Posted on | May 4, 2012 | 29 Comments
User experience, when addressed appropriately, is an holistic endeavor. The emerging conversation of “cross-channel user experience” is redundant, because if you’re weren’t thinking cross-channel (and cross-platform, cross-device, etc. etc.), you were doing “user experience” wrong.
As the holism of user experience becomes more broadly realized, something else becomes clear. Earlier this week, designer Jonathan Korman tweeted, in response to a conversation taking place at the Re:Design UX conference, “STILL having trouble defining the UX design profession.” I would argue that that is because there is no such thing as a UX design profession. User experience is a strategic framework, a mindset for approaching product and service challenges. In that regard, it is akin to Six Sigma or Total Quality Management.
It’s only once we recognize UX as “an integrative philosophy of management for continuously improving the quality of products and processes” (to borrow Wikipedia’s definition of Total Quality Management) that we appreciate it’s truly massive scale, and how limiting it is for UX to be solely associated with specific (and usually screen-based) design practices. It’s no wonder why at this year’s IA Summit, which was explicitly about “cross-channel user experience”, the primary emergent theme was how organizations need to break free of their industrial age, bureaucratic, and hierarchical ways, and embrace cross-functional means that align every employee’s work around the customer experience.
The practice of user experience is most successful when focused on strategy, vision, and planning, not design and execution. In other words, UX adds value by bringing design practices to strategic endeavors. This means generative and exploratory user research, ideation and concept generation, scenario writing and roadmap planning. The impact of those strategic endeavors will not be limited to product and service design, but should be felt across business development, corporate development, marketing, engineering, sales, and customer service.
With respect to design execution, user experience should serve to coordinate and orchestrate a range of design efforts, not just that which has historically been called “UX design” (wireframes, architecture diagrams, prototypes, screen design). This includes industrial design, retail and space design, marketing and collateral design, and more. I think a huge challenge for “UX designers” has been to square the design legacy of making with the new reality of planning and coordination, because many don’t feel legitimate if they are not building something tangible. It’s great to build something tangible, but that is no longer “user experience” — it’s just one of many activities that, in sum, fulfill on a user experience strategy.
Posted on | April 18, 2012 | Comments Off
This photo of Blake Griffin in action:
Immediately took me to this famous still from the very first cinematic Frankenstein.
That is all.
Posted on | April 10, 2012 | 4 Comments
it suggests that there are things going on that we do not understand. It could be that Facebook is buying authenticity (which would be ironic), or it could be a rational calculation of value per user, but I suspect something else is going on. I have two theories.
1. The Instagram guys really didn’t want to sell.
They had made something because they loved it. They wanted to see where it would go. They wanted to make something meaningful. They didn’t want to join an internet giant, or they would have already. So Facebook kept upping and upping the price until they couldn’t, in good conscience, turn it down. Everyone has a price. Mine would be much less than that.
This was my initial thought, but then as I thought more about it, I came up with the second theory. This is not based on any evidence, besides some inkling into human nature.
2. Instagram was the object in a dick-swinging bidding war.
There are exactly four companies who would have gotten into this tussle: Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Instagram had hit upon something that none of them had yet to master: the intersection of mobile, social, and photos. Facebook gets photos and social, but has a weak mobile experience. Google has Android, but Picasa and G+ have not gotten serious traction. Apple gets mobile and photos (look at what they’re investing in the camera of the iPhone), but get social about as well as Ted Kaczynski. Microsoft needs to get traction — Instagram on Windows Phone could help make that platform legit.
So you have 4 players, hoards of cash, and a company that is in this sweet spot where they could augment any of these players perfectly. And once they start sniffing around, well, then testosterone kicks in. Zuckerberg, Page, and Ballmer are not meek folks (I suspect Cook isn’t either, but he doesn’t have that kind of chest-beating presence). The initial logic of the business deal morphs into a matter of testicular fortitude. And, because the others are interested, the deal turns from being one about acquiring a potential asset, and becomes one of preventing the competition from acquiring that asset. And the bidding gets out of hand, until you get to the point where a company with 13 employees and a fat AWS account (or however their stuff is stored) is somehow offered $1 billion.
Anyway. A theory.
The thing that I fear most is a total misreading of the reasons behind Instagram’s success, and the inevitable launch of a thousand “mobile app” companies trying to get on Facebook’s radar. As others have pointed out, Instagram was great because it was built on passion and care for the product itself. It was not a calculating or mercenary play. But now we’ll see countless hours of creativity and productivity pissed away on folks pursuing “the next Instagram” in a sad mini-Gold Rush.
