August 17, 2013
Teaching and Writing on Experience Modeling
The design and UX community talks breathlessly about “customer experience” but, in the end, tends to focus more on the details of web, mobile or product design than “customers” or “experience” itself. As I and others have pointed out, an “experience” is not possible to design. With that, I have made a concerted effort to highlight what can be designed (touch points, products, services and systems which power them) and how data from individual customer experiences can be aggregated into valuable experience models in inform design.
I am working hard to push this thinking forward in two ways. First, I’m teaching a class at the IIT Institute of Design on the topic. It is an expanded version of an earlier course (Rapid Experience Modeling) which I have taught a couple of times previously. Earlier incarnations had always seemed rushed in 7 week session, or 5 day intercession, formats. This will be a full 12 week course, enabling both myself and the students to dig deeper and resolve our thinking. Here’s the course description for Experience Modeling:
As the number of touch points with customers have exploded, the challenge in understanding and managing a multichannel customer experience has become increasingly problematic. IDN514 is an immersion course in “Experience Modeling”: the process of illustrating current and future experience for the purpose of design-led innovation. The focus of the course will be in quickly creating different experience models to describe the world, problems and opportunities–both heuristic and generative. Several models will be created each week on a particular “Aspect of the Experience”–people, journey, mode, value, and ecosystem–with heavy critique and discussion in class. Final presentations will consist of a completely integrated story illustrating a set of people, their experiences with an organization, resultant opportunities and a future state experience.
The primary course objective is to enable students to be comfortable in describing and illustrating multichannel “Experience”, illustrating insight from research and providing definition for strategy. More tangibly, the class is built around mastery of five core model types–the “Aspects of the Experience”–that work together to create a complete, compelling and actionable picture of people and their interactions with an organization.
The course itself also relates to the second way I am pushing thinking in Experience Modeling: my second book. I started the book earlier this year and it is coming (slowly) along. The books title at this point is Innovating Experience and sort of starts off where Naked Innovation ends. If Naked Innovation is about all types of innovation (including internally focused facets like core processes), Innovating Experience is a deep dive on how to produce a higher hit rate specifically in customer experience. It’s exciting stuff and makes my return to the US and Chicago even more satisfying. Teaching and writing is easier in the confines of my longtime home, with a large support network of professional colleagues, academics and friends to help me through the dark days of book writing.
While I’ve thought through the structure and outline of the book, I only have three chapters drafted. It’s a 2014 release, for sure. More on that soon...
August 15, 2013
SoDA Report Volume 1
In Miami 2007, 13 leading digital agency CEOs decided to meet up and have a talk about where their industry was headed. New friends were made, business problems and solutions were shared, a society was formed. They were on a mission to advance an industry they all felt so passionate about. They made it official at SXSW in 2008: the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) was formed. Digital agencies now had a voice.1 My firm, SapientNitro was one of those founding members.
Since then, SoDA has grown significantly and evolved to be The Global Society for Digital Marketing Innovators (still SoDA for short). Their primary objectives are to share best practices, educate and advocate for digital agencies. Other parts of the design and marketing industries have groups aligned to them, so why not digital? It’s members are truly global, spanning both America’s, Europe and Asia.
One of the most significant activities SoDA conducts is producing the (now) twice annual SoDA Report: a research and trend publication, showcasing content from some of the most influential thinkers in the digital marketing world. Editor-in-Chief, Angèle Beausoleil describes Volume 1 of the report like this, “The 2013 SoDA Report reveals new perspectives, fresh ideas and real concepts of how organizations are balancing the art and science of perception to succeed in these fast-paced times.”
I was asked to edit a section of the report earlier this year. “People Power”, as the section was known, began focused primarily on education. The question it sought to explore is a pertinent one: “How should the marketers of the future be taught to effectively play their role in business and society?” How could we enable the people in marketing? As each piece was submitted, it also became clear that the section gained a larger meaning, uniquely related to its name: People Power. The authors all recognized a critical shift in the dynamic between marketers and consumers. It is a shift that is forcing the industry to reconsider its approach, its methods, and indeed, its philosophy.
The report turned out really well and my section includes a few highlights, including an interview with Patrick Whitney, Director of the Institute of Design. You can download Volume 1 of the report as an interactive iPad app or go grab it on Slideshare:
1 A bunch of that first paragraph was paraphrased and quoted from SoDA’s About page. Why reinvent the wheel?
August 10, 2013
Design Planning Before Design Process
I had an opportunity to talk at two great events at the end of 2012. Given my transatlantic move and transitioning into a new role at SapientNitro, I’ve only now come up for air to write about them.
