Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Businesses, like individuals grow over time, adjusting themselves to the changes, situations, market demands and business drivers. Organisations mature in their processes, improving continually their products, services and operations. Often the maturity happens by doing, learning and unlearning from their own experiences. However, some other times, maturity could come in through vicarious learning i.e., looking and observing at others and their ways of working. This applies equally well to the social businesses which undergo different stages of progression. Social businesses join networks, identify their goals, create and innovate content and engage people. As they mature, the focus shifts from selling their products and services to building their brand. In this post, I will first touch upon the criteria for defining a successful social business and then discuss how you can drive your social efforts with the social business engine.

Maturity levels show progress towards goals_SBMM_Texavi

1. First define the goals and success criteria  

In order to become successful, the first step is to identify and define in clear terms, what success means. The definition of “done” and the success criteria have to be specified and agreed upon well in advance. These will help the organisation, team members and also the stakeholders to understand the progress. To be able to understand whether you have reached your goals, you must first define what the goals are. For social businesses, as I mentioned in my previous posts, the goal is to become a people-focused business. This goal translates into the organisation delivering experiences instead of products and services. Success also depends on how well businesses help change the behaviours of their customers and users.

I think social businesses must focus on the following areas, to become successful.

  • Brands, not just products and services
  • People, not just customers and users
  • Experiences, not just engagement and influence
  • Habits, not just one time actions
  • Insights, not just metrics and analytics

Goals for Social Business_SBMM_Texavi

2. Identify the key drivers – People, content and business

There is no doubt that the social business engine powers your social initiative providing the direction and fuel for your social efforts. I view this engine as comprising three main components- people, content and business. The social business hinges on these 3 key components, and they are inter-related among themselves. People contribute and create engaging content, and this content leads conversations to transactions. Yes, its true that social networks are about conversations. But merely engaging people with interactive content does not help businesses become successful at social business. So, a combination of people, content and business working in tandem would help build successful social businesses. No wonder most successful social businesses have got it right with these three components of the social business engine.

Power with Social Business Engine_SBMM_Texavi

3. Invest in people, the true asset to social business

The way organisations manage their relationships with people shift from one level to another, as they get matured in the social business. The maturity on this component of the social business engine varies from being a novice at identifying the right people within their networks to actively engaging them. In the initial levels, you put the efforts in finding and connecting with the right people in the target networks. You slowly start to follow them and their activities, interact with them in different ways to create some value in the process. But as you reach higher levels of maturity, you go beyond conversations and engage them with innovative content, and encouraging them to conduct commercial transactions. This happens as there is increased level of trust and also there is a sense of give-and-take between the people and you. At the highest level is the goal to influence and delight the people, coercing them to make or break habits, to the advantage of all involved.

Here are some top tips for getting it right with people-focus. Some of these are aligned with our Unified Experience Framework.

  • Look beyond customers. Focus on People {customers, users, stakeholders, followers}
  • Follow and be followed by the right people on your networks
  • Enable people to change their behaviours
  • Synchronise people’s online and offline behaviours
  • Deliver unified experiences across multiple platforms and channels
  • Cut out the noise and care for people’s voices and heartbeats

4. Create meaningful and engaging content 

Curating, creating and innovating content is critical for the success of any social business. Curation of the content can happen when there is a value-add done by means of sharing it to relevant people and making changes to it. Social businesses can succeed when they could enhance the content and also innovate. Innovation with content can be done in many ways, based on the industry, size and nature of business. Essentially, businesses innovate when they create different types of content altogether. For instance, Apple created iBooks and gave power to small time authors who want to publish their books, quickly, easily and in a cost-effective manner. Many companies who have been traditionally printing books, started with digital publications. The content is still the same, but these companies innovated with different way of delivering it.

5. Social business goes beyond conversations

Engaging people on the networks with interesting content is key for social businesses, to start with. Also, encouraging people to be involved in meaningful conversations aligned to the business interests of the organisation is critical too. However, as the business matures, the focus needs to be to interactions leading to commercial transactions. Otherwise there is not much of a value-add for the business to be on the social networks. You should start to motivate people to do online transactions, review your products, recommend of their friends so that they become your customers too.

Hope you find the above points helpful in building your social business. As always, please feel free to drop in with your comments and suggestions. Until next post, ciao!

 

Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies

Are you still relying only on the static web site that was updated 5 years ago, a few printed marketing materials like flyers, and an external agency that handles your email marketing? These alone may not work anymore for the benefit of your business. No matter how large or small, old or new your organisation is, social business has proved to be the order of the day. The good old ways of marketing using the traditional media planning and advertising in conventional channels and the emerging newer ways of using social media are not the same. In the same way, optimising your content and applications for the customary search engines is not enough, as increasingly they need to be optimised for social media as well. However, being a social business does not refer to tweeting a few times per week and collecting Likes on your Facebook page, though these are good starting points. In this post, we will look at what it takes for a business to become a successful social business.

