Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Winter Madness

It's all happening in digital. Everyone is super stacked. Yet every day I read about the doom and gloom in the Metro on my way in to work. As I walk along Knightsbridge Green to go home, I make my way through a sea of Harrods bags. I get to the Tube Station and pick up an Evening Standard to read about the retail crisis. To be honest I know it is real, but it just doesn't feel like it most days.

Then I get the Gas, Electric and Telephone Bills or look at the bank balance and see how much we're spending on Groceries (not in an OCD way of course). Then I think to myself, how are we going to survive this? Taxes go up, on everything, all the time, and now the stuff like food or petrol, which, I used to take for granted, is as well. I guess the early part of the 20th century was spent finding cheaper more plentiful sources of natural resource and the 2nd half will be spent on finding innovative ways to get to them, and then better utilise them.

All this contradication and massive change to the world is just a little bit too much when combined with the madness of Chritsmas and Winter in the UK. Back to my little digital bubble I go...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hacked Again!

No access to Hotmail as I've been hacked again.

Apologies to all who have been affected. I can only say I genuinely have changed the password (twice) and this account has always had a strong password.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Thought for the week

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems”

Mahatma Gandhi


I've been hacked - apologies to anyone who might have been affected.

I had a strong password but failed to update it on a few services recently. Lesson (re-)learnt.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The importance of detail

I've had lots of debate today about the detail of various digital initiatives. I find days like this really inspiring. People asking the questions that really matter. For example, finding the right words to use. As things like language changes and evolves, so should the words we use to engage and motivate people. And social media becomes a really powerful source in understanding this. This sort of detail can really bring an interaction to life.

As people's expectations of the services they use online grow and grow the new battle ground between competing companies can often be found in providing users with those little moments of delight. Giving them something that provides a little more utility, or just making it a little easier to complete a task. These little moments are found in the detail.

Often we think of things like channel neutral services or marketing campaigns as big strategic initiatives, which they are, in these tasks the detail actually becomes more important. Even though we find these initiatives second nature in the agency, when thinking about human interaction we still strive to make sure things really come together. This is all in the detail. If you have a slight twist to your brand message, even the slightest shift, on a TV ad and someone 2nd screens it (c.17%), you would be surprised at how let down they will feel if this 2nd interaction doesn't reflect the brand in the same way, or better still identify that they are probably responding to a TV ad in the first place!

Why not spend a little time tomorrow thinking about the detail - I'd be surprised if it doesn't spark a useful thought or two.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Thought for the week

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy like art. It has no survival value;rather it is one thing that gives value to survival."

CS Lewis

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Thought for the week

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world. Schopenhauer

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Donating my face

This November I'll be donating my face to a good cause: Please do what you can to support me and others and help us raise awareness. Much Appreciated, Rory

Monday, 24 October 2011

The mobile internet needs to get more mobile

One of the major things I can still see hindering the utilisation of mobile devices to access the internet is two network operator level issues:

1. The network coverage is still rubbish. It seems wherever I go I'm rarely on a 3G signal (across multiple devices).

2. The country-to-country connectivity either fails or is so cost prohibitive it renders using it to only the most critical tasks.

Whilst I also see massive increases in public wi-fi this is still too low to make a real difference. And often indirectly costs us anyway - "would you like an over-priced coffee with your 'free' wi-fi sir?".

The mobile Internet is shifting to a cloud / integrated model across most platforms, this is likely to make this problem amplify for users. The network operators therefore need to step up.

The irony is that I wrote this on my iPhone whilst travelling on a train, and I absolutely recognise how marvellous mobile has become in recent years (I just wanted to put this balanced perspective forward).

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Thought for the week

As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears. John Locke

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Building Windows 8 - the follow-up

I've gone back and taken a look at the Building Windows 8 blog, and here's a brief update.

It has, as expected, a real techie focus, lots of questions about supporting USB 3 etc. And unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much user centric dia/mono-logue going on (based on what I've seen).

