Nov 10

Advertising on the Tube map

Compare the evolution of the London Underground map. From the original schematic map:

to today’s map (photo I took in 2008):

This is a great example of really poor interruption marketing. This map serves an important function. Is this really an appropriate place for IKEA to try and boost brand awareness?

(For a fantastic overview of the evolution of the Tube map, see this site)

Nov 10

Kik and creating a sense of place

You can walk into any bar on any street and immediately make conclusions about whether it is for you. How bright or dark is it? How clean or dirty is it? What’s on tap, Budweiser or India Pale Ale? What’s on the walls? Who is in there? What age are they? What are they wearing? The list goes on. These are some of the things that make up an environment, and they give us signals about whether this place is for us.

One of the most important things when designing online social experiences is to consider how the product decisions you make contribute to the “feel” of the place you have built.

Take the example of Kik, which has seen impressive growth since launch by anyone’s standard. When signing-up, Kik aggresively went through your contacts, picked out people already on Kik you may have communicated with at some point in the past, and put those people right in your Inbox as suggestions. Putting aside the glaring lack of informed consent (that’s a post for another day), it seemed like Kik was trying to help get you started by connecting you with people you may know.

However, my experience with Kik was that I could only recognise about half those people. And as the suggestions have continued coming in, I’m starting to recognize none of them. Having people I don’t recognize as a suggested connection gives Kik a certain atmosphere, shaping the environment. It’s less like dinner at a friend’s place, and more like the anonymity in a sweaty heaving nightclub. This is a place where it’s encouraged for strangers to connect.

This aggressive suggestion system may have fueled the impressive Kik growth, but it has also determined the Kik environment. It’s the wallpaper, the choice of furniture, and what’s on the menu. And looking through the comments on the Android App download page gives you a sense of that environment:

If Kik is a place for strangers to give their vital statistics, how could it possibly be a place for connecting with your closest friends? Watch this space to see how Kik evolves, and think carefully about the decisions you are making, and how they are shaping your products environment.

Nov 10

Some UX related books I love and return to

Recently, I’ve had a bunch of people ask me for book recommendations – usually what UX books I rate highly and re-read or return to for information. So here’s a list of a few that not everyone might have come across, and why I find them particularly useful. They are not all UX books, but all are relevant to people working in UX.

It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be Paul Arden
This is possibly my favourite book. Anytime I need inspiration or to re-energise, I read this.

A technique for producing ideas James Young
I hate the myth that ideas suddenly appear in a moment of inspiration. Great ideas take time and hard work. This book outlines a process that is close to my own experience of where great ideas come from.

Made to stick Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Most of us have heard of or read this, but their framework is as useful as any I’ve come across for structuring good storytelling.

The myths of innovations Scott Berkun
Related to James Young’s book, I’ve found this a great book to recommend to people who lack a strong understanding of the creative process.

Groundswell Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
There are many books on the social web, many of which I don’t find particularly useful. Any time anyone asks me for a primer on the social web or social media, and how it is changing business, I point them to Groundswell.

On intelligence Jeff Hawkins
I often read books and articles that help me understand how the human brain works. Working on the assumption that the theories in the book are well founded (some argue that they’re not), this book provides a cognitive model that is simple to understand, and practical to apply to they way you design things.

The top four books are related to coming up with great ideas that have substance, and selling those ideas to others in a way that gives them sustainable momentum. Many of the best ideas die because we didn’t have the persistence to see them through, which makes getting deep stakeholder buy-in from the outset a critical part of our jobs.

What other books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!