1. Go beyond a single web presence

Having a web presence with a web site, which rarely gets updated  is not a great step towards becoming a social business. You must increase your channels and distribute the effort, time and cost. Large organisations today have dedicated departments catering to social media and managing the campaigns around these networks. Increasingly these companies have people with the titles such as ‘Community Manager’, and ‘Social Scientist’. However, it might be an overkill for some smaller organisations to spend their resources on the social media marketing, at the cost of their core business. Bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works the same way for all businesses in the same way. To decide what you should have in your arsenal, you need to think about the following:

  • What is your core business?
  • What is the size of your organisation?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • Where do you operate?
  • What resources do you have?
UXF_Social Business Focus_Texavi

2. Conversations could be positive or negative

The focal point of the social and professional networks is enabling people to connect  and indulge in conversations. Often these conversations could be negative as well, which is quite expected considering that people do have different experiences with brands. Although, the motive behind these interactions could be not just the  brands, but also people’s encounters with products, services, solutions or most importantly other people representing any of these . Don’t expect people to always talk positively about you or your brand. Often they are influenced by their previous experiences with the which were not-so positive. Natural Language Programming and Sentiment analysis are a few of the tools that you can use to unravel the moods from among numerous conversations.

3. Conversion is the holy grail

Make no mistake, all that matters to a business in any industry of any size large or small, local or global, is conversion. Businesses since ages have been focusing on converting a prorspect to a customer and a customer to a loyal customer and then to a lifetime customer. The web came in and  along with helping businesses achieve the above aspiration, also added another dimension. That of converting visitors to registered users and then to the customers. With the advent of Social media, the fundamentals and business models did not change. These social networks enabled visitors who follow your organisation or brand, to become friends and fans. The conversion from visitors to friends and then to customers has become an easier and quicker process, though the numbers are low.

Conversion_Social Business Enablement_Texavi

4. Cut out your noise, care for people’s voice

Companies have been promoting their products and services vociferously as a ‘push mechanism’, using advertisements and branding campaigns. For these, they were using the traditional media such as Newspapers, Television, Radio and other print media. However, increasingly people are getting frustrated with the  noise generated by these brands. The trust on these companies and brands and customers’ belief in what they say is dwindling. One of the key factors why social media have become popular is this decreasing trust in brands and increased confidence in what other people say and do. This is what I call the ‘Pull mechanism’. In order to make your social initiative a success, the pull has to be given an equal, if not more, importance than the push channels. Focus on listening to the voices of the customers and those people who matter to your business. Observe, respond and resolve the complaints, problems and service requests from the people on these social media. large organisations like British Gas, AT & T and Apple already are actively using social media like Twitter and Facebook to listen, respond and resolve customer complaints and issues.

 

5. Deliver congruent “experiences” consistently

The key to success for any business is to deliver delightful experiences to their customers. Whether you have products or services, instead of focusing too much on features and functionality, focus on the experience offered by them to your customers and users. These experiences too have to be consistent and unified across different channels, media, platforms and devices that you use to reach your customers.  Inconsistent experiences lead to customers feeling dissonance and they are left confused with too may messages in too many forms. To offer this unified experience to your customers, you must balance the various channels such as traditional, digital,online, mobile and social media. Read this post on how you could achieve this integrated, congruent experience across multiple channels and platforms.

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, do drop in with your feedback, suggestions and critiques to help improve the quality of our blogposts. Until next post, Ciao!

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

“Social media is not an option for businesses, any more!” and “Markets are conversations” – these phrases pretty much reverberated among the speakers, visitors and organisations participating in the Social Media World Forum-2012, London. Held over 2-days at Olympia, London from 27-28 March, the conference reiterated the importance and urgency of socialisation of business, marketing and media. Great ambience, pleasant crowds, nice talks on current topics, insightful panel discussions and 1000’s of tweets buzzing the twitterwall….the #SMWF ( as it is popularly referred to) was a great place to be for businesses and professionals alike! Texavi took an active part this year, exhibiting at the event, by setting up a booth and demonstrating our capabilities. During the 2 days, Texavi’s stand received good visitors and the feedback during and after the event had been very encouraging. For photos and more updates on the #SMWF, visit Texavi’s web site and our Facebook Page.

SMWF London 2012 - Texavi exhibits at Social Media World Forum     Texavi exhibits at #SMWF 2012, London

Active participation from businesses and individuals

SMWF 2012 was well attended by businesses and people from all around Europe and a few from parts of Asia as well. Focusing on the core theme of social media, the conference catered to five streams — Social business, social TV, social shopping, mobile marketing and of course, social media. Besides the well-decorated and themed booths spread across the entire hall, there were workshops, talks, and panel discussions on the five streams. The topics for these workshops and talks were carefully chosen, ranging from the ubiquitous Facebook-focused marketing to the semantic analysis, and the more strategic aspects of brand management and social business enablement. For more information on the event, you can visit the official site.