One takeout is SkyDrive and extending "Windows 8" apps to the cloud.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thought for the week

"Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically - without learning how or without practising." 

"Logic For The Millions" by Alfred Mander (1947)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thought for the week

"Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no- one else has thought." 

Hungarian scientist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Thought for the week

"Once you embrace unpleasant news not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren't defeated by it. You're learning from it."  

"Business @ The Speed Of Thought" by Bill Gates (1999)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thought for the week

"You need to be first, best or different." - Loretta Lynn

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Building Windows 8 - The Blog

The site in question: Building Windows 8 - The Blog

The initial post / introduction on the blog represents a rather boring and dry start (sorry Steven Sinofsky) to what seems to be a good idea (allowing people involvement / a behind the scenes look), and to what sounds like a hugely ambitious project given a sub-strapline like 're-imagining Windows'.

Around a billion people could end up using it, so you would have thought people might be interested in this blog. I'd actually argue that only a very specific set of people should be interested in it though. OS's, in my opinion, are better when they are simply behind the scenes doing what the users of them want them to do. I realise this is rarely the case and they are often over engineered for most people, and very likely to fall down on a number of key requirements. I wonder then that the real motivation 'to get involved' will be an early glimpse of the pain to come - with a little chance to stop it from happening.

When it's appropriate I'm going to post on the blog that I'd like to be able to tailor my operating system for my needs at the point of install and throughout it's time on my machine. Basically I'd like to be able to switch on and off a load of juice heavy things as and when I do and don't need them. And I know that most of this is possible via a mass of administration windows etc. but I'd like it to be on a single screen that's easy to use and has needs based options that a non-techie can easily understand.

I'll keep dreaming, and wondering, I expect.

Monday, 15 August 2011

It's not new - you know that right?!

Q: When was the first email sent? A: 1971
Q: When was the first website launched? A: About 20 years ago - 1991 (views vary)
Q: When was the first text message sent? A: 1992
Q: When was the first smartphone sold? A: 1993
Q: When was the first eCommerce transaction recorded? A: 1994
Q: How old is Amazon? A: 16 years old
Q: How old is Google? A: c. 13 years old
Q: How old is MySpace. A: 9 years old
Q: How old is Facebook? A: Nearly 8 years old

These dates are open to dispute, but you get the point - it isn't really that new anymore. Time to grow up Mr Web, you're in your 20's now and still acting like a child most of the time.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thought for the week

"The only thing that does not change is that everything changes." "Watching The Tree To Catch The Hare" by Adeline Yen Mah (2000)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

How do writers create a great story? - Part 1

How can the approaches writers take to create stories apply to creating web experiences?

What makes people want to read or experience something from the very beginning to the very end?

Recently I've been giving some thought on how useful it is to apply some well honed practices in story-telling and novel writing  to creating web experiences. I'm not sure where this came from to be honest, but I found it in my head and I've been unable to shake it. In having these thoughts I have come to a perhaps obvious conclusion that from what I understand of the techniques writers use there is indeed a benefit to this approach. So I've decided to pull together some quick summaries of my 'story-telling' approach to creating web experiences, and you're reading part 1.

A great story grabs you from the beginning, perhaps even the title or first sentence, and makes you want to keep reading, listening or watching to the end. In my opinion it's about more than just a series of 'hooks', and its creation often starts with some basic steps.

