Category Archives: User experience (UX)

10 rules for how businesses need to ready themselves for the Matrix

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We are in the matrix!

The digital world is now becoming more important than the real world.
We have become internet obsessed and the ubiquity that connected smartphones gives to mobile and social apps has made them ever-present in our lives.

Speaking of ubiquity, Pew Internet reports that 79% of adults between 18-29 now have a smartphone and 67% between 30-49. We are spending more time online at the expense of other activities.

Our time, both personal and professional, is shared between Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, youtube moreso than interacting with real people. And children who were born in 2000 and later will never know a world without instant digital gratification.

Apple, Microsoft and Google were ranked #1, #3 and #4 in terms of largest market capitalizations at the end of 2013. Snapchat was just acquired by Facebook for $19B. That’s the most ever for a venture backed company. Shocked? Don’t be, they are the engines behind the digital experiences of the future.

Here’s that scene from the Matrix where Neo chooses the red pill for reality and the truth…

But there is no “red pill” for businesses. No way back to the old realities. To succeed and flourish you must change.

How do businesses need to ready themselves for the Matrix?

  1. The business needs to take ownership of the customer experience. The old bureaucracy is dead. Business can no longer afford to have bad outcomes and finger pointing. “It was ITs fault” or “We didn’t have clear requirements.” The business must be driving the ship and project managers and developers must be part of supporting the business goals.
  2. Take an integrated look at the people who are your users. Understand them and their needs. What do you need to do to keep them happy and loyal.
  3. Change the focus to outside-in. Now that you understand them better, think like the people who are your users. Construct and manage the user experience in a unified way across all the customer touch points. This means spending more time on usability.
  4. Learn to be a story teller. Traditional marketing content and tactics are becoming less and less effective. Tell a story that answers the question of “why.” Why will this help me or my company or my family or…well you get the idea :)
  5. Help your users tell your story. Send a follow up email asking them to return the product if they are not 100% happy and ask for a brief product review if they are.
  6. Be Agile. And by that I mean two things. Build the bare minimum at first. Don’t let committee scope creep thwart bringing new products to market. Try new things and be willing to fail…quickly. If the results don’t turn out as expected move on to the next thing to try.
  7. Consider gamification. Make using your product rewarding for the people who do it. Give them rankings or free credit or access to something exclusive.
  8. Use everything you know to help. I’m really avoiding big data here because I still think a terabyte is big since I built my first data warehouse with 2G fujitsu disks. But you know a lot about your users. What they purchase and what they don’t. What parts of your website they use and which parts they avoid. Probably a number of different demographics as well. Leverage all of that to help deliver the best experience possible.
  9. Start thinking about what you need to do in the future to ready yourself for when everyone walks around like a Cylon (am I allowed to make a Battlestar Galactica reference in the same post as the Matrix?) with their Google glass on and has digital assistants helping to find the products and services they want before they even think about it.
  10. Lastly, move faster. You must learn to run and operate your business in the new real-time reality of business.

What an exciting time this is to transform your business!

Hope you are starting the journey.

Ken

We are in the great monitoring renaissance

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Someone told me just yesterday that my head was in the clouds. That I was too much of a dreamer about monitoring, but I really disagree. We are in the great business and application monitoring renaissance!

Today, monitoring systems both open source and from leading vendors are simpler to implement and distill better intelligence about application performance than ever before and better capabilities are coming.

There are a pile of vendors that do all or most of the 5 APM dimensions described by Gartner. The future though is different. It’s something more, something with it’s own intuition to help us normal humans manage things well. And it will be more than a system that helps you become aware and address technical performance issues like today’s APM. It will be a system that helps you manage Customer Experience across all channels.

Someday we may have the internet of things (IoT) because everything will be a sensor, but we already have a lot of sensor data for managing business, applications, networks and platforms.

Many organizations already have sensors that collect performance and availability data from:
– synthetic end-user monitoring
– real user monitoring
– algorithm performance
– transaction tracing
– platform monitoring
– network performance monitoring
– database performance
– visitor analytics
– business performance statistics
– events like product releases

The bigger issue is that much of the above sensor data are still looked at in a non-integrated way.

What organizations need are business analytics and performance systems that give us the traditional shareable KPI dashboards with a layer underneath. That statistically powered, machine learning layer that includes analyzing the streams of “big data” coming from all those sensors in real-time, identifying anomalous behavior and correlating other anomalous events all the way from the technical stack, through to the user experience layer, and ending up with business results.

I was told that this is too complex. That it will never be mainstream.

Yes, performing streaming analysis of data in real-time and correlating that across hundreds or thousands of metrics is complex, and so is a fingerprint sensor on a smartphone. It’s ok if something is complex inside as long as the user interaction is not complex. Well designed products take very complex things and make them simple for users to leverage.

This isn’t anything as futuristic as AI. In fact, to me this seems like the maturation of business intelligence systems applied to customer experience. In the beginning there was the data. The data is big and raw and complex and hard to look at. Over the years we turned that data into information. Delivering reports and dashboards that make it easy to understand and ask questions of the data or build dashboards to show KPIs over time. The fulfillment of BI promise is that software systems can help us turn data into information and into knowledge.

That’s really what we are striving for. That our operational systems are smart enough to self-identify anomalous behavior anywhere is the business / technology stack. Machine detected anomalies effectively create a warrant which needs to be triaged before jumping in to action. But isn’t that what we really want from our business monitoring systems.

Tell me when something unusual is happening and provide all the related things that could be causing it.

Just my 2-cents. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.

Ken

64% Chrome Browser Share! Are They Chrome Hipsters?

Ok, I’m a big fan of Chrome, and I’ve pretty much replaced Firefox on all my machines with it, but I’m still having a hard time believing the numbers in New Relic’s infographic. New Relic says this data is aggregated from over 3 million application instances.

