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Jargon Grenades

. Rod Rakic

Anyone who know me, knows that I'm a big fan of jargon. But like any powerful tool, it can be used for both good or for evil. In each facet of my life, I've adopted jargon that helps me communicate better, or face it, is just sort of fun.

The other day I found myself accidentally coining the term, "Jargon Grenade." It was in reference to, "the substitution of jargon for insight or strategy."

I was trying to capture the tragic consequences when someone trips across a shiny new piece of jargon... and then proceeds to toss it into conversation, or worse, launch project around it, without really understanding what it means or backing it up with any real thinking.

Jargon grenades are seductive. In business, it's so easy to find a hot new concept that 's fresh and sexy, and simply toss it at a problem. Like pulling the pin on a grenade, throwing it over a wall and sticking your fingers your ears hoping for the best... hence jargon grenade.

What's harder is taking some hot new chunk of corporate jargon and thinking hard about how it really applies to your customers, your brand, and your business.

Ask yourself, "Sure ____________ is cool. But is it our kind of cool?"

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Entrepreneurship and creatives

. andrew

I have to say I really admire folks who have full-time day jobs that find the time to concept, design and launch new businesses on the side. So with that in mind I wanted to give a shout out to two visual designers on my Promotions team that did just that. Allie Yoko has not only developed/designed a line of clothing she also designed the ecommerce website to support it: http://www.wiapparel.com All the products on the site are eco-friendly made from bamboo fabric, that's right made from grass. Pretty cool. Just as cool is Michelle Hierzer's side business Crank The Earth. It is a Threadless inspired cycling clothing website. She sell jerseys and bike tees designed by the community. She gives $1,000 to all winning designs. Check it out at: http://www.cranktheearth.com These clothes and sites are so cool you need to check them out.

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BrainStorming Experience Talk

. Dennis Schleicher

Yesterday we had another Experience Talk here at uxSEARS. Sharon Sprague gave a great talk with lots of tips and tricks on how to brainstorm better. She had worked with people from Disney and was able to share some of her Disney brainstorming insights. If you look closely you can even see her Imagineering hat on the table.

Insights & Highlights from Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition

. Dennis Schleicher

Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, June 8-11, 2010, McCormick Place West, Chicago, IL, America’s Largest E-Commerce Event

6,000 Attendees, 175 Expert Speakers, and 407Exhibiting Companies

IRCE 2010 Time to Reboot – Get Ready for E-Retailing’s Return to Double-Digit Growth

The conference started off with the keynote given by our own president -Imran Jooma who spoke about mobile commerce and social media. He showed some great videos that showed how our products and services play out in the everyday life of our customers.

Kurt Peters, the editor in Chief, Internet Retailer gave a stat that in 2009 online experienced a 10%. Then he said that channel neutrality is dead and that equal investing in both offline and online is not the way to go.

Two of the more interesting examples talked about were Dennis McEniry of Estee Lauder talked about how “A worldwide brand goes world wide on the web” and how they has a great global website that was localized through country specific skin care videos. “Don’t be on social if you’re not on brand.” He also talked about twitter use and how they use it to reinforce their authority to talk about certain topics. It is also interesting that they use their service counter reps to do online service part time in the store, or when they go home. And how in Germany how they adopted using “open invoice” which isn’t in use anywhere else in the world, but accounts for 60% of their orders. He also cautioned about mobile commerce being very different country to country.

Moosejaw talked about engagement. That more engaged users are ones who have more purchased products. They have a very funky brand.

Paul Bovisant, the lead product manager from yahoo talked about spotting incompatible buyer groups/messaging and seeing those as opportunity to split off this product line to a new buyer persona. Such as dog collars for house pet owners versus hunting dog owners.

Eric Peterson, CEO & Chief Consultant, Web Analytics Demystified. figuring out spending your money. He said that in terms of staffing you would take your budget and put 50% toward people and 50% on technology.

Geoffrey Robertson, GM & VP, ecommerce, Whitney Automotive Group talk about how his company has become internet centric. In the last 9 years, the company has shifted from 5% Internet sales to 80%. He asked, “Have you challenged your culuture?” “Do you view technology as a cost center or a revenue generating engine.”

Tony Ellison of Shoplet presented on “Competing Against Industry Giants.” Showed a case study of the “Green Your Cart” Tool. Which added a button labeled “See the Green Alternative” to the product’s sell story.

Stephanie Tilenius, Vice President of ecommerce at Google. She talked about the four big trends: Mobile, Social, Personalized, and Local. And went in depth into each. Then she differentiated between “the PC-web versus the Mobile-web.” She gave examples of seeing spikes in the mobile-web during commute time and weekends. Though her presentation was titled on ecommerce, it seemed that mobile was the most important; so much that she said they are “betting on mobile first.”

Andrew Daniel, Jim McNally, and Dennis Schleicher went to the IRCE 2010 Conference

Design Process – do or fail.