The following is a summary of how I think a writers approach can apply to the initial process of creating a web experience:
  1. First you need to establish a clear picture of the (story you are about to write) journey you need to create - the vision or plot. This needs to clearly set out the end goal(s). Keeping a parallel with writing techniques I believe this step is similar to what writers call setting. It's at this stage that you need to establish your initial view on the success crtieria for the journey as well.
  2. Then I think it is important to write a summary of this - a single sentence or paragraph that explains what your journey is about and perhaps it's over-arching goal (key business and/or user objective). This is rather like an early process of synthesis following idea generation. This summary is possibly something that comes first in writing practices. The aim here is to be able to refer quickly and easily to this summary when dealing with the detail / problem solving tasks - it should also help keep a greater continuity and focus throughout the team involved.
  3. Then we need to create a flow - what are the steps in the journey that we need to take our audience through? This step may involve some initial information architecture planning and early user task modelling.
  4. Now we can build a list of the elements that make up this story - the features and attributes that are needed to make the story work. This may include some of the technical aspects of the process as well, and perhaps at this stage we may even need to shape the flow that we've already created.
  5. Now we can bring the flow and list of attributes together so we can understand what is needed to tell this story / create this journey, and document this as the initial model.
I'm sure for many this is the sort of process that is used all the time, it certainly has a lot of parallels with approaches I've taken over the years and to those in the many textbooks on my office shelves. I do however think there's benefits in giving another perspective like this, and I feel that a lot of the detail in writing techniques that I've read about could help support people through each of the steps above.

After this initial process is completed a next step might be to create a prototype (draft) and start asking some questions about user acceptance and how best you can use real-people (the end consumer) to help edit the story / shape the journey. And start to make it work for everyone who is likely, or who you'd like, to consume it (UCD). So, I'll be exploring this in part 2.

    Monday, 1 August 2011

    Thought for the week

    "The trouble with the rat-race is that, even if you win, you're still a rat." American comedienne Lily Tomlin

    Thursday, 28 July 2011

    What's it all about Google?

    Recently I've been reading a lot about Google+ and how it compares to Facebook etc. and I can't help feeling most of it seems to be missing the point a little.

    I'm not sure Google+ is all about being a social network, its certainly not its only purpose, and most of the comparisons in some way seem a little unfair. In the main they don't highlight the fact that Google+ has the potential to really cement other Google services and has the overarching potential benefit of making it even more likely to be the 'homepage' to the internet (a status Google have been struggling to hold on to recently). For example, iGoogle is a setting you create against your profile, Google Groups uses your profile, Gmail...etc. This means that when making a real comparison between the two services Facebook falls someway short in providing this breadth and certainly it doesn't offer the search capability.

    Given all of this I thought I'd take another look at Google's 2011 strategy (what has been publically revealed any way) and see if this can explain anything. Unfortunately my quick review hasn't exactly helped explain what Google+ is all about or where it is heading. First of all Eric Schmidt spoke to Harvard Business Review and said all of their strategic initiatives for 2011 are about mobile. That's ALL of them. This could make some sense when you think about how much of mobile usage is related to mobile social activity but it doesn't completely explain things.

    Having thought about the services Google has launched over the years and how it has extended its operations away from 'search' you start to piece together some sort of journey that perhaps naturally leads to Google+. As I mentioned before your Google Profile or A/C allows you access / the ability to fully utilise all sorts of services. You Tube by all accounts is already one massive open social environment where video is shared. Services like the now deceased Wave were about having a shared space on the web where you can discuss things and even work together, other services like Google docs is largely about the same thing as well. Considering this an important question emerges. Is Google+ perhaps more about offering a way of collaborating and sharing in a single platform that can be utilised across all of the Google real-estate? If this is the case does it matter if you have lots and lots of populated circles and operate it as a fully functioning Facebook replacement? I think it doesn't. I think its a way of sharing that means you can just target groups of people or even select them afresh when it's appropriate to share something. Whether this view will be shared by the masses, I'm not sure, but I think this is down to Google as much as anything.

    Some of this isn't a complete revelation, but I think that it highlights Google+ as a real strategic development and one that perhaps isn't that much to do with Facebook. I'm eager to see if Google can really draw Google+ into its overall capability in a way that will make it a truley powerful tool. And I'm also excited about its marketing potential, although I do hope that Google are prepared to play nicely, that way we can all help make it a great 'space'.

