Lyle Worthington, CHTP, the global vice president of HFTP, delivered a keynote address at the international Hospitality Information Technology Association (iHITA) 23rd annual research conference on June 19, 2016. iHITA is an academic association that aims to bridge the gap between the industry and academia, as well as to advance hospitality technology research and education. iHITA annual research conference is co-located with HITEC. The annual conference brings together professors, industry professionals and students to discuss the latest developments in hospitality technology research.
Worthington’s keynote address “Solve for U(x). The Need for User Experience Research” introduced the area of user experience research to the academic audience and initiated a dialog about the research topics that are relevant to the industry. As researchers, we often ask ourselves if we are asking the right questions, if we are studying the topics of relevance that are new to everybody and relevant to the industry. Therefore, Worthington’s address was the session everyone at the conference was looking forward to.
“He challenged us to think outside of the box,” said Dr. Mehmet Erdem, President of iHITA. “This is exactly why Mr. Worthington was selected for the keynote address.”
Worthington called for the need to design technology around the Total User Experience. It is not only about hardware, software or graphics; it is about every way a user interacts with technology. Such design should be immediately intuitive and built based on the patterns of human behavior. A great example of an intuitive interface is a pinch to zoom. It is simple, easy to do and reflective of something that humans would do naturally. However, designing such elegant and intuitive interfaces is extremely difficult; it requires a lot of thought, research and testing.
“Some think it is an art,” said Worthington. “But it is also a science.” Effective design of user experiences rests on deep understanding of how we interact with the world around us, how we process information and how we make decisions. Therefore, extensive research is required in order to discover the patterns in human behavior, find the way of incorporating the natural flow of things into the application design, and ensure user acceptance and positive experience from interaction with this new design.
Why is this so important? We want a good user experience. In the hospitality industry this is our core product. But it is not only about interaction with the staff members anymore. We need to look at the entire picture. We need to think about technologies that we are putting in front of our customers. Based on the customer journey map, every customer should be treated differently, but we need to make things intuitive for everyone. We need to evaluate the applications that we are giving to our employees. We need to make sure that the people who are taking care of our customers can actually take care of our customers.
“This sounds expensive. It is expensive,” Worthington stated. He concluded his keynote address with multiple questions that researchers may help with finding answers to. How much money do poorly designed applications cost a hotel? Are the employees unhappy? Are they unproductive? Does it decrease the guest perception of the property? Can we quantify how much business we are losing to Airbnb by not investing money in the right place? What does it cost a hotel to get a client? What if a hotel is breached?
This keynote address was exactly what was needed at iHITA — a dialogue between the industry and academia about finding the answers to the questions that matter. Worthington left the entire audience thinking about finding the answers to his questions. I hope that we will see studies on user experience research at the 2017 iHITA annual conference.
Katerina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME is an official 2016 HITEC Guest Blogger, and an Assistant Professor in the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership (CHTL) at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM). She also serves as a Coordinator of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation. Her industry experience includes working in travel agencies and hotels in Russia and the United States. Follow her on Twitter at @KateBerezina.