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Finding the X factor for your digital products

Southampton Solent University and Ocean Village Innovation Centre join forces to help bring the X factor to commercial websites.

August 1, 2017

In what is thought to be the first initiative of its kind in Hampshire, an innovation centre and a university have got together to help bring the ‘X’ factor to commercial websites.

Various digital firms working out of Ocean Village Innovation Centre (OVIC) in Southampton had 12 websites - which they are building for customers and are in the last stages of testing - examined by industry experts from Southampton Solent University.

State-of-the-art digital usability equipment included software which indicates gaze spots through tracking eye movements.

The temporary test laboratory was set up by the University at OVIC, the serviced offices provider which is home to nearly 40 businesses.

Follow-up reports by the University assessed the usability of desktop and mobile interfaces, focusing on conversion rate effectiveness, optimised presence and content strategy.

Ten businesses took part in the initial free pilot, with the findings released in a wrap-up session at OVIC.

Dr Mohammed Alhusban, a user experience design (UX) researcher, usability expert and senior lecturer at the University, led the project with eight postgraduate and undergraduate students.

He said:

“The aim is to help firms who build websites identify user experience issues at an earlier stage – it is more cost-effective to change then when a website is near to going live. We make sense of the world through our eyes, yet too many websites and other digital products don’t take into account how we scan the visuals and words in front of us. "

“Talking generally, our laboratory testing at Solent repeatedly highlights two main problems with websites – the lack of mobile responsiveness and the absence of a content strategy. Both issues detract from the user’s experience, with industry research citing figures that 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. We’re very much about insights and enhancing user satisfaction. In turn, that improves conversion rates for businesses, bringing returns on investment.”

Richard May, the Innovation Director for OVIC and two other centres in south Hampshire, Portsmouth Technopole and Fareham Innovation Centre, facilitated the initiative with Katie Hornby, Knowledge Exchange and Business Development Manager at the University.

Richard said:

“A key objective for Oxford Innovation is to develop sector specific clusters in Hampshire and over time have them co-habitat or be affiliated in one of our three, and soon to be four, innovation hubs in the county. This initiative is geared toward developing a digital business community in Southampton and the surrounding area."

“It builds on a naturally formed cluster of digital businesses here at OVIC and within our ecosystem. The report-back event had more than 40 seasoned experts - PhD researchers and Masters students gathered to discuss test results, best practice and innovation wisdoms to create the ‘X’ factor for their clients’ digital products."

“It’s very encouraging to see real-time knowledge transfer partnership in action between the talent of the University and businesses in the OVIC. The network has become lively, with many follow up actions, and our hope is to grow this community further. The higher education institutions in Southampton are a spur to economic growth and we’ve been able to help academic and vocational students understand the challenges in developing products and services with commercial applications.”

Southampton Solent University, which has more than 11,000 students and staff, is currently ranked 9th in the UK top universities for graduate business start-ups.

It is the latest event of its kind which Richard organises for focus sectors.

One at Fareham Innovation Centre saw 24 experts in unmanned aerial vehicles take part in a two-day brainstorming event on what needs to be done to make drones an operational reality in sea rescues.

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