This article was originally published on Linked In.
Øredev Developer Conference is one of the premier developer conferences in Europe. Well-known for their passion for conferencing, special care-taking of speakers and keynote-level topics. I had first heard about Øredev in 2013. At the time, I dreamt of being at the conference someday, but I never imagined being a speaker. This was the first time I submitted a 1-hour talk to Øredev and voila, my talk was selected for the conference.
Even before I started to prepare for my talk, I got a chance to look at previous years’ recordings of the conference. Very few conferences bring the variety that Øredev brings – be it Product Management, User Experience, Development, Testing, Quality Assurance, DevOps, People Leadership and so forth. The conference also attracts keynoters from top universities across the world working in areas like AI, AR, VR, Mobile, Conversational UI, Bots and many others. Speakers in these areas are mostly practitioners working full-time and presenting their life’s work. Some of these speakers come with a backing of 30 years of professional work. Wow!
My talk was on How to Design Intuitive Mobile Apps using Machine Input. I am studying about machine input for 2 years now. I believe that our generation and the ones coming after us do not need the next big website, next cool mobile app or the next sexy bot working for us. I believe that we need products that augment our capabilities and make us better, not the ones who make us feel like shit or in other words, less human.
A bunch of innovators like Dan Saffer, Golden Krishna and David Rose strengthened my beliefs through their wonderful books. It has taken me forever to study the complete works of these great men. Nevertheless, each learning day has been fruitful. I also wrote about it HERE in early 2017. Over time, my interest only grew and hence the idea for a talk was born. If you want to know more about my talk, the kind folks at Øredev have recorded my talk. You can watch it HERE.
Sessions I loved
The Real, the Virtual, and the Cortex - Noah Falstein
Noah talked about VR, AR and Mixed Reality and its life-altering realities. He touched upon neuroscience, talked about how these technologies have enhanced our lives and put us under threat. Often, at conferences, I meet people who want to stitch a chip into kid’s bodies so we could track them when they are at school or other gory stories of how cyborgs can raise the quality of human life.
People like Noah give me hope that we do not want to build invasive products that creep into our bodies, that we need to have empathy, that our communications have to be humane. I just loved the humane touch he gave to his talk. You can find Noah’s talk HERE.
Software & storytelling, programming & play – Linda Liukas
Linda is a great storyteller who teaches programming to kids, girls, young women (and others too) using innovative approaches. Her primary audience includes 6-year-olds on average. For a change, she had an audience with average ages of 25 – 30 years at Øredev where she keynoted.
Before the conference, when I looked up her work, Linda came across as this little charismatic girl, always smiling, doing what she loves and working with the most awesome generation one ever can – young kids. It was good to learn about her. My takeaways from her talk included the metaphors/analogies that little kids can understand and key principles around teaching and learning. Linda is a breath of fresh air! You can watch her talk HERE.
What is AI? Can computers become intelligent through playing games? – Julian Togelius
Julian is an Associate Professor at New York University. He showed several case studies of games and how computers could become intelligent using gaming patterns with live demos of some of the old games he has studied. His emphasis lay on AI and how videos games can help augment AI. Again, his talk demonstrated the deep work done in AI for several years.
Writing Apps for Mars – Kurt Leucht
Kurt’s talk could have touched many a developer’s ego. He asked one fundamental question, ‘Developers take pride in the products they build. But do they know how those products perform in the real environment?’ He went on to give an example of onboard software for Mars rover (Oh! By the way, Kurt works for NASA. Ahem!) and show the differences between a good mobile app and a business app that serves a mission-critical need. A fabulous talk for mobile enthusiasts to focus on the purpose of building apps. Kurt’s talk is HERE if you are curious.
Conversational UIs: Talking to Siri, Alexa, and Your Web Browser – Scott Davis
Scott was a high-energy person who gave a fabulous talk on bringing Siri, Alex and web browsers together. His talk had real-life examples of how his daughter who cannot speak clearly types data, asks Siri to read it for her, while Alexa listens to Siri and executes the commands. This is the kind of technology we need to create – to augment the abilities of differently abled people of our times and upcoming generations. I felt great hope for the future. Scott’s talk can be watched HERE.
Øredev is a conference with ~1300 attendees and 100+ speakers. It is not humanly possible to attend all sessions. I watched many of them after the conference. It was fun. You too can watch the Øredev talk videos HERE.
I loved the talks around Conversational UIs, Bots, Virtual Reality concepts, Leadership and Product management talks. I was happy to learn (repeatedly) that there are humans who are concerned about fellow humans and not super gaga about plugging USBs into people’s heads or integrated chips into people's bodies. Linda Liukas’s teaching techniques were the biggest takeaway as I am looking up to designing my own tutorials next year. If you want to do just one thing after reading this, watch Linda’s talk for me.