The breakdown shows:

  • Chrome 64.3%
  • Firefox 16.3%
  • IE 14.8%
  • Safari 4.2%
  • Other 0.4%

May I correct what I said before? I’m absolutely sure New Relic can correctly aggregate data like this from their massive collection. It’s just that I’m having a hard time believing these numbers represent the mainstream. I still know too many people who are using Windows on the desktop and are happy with the latest IE browsing experiences. And although I’m still a considerable Mac fan, the newest household addition is a Surface Pro, and IE provides a better user experience right now even with the latest Chrome beta version.

If this number is true for IE, it would spell almost certain doom for Microsoft. Maybe they are not King Kong of the client operating system world anymore but this information is just for Desktop and Laptop computers. I know a few people who really like their Windows phones and after some use I think there is a fair amount to like about Windows 8.1 (of course I did have to install a 3rd party start button ;) In fact, I find myself swiping the screen on the Macbook Pro sometimes lately. But if it is doom for Microsoft should I return my Surface Pro before the 30-days are up?

One reasonable explanation might be that New Relic targets a certain developer / startup type of user and maybe their applications are a little more targeted at – dare I say – Chrome Hipsters :)

Just ranting a bit.

Ken

Namebench – a tool for speeding up the DNS part of your browsing experiences

All of the free tools so far have focused on measuring and optimizing the Web and Mobile user experiences – availability and performance – your sites are delivering to desktop and mobile visitors, until now. Let’s take a break from that and do something for ourselves.

Namebench is an open source DNS benchmark utility. It’s a tool for selecting the DNS servers that will give the best performance for your location. DNS is that magic piece of the internet infrastructure that let’s us humans remember Yahoo.com rather than the IP addresses (kinda like phone #s). It’s like the Yellow Pages for all of the addresses on the internet.  And DNS plays a role in evaluating which servers every resource on a web page should be fetched from.

Using the recommended settings from Namebench can significantly improve the browsing experience. A faster Web is a happier Web! If you are an administrator then you already understand how this could make for a better general experience for everyone in the office if your results look like mine. If you’re just a renegade desktop user, you could run a quick test and adjust your own personal settings.

After installing Namebench, start the application. It should detect good defaults. Mine look like this from an AT&T Uverse connection.

dns_performance_testing_site_screen

I just clicked “start” to begin the test. It did run for several minutes on this old core 2 duo. After running through it’s paces, Namebench estimates that the default DNS settings can be improved by over 70%. Wow! (I’d like to do a little before and after testing using @sitespeedio at some point but I’ll have to re-install it now that I put the new M500 ssd in the old Mac.)

dns_performance_benchmark

Looking deeper into the comparison report we are presented with a stack ranking of each of the DNS servers tested by mean and fastest response.

dns_performance_graphs

A detailed response time distribution is also reported.

response_time_distribution_chart

Now go speed up the Web for you and some co-workers!

Ken

PX > CX > UX = #usable + #feels_fast + #was_emotive <-- the battle for business supremacy

Over the last few years I have become inspired or perhaps possessed with a certain awe about how touch interfaces, Mobile, Cloud and Social have converged to change the focus of most successful organizations from delivering usable products to delivering meaningful and pleasurable experiences worth sharing. Digital experience influences more and more of our business landscape from how customers find us, to how they learn about and perceive our reputation, to their on-boarding experience. It’s the experience to date (hey I just made up a new term ETD), the sum of the whole experience delivered to the PEOPLE who are our users, that drives this.

Delivering experiences that people feel good about, find memorable and want to share is the next battle for business supremacy.

I’ve suggested previously, because our users are people, and understanding the customer journey and how to deliver amazing experiences starts with people, this should not be the practice of customer experience (CX) but rather people experience (PX). Further, if we are focussing for today (and we are) on digital experiences then we are really talking about user experience (UX).

I would suggest to you that this equation holds true:

PX > CX > UX = #usable + #feels_fast + #was_emotive

Of course, this is rooted in the fact that software systems are now systems of engagement and not just systems of record. We count on our software systems to help improve our reputation with our customers and our software systems to help our employees improve our reputation with customers. Every software system built ultimately has an impact on People Experience. And I want to emphasize how important it is that even our internal systems provide pleasurable experiences to employees. Because happy employees make for happy customers.

Aberdeen Research interpretation of Andrew's CX hierarchy

Aberdeen Research interpretation of Andrew’s CX hierarchy

This concept is borrowed from a slideshare (slide 15) by Steven Anderson in 2006 and the clarified graphic is courtesy of Aberdeen Research.

They are both a refinement of some previous research from Carnegie Mellon on human computer interfaces in the early 90s.

This is what we all should be striving for in the software systems that drive our interactions with customers and prospects. And also the software systems that support real-world interactions that support our employees or inventory or return process. What does this refined CX pyramid look like to you? Does it remind you of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Take a look.

maslow

Just like with Maslow’s Hierarchy the basic needs and basic tasks at the bottom are much easier to achieve than the needs at the top like self-actualization. And yet, that is what is required of everyone involved in designing customer experiences now.

How can we build applications that create pleasurable experiences? By understanding the PEOPLE who will be using them. That’s probably a lot easier than self-actualizing.

Understand the people who are your users and do more than help them get it done – strive for delight. Think about those smaller parts of the interaction that don’t require building the starship enterprise. The Kano model is a good strategy here. Where could you introduce parts of the interaction that are different and appealing?

Let’s look at one ingenious example in the Travel aggregation space – Hipmunk.com. Search for any flight…go ahead. Notice that cute little button in the sort bar that says sort by “agony.” How can that not make you smile if you’ve every travelled through airports?

What appealing little capabilities are you adding to your UX to help delight people?

Ken