The first event, UCD2012, took place in London in November. Five of the UK’s most influential professional organizations teamed up to offer this unique User-Centered Design conference. UCD2012 explored how User Centered Design is applied in a variety of disciplines and contexts. The conference focused on leading UK based speakers (I was UK-based at the time). The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and India’s National Institute of Design (NID) organized the second event, the 12th annual CII-NID Design Summit. The 2012 summit featured some of the best Indian and international design thinkers, practitioners and design supporters exploring the theme of “Design Doing”.
I gave what was approximately the same talk at both events: Design Planning Before Design Process. Here is the abstract for the talk:
We all want to advance our practice in design and user experience. As different methods are introduced, our approaches evolve. In the product world, that meant singular mastery of shape and form evolved to ergonomics and human factors, which shifted to user-centered design then the design of “experiences”. In the digital world, web masters became web designers, splintering into visual design and information architecture, which was broadened to “experience design” and some people talking about “Lean UX”.
Simultaneously, product development and project management have evolved. A world once built entirely around waterfall processes, classical engineering and Six Sigma, shifted to more agile ones with labels like “Scrum” or “XP”. In Japan and elsewhere, manufacturing became “Lean” and, more recently, with the proselytization of Steve Blank’s thinking on customer development and the introduction of Eric Ries’ excellent book, everyone’s talking about how start-ups need to be “Lean”.
The approach one advocates typically depends on a number of factors: education, experience, the type of organization we work for, and the current blog being read. The reality is that what is most often advocated is either the most familiar or new. Each approach reaches a “New Black” status with a breathless set of fan(atic)s. Whether “New Black” fanatic or traditionalist, practitioners tend to propose a single approach–the notional hammer–regardless of the problem.
In fact, it is actually much more important to talk about approachesrelative to problems. Just as it would be madness to use a hammer for every physical building project, it would be equally so to use the same approach with every design or UX project. The talk refined content from the Evaluation chapter of my book, Naked Innovation, seeking to introduce a world where “Design Planning” precedes “Design Process” resulting in a portfolio of multiple approaches aligned to multiple problems.
Needless to say, this thinking will be introduced in the next version of Naked Innovation, to be completed in early 2014. Before then, I’ll try to get a version of the presentation up on Slideshare with an accompanying presentation audio track.
While I was in India, I also had the honor to be on the jury for the CII Design Excellence Awards 2013. While only the second year a major national design prize was awarded, it is clear India is getting serious about design. During the conference, it was quoted to me that ten years ago there was only a single design school in all of India, the well regarded National Institute of Design. Just a decade later, there are now over 40 schools. That there are only 40 schools in a country with more than 1.2 billion people is still pretty shocking. Nevertheless, we can be sure both the quantity and the quality of design will rapidly increase. Entries for these awards is a testament to that.
My personal favorite of the competition was the incredible ECCODiva multipurpose LED light and solar charger. Designed by Dipendra Baoni and his team at the multifaceted lemon design, the ECCODiva is a refined product which could easily look in place in the world of high design as well as in a small village with no power. Its strong looks are backed up by incredible ergonomics, usability and engineering which includes an embedded processor to extend its functionality. It is an incredible piece of design.
Of course one of the most excited things about judging awards is interacting with fellow jurists. I was lucky enough to interact with a rock star group of designers from India, Sri Lanka, Finland, the UK, the USA, the Netherlands and South Korea. It was a tremendous experience.
August 07, 2012
Speaking Engagements in 2012
I’m excited to announce a three new speaking engagements scheduled for me over the remainder of 2012, in London, Chicago and Delhi, respectively.
First off, I’ll be be speaking in London at the August ProductTank meetup on Wednesday, August 15. ProductTank is a group which produces a global series of collaborative, user organized “unconferences”, focused on Product Management and Marketing topics. London was the first and is the largest currently active group.
The topic for the night is Strategic UX, featuring me and two other speakers. Mike Atherton, Head of UX at Huddle, will talk about branding for start-ups from a strategic and UX perspective. Leisa Reichelt, UX Consultant, coordinates the London UX Bookclub, UX Bootcamp and UX Tuesday (accessible UX expertise for startups) will talk about Strategic User Experience. I am considering a redux of my 3 Myths of Customer Experience talk given I’ve had a load of positive feedback on it. Alternatively, I may share some thoughts on how Strategic UX relates to product portfolio planning. I’ll finalize this over this weekend. There will then be a short panel discussion and Q&A with all three speakers. If you haven’t signed up yet, it would seem you’re out of luck as all 120 spots are taken with a wait list of 148.
Then-student David Kodinsky, modeling
Second, I’ve agreed to travel back to Chicago to teach Rapid Experience Modeling at the IIT Institute of Design this October as a one week intercession course. I’ve taught the class the past two years and my students’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Rapid XMOD is an immersion course focused on “Experience Modeling”. This critical part of the practice at the Institute of Design differentiates the school and is core to design-led innovation. The course is “Rapid” because there is an emphasis placed on developing a comfort with quickly creating different experience models–both heuristic and generative–to describe the world, problems and opportunities. Models are created each day on a particular “Aspect of the Experience” with heavy critique and discussion in class and in smaller group sessions. The ultimate goal is to push students to be more confident in describing and illustrating the “Experience” from all critical perspectives. To teach the course, I will be in Chicago for the week of October 15 - 19. Ping me if you’re in Chicago and are interested in meeting up.
