The iteration trap

High-tech companies are in a hurry—as well they should be—but many hurt themselves by trying to move products out the door too quickly. I often hear executives repeat homilies like "Ship early, ship often," and "Launch and learn." They assume that there is no penalty for simply slapping something together, shipping it, and then upgrading their product or site in a rapid iteration cycle. Unfortunately, there is a big, hidden cost associated with this tactic.

Rapid development environments like the World Wide Web have promoted the idea of simply iterating many versions of a product or service until something works. Arguably, the Web is in its nascent stage and companies are still experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t, yet this should not be an excuse for iteration without planning, nor should "speed to market."

Read More

Time travel design

In this month’s newsletter, Tony refers to a Washington Post story titled The End-User View of Techo-Nirvana: Blink, Blink, Blink. The Washington Post writer had this to say about Video Cassette Recorders:

That flashing "12:00" has become a symbol of technology as tyranny, taunt, impotence, ignorance, intimidation, humiliation, stone in the shoe and pain in the butt. It stands for innovation created without humans in mind. Yet humans have grown to live with it. To expect it. To adjust themselves to the selfishness of these machines. Like sheep.

Read More

The second-order effects of wireless

Even though "wireless" is the hot buzzword on the lips of every high-technologist, the effects of the technology hold far more interest than does the technology itself.

Wireless freedom is intriguing: It isn’t hard to imagine a world of perpetually perambulating people with cell phones clamped to their ears and styli firmly gripped in their fingers doing at the cinema or the next table over at Il Fornaio what they could formerly do only at their desks.

But this flexibility to work where you want is just the first order of change wrought by these new tools. Far more interesting are the second-order effects – those unintended consequences of a new technology which often have a more powerful impact on society than the more obvious first-order changes.

Read More

Today more than ever: the lost chapter of The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Computers and their software participate in every aspect of the precious and delicate relationship between the company and the customer. The typical customer first learns about your product from an email advertisement or a computerized mailing. He visits your website to find out more about it. He buys it from your online store, and you ship it to him by FedEx, where he uses software to track it on his PC. Once delivered, even if your product isn’t 100% software, it very likely has some silicon intelligence inside it. When your customer can’t figure out how to work it, he calls your company on the telephone (which is itself a computer). The first thing he hears is the stilted and artificial voice of your automated call distribution system, instructing him "for technical assistance, press one now." Finally, the software puts him in contact with a real human, only for him to find that this person-trained by software-is merely echoing instructions from a problem report database software program running on his computer!

Read More

Innovating for humans

Innovation is an obsession and a watchword throughout the software industry, and it’s been widely adopted as a core business goal. But from the consumer’s perspective, innovation is only valuable if it solves a problem or provides a new benefit. It can be a bitter pill to swallow, but any product that innovates without adding human value will eventually be displaced by one that gives power and pleasure to those who use it.

Before starting to innovate, it is important to reflect on how different flavors of innovation are perceived by the people who will eventually use a product and what risks and opportunities are associated with each. Then comes the hard part: figuring out what the right innovations are and how to implement them.

Read More

Beating the checkout blues

Your online store is a good example of the breed. You’ve got good products at good prices, the site navigation is straightforward, the product information is rich, appropriate, and easy to find, and everyone likes the clean, uncluttered visual design of the site. So why do more than half of your customers abandon their full shopping carts?

Depending on which research report you read, roughly 25% to 75% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before consummating the deal. Despite the disparity in numbers, all the research firms agree on one thing: that’s way too many.

Read More

So you want to be an interaction designer

We get a lot of email from students and usability professionals asking how one goes about becoming an interaction designer, and what background one needs to get into the field. What are good interaction design programs? What real-world skills and experience are required? What, exactly, do interaction designers do on a day-to-day basis?

Read More

What we can learn from the fender stratocaster

I must admit I’m not terribly impressed by the quality of today’s software—my benchmark for good product design isn’t defined by the output of Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, or other respected software companies. Those companies produce some good work, of course, but the software industry, though no longer in its infancy, still seems to be working through its gawky adolescent stage. So, when I think about high quality products, I think of BMW automobiles, Eames furniture, and the Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Read More

Perfecting your personas

A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. By designing for the archetype—whose goals and behavior patterns are well understood—you can satisfy the broader group of people represented by that archetype. In most cases, personas are synthesized from a series of ethnographic interviews with real people, then captured in 1-2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to bring the persona to life. For each product, or sometimes for each set of tools within a product, there is a small set of personas, one of whom is the primary focus for the design.

Read More

Putting people together to create new products

When companies plan out a new product (or service, or business process) they often think of the effort as the coordination of two teams solving different problems. Engineering addresses the question "what can you make?" Marketing addresses the question "what can you sell?"

You could engineer a combined toaster and cell phone, but you could never sell it. Marketing would tell you that you have a product no customer would buy. Likewise, you might successfully market a car that runs on tapwater, but the impossibility of building one makes it a meaningless product idea. Smart organizations know that they need to combine the insights from both marketing and engineering to find products that they can both make and sell.

Read More

1 49 50 51 52 53 57