Ustwo discusses app and UX design of the Tesco Hudl 'tablet for everyone'

The digital studio discusses its work helping make the Tesco-branded tablet easy to set-up and use for the average consumer.

None of the experienced tech journalists we share an office with had high hopes for Tesco's tablet, the Hudl – but it managed to pleasantly surprise TechAdvisor's Chris Martin when he had some hands-on time with it at its launch event. The Hudl isn't – as we initially expected – just a cheaper-than-the-rest attempt to pull in unwary consumers who buy on price rather than quality, but an attempt to create an Android tablet for even the least tech-savvy consumers. It's a bold feat considering low-cost Android tablets are invariably crap and difficult to use, but for the average Tesco shopper ease-of-use and a smooth user experience is essential.

The success of the Hudl's UX is in a large part due to the work of Shoreditch-based agency Ustwo, who worked alongside branding agency SomeOne. The firm is best known for iPhone games such as Whale Trail and Blip Blup – and having an in-office wendy house for meetings – but its specialisation in UX has extended in many directions, including designing interfaces for financial trading systems.

Ustwo created a custom version of the Android set-up process for first-time users and a launcher app that smoothly delivers users to Tesco's apps and services such as ClubCard, Grocery, Tesco BlinkBox and Tesco TV – plus some pretty wallpaper that feeds into the cosmic-influenced branding.

We caught up with ustwo creative director David Mingay to find out more about how you design for the most mainstream of audiences.

NB: How would you describe the design aesthetic of the elements ustwo created?

DM: "For Hudl, we had to develop a whole range of digital branded elements, ranging from refining the icon language into something more consistent and practically useful, through to system sounds and everything else in between.

"The brand direction derives from the notion of the tablet emerging as a central part of a user's life, exemplified by the star motif, which sits within a solar system. Our challenge here is how to translate that high level approach into something actually meaningful and useful for the user.

"The design direction meant embracing a clean, clear and colourful execution, firmly with the quality of user experience in mind. Getting this balance right with a new brand, can take time, but when you iterate and review over several cycles, you can, with the right team, create amazing things."

NB: What level of knowledge did you expect the average user of the Hudl to have and how did you design the UX for them?

DM: "Tesco really wanted this tablet to appeal to people who have not necessarily owned had tablets before, as three quarters of British households don’t own a tablet computer. They wanted to create something affordable but not at the expense of user experience or using inferior technology.

"This approach immediately resonated with us, so we explored what the needs and goals of these types of users were and worked from there. We're big advocates of the User Centred Design process (UCD) and although timescales were very tight, we managed to test early wireframe prototypes and iterated accordingly.

"One of the great things working with this Tesco team is that they realised that people would be turned off from overt Tesco-branded and locked-down apps. Instead they wanted users to have a fairly generic Android experience, but if they were a Tesco customer, they wanted to provide quick ways to access those services and view their status – for example a widget that displays their ClubCard points or when their groceries are going to be delivered.

"Additionally, we built a 'Getting Started' app to guide and teach the user about the possibilities of their device. As well as providing direct links to essential apps, we included a progression meter to encourage the user to go through the whole guide and therefore increase their understanding of the device's potential.

NB: Tell us a bit about the design of the user journey during set-up of the tablet (above)

DM: "The challenge here was to work with the vanilla Google set up journey in a way that made most sense to the end user. It was tempting to go down the path of really differentiating the Hudl-specific setup steps – but given the target audience and general best-practice design principles, we created an experience that was as short and seamless as possible with no jarring deviations.

"Tesco also wanted to ensure that parents were given guidance as to how they could take steps to protect their family from the issues that arise from having devices accessing the Internet. So we made sure we included that as part of the first-time user journey."

NB: Tell us about design of the the launcher (above)

DM: "The launcher was specifically focused on being a fast track into the web- and app-based Tesco offerings. We wanted a visually-rich, yet practical mechanic that encouraged exploration and gave the user enough information to help inform their next step decision – with it all fitting in within Android user experience guidances.

"Ensuring consistency of execution really helps in keeping a high quality of user experience: typographic design, grids, colour palette, etc."

NB: Are you working on more apps for future additions to the tablet?

DM: "We are helping Tesco in evolving the Hudl user experience across a number of projects right now, so stay tuned."

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