    Wednesday, 27 July 2011

    Thought for the week

    "I believe that a lot of our striving after the symbols and levers of success is due to a basic insecurity, a need to prove ourselves. That done, grown up at last, we are free to stop pretending." Charles Handy in "Masters Of The Wired World", edited by Anne Leer (1999)

    Monday, 18 July 2011

    Friday, 15 July 2011

    The Evolution of E-business?

    If this is the evolution of man (and I'm not saying it is):

    Is this the evolution of most large organisations E-business?

    One to discuss and debate I'm sure.

    Images produced by Lucy Yates.

    Monday, 11 July 2011

    Spammed by thicky's

    The title of this short article is perhaps a little harsh, but it is how I feel occasionally. It's not referring to the inappropriate marketing messages I get, it's actually about friends & acquaintances (as Google+ would refer to them).

    It seems to me that (at a very high-level) there are broadly two camps of internet users in my extended friendship group. Those who use the internet, but aren't particularly computer literate or web savvy (some of these people actually wouldn't think of themselves in this way), and those who use it and are reasonably computer literate and web savvy. The former spam me a lot, the latter don't. Why?

    The obvious reason isn't exactly a genius conclusion to arrive at, but it seems that those who have a little bit more knowledge and experience, use the internet and its various services more efficiently / effectively...
    • They only use it if it's going to make things easier / better.
    • They try to use as few communication / hosting options as possible e.g. I want to collect some information from a range of people, so I'm going to create a central repository for that information, which I will email people about, and then they can add their information to it.
    • They present the information / request very concisely and offer directions and instructions where needed. Perhaps demonstrating that they understand how people are typically helped and aided when online.
    • In their communications there are usually follow-up mechanisms which are equally as well thought through, and there is often a way of communicating back in a 1-2-1 interpersonal interaction if it was originally 1-to-many.
    I understand that the differences in these two groups simply reflect the skills and knowledge of the individuals. However, I wonder if the more savvy group are going to increasingly find the modern world a far more simple place. Or if the less savvy group are likely to get the right feedback over the coming years and become far more effective online users. I suspect some will just become (more) disillusioned and frustrated.

    Either way I think, like others I know, that this is another element of an increasingly polarised society where those who can move quickly and effectively online are [will] moving [move] away (in various terms) from those who are less able.

    Thought for the week

    "The 21st century corporation must adapt itself to management via the Web. It must be predicated on constant change, not stability; organized around networks, not rigid hierarchies; built on shifting partnerships and alliances, not self-sufficiency; and constructed on technological advantages, not bricks and mortar.".

    "Management By Web" by John A Byrne in "The 21st Century Corporation" supplement to European edition of "Business Week", 21-28 August 2000

    Monday, 4 July 2011

    Thought for the week

    To the crew of @frt90 / when reflecting on the success of the Farnham Charity Bike Ride.

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978).

    Tuesday, 28 June 2011

    Energy and Enthusiasm

    Possibly the most essential (and perhaps admired) qualities in E-business?

    I studied the lives of great men and famous women; and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.

    Harry S Truman


    To fail is a natural consequence of trying, To succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and to limit your enthusiasm for trying again.

    David Viscott


    Enthusiasm is that secret and harmonious spirit which hovers over the production of genius.  

    Isaac Disraeli


    It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. 

    Oliver Wendell


    The most essential factor is persistence - the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.

    James Witcomb Riley


    True enthusiasm is a fine feeling whose flash I admire where-ever I see it.  

    Charlotte Bronte


    Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity and truth accomplishes no victories without it.

    Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Thought for the week

    "The doers cut a path through the jungle, the managers are behind them sharpening the machetes. The leaders find time to think, climb the nearest tree, and shout 'Wrong jungle!' Find time to climb the trees." 

    Peter Maxwell, director of the Leadership Trust, writing in the "Guardian", 6 October 1999

    Thursday, 16 June 2011

    Thought for the week

    "We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it? What does nature hold dearer or more proper to herself? Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change? Could you be nourished if the food suffered no change? Is it possible for any useful thing to be achieved without change?"

