Exploring the science behind digital experiences
This video from the TED archive featuring psychologist Barry Schwartz is a fantastic piece of insight into audience behaviour. Schwartz discusses how an over-abundance of choice in the industrialised world has led to dissatisfaction and audience paralysis. It’s definitely worth examining how this type of thinking can affect interaction and experience design.
Make features work hard to be implemented
The secret to building half a product instead of a half-ass product is saying no.
Each time you say yes to a feature, you’re adopting a child. You have to take your baby through a whole chain of events (e.g. design, implementation, testing, etc.). And once that feature’s out there, you’re stuck with it. Just try to take a released feature away from customers and see how pissed off they get.
Don’t be a yes-man
Make each feature work hard to be implemented. Make each feature prove itself and show that it’s a survivor. It’s like “Fight Club.” You should only consider features if they’re willing to stand on the porch for three days waiting to be let in.
That’s why you start with no. Every new feature request that comes to us — or from us — meets a no. We listen but don’t act. The initial response is “not now.” If a request for a feature keeps coming back, that’s when we know it’s time to take a deeper look. Then, and only then, do we start considering the feature for real.
And what do you say to people who complain when you won’t adopt their feature idea? Remind them why they like the app in the first place. “You like it because we say no. You like it because it doesn’t do 100 other things. You like it because it doesn’t try to please everyone all the time.”
“We Don’t Want a Thousand Features”
Steve Jobs gave a small private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people. My favorite line of the day was when people kept raising their hand saying, “Does it do [x]?”, “Do you plan to add [y]?”. Finally Jobs said, “Wait wait — put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.”
—-Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby
(from Say NO by default)
Like it or not, social has changed the world. The power of the message no longer belongs to the brand but to the audience. Passivity is a thing of the past, active engagement is the only way open.
Our collective audience no longer swallow the spin, they seek the views and approvals of their friends, colleagues and even strangers. Sure they still want to be sold the dream but they’re not going to buy the dream without research. They want to see the uglies. The user generated photography. The patchy amateur YouTube video. Trust can’t be bought, all packaged up in glitzy wrapping, it has to be earned then advocated. To be part of this conversation we need to learn to be part of our audiences journey, to show that not only can we be engaging, we can be relevant. The key to being relevant is simple. Lets get to know our audience.
For so long we have treated our audience as homogenous organic lumps, serving them up vapid, self-serving content, often for the sake of it. This is very clearly not good enough. We need to get serious about knowing our audience. Who are they? What do they look like? How do they feel about their life? What problems do they have? What do they dream of?
Lets do our research. Lets ask the people on the ground-floor of our organizations, the people who deal with the audience everyday. Lets ask the audience themselves either directly on the phone or in a workshop. If we are too shy to get face to face then lets use an online questionnaire. We don’t have to be the audiences best pal but it sure helps to know what someone is thinking when your trying to have a conversation with them.
The remaining challenges are considerable. In this new intimate environment how does a brand control the message and the voice without coming across as impersonal and worse still ‘corporate’? Who wields the voice? Where is the content coming from? Who can help? What’s the legal implications?
Social unfortunately has more questions than answers at the moment but the best place to start is with the audience. Lets become relevant, lets stop shouting and start discussing.
Compare and contrast the cost differences between cutting up and drawing on some cards in a meeting room to having a digital designer layout a series of pages then a developer coding those pages into life. You don’t have to be the governor of the Bank of England to figure that one out! Besides which if I haven’t already mentioned it already, paper testing can be enjoyable!
I came across this fantastic infographic from Expedia Media Solutions on the social media habits and demographics for different traveller types.
Although the data is pretty limited it’s a brilliant head start when creating personas for social media users in the hospitality and travel industry.
The data has been abstracted from over 40,000 Expedia trips and groups users into categories from ‘Techie Afficionado’ to ‘Steadfast Prgamatist’.
Some great insight into audience behaviour in this infographic from Get Satisfaction. I’m not totally sold that people want to be within a corporate walled garden rather than an open social channel. However, it’s a great message that we need to walk in our audiences shoes if we want to create experiences with value at the heart of them.
