CX and software – consumers lead the experience (part 2)

Part 1 see: “Is software eating the world? Or, is it really customers?”

Software eating our world

In the earlier post I mentioned that more companies are focusing on the opportunities software offers to create customer value through the customer experience (CX). This rising development is a result of the rise in popularity of software, and it is spawning the age of the consumer − consumers are now leading the experience they want to have (i.e., Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, buyer power). I give credit for a chunk of this leverage to software sites such as Twitter, Yelp, Kudzu, TripAdvisor and the like for enabling consumers to socialize their experiences rapidly and easily, and providing leverage to the individual buyer. In our hyper-competitive markets this is putting pressure on companies to look across all customer touch points and evaluate how they measure up, not just looking at their customer satisfaction ratings (the good minus the bad ones) but on the total customer experience and the reasons WHY.

This era of transparency and perfect information is not all bad for businesses. It’s offering them an unprecedented opportunity to learn what attracts customers in the first place and how to satisfy them in the long term, and even retain them for life (i.e., lifetime value of a customer). But where do we start? Read the rest of this post »

Beacons, not iWatch is Where the Enterprise Action Is

Wearables have been in the mobile space news again lately, with the news that iWatch sales have slipped significantly.

However, one of the other facets of mobile space and one that has greater enterprise applicability, Internet of Things (IoT) and in this case, beacons have made a number of quiet but significant advances lately. The IBM/Apple partnership released another round of enterprise apps and one, Safe Site includes iBeacon technology to alert people on the job when they are approaching a hazardous area. More importantly, lost in the din of all the announcements coming out of Google I/O 2015 such as Android M is the release of Eddystone Android/Google’s new framework for supporting Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons (I grant you, iBeacons is a sexier/easier to remember name).

Android 4.x supported BLE but in a very limited fashion and Android 5.x improved upon that support but Eddystone is the first effort Google has made to support beacon technology in a significant way. In addition to the base frame format that Apple iBeacon uses, Google has released other frame formats such as a telemetry frame that allows the sending of diagnostic data about the beacon so that its health can be monitored (battery level, etc). Finally, Google has integrated a number of APIs to extend the functionality of beacons. These include the Nearby API and Proximity Beacon API to establish proximity between the beacon and the smartphone and integrates Places API for location awareness. Integrated into Google Play Services, Eddystone is the first fruits of the efforts from developers understanding the uses beacons could play within the enterprise space and pushing Google with statements such as “Android’s support for BLE is fine but it would be better if I could do X …”

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Posted in Android, Mobile, News

So, your project is Agile. Are you?

I’ve never worked on an Agile project where people didn’t say something like, “Well, what we’re doing isn’t really Agile.” We’re always doing some version of Agile that is flexed to the company’s culture and skill sets.

More than once, I’ve been involved with projects that are their company’s first-ever Agile project. It can be exciting, and it can be quite stressful. We talk a lot about educating the client and the teams with whom we are interfacing, and when we talk about that, we usually mean educating them in the Agile process. But I think it’s also important to model an agile attitude.

There are three sources of stress that come up often, in my experience:

  • The idea that the first things we build will likely be scaled-back versions of the whole vision
  • The idea that learning and correcting course (read: failure) are expected parts of the process
  • The idea that you will be pushing the teams around you to innovate on existing business processes.

More to the point–it’s not the idea of these things; it’s when these things actually happen. As ideas, they’re sensible and not particularly difficult to sell. When these things actually begin to happen in your project, they can feel like failure, strife, and wasted time.

There are a handful of things I try to keep in mind so that my personal attitude can help everyone deal with those stressors:

Take care of myself

I try to manage my energy level so I can handle challenges and be a positive presence. I take the breaks I need to bring a fresh mind to problems.

Get the fundamentals right

I practice good meeting hygiene (agenda, goals, good notes, etc.). I seek clarification on communication and decision-making protocols.

Know the big picture

I refer back often to the goals of the project, the core user needs, and the constraints. I check in periodically to make sure everything I’m doing lines up with the project vision.

Aim to fail early

I try to welcome collaboration at a cross functional level, and show my ideas as soon as I can using sketches and prototypes. This is something I feel like I can always get better at–getting input as soon as I can on user needs, feasibility, and constraints.

Ask myself:

  • Am I helping the team respond quickly to changes? Am I helping leadership understand my status, dependencies, and options for next steps? Am I able to help leadership understand risks, priorities, and tradeoffs?
  • How can I adjust my approach in order to respond to changes in the project? Do I understand my work and that of my teammates well enough to adjust to the needs of the project? If not, how can I educate myself?

Those of us who are pioneering Agile within an organization need to do our best to be knowledgeable, flexible, and kind. “Going Agile” can be uncomfortable, and if you can demonstrate the principles in your own work habits, you can help others through the awkward parts.

Posted in News

Is software eating the world? Or, is it really customers?

