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Having a Pervasive Experience, While Discussing Pervasive Experiences

MC HammerSalesforce’s mega event Dreamforce is on now. If you thought it was just a sales tool then think again. There is a reason why MC Hammer was in the audience and it has to do with the powerful impact social media has on businesses.

Salesforce is one of the biggest tools in the pervasive UX arsenal. It is not a pure UX tool in the way Axure or User Zoom are but it has a much bigger impact. It is like comparing an asteroid to a beach pebble.

The strong CRM capability extends the user experience far beyond the reach of the webpage from a business perspective. Every thing is done in real time. In their demo they illustrated how you could go up to a Coke machine and pay using a smart phone. That purchase could be tracked, appear in a loyalty scheme and get “liked” on Facebook.

With 45,000 people in attendance, over the next couple days, at Dream Force I feel like the only one left out. But according to Facebook and Twitter I am in great company. It was a packed house on both fronts on Twitter and Facebook. I could not resist a posting a cheeky comment on their Twitter feed about “what happens when cars start talking to each other”. Only because I know that these get displayed on screens at the event and this was my way of saying “Hi” to a fellow co-worker in attendance. Hi Sam, did you see me?

 

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Sketching with Wacom’s Inkling

Every once in awhile a new gadget that comes out that makes me go “I WANT!!”. Ok admittedly more often than once in awhile but far less often than spotting new dresses.

Wacom has a new pen coming out that can allow you to sketch and import directly into Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchbook or saved as a JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG & PDF for use with other applications. Oh yes. Almost sounds too good to be true.

As an ardent sketcher this is great news for story boarding and sketching user journeys. I may even be able to get my sketching back to where it was before I became a wireframe machine in Axure/Visio/whatever…

Taking photos or scanning in is ok (minus of course the big downside of the actual scanning)
but nothing compared to having the diagram in a native Adobe format.

 

Coming out this month! Whoo hoo.

View the details on the Wacom Inkling page.

Women in Despair
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Pervasive User Experience (UX)

Pervasive  User Experience is about extending the user experience and connecting it to the world users live in and work in as well the service or product. Pervasive UX is not about the what and how in the beginning, but it does get there.

First it is about the who and the why, understanding the needs of the end users and everything they will come into contact with. There is almost a cascade effect that can occur from user interaction not unlike the Butterfly Effect . Pervasive UX is disruptive. It is likened to a chaos theory. It ignores the silos in an organisation and breaks down barriers. Back-end processes and structures become invisible. Users are broadcasters and promoters of what matters to them.

It is a moving target. Social media, augmented reality and smart devices are driving user experience into uncharted territory. User experience is travelling beyond the traditional boundaries. It cannot be defined by what happens on a web page or within a single application or service.

User experience has gone from being a tactic sprinkling of usability, to keep the hippie mongrels at bay with their wacky usability principals, to becoming a new business model as brands struggle to keep up in fast paced multi-channel world.

Users identify with the method in which they interact with a company, product or service. Companies are only as good as their call centre or their sign up process. To the consumer mobile services are retailers. You walk into a shop or go online and buy. How is this a telecommunications company to the average Joe on the street? It is not. When users are online it is a digital service. This digital service extends beyond the pages or even the site. Digital is now the dominant interface for a lot of businesses.

If digital is now the dominating aspect then social media is the glue. The social media phenomenon extends the reach of the user experience. Every touch point a user has with an organisation should provide a seamless experience. A pervasive user experience strategy forms part of the core philosophy of an organisation.

This has a big impact for businesses as user expectations and perception is rapidly changing. During the Dot.com boom companies rushed in to offer services before the infrastructure and take up of the web was at a mass level. Now it is users who are in charge and the companies need to adapt and understand these new pathways. Business processes need to be re-engineered to become more usable to the user.

An example that comes to mind is my recent stay at the 4 star, La Centre Sheraton in Montreal I experienced the full Faulty Towers Experience, diagram below.


Until I got into my room I was having a mostly positive experience.

  • I asked about the staff about the top floor bar. I was abruptly told it was unavailable. I finally found out it was only available to Elite Members.
  • The complete lack of WiFi filled me with horror. Room internet access costing more than an expensive meal. Business lounge day care centre  gave me a full free 30 minutes on one of their computers.
  • At check out they charged us extra per bag regardless of size to hold them until our flight. Lining up at both the checkout and the porter desk. The porter desk is as far as the hotel management is concerned a separate business unit.
  • The experience was not a good pervasive experience. Everything was about sales. There was nothing about keeping me as a customer, engaging with me or recommending them to friends. It was as far as I am concerned a “one shot deal”. Good bye Sheraton.