The section on advocacy is very insightful, 42.1% will freely advocate a brand/product/service this really chimes with other findings.
Hands up who can play an instrument…
For those who don’t have the desire or like me are musically incompetent I’m going to let you in on a secret. Music might sound like it has been born from a free-flowing creative process fuelled by spontaneous genius but take a peak under the covers and you will see an underlying science. Mathematical repetition and harmonics based on matching wave frequencies dictate what sounds good to our ears and the best musicians not only know this but take advantage of it. Of course it inevitably becomes instinct to a talented musician, however there is still no shaking the scientific foundation.
Music is not alone in its scientific background, other creative fields such as architecture lean heavily on science. Design does too. There is an underlying scientific beat to the whole design process, whether you realise it or not, whether you like it or not.
Like the very best of scientific endeavours, rational thinking, robust discussion and great research lead to great results. This learned approach to the science of design is currently a hot topic and can be found packaged under the banners of ‘design thinking’ or ‘user experience’ (UX to the people in the know).
Within the boardroom’s of the world, the social revolution has moved mindsets from a platform of one way messaging to one to one interactions. To be successful in this intrinsically personal field, a deep understanding of your audience and yourself is not just a good thing but rather an essential thing.
UX can be defined as ‘finding value for the audience’ and’ ensuring business fit’ - a critical component very often overlooked by traditional designers. The misguided assumption that ‘if we build it, they will come’ has reigned, unchallenged, since the very first Internet boom. The historians and economists among you might have spotted what happened to the companies that didn’t do a great job of defining audience value during the .dotcom gold rush. These days in the midst of a social revolution, not defining audience value, can result in a much quicker, much more painful lesson from the audiences we are desperate to engage with.
So what are the benefits in taking a reasoned scientific approach?
The answer is, there are many, for both designer and client. Being able to apply UX methods like design principles help root a project during the early phases, they provide a guiding light and key measuring device to ensure that we stay relevant and true to our business needs and audience needs. UX outputs such as ‘design principles ‘are a great way of ensuring that if an element of the design is not furthering the needs and aims of the project that it is refined or removed. As designers, instead of asking ‘where do you want me to put this content’ we need to be asking ‘why do you want that piece of content’ and ‘what value does it offer to us and the audience’.
Clients appreciate this scientific approach as it helps them validate the decisions made on their behalf and gets them involved in design decisions much more effectively. In a properly organised UX based project, each stage feels like a logical extension of the last, baby steps towards an end goal that feels obvious by the time we reach it.
Ultimately designers need to become business people, for if they are to be successful in helping a business connect with its customers they need to be able to think like the ladies and gentlemen sitting round the top table. This is not an easy transformation but a very necessary one if we want to create experiences that resonate.
Article originally published at teviotcreative.com
We live in a fast forward world of change. And the digital brand-scape has reached a critical turning point, similar to the gold rush of the early nineties, when a website stopped being seen as a mere business development option and became as essential as a phone line or business card.
The tipping point today, of course, is social media. We have entered the era of engagement marketing: a time when the marketing value of a website is being increasingly questioned. The reasons for change are compelling. Passivity is no longer seen as an option and a marked shift in customer behaviour patterns is emerging. Audiences are starting to trend away from the traditional, huge budget marketing campaigns via TV and print channels in favour of a more personal level of engagement.
Consumers who once mainly connected with a brand through costly TV campaigns are now coming in from the bottom up - through channels like their local store’s Facebook page. And major companies are now questioning the point of spending mega millions on a glitzy, TV and print assault when customers are increasingly bypassing the glamorous global campaigns in favour of a simple Facebook connection, often created by the franchisee’s in-house marketing team.
These front line marketing teams are tackling social media head-on because they know they have no choice. The corporate world is playing catch up in terms of promoting a global social policy. The massive marketing budgets are being increasingly wasted, as a significant number of customers choose to come to the brand through the back door.