, how the technology works, or read into which one to buy to work with their phone.

Author Lorica Claesson

Lorica Claesson is a passionate User Experience consultant with 8+ years expertise in designing great streamlined applications for mobile, desktop and web, putting the user front and center every step of the way.

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