Talk at SMWF  Interesting presentation at SMWF  Conversations at SMWF

Texavi @SMWF,2012

Texavi is proud and happy to have been associated with the SMWF this year. We set up a booth and exhibited our offerings to the visitors who showed keen interest. The visitors to Texavi’s stand no.10 were both excited and impressed by what we had got on the show. Participating in SMWF proved to be a good decision for Texavi as we got to meet some really nice people and had interesting inquiries. Texavi’s offerings stood out among the exhibiting lot, because of our unique, simple yet powerful frameworks. Out of the very few organisations focusing on the most important aspects for social business enablement, Texavi’s   unified and convergent experience framework and behaviour change and persuasion framework struck the right chords among the enthusiastic participants. For the brochures that we gave away at the booth, you can visit Texavi’s Downloads page. 

Booth at SMWF 2012  Visitors at Texavi's stand No.10 in SMWF

What’s special at SMWF2012

The main attraction of the event had been a specially built Twitterwall right in the centre of the venue, with a continual stream of the tweets about and around the topics of the event. This worked almost like a live heartbeat of the buzz going around in the event. Even though it was early Spring, the sunny weather outside did make people hang out at the bar lounge right in the centre which kept the conversations going. There was a special gaming zone where people could get their hands dirty with the latest and the most entertaining games. The workshops and talks were held at the specially set-up theatres in the corners to streamline the participants. Add to that the special attraction at SMWF was the messaging facility, for those tired after going around the stands and attending the workshops.

Lounge at SMWF  Gaming zone at SMWF Tweet board at SMWF

Key takeaways from #SMWF

As you would have guessed by now, SMWF helped participants with the right information, insights and networking opportunities. Though there are many a takeaway from the conference, I am attempting to do the impossible task of summarising the key points, below.

  • Social media and social marketing are not an option anymore for businesses
  • Social media is not just the responsibility of marketing /PR departments
  • Markets are conversations
  • Brands can reach out to their customers and leverage their reputation, thanks to social media
  • Gibson Guitars, Lego bricks are cases in point to show how big brands can be more effective when they get social

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to click through the links I provided all through, for more interesting photos, updates and information. Also, do drop in your feedback for making Texavi blog better. Until next post, ciao!

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, User Experience

For any business in this world, these words hold true
Yes, your customers look for fresh and new
All you need is to give them a small cue
To find the best solution among their preferred few!

Realise that your customers look very much like ‘you’
When they get products/services that give value
And those that delight them in whatever they do
I promise, they will stick to your brand for life, like glue :)

Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Remember the times when you read the online reviews and researched products on the Internet, only to buy them in showrooms and stores later. Now, people are increasingly going into the stores for looking at the products, but buying online for better prices. Showrooming, as the Wall Street Journal calls this behaviour, is on the rise and retailers have to brace themselves for the new revolution. This is just one facet with the Social Web, which not only is aiding online and mobile commerce but also helping evolve newer business models. Not just business, but it is aiding the emergence of related media buzz and technologies such as Big Data. However, Social web is not just about business and technologies, nor it is about content and media, but it is built around people. It addresses more fundamental aspects such as the convergence of people’s online and offline interactions and their social behaviours. At Texavi, we created the Unified Experience Framework, leveraging the social mega trends. In this post, I give a few tips on how you can embrace the social web to your advantage.

Texavi's Unified Experience Framework - Prominent behaviours

1) Meaningful conversations, not just loads of content

With the advent of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, content is being created, curated and consumed in humungous volumes. Sample this, every day just the ReTweet button in Twitter alone generates no less than 1 TeraByte of data. While it is true that now virtually everybody can become a publisher of content with ease, it is also true that there has been a deluge of content that is invading our professional and personal lives.  A study conducted by University of Massachusetts concluded that there has been a decline in the number of blogs maintained by large corporates. This goes on to prove that just having a blog up for the sake of it, will not help, unless it is not helping the objectives of the businesses, in this case. Large brands need to track the conversations that are happening about them and also understand how meaningful these conversations to their own business and to their customers.

2) Sustainable commerce, not just sporadic transactions

People are getting comfortable  buying, selling and trading online more than they were a few years ago. Businesses are realising that web commerce does not mean merely having 128-bit encryption and ‘https’ web sites to help people use credit cards for payment. The social web is making companies and people cross the chasm of the security, associated with the online commerce. The commerce here actually connotes the true sense of complete experience of offline and inline interactions. This healthy blend of offline and online experiences start from advertising to create noise, arousing interests, spreading the word of mouth, through reliable sources, prospecting, from trying and leading into buying.

3) Unified experience, not just web sites

Have you got a web site? Great, but don’t be ecstatic, just yet! You have passed the examination, but just scored enough to pass. To be able to compete in this ever-changing world, you need to be agile and nimble with your products and services. Web sites are, of course, more dynamic than print, but then they are not agile. To be truly agile and go to where the people are going, you need to get social.  “If you build it they will come” may not hold good now, one thing that will certainly work in today’s world is “Go to where the people are!”. That is what businesses and people are doing, going to the social platforms where the people are already hanging around, conversing, sharing and commenting. However, don’t get overwhelmed by this social revolution, and ignore the basics. Fundamental to your business is the core mission to deliver value and delightful experiences to your customers, users and partners.