Until next Øredev, Aloha!
12 December, 2017
24 October, 2017
|Customer is King|
Thinking about the customer is a high-risk innovation type. Customers' needs and desires keep changing, which adds to the risk. Inspiring customers to behave in a new way is something very few organizations are thinking about.
Defining New Behavior
Steve Jobs' Apple designed touchscreen interface which inspired customers to behave differently. Henry Ford never thought about motivating horses to run faster. Instead, he built cars. Elon Musk didn't continue Henry's tradition. He is working on promoting faster travel through Hyperloop and supporting space tourism. Google is going a step further, building driverless cars. These products augment human abilities and improve their well-being in better ways.
Things get interesting when specially-abled people start to use such innovative technology. For example, a blind person using a cane could use google maps to guide her to the destination. Countries like Japan can entrust driverless cars for octogenarians who continue to drive and cause accidents. There are innumerable opportunities.
Drones were discounted as toys in the early days. Today, they are used in photography in extreme conditions of climatic disasters, war scenarios, spying, products delivery and for many other purposes. A typical drone looks like a toy with a remote control, needs zero learning and is ready to fly as soon as you unpack it.
Drones discovered new customer behavior.
Travelers want to book hotels in advance because when prices are cheaper. But, they are intimidated to make a payment in advance. If they are not sure to make it to the hotel, they would like to avoid refund hassles. They prefer paying on the day of their check-in. In many cases, travelers would like to cancel the booking. Since they didn't pay earlier, they are happy to cancel without spending a penny. Maybe, they are okay with a small cancellation fee, occasionally.
Booking.com re-defined customer behavior in many ways:
Travelers can book the hotel in advance without making payment. Travelers can cancel the hotel with Zero cancellation fee. Hotels with cancellation and non-cancellation policies are highlighted, directly encouraging travelers to book the hotels with free cancellation facilities. Highlight cancellation dates and how much cancellation fee applies after due date. Free cancellation feature encourages many tourists and business travelers to book hotels on booking.com for visa purposes if some countries have trouble issuing invitation letters to them.
Booking.com discovered new customer behavior.
Innovate with the Customer in Mind
Organizations / People looking to innovate with the customer in mind must spot unique change or trend in customer behavior
Steps involved in Customer Innovation
- Discovery of a new customer behavior
- Creating a new type of customer based on the behavior
- Creating a new market
This is a high-risk innovation which takes a long time to become disruptive. If done right, this innovation can re-define future of products and services.
Think Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX!
How do you innovate?
09 October, 2017
The App Story
Want to rent furniture? There's an app for that.
Want to make mobile payments? There's an app for that.
Want to tweet while you drive the car? There's an app for that! Remember Tesla? Tesla loves you so much that it supports social media buttons on the car interface
Want to talk to your driver? There's an app for that. Remember Uber? They care so much for your safety that they encourage drivers to chat with you as they drive.
Want to keep the baby busy? There's an app for that too!
The Bot StoryWant to get to the call center analyst faster? There's a bot for that.
Want to converse with an e-commerce company? There's a bot for that.
The patient wants to talk to the nurse? There's a bot for that too!
What's the burning problem you want to solve?The world has many problems to be solved. Only few are worth solving. When we think of building a website, an app, a bot or even a robot, we need to ask ourselves three fundamental questions:
1. Is this a problem that many others have?
2. Is this problem serious enough and worth solving?
3. How often does this problem occur?
How severe is the problem?Mosquito Bite Problem
Is the problem similar to a mosquito bite? There are mosquitoes, and they do bite people. But doing nothing is a viable option. In few cases, mosquito bites may lead to serious diseases, but those are rare cases in rare places. But, that's only rare. Fixing moquito bites is a 'Nice to Have'. Is this serious enough? May be not!
Shark Bite Problem
Is this problem critical enough that many customers are trying to solve? Are they panicking that they are late to the market? Are they looking at competitors? Are they feeling as if a giant shark is going to eat them up. This is a Shark Bite problem.
"Feature should be a Shark Bite Problem on a Mosquito Scale" ~ Omar Mohout
Products or features must be built based on the seriousness of problems that occur at high frequencies. If we don't solve shark bite problems on mosquito scale, customers move to greener pastures in due course of time.
We live amidst an ocean of websites, apps, bots, robots and what not! Quote the problem and there you are - someone tells you about an innovative app or bot that solves your problem. We believe in a future of screens, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. We believe in a future where every possible technology is stitched into our brain, skin, flesh and appears to work for us. We believe in a world of interfaces. Some problems may go away with interfaces, but most of them can be solved only with meaningful solutions. So, what is the burning problem you want to solve?
Inventor and M.I.T. Media Lab researcher David Rose picks interesting problems and solves them. Take a look.
David or the Screen Guy?