Posted on | March 21, 2012 | 8 Comments
I am looking for a graduate student intern to conduct a service design internship at Inflection this summer. This person would help me uncover, craft, and articulate a broader service strategy for our offerings, tying together marketing, sales, business development, product design, and member services. You must be familiar with the tools and techniques of service design (customer journey maps, blueprints, etc. etc.)
If you are interested, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
Posted on | March 13, 2012 | 2 Comments
For as long as I can remember, if I didn’t know something, I’d look it up. The age of the internet has turned me into a habitual Googler, but as a kid, it was books — most often the dictionary, occasionally the encyclopedia.
And that encyclopedia? It was the Britannica. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we got it (12, I think, as we had this 1985 version), but it had a prominent place in our little home. Leather bound. Tiny type. And pages upon pages of facts.
Owning it was definitely an investment on our family’s part. Economically, we were lower-middle class (socio-economically, fairly solid middle class). We were not an acquisitive household, saving for my dad’s predilection for VCRs. But when it came to my education, my capability to learn, my access to knowledge, we did not spare expenses. We bought a set outright, which cost $1,249 at the time (which, according to this calculator is $2676.77 in today’s dollars).
Now, I’m typically not one to wring my hands at the death of the printed book. Long ago I wrote about the benefits of ebooks, and this was particularly true for reference works. So I surprised myself at being affected by the news that the new editions of The Encyclopædia Britannica will no longer be available in print form. Most books are transient things, read once, placed on a shelf, and largely forgotten. The Britannica, though, was a different thing altogether, and key to the experience was its gravity (both figurative and literal). It was a physical presence in our house. Heck, it probably weighed more than my mom.
There’s something to the tangibility of information that allows you to grasp its scope. Clearly, what we now have access to at our fingertips is far greater, and I will never suggest “things were better then,” but I do think what we’re missing, and what my children will definitely miss, is a sense of the real scale of knowledge. Our computers and screens have rendered this information as weightless and abstract, and I wonder if this literal lack of gravity will lead to a sense of a figurative lack of (informational) gravity.
Posted on | March 13, 2012 | 3 Comments
Let me begin by saying how excited I am to have Todd Zaki Warfel join our team at Inflection. I’ve known Todd for a number of years, and have respected his passion, commitment, and sharing within the UX community, and know that he’s going to be a tremendous asset in our efforts moving forward.
I’m also intrigued because Todd’s move seems to be part of a larger trend I’m witnessing, and, obviously, taking part in: designers (and particularly design leaders) moving away from the agency/consulting world and heading in-house. I don’t have a huge sample size, but it’s hard to ignore when you see folks like Andrew Crow and David Cronin go to GE, or Bill DeRouchey join Simple, or former APers such as Leah Buley, Ryan Freitas, Ljuba Milkovic, off the top of my head. And that doesn’t take into account the other people who have approached me since my move and told me of their similar plans, yet to be executed.
I suspect that all these folks realized the same thing I did (and most of them did so long before me): in-house is the frontier of design and user experience. And the typical reasons why people worked at consultancies (variety of projects, working with the best talent) no longer holds true. The design teams at many organizations rival and excel what you typically find in an agency, and thanks to the fracturing of the device landscape and the growing appreciation of the need to address a broader customer experience, in-house designers don’t find themselves just spinning wheels, but working across multiple platforms and challenges.
Posted on | February 20, 2012 | 18 Comments
In a recent post where I argued that the biggest challenge the field faces is understanding how companies can sustainably and repeatedly deliver great experiences, a commenter wrote Bryan Zmijewski from Zurb commented, “UX Design doesn’t exist and designers have only tried to reinterpreted what great product designers, design thinkers and design managers having been doing for many decades before the web ever came along. The only things that have matured are the designers themselves.”
My initial thought upon reading this comment was, “Bullshit.” But upon further thinking, I realized he’s partly right. When you’re designing for user experience, you’re designing toward a desired outcome, the user’s experience, not a thing. If this is true, then user experience design would be the only form of design not defined by the medium, technology, or artifacts of its design, and that’s weird. And so I’m beginning to believe “UX design” doesn’t exist, really.
The label “User experience design” emerged in order to combat the small-mindedness of design for technology that was prevalent in the early 90s. During the technological boom of the last 20 years, with the emergence of the Web, prevalence of computers in all aspects of our lives, and the increasing complexity of the things we are building, “user experience” has been a helpful term in that it continually reminded us to think beyond whatever narrow thing we’re considering at the time, and to consider the entire user’s experience.
And now, in 2012, with Apple, Inc. having the largest market capitalization of any company in the world, and an endless stream of CEOs and pundits talking about the importance of user experience, I suspect the phrase “user experience design” is no longer necessary, and could even be harmful. Harmful because it suggests that the only folks who need to worry about user experience are the designers, when in fact companies need to treat user experience no different than they treat profitability, or corporate culture, or innovation, or anything else that’s essential for it’s ongoing success. The companies that succeed best in delivering great experience are those that have it as an organization-wide mindset.