Texavi's Unified Experience Framework

4) Caring and championing, not just sharing

Social media are not all about sharing, commenting and liking the content created or uploaded by your friends. It is also about sharing the feelings, emotions, pains and pleasures of others. Human beings are social creatures and nobody can deny the power of social media to reach out the needy and those who need the help. Whether its the movements to oppose the suppression and dictatorship, or the protests to demonstrate the unity against growing consumerism, social media have been playing a significant role. From campaigns supporting the environmental issues to the campaign to help donate the bone-marrow to a promising young entrepreneur suffering from Leukemia, social media are being used to the right cause.

Texavi's Unified Experience Meter

5) Actionable insights, not just plain numbers

I am a statistician by qualification and millions like me, around the world are happy to see the surge of statistics and analytics, thanks to the social media. From Google Analytics to marketing budgets and companies’ performances, numerical data are finding prominence. There are a plethora of services that came up in recent times to compute your engagement, influence, reach etc. Don’t be enamoured by the ranks and scores and target the influencers or mimic the content with high engagement scores. For instance, Paul Adams, in his book Grouped, quotes a research about how common people do not get influenced by celebrities or those with high scores of influence and reach. As per the study, people generally get influenced by people like them and tend to follow their behaviour. So, know fully well that the data and analytics that you gather are only as good as their use. Unless they are put to the right usage, context and value-add to your business and customers, they remain just numbers.

Hope you find this post usable, as always, welcome your feedback. I shall touch upon more practical challenges in delivering the unified experience and how you can overcome them. Until then, have fun!

 

Information Technology, Product Development, Usability Testing, User Experience, User Testing, User-centered Design

Google recently announced the official withdrawal (or some would say the unfortunate death) of  a few products which could not deliver their promise. These include but are not limited to Google Wave and Google Buzz, which failed to create the waves and the buzz in the market. Remember, these came from the stable of none other than Google, which is a leading product vendor renowned for innovation, simplicity and user experience. Why then, do you think they could not measure up and survive? I think one of the main reasons is that they failed the litmus test. And the real litmus test for your products is when they reach the real users who use them to address their needs. Popularly called as usability testing, the user testing of your product reveals a lot of insights into the success or failure of the features you have created newly or changed in your products. In this post, I wish to touch upon a few key aspects of Usability testing that you must know, but that is difficult to know!

       

Why usability testing

Usability tests help the product owners and developers to understand the performance of the product from the user’s needs, goals and tasks. It helps validate and verify the structure, layout, navigation,interaction and overall experience. Also, they help in identifying the task related details:

  • User’s goals
  • Tasks to achieve their goals
  • Time taken to perform the tasks
  • Challenges in completing the tasks
  • Breakdown areas/points in the performance tasks
  • Confusing or ambiguous areas on the interface of product
For more details on usability testing, refer to the write-up on Usability Testing at Texavi’s web site.

User testing methods – Similarities & differences

I often hear people referring the terms usability testing, user acceptance testing (aka UAT) and accessibility testing in the same vein. While all of these may be related to product, and most often involve users and/or customers, they are different in their objectives, scope, and target audience as well. In this post, I wish to dwell upon the user testing which is also known as usability testing, and bring to fore its importance and the key differences between user testing, user acceptance testing and also market testing. Usability testing is often confused and compared with UAT( User Acceptance Testing). Sometimes people do compare with several marketing related activities. I give below a table comparing and contrasting among these various methodologies. I am sure this will be a handy reference for you, when in doubt.

Engage and test with users early

Defects and mistakes are like cubs, the younger you catch them, the better and quicker, you are at taming them. The later they are identified and closed in the product life cycle, they will turn into wild tigers and pounce upon the functionality, resulting in the failure of the products.  Same with usability testing as well. UT can be done at various phases, across the development cycle of the product. Most product companies do realize the importance of involving users in the product development, but often this realization dawns upon them much later  than required. There is not much use in testing the product with users, after it is all set to be delivered in a few days. You really cannot do much to rectify the defects identified, as the time to fix is less and the pressure to deliver is more.

So, a smarter step is to start testing the product earlier in the cycle for the user experience. This would help immensely with ample time to fix the defects and ensuring that they don’t grow too  big  to solve, much like taming the younger cubs. There is  a second advantage to testing early, and that is to enable users to have a go at the product early on and this gives them a feeling of getting engaged with the product development. This in turn makes them feel that they do have a stake in the product and that they are being cared for and listened to. Another big advantage with the early testing is to do with the development team’s readiness to accept the changes and make them quickly. This is because they did not put in a great effort to churn out the artefact and so, they are far more willing to accept changes and rework, as compared to the later stages.

Secret of success – test more!

Testing early does help in identifying and resolving the defects to settle down, but it does not mean that there will be absolutely no defects coming later into the product. Well, the fact remains that the numbers might be minimized thanks due to the early testing, but still defects and erratic decisions do seep in due to various other factors. The only way to ensure that these are identified and resolved asap is by testing more of the product with the users.  Most people have this question hovering in their mind as to how much of the product really needs to be tested with users. Well, the more the merrier. The more areas, functionality, modules and dimensions you test in your product, the better for you and your product.

