Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

It’s with pride and happiness I wish to share with you that recently Team Texavi successfully hosted Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference. Held in two cities Hyderabad and Mumbai, during the last week of August, the events were a huge hit among the IT community.   The conference had a good participation from the practising and aspiring IT professionals who made it happen. Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of delegates and speakers, the conference in both cities had turned out as a big hit among the community. I salute the untiring efforts of  Team Texavi in putting together such fantastic events which many people hoped to be held every year . In this blogpost, I give a snapshot of the conference for the benefit of those who could not attend and also for those who participated. Hope this would help you all understand the magic behind this memorable event called Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference.

What’s special with Texavi’s IMAGINEERING

If you ask me the formula for the successful hosting of Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference, it’s the PEOPLE that made it happen. Yes, right from the word go, Team Texavi had put in their brain power at work and ensured that the right topics were selected to ensure maximum interests among the audience. Next to contribute majorly were the speakers who are industry-leading thinkers and professionals. These are not just people who talk, but who are thought-leaders and those who actually put their ideas to work. Bringing this unique set of people who are hands-on lent practicality and workmanship to the focus areas. Through the talks, panel discussions, interactive Q & A sessions, these speakers brought out the best for the benefit of participants. And last but not the least, the prize also goes to participants from different organisations who made it to the event, despite it being a Friday. They all took an active part in the proceedings of the event and needless to say contributed to the success of the conference.

Texavi IMAGINEERING Conference_1 IMG_3803Dr.Rajeev_Srinivasa

What happened at IMAGINEERING 2013 Conference

The theme of the conference was very topical and relevant to the current times – “Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social“. The talks, special sessions, panel discussions and interactive sessions revolved around this topic with varied flavours. Ranging from the mundane Social media aspects to the raging hot theme of today’s technology world, Mobile platforms and applications, the conference had covered all the bases. The Keynote address by Dr. Rajeev Srinivasa rightly brought out the nuances and guidelines for embracing the good things around in Technology, highlighting the challenges involved. Dr. Srinivasa very eloquently touched upon the finer yet very practical aspects relevant for the IT community. A case in point is the importance of knowing the business aspects alongside the application of technology, for successfully delivering technology products and applications, today. Towards the end of the conference, everyone in the hall left with a firm belief that Technology and Business are two sides of the coin and that one can’t live without the other.

For all the action as it happened, you can watch the videos of the Conference, by clicking on the links below:

Interactive and engaging panel discussions

The keynote was followed by a very engaging panel discussion comprising some very competent and experienced professionals from the IT industry. The discussion for the panel was the topic “What’s the next BIG Thing”, which they ably covered sometimes hovering around, while other times diving deep into the key aspects. The panelists drew examples, business cases and insights from their own experiences to weigh in their points and delegates couldn’t have enough of the nectarine knowledge being shared with them. Sprinkled with generous doses of tips, tools, techniques and methodologies, the discussions threw light on important areas for the participants to take in all they could. The floor was opened for questions from the participants and it got so engaging that the session was brought to a halt by the time keepers. Texavi_IMAGINEERING_Panel_discussion_1 Audience participation at Texavi IMAGINEERING 2013

IMAGINEERING,2013 – A conference with a difference

Perhaps no other conference can boast of the unique feature that Texavi’s IMAGINEERING had – that of the focus on careers and professional development. Besides running as a deep undercurrent of all the items on the agenda, there were special sessions catered for the careers advancement and professional development of the IT community. Mukund Sathe’s engrossing talk on the IT industry’s trends and challenges struck the right chords with participants. Mukund’s talk was full of insights, ideas and recommended solutions and went beyond just highlighting the problems. Towards the end, participants with their questions and views made the talk even more insightful.  Not just that but also the careers talk from Texavi’s Niroop Racha was a huge hit among the audience. It started off as a solo talk but drawing audience’s participation, it slowly turned into a very engaging exercise. Delegates jumped in with their experiences, views and added the much needed “E flavour” to the conference. The E here stands for “Engagement” and “Entertainment” too, as it turned out that Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 had no dearth of learning, sharing and fun.

