Notes from Design 2.0

by March 10, 2006

Functioning Form’s New York office was in attendance at last week’s Design 2.0 event co-sponsored by Core77 and BusinessWeek: From Complexity to Clarity: Distilling the ingredients of great customer experiences. Here’s what we heard.

As a theme, From Complexity to Clarity focused on the need for simple customer-facing front-ends for the massively complex back-ends that power today’s digital products.

Kevin Farnham – CEO Method

Kevin’s approach to moving from complexity to clarity was rooted in the power of great, collaborative teams grounded in strategy:

  • You have to have to be grounded in strategy in order to really have a good experience.
  • Too many designers don’t understand their users.
  • Sense making –looking deeper at structures and deconstructing them into problem statements.
  • Principles of graphic design are important for interface design.
  • 10 ft. experience is the best place to reach customers and give meaningful experiences.
  • Increase customer contact time and loyalty to enhance brand
Kevin also outlined what’s driving a focus on customer experience
  • A new relationship between businesses, technology and users
  • Convergence
  • Product development acceleration
  • Lines are being blurred between partners and competitors
  • Sustainable innovation as the real prize means changing business perspectives
  • The average US household has 25 CE products
  • Products are being identified with
  • More and more businesses conduct their entire relationship through interfaces

Marissa Mayer – VP, Search Products & User Experience, Google

Marissa focused on the “chi” (not HCI) of Google: complexity of technology married with useful user experience as she described Google’s design principles:

Design for the expert user.

  • Novice users will enter “Tell me when it will snow in NY today” and get no valuable results. Next try (or soon enough there after they type “weather new york” and see that the results are more valuable. Voila! An “expert user. The learning curve in search is steep but quick.
  • Don’t annoy the expert user. Don’t get in their way.
Don’t make users think
  • Don’t allow the user to be stuck asking “What Would Google Do?”
  • An interface of a product shouldn’t resemble the interface of those who would create it.
  • Focus on ease and speed. Many portals use time spent on their pages as a measure of success. More time on pages meant looking at more ads, right? However, this is intrinsically counter to the goals of the users. They want to get their information and GET OUT.

Featuritis Explained

  • We need to increase features while maintaining an efficient user experience. In the beginning as you add features/functionality there is a good rise in user experience. But it plateaus quickly with a sharp degradation.
  • We still have not found this plateau, but companies are starting to react to this reality. (MS, Apple, Google)

Neneanne Rae – Co-founder, Peer Insight

Peer Insight is a service design/consultancy firm. Eighty percent of GDP is services, why are we only talking about products?

Service innovation

  • To be an innovator you need to have great customer experience capabilities in everything. “Nothing is real until it is experienced” – Keats
  • Experiences are indelible imprints left on individuals by our offerings.
  • Ongoing relationships today have multiple touch points: engage the senses, evolve over time, distinct at the individual level.

Design Principles

  • Think about it in a holistic way.
  • Identify and win the “moments of truth”. You have very little space, time, etc. to make an impressive at the point of impulse. Example: Starwood hotels. The bed is the exhale moment where you can get delighted. The first thing everyone does is when walking into a hotel room is look at the bed. It is either a moment of relaxation, or despair. Starwood has invested $800m to change their beds. This change type is called choosing empathy over optimization in order to drive revenue up. Starwood sales thus far have more than justified the expense.
  • Well-articulated brand values that serve as the “North Star” for customer experience increases communication clarity. Example: Whole Foods.
  • Link IT platforms with HR models to create mass customization. Platforms are the basis for how you start designing things. Example: Harrah’s crunches their own data on what people are doing and optimizes around most profitable customers.
  • Entrust your customers to co-create their own experience. Example: NetFlix made the video rental business more engaging by mirroring the way you think about choosing a film.
  • Use an eco-system approach to orchestrate numerous business models (adjacent services and products) that drive customer value. Example: Apple’s iTunes and iPod have increased Mac sales by 40%. This is not natural to have different business models in the same place.

Companies that have followed some of these principles have amazing results: 2x revenue and 4x profit.

Andrew Zolli – Z-plus Partners

For Andrew Zolli designing experiences means designing culture.

Breaking out of the Commodity Economy

  • The impact of the rise of disruptive technologies and global talent
  • Instantly there 1000’s of providers of services. Example: thousands of MP3 player options.
  • We are on our own as consumers in a sea of choices.
  • Tyranny of choice – 40,000 products available
  • We have attention for 160 and that’s declining
  • Great experiences stick out and hold our attention

Hedonic adaptation curve

  • As you add choice it increases satisfaction until it plateaus.
  • There is a limit of acceptable amount of choices.
  • Studies of 401k program use has shown that for every 10 investment choices, participation goes down.

Moving up the Chain of Meaning

  • Margins increase moving from (coffee): Commodity (bean); Product (can ground); Service (Dunkin coffee); Experience (Starbucks)
  • The vector of change is towards the humanization of technology
  • What comes after Experience? It has seemed to stop there (as far as you can go with a single company context).

Culture (that’s what’s next) – It is Priceless

  • New sort of evaluation
  • What’s the social impact?
  • Intersection w/ community and politics
  • Examples: Hershey, iPod, JetBlue
Participation Revolution
  • Net impact of distributing tools is that brands have become culture
  • Now we can remix “public” brands to our hearts content
  • We will have to design experiences that specifically encourage participation

For additional perspective on this Design 2.0 event, check out Niti Bhan’s write up.