 

But something of a paradigm shift is happening. It just has not made it to most companies yet. I wrote in another article on Disruption Innovation that employees of companies are tired of waiting for the company to give them tools to do their jobs better and are taking to the web to collaborate. This is called Shadow IT. But how much money and time have companies wasted and are wasting to replicate what is already there?

Suppose I am applying for a credit reference  to rent a property.

Why is it I am expected to print 6 months of bank statements? Why can I not simply click on a button on my bank site that says “send reference to” and fillout a few details? Surely the renting agent does not to see that I spent £xx on shoes, when all they want to know is whether I have had a steady income and no overdrafts? Surely that is worth something to some one and would help reduce fraud. What happens with those 6 months of printed bank statements that get sent to the letting agent, how do I know they were appropriately destroyed?

Tactical UX starts with a project, a budget and a list of vague requirements and go down the process route of producing personas, wireframes and a solution. By then it is too late for UX to contribute on a strategic level.

Pervasive UX ascends to the Grand Strategic level of an organisation and can give companies a constructive advantage.

The chief role of User Experience strategists are:

  • Bring a customer perspective to problems through deep understanding.
  • Account for and minimize bias.
  • Identify business opportunities promote end user well being.
  • Facilitate a balance between business goals, user needs and technology.

 

The foundations are there, the semantic web did arrive and is silently increasing. Data is more open and augmented reality has taken off. It is all about delivering big connected experiences now.

We are looking at situation where user experience strategy has taken on the task of being a catalyst for positive change and disruption.

Please comment and let me know what you think.

dictare
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Disruptive Innovation, Let the Revolution Begin

Tyrants are having a bad year. Things are only going to get worse. The old style management that is all about control is out. The new style is about “empowerment”.

    • New managers mentor. Tyrants order.
    • New managers ask. Tyrants dictate.
    • New managers are results focused. Tyrants are process focused.

 

I am lucky to have some great examples to learn from. I have also witnessed dreadful managers in action that think that ruling with a fist is the answer.

As a manager I know what type I fall in. I love mentoring and empowering. So it was with great pleasure that I was asked to read and feedback on a report on social learning for teams. It also got me thinking of what I do and my personal beliefs and the views of some of Thought Leaders such as Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab and author of The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business.

A revolution is happening. There is more talk about “disruption” and innovation and changing things for the better. In part this is down to digital and social media breaking down boundaries.

User Experience practitioners are certainly at the heart of the digital media revolution. The social media phenomenon is here to stay, and knowing what’s happening in this space is important for everyone. Social media is the glue.

In politics it is fueling uprisings. In business, people are breaking out of their team rooms and corporate structures and taking their conversations online. The web can be the one place where democracy really can exist and everyone can have a say. It is no surprise that user experience is now such a hot topic. Looking at some of the top brands and their recent marketing offerings is seems that have been quick to jump on the band wagon with messages all about the power of “you”. They know how much power you (and me) have.

This is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with giving people more individual power. Provided people get guidance and use it responsibly it adds a lot of value. Digital innovation is constantly driving new approaches that have huge potential value for our customers, employers and society, as well as ourselves. Greater transparency can foster better relationships with clients.

It has me thinking of what is best for digital teams when it comes to providing information about their industry.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.

Fortunately most people in user experience are very vocal and socially media aware. The “UX cats” are long out of the bags. Putting the cats back into the bags and going back to old style team rooms with spoon fed content is not going work. Team rooms still have their place as a repository for documents and resource files but they are not where we should be having our conversations.

Twitter is fantastic for conversations and event tracking. Add a hash tag #myevent and tweet. It is pointless to duplicate content and functionality when the tools and information are one click away on the web. It is a no brainer. No really. Laynrd does a great job of listing conferences and events. Laynrd has over 3,500 presentations on file. Meet-up is fantastic and has the added bonus of sending notifications of new events.

The key is to influence rather than argue. The value of writing a book report or conference biopsy seems a little odd when it will be Tweeted, blogged and reported by almost everyone. Everything is online and the last time I checked Google was still working.

Today already 40% of business technology users at North American companies report using one of more website (s) to do parts of their jobs that are not sanctioned by their IT department. We expect this number to grow close to 60% in 2011 as frustrated workers work around IT to self-provision technology. How democratization of technology empowers employees, Forrester, 2011

This is a smarter and more collaborative way of working. The only way people are going to learn about digital, their industry and the social media phenomenon is by getting involved. By the time I write that report it will be out of date.