Please check out the Presentations used during the Texavi’s IMAGINEERING, 2013 conference by clicking on the links below:

Hope you enjoyed reading the post. Please feel free to drop in with your valuable feedback as always. Till next time, have a nice time, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

Disrupt, hack, fail and lean…in case you are wondering what these are, they are the latest buzzwords in the technology industry today. No more terms with a negative tone or tinge, these once swear words are now the tech world’s definitive words to swear by. They have taken the world by storm, so no wonder businesses and individuals alike are encouraged to embrace them strongly. Rightly so, in an age of digital, mobile, agile and social times that we are living in, technology does have a profound impact on businesses and people. Change is the only constant thing, and entrepreneurship and innovation are sure ways for survival and success. In this blogpost, in a run-up to Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference, I will touch upon how embracing the mean and lean aspects like disruption,”fail-early-fail-often”, hacker way and being lean will separate the winners from players.

1. What are you disrupting today

Look around you and you will find disruption as the mantra behind every successful business, product, service or individual. For instance, in the technology space, the Internet and web sites and applications came and disrupted the way we work, play and talk. Google came in and disrupted the way we deal with information changing the preferred navigation mode of millions of people from browsing to searching. Apple’s iPhone and other Touch-sensitive  technologies disrupted the way we interact with phones and devices. Plastic money a.k.a credit cards came in and changed the purchase behaviours of people, which some would argue, in a negative way. With the technology powering the businesses, brace yourself for more disruption to happen in the near future. From wearable technologies to 3D printing and alternative currency, disruption is the name of the game. Disruption is not only the key differentiating factor but also the secret weapon that separates the great ones from good.

bitcoin

It is equally important if not more important, for the large well-established organisations to be disruptive as much as the small, suave start-ups. Large organisations such as Google, Apple, 3M and McDonalds continuously strive at disrupting the professional and personal lives of their customers leaving a huge impact, through their new products, services and business models. Small start-ups too are doing their bit to help disrupt the existing behaviours of consumers. Take the case of Bitcoin which is a startup wanting to disrupt the way people use currencies, although some people consider it a cheeky option. Over the last 5 years or so, Bitcoin has emerged as a new alternative for payment online. Similarly, David Fishwick’s Burnley Savings and Loans Limited has been pitched as disrupting the models of the high street banks. Yes, disruption is the name of the game today and anyone who would like to make it big in business must have the answer to the question What are you disrupting today? In fact, this is the question every business and start-up must ask for themselves, not only to survive but also make a mark in this world of cut-throat competition.

 

2. Fail fast and fail often

Failure has never been more recognised and more encouraged than now. The importance of failure was best brought out by the famous saying of Thomas Alva Edison, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Failure is the stepping stone for success and nobody who has succeeded wouldn’t have done it without ever tasting a slice of failure earlier. Behind every successful entrepreneur, you can find a string of failed initiatives and this applies equally well in the case of the technology businesses and products too. I don’t mean in any way that we all must have failure as our goal, but what is important is to be prepared for failure, often to the extent of keeping it as option A. This would help ensure that you cover all the possible scenarios. Also, when you fail, you are bound to become battle-hardened because with failure, you know what works and more importantly what doesn’t work.

Fail fast, fail often_texavi

It may seem that I am all for hailing failing, but the important bit is to recognise the need to fail early. Failing early on helps us to correct the course quicker and better. It will also help us in preparing to prevent similar instances or occurrences in the future. Failing earlier is better than failing quite later down the line, as the impact would have been lesser as also the resources required to for corrective action. Failing often is also a key step in the journey of progression and success as that shows the continuous endeavour and effort for improvement.

3. Adopt the Hacker way

Times are gone when people want to do things in a linear, bureaucratic and often long-winding manner. From venture capitalists to employers and financial markets, everyone nowadays insists on street-smart, tech savvy and ingenious attitudes on display. In a world where the boundaries between work and play are being constantly erased, what one needs is the ability to make a killing with speed, accuracy and confidence. One word to describe all of these and more is HACKER. Yes, hackers, at least in the context of IT industry, are your new battle-ready warriors who are the new age ninjas to pump up the productivity, profits and products’s successes through their shrewd, speed and solid work.

