Subject to change

Earlier this year I heard on of the authors, Peter Merholz, give a talk on the book “Subject to change: Creating great products and Services for an Uncertain World”. I recently stumbled upon a video which captures the talk by two of the other authors at the google campus. It was a good excuse to pull out the book and review my take aways.

I won’t summarize the whole book and video here just a few points that are good reminders for us design folk.

Customer Experience and user experience are terms that easily thrown about. The root word to these is “experience”. And at the heart of it is how a human or your customer experiences your products, services, and environments. These distincly human qualities of the experience across many touch points are the unique to your product and the people that use it. A person’s experience emerges from these:

Motivations: Why people are engaged with your offering and what they hope to get out of it

Expectations: The preconcptions they bring to how something works

Perceptions: The ways in which your offering affects their sneses

Abilities: How they are abel to cogniitive and physically interact with your offering

Flow: How they engage with your offering over time

Culture: The frame work of codes (manners, languages, rituals), behavioral norms, and systems of belief within which the person operates

When someone says they had a good or bad experience what they are really talking about is how the product, or service did or did not do against these qualities.

This frame work is quite useful for thinking about your customer and their lives. Think about your own experiences, how much are you driven by a task or a goal exclusively?  When you talk about your life to others is it about task and goal? I know I don’t! Its more about the motivations and behaviors. The way we are motivated to act/behave in the real world (shopping, love, family) is also the way behave in interacting with products to a certain extent. Why would we change? So its really more about the behaviors and activities than the task. If  you buy into the way thinking, it gives you a broader way of thinking about our user to understand them better for both current experiences and the future ones.

I am curious how others find this basic frame work? Is it working successfully in your organization?


iPhone App Design Trends

istudiesz iphone app

istudiesz iphone app

If you are like me you love your iphone and when you find a cool app that you like you tell your friends. Well thats not very scalable is it. There are so many iphone apps out there is hard to see everything. If you had time to look across a lot of apps you might see some trends.

Don’t worry though, Smash magazine has done it for us.

The article explores the ways in which designers use graphical elements and screen interactions to create iPhone-applications that are easy on the eyes and mind. The aim of this article is to display common trends and design approaches in iPhone app design

User generated Geek Wars

Its obvious I am a Star Wars Geek so I can use the term. Check these geeks out, they are remaking the movie!

People can sign up on Star Wars: Uncut to recreate up to three of the 1,313 fifteen-second clips that make up the epic space film. They then have 30 days to film and upload their segment before the slot is offered to someone else. The 337 contributions submitted so far range from live action and animation to stop motion and cardboard shadow-puppetry. Submissions can be viewed on Star Wars: Uncut, side-by-side with the original. Eventually, the site’s administrator—Casey Pugh, a Vimeo staff member—will stitch all of the pieces together, letting the project reach its ultimate goal of recreating the the entire movie.


Here is one to get you interested.

starwars clip

BayCHI Monthly Meeting on Wikimania

I attended the baychi meeting the other night (10/13) on wikimania.  It was a redux of the annual international Wikipedia conference, which was held at the end of August. It was an opportunity to listen to some local area presenters sharing some of their results and findings.

The first noteworthy speaker worth commenting on was the presenter from wikipedia. She shared some of their recent work on the site includes usability improvements. I was shocked to hear that they had not made any usability analysis or improvements to the site. Think of the millions of contributions and all those bad experiences.

During their studies they made several discoveries by testing non typical user / editors

  • Discovered more about the user types and the problems they have
  • Hard to see what and where the change had been made on the article
  • Overwritten contributions from the last time the visited
  • Could not figure out how to edit an article
  • Syntax is off putting and to technical

Other planned changes for the purpose of improving the site are:

  • search box location
  • search results
  • auto complete
  • pop up windows for tasks

It is a good thing that they are making improvements to the site its just a long time in coming. I was a little put off by the cavalier attitudes by some of wikipedia presenters and the lack of rigor for what they are doing. You would think that such a popular site would make stronger investments over the years and even now. But better late than never I guess.

The next presenter that was was noteworthy was from wikihow. If you are not familiar with it is is the worlds largest how to guide, or that’s how they consider themselves.

The site boasts:

  • 17 mm unique visitors per month
  • 62k article since 2005 linear growth

They outlines several goals for the site and part of their mission for the company.

  • Reasons for contribution
  • Editing is easy you have a lot more fun
  • Changed organization of content helped increase edit rates

Greater meaning

  • Practical instructions for people
  • Write and article and we’ll send a book to Africa 2,500
  • Hide ads – give uses a path out
  • Carbon neutral – mixed meaning depending on which side of the line you stand


  • Offered a free class on non violent communication
  • Goal to encourage civil enjoyable collaboration
  • Free to editors $250 to non editors
  • Free writing courses taught by live instructors

Overall it was a good panel discussion. I found that by just listeing to the presenters and seeing what they are doing gave me lots of ideas for how to leverage user generated content both at my current company and in my life.

If you attended as well I would like to hear your comments.

Being on the box

Packaged software is going away!

This is not new news to anyone. More companies are delivering their product over the web, directly to phone, or whatever, whenever. I am in agreement that you don’t need to go to store to get your webware or software. It sounds so old doesnt it? But as a designer though it sure is nice to see your work on the box sitting on shelf in a store. You can actually go to the box pick up and show your family and say, “Look see this, this is what i did” “this is the product that I worked on”,  “this is what I was spending my hours doing”. There certainly is a bit of thrill being able to do this. Sure you can send out a link to family and friends of your website but it just does not have the same impact or feeling.

I guess many record producers and album designers felt that same way when things were moving to cassette or dvd’s. I would classify this as more of a craftsmanship type mentality. You care about what you make you are proud of what you do and you beam when you see it on the shelf. Maybe I am old school but its just not the same for a website.

My box shot is out there for QuickBooks 2010 – in stores near you. But of course there are online shots too. Specifically I did the company snapshot design.