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Droid Suddenly Looks So Primitive…

11 Jun

… like a cave man clumsily hitting something with a big stick.  That’s because a supernatural superhuman being, whose DNA is a perfect mix of James Bond, Iron Man, Leonardo DaVinci and Albert Einstein has just entered the scene. I’m talking about the iPhone 4 of course. Just in case you were wondering.

iPhone 4

Sliced bread all over again

Now, the only reason I’m even mentioning the Android platform is because for just a brief interlude (as the novelty of my original iPhone was sort of wearing off dare I say). I did the unimaginable and considered an Android phone as a potential contender for the prime real estate in my right front pocket. Can you imagine that? Thank heaven I have been restored to sanity. (How I was ever wooed by the cheesy animated lights on the Nexus phone’s home screen remains a mystery). That was a proverbial “flash in the pan” if there ever was one.

Steve Jobs’ iPhone 4 presentation just blew me away. The Apple design folks have managed to once again create pure magic. Not just in its interactions and features but at the very core of it, in its ability to deeply, emotionally and meaningfully connect through the experience. And that is why the Android folks — and all the other ones, save for perhaps Microsoft (I think they might be onto something with their new mobile platform) — are chasing the wrong chimera in my humble opinion. They are trying to keep up with the features and by doing so they are missing the point. But that’s a separate discussion.

So, what is it about the iPhone 4 that makes it so magical? Well here it is in simple bullet form:

  • FaceTime. Science fiction realized. Enough said.
  • The incredibly elegant folder creation scheme. Makes anything else look like pushing a wheelbarrow on cobblestones while this is like zipping away in a GT3 RS at Laguna Seca.
  • iMovie on the iPhone. The home movie experience totally reinvented. It will take years for the competition to even come close. This thing will blow your mind.
  • iAds – A very innovative approach to digital ads integration with incredible consumer engagement potential.

I could go on and on…

Take that Jacket Off

17 May

Wrangler Europe recently launched a series of websites that are a compelling example of emotional branding, engaging visuals and meaningful interactions all rolled into one. Form, content and behavior have been artfully meshed together to create brand immersion media that effectively presents and sells products. Put together as a series of highly stylized video vignettes — featuring models for whom you can interactively change outfits and in effect have them “try on” different looks — the digital experience can be navigated from multiple angles and has a beautiful other-worldly mesmerizing effect. The Blue Bell sub-site also features a very entertaining video model puppeteer gizmo (for lack of a better description) that allows you to virtually push and pull the model around with the click and drag action of your mouse. This is an effect that really needs to be experienced to fully understand (see the secondary link below). This clever creative piece of digital wizardry makes a subtle statement about the human condition that I assume plays well into the target buyer’s psyche.

Wrangler Video Puppet

Wrangler's European Brand Site - User Controlled Video Action

Now granted, Wrangler is not selling dental floss. But even though our products or services may not have the sex appeal a lifestyle brand such as Wrangler can infuse, I firmly believe there are lessons to be learned from Wrangler Europe’s highly engaging experiences no matter what you sell. This plays into Interaction Design’s principles of goal oriented design vs. feature oriented design. No matter what type of digital product we’re putting together, it is always more effective to focus on the user’s deeper, sometimes hidden goal (in this instance picturing oneself as a style maven first and foremost and then knowing how many stitches the pockets on the dark blue number 5 denims might have rather than the other way around). And so the same goes for an accounting application: What will it be about the interactions within that software that will let accounting clerks feel they are clever and industrious? So they can in effect become more productive, as a result of spending more time with an application they feel great about.

Wrangler Europe

Video Model Puppet

Brand and Usability

21 Feb

The branded appeal of a website in all of its components is just as important as its usability (or user friendliness) in order to guide the user to a specific goal. As we now know, decision making is first and foremost emotional. And that goes in every situation. I could be buying the most pedestrian commodity and even then my decision on who to buy from will be emotional before I justify it with “reasoning” or rationalizations. Therefore the emotional appeal of every touchpoint matters.

The touchpoints can be multiple steps in a multi-channel hybrid campaign with a complex decision tree (a relationship building engine so-to-speak) or in the context of a single website, the touchpoints can be 1. the focal point value proposition on the homepage, and 2. a specific call-out or call-to-action tile followed by a multi-step form-filling process. If your website focuses all its creative emotional energy on the homepage or landing page but then treats the call-to-action and the subsequent conversion steps as a series of purely functional (read non-relational) features, your website’s conversions will lose out in a big way.

The User Experience is Your Brand Message

3 Jul

More than 40 years ago Marshall McLuhan declared “the medium is the message”. This prophetic statement has never rang truer than since the widespread use of interactive media. Think about how much your brand says about itself through the interactions (the medium) that are part of the functions and features that your customers get to experience online.

Given that consumers have been spending an ever increasing amount of time online for years now, you would think the User Experience (UX) would have become a priority for most businesses. Yet, still today, most online experiences are tolerable and uninspiring at best, aggravating or extremely frustrating at worst. The endemic lack of attention to UX often erroneously justified by a misguided attempt to increase Search Engine rankings is one of the most mystifying practices coming out of branding and marketing organizations ever since paying $5M for a 2 square inch logo on a NASCAR racing car has become the norm. (not sure what the actual going rate is, but I’m pretty sure that is close)

Usability does not constitute good UX

Now, to clarify the meaning of UX, I think it is important to outline what it encompasses. In my humble opinion UX goes beyond usability and ergonomics. Usability alone does not make a great UX. You can even have (in some instances) good UX with spotty usability. But to illustrate the point on how usability alone does not constitute good UX, here’s an example: Ordering a book on Amazon.com was easy to accomplish and the process was simple and straightforward and yet I can’t say the experience was pleasurable and I can’t say it left me with a “warm and fuzzy” about the Amazon brand.

So what constitutes great UX and why should we care?

We should care because time and time again, studies show that a perceived positive UX is the differentiator between brand indifference and brand advocacy. Or in a sales environment it is the difference between single digit and double digit conversion metrics.