Hacking - brilliant idea

Hacking is not evil anymore, well if done with the right intent and intentions. It used to be often associated with young, smart brains turned in the wrong direction a la snooping. In the context of this post, I am referring to hacking in a slightly different skill – that of “doing” rather than relying on lengthy debates and futile processes. When Facebook went for the IPO, we got to know one of the secrets for their sustained success, which is The Hacker Way. Hacking in this sense is not about snooping, but it is the ability to quickly conceptualise, design, develop and test a product or feature quickly  and iteratively. So, there is no two ways in embracing the hacker way to deliver and turn around successful products, services and concepts quicker and more effectively.

4. Lean is in, are you ready

Building huge monoliths of businesses had been the key focus in the last few decades where power and might took precedence over everything else. Excess drive was on to build up the industrial mega-revolution making things bigger, mightier and powerful without consideration for the effectiveness, efficiency and long-term sustainability. However, as technology led from the front in the last couple years, businesses realised that its not the size and strength that matters, but efficiency and productivity on a sustainable basis. So, lean is in and started to impact various industries from manufacturing to IT. Going agile and being lean is not in processes alone, but must be replicated in people and other resources too.

Be_nimble_and_lean_TEXAVI

I shall touch upon each of these topics in greater detail in the upcoming blogposts. Please drop in with your feedback for further improvements and yes, you can also share some ideas for new topics. Have a nice time and until the next post, ciao!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

When I talk to my clients about developing great products that offer fantastic User Experience, many of them ask me why, when and how to go about doing it. The most frequently asked question from customers is “what is that one thing that makes or breaks great user experience?”. My consistent response to them has always been one simple word that truly wields the real power. Yes, it is “Consistency”. That is the mantra for creating great products and services that stand the test of time, offering delightful experiences to customers and users! However, this by no means is a quick-fix, short-cut approach to creating successful products and services. In this post, I shall touch upon the important role consistency plays in offering compelling experiences to your customers and users.

Think different, but be consistent

In the constantly changing business and technology landscape that we are living in today, it is imperative that you have to stand out from the competitive me-too products and services in the crowded market place. There is a growing need for businesses and individuals to think and act different. This also works when you wish to develop a new product, concept or idea and especially with the start-ups. It is indeed the hallmark of good startups to be able to think differently from the others to cut the clutter and make their presence felt. However over a period of time, the product or service gets adopted and it gains sufficient market penetration and user acceptance. At that stage, having consistency in presentation and overall experience becomes critical for the long term success of the product.

Consistency – experience and expectations

What does consistency mean in a product development context? Does it mean repetition, cliche and mimicking the same, always and in all ways? No, on the contrary being consistent helps your users to focus on the right areas in your products so that they derive optimal usage experience. Consistency can be seen as an antidote to monotony and often the positives of being consistent far outweighs the negatives of being routine and repetitive. Do not restrict consistency to just one specific product of yours, but broad-basing it across the products in a product line would help your customers and users.  Consistency though largely is a broader concept, does vary to some extent based on the users’ culture and geography. The concept of “business” has remained the same all through the centuries. Customers and clients raise a PO (Purchase order) and vendors propose and offer their products /services and then raise an invoice/bill towards the products or services offered.  Customers then make payments to vendors against these invoices. This is a consistent way of engaging in business and doesn’t vary from country to country and also does not change with the times.

Sample this as a proof of why I think that consistency is of a great help to delivering great experience. People from across the different parts of the world have been driving cars over the last few decades. There have been a lot of  variants like petrol and diesel, differences in engine capacity and volumes.  Cars do come in different models, sizes and shapes  – sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks and so on. They also differ in the transmissions like manual and automatic. The steering wheel could be on the left or right side of the car, depending on which country you drive. However, no matter where you are driving, what type, model, size or shape of the car, the pedals for brake, clutch and accelerator (also called gas) are always in the same place and in the same order. From left to right, it will be clutch, brake and accelerator and its no doubt that this is what simplifies the driving experience for most of the car drivers in any part of the world. This is just one example of how being consistent helps the users to adopt the products quickly to their context, expectations and experiences formed.

Why be consistent?

Consistency when used in the right manner has the power of giving freedom to your users. It ensures that your users put their focus on the goal rather than the medium. I like to draw an analogy for this with the cinema screen and the projected movie. Consistency in your products is akin to audience watching the movie and enjoying themselves without getting distracted and disillusioned looking at the screen beneath the movie. It makes the experience smooth and lends flow and fluency to what the users look, learn and do within the product.