    "Meditations" by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180)

    Monday, 6 June 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere." 

    Eleanor Roosevelt, speaking to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 27 March 1958

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Enthusiastic people are the ones who actually get things done in this world. Enthusiasm is what turns any idea into reality. And enthusiasm is linked closely with happiness." "Your Personal Survival Guide To The 21st Century"

    Monday, 16 May 2011

    Thought for the week

    "It's no longer about the big beating the small; it's about the fast beating the slow." Larry Carter, Chief Executive Officer of Cisco Systems, quoted in "The Economist", 26 June 1999

    Monday, 9 May 2011

    Thought for the week

    "The wealth of the three richest people in the world exceeds the combined GDP of the 48 smallest countries." Guardian", 12 June 1999

    This is slightly out of date, but I suspect the polarisation of wealth has increased since this time any way.

    As I get more and more involved in charities and supporting my local community snippets like the one above, whilst I'm aware of these things, still always surprise me. It is becoming clearer to me that it is individuals who are increasingly capable of changing things for the better, not necessarily governments and companies, this scares me a little bit. However, I remain positive and hope that everyone realises (or starts to realise) that we should all take responsibility for the world around us in whatever way we can.

    Tuesday, 3 May 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself."

    Mary Schmich, "Chicago Tribune", 1 June 1997 in a piece now known as "the Sunscreen Speech" which has been made into a record by the film director Baz Lu

    Monday, 18 April 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - General George S. Patton, Jr.

    Monday, 11 April 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Statisticians know that if you put a man's head in a sauna and his feet in a deep freeze, he will feel pretty good - on the average."

    Friday, 8 April 2011

    It's sunny!

    When it's sunny, which it is at the moment, do more people buy via their mobile vs. their desktop?

    Watch this space!

    Tuesday, 5 April 2011

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    Visualising stuff

    I've always prided myself on my ability to visualise things. Whether it's a proposition, a project vision or some data. I'm not exactly a natural and I have to work hard at it. I've studied the art, and I've tried to develop my understanding of what does and doesn't work. And I've got to a place where I feel comfortable with my ability to get it right, but I'm always trying to improve.
    I've loved the fact that others seem to be picking up on this art-form in ever increasing numbers. A picture really can speak a thousand words. However, I've now got to admit I come across more pointless info-graphics and visualisation that simply doesn't work than I come across best practice examples.
    I have some feelings and views on why this is happening:

    1. Not everyone can do this well, but a lot of people can use software that creates nice visual outputs - so they just give it a go.
    2. People don't get the fact that it is a skill and you really need to understand visualisation techniques to get it right - so they just give it a go.
    3. It's got to work for the audience its intended for. Therefore to get it right you've got to understand your audience. People don't always invest the time to achieve this - but they just give it a go.
    4. Only a few people really ever understand the breadth of a subject (sometimes no one). People aren't often honest with themselves - so they just give it a go.
    5. It's not always the answer and it isn't always needed or helpful. It is, however, a fashionable thing to do - so they just give it a go.

    There are probably more reasons why this is happening. I hope people ultimately don't think the benefits of visualisation are in any way reduced by the sometimes awful examples they come across. When it's done well it really can enlighten people and keep a vision in the front of everyone’s mind.

    Monday, 28 March 2011

    Thought for the week

    "My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to be in the first group; there was much less competition."

    Monday, 21 March 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Your legacy should be that you made it better than it was when you got it." - Lee Iacocca

    Wednesday, 16 March 2011

    Thought for the week

    "People are not against you; they are merely for themselves." - Gene Fowler

    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    Using Data to Drive Online User Experience (a quick look at some of the opportunities)

    Cloud Computing, the Semantic Web, Linked Data, Web 2.0, Web 3.0...

    ...all this coupled with other data you've got e.g. web analytics, BI, MI, Research etc. means that there is probably increasing amounts of data available to you and your E-business team. Unfortunately there probably isn't that much increasing insight. Why this is the case is for another article, perhaps by someone else. For my part I'm just interested in talking a little bit about tapping into this data (how) and doing something with it (what/why) to improve user experiences (UX) and/or to sell a bit more online.