. Iga

Every agency I have worked for, (and there has been many from my freelance days) is claiming that they have developed the best process to service their clients to deliver the results. Some might call it the design process, some call it the method, but nevertheless, it always means the same – how they approach a problem and how they go about getting the work done. It’s about the system, it’s about how to go about an idea and transition it into a product. I recently came across a presentation by a senior engineering manager of Apple, Michael Lopp, who tried to assess how Apple can ‘get’ design when so many other companies try and fail. After describing A’s process of delivering consumers with a succession of presents (“really good ideas wrapped up in other really good ideas” — in other words, great software in fabulous hardware in beautiful packaging), he asked the question many have asked in their time: “How the f*ck do you do that?” Here are a few details:

Pixel Perfect Mockups

This, Lopp admitted, causes a huge amount of work and takes an enormous amount of time. But, he added, “it removes all ambiguity.” That might add time up front, but it removes the need to correct mistakes later on.

10 to 3 to 1

Apple designers come up with 10 entirely different mock ups of any new feature. Not, Lopp said, "seven in order to make three look good", which seems to be a fairly standard practice elsewhere. They'll take ten, and give themselves room to design without restriction. Later they whittle that number to three, spend more months on those three and then finally end up with one strong decision.

Paired Design Meetings

This was really interesting. Every week, the teams have two meetings. One in which to brainstorm, to forget about constraints and think freely. As Lopp put it: to "go crazy". Then they also hold a production meeting, an entirely separate but equally regular meeting which is the other's antithesis. Here, the designers and engineers are required to nail everything down, to work out how this crazy idea might actually work. This process and organization continues throughout the development of any app, though of course the balance shifts as the app progresses. But keeping an option for creative thought even at a late stage is really smart.

Pony Meeting

This refers to a story Lopp told earlier in the session, in which he described the process of a senior manager outlining what they wanted from any new application: "I want WYSIWYG... I want it to support major browsers... I want it to reflect the spirit of the company." Or, as Lopp put it: "I want a pony!" He added: "Who doesn't? A pony is gorgeous!" The problem, he said, is that these people are describing what they think they want. And even if they're misguided, they, as the ones signing the checks, really cannot be ignored.

The solution, he described, is to take the best ideas from the paired design meetings and present those to leadership, who might just decide that some of those ideas are, in fact, their longed-for ponies. In this way, the ponies morph into deliverables. And the C-suite, who are quite reasonable in wanting to know what designers are up to, and absolutely entitled to want to have a say in what's going on, are involved and included. And that helps to ensure that there are no nasty mistakes down the line.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.businessweek.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/obfuscator('ASdS.PXgSvPmOgQ', 'bUJSmrwPDOyvIiK78s9czqa2jVT6hkQgCAuLZeXFNBdfoxWYlt54Rp1M3G0EHn', '__MTTBID__', '', '');9565.1285014387 Quotes from original post by Helen Walters on March 08

e-Commerce and Social Networking

. D. Burns

This e-Commerce and Social Networking POV suggests how social networking can be leveraged within e-commerce experiences to improve the customer value proposition.

A Response: Natural User Interfaces Are Not Natural

. wandereye

"I believe we will look back on 2010 as the year we expanded beyond the mouse and keyboard and started incorporating more natural forms of interaction such as touch, speech, gestures, handwriting, and vision--what computer scientists call the "NUI" or natural user interface."
— Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft

That would be an awesome quote were it not for the FACT that all of this NUI stuff was around at Xerox Parc over 20 years ago (as Norman mentions). What is astounding is how slow culture, both in and outside of business, has slowed in terms of evolution while technology steadily increases velocity in terms of evolution (Moore's Law is now wrong, we're at a pace exponentially faster according to people in the know). Why is it taking so long to make GUI's (NUI's) that match the technology progression? My theory is that this stuff is "new" in the sense that it takes time to incorporate it all into the contexts of our lives, that disruptive innovation introductions to the market, even for "early adopters" has increased to a level of overwhelming for even the most spastic of embrace (myself included). As we're in an economy of choice as opposed to pure scale and demand fulfillment, even innovation seems to be a product category calling for discerning consumption.