Let us look at some of the benefits of consistency

  • Is shaped on the prior experiences of users
  • Helps direct users’ attention
  • Sets the expectations of users
  • Delivers stability and safety of users, in a few instances
  • Aids users in strong brand and product association

Consistency doesn’t kill creativity

Quite a few people think that consistency kills the creativity and new ideas. I would argue that consistency doesn’t affect the innovative or imaginative thinking. Innovative product companies like Apple, Google implement consistency across their entire set of offerings. You can use standards and design principles as the basis for your product. These are the foundation based on which you should architect, design and develop the product. These are often sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Next in the order of priority are guidelines which are like rules of thumb. They are not prescriptive, but provide direction to what should be incorporated and how. But compelling user experience doesn’t stop at this level. Only when you start referring to heuristics and patterns, can the product start delivering delightful and superlative experiences to users. I drew the diagram below to bring out the main points.

Balance consistency with creativity_Texavi

 

How to incorporate consistency

In the context of product development, consistency translates into the overall user experience and not just the superficial visual design. You need to look at all the various dimensions that contribute to the overall experience and delight of users. The following diagram sums up how you can lend your product a consistent experience…

What contribute to consistent UX_Texavi

 

Through the optimal use of consistency, user should be able to feel that he/she knows:

  • What I can do with this product
  • Where I am now, where I can go from here and how I can go
  • Why something works the way it does
  • What a particular element means when it is in of a certain colour, shape and size
  • How I can press, click, tap an element to get what I want it to do

 

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, please feel free to drop in your comments to help improve the quality and usability of my blog posts. Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

A few days ago, I was thinking about what separates the great organisations from the good ones.  I tried to connect a few successful companies with the secrets behind their success. Here is a small question for you to get thinking on this..what is common to Google, Apple and simple? Of course the letters LE, but the prize goes to the correct answer, “their commitment to make people happy”. Google and Apple have positioned themselves as people-focused firms, creating innovative products and services that not only work for people but also delight them. They have established a clear differentiation based on delighting their customers, stakeholders and followers with simple and easy to use products and services. In this post, let us learn how any organisation which aims to become a social business, needs to focus on ‘the people’ to be successful.

Focus on people – Make them happy

Businesses traditionally have been focusing on people  in one form or the other. Every organisation works hard to keep their customers happy as that would guarantee their existence. Some businesses focus on keeping their employees satisfied with good facilities, pay and perks.These companies think that happy employees lead to higher productivity and thereby better results. A few large organisations with deep pockets can afford to keep not only their customers and employees  happy, but also extend their reach to the stakeholders like shareholders and suppliers.  However, a social business needs to do all the above and a bit extra as well. Let us see in the next section what social businesses need to do to get it right.

Social Businesses focus on People

Social business – Internal and external people

Social businesses have to optimise their business strategies, operations and resources towards the ‘people’. The people here means those who are both ‘internal’ as well as ‘external’ to the organisation. Internal people are the employees and other key stakeholders such as the management, sponsors and the shareholders. They are critical to the success of any initiative as everything starts with them, from the business vision to strategy, from planning to execution and delivery. External people refers to the customers and suppliers. However, in the context of social business, the list doesn’t end here. These external people include the followers, friends and fans on social and professional networks. Social businesses succeed by putting the people’s interests first beyond anything. Their business objectives and bottom lines are all dependent on their people-focus. Social businesses have to ensure that both the internal and external people are happy.Here is how they can achieve this. :

  • Involve, encourage and empower the right teams
  • Find, connect and follow the right people
  • Educate, influence and engage your followers

In the following sections, let us see how the organisations can become effective following the above rules.

Involve, encourage and empower the right teams

Teams make or break your organisations initiatives and attempts for successful campaigns. Great teams often are one of the biggest success factors behind great social businesses. You need to involve the team members from the very beginning so that they none of the team members feel left out. Also, this would help build ownership in them and increases their responsibility. Encourage and motivate the team members to start delivering towards the goals of social business. Empower them to take decisions on their own, try new things and implement their ideas. No matter if the ideas are bad or good, let the team work on those ideas and realise the efficacy of these ideas, on their own. Empowering the teams enables the team to own up the social business initiative and deliver activities and succeed, all by themselves.

