Jan 09

Finding the next opportunity

On one afternoon in a shopping district in Tokyo, I noticed two instances of people counting in order to observe larger patterns. The two guys on the left have a sheet with colour palettes, and are marking the number of people they see wearing certain colours. The guy on the right has a clicker, and is also counting some aspect of human behaviour.

Street Research Counting People

This is a great insight into how tomorrow’s trends already exist, but you have to go out in the world to find them. The two fashion guys could have stayed in their office and looked online and in magazines. But that only shows the status quo. And the mainstream. The opportunity that is coming next already exists at the edges of society.

Jan 09

Towards open conversations on every product/service website

Who will be the first large company to allow open commenting and conversation about their products and services on their public site? For example, I go to levis.com or toyota.com and I can wax lyrical about latest offerings with fellow interested folk.

What’s the drive quality of this car model really like? How many miles per gallon are current owners getting? Should I opt for the 1.8 or 2.0 engine? What’s it like compared to the Ford?

This site level open community feels inevitable. Currently, every website already has a latent community. All the people across the globe who are viewing the same stuff at the same time, often with the same questions. There is already a trend towards exposing these communities. Friend Connect, Facebook Connect and services like Get Satisfaction are already allowing customers and potential customers to not only converse with each other, but also with the businesses themselves. Wal-Mart already allows customers to publicly rate their wares.

By exposing these latent communities and allowing them to converse, businesses get:

- Fantastic insight into their customers perceptions and expectations of their current offerings, and also that of their competitors (as people often compare when trying to make purchase decisions).

- An opportunity to be involved in the conversation and correct inaccuracies.

- A rich body of data about consumer trends to influence what they should do next.

I’m sure businesses would be worried about too many negative conversations, but if that’s the case, their problems are far greater than any website conversation. Certainly many people are more motivated to comment when something bad happens (as they say “good design is invisible”), as a way to get their grievances off their chest, but I can see a world where brand advocates are just as motivated to get involved and stand up for a product/service that they believe in. That is also what happens on review sites like Yelp, where people are equally motivated to recommend or criticise something.

Is it inevitable that the company who don’t allow open conversation on their site are the company with something to hide?

Jan 09

Advertising $$$, before technology, before users

In interaction design, it’s critical to get the flow of actions right. This is about relative priorities. Balancing the business needs (revenue) and user needs. Following is an example of getting it completely wrong, where the business priorities are met at the expense of a terrible user experience.

RTE is Ireland’s national broadcaster. They provide video clips on their website, which are often snippets from their content first published on television e.g. a news bulletin. Video and audio is offered at the bottom of related news stories:

RTE audio video link

Clicking the link opens a new window where an advertisement is played:

RTE advertisement

I want to watch the news story, not view an ad. Then this happens:


- Breaking the flow by forcing users to watch a completely unrelated ad before the news story.

- Offering an ad that grates against the video content, in this case a cheery Christmas snack food juxtaposed against a horrific nationwide murder story.

- Making the technology work for the ad, but not for the content.

- Forcing users to download software. I’d guess that the churn rate here is easily over 50%. There are plenty of technologies available that would allow this content to play in the browser without the need to download anything.

A better solution:

- Immediately play the video, embedded in the webpage.

- Offer relevant ads at the end of the video. If the video is a tragic news story, don’t offer ads.

RTE are damaging the long term perception of their brand by meeting short term revenue goals. Not to mention the damage to their advertiser’s brand.

Jan 09

Bank of America offer over 400 different credit cards. Why?

Bank of America proudly offer a choice of over 400 different credit cards.

Bank of America offers 400 different credit cards

How could this choice ever be a good customer experience?

In financial matters, most people need simplicity, now more than ever.