User experience and product innovation

Recently, at the Web 2.0 summit, Palm’s CEO said (as reported in All Things Digital):

Palm created the PDA space with the Pilot and the smartphone space after it with the Treo…So by birthright, Palm should have owned the smartphone market, but it just lost its way.

I’ve been intrigued by this facet of the “smartphone era”: Palm’s, NOKIA’s, Motorola’s whole job—theoretically—was to understand the needs, wants, desires of the mobile phone user. Theoretically they each spent millions of dollars a year in R&D, consumer research, prototyping, product development, etc. Yet Apple smoked them all. Apple focuses on the user experience—from the moment a user decides to enter Apple’s commerce stream, to the moment a user opens a box, to the moment a user first sets up a device to the moment a user interacts that device. With Apple, product = experience and experience = product. It seems a superior user experience—a 365 degree, multi-dimensional experience—is the ultimate killer product/app.

The importance of users versus consumers in building a community

The book Democratizing Innovation by MIT Professor Eric Von Hippel (available via free .pdf download) makes an interesting observation about the term “consumer”. Throughout his book, Von Hippel employs the term “user” as opposed to consumer:

Users, as the term will be used in this book, are firms or individual consumers that expect to benefit from using a product or a service. In contrast, manufacturers expect to benefit from selling a product or a service.

This is a powerful–albeit simple–point of distinction within the context of the social web, with implications for social commerce too (which I have recently written about here). Focus primarily on the benefits of the user, not solely on your needs as a “manufacturer”. What value are you bringing a user of your content, service, advice, etc? By constantly evaluating the needs of your user-clients and delivering benefits based on these needs, you’re increasing the odds that your user-clients will become a passionate community centered around this value as opposed to simply a crowd that wanders by.

Information sharing across the social web: usability, minimalist design, and consumer choice

This article in the Atlantichttp://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/11/the-undesigned-web/65458/ by Dylan Tweney (@dylan20http://twitter.com/#!/dylan20) essentially argues that as consumers adopt a minimalist approach towards reading, sharing (i.e., reformatting content to meet their needs and the needs of their social sphere), and generally consuming content (information), devices like the iPad will engender even more pressure on publishers align usabilty concepts with sound information architecture concepts. Indeed, the iPad imbues a sensual, tactile element to information consumption. Fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodieshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkel_nerve_ending, and by virtually touching, massaging, moving, aligning, etc, information via the iPad transfers a degree of intimacy unmatched by even printed material. Tweney seems to argue that the tactil nature of iPad represents an inflection point in future information design, publishing, and consumption.
As a slight counter-point to Tweney’s missive, this articlehttp://www.fastcodesign.com/1662630/is-undesigned-the-next-great-web-trend-fat-chance argues that Tweney misses the point by claiming that design is dead and makes some excellent points:
“The future is all about designing for multiple use cases[.]”
“Digital design isn’t fading, but it is changing: to keep pace with evolving technology, to drive new economics, to satisfy users’ dynamic desires. Indeed, the fact that we tend to call them “users” in the first place–instead of viewers, readers, or audiences–is important to keep in mind when considering the role or future of digital design.”
The author, John Pavlushttp://twitter.com/johnpavlus, cites many useful sources to support his argument that a minimalist-centric interface is actually the result a complex design-thinking (ala, a Ferrari on the outside appears simple and elegant but underneath the hood it’s a complex machine). Similarly, a minimalist approach can actually be brilliantly enhanced by restricting consumer choice by presenting consumers with well thought-out, curated, and highly selective choices (ala 37 Signals). Finally, both Tweney and Pavlus are joined by researchers who are conducting some very interesting research on this topic: The Paradox of Simplicity: Effects of User Interface Design on Perceptions and Preference of Interactive Systemshttp://aisel.aisnet.org/mcis2010/30/ (registration required), A Model of Experience Test for Web Designershttp://eprints.qut.edu.au/18371/1/c18371.pdf, A Model for Understanding Social Commercehttp://proc.conisar.org/2010/pdf/1511.pdf
Photo credit: seier+seierhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/493929328/
This article in the Atlantic by Dylan Tweney (@dylan20) essentially argues that as consumers adopt a minimalist approach towards reading, sharing, and generally consuming content (information), devices like the iPad will put even more pressure on publishers to align usability concepts with sound information architecture concepts. Indeed, the iPad imbues a sensual, tactile element to information consumption.
Fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodies, and the iPad transfers to a consumer a degree of intimacy by enabling him/her to virtually touch, massage, move, and align information in a very personal way. Tweney seems to argue that the tactile nature of an iPad represents an inflection point in future information design, publishing, and consumption.
As a slight counter-point to Tweney’s missive, this article argues that Tweney misses the point in claiming that “traditional” digital design is dead; as counterpoints, the author points out:
“The future is all about designing for multiple use cases[.]”
“Digital design isn’t fading, but it is changing: to keep pace with evolving technology, to drive new economics, to satisfy users’ dynamic desires. Indeed, the fact that we tend to call them “users” in the first place–instead of viewers, readers, or audiences–is important to keep in mind when considering the role or future of digital design.”
The author, John Pavlus, cites many useful sources in his article to support his argument that minimalist-centric interface design is actually the result of complex design-thinking. Similarly, a minimalist approach can actually be brilliantly enhanced by restricting consumer choice by presenting consumers with well thought-out, curated, and highly selective choices (ala 37 Signals theories). Finally, both Tweney and Pavlus are joined by researchers who are conducting interesting studies on this topic: The Paradox of Simplicity: Effects of User Interface Design on Perceptions and Preference of Interactive Systems (registration required), A Model of Experience Test for Web Designers, A Model for Understanding Social Commerce.
Photo credit: seier+seier

