The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in UX (7)


An Interview with Bill Buxton on The State of Design

"What do you see being the biggest trends in technology over the next three to five years?

I see a shift to a place where we won't be dazzled just because a product is well designed and works well. Our collective customers should be able to take that for granted, and it is our job to make it so. But that is not enough. The problems of design and complexity do not go away, even if we all surpass that bar. Rather, they just move to a different place: the complexity that is emerging in terms of how all of these (individually) easy to use devices work together. We need a comprehensive ecosystem that combines elements of each to produce an integrated set of experiences for people, so they don't have to manage each of the underlying separate devices."

Full post on Engadget



Humor: Has Google Gone Too Far? Wall Street Journal Op Ed

Excerpt Reprinted

Dear Google User: We're Sure You're Going to Love This

Dear Google User,

As you know, on March 1, we introduced a series of exciting changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement. Though we've done our best over the past month to systematically suppress search results and social-media commentary that have criticized these exciting changes, we have come to realize that this may not be the best way to deal with the massively negative feedback from those who use Google.

So we have decided to respond by doing what we do best: rolling out a new round of intrusive changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement.

But no need to worry. After using one of our patented algorithms to analyze a matrix of your Web-search behavior, online shopping habits, Google +1s, personal emails, confidential Gchat transcripts and cached browser data (including the stuff that you tried really hard to delete), we have determined, with statistical certainty, that you are really going to fall in love with our new privacy policy.

Read More...


Good Things Come In Small Packages

Thanks to my friend, Mark Hall for pointing this out to us. The simplicity of the interaction model belies some very creative thinking. Hang around for the whole video to see the amazingly cool applications these little cookie-sized tiles enable.  An advancement beyond touch screens, these interactive squares are actually calculating and reacting to the motion around them. 


Creating Brands Through Experiences

Thanks to @kristianindy for the permission to embed this slideshow I discovered on Slideshare.  By way of complete disclosure, I can't vouch for the capabilities of  Kristian Anderson + Associates, and the presentation, I presume, is intended to represent the capabilities of his agency.  Nonetheless, I do appreciate the point of view it shares around the intersection of customer experience and brand, so I include it more for how it concisely and aesthetically sums up what I believe. Enjoy.




Can An Open OS Ever Really Be Mainstream?

Nexus One via TwitpicThe recent announcement that Google plans to deliver an unlocked mobile phone into the market sometime next year has been an encouraging sign for fans of the open operating system that finally wireless carriers won't be able to control what phones their service customers can use. Many feel as the Wall Street Journal technology columnist, Walt Mossberg does that carriers have been acting like "soviet ministries" as they intermediate between the consumer and the providers of the handsets they use to connect to the carrier networks.

Having launched the T-Mobile G1 as an executive with the company, I have a great affinity for the open Android platform. I appreciate that the Android marketplace enables garage developers to create magic as moonlighting inventors, and brings innovation to the masses through the power of the open programming interfaces and developer tools Google provides online.  But I also saw first hand the customers who, after downloading 10 random apps, wondered why their battery life halved or the screen seemed no longer responsive.

The open developer model has given anyone who can code access to consumers without an accompanying process to ensure they put quality product on the shelves, and as a result more developers step in and create solutions like Astro, an Android task manager to help manage processes, tasks and files that may impact your Android device's performance. Much like on my Windows PC, I find I am delighted to have such a tool and aggravated when I have to use it. It seems I rarely find myself on my iMac, iPod or iPhone worrying about multi-threaded processes or unresponsive programs. And for most consumers, that's one more thing to love about the Apple OS. Sure, it comes with the cost that I can't have apps running in the background on my iPhone, but my iPhone rarely hangs, crashes or has a radical change in the battery life with each new app I might download to it.

Ratings and reviews of apps in the open market are meant to help consumers, but I often wonder which reviewers to trust and whether one app offers the complete solution I need or a more usable interaction model for my tastes. In the case of Astro, several apps purport to do some or all of the capabilities. Some charge. I then wonder, will the quality be the same for the developer who isn't getting paid?Courtesy of Gizmodo Will they maintain the app? Will they support me if I have trouble? Will they care if the application doesn't work well with other applications I may download? And how will I know if they conflict until I download them. A reviewer of the application may not have the same things on their phone that I do, or want to use their phone as I do.