The accelerating rate of change forces everyone in every organisation to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete – Quote from Jane Hart, Impact of Social Learning in the Workplace

The four cornerstones of Social Learning are:

  • Building relationships and joining communities: Learning more from competitors, industry experts, thought leaders and innovatorsthrough blogs, Linkedin, Google +, Twitter
  • Improving productivity: Using tools like Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Twitter, Doodle, Good Reader
  • Finding and using content: Flipboard, Google, RSS, Laynrd
  • Creating and sharing content: flickr, Slideshare, Vimeo, Meet up

 

Tyrants beware, the revolution will be Tweeted #revolution. Jane Heart, The Impact of social Media in the Workplace is good place to start. Jane Hart”s report is now online with more at Slideshare.net

Please discuss as I am always interested to know what people think.

 

Gorillaaxure
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Gorilla User Experience (UX) Using Axure

Experiments in attention and concentration show that when people are concentrating on something and doing a task they often miss other information.  This has big implications for UX design as well as collecting the requirements and running workshops.

Suppose you are running a workshop for a new retail site and you have a group of stakeholders in the room each with their own agenda. It is important to sketch out the end to end scenario first as a walking skeleton. This is so that everybody understands it as a single process.

This is often the situation where a product manager may have an objective of people browsing their products and hitting “add to basket”. For them that is where the journey ends. The shopping basket (funnel) is some else’s problem. But it is not. Statistics will show that it is the payment screen that is the most abandoned. Rarely do you see a product manager care about that.

Most UX people probably know the 200 lb invisible gorilla experiment. When people are concentrating on doing a task a 200 lb gorilla can literally disappear.

What it demonstrates is that people complete the task despite it. This also works in reverse.  Axure is my gorilla. I have used it workshops and have “live” mocked stuff up. The first part of the workshop I explain what I am going to do and how it works and what will happen at the end. It may seem strange to some people at first but as things get going no one pays attention to me they are all focused on the screen and completing their tasks as well.

The sessions still contain all the usual white boarding, post it sessions, sketching and open discussions. What I do is make sure that everything is captured so that nothing is lost. I do this by having some prep work done beforehand to allow me work in real time and turn the outputs into a clickable journey. The tarting up can be done later. After the workshop.

Generally 20-30% of all information from workshops is lost. Those photos of the post it notes boards are often missing key bits of detail. The flip chart scrawlings sometimes need a translator and are open to interpretation. Participants leave unclear whether the output was good or not until they see it later. By then their memories are subject to their view.

By capturing the information in the room I can play it back at the end. People can immediately see what was accomplished and reach conscientious on the value of workshop. Plus I will still have the original photos of all the boards and post it notes to add to the deck and show the process of getting there.

Just in case you do not know the Invisible Gorilla story, read more on bigthink.com.

 

Blue butterflyJ
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Bow Butterfly


Site to be launched. Complete site design and build including the social media strategy: Facebook page, Twitter, Polyvore and other sites. This an early draft and work in progress. As I will be adding new features and iterating the images will be increased and updated. Real work in progress!

 

[slider name=”#” cat=”” slides=”-1″ effect=”random” caption=”false” arrows=”true” arrow_type=”1″ /]

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Is Gamification Just The Latest Buzzword?

Anybody old enough to have had a Palm Pilot in  2002, will remember buzzword bingo. Oh what fun it was to sit in meetings and wait for some hapless person to use the buzzwords of the day. Who cannot forget the dreadfulness of leverage, spearheading, running up a flagpole and so many toe curling others.

But gamification is different. These is more substance behind it. There is the pleasure principal: “People do things that are pleasurable and they avoid things they hate”. It is basic human nature. Addictive games such as Angry Birds plus popular items such as Facebook and the iPad have significantly raised user expectations.

The iPad is a huge game changer. No waiting time to boot up. No annoying start up menus.  A user can turn it on and check for recent messages in seconds. Users want immediately reactive technology. On these devices it is easier to check stats, look for updates, track progress and complete a lot of task based activities.

There is no trickery behind this and no need for more jargon, just basic principals:

  • Making something pleasurable to use
  • Focus on quick delivery in task based activities, (the workflow should be transparent)
  • Use design to make things engaging
  • Keep information light
  • Clever usage of  visual metaphors, icons and data visualisation
  • Incorporate social media behaviour –
  • Incentivise and give the user feedback
  • Make even boring tasks fun
  • Provide feedback – dashboards – performance charts
  • Compare people – engage users in a friendly sense of competition
  • Use rich interfaces while maintaining usability and accessibility standards
  • Consider HTML 5 or develop different interfaces for multiple devices

 

When Gartner starts talking about Gamification, you know that it cannot be ignored.

