My Favorite Three Product Experiences in 2016

Let's face it, 2016 has not been the easiest year. I'm writing this day after we lost Princess Leia, and everyone seems ready for the ball to drop in Times Square in a couple days. At least my beloved Cubs ended their long championship drought.

To balance out the negativity, I felt like sharing some positive during the year in the form of some amazing products. These are examples of products that stood out to me as a User Experience specialist. And no, I was not involved with these products in any way (although I wish I was).  

Hala Stand Up Paddle Boards:

Over the summer, I was invited out to do a little Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and quickly realized how much I missed being on the water with a paddle in my hand. I decided I was going to invest in an SUP and get myself on the water as much as possible. I knew I wanted an inflatable board for storage purposes, but I didn't know much else. The local retailer showed me the Hala SUPs, and I immediately fell in love. 

What immediately struck me was the backpack that comes with the board. Most of the other boards come in duffle bags that look like they are difficult to carry around. The Hala SUPs come with a backpack that also has wheels. This allows the paddler to carry it just about anywhere at 20 some pounds, or to drag it through the airport for the epic trip they are about to embark on. The idea of taking the board up to a lake 2 or 3 miles from civilization just triggered my outdoorsy sense of adventure. And what a bonus if I wanted to bring it along on a trip that was a bit too far to drive. 

I can tell you that this SUP got the job done when I went a few miles up a dirt road to a lake in the middle of the San Juan mountains. In just minutes, I was on the water enjoying the solitude. And when it looked like the weather was going to turn, I was packed up within minutes and driving away.

Every time I was on the board this summer, I felt like someone was reading my mind when they designed the board and the backpack. It is easy to tell the product is targeted for that adventurous, loves to travel paddler. The designers at Hala did their homework in understanding their users, and developed a product that I know I will enjoy for many summers. 

Progressive's Mobile App:

One of the low points of 2016 for me was getting rear ended in a car accident in stop and go traffic. Luckily there were no injuries, but it is still a scary experience to be in that situation. As we waited for the patrolman, I started thinking about insurance, getting my car fixed, and what a pain the whole thing was going to be. 

I opened up my Progressive phone application so I could exchange my insurance information with the other driver, when I noticed there was a menu selection to start a claim. Interesting...I could get my accident claim started right there on the side of the road. All I had to do was answer a few easy questions about the accident. Then it allowed me to take pictures of the damage as part of the claim report. I clicked the pics with my phone, and within 5 minutes of opening up the app my claim was submitted. 

Did Progressive have all the information they needed for the claim? No. But they called me the next day to gather what they needed from me. What impressed me was that they kept the questions simple, and it kicked off the whole process with very little thinking on my part. Wondering if my back was okay and if the passengers in the other car were fine was a much larger priority for me than filling out a detailed set of questions about the crash on my phone. 

The application asked for just what was needed in a stressful situation. It did not add any stress to my situation. The fact I was so impressed with the design in that moment should say a lot to group that built and designed just enough and not anything more. 

Barracuda Luggage:

A friend of mine showed me their new Barracuda luggage while in Chicago recently. I was immediately blown away, and was lucky enough that someone checked it off my Christmas wish list. 

This luggage is a travelers dream. Are you tired of searching for a place to plug in your phone at the airport? It comes with a battery pack in the suitcase. Having trouble finding a place to store your luggage? It is collapsable and comes with a bag that you can hang up in your closet. Airline lose your luggage? GPS tracker! And I haven't mentioned the nice, ergonomic handle that makes it a little easier to navigate those tight crowds. 

I can tell someone who has had a lot of headaches while traveling really thought through these problems. It is another example of a product where I feel like someone was in my head and knew exactly what I needed before I realized it. Suddenly, I'm looking forward to traveling more...even if that means more TSA in my life. 

Bottom Line:

The common thing that brought my attention to these three products was how much they grabbed my attention with a great User Experience. It is easy to notice a bad design and complain about a bad product. It is also easy to overlook a good user experience, because it is almost invisible and just fits what someone needs. To feel like someone interviewed me as part of the user research process for their product is a testament to the hard work that had to go into it. 

I'm all about doing my homework when it comes to User Research within UX. I feel like a lot of places are forgetting this or shortcutting this process. So a tip of my hat to these three products that made my 2016 a little better.