(Why is the comment only partly right? Because UX design was not simply a matter of reinterpreting that great designers have done in the past. It has been an ongoing attempt to grapple with the newfound complexity of the subjects of design, a complexity that our prior tools and methods were simply not up to the task of addressing. And he’s wrong for using the phrase “design thinkers”–if “UX design” doesn’t exist, than “design thinkers” most certainly do not.)
Posted on | February 10, 2012 | Comments Off
…And the beat goes on…
If you watched the last Last Chance Kitchen, the edit lead you to believe that Grayson was the winner, which is why it was utterly unsurprising to see Beverly return at the start of the episode. The Magical Elves seem to have a love of ham handed misdirection.
The quickfire was disappointingly insipid, even more so because it conferred the opportunity for immunity and a guaranteed spot in the Final Four. The chefs that second-guess Sarah’s decision to not take the car are only fooling themselves. At every stage of the game, the priority is to advance. Period. Plus, she got to have a relaxed day and decent night’s sleep, which at this stage of the competition is remarkably valuable.
I loved when the mentors walked in and the cooks last their collective shit (well, except for Edward.) It was one of the most honest displays of emotion I’ve seen on television, and Paul’s inability to contain himself had >me choking up while I was on the elliptical trainer, which makes staying in rhythm hard. Even for all the editing trickery that goes on with the show, the authenticness of its participants means that Top Chef taps into real human emotion unlike anything else out there.
There’s not one fan of the show who didn’t know that Edward was going down the moment he bought the smoked oysters.
Given all the grief she’s received, Beverly’s success makes for Good TV.
Paul continues to operate on a plane utterly separate from the rest of the competition. Gail’s blog post points out that the TV edit underplays the quality of Paul’s dish — she says it’s the only truly memorable plate she’d had all season, and among the tops in all seasons.
If he doesn’t win it all, it would be a huge surprise.
Posted on | February 7, 2012 | Comments Off
Growing up a math nerd in Los Angeles, I was preternaturally drawn to Hollywood metrics. My dad would bring home Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, and I would comb over the latest box office numbers and television ratings.
So it was that I was compelled to read Asymco’s lengthy exegesis on Hollywood box office data over the last 35 years.
Of all the charts and graphs shown, I found this the most explicative:
Click for full size.
It shows that the type 5 studios have pretty much remained the same, and that their proportion of overall box office has held steady, too.
I can’t think of a single other industry where this would be true.
It demonstrates just how… hardened the film industry is, and how unreceptive to innovation and new thinking. This graph is a depiction of the industry’s sclerosis. I suspect that this graph is made possible by the overwhelming favoritism our government has shown the film industry (particularly in the extending of copyright), which has created an unfair advantage for incumbents, and made it nearly impossible for upstarts to get a foothold. It’s also why Hollywood throws so much weight behind suffocating legislation such as SOPA and PIPA — if you’re industry has no new ideas, then lobby to protect the old ways for as long as possible.
Posted on | January 23, 2012 | 4 Comments
In the months I spent figuring out what was going to be my next move after Adaptive Path, I spoke with many folks about the transition. And in that process I began to realize something that I had never articulated.
Up until a few years ago there was no better place to push the boundaries of user experience than in design consulting, and within that, no better place than Adaptive Path. This was because the field was undergoing rapid methodological development. Those of us in the field of UX were making it up as we went along, and Adaptive Path had the fortune of an operating model that encouraged codifying these approaches and teaching them.
And then, around 2008, that changed. The pace of development ground nearly to a halt. The territory had been charted. There weren’t new methods to explore. We as an industry had largely figured out how to do our work. It was mostly a matter of applying the most appropriate tool given the nature of the problem. UX. as a practice, had matured.
Given that the field had matured, and we know how to design for user experience, it begs the question, Why are so many experiences so bad? It was in 2008 that I began to seriously think, write, and speak about organizational change, with a 90-minute talk at UI13, “16 Challenging Steps to Becoming an Experience-Driven Organization.”
There are a number of companies with very smart people, talented designers, and an honest desire to do right by the customer, and yet they deliver crappy experiences. And even though I had been talking about it for three years, it hadn’t really hit me until April or so of last year — the frontier of user experience is organizational. How do you get a company to sustainably, repeatedly, dependably deliver great experiences? That’s the biggest challenge our field faces. And while as a consultant I could offer advice or guidance, I wasn’t really solving tackling the problem. In order to seriously address these challenges, it requires a day-in, day-out organizational engagement that lasts for years, a kind of engagement that project-based design consulting simply does not afford.« go back — keep looking »