Influence in the social web and social commerce

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/02/altimeter-report-social-commerce-how-brands-are-generating-revenue-by-lcecere/
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/11/the-rise-of-the-social-consumer
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/150/the-new-influentials.html
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.156.8795&rep=rep1&type=pdf
This article on social media New Influentialshttp://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/150/the-new-influentials.html raises an interesting question regarding “incluence” on the social web: what’s the core driver of influence in the social web when it comes to commerce, a person, her community, or both? The article profiles six individuals who have variously used YouTube, corporate resources, quasi-anarchist tactics, and curation to attract dedicated audiences to their brand (whether personal or corporate). Indeed, the question of “what constitutes influence in a social network” has captured the interest of researches, as is evidenced by the articles “A model of influence in a social network”http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/49/65/60/PDF/td08.pdf and “Learning Influence Probabilities In Social Networks”http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.156.8795&rep=rep1&type=pdf. Similarly, Brian Solis has written an excellent post on the genesis of the social consumerhttp://www.briansolis.com/2010/11/the-rise-of-the-social-consumer. According to Solis:
When a brand does its job right, it creates an emotional connection. The affinity it engenders contributes to who we are as individuals and how others perceive us. In the social web, sharing our purchases and experiences serve as social objects which are essentially catalysts for sparking conversations. At the center of this discussion is the product. Experiences, impressions, and perceptions cast bridges that link us together. As the conversation unfolds, the hub connects the product to individuals who not only respond, but also consume, where information directly or indirectly influences behavior and opinion. This form of subconscious empowerment seemingly builds confidence according to some new research. As social capital factors into the equation, these conversations represent touchpoints where positive experiences take the shape of endorsements and ultimately c0ntribute to the overall branding process.
Solis’ sentiments are echoed by a recent Altimeter Reporthttp://www.slideshare.net/loracecere/rise-of-socialcommercefinal (also accessed her on Jeremiah Owyang’s bloghttp://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/02/altimeter-report-social-commerce-how-brands-are-generating-revenue-by-lcecere/:
<div style=”width:477px” id=”__ss_5637236″><strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/loracecere/rise-of-socialcommercefinal” title=”Rise of social_commerce_final”>Rise of social_commerce_final</a></strong><object id=”__sse5637236″ width=”477″ height=”510″><param name=”movie” value=”http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/doc_player.swf?doc=riseofsocialcommercefinal-101101160620-phpapp02&stripped_title=rise-of-socialcommercefinal&userName=loracecere” /><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”/><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/><embed name=”__sse5637236″ src=”http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/doc_player.swf?doc=riseofsocialcommercefinal-101101160620-phpapp02&stripped_title=rise-of-socialcommercefinal&userName=loracecere” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”477″ height=”510″></embed></object><div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”>View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/”>documents</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/loracecere”>lora cecere</a>.</div></div>
Going back to the original question I posited, I’ll say “influence” is a combination of both a brand (personal or corporate) and respect and empowerment of one’s community, but community is the main driver. Solis describes how American Express empowers its community by facilitating conversations along with promoting commerce (and doesn’t this remind you of fundamental concepts discussed in the Cluetrain Manifestohttp://www.amazon.com/Cluetrain-Manifesto-End-Business-Usual/dp/0738204315, particularly chapter four?). But for an empassioned–and spending–community, American Express would not necessarily be influential. Thus, the core question of what defines influence hinges on how committed you are to your community, what value you bring to your community, and how well you are developing and fostering that community.