07 September, 2017
This article was originally published on Linked In.
Seth Godin recently wrote an article, Four ways to improve customer service a while ago. Here's how I think, we can apply this concept to improve Airline Customer Service. Read on...
1. Delegate it to your customers. Let them give feedback, good and bad, early and often.
Customers are more expressive today than ever. Given the penetration of internet, even children and teenagers have taken to social media to express dissatisfaction, with certain products or companies. Few airlines don't respond to complaints via email or phone. When a customer tags them on twitter, they immediately connect with that customer to fix the problem. Because the whole world is watching them. Live. Airlines use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to promote their business. Customers use the same media to highlight problems, complain about problems or appreciate good gestures. When one customer does something on social media, hundreds and thousands join them, because they sympathize with the user. This leads to a small complaint or appreciation growing manifold, thanks to the retweets, likes or comments of many other customers, who went through similar experiences with the same airline or some other airline.
The bad thing
In case of negative feedback, the brand value of the company plummets, in a matter of minutes or hours or days - the brand that was built over many years, hits the dust of the ground, with one tweet or post. The companies start wondering what went wrong. Take the case of United Airlines incident. A common seating problem on one of their flights in April 2017 ended with a man being bloodied and dragged from his seat and an already troubled airline earning more bad press. How did it all go so wrong? Firstly, the passenger was treated like a criminal although he paid for his seat. Secondly, the CEO, Oscar Munoz is believed to have defended the airline's action in an official email to his employees that it was the right thing to do.
Overbooking on flights happens all the time. Airlines boost their profit margins by overselling, betting against the number of passengers who will miss their flights. In this case, the problem arose because United decided at the last minute to fly four members of staff to a connection point and needed to bump four passengers to make way for them. One bad thing led to another bad thing that eventually led to the downfall of United Airlines.
The good thing
Users are giving feedback for free. No interviews, no surveys, at zero cost. For FREE. KLM Airline has a dedicated social media team to serve customers. What started as a three member customer support team during the eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 with employee volunteers, grew to 250 employees working full-time by 2015. In November 2014, KLM announced that they made €25m from social media segment alone. These are the fruits for listening to customers all the time and responding in the best possible way.
When things go wrong (and things do go wrong), if companies acknowledge the problem and fix it, customer loyalty only goes up.
"Encourage customer behavior and create a strong customer support system around it. Create an environment where users can give feedback, early and often. This leads to customer retention and loyalty."
2. Delegate it to your managers. Build in close monitoring, training, and feedback. Have them walk the floor, co-creating with their teams.
Technical Managers handling product teams for airlines need to closely monitor customer feedback and work with the development teams to fix problems. Hands-on managers who know about incoming issues in depth can be of great help during problem resolution phases.
App stores are a great source of feedback for airline mobile apps. Products like Appbot, and Gnip help you identify specific problems, as well as problem patterns. They also categorize problems so product teams can learn quickly about which features are performing well and which are not.With individual teams focused on building specific features into the product, technical managers, product managers and relevant stakeholders must keep an eye on customer feedback on app stores and other media to offer timely resolutions. People who run airlines are business people, who need a strong technology hand to support them. Highly capable technology teams need to close this gap, monitor and gather customer feedback and support business teams by acting quickly during disruptions.
3. Use technology. Monitor digital footprints, sales per square foot, visible customer actions.
Every customer who is online, leaves a digital footprint, whether he likes it or not. This footprint can be used to construct the preferences of the customer. Analytics plays a great role in offering humanizing experiences based on customer data and past history. Products need to be coded to capture critical events, actions etc and create patterns around product usage. Products like Adobe Experience Manager, Firebase, MixPanel, Omniture and several others assist products to capture exactly what a customer does as part of his journey. Analytics can identify where users err often, how many times do they abandon the journey and why they do so. This, in turn, can guide the long term vision and roadmap of the products.
Airlines need to have a strong analytics wing that studies customers for several years and months. Data coming out of such analytical research is used to target specific customer segments, push promotional offers customized to their needs, give them what they need it, exactly when they need it. Analytics teams need to work closely with product development, social media, marketing and branding teams to accomplish good customer service for customers.
4. Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward. People like us do things like this. People like us, care.
Back in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano broke out, many flights were disrupted, In particular, KLM Airline was worst affected of other airlines. They did not hike up prices for upcoming flights or seek a penalty from customers for canceled/delayed flights. Instead, they focused on helping customers, who were stranded for many days. They made sure that customers were informed about this natural disaster and they made alternate arrangements for them. This, in turn, re-enforced customer's trust in the brand called KLM.
At KLM, social media teams respond to tweets from customers to book a flight ticket, modify seats, purchase special meals and even search for their lost item. Queries are answered on twitter. In most instances, customers get a response in less than 13 minutes of their tweet or post going public using KLM handle. Payments are made using a payment plugin on Facebook. KLM has built many custom products to enable better outreach to customers.