For successful social business, empower the team and allow them to:

  1. Estimate the efforts and timelines
  2. Come up with the plan
  3. Commit and agree upon the plans
  4. Deliver on the plans
  5. Bring out the problems, if any, during the execution

Find, Connect and follow the right people

Whereas the teams working on your social business are internal to your organisation, you also need to look outside of your business. These are customers, suppliers and others, speaking of traditional businesses. Often in the context of social business, this extends to those people in your social and professional networks. Follow these simple rules to follow the right people on your social and professional networks.
  1. Define the profiles of the people who fit your business requirements
  2. Create a persona with the demographics and psychographics
  3. Search, browse and look out for the people fitting in the persona
  4. Connect to these people and follow their activities on networks
  5. Interact with them by liking and favouriting their content
  6. Engage with the people by sharing their content across networks
FindConnectFollowandInteractWithTheRightPeople

Educate, engage and influence your followers

Following people on the social and professional networks, interacting with with them and sharing their content is one thing. It is quite another level to get people to follow you. Even harder is to engage people consistently with content that they are interested in. Of course, the most difficult step in the social engagement is to be able to influence your followers, friends and fans positively and increase their trust in you and your brand. The starting point for all of these accomplishments is to start sharing content which aligns with the interests of your followers. Make it worthy of their likes, and encourage them to comment upon and share it with others in their network. Influence your followers

Given below are some useful tips to help you with engaging your audience and influencing them.

  1. Identify the target audience from amongst your followers, friends and fans on networks
  2. Understand their interests and focus areas
  3. Align your campaigns and content to be aligned with their interests
  4. Interact with them, encourage people to like your content and share it
  5. Reach out to friends of friends (FoF) and widen your network reach
  6. Influence your followers to trust your brand and make them your ambassadors

Hope you find the above suggestions helpful in your social business efforts. As always, please let me know your views for improving this blog. Until next post, Ciao!

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Last week, Cadbury UK launched its new product Bubbly through their Google+ brand pages.  I think this is a brave new attempt that augurs well for the social networks and the businesses, in general. Social media are fast becoming the mainstay digital platform and are eagerly waiting to get alongside the traditional marketing channels. Not just the consumers and media, but technologies and businesses too are drifting towards the ‘social’ side, thanks to success and reach of Facebook, Twitter and Google. No wonder that we have social networks, social technologies, social business…everything has a ‘social’ touch today. But what are the effects of this socialification (I don’t want to use the word socialization, for obvious reasons) on your products and services? How can you leverage these social trends to your advantage and bring about the positive changes in the way you operate & deliver? In this post, I give you some tips addressing these questions and also touch upon some key aspects of our Social Experience Framework.

1.Get social – The emergence of ‘social’ everything

There is little doubt that the buzz word today is social and the whole world is now geared towards a ‘social revolution’ of sorts. From the revolution in Egypt to the ‘Occupy…’ movements, social platforms are aiding the way people connect, unite and demonstrate for a cause. The revolution is not just restricted to mass protests and demonstrations. It is expanding its reach and making inroads into our lives and work. Just a few days ago, Google began including the content from their social platform, Google+, when searching and showing the search results. This is yet another example of how ‘social’ content and interactions are  getting into the mainstream content. There are more people now who, before buying a product, read the reviews of “other people”.  Before saying anything good or bad about anything, some people “google it” or when in doubt, check it out on the “Wikipedia”. The growing emphasis on the relevance of big data and open source technologies and tools, is only adding more ammunition to this social revolution.

2. Focus on people and their social interactions

Yes, they are all people. You once used to call them  customers, users, partners and vendors. Your sphere of influence was restricted only to these stakeholders and perhaps extended to prospective customers. But now with social media and technologies, the reach has increased and the scope is broadened to cover more number of people. This includes not only prospective customers and product reviewers but also potentially  friends and family members as well. Now is the time to make your business, and technology, products and services more people-centric, for real and reap the rewards. Listen, observe and understand the various ways people interact online and offline too. Make these interactions more meaningful by providing context-sensitive information which they can use readily and easily. Simplify their interactions and enrich them by offering value-add through seamless channels and platforms.