Fellow IIT Institute of Design ProfessorAnijo Mathew speaking at CII-NID 2011
Finally, I will be keynoting India’s largest design conference, the 12th annual CII-NID Design Summit scheduled on December 13 & 14 December 2012 in New Delhi. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been organizing the CII-NID Design Summit for the past 11 years with National Institute of Design (NID). It is a powerful platform that attracts participation from design houses, design institutes, policy makers, media, and industry from India and internationally. It looks to be an inspiring and stimulating global forum set in the Indian context. “Design Doing” is the central theme of the 2012 Summit. I plan on bridging the “Thinking” and “Doing” gap with a discussion of how different approaches, including Hybrid Agile, Test & Pilot and Lean Start-up can all be effective in managing risk and producing ground breaking results.
While in India, I am also excited to be a juror for the 2012 CII Indian Design Excellence Awards. It is only the second year of what will surely become an important recognition of design talent in the second most populous nation on planet Earth. Check out last year’s winners .
August 05, 2012
The Appification of Things: Smart Attributes
Last post, I outlined a series of product-app combinations introducing ubiquitous computing to our world: The Appification of Things. Further in the future, we can hope for embedded intelligence in environments or objects to be quiet, helping us along through subtle interactions. In the short term though, apps like those we now use everyday will mediate the fuzzy data and intelligence behind products.
There are two primary reasons apps are helpful in regards to our use of smart things. First, we just “get” apps. In fact, we’re so enamored with them on our phones and tablets that it was recently announced that 30 billion apps were downloaded through the Apple iTunes appstore alone. This works out to a remarkable 5 apps downloaded per person in the entire world, if everyone owned an iOS device. This doesn’t count the explosions of app downloads across the Android, Amazon and Windows mobile platforms. I don’t believe there is anyone who could argue that trends support more, not less, apps are coming.
Second, apps allow us introduce a set of “smart attributes” which help humans interact more successfully with products. These are the ways in which apps extend a smart product or, in the words of Mike Kunaviasky, provide “services” to “avatars”. When creating smart products and companion apps, be sure to consider and embed these five smart attributes.
Five Smart Attributes:
Measurement - Apps reveal Measurement of human behavior and activity tracked by smart objects. An example is how Nike’s FuelBand uses a series of accelerometers to measure movements which are then translated through “oxygen kinetics” to a variety of data. These include steps, calories and Fuel on the band itself but the band, as often with smart objects, has a limited display. A much larger and longitudinal data set is communicated through Nike’s various iOS and web apps than the device itself.
Visualization - Visualization is key to making the measurement of data really useful. The Nest Learning Thermostat’s iOS and Android apps are visual and informative, delivering energy use in a format that can make anyone a conservationist.
Optimization - Building on both Measurement and Visualization, apps should help us modify behavior and activity. By setting goals in context of longitudinal data, our app-enabled smart products help us Optimize outcomes and results. The VitaDock app and related smart object product line by Medisana is an especially interesting example as it rolls Measurement and Visualization of a suite of health measures into a single interface. These currently include blood pressure, weight, blood sugar and temperature monitoring with goal tracking a part of most. As Medisana says on their website, “By setting your own target values, (you’ll) receive helpful feedback with each measurement.”
Communication - Given the need for display of Measurement beyond limited displays, Visualization and assistance with Optimization, it should be apparent that it’s irrelevant to deliver “smarts” to an object without Communication. The reality is that we need our objects to send and receive messages. Apps can help us facilitate this communication. Twine is a fantastic example as the device itself has no display and isn’t automatically connected to anything. Instead, it achieves Communication through a web app called Spool, which allows you to put together rules to trigger messages with a palette of available conditions and actions. Sensors enable a range of Measurement while Communication is delivered through a suite of pre-built actions, firing off messages via:
- Pebble E-Paper Watch
- Text messaging
- Configurable HTTP Request
Distribution - Delivering Connection as an api with a single web app, as Twine does, might be enough for tinkerers. In reality though, the general population is looking for more fully developed offerings. Given customers and users own a wide variety of devices, this justifies Distribution of an app across a range of platforms. Withings Body Scale just does that as it monitors your entire family’s weight and then distributes the data across iOS and Android devices as well as the web.
These examples of smart objects and their related apps are by no means the final word in ubiquitous computing, but they do represent its first wave delivered at scale. Smart objects on their own are just too obscure and too opaque. Providing companion apps embedded with Smart Attributes helps mediate the fuzziness of the intelligence in things.