    Lets start by chucking all the data sources you can think of at this point into one data pot, and perhaps ignore data sources completely. I'm not just suggesting this to make it easier to write this article. I'm also doing it because that's all it is, really - a big load of data. Until you start to work out what it means that is.

    How you get at this data is through technology (services, API's etc.) but from an E-Business perspective that is just a necessary mechanic (albeit a very important mechanic and one that that will require very smart people to be involved). For me though it all starts to get a bit more exciting when we start to explore how we can turn the data into insight or start to put further mechanics in place for using insight to shape an online presence for prospects & customers.

    An obvious starting point (but surprisingly little used in E-Business) is to explore your data world without looking at the data first. For example, taking a look at how it is already being put to good use in other channels, and thinking about how you might do the same. Or by taking a further look at your customer and your 'total customer experiences' (e.g. a multi-channel, full life-cycle view). You probably do this all the time in your organisation. If your not already, perhaps this time make sure that instead of looking at the 'what' start to explore the 'why'. If your customers are doing certain things when you ask them to, it is important to know this, but perhaps more important is to know why, so that we can think about how we might apply this to your digital opportunities as well. For example, if in a DM campaign customers are successfully taking up a second credit card when a particular promotional APR is applied across both. Is it the offer that makes the campaign successful or also because it is aimed at people who are more likely to be in a relationship, or who have a good 'referrer' profile? If it is both then you can think about how you might identify these people when they are browsing online and target the same message at them. This will have a few benefits:

    1. Maybe obvious - but you will improve the relative performance of that campaign.
    2. You should improve your cost per acquisition (CPA) and possibly budget for other campaigns.
    3. You'll reduce the noise for people who are more unlikely to be interested / be able to take-up the offer.
    4. By virtue of 2. & 3. you will be able to offer those people something that's more relevant to them

    WIN WIN.
    From a purely customer or user experience perspective this use of data can be applied in different ways. For example, if your business objective is to only drive calls where they can be defined as 'value adding' (generating some kind of value contribution) then to achieve this perhaps only offer this channel at particular points in a journey e.g. when a difficult purchase decision needs to be made. Or perhaps offering this service to different people at different times, where you know there are likely differences in these types of people e.g. people of xyz demographic exit at this point online but we know they buy this successfully offline. These sorts of solutions can also be put in place until you have properly identified 'why' certain things are happening, and until you can change the experience online to overcome those problems. Until then though, making the sale can still be achieved using the data in this way.

    To supplement this, digital channels can provide even further data/insight opportunities and to a degree 'self optimise' using various technologies e.g. Omniture Test & Target. These optimisation tools are often used to help determine optimal outcomes e.g. web pages, that generate the best KPI's. This is good at telling us 'what' works best, but it often doesn't really tell us 'why'. It therefore becomes important to start to look at why. Who is it working for and who isn't it working for? What could be driving this? These are the sorts of questions we answer all the time in User Centred Design (UCD) and through various research studies, and this insight is essential to driving the best outcomes. It then also becomes really important to identify all of the relevant moments in your user experience and start to optimise them all, but also to move the experience forward we perhaps need to make web experiences more semantic and start to offer different people, at different times in different places different things. The potential of infinite combinations of outcomes is scary, and I'm not suggesting this end point is easy, or always necessary to get to, but to a degree it is already happening in sites like Amazon and will be become increasingly common and should be a consideration when thinking about data and online experiences.

    These are just some of the ways we can start to apply data to improve user experiences online. And perhaps thinking about it in these terms rather than as a full blown, company wide, fully intelligent use of data (and the 'cloud') from day one, we can just start to use some of the insight data can generate a little bit more often and build our E-data world to further improve online experiences.