KLM would never have imagined coming this far, and be profitable in this pursuit. How did this happen? KLM has the best social media team in the world. This happened over a period of 5 years. Good reputation didn't come easy. They worked hard for it. KLM focused on building a Customer Service oriented culture.
Culture plays a key role in how an organization grows over a period of time. Empowered employees go to great lengths to do great work, in turn inspiring their peers. First and foremost thing is to keep employees happy, focused and empowered. Allowing employees to fail, learn and move on is critical to creating an open culture where great stuff gets built.
In the article that he wrote on customer service, Seth Godin quotes,
"You've probably guessed that the most valuable one, the fourth, is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts. It's corroded by shortcuts and by inattention and fed by constant investment and care.
Big company or small, it doesn't matter. There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest…"
How do you handle customer service?
28 June, 2017
08 June, 2017
This article was originally published on Linked In.
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Thus said, Isaac Newton. Thanks to the Internet, I am constantly learning from the work of many great people across the world. This article is a small attempt to introduce you to few giants in User Experience (UX) space. This list is never complete as there are hundreds of thousands of people who are quietly doing their work.
Twitter is a treasure trove of experts in different fields. I frequent Twitter to learn from the experts on specific topics like UX, read about latest trends and apply them to projects based on the context. Many experts I wrote to, responded graciously and guided me. I am amazed and grateful forever, for the great work done by these great people who have generously shared their experience and expertise for free to make this world a better place for all of us. Aspiring UXers and designers looking for inspiration can learn from these UX influencers with a great legacy behind them. The names are in no particular order.
Donald Norman @jnd1er
The founding father of user experience, Donald Norman is credited with coining the term “user experience”. He is one of the world’s most famous UX Designers with @NNgroup. Don Norman’s books are intense, thought-provoking, and showcase his love to create humanizing experiences for users.
Recommended Reading: All of Donald Norman’s books
Luke Wroblewski @lukew
Luke Wroblewski is my digital transformation hero. He is a straight-speaking UX guy with a penchant for all things UX in Web and Mobile. His deep work and advice on building next generation mobile apps are close to none other. True to his Twitter bio, he is truly humanizing technology. Luke is a truly hands-on, highly insightful technical subject matter expert of our times.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
Jared Spool @jmspool
Jared Spool is a UX legend and one of the most influential authority on UX design for almost 40 years. His articles, talks, and workshops give you fundamental insights we need to build great experiences. He emphasizes on overall human experiences while building products. Jared’s thought-provoking satire on his experience of flying United Airlines experiences can air drop you into a thinking pool.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
Steve Krug @skrug
Steve’s best-selling book Don’t Make Me Think was the first book that got me thinking about usability. His books are simple and easy to understand for beginners. His insights on human-computer interactions and user testing are commendable. If you are starting out in usability, this guy’s body of work does wonders for you.
Recommended Reading: Don’t Make Me Think
David Rose @davidrose
David Rose is a world-renowned MIT Media Lab researcher who has built fabulous products with enchanting experiences, as he calls them. The products he has built imbibe subtle human feelings. His products and book are must learn stuff. David is one of the gifted UX artists we have today.
Recommended Reading: Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things
Bill Buxton @wasbuxton
Bill Buxton is a Principal Researcher, Interaction Designer and a relentless advocate for innovation and design. His 2007 book, Sketching User Experiences reflects his love for human values and culture.
Recommended Reading: Sketching User Experiences
Alan Cooper @MrAlanCooper
Rightly called the Software Alchemist, Alan Cooper is the ‘Father of Visual Basic,’ and Inventor of design personas. Alan’s books focus on how not to drive users crazy and keep them sane.
Recommended Reading: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.
Golden Krishna @goldenkrishna
One of the top hands-on designers with a legacy of great UX work at Zappos, Amazon, Samsung, Cooper and now at Google, Golden Krishna is a human-centered designer who is making technology human-friendly.
Recommended Reading: Best Interface is No Interface
I follow many others like Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Adrian Zumbrunnen, Susan Weinschenk, Karen McGrane, Annette Priest, Laura Klein, Ethan Marcotte, Jess James Garrett and a hundred others. I’ll add their information once I have read their books/blogs and learn more about their body of work.
I use the term Expert for a constant learner, a teacher or a guru. With due credits to all great people who claim to be experts as well as those who don’t think of themselves as experts, we need to understand, there are no EXPERTS on any subject or in any field. Every so called expert builds on the knowledge and experience of their predecessors and contemporaries. Making this world a better place to live is the only thing that matters. And many people do that. I express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who share what they know and help others to become better moment by moment through Twitter, books, blogs, and other online/offline forums. THANK YOU!
Guru devo bhava!