Some friends chairing a conference asked me today what I though the top 5 themes would be most critical to UX over the coming year. I said:
- designing for mobile as the primary digital channel
- experiences that bridge two channels — I used to say ‘web plus one channel,’ but it might be moving to ‘mobile plus one channel’
- designing for and managing through the explosion of new devices
- UX leadership inside the organization — leadership requires an entirely different set of skills (and perhaps values) than what is focused on inside the IA and UX community; organizations can’t invest in UX without individuals covering this gap; meanwhile, customer services, operations, and people from other backgrounds are jumping into the driver’s seat.
- The UX factory — I’m not sure what else to call it, but I’ve seen many organizations staffing up UX teams in a big way, possibly in response to #3 above, or to compliment agile scrums. Designing the process, roles, and work for such staff — and doing it in a customer centered way — is a giant challenge until itself. While there’s plenty of UX-Teams-of-One out there, I believe there’s also growth in the UX-Teams-of-Plenty.
Usually when you read guidance on management and HR it’s a lot of conjecture. That’s what I like about Google’s research on 8 good behaviors of managers — its based on Google-style rigorous analysis of data. They poured through review data and interviews to find out what made a good boss at Google.
Here’s the 8 good behaviors of managers:
- Be a good coach
- Empower your team and don’t micromanage
- Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being
- Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
- Be a good communicator and listen to your team
- Help your employees with career development
- Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
- Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
Something about the NYTime’s article “The Perfect Menu. Now Chang It." makes me think of agile or kaizen:
Park Avenue Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall, a restaurant in New York, has completely transformed its menu and dining room every three months since June 2007. Craig Koketsu, the executive chef, says that the changeover now takes just two days because every dish is minutely plotted on an Excel spreadsheet, a process that begins about six weeks beforehand. Making such major changes in a high-level restaurant depends on systems, not cooking skills, he explained. “A really good kitchen is a machine,” he said. “If all the parts move smoothly, you can do anything.”
Last week I posted this video on the Adaptive Path blog, showing the value that a cupcake mentality can bring to successful product planning:
I’ve found this cake metaphor to be a powerful concept because:
- Everyone feels the pressure to get results quickly — whether the challenge is moving a business metric or responding to competition, everyone feels the need to make an impact in the near term, not just a gesture towards something that will be great in another 12 to 18 months.
- However, it’s rarely clear how to also deliver something delightful — to differentiate and release something noteworthy, one of the common assumptions is that more has to be more. Cupcakes is a metaphor for thinking about what could feel complete and exciting, even if it is feature-for-feature less than another offering or substitute.
- It’s easy to remember and reference — executives and staff both remember the cupcake idea. After I share the cake metaphor, I often hear references days and weeks later like, “that’s not a cupcake!”
One of the common results I’ve found from Cupcake Thinking (<— yes, I’m going there), is that a team will look longer and deeper for the things a business already does well. You’ll look for ways to leverage what’s already differentiating, then bake that into the solution. Rather than try to stretch to cover gaps that a business doesn’t address well, a team will often ignore gaps and end up embellishing the core strengths of the firm in the solution.
For example, a financial institution with a large force of financial advisors could try to compete with a digital channel as full featured as a Schwab or Fidelity. Or, in more of a cupcake mentality, it could use the digital channel to reinforce the financial advisor relationship and make the advisor’s services more evident and more valued. The latter is lower complexity, it’s valued by the client and the advisor, it’s differentiating, and it’s why the client moved to the financial institution in the first place.
And if you can’t sit through the movie, here’s the condensed one-frame summary:
I talked with Peter Merholz following his talk at the New TeeVee conference on What Normal People Want From TV:
I asked Peter about the reported rise in behaviors where people will both watch TV and use their computer simultaneously:
"A recent Nielsen study found that consumers now spend on average 3 hours and 41 minutes per month watching TV and browsing the Internet simultaneously and roughly three out of five TV viewers engage in two-screen consumption."
Is this a new behavior, or are media providers like Bravo just making two-screen easy enough of an experience (to build on Peter’s points in the talk).
People definitely multitask while watching TV, with internet/web usage as quite high. It makes me wonder what, activities, specifically qualify as “browsing the internet.” We saw everything from active publishing (blogging), statusing (Facebook), and researching (Wikipedia related to the show being watched).
Because TV is “unproductive”, people want to feel productive while watching TV. So, while in the past, it might have been household chores (and hell, Stacy and I still fold laundry while watching TV), or when I was a kid, it was doing my homework, now people are engaged in online behaviors. I would be surprised if the amount of multitasking has actually changed all that much — I suspect it has simply shifted to something easier to measure.
There are no easy answers for content publishers right now, which is why in some ways they can hardly be blamed for their iPad enthusiasm — at the very least, they aren’t ignoring the sea change that tablets represent. Perhaps like many of us, they need to fail their way to success. That’s a legitimate strategy, and if they’re nimble enough to recover from these wild miscalculations before it’s too late, then I applaud them for it.
More likely, they will waste too many cycles on this chimerical vision of resuscitating lost glories. And as they do, the concept of a magazine will be replaced in the mind — and attention span — of consumers by something along the lines of Flipboard. If you ask me, the trajectory of content consumption favors apps like these that are more of a window to the world at large than a cul-de-sac of denial. Social media, if it’s not already obvious to everyone, is going to continue to change everything — including publishing. And it’s a no-brainer to me that content consumption is going to be intimately if not inextricably linked with your social graph. Combine Flipboard or whatever comes along and improves upon it with the real innovation in recommendation technology that we’ll almost undoubtedly see in the next few years, and I can’t see how the 20th Century concept of a magazine can survive, even if it does look great on a tablet.