    Monday, 7 March 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates, Chief Systems Architect, Microsoft

    Monday, 28 February 2011

    Thought for the week

    The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.”
    British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

    Wednesday, 23 February 2011

    e to E

    I've just decided to update my Linked in profile and I've turned all the e's to E's. It seems like a small shift but in my line of work I've noticed a lot more E's these days e.g. Head of E-Business.

    I think it is perhaps a lot more significant than it first appears. I think people used to define themselves more by their function or level and the 'e' was a simple gesture or nod to the fact that they were ultimately responsible for 'e'. Now people are a little more proud to be 'E' and it's showing.

    In a way it seems like a step back because it separates the 'E' functions even more so, but in another way it makes the point that this thing has gotten big and deserves this focus and recognition.

    There is of course another alternative view - that I am in fact looking into this way too much.

    My Linked in profile >

    Monday, 21 February 2011

    Thought for the week

    “Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole.” Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

    I think this is what digital people do well. We see the doughnut. It is how we get others to see it as well, that's the real trick.

    Monday, 14 February 2011

    Thought for the week

    “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” British statesman Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

    Monday, 7 February 2011

    Thought for the week

    “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

    Thursday, 3 February 2011

    Mixpanel - analytics in real-time

    Just applied Mixpanel to this site. Good set-up experience. Time to test out whether it works real-time and how good it is.

    Watch this space for updates on how I get on.

    UPDATE 07-02-11: Not good. It didn't work. I don't have time to figure these things out and my judgement to remove it is based on the fact that others I currently use were simple to get up and running and work fine.

    Tuesday, 1 February 2011

    Thought for the week

    "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” American politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)

    Monday, 31 January 2011

    The social and mobile impact on online user experience (UX) development

    Social media is a phenomena and I'm sure you don't need me to spew out the stats to remind you of this (I suspect we are all getting bored of hearing about them anyway(?). Mobile phone adoption, and now mobile internet usage and the use of applications in fulfilling functions once exclusively internet based has also grown, gradually at first but much more rapidly over the past 5 years. Rather than talk about these opportunities themselves I'm just going to spend a couple of minutes writing down how I feel they are or should be impacting the user experiences (UX) we develop, and perhaps how we develop them.

    A short potted E-history first (my version of it anyway)...

    In the early days screen real estate, end-user bandwidth and generally what was possible meant that E-Business professionals had to be become ruthless at prioritising content. This required both 'horizontal & vertical' information architectural challenges to be overcome. Especially as users seemed to be predominantly lazy and or reluctant to spend a long-time waiting for something to load if it was put behind a link.

    This apparent immediate laziness coupled with impatience when put in-front of new technology is understandable - the challenge for this sort of technology is after all to make our lives easily easier.

    As a result of this there were actually many examples of great user experiences in the early years but in around 2000 things started to improve and the increased adoption of user centred design (UCD) techniques and dramatically improved web analytics started to push the user interface (UI) boundaries and we started to explore smart ways of presenting content, and generally helping users to get to their goals (or more importantly persuade them to get to our goals).

    Then the band-width opened up for most people and the screen real-estate we had to play with also increased. This meant we could do even more than before and once again start to push the boundaries even further.

    And then it seemed to start to fall-apart or fragment (in my opinion). Lots of 'cool' individual or one-off pieces of interaction could be found on different sites but there were very few completely polished experiences and a lot more usability challenges than ever before. This coupled with the fact that users expectations increased even further as they gained a wider peer group or reference set meant that we were now more often than not further away from delighting the customer than ever before.

    Now multi-channel service opportunities have started to be properly realised and expectation has once again grown. And now most businesses really are playing catch-up.

    So, social and mobile, how is this impacting UX online?

    The widespread use of social media and mobile internet / application usage has now started to shape users needs and expectations even more.