Part 1 of 2 

Software eating our world

Are software companies poised to “take over large swathes of the economy?” Apparently Marc Andreessen thought so in an article from 2011. I think he is right. Let’s take a quick mental inventory of a few of the major firms running on software and delivered as online services – eBay, Amazon, Pandora, Shutterfly, LinkedIn and Netflix. Each one of these organizations, within their respective industries, has used software (digital services) to gain control over, or seize, sizable market share; and in some cases they’ve pushed top competing firms out of business. Anyone remember Borders or Kodak? Personally, there was a time I thought Monster would always be the juggernaut of recruiting and placing job seekers. Well, I had to smile when recently in an article in Forbes the writer compared Monster to “a 2001 Dodge Neon – a resume repository.” And how is LinkedIn doing? The firm just got an upgrade from Barclays so things seem to be going well for them. I think some of its success stems from robust features for sharing, joining groups, and as a research tool. It’s attracting the best candidates and in turn attracting the best recruiters.

It’s clear that the things we want to do are, more and more, being serviced and provided through software. We have become dependent on software to connect us with our friends and family, to educate us, and for games and shopping. So more companies are focusing on software to deliver customer value through the customer experience. Now this gets interesting. Software is spawning an emerging tension between CIOs and CMOs to tango over spending to reach customers. A prediction from one Gartner analyst (Laura McLellan) is that by 2017 chief marketing officers (CMOs) will out spend CIOs on IT. This spending is on digital marketing along with software. That is the great news. On the flip side – “ehm” – do we (meaning those of us in software) have a solid idea of how this disruption is affecting our customers in the markets we serve? Jeffrey Bussgang of the Harvard Business School says, “…Marketing leaders and agencies now carry the burden of understanding technology’s impact on their business, the entire customer experience…to win market share.”  Read the rest of this post »

Top 3 Reasons Your User Research is Boring

shutterstock_226425211_350Kara Swisher of Re/code gave a keynote address for Interaction 15 in which she described trends in content. One thing she talked about was the way Buzzfeed rapidly generates listicles and memes from shared media experiences. She joked about trying to apply this lighthearted approach to subjects she has covered–“15 Things Bill Gates was thinking while I was interviewing him.”

Well, I’m a user researcher, so Swisher’s talk made me think of user research. If you’ve ever wavered over whether to take a survey in exchange for being entered in a drawing, you won’t be surprised to learn it takes skill to design a study people will actually want to participate in. And if you’ve ever pondered the hit to your budget for recruiting participants from a highly-specialized user group, you might be interested in this study suggesting that playful surveys can intrinsically motivate people to participate (meaning, it’s not payment that’s motivating them, and they are better focused on the task).

Why does so much user research require extrinsic motivation? Because the studies are boring, generic, and the users don’t understand what’s in it for them. Well, how the heck does that happen?

Reason #1: You don’t want to offend anyone.

Right now, I’m working on an application for customer service representatives who take calls from health insurance subscribers and health care providers. We’ve done several rounds of usability testing and interviews, but now I think we may have missed an opportunity to play a design game: “Make Your Own David Letterman Top 10 List.”

  • Top 10 ways you know you’re going to have to escalate this call
  • Top 10 ways you know someone has worked here more than 10 years
  • Top 10 things every new rep should know
  • Top 10 people most likely to eat your lunch out of the break room refrigerator

Humor is tricky, and we don’t want to put people in the position to say something they’ll regret when we are recording them on the job. Nor do we want to subject them to someone’s disrespectful take on their work. I’d have to keep playing with “the Buzzfeed effect” to find an appropriate way to employ it with enterprise users.

Design games are not new, though. Playing a game makes space for participants to reflect, compare options, and imagine what could be. Even busy executives can find value in seeing their Very Serious Project from a playful perspective.

Reason #2: You don’t know what motivates your users.

Another place I could see a Buzzfeed-style approach is with a website survey, à la’s community polls or Anne Friedman’s GIF-laden survey of her newsletter subscribers (You’ll want to click that second one–monetization is rarely so delightful.).

Here’s an idea for a potential unmoderated usability survey:

  1. How many times did you curse while using this site?
  2. How many times would your dad have to call you if he used this site?
  3. How close is your face to the screen right now?
  4. How much do you like baby sloths, on a scale of 10-28?

OK, so that’s also a little tricky. We don’t want to use a voice that isn’t consistent with the company’s brand. But even if the brand is conservative, some legwork and creativity can find a way to connect with participants beyond a paid incentive. Whether that’s through humor, or through doing an effective job of communicating the value of the study, it doesn’t happen without some effort and skill. And that can’t be replaced by an Amazon gift card.

Besides, when I see the same few survey pop-ups on every site, I have to think a more customized, engaging approach would have a better chance of being on-brand.

Reason #3: You don’t have the right people.

So, if I told you that our Experience Design group is packed with researchers, designers, and content strategists who regularly knock each other off our custom ergonomic office chairs with memes and one-liners, how likely would you be to have us talk with your customers?

