On Usability & User Experience

Great article in Advertising Age last week, in case you missed it. Google's Web Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik asserts that one of the reasons why so many websites "suck" today is because of the hippo -- as in the "highest paid person's opinion."

I've worked with a lot of Hippos in my lifetime, and this really cracked me up. It's also very true... Sadly, Kaushik asserts that the individuals making choice decisions about what works best for customers on the web are often those the least connected to those customers. This ties to a bunch of stuff we've been saying on this site for a very long time.

Also - decent article from Mark Hurst in his May 20th Good Experience on the top mistakes companies are making in usability testing. I've included the link to the online article here - there's some good reader discussion there.

Starbucks and Co-Creation

Excellent post by Ted Mininni on Mprofs today about the recent launch of Starbuck's MyStarbucksIdea web site. The site allows interested users to submit ideas, vote on ideas, add comments to ideas and view responses from others - including Starbucks "Idea Partners" (48 trained Starbucks employees tasked with championing good ideas). This is good stuff and we're going to see more of it. Starbucks illustrates perfectly the point I keep making about staying close to your customers. Evidently, Shultz realizes the importance of the pulse of customers... I am rooting for them, but I still question whether this will be enough to help Starubucks in a lagging economy? The idea "Lower Your Prices" has 19610 votes, so far. Guess we'll see!

Crawl Like Your Customers

The experts tell me that, when it’s time to baby-proof my house, my husband and I should get down on our hands and knees and crawl through our home at “baby height” to find any risks that may be present for our child. I did this the other day. It was actually eye opening because it gave me a totally new perspective.

It then occured to me that this is precisely what we should all do with with our customers if we're truly interested in improving their experience with our brands. In doing so, we can better position ourselves to innovate and even co-create with our customers in a manner that builds brand loyalty and market share.

To better illustrate this point, please crawl with me, for a moment...

As some of you know, in addition to being an experience architect, I am the mother of a seven month old. He has been incredibly sick for ten days now. As a result, my focus has not been on working, writing or tweeting … but on changing, bathing and hydrating a feverish, restless baby.

In the course of doing caring for baby, I had a myriad of less-than-stellar product experiences. These prompted me to ask:
  • How many Huggies and Pampers brand or product managers have had to work in a daycare for a week?

  • How many babies have the Aveeno Baby or other product managers at Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson actually had to wash using their product(s)?

  • How many purple-stained onesies have the makers of Pedialyte had to clean?
And I wonder, if these individuals actually got these assignments, if they’d actually design:
  • Diapers that readily discourage leakage up the back of baby

  • Easy-grip, non-tip containers designed for one-hand use, which naturally force product to the bottom of the bottle so that it's easy to access and dispense through a no-leak dispenser.

  • Non-staining flavored electrolyte formula for babies
This certainly seems intuitive - but perhaps I'm some kind of weird customer anomoly. All of these product improvement/innovation ideas are 100% actionable... and produced simply through repeated exposure to product use. This proves that customer listening, improvement and innovation don't require magic powers or extensive and expensive customer research.

If this formula is true:

...then how important is it that we experience our products as our customers would - rather than going from third-party research, our gut, or just plain ignorance. This would seem the only way to ensure the "aspirational brands" (brands we want to create) match up with our actual brand recognition.

The point: If you're not "crawling with your customers", you are missing out on some important perspective.





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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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