3.Make it work on multiple platforms, devices & channels

The developers and testers among you will agree with me that its a real nightmare to design, develop and test applications on the ever-increasing number of channels, platforms and devices. However, this is great news for all the customers and users as they have a plethora of options (often to the extent of getting spoilt for choice). With newer technologies coming into the fore to help you, it might not be as complicated as it might sound. HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, XML and other technologies, accompanied by the all-powerful bowsers, offer great ways to develop and deliver rich, interactive applications to your users.

4.Deliver social experience, not just user experience

As you have seen in the recent past, there has been a  proliferation of computers, laptops, mobile phones and Tablets. Also, there has been a significant raise in the Internet usage for education, work and entertainment. All along you have been focusing on delivering great customer and user experiences through your products, services and solutions. With the advancement of social context, it is just not enough if you try and look only at your customers and users only. The experiences have to be broad based, reaching out to friends, prospects, family members and ‘people’. I call it the ‘social experience’, covering all these. Our SoX Framework is an integrated experience delivered via multiple channels, devices, platforms and media. SoX is a pervasive, personalized and persuasive experience, delivered in context-rich, yet simple way.

5. Not just quantitative, but qualitative

There is a plethora of online analytics services that measure the social media usage. From Klout to PeerIndex and recently PeekAnalytics, these have been serving up measures and metrics on the engagement, influence and network reach based on the activities you do online and especially on the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. All of these provide the scores, ranks and numbers. While analytics are good, they can only be useful, if applied to the right cause. As business leaders and product owners, one needs to balance the quantitative measures with the qualitative aspects. How do you get to the qualitative information? Be open and actively participate in the social networks and reach out to the audiences. For instance, Dell appointed CLO (Chief Listening Officer) whose role is to follow and listen to the noise and voice of customers on the social networks. British Gas resolves customer issues on Twitter, using it as a platform for understanding, tracking and closing people’s complaints.

To summarize, social businesses, technologies are already in and we are left with no choice, but to embrace them and use them to our advantage. Delivering social experiences require today’s businesses to broadbase  their focus to ‘people’, listen to them constantly and help them instantly. Let me know if you have a suggestion, question or comment. Until next post, ciao!

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!
Agile Development, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

People often ask me what I think, are the most important factors that contribute to the success of a product. My answer varies depending on the nature of the product, the person asking the question and my mood in that moment, to name a few. But interestingly, if we draw up a list of the responses to this question, the two items that top my list are simplicity and consistency. Yes, there is no doubt that these two aspects of user experience help to a largest extent in making any product, a huge hit. In this post,  I will cover the first one, ‘simplicity’ and how we can leverage this powerful yet ‘simple’ usability mantra to turn your products and applications into a success.

Simplicity sells

Yes, simplicity does sell and sells, all by itself. Its perhaps the biggest value proposition in your product. In any industry and any geographic market whatsoever, you have hundreds and thousands of products and variants. There is a huge margin of difference between the leading few and the following majority. Often this boils down to one super differentiating factor and that is simplicity. It works wonders not just before sales, but also after the sale is done during the usage by end-users. This positive experience during the product usage prompts more usage, referrals and increased sales, overall.

A case in point is the search industry in the 1990s. Most of the web sites and applications at that time, including the then search leaders like Altavista and MSN had their web pages all cluttered with too much content. Google then understood that the only way to make users happy was by uncluttering and uncomplicating their search experience. They did this by keeping it really simple, with the entire page being occupied by a text box and a button. Need I say more about the success of Google search and how this powerful execution of minimalist design made Google the giant that it is today, not just in search but in software, mobile and many more product areas.