Note that what you are going to test for, differ from time to time, and the level of completeness of the artefact. For instance during the early stages when you test the wireframes with your users, you might be looking for an assessment of the broad level concepts. As you move on into the product life cycle and test a complete, fully functional module of the product,  you might be looking up to users for validating the interaction, information architecture etc. I give below the  the areas you can focus on while testing the product at various stages in the life cycle.

Hope this post helped you in getting the facts right about usability testing. Don’t hesitate to write back your comments/queries. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Information Technology, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

In 2006,  Apple and Nike joined hands to develop Nike+iPod, that changed not only the way people listen to music on the move, but also the way they manage their fitness and in effect, their health and lifestyle. Just about the same time, Nintendo launched Wii, that changed the way people play games from being passive to an active, out-of-your-couch experience .  A decade ago, Google changed the way people navigated by shifting their focus from browsing to searching and now Facebook has changed the way people stay connected. All these products, beyond doubt, set out to change the behaviors of people who are motivated (I am not quite there yet:-) and are capable, if they are provided with the right resources.

           

You can change people’s behaviors

All the companies and products I mentioned above, proved that it is possible to use behavior modeling and design to effectively persuade people to do something positive. In this post and a few upcoming posts, I will touch upon how these companies and others have been successful in using the power of persuasion and behavior design. They have been effective not just in creating great products and services, but also in persuading and changing the behaviors of millions of customers and users, worldwide.  Let  us analyze and understand how they could do it and what really is the secret behind their success.  In doing this, I draw my insights from Prof. B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model (a.k.a FBM) to explain the relationship among behavior, motivation, ability and triggers.  But first, let us understand persuasion and behaviors, in detail, in this post.

Persuasion as an art and science

Persuasion has been an art we have all been familiar with and it definitely is not new to us, human beings . Right from the time we are born and as we grow up into being professionals, we have been using different persuasive techniques to deal with family, friends, colleagues and customers. Marketers and advertisers,  through the ages, have been  successful in persuading us to look at, buy and use products and services. Its only recently that product companies have been looking at using persuasion and changing  customers’ behaviors through structured and proven methodologies. More recently product companies like Fit Bit and DailyFeats-Jawbone launched wearable devices that help track your movements and proactively suggest ways to improve your fitness and health. Both these devices have been designed to persuade people to change their behavior, from a passive to a more active lifestyle. The key here is they have been successful in implementing the Persuasion and design and develop products to help change behaviors in a pragmatic manner.

What is a behavior

We keep hearing about goals, needs, tasks and activities, being used in our professional and personal spheres.  Now you  might  be wondering how behaviors are different from these. Behaviors are perhaps more fundamentally ‘human’ and ingrained in us as human beings, than say, tasks or  activities. No wonder then that behaviors could be separated from the other superficial aspects, such as activities and tasks . This is how I look at behaviors and I am not taking this from any specific source or resource.  The personality of an individual can be dependent on both her attitude and behaviors. There are numerous theories suggesting ways to bring about attitude change. But as Prof. B.J.Fogg suggests, behaviors are better separated from attitudes for a clear definition and  a focused approach to behavior change. So, I will follow the same approach and focus merely on defining target behaviors and bringing about the desired changes in behaviors of people.

Creating habits, not just products

Behaviors can come in different shapes and sizes. You might want to classify behaviors into different types based on the longevity or  duration of their  occurrence.

  1. Get people engaged in a one-time behavior  Eg., Replace all bulbs in house with eco-friendly energy-saving ones
  1. Do it over  some  duration or  for a defined period. Eg., Take bus/train to go to office, 3 days in a week
  1. Do it continuously over a long term, almost as a habit. Eg., Use hand-sanitizers to keep hands safe from viruses

It is in the last category, lies the interest of most organizations and products. Which company wouldn’t like to have   customers using their product on a continual basis? Or better still getting habituated to using the product to the extent of  forming an addiction.  Recent examples for this have been Google, Facebook and Twitter…all of them did implement this long term behavior change in a smart way by creating habits  in people, successfully. Google created searching as a habit by replacing it with the browsing navigation.  Facebook created the habit of  checking out what your friends are up to and sharing with your friends your recent escapades. Twitter provided a way for people to express and update their activities in a short sentence.  If you want to be successful in your business, then start looking beyond your product’s features and users’ needs. It is time, you looked at making positive behavioral changes to your users in different contexts.

      

Behaviors and their flavors

Behaviors can also be looked at from the perspective of what you like to do to them. Some times, you  may want to induce new behaviors, while in other instances, you want to change the existing behaviors – increase, decrease, or altogether  stop them.

