Have We Got a Good User Experience?

What is user experience beyond the obvious reference to the experience a user (or customer) has of a product or service? And importantly, do we have one!

In the online world specifically, we have great tools to measure how people use and interact with our business. The question is whether we make use of this to extract the most benefit.

In many online business situations, user experience is the thing that suffers when there’s a mentality of ‘just do it’, demanding deadlines, etc. Like most things, user experience needs a business case along side many other operational decisions like timing, staffing, marketing, etc. Without a strong business case it cannot be prioritized and ends up being a bit of an artistic flourish.

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Work is a Game, Seriously

I love video games. In the not-so-distant past, I have lost countless midnight hours totally absorbed with particular games. From Tetris and Sid Meier’s creations in the early days, to Second Life and Minecraft more recently (I’m more of a strategy guy than an FPS junkie). So much so, that I forbid myself to start new games now for fear of losing chunks of my life.

It’s no wonder that research and opinion makers have latched onto the fact that a task, when treated like a game, becomes enjoyable and perhaps even addictive.
If you can persuade someone that a task is to be ‘played’ as a game, the perceived time spent doing the task reduces and a more positive energy is created.

This is interesting: can gamification be a legitimate way to boost someone’s motivation in the workplace?

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In Support of Vacations

“I also learned about the importance of vacations from observing others on our team. The intensity of demand had begun to wear them down, too, and it showed up in a collective tendency to be more emotionally reactive — shorter and sharper — and more willing to settle for an easy solution rather than do the hard work necessary to get the best result.”


As we return from the summer vacations, a great article, “More Vacation is the Secret Sauce” from the HBR Blog from Tony Schwartz in support of maintaining one’s energy levels by using the time off wisely. And more to the point, what happens when you don’t. We’ve all felt it, and we’ve all recognized it in others. Mandatory 2 weeks vacation a year should be government policy.

Wisdom on long questionnaires

“Whenever I’ve worked with design teams collaborating with marketers, I’ve pushed hard for short vs. longer A/B questionnaire tests. Almost without exception, both the response rates — and responders — for the short form generate the most useful and usable insights. Needless to say, iterating another just-in-time follow-on survey to short forms proves much more practical and palatable than inflicting new questionnaires on long-form participants.”

Full article by Michael Schrage (30 Aug 2012) from Harvard Business Review Blog here.

A Letter to a New Leader

Found this flicking through some old books in my library. Ten years old but still works. Comes from a book “Execution, The discipline to get things done” (Bossidy and Charan, 2002)


Congratulations on your promotion!

We couldn’t be happier for you. We know you are excited about exercising your leadership at a higher level. And we’d like to share with you some information we think will help you with your new challenge.

Start by considering what skills this job requires and how they compare with the ones you have. We’re sure you’ve got the self-confidence to make this kind of candid assessment. If you’re short on experience in one area (most leaders are at some point in their careers), be sure you’ve got someone who’s strong in it. Overall, you’ll want to put together a team balanced with the different types of talent you need to improve your chances of success.

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Is that the right question?

I often find myself evaluating ideas in relation to taking products to market. I’ve come to rely on a core set of questions ideally asked in the very earliest stages of an idea. I’m not sure where I got them or whether I made them up. Maybe I should pin them up on a wall somewhere and claim them.


  • Where’s the money?
  • Who are our users?
  • What pain points are we solving and for whom?
  • What’s the minimum we can go to market with?
  • Who can give us feedback quickly when we start this thing?
  • What do we need in order to evolve this thing further if the first feedback is positive?
  • How does this leverage our most passionate supporters?
  • Are we doing this thing because of markets/platforms/customers/skills/product lines we supported last year?

That last one’s a tough one. If the answer is ‘yes’, best take a long look at how much history and past performance is affecting your investment decision.

Making the Sale at Checkout

“While e-commerce has continued to grow, the experience of buying online has remained largely unchanged for the past seventeen years. To this day, the most common digital shopping experience consists of finding an item you want to buy, adding it to a cart, then checking yourself out.

Unsurprisingly this process just about always culminates in a form. After all, online retailers need to know who their customer is, where they want their item sent, and how they’ll pay for it. This has resulted in a fairly standard set of required input fields.”

Great article about checkout conversion from Luke Wroblewski, “Evolving E-commerce Checkout” (July 3rd, 2012).

He goes on to describe the impact of mobile and how this might push further evolution on the checkout process. Go read. Or if you feel like a little light-hearted 2 minute distraction…

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History Lessons from Advertising

“We may gather up a beautiful collection of words, arrange them in charming style with a handsome picture to top off, and print this final product in the best medium in the world. If the advertisement does not help to make more sales, we had better throw it away. It has been an interesting experiment – and nothing more.”

- The Thompson Blue Book on Advertising (J. Walter Thompson Co., 1906)

Ours is not a new problem. We use sophisticated technology on the most exciting and effective medium of the internet but we should never forget that the challenge to present a relevant and engaging message to our viewers is an age old problem. Whatever our objective, history does have something to teach us. And advertising – more specifically – can show us how to engage and influence a potential customer efficiently and quickly.

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Wisdom about growth

Excellent interview with Jason Fried from 37Signals.

“I’m a fan of growing slowly, carefully, methodically, of not getting big just for the sake of getting big. I think that rapid growth is typically of symptom of… there’s a sickness there. There’s a great quote by a guy named Ricardo Semler, author of the book Maverick. He said that only two things grow for the sake of growth: businesses and tumors. We have 35 employees at 37signals. We could have hundreds of employees if we wanted to–our revenues and profits support that–but I think we’d be worse off.”

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