Less is More

In the words of the great architect, Ludwig Van Der Rohe, “Less is More”  has been a watchword for the architects, designers and stylists. A pithy motto which says it all and stands by its meaning, simplicity is just that . While some designers also refer to this school of simplicity  as ‘Minimalist Design’, other professionals and users might prefer to call it ‘working easy’. Making things simple is often a complicated process in itself and does ask for a methodical/systematic approach in the product development space. In this post, I wish to mention a few tips and techniques that I follow as part of my product engineering practice. You might see that these are just a few in the hundreds of ways, and for simplicity’s sake, I will focus on a few things because, less is more. :)

Let us ‘uncomplicate’

There is no dearth of complexity in our lives and professions. We are inundated with huge number of problems, challenges, and pain areas to give enough exercise to our body, mind and soul. Obviously we don’t want the products that we use to add up to this already complicated and stressful situation.  The only way we can try and help ourselves is by looking at the problems and looking for the solutions that make it really easy.

  

There are various ways to attempt this uncomplication. However, the underlying concept is that you first need to identify the complexities involved and then find ways to remove or minimize them. To be able to do this, I suggest you try and get answers to the following questions.

  • Whose problem is it?
  • What problem(s) do you need to solve?
  • Why were the problems there in the first place?
  • How does solving this problem help the person(s)?
  • Where can we go from here?

Reduce the cognitive load

The gateway to simplifying the product lies in the extent of cognitive load on users. I would say that this is the first and foremost step in the way to deliver a great user experience. This cognitive load could be in the form of visual or textual elements, for example when we refer to the presentation layer. It could take the shape of deep levels of navigation or the manner in which the elements are laid out by the information architecture. This is so important an aspect of the product engineering model, that I planned to write a separate blog post on this in the near future.

Cure Featuritis with simplicity

Most of the product managers are pretty well aware that they have a potential evil that they constantly need to fight off and that is Featuritis.  However much they try, they invariably fall into the trap of adding more features and functionality, without validating how beneficial or what value they add to the product and its users. In a never-ending chase to build a better mouse-trap, the product takes the shape of a mammoth white elephant. Or just to exaggerate, the product could turn up into a ‘Frankenstein monster’ whose course cannot be controlled any longer by the product management team.

In the context of  electronics, computers and software products &  applications too, there has been an increase in the complexity scale corresponding to the rapid increase in the number of products. For instance, just jog your memory, thinking about the size of the device and the number of buttons on your  Television remote control as you changed your Telly sets over the years. These are a great proof that with time and number of products in the eco-system, the complexity only increases and the converse may not be true all the time.

 

The only cure for this disease is Simplicity. Ask yourself the following questions when you want to add any new feature or make changes to an existing functionality.

  • Who is this feature meant for?
  • What problem is it trying to solve? or how does it help the person?
  • Which users’ task is this feature relate to?
  • How better can we make the product/process?
  • How different is this feature from similar ones in previous versions or competitors’ products?

Push them under the carpet

You don’t have to give everything upfront and right on the first level. Understand the goals of your users from their own perspectives. Identify the tasks mapping to these goals or needs. For each task, you need to identify its importance and urgency.  Then decide where in the order of things, you need to place the task and corresponding feature. It might happen that the feature needs to placed not at the top level, but somewhere deep down in the 2nd or 3rd levels of the hierarchy. That should be perfectly fine because you based your decision on the sound logic and understanding of the users’ needs and their key tasks.

A perfect example for this is the all too popular Swiss army knife. Give all the options to users, but let them decide how they wish to use a specific option, depending on the circumstances and context of usage.

Not just ‘ease of use’

Some people would equate simplicity to ‘ease of use’. But I think that simplicity goes way beyond ease of use and it is the effect of an all encompassing experience not just related to usage of the product.  During the analysis, design and development of products, teams must take note of simplicity as a mandatory requirement for the product. In fact, the biggest measure for their effort and productivity is directly proportional to the success of the product in that how simpler the product got when compared to its previous version or that of the competitors’.

My five tips for simplicity

Finally, you can check how effective and simple your product has been designed and developed. I suggest you popup the following questions putting yourself in the shoes of the users and with their conceptual model in your mind. When you are satisfied with the answers that you give yourself, well you have got a product that flies!

  • What can I do with this product or app?… (Functionality)
  • Where am I now and where can I go from here?… (Navigation)
  • What should I do now to make <something> happen?… (Interaction)
  • Is it pleasing to the eyes? …(Presentation)
  • Is there help, ready and when I need it?…(Help)

With this I end this post, and hope you enjoyed reading it and find it useful. Please do drop a line if you have any suggestions or questions. Until next post, ciao!

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.