  • New behaviors  can be imparted to people. Eg., flossing teeth is new, compared to brushing
  • Increase existing behaviors. Eg., Brush teeth twice a day, instead of once
  • Decrease existing behaviors. Eg. Take less quantity of fatty food during dinner
  • Stop existing behaviors. Eg., Stop  smoking (hmm…this is tricky:-)
Now that we have covered the basics of behaviors, we are now geared to get into the details. In the next posts, I shall explain, taking help from Prof.B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model, how you can be more persuasive in designing and developing your products. Until then, ciao!
Behavior Modeling & Design, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Behavior change it is, if you are wondering what’s hot in the consumer space. I see this as a game changer , with organizations now looking beyond satisfying the explicit needs of users. Simply put, as a product or a services company, you have the power  to change the behavior of your users. Apple, Google and Facebook  are great examples of  how well they understood the behavior modeling and persuasive design and successfully applied it in their products.  Numerous products such as FitBit and DailyFeats-Jawbone UP  use similar concepts to make people fit and healthy, bringing about a change in their long term habits, resulting in better health and lifestyles. We will talk about these products in the coming posts, in detail, but in this post I focus on the ‘persuasion and behavior design’ boot camp that I attended recently.

      

 Persuasion and Behavior Design Boot Camp by Prof. B.J.Fogg

Last week I participated in the 2-day Persuasion Boot Camp held at San Francisco, USA. The workshop was conducted by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. It was a great experience, learning directly from Prof.Fogg, who is an eminent thought-leader on this subject. In this post, I will briefly touch upon the next 2 paragraphs with my views and then give a few snippets and key takeaways from the workshop. I wish to share with you the learning from this workshop and also my experience applying it. Watch this space for interesting stuff to come in the future posts. For complete set of photos from this workshop, please visit www.facebook.com/texavi

Essence of Boot Camp in few words

I give below a few points briefly on how the workshop was conducted, why I think its different from others and the important takeaways from the boot camp. To start with, the following one-liners summarize the learning.

  • Its all about users’ behaviors, not just product’s features
  • Solutions, not just problems
  • Focus on creating solutions quickly
  • Ideate, initiate & Iterate
  • This model aligns with the agile development and lean startup
   

Myths and misconceptions, shattered

The workshop helped address a few myths that we have about product design, development, human psychology and behavior design. I mention below a few misconceptions prevalent in the industry that we should be wary of .

  • Blind trust in excessive academic research
  • Focus on features  is important for products
  • Attempts to motivating people on a continuous basis without simplifying the tasks
  • Focusing on attitudes, instead of behaviors.
  • Everything big is good – big ideas and big initiatives are always successful
  • Its difficult to make people adopt to new behaviors

Great content and context

The workshop was refreshingly different not only in the content but also in the context and delivery.  Open-house discussions and interactive brain-storming replaced the more traditional ways of presentations. I can say that the highlight of the boot camp was that there was little or almost no usage of computers and Powerpoint presentations. Going by its apt title, the boot camp did its job aiming to make the participants experts in the specific areas. Prof. Fogg chose the topics very carefully and was even more meticulous in their delivery. He ensured that the core concepts are registered in the minds of boot campers using intensive hands-on sessions and role-plays rather than relying on typical pedagogic methodology.

  

Nice ambiance and a perfect setting

Far from the maddening buzz of the urban landscape, the workshop was conducted in serene ambience.  Held in a beautiful guest house located by the riverside, the place was the best fit for learning and sharing . Also Healdsburg is a place surrounded with fertile land and so there is no dearth of natural vegetation. Every household here grows vegetables and fruits and no wonder you get the best quality natural products, direct from nature. This place also boasts of some fine vineyards and wineries around. All of these provide a great backdrop and a wonderful setting for the workshop.

  

And to wrap it up…

  • Good use of different rooms and sometimes outdoors kept the workshop alive and participants active
  • Outdoor activities and exercises were nice, thanks to the pleasant weather
  • Perfect blend of individual and group exercises made the sessions insightful and interactive, as well
  • Assignments right after discussions ensured that we applied the concepts to understand better
  • Interactions with alumni and previous bootcampers helped understand the value of the boot camp
  • Last but not the least, nice food and to top it all, a grand dinner  arranged by the local wine trader
In the next few posts, I shall write more on the behavior model and how you can use the behavior design to create persuasive products and services. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Until next one, ciao!
Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

After all these years of my experience in engineering software products and applications, I realized that there is one phrase that I tend to hate the most. No, its not “Give me a ballpark estimate” or “I need this delivered by e.o.d. today”, though these come close enough to be 1st and 2nd  runners-up :). The one I am referring to is “Let users figure it out”. It is a nemesis to developing successful products, often resulting in a shoddy product.  The “Figure-it-out” syndrome as what I call it,  could be an evil for product development which can be as bad as, if not worse than Featuritis. The plausible cure for this syndrome is when the product is made easy to use for those people who are using it for the first time. In this post, I touch upon the ease of learning and use and give some tips about making your products a breeze for your users.

