Konigi Launched

My friend Michael recently launched Konigi, a site for researching websites. It’s perfect for those times when you’re designing a feature and you want to review all the prior art. There’s screenshots and screencasts and a bunch of community features, but Michael has a lot more interesting things planned, it’s worth keeping an eye on.


Do You Desire My Brand Characteristics?

Years ago I told my friend Mary about a desirability testing technique developed at Microsoft using product reaction cards, and tonight she showed me a neat twist she put on it. After testing the design of an online social networking tool, she listed the words chosen by test participants alongside the words used to describe the brand characteristics of her client. Sometimes they matched, sometimes they clashed. Very interesting.

Great Design Story of Spaghetti Sauce

It feels unnecessary to link to any particular Ted Talk since so many of them are so good, but I will point out one or two of the many I’ve been watching lately while I fight off a cold from my sofa.

Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the man who invented the spaghetti sauce flavors we have today. It’s a great lesson in how asking new questions and going back to customers can change an entire market category. And Gladwell tells the story without talking about design or innovation or anything of that sort. He looks through the eyes of one passionate individual.

I think the commitment of individuals more than anything is what makes these kinds of advances possible, more about that in a post that’s still in draft mode.

Rettig on Market vs. Design Research

I like just about everything Marc Rettig writes a whole lot, so I need to bookmark
this new mailing list posting where he compares market research to design research…

Market research typically attempts to answer questions of general trends, differences across a large group, general attitudes and preferences.

Design research typically attempts to reveal latent, unspoken or masked needs and desires; can reveal emotions and psycho-cultural aspects; attempts to get at the “why” behind attitudes and preferences.

The listening-to-customers wake up call

Looking back through the classic management texts I realize the call to listen to customers isn’t new. Here’s a few that counsel an emphasis on customers:

  • Innovation in Marketing (1962)
  • In Search of Excellence (1982)
  • Moments of Truth (1987)
  • Relationship Marketing (1991)
  • The Experience Economy (1999)

The repetition of this message isn’t surprising as it’s easy to walk around a modern corporation and meet plenty of people who should be familiar with their customers but aren’t. My little wake up call consists of asking, “How many of your customers have you met?” even when I know the answer is “none.”

Frontline dissects brand marketing

Frontline is doing the Frontline treatment on brand strategy and the latest marketing. There’s a few refreshingly honest people, and the rest are either critical of the methods or vary from slightly to very silly… A market researcher probes a participant, “Would you say you feel lonely when you eat white bread? Anxious? Trusting?

Read Montague’s Neuromarketing — potentially the most far-fetched method — sounded the most convincing, mainly because he’s an actual psychiatrist and not a hack. “I get to the reptilian brain… in France cheese is alive, you don’t put it in the refrigerator just as you don’t put your cat in the refrigerator. It must be marketed as alive. In the U.S. cheese is dead, it must be pasteurized and put in the refridgerator, and it is sealed in plastic like a body bag, and put in the cold, like a morgue.

From a design perspective, it strikes me that this approach could be upstream of designers, displacing parts of ethnography. The design brief may come from the psychiatrist.

And of course there’s the deeper issue of marketers creating an alternate reality, going beyond selling to obscuring the truth of issues. And that’s why I like Frontline, they’re very good at exposing the truth.

Making advice palatable to CEOs

I had just read What New CEOs Need to Know (here’s a free, shorter version) and was contemplating the CEO’s experience (expressing a strategic vision, trying not to send the wrong signals, not in power but reporting to the board, not in touch with operations, balancing obligations inside and outside the company…) when I came across Darrel Rhea’s post about selling a CEO on a new branding campaign.

So what compels them to invest in solving their brand problems? When a CEO perceives brand as tool to express his or her vision for the organization, they fully support it.

Yet another good example of applying empathic design (researching your audience and tailoring your work accordingly) in yet another context.

Massive Change

What is Massive Change? It’s Bruce Mau Design and the Institute without Boundaries trying to wrap their arms around the whole thing.

Engineered as an international discursive project, Massive Change: The Future of Design Culture, will map the new capacity, power and promise of design. We will explore paradigm-shifting events, ideas, and people, investigating the capacities and ethical dilemmas of design in manufacturing, transportation, urbanism, warfare, health, living, energy, markets, materials, the image, information, and software.

HFI Research Key Findings

Kath Straub at Human Factors Int’l releases a great list of Key Research Findings from 2002-3. It is one of the most useful design references I’ve seen recently. There’s a singular lack of research in this field – as opposed to trial-and-error – a problem compounded by the difficulty of finding and applying it. I hope to be as helpful as Ms. Straub with my IA Summit presentation, Incorporating Navigation Research into a Design Method, 28 Feb, Austin, Texas. Link courtesy PJB.

Measuring Delight

Not content with measuring the ‘satisfaction‘ or ‘initial quality‘ of automobiles, Strategic Vision seeks to measure ‘Total Quality‘ including the customer’s perception of delight.

Dr. Edwards developed a consumer-friendly scale that allowed them to register their response to the vehicle in highly discriminating ways. Called the Strategic Vision Delight Scale™, it allows a series of judgments to be made. Any aspect of the vehicle can be "A failure," "Unsatisfactory," "Satisfactory," "Excellent" or "Delightful." Owners have been able to discriminate easily between the levels on the scale. "Delightful" is clearly more positive a response than "Excellent."

nswered is this: how does the system affect the entire experience for the driver?

Hopefully the emergence of product research firms focused on measuring user experience will nudge corporations to think more about the customer and not just the product.