Don writes: 
"As usual, the rhetoric is ahead of reality... Fundamental principles of knowledge of results, feedback, and a good conceptual model still rule. The strength of the graphical user interface (GUI) has little to do with its use of graphics: it has to do with the ease of remembering actions, both in what actions are possible and how to invoke them... The important design rule of a GUI is visibility: through the menus, all possible actions can be made visible and, therefore, easily discoverable."
Menus and the vernaculars he and many people rely on (AKA "patterns" and/or "standards") are direct responses to the constraints inherent in the systems (metaphors, proprietary hardware...) that they service. The "desktop" metaphor has been ripped to shreds and proven to be a culturally-biased manifestation of a group of highly insular engineers; much less detrimental to the development of operating systems that are truly cross-cultural and/or flexible enough to be usable in many contexts. That this metaphor has hurt the industry more than helped it in terms of innovation (see "In the Beginning was the Command Line", an essay by Neil Stevenson). Standards are good... For programming and system-level platform architecture... For sanity... For stability. But standards are often static and mistaken as gospel as opposed to dynamic sets of frameworks driven by the evolution of the marketplace and the demands therein; not to mention context, that human reality. When Norman makes statements like "Systems that avoid these well-known methods suffer," I get angry because statements like that are blatant examples of how ignorant designers can be at times (i.e. generalizing without taking the time to think about the complexities of interactions, the concept of empathic response and emergent technologies). In other words, systems that avoid usable and appropriate (to the user AND the business) methods suffer. Experiences and interfaces should respond to the demands of the content they are trying to service and provide to end users. For example the unique facets of products or services should drive a designer to explore the best "vehicles" through which to drive a particular path down the information superhighway. When we live within our comfort zones in the name of stability and sanity, we miss out, we suffer through a stagnation of evolution culturally, physically, cognitively and socially (human factors, user-centered frameworks). And if you want to speak to "affordances", Norman should perhaps look at advertising agencies or advertising in an of itself, the approaches that speak to the "unique selling points" of products or services as a driver for campain messaging and positioning. The same applies to GUI or NUI: an interaction is a form of exchange, of rapport. There are many many things going on outside of a pure form or system level analysis.
"Because gestures are ephemeral, they do not leave behind any record of their path, which means that if one makes a gesture and either gets no response or the wrong response, there is little information available to help understand why."
Not all contexts are universal. Anthropometrics can apply to two dimensional realities in the form of feedback from input, indication, understanding, response... There are many layers to the arguments Don positions that are ignored in favor of some call to convergence and standardization of thinking in a realm that suffers greatly from any algorythm-based application of solutions without thinking about the problem itself and the humans benefitting from the solution(s). What he speaks of here is handled by the display, the response of the system and not entirely dependent on the mode of input, be it gestural or keyboard, etc. I get the sense that because the keyboard and mouse have been around longer in a consumer context, Norman will find no fault in their use citing "standards". As Jaron Lanier states clearly, we should be extremely angry at the lack of progression of these systems, how we are extremely tolerant of shortcommings, how we alter behavior, much of the time dumbing it down, to facilitate the limitations of systems that should be much more functional.

Norman goes onto talk about standardization of gestures, etc. I assume he's dipping into his "affordances" misinterpretation at that point (or ignoring his own philosophies about that entirely). I mean, non-verbal communications, surfaces of inscription, modes of channel-based communications, have been studied as disciplines for decades prior to the invention of the PC. It scares me to see this foundational knowledge ignored by a so-called "expert" in the field. Going back further, Plato's The Cave would be a great read at this point. It seems that human perception, if not human experience is abandoned in favor of a full-out rant against a disruptive market release (because it calls into question many of his "standards" based on his interpretation of interaction and technology as well as a very obvious need to gain marketshare as an expert in this realm by speaking to the anxieties of his constituency - mostly business and mostly people who work with user experience professionals as opposed to practice it on a daily basis).

As a "design historian" he should also be in touch with what the futurists are predicting, some of which is already here like physical feedback mechanisms triggered by neuro stimulation or holography (3D) or interactions which combine multiple input methods and models like voice/sound as a gesture that influences touch in combination with keyboard or key. Multi-combination input is central to gaming. Mapping new commands to actions is commonplace as a learning curve in many realms, even in non-expert user interfaces. Again, generalizing is appropriate in some cases. These generalizations, assumptions and supposedly credible insights about multi-touch and gestural UI are a tremendous disservice to the design community. Then again, looking through the prism of our current technology and how slowly it is catching up to what he called rhetoric ahead of reality, it's understandable to latch onto what is comfortable and requires little effort and expertise to explain or explore or extend.

What is the iPad Good For?

. Rod Rakic

iPad, iPhone & iPod TouchImage by DrewVigal via Flickr

Since well before we got the darn thing in our hands, my team and I have been thinking quite a bit about the iPad.

A new category of device doesn't come along all that often. With over 2 million iPad sold in the first two months, it's pretty clear that the tablet experience is here to stay. Those of us in the business of selling, especial in the retail space, have been trying to figure out what the opportunity really is.

This exercise has lead us to have plenty of conversations about, "context of use," for the iPad.

It boils down to thinking about it this way... CREATION vs. CONSUMPTION of CONTENT.

Let's think about this as a spectrum of devices and experiences from small (and intimate) to large. (and more formal)

iPhone = the most intimate, but not something I want to stare at / work on for any length of time. Any media I consume there must be the most “snackable.” I carry an iPhone, only because I can’t have it implanted yet.

iPad = A great device for CONSUMING content, even reading emails. It’s big enough to make the experience comfortable, but small enough to be unobtrusive and easy to carry. Which is why I love it in meetings. It’s great for firing off a few quick emails.

Laptop = This is still my weapon of choice for CREATING content. I really don’t want to build wireframes or slides on my iPad. I don’t want to spend 20 minutes processing my inbox hunched over an iPad. I still want a good chair, a big screen, and for now, a mouse and a real keyboard when I have some heavy-lifting to do.

Ignore the context of use at your peril. Brands that think hard about how their customers use the Ipad, how it fits into their media diet, are the ones that have the best chance of creating killer experiences for it.

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