Unfortunaly it  may be only a matter of time before we start seeing, “I spearheaded the gamification initiative”, on CVs. Oh my.

Gamification experts are not needed. Like Social Media this a trend towards creating better experiences and meeting the evolving needs of users. It is not an isolated skill. Everyone can benefit from understanding the thinking behind it and blending  it in their every day work. For those of us who already have a game design background we are already there.

Blue butterflyJ
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Prototyping to Add Value

Prototypes must deliver value. It is the thinking that is the valuable part not the overall execution or the tool.

Too often discussions get bogged in down in discussions about what is the best tool to use. The tool used for prototyping is just a canvas. A good painting doesn’t take longer to produce than a bad painting.  It is the thinking that goes into it. Not how it is done.

Prototypes are visionary and need to capture the art of the possible.

Rapid Design Visualisation  is emergent. The solution will emerge over time, evolving to fulfil new requirements and take advantage of newer technologies and methods as appropriate.  Some initial modelling is done at the very beginning of a project during “iteration 0”.  This can be part of a white boarding or brainstorming stage.  This will be just enough to visualise ‘the concept’ to stimulate discussions and provide a talking point. This gives everyone on the team more clarity and less room to misinterpret as you can see it, touch and play with it. It is interactive and mimics the behaviour of the final solution.

Prototypes maybe needed at any point in the project life-cycle. They end when it is “Good Enough For Now”.

Creating a prototype  version of  ‘the vision of the future’ may help get funding or a project kicked off.  Later it may evolve into a final GUI design with pixel perfect artifacts and a working model for the actual code base.  At every stage there are artifacts that can be used or reiterated. If it is custom software that is created then any new icons may need to be created  pixel perfect in order to validate usability, for example.

It could start out as one thing and evolve into something else. Prototypes designed in Axure or iRise can be canabilised and re-used. The prototype itself could be kept and used for training or modelling the next generation of the systems features.

 Modelled a little bit ahead and what it necessary. 

Don’t need to model what you know will already work. It is not about making a full scale working model.

If you are designing a car around a new engine to improve performance you wouldn’t want to wast time discussing whether the wheels should still be round. Just say there will be wheels and leave it at that.

Maybe just what it will look like (static model). Maybe not at all. Maybe it is just one problem you want to model so you can asses and test various options. Coding multiple solutions is impractical.

 

 

 

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Sorry Google Says No

Do you have a social media strategy? If you are like most people working in digital you probably do. If you don’t then you are seriously missing out. If anything the recent rioting has proved what an impact social media is having. Both good and bad. No one can afford to ignore it.

Being a user experience expert it is mandatory. We need to be aware of what users are doing and how they are using the medium. It is powerful for gaining insight. Almost all digital experiences now have an element of social media. Social media is often the glue in user journeys. It is not something you can read about it and apply best practice. You need to be involved in it and experience it first hand.

How is it working for you? Does Google say no?

hangman

The Unreasonable Voice

The unreasonable voice is not a voice you hear a user experience person use.  The rare couple of times in (12 years) that I have head it from a UX person, it turned out it was their grasp of UX that was the problem. They were not actually a UX person at all.

It is not in our nature. All our training and knowledge is about the reasonable voice. User experience is about being a people person. We talk to people and seek to understand them; behaviours, motivations, goals, needs, wants etc. in order to come up with UX strategies.

User experience requires us to be good listeners, ask questions, be fair, compromise, suggest, hypothesize, share information, evaluate, analyse and think in order to put the user first.

In dealing with co-workers and other colleagues this usually holds true also. It is probably why the UX community is vibrant and full of events, conferences and meet-ups.

The unreasonable voice demands, judges, talks over people, interrupts, dictates and has to have the last word.  Nobody wants to be around some one who uses the unreasonable voice.

User experience  people who use the unreasonable voice are not really user experience people.

 

 

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The Reasonable Voice

User Experience practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds among them psychologists, designers, Human Computer Interaction grads, Information Architects as well as others.

We share many common traits as well as being big sharers of our knowledge, experience and tips. We care about the end result and about other people.

It doesn’t matter how we got here. What matters is why we do it. Even though we may occasionally be the end user, we know that there are other types. Our opinion as an end user is only one voice among many, many others. In our work we come across a lot of methods, tools and processes but in the end these too are not important. They change and improve with time, so no point being precious about them.

It is being the reasonable voice we need to be precious about.