  1. I already hired you, and I’m so glad.
  2. Call me.
  3. I’d better forward this to my manager.
  4. Wait, what’s a GIF?
  5. Lolol

Leo Laporte Falls Off His Exercise Ball (with Audio)

make animated gifs like this at MakeaGif

My Thoughts on the First Enterprise UX Conference

I recently attended the first annual Enterprise UX conference. UX professionals of varied backgrounds and areas of specialization, developers, designers, business analysts, content managers, project managers, IT and marketing managers, program managers and more, all gathered to learn how to plan and manage large application development projects. I enjoyed two days of speakers, a full day interactive workshop and a great time of discussion and sharing with colleagues in the enterprise UX space.

The conference presentations were good, especially Kelly Goto’s “Emotion Economy: Ethnography as Corporate Strategy.” She talked about “humanizing technology”, and the importance of balancing data and emotion to inform strategy and design, encouraging us as practitioners to embrace the move from “I think” to “I know”.

Because the area of enterprise UX is relatively new, and this was the first year of the conference, there weren’t we didn’t have many examples shared of successful enterprise projects. Most of the examples shared were consumer projects and only a few case studies were presented that involved enterprise UX. The rest were consumer examples that we were encouraged to consider and adapt to our environments. That was a slight disappointment, because in talking to other attendees, we were really eager to learn vetted methods and processes.

For the first conference though, we got good insights. Most we knew and understood, but it was good to hear others share their experiences, from the smooth to the painful, both successes and failures. Here are my key takeaways:

1. We’re all learning. Many of us left very excited to try new methods as well as perfect the processes we have been working on to find an effective way to manage the UX side our enterprise projects.
2. Creating a shared understanding is key. Enterprise projects can be executed more smoothly when the entire team, from stakeholders to developers, are meaningfully engaged and consistently informed, providing input and insight or clarifying goals and needs at each stage of the project from discovery to development.
3. Design and development team collaboration during a project can save time and build confidence. Waiting to engage key players can minimize a project’s success. Once the work starts, researchers, designers and developers should work together when/if possible. When a designer receives a report from a researcher or a developer receives a “blind” handoff from a designer and they haven’t been involved in the project prior, it takes time to ramp them up and context may be lost, results or designs may be misinterpreted or reworked because of lack of understanding.
4. Failure is expected but keep trying. Presenters and attendees shared stories of failed projects and the not-so-great moments of their enterprise projects. It was helpful to have presenters analyze failures and show how they could have adjusted and improved for a more favorable outcome.

Enterprise UX is emerging. No one has mastered the process. But with conferences like Enterprise UX 2015, we can come together, share information and learn and grow together. That’s exciting.

Posted in Design, Musings, UX

What Does This Icon Mean? The Answer

On Monday I showed you an single icon from NPR One’s website, and I asked you ponder what you might expect to happen if you clicked on that icon, then to post the name you would give the icon in the comments.

It’s friday. So, I’ll make good on my promise to reveal the true meaning of the icon in question.

Read the rest of this post »

What Does This Icon Mean?

In his blog What Happens When You Push the Broccoli Button? Brian Flanagan brought up a great point about iconography.  A few hours later after reading it, I misinterpreted the meaning of an icon on a website. I showed the icon to Claire, a co-worker, who guessed something completely different would happen upon clicking the icon than I did, yet we were both wrong. Inspired by this coincidence, I’d like to know what you think the icon means.

Read the rest of this post »

Say This Not That: Effective Design Critique

Whether you are a designer, non-designer, or client in the IT industry, you will certainly be involved in design critique at some point in time – visual designs, prototypes, images, or sketches. This post indicates common mistakes during a design critique and how to provide actionable feedback to the designer to produce the best possible design. Critique is “a formal discussion of the good and bad points of a particular design.”  This is the first post of a two-part series using the “Say This Not That” format.

Instead of saying… “Make it more modern”

Try saying…“Could we use a mobile navigation style like the [example app]?”

Examples, examples, examples! “Modern” is not specific enough to elicit an action from the designer. To best communicate what you consider as “modern” design, provide examples – preferably examples in the relevant industry. If you are someone without a design background, giving examples is a productive way to communicate to the designer. Also, take note of which aspect of the design needs to be updated to achieve modernity. Is it the interaction that seems old-fashioned? Or is it the color palette? Perhaps the imagery? Just remember, the more specific you are with designers the better they will be able to understand what you want and produce it.

What are some common miscommunications you’ve experienced or observed during a design critique? Share in the comments!


Cascade SF Meetup Group with Braden Kowitz from Google Ventures

Posted in News

Design for Users with Limited Literacy Skills (UXPA 2015)

mobileI was surprised to know that designing for people with various forms of literacy issues would benefit literate users. In one study presented in a session I am now attending, I learned it does! Another surprise, about 50% of U.S. citizens report some type of literacy problem. As a result, when we think about digital transformation and designing for multi-channel usage (especially mobile), there are some things we need to know to help our clients understand the wide range of users who are using their digital products, for example…

– Literacy issues are often merely a result of “situational literacy.” For example, health data is very domain specific and people are often more overwhelmed trying to understand a diagnosis, to sort through health plan coverage or to follow directions for how to take and submit a lab sample. Read the rest of this post »