    Social media offers users the ability to communicate with a wide range of people efficiently and as a result has exponentially increased consumer power. People are now referring to their network for advice and recommendations as well as providing this service themselves, and for most they are doing this more than ever before. This means the user experiences we create have to tap into this way of consuming information and products, and hopefully we can form a trialogue with our consumers (to truly do this there must be a quid pro quo - another article perhaps). This also means that the interfaces we create need to offer similar interactions and functionality where appropriate. This is because these sites are the grazing ground of the internet and no matter how frequently we get a customer to buy on our website, for example, they will probably still be spending more time in their social media spaces.

    The impact of mobile use is slightly different but has had an equal impact on needs and expectations. For a lot of consumers the mobile is a 24/7 always on device and it is also a way of staying connected and using their social media spaces to full effect. They are also increasingly using it to browse and even buy over the internet. All of this means that they are used to interacting with the web in a new and different way.

    Given the screen real-estate (even on the largest smart phone screens this is relatively limited) E-Business professionals have had to become even better at prioritising content, but this time even better at breaking down the information and/or interactive stages of a path-to-goal process into optimal & efficient chunks. There are some great examples of very complex processes actually being made even easier than they were on the full website versions. And perhaps this is another benefit of facing the challenge & opportunities the mobile internet offers - we just need to be ruthless and focused sometimes!

    How has or should this impact the UX development process?

    Firstly, I feel there is a need to understand the usage and impact these things have had on our visitors and customers. Some good old analysis and research would therefore be a good starting point.

    We perhaps also need to explore these elements in things like our persona based exploration of the UX. And importantly bring this perspective in to every UX development step.

    It is also vital that we explore this in user tests (depth interviews, remote studies, focus groups etc.) where appropriate.

    We also perhaps need to practice the idea of designing for mobile usage and social interaction first or at least in a separate work-stream. That way we can challenge the traditional perspective some might have on what makes an optimal user experience but equally we can prove its benefit or optimise it through our user centred design process.

    By taking this one step further, or to its logical conclusion, we perhaps have the opportunity to better understand our customers and optimise content, and to a certain degree experiences, for mobile as well as computer based internet use. This will increase our chances of achieving an optimal mobile, social and overarching online UX. Surely that must be an appealing prospect?

    Also posted on: The Viewpoint

    Monday, 24 January 2011

    Thought for the week

    “Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.” American businessman Waite Phillips (1883-1964)

    Monday, 17 January 2011

    Planet Water Foundation (PWF)

    A friend, Mr Nick Hill, is the Executive Chairman of the Planet Water Foundation. And I'm writing this blog entry because I feel that what they are doing is important and I want to help spread the word.

    This is an organisation which works to alleviate waterborne disease, illness, and death through providing access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation facilities in Asia's most disadvantaged communities.

    The PWF website provides far more information on what they are doing and how you can help. Here's some extracts to get you thinking...

    Over 60% of the world’s 1.1 billion people who don’t have access to clean drinking water live in Asia. Issues include:
    - Inadequate supply
    - Increases in urban population
    - Pollution
    - Poor infrastructure
    - Corruption

    The situation is worst for Asia's children, where:
    - More than 125 million children under five years old live in homes without access to clean and safe drinking water.
    - Each and every day, 450 of Asia's children die namelessly without public comment with most people unaware of their daily struggles for survival and of the vast numbers of impoverished people around the world who lose that struggle.

    The Asia Development Bank warns, “If conditions do not improve, Asia will face a water quality crisis unprecedented in human history”

    With the PWF solution, just $20 can provide a person safe, clean water for life! Inclusive in this cost is the water supply and purification system, water access / hand wash infrastructure, and basic hygiene education, with funds left over for maintenance and spare parts.

    DONATE >

    Thought for the week

    “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” British author J.K. Rowling in an address at Harvard, 5 June 2008

    I wholeheartedly agree that we all have the power to imagine better. Unleashing that power is often a big part of my job, and it never fails to amaze me that when you give people the opportunity and the right motivation they will always give you back great ideas that really do change things for the better.

    Tuesday, 11 January 2011

    Thought for the week

    “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.” British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    Thought for the week

    “You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Yiddish proverb