This article on social media New Influentials raises an interesting question regarding “influence” in the social web and in social commerce: what’s the core driver of influence?  A person? Her community? Or both? The article profiles six individuals who have variously used YouTube, corporate resources, quasi-anarchist tactics, and curating to attract and sustain dedicated communities. Indeed, the question of “what constitutes influence in a social network” has captured the interest of researches, as is evidenced by the articles “A model of influence in a social network” and “Learning Influence Probabilities In Social Networks“. Similarly, Brian Solis has written an excellent post on the genesis of the social consumer. According to Solis:

When a brand does its job right, it creates an emotional connection. The affinity it engenders contributes to who we are as individuals and how others perceive us. In the social web, sharing our purchases and experiences serve as social objects which are essentially catalysts for sparking conversations. At the center of this discussion is the product. Experiences, impressions, and perceptions cast bridges that link us together. As the conversation unfolds, the hub connects the product to individuals who not only respond, but also consume, where information directly or indirectly influences behavior and opinion. This form of subconscious empowerment seemingly builds confidence according to some new research. As social capital factors into the equation, these conversations represent touchpoints where positive experiences take the shape of endorsements and ultimately c0ntribute to the overall branding process.

Solis’ sentiments are echoed by a recent Altimeter Report (also accessed here on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog:

Going back to the original question I posited, I’ll say “influence” is a combination of brand (personal or corporate) and respect and empowerment of one’s community, but where community is the main driver. Solis describes how American Express empowers its community by facilitating conversations along with promoting commerce (and doesn’t this remind you of fundamental concepts discussed in the Cluetrain Manifesto, particularly chapter four?). But for an empassioned–and spending–community, American Express would not necessarily be influential. Thus, the core question of what defines “influence” hinges on how committed you are to your community, what value you bring to your community, and how well you are developing and fostering that community.

A simple lesson from Steve Jobs

Thank you to @sherrychris for finding this article on Steve Jobs. What I like about this article is that it delves—slightly–into Jobs’ mindset via an interview with his “last” boss. It’s a fascinating romp. Here’s one key take-aways that were meaningful to me:
“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things you decide not to do.”
Very simple concept, yet powerful. Reading through the interview we learn that Steve regularly met with the leader of SONY and was given a prototype of the first SONY Walkman. And the first thing he did was take it apart to look at its component parts. I can image Jobs making a list of “not likes” with the Walkman over a decade, which yielded the iPod. The same can plausibly be said for a mobile phone too. I can imagine Jobs using NOKIA and Motorola products and making a list of “not likes”, which yielded the iPhone. Focus on making a “not like” list to improve your product offering or client service delivery. Who knows, maybe you’ll revolutionize an industry too.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2783/4270425994_508f78a00f_m.jpg
timtakhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/4270425994/
Thank you to @sherrychris for finding this article on Steve Jobs. What I like about this article is that it delves—slightly–into Jobs’ mindset via an interview with his “last” boss. It’s a fascinating romp. Here’s one meaningful take-away:
“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things you decide not to do.”
Very simple concept, yet powerful. Reading through the interview we learn that Steve regularly met with Akio Morita, co-founder of SONY, and was given a prototype of the first SONY Walkman. And the first thing he did was take it apart to look at its component parts. I can image Jobs making a list of “not likes” with the Walkman over a decade or more, which yielded the iPod. The same can plausibly be said for a mobile phone too. I can imagine Jobs using NOKIA and Motorola products and making a list of “not likes”, which yielded the iPhone. Focus on making a “not like” list to improve your product offering or client service delivery. Who knows, maybe you’ll revolutionize an industry too.
Photo credit: timtak