Easy to learn and use

Let us be honest, how many of us got trained on using the ATM card to withdraw money from a cash machine? At the least, how many went through the user manual, supplied? Popularly known as Any Time Money, the Automatic Teller Machine was conceptualized and designed so that users from different segments can get to use it with little or no effort. This is a classic case of designing a product which is not just easy to use, but also easy to learn for new users as well. Easy to learn and use a product is a critical yardstick to measure its success and is often ignored to a large extent for various reasons. Lacking this, a product might become a nightmare and the product or feature puts off not only novice users but also some experienced users, some times.

New user scared of technology product :)

But then it has the ‘user manual’

Training, setup guides, user manuals, glossary, help docs and other such documents are meant to support the new users in coming to grips with the product. Like a site map which provides a clear guide on how a web site is structured, most of the above artifacts are meant to make it really easy for the users. But then, there is a view prevalent among the Design community that site map comes handy only when a web site is not usable by itself. In other words, only when users are confused, puzzled and left with no option, that they would look at a site map. So is the case with the supporting documents and help guides that I mentioned above. No matter how effective and efficient your technical writing team is, your documentation goes often into the dust bin. The golden rule is ‘Customers and users don’t read user manuals!‘. Bear in mind that these are good supporting aids but they can never replace a well-designed product.

The ‘Figure it out’ syndrome

Whether its the apathy towards customers and users, or the need for speed in delivering the product to market, the figure-it-out tendency gains ground with the product development team. You don’t suddenly wake up one fine morning with the syndrome. It gets built up over time and plagues your product and users to no end. Here are the factors that can potentially contribute to it…lack of empathy and concern for users, a frog-in-a-well approach. Also, an unwritten but strictly-followed preference attached to functionality and technology over user experience tilts the scales against making the product intuitive.

Don’t undermine the impact of this syndrome, it could be long term, deep cut and manifold. It affects not just the product creators – the stakeholders and the development team but also the product consumers. For the creators, due to the relatively short-sighted  aspects of their planning and execution, there will be heavy overheads of customer-reported defects leading almost to a total rejection of the product by the users.  Some of the products tend to be so overly complicated for new users that they instantly give up and return them or pass on to others. There are umpteen examples of products which flopped not for their technological maneuvers, nor for their functional richness but merely because they are rather too complicated for users to start using it.

Steps for ease of learning and use

The first step in making your products easy to learn and use, is to know your users. There is an oft quoted saying in the User Experience industry that tells it all – “Know thy user and you are not your user”.  The next step is to design and develop the product in such a way that it is intuitive and clear for users. Cluttered and dense interfaces, confusing controls, unclear messages, lack of help when needed- all of these make it hard for your new users.  As Steve Krug puts it in his book, ‘Don’t make me think’, the moment you let your users start thinking about how to use any feature or functionality, you start to lose the user ‘s interest.  Also, there should be a flow that lets users feel immersed when doing a task. This would make them not only feel that they accomplished the task but also delighted. I would equate this to the concept of flow as explained by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic book on psychology – “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”.

yes, don't make them think   Let there be a flow with the tasks in your product

Who are you creating the product for

To be able to design your product better for ease of learning and use, you need to clearly identify who you are creating the product for. Going back to the ATM card example which we discussed above, the product was intended to be used by the larger number of users with little or no literacy, who would have never seen, leave alone using a computer before in their life. It was designed and developed knowing fully well that it needs to work with all the users with different backgrounds and literacy levels.

Atm machine in use   Monk using ATM machine

The beauty of the ATM product lies in that they cleverly disguised a computer into the machine. Without users’ knowledge, they are actually using a computer and its all made so much of a breeze to use it. No wonder, the concept and product caught up and it has changed the very definition of  ‘banking’ on a global scale.  Another case in point is Intuit’s QuickBooks. While every other accounting product in the market was geared towards the accountants and qualified book keeping professionals, Intuit understood that there is a huge demand for a simplified accounting product for the non-accountants and novices. They launched QuickBooks with the sole focus on this segment of users and today it is the most successful product in that segment, popular for its ease of use among new and expert users, as well.    

QuickBooks - Accounting made simple for non-accountants

Expertise and experience make a big difference

I would suggest that you classify your existing and/or potential users, based on the following:

  • Demographics
  • Education and computer literacy
  • Professional
  • Psycho-graphic (attitudes, likes and behaviors)
  • Tasks and scenarios

More importantly, to make your product easy to use, you must first profile your users based on the product usage experience. The following is a typical way of classifying the user groups, but you can adapt this and modify it to suit your needs.

  • Novice /beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Advance
  • Expert/experience

Specify your target

Now that you had a considerable start in the path of creating a great product, you now need to ensure that you have the right pick. The list below will help you in approaching the product definition in a structured way.
  • Identify the composition and distribution of your existing and proposed user base
  • Have a clear markup of the proportion of new users vis-a-vis advanced or expert users
  • Specify which of the above user types you will target with the product
  • This is applicable equally to the features and functionality and not only to the entire product

Here is how you can make IT easy

Beside the above suggestions from my experience, I offer a few other tips below to do a quick check on how effective your product or feature in the scale of ease of learning and use. You might use these as guidelines during the design and development of the product or as checkpoints to validate the features and functionality in your product. I am classifying them into the typical buckets of user experience, so that its easy to assess them individually.

