Web App Masters: Mobile & UX A Perfect Storm

by May 24, 2011

At the Web App Masters Tour in Seattle, Jared Spool outlined four major forces driving the value and visibility of design in Web-based applications. Here are my notes from his Mobile & UX: Inside the Eye of the Perfect Storm presentation:

Sturgeon’s Law

  • Many big brands have holes in their user experience when it comes to mobile. For example, Coke’s My Points campaign gives away promotions with codes under the caps. But they have no mobile Web experience that people can use to check winning codes. In fact, the Coke Rewards site only shows up as a broken Flash plug-in on popular mobile Web browsers. Even companies that advertise through mobile (QR codes, ads) don’t have mobile optimized experiences ready.
  • Web-based applications & mobile have run into Sturgeon’s Law. When asked why 90% of science fiction writing is crap, Sturgeon replied that 90% of everything is crap. But we get to choose whether or not to fall prey to Sturgeon’s law.
  • Sturgeon’s law tells us the easy way to do things is to make them crappy. It’s very hard to make something good. There’s a decision to be made –which option will you choose. When you take the easy way out, you generally produce crap.
  • People are tired of dealing with the fact that most things don’t produce a good result and as a result, they are migrating toward great experiences. Not the 90% crap.

Market Maturity

  • The market maturity cycle: starting with technology, going to features, and then heading to experience. This is a recurring pattern.
  • Market maturity is also driving toward an increased focus on experiences and design. As markets mature, overall experience becomes more important than new capabilities and features.
  • At its peak, Word Perfect had 1,700 features. Microsoft Word had 70 features at launch. This made it easier to use at launch.
  • After technology fills a void (a need), companies start pilling on features. Soon you get so many features that people don’t need them anymore. They are no longer excited about features. They get instead excited about simple solutions.
  • Market Maturity pushes us away from features & technology.

Activity vs. Experience

  • The 6 Flags experience is about going on rides –there’s 48 on the map of the 6 Flags amusement park. Disney does not explicitly call out all their rides on their map. Why?
  • Six flags thinks in terms of activities. Disney thinks through the gaps in between the activities -the total experience. This costs more money, requires more training, and takes more time but it creates an overall experience.
  • UberCab has rethought the experience of hailing a cab (which is hard to do). It makes use of geo-location, phone capabilities, and maps on mobile devices to transform the entire experience of getting a cab.
  • Activity vs. experience: differences are becoming more pronounced. People are getting big wins by focusing on experiences instead of just activities.

The Kano Model

  • Kano asked “when is it worth it to make the user happy?”
  • Kano model: tells us when something is delightful & when it is a basic expectation
  • One axis of the Kano Model is user satisfaction: delight & frustration. The other axis is investment.
  • In theory, the more investment we make, the more we’ll see happy customers. In the feature stage (of market maturity), we are pushing toward more features for more pay-off. In the experience stage, we have to go further.
  • Basic expectations: no matter how much effort we put into some things –we’ll never get above neutral. People just expect them to be right. These basic expectations are features that have to be present.
  • Excitement generators, on the other hand, are small things we can do to delight people. When the basics are in place.
  • Google Docs on mobile does almost everything but not quite. It’s read only and you can’t share documents –it breaks basic expectations (no sharing feature). This frustrates –not delights.
  • Over time, things that delight us become basic expectations. And we expect them to be in the apps we are using.

The Perfect Storm

  • 4 converging forces: Sturgeon’s law, activity vs. experience, market maturity, and the Kano model. This creates a perfect storm.
  • Building user experience teams that can work in this storm is tricky. If we want teams to build great experiences, need different skills like copy writing, information architecture, design process management, user research practices. And understanding of technology, roi, social networks, marketing, analytics, business knowledge, story-telling, and more.
  • Though the number of skills required is increasing, the number of people on teams is decreasing. We can no longer compartmentalize. We all need to cover more than one skill.
  • Invest in Sturgeon’s Law
  • Focus on experience over technology & features
  • Fill in the gaps between the activities
  • Ensure you meet basic needs while you look for delighters
  • Build in a feedback process. Feedback: “In the last six weeks, have you spent more than two hours watching someone use your or your competitor’s design?” More than any other activity, this will help improve your user experience because people will be using your design and experiencing the good and bad parts.
  • Create your experience vision. Vision: “can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design five years from now?” The technology will change but the overall experience will not.
  • Celebrate learning from taking risks. Culture: “In the last six weeks, have you rewarded a team member for creating a major design failure?” These are all learning opportunities.