In a world where there are infinite ways to configure a phone with settings and application combos that meet any user's specific needs, the best solution a service rep can offer when a customer complains about their device's performance is to wipe it clean and start over. But facing that experience when you need to place a call and your phone is frozen is daunting. As an example, last night, my home screen theme application was corrupted and the home screen displayed a message compelling me to force it to close. After five times of doing that and not being able to break the cycle, I removed the battery and I removed the SIM. Neither action, both typically offered as the first cure by carrier care reps who don't know what apps I may have downloaded and configured, repaired the problem. The device seemed completely inaccessible and unusable. After a trip to the T-Mobile Forums and a hard reset, which removed all settings and personalizations,  I was able to make a call more than twenty minutes later. But now, which apps to re-load? How do I know what was the offending piece of code?

As geeky as I am, I still want things to just work, and I get frustrated when I use applications that allow me to do things I really shouldn't or require me to understand arcane technical jargon. And I don't have the time to fuss with bad design to engage and interact with a solution. The challenge with open is that everyone can play, but maybe for consumers that isn't always going to be a simple way to have compelling experiences.


Technology-driven Innovations May Not Be All Bad

As an Apple veteran, I understand that is not always helpful to ask users what innovations to go build because it does not always result in an earth-shattering, inventive solution that meets their needs. Marketers who have learned from Steve Jobs do not look for mainstream user validation to identify the next new thing.  Don Norman, a noted User Experience expert, design professor and former Apple fellow, further explodes the myths around need-driven innovation in his post, "Technology First, Needs Last."

He writes, "Major innovation comes from technologists who have little understanding of all this research stuff: they invent because they are inventors. They create for the same reason that people climb mountains: to demonstrate that they can do so. Most of these inventions fail, but the ones that succeed change our lives." In supporting this perspective, Norman goes on to show the evidence by pointing to revolutionary innovations like the telephone, radio and the Internet that changed our lives but came from the minds of inventors of new technology, not end users.

In his debunking of the myths perpetuated by designers, researchers and marketers, Norman has made some controversial statements to drive home a core insight for businesses in this difficult economy: research matters most when the consumer understands the concept and can refine it.  While social anthropology provides useful insights around consumer behavior, even advanced influencers generally start with tools that already exist in their lives. They may evolve how they use these tools to service new purposes or capabilities.  But technologists often erect the original framework for consumer-driven innovations to occur.

The problem for business today, though, is that R&D budgets to nurture big inventions have been hit hard as companies struggle to maintain revenue and grow profits. Social media gives marketers and designers more immediate access to feedback that looks actionable, and costs less than market research did just a few short years ago. Consumers can point to iterative improvements that can trigger a design or process innovation that can save companies money or increase loyalty and satisfaction. But inevitably this feedback leads to improvements that can be characterized as cheaper, faster, easier than existing solutions.

We'd all agree the ideal outcome would be that a statistically relevant group of mainstream users would be able tell you the same original thing they need you to go build. Then they'd put their money where their mouth is by purchasing it. But, of course, if it were that easy, every product from every company would be a game changing innovation like the photocopier, fax machine, CD, web search, DVR and cell phone.

The conclusion I'd draw from Norman's post is that companies need to enable both types of innovation - revolutionary and evolutionary. And they must understand where the consumer's insights are going to lead them. Technology exploration may lead to "crazy applications" which the market may reject initially as impossibly impractical. But from that invention's failure can come the most valuable consumer contribution for an innovator - the practical clarity of what not to do the next time.




What is Design Thinking? 10 Ideas to Consider  

What is Design Thinking? 10 Ideas to Consider Browsing on the Design Thinking Exchange, I found a list of 7 explanations of Design Thinking. I took the liberty of adjusting them with my editorial red marker (shown in CAPS for visual speed in identifying my own thoughts). I also added 3 more for an even 10. Please get out your best copy editing tools, and comment or re-word my "clarifications" below. I'll follow up with a post amending these with your best ideas. Design Thinking...

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