Functionality

  • What can I do with this product?
  • What do I need to do, so that I can achieve my goals?

Navigation

  • Where am I now?
  • Where can I go from here?

Interaction

  • What should I do to make this work?
  • How responsive is it to my inputs?

Presentation

  • Does this look pleasing to my eyes?
  • Am I distorting anything to make it appear what it is not?

Help

  • Can I get help when I need?
  • Is help provided when I require it?

As always, hope you find this post informative and useful. Please do give me your feedback. Until next post, ciao!

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Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience

Apple, Google, Facebook, Toyota, Coca Cola, Nike, Microsoft, BMW… what is common to all of these. Yes, they are all leaders in their respective industries and markets.  But the one thing that ties them all is their sustained commitment to their vision and the values they stand for.  However, I think the real secret behind their success is an aspect of their leadership and that is what I call ‘the pursuit of  innovation’. This is indeed the true differentiating factor that separates the leaders from followers and distinguishes the champions from the players.

As part of this post,  I touch upon a few aspects of how we can seek innovation by leveraging our strengths and managing change. I also give a  few real life organizations and their products to understand the practical aspects of seeking innovation for greater value creation. We can draw lessons from these as to how one needs to pursue innovation and leverage it for continual success and leadership. This is not an exhaustive list though and there are a lot of different ways and perspectives to look at innovation and imbibe it in our own organizations and work spheres.

Focus on value-creation, not technology

When we talk about innovation, invariably technology gets highlighted more often and in some cases innovation is equated with better technology. Yes, technology is perhaps the best medium to deliver innovation and it is undoubtedly the most-successful factor in transitioning your vision into reality. If you are a technology company and your core offering itself is technology, then of course, you can safely lean on it and claim that you are have innovated and created better technology. However, in most cases, bear in mind that technology is merely a vehicle and the real driver is business. And the key is the value delivered to your stakeholders, customers and users.

Turn threats into opportunities

Take any industry, any segment and any product line, we already have hundreds and thousands of companies, brands and products. Globalization would have brought about huge benefits but along with the opportunities, it also brought about threats for companies. They have new competition now and not just new but this competition comes in different sizes, shapes and formats. With the advent of Internet there is another aspect of  ‘opportunity-threat’ that manifested itself to organizations, worldwide.

The Web, they claim is the largest communication device ever invented by man. It changed the way we work, live, and communicate. It also brings with it another aspect and this time in the form of intense competition. Your biggest competitor is just a click away and within a few seconds an impression could be created and a deal is made or lost. But then all is not lost yet and you can turn this to your advantage. The real secret of success with Web lies in how well you embrace it for your advantage.

Not a destination, but a journey

Innovation is not a one-time activity which an organization or individual does once to achieve success. To succeed and lead the pack, we need to innovate continually and our  products and services should be a reflection of this. There is no place for contentment in this dynamic world where the cliched saying ‘Change is the only constant’ is true to its letter and spirit.  Continual improvement in products and services and consistent delivery of value is what separates the leaders from the followers.

For instance, Apple never moves away from their mantra of delivering superior experiences to their users and this philosophy is pretty much reflected very strongly in all their products ranging from Macintosh to  iPod and from iPhone to iPad. It is Apple’s constant endeavor to keep their users on top, and make them happy with every new product line, product, and release that they create.

Leverage your strengths

One way to pursue innovation is by identifying your strengths and leveraging them for your competitive advantage. Every organization needs to pursue the case of innovation and champion the cause of their users’ delight. No matter how big or small the organization is, how large or small the market is, how specialized or generic the offering is…every organization has to strive to strike the right chord with their users. Only this would help these organizations to be successful with their offering, whether its a product or a service.

A case in point is Bose audio systems which prides themselves with the tagline ‘Better sound through research’ . Amar Bose, who started off the company as an extension of his research project at M.I.T., came out with his offering of better sound supported through an innovative approach. Bose, with their Wave technology and its application, broke the myth that ‘bigger the speaker, better was the sound’. Focusing on delivering better user experiences, Bose took over the market and continued to churn out products that offer greater value and experience to users.

Make a difference – create ‘the change’

The only way to survive in this competitive world is to cut the clutter and make a difference. I came across this interesting quote about change – ‘People who change after change survive. People who change with the change, succeed. People  who cause the change, lead’. How true and relevant in the ‘melting pot’ world that we are living in, nowadays!

Dyson is renowned the world over for their hand dryers. Dyson’s hand dryers are known for their efficient, hygienic and energy-saving capabilities. Dyson did not stop at delivering great drying experience to their users and value for their customers.  They leveraged their command over the air flow technology and created an alternative approach to a ubiquitous product  that we all know and use, a fan. Yes, Dyson invented  the blade-less circular fans which are efficient, easy to maintain and comfortable to use. Again, a case of making a difference despite the size of the organization, product, or market, thereby offering unmatched innovation through delightful user experience.